A/N: By the time the latest chapter goes live, all prior issues regarding terminology and upper/lowercase spelling should be cleansed. For those of you re-reading, you should also notice a few differences beginning in the second chapter onward with the storyline that, while changing how we get there, do not ultimately alter the end result of where we are as of chapter 25. Revisions done through the end of chapter 4, leaving 21 to go as of 10/16/13.
The day was passing fairly slowing for once, Hokage Hiruzen Sarutobi thought idly, reviewing the sheet of paper held in his left hand as his right hovered with a pen nearby to sign his affirmation.
So far Naruto had been remarkably quiet, and the report given to him on the boy's daily activities were a cause for some worry.
"A day with Naruto lost in thought is a night of mischief just waiting to unfold." Those were the words he had murmured at the time he had read the scroll, and indeed they came unbidden to his mind again as he went over the same paragraph for the third time in so many minutes.
Finally catching on to what he was doing, Hiruzen set the unsigned sheet and pen back down atop the rest and stretched, feeling every bit his age for the moment.
The massacre of the Uchiha clan only six months ago had left more stress lines and doubt behind than any event since the Kyūbi's attack eight years before, especially with the loss of Minato and Kushina, and he could feel the weight of his choices as Hokage that had failed to prevent the Uchiha situation from spiraling out of control only growing heavier with each day.
Between those thoughts, and his usual duties in addition to trying to keep the villagers in line against Naruto and the boy's own rarely-harmless pranks against them in turn, looking over the stack of paperwork he had to handle was quickly sliding out of his attention span.
"Perhaps a few words may deter him from whatever it is on his mind, and a few more ought to relieve my own from that particular distraction," he mused aloud.
As was to be expected, Naruto was found at his seemingly favorite place, the ramen stand.
Unexpectedly, he was not sitting at it nor eating, but rather standing a short distance off and staring blankly ahead. As Hiruzen approached he cleared his throat to try and alert the child, but no reaction occurred.
"Good luck with that, Hokage-sama. He's been standing there for the better part of an hour now. If his chest wasn't rising and falling, I'd say he was dead." Teuchi called out in a quiet, concerned tone from behind the bar.
Hiruzen frowned even as he gave a brisk nod of his head toward the shop owner.
He placed a hand to Naruto's right shoulder as he came around and knelt to the ground slowly, looking into the distant but not glazed-over effect in the boy's eyes, and silently performed a variance of the technique that young Yamashiro-kun had picked up not long ago for mind-reading.
What he felt was a strong presence he was unaccustomed to when inspecting Naruto's mind, one that went beyond the usual vague sense of rage associated with the bijū dwelling somewhere deep within, but more akin to a sense of inherent strength.
Before he could inquire any further Naruto blinked several times in rapid succession and looked up at him.
"Ah.. Old man Hokage..." he greeted somewhat slowly. Hiruzen did not move or release his grip on the boy's shoulders at the words, instead examining the child's eyes carefully.
"Naruto? Is there anything you'd like to tell me? Any... adverse reaction's you've been feeling lately?" He inquired softly.
Naruto didn't seem to notice the intensity of the elder shinobi's expression just yet, but after a moment he did glance around at their surroundings and then smiled widely as if in remembrance.
"Could it wait 'til after a few bowls of ramen?" He asked in turn.
That seemed to satisfy the Sandaime for the moment, and he again nodded his head.
"Very well." He agreed vocally, letting go and rising to his feet quickly. Naruto grinned and launched himself at the nearest seat, placing his hands onto the table amicably.
Several empty bowls of ramen noodles and the better part of twenty minutes later and the duo were within the Hokage's office.
"I believe you had something to say?" Hiruzen reminded him after they were each sitting across from one another.
"Ah, yeah. About that..." the boy trailed off uncertainly.
His mind was racing through how best to explain what he had to explain, but seeing the Third alive and well again was putting him off of jumping straight into the thick of things.
"Yes... ?" Hiruzen pressed after several moments of silence.
Naruto grimaced. There's no easy way around this, he has to know to make the right preparations.
"You know the Kyūbi attack eight years ago? The one that required dad to sacrifice himself in order to seal the fox inside of me?" He asked awkwardly.
Hiruzen looked more than a little surprised at the mentioning of Minato as dad, and silently made a note to find out who it was that had revealed that particular set of state secrets to Naruto, but rather than interrupt wherever this was going and possibly scare the boy off of his point just yet, the Hokage merely nodded his head.
