The Cloak of the Yondaime

Chapter 2- A Will and a Way

Warnings: AU, mild violence, possible swearing

Disclaimer: Naruto © Kishimoto

A Challenge by EDelta88.

-o0oOOOo0o—

The Shiki Fuin was a seal that no one had known the origins of. Calling up a god to take someone's soul, even at the cost of one's own life, technically should not have been possible. It was a mystery to seal masters the world over, and Minato once had been one of them. He'd pondered the seal, segregating blocks of kanji and laboriously translating each miniscule section by section, and even now, he thought he had only scraped the surface.

He hadn't had time to consider that, however, when he finally sealed the Kyuubi away. All he'd done was use it in his own, original seal, and pray that it worked the way he thought it did.

Luckily, it had.

He'd been sucked into what he assumed was the Shinigami's stomach, to do battle with a demon.

The reason had had actually been able to match the Kyuubi was because, in the god's stomach, everything was stripped down to a soul. Power, strength, and ability meant nothing, unless it was of the soul.

One's will became that much more important. One's goal was suddenly called into question.

If he could not match the will and purpose of a thousand-year old demon, he would stay in the Shinigami's stomach and the Kyuubi would be sealed into his son.

Not a bad thing; it was what he'd hoped would happen. How could he have possibly won against a demon that had seen so much more suffering, that had caused so much more suffering? It was the purpose of the Shiki Fuin to put both fighters on an equal ground, true, but the Kyuubi held a godlike place in his mind; it was thing that had ripped his life out from under his feet, the monster that had wrought so much death and destruction that not even the Yellow Flash could match.

But then, the god mentioned a deal. To make things interesting, he'd said, and a dark chuckle had reverberated throughout the gloom. It was a cold, chilling, alien voice, one that awoke the primal fear of any mortal being; of death. A shiver had run down Minato's spine, and he'd prepared for the worst.

If, if, he could match, no, surpass the Kyuubi in determination and strength of soul, he would be sealed into his son, with full control over the demonic chakra the Kyuubi possessed, while the demon's soul would be left to whittle away in darkness. A favor, the Shinigami had said.

A tiny glimmer of hope shone from the shadows.

But it was enough.

Naruto, Naruto was all that mattered. It was all that he had left. He'd sworn it to Kushina when she died, and Minato could still hear her last words; take care of him, will you?

And suddenly, the Kyuubi was such a trivial thing, nothing compared to his family, to his son. There was the village, of course, but he'd been fighting for that before, and the Kyuubi had been winning.

So if the village wasn't enough, his family would have to do. There was no longer any choice; win, or lose? He would have to win.

And when Minato did prevail, the Shinigami watched him disappear into white and chuckled to the Kyuubi, do you recall your kits, your love, your family? The lengths you would go to in order to protect them?

And the beast had not. But now he remembered, and he despaired, a bitter laugh ringing through the darkness.

He'd lost to a human, a mere human, because of a single child.

The Shinigami, meanwhile, sighed, a ghostly breath that echoed throughout the realm. Humans were so very interesting…

-o0oOOOo0o—

When Minato had been sealed into Naruto, he could no longer remember his conversation with the Shinigami. He did recall that that he had beaten the Kyuubi, and that he'd been sealed into his son, but he no longer remembered the deal. After all, the words of a deity were not meant for a mortal's ears.

He'd woken in a gilded cage, nine stone spires twirling up into a cerulean sky, with no end to the majestic columns. They surrounded him, enclosed him, like a bird circling in on its prey. Nine locks for nine tails. They were engraved with sealing script, he realized; but then he smiled bitterly. He'd written them himself.

Minato wandered for a moment, circling the gray stone. He brushed his hand against the engraved pillars, and they glowed a warning yellow. He quickly pulled his hand away.

A serene, still pool of water lay in the center of the circular platform, which was paved with grey cobbled bricks, worn smooth and round with age. The pond seemed to have no depth; it was like a reflection, a smooth surface of silver that could not possibly be water, yet was. He could see the reflection of the white, wispy clouds in the quicksilver, and when he came closer, vague impressions flitted across the surface.

