Shikamaru Nara sighed. He was lying on the patio of his house. Why did everything have to get so difficult? Having Ino on his new gennin team was reason for headache enough, but he was also confined to his house per his father's instructions. Something was going on in the village, and his dad wanted him out of it. It didn't take much to put the pieces together. They were after the new kid. The one that appeared on the day of the academy exam and totally kicked its butt.
A frown appeared on his brow as he applied more energy to thinking about the boy and assessed the facts he knew about the blonde enigma. He had nothing to do anyway, may as well think about something interesting. First, he showed up with the Hokage's recommendation, which means he was close to someone higher up, maybe even the Hokage himself. Second, he had a tamed Elder Fox. And a pretty powerful one at that. He never counted the tails of the creature, as they were constantly flowing and twirling about each other, each time he had tried, his mind got foggy and he forgot about it.
Shikamaru sat up. He thought back to the first time he tried counting the tails. He was sure everyone else was doing the same thing to, especially since Akamaru had drawn attention to the fox with its fight for dominance. He was sure that the fox had looked everyone over before focusing on the dog. Then his mind went foggy and he focused on the animal turf war.
Those were the classic signs of one being under a genjutsu. It couldn't have been the boy as it seemed like he was actually talking to the fox. As if it was an intelligent creature, which would go along with the heirs of the Kyuubi… the Kyuubi… the…
Dozens of little facts in his head clicked together the instant that one thought dashed across his consciousness. It fit, it all fit. The genjutsu, the many tails, the glares from the adults, the prejudice against the boy, the reason why his father was constantly being called into council meetings… The fox was the freaking Kyuubi. But how was it alive? And how was that boy able to control it? And why wasn't the demon trying to eat everyone alive?
He knew the tale. Fourth Hokage stopped the Kyuubi, killing it. He also knew that Kakashi, the copy-cat ninja, was famous for not only having the Sharingan, but for killing the Kyuubi who had taken the form of a small boy about ten years ago. But if the Fourth had killed it thirteen years ago, then how could Kakashi three years later?
Why had he never questioned this information before? Its flaw was so obvious, so glaring, but he never did. The Fourth is a legend, Kakashi a hero. He took everything at face value and went along with what he was told, just like everyone else. He went along with the story just like a pawn on a shogi board. He didn't like it. Ignoring the bitter taste in his mouth, he went back to the facts.
All of this meant the Fourth didn't kill the Kyuubi, but somehow got rid of it and then Kakashi killed it later. But he didn't either. And the end result of these events was the new kid Naruto. The only logical thing he could think of, short of reincarnation and some kind of resurrection technique, was a sealing jutsu the Fourth used on the Kyuubi and Naruto. But the kid looked no older than he was which meant he was an infant at the time of sealing. From the small amount of knowledge he had on fuuinjutsu, he knew that seals could be made out of anything as long as whatever was used to hold the seal was stronger than whatever was being sealed. Chakra infused paper was most commonly used for inanimate objects, like shuriken and kunai, as inanimate objects don't have chakra and so, the paper is stronger. But for something like the Kyuubi? No amount of paper would be enough. Plus the chakra to go into such a seal, and to capture the Kyuubi itself... that meant…
Naruto was the seal. They used an infant to seal the Kyuubi. The Fourth Hokage used his entire life force to create the seal and place the demon fox inside the child. Shikamaru was struck dumb by this revelation. For the first time in his life, there was no thought drifting through his skull, there was just stunned disbelief. Even when he was cloud gazing, there were usually a couple of dozen thoughts running through his mind, but now, at this moment. He couldn't for a thought to save his life. It fit all the facts he knew. It was so perfect the way that everything came together. But something kept bugging him.
The Fourth Hokage was an honourable man, one who was kind and honest and put everyone before himself. He had heard his parents and his dad's old squad always talk admirably of the man who once ruled them. Every story they ever told of the Yellow Flash, every legend he had ever heard about their deceased Hokage spoke of how self-sacrificing he was; staying behind on missions to let his team escape, single handily ending an entire war without casualties to their side. This was not the type of man who would take some random child and seal a nightmare into him. This was not a man who could put someone else's child through that kind of torture. And this could only mean one thing.