"Well, uh.. it wasn't wholly the fox's fault. I mean, it probably hurt a lot of people and I know it killed some of them, and nearly destroyed Konoha, which I'm sure it was just as happy to do after so long cooped up, but it was kind of directed to the task." Naruto explained in a rush.
Hiruzen cocked an eyebrow at him. "And you know this, not to mention are able to confirm it, how?" He questioned in a mildly unamused tone.
Naruto met his gaze evenly. "I kind of met the guy at fault, among other things. Madara Uchiha." He spoke sharply.
At that name Hiruzen grew still and his eyes became genuinely cold, recalling quite clearly the second-hand information of that night, and when he spoke his lips hardly moved.
"When?" He demanded without any of his usual warmth to it, knowing for a fact that there was little to no chance that man could still be alive, and running through the ways the child before him could have come to associate Madara to the Kyūbi incident.
The list was fairly short; either one of the few older Jōnin present for that battle had spoken out against his orders, which would cover why Naruto would refer to the Fourth as his father, or the seals preventing the Kyūbi from accessing Naruto's mind were beginning to crumble.
"Ah..." glancing around them and feeling for any other familiar chakra sources nearby, Naruto leaned in closer. "Can I get your word that you won't repeat any of this to Danzō or the rest of the Council?" He asked evasively, a sudden look of wariness present in his blue gaze.
Hiruzen did not answer him for a long moment, but at length he gave his response. "That will depend on where you are going with this." His voice had not changed.
Naruto sighed. "I'm going to meet him in about eight more years, as history goes," he stated evenly.
Seeing the Hokage's unamused look he hurried forward quickly. "To make a long story short, he's still out there as a part of the Akatsuki, trying to gather up the rest of the jinchûriki and their bijū to merge back into a single ten-tailed beast again!" He explained in a rush, hoping to convince the man that had been like a grandfather to him for so long now.
Silence filled the large room after that as Hiruzen processed what Naruto was saying; the boy seemed genuinely confident in what he spoke, but than again he always stood by what he said, true or no.
It seemed more likely that what he said would align to the second possibility.
"I am most displeased that you would dishonor the sacrifice of the Fourth Hokage in such a manner. When did the Kyūbi manage to convince you to let it have this much control, Naruto?" He asked.
Naruto grimaced again. "It didn't," he stated. "It's still locked up with dad's seal in place inside of that stupid sewer, growling angrily at me."
"Please do not lie to me. I've seen how much different you are within." Hiruzen countered.
Naruto's look changed to puzzlement. "You did?" He asked in surprise.
"As I have for several years now, to insure you do not succumb to the Kyūbi's control or tainted chakra. It would appear that I should have been more vigilant in that manner." Hiruzen answered, almost too softly to hear, and almost to himself more so than the boy before him.
A sick feeling grew in the pit of his stomach as Naruto heard those words.
"You've been spying on me?" He questioned in disbelief.
The Sandaime realized how his words could be viewed in such a context and in turn grimaced, raising one hand in a calming motion.
"Not in the way that you think! I have only gone so far as to verify the Kyūbi remained at length from your conscious mind." He responded firmly.
Naruto stood up. "Unbelievable. Y'know what? I'll show you proof that I'm still me and telling the truth!" Naruto stated in a pained tone, stepping back from the Hokage and performing the basic hand-seals of the Shadow Clone technique.
Hiruzen acted quickly to counteract whatever Naruto was about to perform- no doubt a trick of the Kyūbi, he thought as he rose in an instant and flung himself over the desk, and then his hands caught Naruto's and pressed the boy against the wall.
Only to have the body explode into smoke before him.
"What?" The elder shinobi asked as if disbelieving his eyes.
A short laugh caught his attention from behind the desk.
Turning about he saw a trio of Naruto's sitting smugly in his chair or hanging off the edges. "This, as you well know, is the Shadow Clone jutsu. A forbidden technique currently wrapped up in a large scroll somewhere in here. Seeing as you have it under a fair guard and you would have caught me long before I successfully read it, will you finally listen to what I have to say?" Naruto asked him.
Hiruzen stared at them in further disbelief, for it was true that the technique was as he said.
A moment later and a flicker of motion as the Sandaime turned completely serious saw three kunai sailing at them at a far more deadly pace.
Two of the knives cut through the clones on the left and right armrests before they could react and left them vanished into puffs of smoke, while the third yelped and only just ducked the third such weapon.