A blurry red face, with a misshapen head and a mess of crimson, he recognized as Kushina all the same. Twin pinpricks of emerald stared out from the skewed vision, and it disappeared quickly.

Hazy dandelion yellow; him, Minato realized. And then red. A malevolent, orange, bubbling red that obscured the reflected clouds, and pain, so much pain that covered his world in ash-

He woke, gasping. When had he ever been asleep?

Naruto, he realized. That was what Naruto felt.

And Minato could only sit there, and think, oh lord Kami, what have I done?

-o0oOOOo0o—

Three years passed, and the beautiful blue sky was slowly obscured by grey, and then darkness. The once-regal towers turned into ugly iron bars, and the sealing script, attractive in its own way, morphed and warped into a simple paper tag. Clean gray stone became dirty, damp gutter bricks, and the clean, clear glasslike surface of water transformed into a murky pool not out of place in a sewer. It didn't matter to Minato, though, and he bent over the water surface every day, watching over his son.

He supposed it could have been worse.

The Sandaime's law was in full effect, and very few ever attempted anything to Naruto. The few that did, however, were 'taken care of' immediately. He thought that the orphanage caretaker would be taken care of as soon as enough data was gathered. As biased as the council members were, the ANBU would need overwhelming evidence to force them to evict the caretaker, and the woman hadn't done anything drastic yet.

Minato himself didn't change much. His clothing remained clean, unaltered. He soon found that he could bring forth tails of chakra at will, and the now-yellow chakra would extend from the walls of the cage, teasing him with power that he could not use.

Until now.

He would not allow Naruto to be killed, those Kumo nin would pay, pay…!

He wanted Naruto to live, Naruto needed to live, how could Minato live with himself, if Naruto died?

And then, Naruto's thoughts, as clear as a bell- 'I don't want to die.'

Minato thought, well, that was just fine with him, wasn't it?

And for the first time, there was a ripple in the water. The silver surface became clear, as clear as glass, and he saw Naruto, scared, frightened, and looking straight into his eyes.

The scene grew, ripples soon spreading and growing to become tidal waves that engulfed all.

When Minato next opened his eyes, he stood right in front of the cursed Kumo ninja.

It helped that they had schemed against Konoha, for with all his fatherly instincts, he still was a Hokage, the Fourth Fire Shadow.

They would pay, and the price would be their lives.

His-the Kyuubi's- chakra welled up, the killing intent that it usually radiated indiscriminately now directed solely at the Kumo nin.

When it had been dispersed, the aura alone had been enough to knock genin and low-level chunin unconscious from the terrifying intent.

Focused, well, the elite Kumo jounin could do little more than gasp before Namikaze Minato ended their pitiful existence.

He noticed, out of the corner of his eye, a small girl, a Hyuuga, scrambling away with her heart pounding in fear. Enhanced senses were a burden he would have to bear; it came with inheriting the demonic chakra. But he had only eyes for Naruto.

My son asked for my name, he thought numbly, thoughts moving at a snail's pace. It took him awhile to remember how to speak; it had been so long…

"My name," he started slowly, searching for the answer; when was the last time he had gone by Minato? It had only been three years, but it seemed like ages. "is Namikaze." He finally spoke. "Namikaze…Minato." And he turned his gaze on the boy, so much left unsaid. Your father, your guardian, your protector, but he couldn't say that, not at all.

And Naruto started to smile, and opened his mouth, but then he trembled, and collapsed. It had been a long time, Minato thought, since he had felt such absolute fear. And he darted forwards, with all the speed he possessed, and used his technique to take Naruto away. To a safe place. It didn't matter where, and he couldn't take the time to wonder, right now, why he could use the Hiraishin without his seal tags; he just needed Naruto somewhere safe.

And as he sped away, he could not help but wonder; he hoped that the girl wouldn't remember them, for even if it was brushed off as a figment of imagination, the memory was still there.