Naruto was related somehow to the Fourth Hokage. Shikamaru broke out into a cold sweat. He couldn't stop his mind from thinking; his thoughts were putting together the facts without him putting any effort into it. He couldn't stop his head from turning just slightly, not much, but enough that his gaze now fell on the Hokage monument. Where the faces of all the previous Hokage were forever immortalized for the entire village to see…. Naruto looked exactly like the Fourth. The stone face may only be one colour, but he could see the bright blonde hair and blue eyes. Naruto's face was slightly rounder than the deceased Yellow Flash, but that was probably due to youth. Naruto was the son of the Fourth Hokage.
And the recommendation from the Hokage… The Third, he knew exactly who and what Naruto was.
Shikamaru thought about all the scrolls his father had made him read in his training to be the sixteenth generation Nara clan head. His intelligence had prompted his training to start earlier than normal, at the young age of six when he started the academy, instead of the usual thirteen when he became a gennin. The First Hokage and his battle with Madara Uchiha; how he had summoned the Kyuubi and the First killed the Uchiha and defeated the tailed beast. This meant it had to go somewhere, and that somewhere was in the village. But if the Leaf had something as powerful as the Kyuubi in its possession, what did the other villages have to balance the power? They wouldn't just sit idly by whilst a rival village had something like that. And if the fox was under the Leaf's control, why were there still skirmishes with other villages? And where was it kept before it was eventually sealed into Naruto?
So many questions needed answering and no matter how much Shikamaru tried to shrug it off, it kept coming back to bother him. Like his mother nagging at him to wake up on a morning, it just wouldn't go away. He tried to shrug it off as speculation, he had no proof, and he had no evidence of what he suspected. There was no reason to believe that the fox, Fang, was the Kyuubi, or that Naruto was its seal as well as being the son of the Fourth. He had no plausible excuse to go looking into it. But it all just fit so perfectly… It was then, whilst he was battling with his thoughts, that Akamaru found Shikamaru.
Danzo dismissed the ANBU in front of him. The brat had escaped. He didn't know where and he didn't know how but the jinchuuriki was no longer in the Hidden Leaf. It galled him that a thirteen year old boy had managed to escape when he had his entire Root force after him.
From the information his subordinates had gathered, he had help. Jiraiya the interfering whelp, had shown up with the Senju princess in tow. As if that wasn't infuriating enough, they had the demon of the Hidden Mist with them and an unknown ANBU. That was a very elite squad. Two Sannin, and S-rank ninja and an ANBU. You could change countries with that kind of team. And now they had their hands on the Kyuubi jinchuuriki, as well as the Uchiha heir and an Inuzuka. The potential in that one small group… the possibilities were endless.
And the Kyuubi jinchuuriki wasn't just a powered-up container. Oh-no, he had to be the descendant of The Uzumaki clan, along as the son of the Fourth Hokage. Namikaze, Uzumaki, Uchiha and Senju all in one place. And his own clan, Shimura, and you have the founding clans of the Leaf village.
Danzo rubbed his forehead; he could feel a headache coming on. He had worked tirelessly for the past thirteen years, trying to bring the Leaf to its rightful place as the greatest of all ninja villages. He had done heinous acts, all to protect his beloved home. And now some brat and his team were going to ruin it. He needed the jinchuuriki, it was a valuable weapon. He needed to control it, especially since he had reports that Kumo's Hachibi jinchuuriki had complete control over his bijuu.
"I suppose that's what you get when the brother of the Raikage is the sacrifice," Danzo mused. If that was the case, then the son of the Hokage would be just as skilled. The Leaf had never had control of the Kyuubi. It was always too powerful, too hateful to be able to control fully. Tapping into its monstrous chakra reserves seemed to be the only positive to containing it. And the fear leverage it gave the Leaf over the other villages.
Plus the boy seemed to have formed some sort of relationship with the beast, if the incident at the veterinary hospital is anything to go by. A corporal body whilst still being sealed? That kind of jutsu, that kind of technique required an intimate knowledge of the seal, as well as a mastery of fuuinjutsu. Not to mention large amounts of chakra and a vast knowledge of medical ninjutsu. That was probably where Tsunade and Jiraiya came in. Now he just needed to know where they were.
If he could get his hands on that boy, he would be able to control the greatest power the Elemental Nations has ever seen. If he could also get the Uchiha… he may even be able to unlock the secrets behind the Sharingan, or even…. The Rinnegan.
He could see it now, standing above the village, the previous Hokage heads destroyed, only to be replaced by his glorious image. His arm full of Sharingan that never lose their light. His eyes: the endless rings of the Rinnegan. And at his feet, tamed and controlled only by him, the Kyuubi, in all its destructive magnificence. The Leaf would prosper. There would be peace, for any who threatened to hurt the village, he would mercilessly crush. There would be no alliances, no pacts or terms of agreements, there would be only the Leaf.
Danzo allowed himself a satisfied smile as his dream filled his vision. It was so close, almost within reach. All he had to do was get that jinchuuriki and the rest would just fall into place.
Kakashi paced the Hokage's office. The leader of the Hidden Leaf village was currently absent, going to visit his family or something, he didn't care. What he did care about was what Danzo had just told him. The Kyuubi had escaped. The murderer of his beloved sensei had gotten away, along with Naruto, Sasuke and the Inuzuka kid.
He was mentally torturing himself. He had failed his comrades. He couldn't save Obito, he killed Rin, he let his sensei die and now he couldn't even save his sensei's son from the demon that had taken the last of his loved ones away. He was worse than scum. He should probably kill himself before anyone else dies because of him.
His thoughts of suicide were broken when Danzo got his attention by clearing his throat. Kakashi had completely forgotten the old shinobi was in the room. Not alone either. The honoured elders were there as well, all watching him as he paced a hole in the floor.
"Hatake Kakashi, your skills are required by the Leaf village to hunt down the jinchuuriki and capture it. You may assemble a team of your choosing as the target is now known to have strong allies. A squad of my best ANBU will back up your group. Do you have any questions?"
Kakashi looked incredulous. "Capture? What do you mean capture? We need to kill the demon and save Naruto!"
"The beast is sealed within the boy. We need the power of the Nine tails in our arsenal. It would be a great asset to the village."
Kakashi just gaped. These were the same people who had hinted at him thirteen years ago to kill the boy. The same people who had convinced him that the only way to save Naruto was to kill him. That the boy was dead and only the monster lived in the human shell. Why would they want it in the village?
"But if we get it in the village it could run wild!"
"Don't be silly Kakashi, the boy has complete control over the fox from the reports we've gathered. Also his seal was always much too complex for the fox to take over" Koharu said scathingly. Really, how could someone be so stupid? She thought viciously.
Kakashi felt as if the floor had fallen from beneath him. The fox had never taken over Naruto's body? But if that was the case then he… he almost…
Nausea overwhelmed him. He had shoved a Chidori through a three year old. Not just any three year old, his sensei's son. Not just any sensei, the Fourth Hokage. He had lived with the fact that he had killed the body of Minato's boy, had it haunt him for ten years, but the fact he had destroyed the killer of his mentor had comforted him. And when he saw that face a mere few days ago, the guilt was almost erased. The boy was alive, and in the Leaf. If he was really the fox then he would have instantly killed him or started a rampage through the village, which meant that Naruto was alive, he had a second chance at protecting him.
And now… now he had discovered that the Kyuubi was alive, and they wanted him to get it and bring it back to them, alive. Which meant it was once again possessing Naruto. But that wasn't right. Koharu just told him that the fox never had the chance to take over Naruto's consciousness let alone body, the seal was too strong. The fox never controlled the three year old.
He was gone from the room before Koharu even realized the mistake she had made.
Naruto inhaled deeply. He was in the bedroom given to him by the Kurama clan. He was tired, oh so tired, but he didn't dare sleep. If he slept he would dream, and dreaming was the last thing he wanted to do right now.