She would remember them for the rest of her life.

-o0oOOOo0o—

When Sarutobi first saw Naruto after the Hyuuga incident, the boy was tucked into a small, slightly overstuffed chair in his office.

How had he gotten here? The Sandaime wondered.

But then he noticed the bruises.

Large splotches of purple-blue, some turning a sickly yellow. A few scratches were visible against the abused skin.

His hand, shaking, reached out to brush it; and he winced when Naruto flinched away.

"Naruto." He called, shaking the small shoulder (too small, his mind cried.)

"Hm?" The toddler blinked sleepily, shifting around in the chair. "Oh, hi ojisan!" He immediately brightened, sitting up completely. "What're you doing here?"

The Sandaime lifted an eyebrow, amused. "This is my office, Naruto-kun."

Naruto's bright blue eyes widened to an impossible degree, and his head began whipping around, inspecting every nook and corner of the esteemed Hokage's office. "Wow…" He said, awed.

"Naruto-kun," the Sandaime repeated, "how did you get here?"

"Oh! Well, I don't know. There was just a lot of yellow…oh yeah! And strange people, with weird round shapes on their headbands, and those long-haired people with black, shiny hair, and…"

The Sandaime smiled. "Enough, Naruto. So you don't know what happened?" Despite his outwardly calm appearance, the old Hokage was worried. The 'yellow' description matched that of the Hyuuga heiress's, and the strange people could easily be Kumo nin. If Sarutobi was correct, the childish description could easily be taken as a scene from the attack on the Hyuuga compound.

Naruto shook his head fiercely. "Nope! But there was this really, really pretty girl, you know, with long shiny hair and nice purple-ish white eyes. I wonder what happened to her…" But as suddenly as the boy had spoken, his mouth clamped shut.

Naruto wasn't sure if he could trust the strange voice, but it was awesome! Just like an imaginary friend! And besides, he'd already told the old man everything, except for the weird yellow guy, but that was probably nothing…

Minato sighed in relief. He wouldn't have known what to do if Naruto told the Sandaime that little fact. What he did know, was that it would have been disastrous.

Sarutobi chuckled and ruffled the boy's spiky blonde hair. "Oh, so you like her, eh?"

Naruto puffed out his cheeks in an adorable pout, a blush overtaking his face. "No! Girls are icky!" He stated it so matter-of-factly, that the Hokage could no longer hide his amusement.

"Well, Naruto-kun, why aren't you at the orphanage?" He knew that the woman was mistreating Naruto, but it was far better than any other place so far.

"Oh…" At this, the cheerful boy's face immediately froze and assumed an angry, hurt expression. "Well, it's nothing."

"Nothing?" The Sandaime pressed.

"Nothing." The boy stated stubbornly. "Nothing. Granny didn't do anything bad, really."

"Okay then. What happened to your shirt, Naruto-kun?"

"Oh, well, that was the moss. Mou, I need a new shirt now…" Naruto tugged unhappily at the edge of the fabric.

"Moss?" Sarutobi cut off. "Where? It's only four in the morning, why would you have green stains on your shirt… oh. Oh." The realization hit him like a ton of bricks. The old bitch had kicked Naruto out of the orphanage, hadn't she? Well, he should have seen this coming.

Naruto's eyes widened in fear, immediately realizing his mistake. "Err…."

"Tell me, Naruto-kun," The Hokage started, his voice low and dangerous. "Did she do anything else to you?" Despite age wearing down on him, Sarutobi was still a formidable shinobi. Brown eyes pierced straight to your soul, divining your goals and purpose. The Professor, indeed. Many an opponent had fallen to those eyes, and Naruto was no different.

"We-elll…" Naruto trailed off hesitantly, somewhat frightened but trusting in his oji-san, "she hit me… But not all the time!" He hastily amended when a trace of killing intent emerged. "Only when I came in late, or something…"

Sarutobi had enough. "Thank you Naruto." He sat down at his desk and began filling out a report for replacing the matron of the 'Helping Hands' orphanage. This, coupled with the evidence the ANBU had already brought in, would be enough to get the woman evicted.