He exhaled slowly.
Uroko had welcomed them into their home, just like they had years ago when kaa-san brought her to the clan blessed by the Kyuubi. He remembered the time fondly. He had been so terrible at genjutsu, so terrible that it was an embarrassment to be the jinchuuriki of Kurama. Demon foxes were famous for their illusion skills, and his were non-existent. What better place to train then with the clan gifted with exceptional genjutsu power from the biiju.
He inhaled again.
He thought about that time, and tried not to let the memory of Tsunade and Kyuubi jab at him. He needed to come to terms with the fact that they were now sealed within him. They weren't really gone; they were just away for a while. Like vacation, yeah, they were on vacation… in his stomach….
He exhaled, trying not to choke on the tears that threatened to overwhelm him.
Why did it hurt so much? It felt like kunai were digging themselves into his heart and mercilessly tearing it apart. He thought he would be used to pain, used to suffering. But the feeling of losing someone you love was so much more painful than any mere physical wound.
He pushed the pain, locking the feeling away deep in his mind. In a place where the crippling agony won't overwhelm him. As he did, other emotions once eclipsed by the agony came to surface. One more powerful than any other.
He exhaled in a whoosh as the force of his anger took him by surprise. He wasn't just angry, he was mad, furious, outraged, bitter, vexed… there wasn't enough words to describe how much hate he had for the people who did this. The people who did this….
The Leaf village. They had been the cause for every bad thing that had ever happened in his life. His torture, his assassination, his kidnappings and now, they had forced the two people who meant the world to him to sacrifice themselves to save his miserable life.
He let the rage wash over him. It numbed him in a way that made the pain bearable. The sadness was locked tightly within, and the anger coursed through his body. He remembered Kyuubi telling him about the danger of letting his anger rule him. It would allow his power to become uncontrollable. But he found that he didn't care. He wanted to be angry.
That's how he will make the pain go away.
He will make the ones who did this suffer
He will destroy them
He will destroy the Leaf village.
Naruto opened his eyes and locked gazes with the Uchiha that watched him
Hearing a bark, Kiba looked up from studying the village. He hadn't been able to make out any more unusual activity, but then again he was only a Gennin, fresh from the academy. How was he supposed to decipher movements made by ANBU? Hopefully he would be able to ask his soon to be comrades.
Akamaru trotted into view, following behind him was Shikamaru and Chouji. He would tackle these two first before getting Hinata and Shino. Once he got to the lazy genius, he figured the rest would be easier. Best to get the hard ones out the way first. Kiba stood and dusted himself off before facing the two gennin.
Just as he opened his mouth to speak, the Nara interrupted him.
"I am going to list some ideas that I have thought of, you can nod to say they are true or shake your head if they are false. Understand?" Kiba was completely caught off guard with the commanding tone the shadow manipulator used on him. Had he always been like this? He could only remember a lazy kid who was always napping.
"The fact you are here, alone already means that you were not actually kidnapped but left of your own free will, meaning that Sasuke wasn't kidnapped either and the new kid Naruto isn't actually what the ANBU are making him out to be."
Kiba didn't know whether to nod or not as he wasn't asked a question. And he was kinda kidnapped but they let him go and he was now helping them, so it was a lot more complex. Decided silence was the best option, the Inuzuka heir watched as Shikamaru begun pacing back and forth, Chouji happily munching on the bag of chips he had brought with him.
"First and foremost; Fang is the Kyuubi?" Shikamaru whirled to face the now stunned Kiba. He didn't wait for a response. The dumbfounded look was enough.
"Yes, which then leads me to the idea that the Kyuubi and Naruto are connected somehow?"
A hesitant nod.
"Which then means that the Fourth didn't defeat the Kyuubi and neither did Kakashi three years later?"
"And the Leaf uses the Kyuubi as a military advantage with the other villages?"
"And the somehow with Naruto and Kyuubi is that the village used Naruto as a vessel to seal the Kyuubi?"