As the soft sounds of a brush swiping against paper filled his ears, Naruto blinked sleepily, the early hour getting to him. A young toddler needed plenty of rest, after all, and after the excitement-filled events of last night, he needed a lot of it.

He curled up into the overstuffed chair again, yawning. Soon, he fell asleep.

-o0Ooooo0o—

Minato idly stirred the water's surface with a stick he'd found lying around on the floor of his cage.

Touching the water himself resulted in violent backlash, launching him into whatever wall of his cell his back was turned to. While Minato could admit the new, decorative craters were quite interesting to look at, making the artwork was not so fun.

He kind of wanted to know how his hair had managed to leave an impression in the rock, but Minato was sure that any more attempts to find out would result in a major loss of brain cells. Honestly, the very fact that he was considering trying the suicidal move again proved that he'd lost enough already.

So far, the only theory he had was that he was subconsciously sending chakra to every part of his body when he hit the wall, hardening it. If this could be utilized in battle, it would be incredibly useful; it reminded him of the Kōka no Jutsu [Hardening Technique] of the Iwa nins, except using chakra instead of rock. While the skill would be incredibly draining, Minato would not have to worry about that anymore, seeing as he had the entire mass of the Kyuubi's chakra at his beck and call.

Some would find it weird that he was contemplating a new jutsu after nearly being killed several times. But to the Yondaime Hokage, it wasn't so strange at all.

At heart, after all, Namikaze Minato was a scientist.

He had developed the Hiraishin to end the Third Shinobi War, well, because he could. He wanted a more efficient way to kill. And it would end the carnage far earlier than anyone would have expected.

For if there was one thing that Minato could agree with, it was that war was ugly.

And he wanted to end it.

Seals had opened up an entirely new world to the jounin. The possibilities had been infinite. Hell, ninjutsu and genjutsu had been based off the ancient art of fuinjutsu, the first shinobi art founded by the Sage of Six Paths.

Why did he believe in that legend? Some asked. Well, there had been a very simple answer.

There should have been dozens, hundreds of theories floating around to verify the existence of jutsu and chakra. But there was only one myth; the one involving the Rikudou Sennin.

It seemed that something in people's subconscious inclined them to believe in this one legend. Minato was convinced.

Fuinjutsu could, indeed create a giant, twisting water dragon or a constructed earthen trap. It was a simple matter of translating the handseals to paper. Even better, the fuin required no chakra at all, drawing what it needed from the nature around it.

It was one of the mysteries of seals. Why could simple paper and ink do what humans had so much trouble achieving?

Minato didn't know. All he knew was that seals were both technical and an art, somehow complicated and simple, an existing example of contradictions if he ever saw one. He also knew that the convoluted things would blow up in his face if he got them wrong.

He kept making new, never before seen seals. Even Jiraiya, one of the premier seal masters of his day, hardly made any new seals. Why? It was so risky, so dangerous, that one could easily lose his life making them.

Well, Minato didn't care. This was his shinobi quirk, his half-suicidal way of keeping himself sane, and he loved doing it.

For not even Konoha's beloved Yondaime Hokage could keep himself from snapping after all the carnage he'd seen and caused without an outlet. If something didn't work, he'd try again, and damn the consequences.

Naruto had to have gotten his determination from somewhere hadn't he? One stubborn father plus an equally stubborn mother generally would result in a doubly stubborn son.

Well, thought Minato amusedly, that was not such a good thing.

If Naruto was anything like him or Kushina, he was sure that the boy would find the most trouble he could and dive straight into it.

Poor Minato wouldn't find out exactly how correct he was until years later.

-o0oOOOo0o—

Author's Notes:

Whoa, I'm on a roll.

Time's Spinning Gears updated, and now this too.

So, what do you guys think? Minato characterized well? The scene between the Sandaime and Naruto playing out properly?

Till' next time,

Port in the Storm.

May 25, 2010