Kiba couldn't nod anymore and just listened, how the hell could Nara have figured all this out? He himself had to have explained to him twice before he even barely understood what half of it meant. Seeing that he wouldn't be getting a response, Shikamaru just continues with his speculation.
"Using the hatred caused by the Kyuubi attack, the village ostracized Naruto so they would have easier access to manipulate him, and in drastic cases eliminate? Naruto isn't the first person to have the Kyuubi sealed within him? There were others and this has been happening since the First Hokage? And the Leaf believed they had killed it? They left it alone until Naruto came back, and seeing his power and control over the Kyuubi, they want him back? But something went wrong? And Naruto fled with help so now the village is trying to get him back to control him? Before other villages realize he is alive and not in their control, which is why they have deployed all ANBU?"
Shikamaru whirled around to face the stunned Kiba. Even Chouji had stopped eating to listen as his best friend spoke. It was a lot to take in.
"Well, am I right?" demanded the Nara. Kiba managed to get his voice back.
"How the hell did you figure all that out?!" he exploded. Having his suspicions confirmed, Shikamaru went from intimidating and scarily smart guy, to bored and lazy gennin.
"Eh, it wasn't that hard, just had to think about things a little more than normal." He said waving the question off.
"So what did you want Kiba?" Chouji asked, munching away at his snack again. What they were talking about was way over his head, he would just follow Shikamaru. He would know what to do.
"Well, I was going to tell you all that, but you figured it all out somehow. But what I want is your help." Kiba said, scratching the back of his head. Nara's deductive skills were beyond impressive and had taken him aback.
"Help with what? From what I now understand, this has nothing to do with you or us."
"Yeah but, I need to find out the truth. Have it confirmed before me that the village really did that to a kid. That's not the type of village I thought I was fighting for. I need to know if my family was involved, my friends. I… I just need to know."
Shikamaru watched the gennin with serious eyes. He could see the turmoil he was going through, hell he himself was having the same doubts. But still…
"You realise this is treason. If the village did deem it necessary to use Naruto the way that they did, then we have no say in it. We are soldiers, not politicians, we follow orders."
"I don't care! That kid did nothing wrong, yet his life has been hell. If you heard the stuff that the Hokage let the villagers get away with… he had an assassination attempt on him when he was three! What kind of three year old deserves to be assassinated?!"
"But if it is for the good of the village, one life doesn't outweigh the many." Kiba turned and gaped at Chouji, who was looking for the last few crumbs in his chip bag, before shrugging and pulling out a new one.
"Chouji, what are you saying?" Kiba asked, even Shikamaru looked surprised at his best friend's response.
"Well, it's just that they must have had a reason to do what they did. I mean, I know it sucks and that kind of situation leaves a bad taste in my mouth, but what if they had no choice? It was sacrifice Naruto or let the Leaf get destroyed? What would you choose?"
Kiba's mouth opened and closed with no sound escaping. Chouji paused in his eating and looked seriously at the Inuzuka.
"You are suggesting that we go against our friends, family and clan over a decision that possibly saved our lives. I may not be as smart as Shikamaru, but even I can see that much."
"But – but…"
"Chouji is right Kiba. I know you like the guy, but we are not betraying the Leaf for reasons like this."
"But it's not just the sealing thing! Did you know that he was tortured before he supposed assassination? And not by ninja, by civilians! Every day they beat him up, if not for the Kyuubi in him he would have died, bleeding out in the street. And the ANBU who were meant to protect him lead him straight into mobs. How about the fact his parent died on the day he was born, so he had no one. No one cared what happened to him and encouraged his abuse. Why? Because he was chosen to save the village. He is a goddamn hero and he was treated worse than a rabid dog!"
Shikamaru and Chouji just watched as Kiba vented his rage.
"And then after his supposed successful assassination, he found someone. He found a woman who took him in and called him son. He had a family. He had peace. But then, for reasons I'm still trying to figure out, he came back. Came back to help the village, the place that had abused and tormented him for no other reason than existing. He didn't have to but he did. And what does the village do? THEY MURDER HIS FAMILY! His mother and best friend are gone and he is alone again. Not only alone, he is being hunted! If you want to stay in a village like this then fine, do as you like. But I am going to find out exactly what happened and who was involved and then I am going to help Naruto, because even after the shit he has been through, he is still fighting for us. He is still trying to save everybody."
"Kiba, listen to what you are saying!" Shikamaru said forcefully. The Inuzuka heir had never seen the Nara with so much emotion. "Yes the kid's life sucked, I get it. But do you understand what you are doing? You have known him for less than a week, met him a handful of times and are willing to throw away everyone and everything you have ever known? What are you going to do if you find out your mother or your sister had something to do with it? What if Naruto is actually trying to get his revenge and just using you? Have you even thought about this?!"
Kiba was silent. He had actually. He thought about all of it. And he didn't know what he would do if he found out his clan was involved, he didn't know what he would do if he found out he never wanted to return to the village again. But there was one thing he was certain of…
"Have you ever spoken to him?" Kiba asked quietly, a drastic change to the passionate exchange mere seconds ago. "He has this thing about him. He makes you want to believe in him. Like, if you follow him everything will be alright." Kiba smiled. "It's not even about all the crap I've found out, or the loyalty thing, it's just this feeling. Maybe it's an Inuzuka instinct, but when I was younger I used to feel like this with my mother. I knew she was safe, and now, now that feeling is with Naruto."
"So you are perfectly willing to not only go against your home village, but destroy it?" Shikamaru shot back. "You realize that more than likely, Naruto will want revenge for what happened to him? Which means he will try and crush the Leaf. And you know that no one here will ever stand for that. You will end up fighting your family."
"It won't come to that! Naruto would never hurt someone willingly. Heck, he has every right to march in here and kill everyone, but the amazing thing is that he won't. He is better than that. He is better than us. He refuses to stoop to level of those who made him suffer."
"I don't get you Kiba" Chouji interrupted. Shikamaru and Kiba turned, having forgotten the Akamichi was there at all in their heated argument.
"What do you mean?" Kiba asked angrily.
"Well, you're an Inuzuka right? Don't you have this major loyalty thing?"
"Well, you've said all your reasons and stuff, and I don't get half of it actually. But what I think it comes down to is: are you throwing away your loyalty to your clan and village for this kid? Isn't that a taboo among your family?"
"It's more complicated than that-"
"Chouji is right." Shikamaru said suddenly. Kiba looked at him. "Tell me now. Is this Naruto guy worth following, even if it means you will never be welcome in this village ever again?"
Kiba was struck dumb. The Nara's words shadowed those of Terra so closely it was frightening. But that didn't matter; he had already decided his answer.
"Yes." He said firmly, so sign of hesitation in his voice whatsoever.
"Troublesome," Shikamaru sighed.
"So you will help?" Kiba asked, he wouldn't admit it but he was cautious. From the conversation alone, he could tell the Nara could be a formidable enemy. He would rather him on his side rather than against him.
"Yes, but not for the reason you want." Shikamaru said finally, after being silent for almost a whole minute.
"What other reasons are there?"
"Naruto basically controls the balance of power right now. If the other villages were to discover that the Kyuubi was no longer in our possession, war would almost certainly break out. If I go along with you I will be able to acquire more data that will allow me to make a more informed decision. As of right now I don't have all the facts, just what you have confirmed and my own half-baked theories. Plus if I decided I am going to act against you, I will more than likely have been around you long enough to know your weaknesses as well as gain valuable information on the target for the village. Knowing this, do you still want my help?"
The gennin was not to be underestimated, Kiba realised. He was no enemy but he was no ally. But the shadow user will be surprised, Kiba had a few tricks up his sleeve yet.
"Ok. I understand. Chouji, what do you want to do?"
"I'm with Shikamaru. Whatever he decides I'll go along with." The happy-go-lucky ninja said with a careless shrug of his shoulders. Shikamaru was always right and so he would always follow his friend.
"Right, then here's what we need to do."