It's tainted edge sliced into one cheek as it was intended.
"Ow!" Naruto complained, holding a hand to the leaking wound and scowling at the old man. "What was that for?" He demanded.
Hiruzen walked forward slowly and leaned over his desk, drumming the fingers along its surface quickly in agitation.
"You should feel the sedative-poison leaking through your bloodstream any moment now. I am sorry, Naruto, but whatever it is that has happened to you of late, I can not allow it to continue. Whatever lies the Kyūbi has told in order to establish a hold in your chakra, whatever it has managed to teach you, must be undone." He said in a hard tone.
Naruto shuddered without answering, having never heard or felt the intensity of the Hokage's words now as he had before, or been harmed directly by his hand like this.
He could counteract the poison if he used some of the fox's chakra, but that would only convince the Sandaime of the danger he represented at the moment.
Which meant, unfortunately for him, that he would have to gut it out and try to get his point across again. He simply couldn't do what he had planned since waking up this morning almost a decade younger without the the elder shinobi's help.
Breathing in sharply through his mouth as the unfortunately swift moving poison rushed through his veins, Naruto stubbornly sat up and stared into Hiruzen's eyes.
"Here, dig around until you get the answers you need! I'm not going to give up-" his words were cut off as he coughed suddenly, feeling ill as much as tired.
Looking back up at the Hokage, he gripped the edges of the chair tightly and settled his head against the soft material, looking straight into the old mans eyes.
Hiruzen stared at him for another long moment before reaching a hand forward and placing it directly to the boys head, choosing to utilize the Yamanaka families preferred technique in place of Yamashiro-kun's derivative on it, and slid into Naruto's mind.
It was not a pleasant ninjutsu to perform even at his age.
Meeting Sasuke on the team for the first time, actually sitting down and speaking for more than a simple sparing lesson, and immediately disliking him.
Fighting with the other boy in the Chūnin exams, and the Forest of Death.
Struggling against Gaara as the other jinchūriki transformed piece by piece into a monster.
Learning of Orochimaru's attack and the loss of Sandaime.
Jiraiya teaching him the methods of the Rasengan, using base materials easily bought.
Spinning, rotating, inverting the simple objects at last.
Creating his first Rasengan successfully in battle.
Meeting with Tsunade and winning their loose bet over the technique.
Utilizing the Rasenshuriken in battle.
Arriving at a demolished landscape, and learning it was Konoha.
Entering Sage mode and protecting the Godaime from Pain's attack.
Falling to the Kyūbi's dominion at the loss of Hinata.
Speaking with his father at last.
Destroying the last of Pain's assumed bodies and hunting down his true self.
Tearing himself from Naruto's memories, if indeed they were such, Hiruzen leaned back and gripped the edges of his desk tightly to keep himself upright.
The sheer flood of emotions...! He thought, eyes looking over the small child before him.
Naruto was shivering as he resisted the urge to throw up and collapse to the ground unconsciously, eyes flickering before half-lidded and wide open and mouth set in a frown even as he panted.
"Does... that... convince you... old man... Hokage?" Naruto questioned, shuddering again and slamming his mouth shut, breathing rapidly through his nose to keep the bile back as his lunch disagreed with the poison.
Hiruzen did not know how to react. He had seen memories before, had experienced them when needed, and the only difference was how firmly attached Naruto was and how deeply involved his emotions were linked to them, compared to the almost-detachment others held for the majority of their memories.
Quickly diving out of the chair and out of sight of the Hokage, Hiruzen was spared the sight of those ramen noodles coming back and earning revenge after all these years on Naruto's unending hunger as he at last succumbed toward the inevitable.
After a few moments Hiruzen pulled out a small vial of antidote from his pockets and walked around, kneeling by the shuddering child and placing a reassuring hand to his back as he tried to ignore the smell emanating up at him.
He didn't notice how Naruto managed a faint upturning of his lips in victory, which faded again as he finished up with his afternoon meal and sagged toward another patch of the floor almost unconsciously.
Leaning Naruto back in the lull between motions, Hiruzen uncorked and pressed the small vial to the child's mouth, and Naruto didn't hesitate to swallow the bland liquid.
The sedative trying to drag him down gradually lightened, and he inhaled slowly and deeply and clamped his lips shut to keep it down, focusing on controlling his stomach after a few seconds to keep any more from coming up.
In a couple of minutes he felt weak but otherwise mostly recovered, and Naruto stood up tiredly.
"Sorry about your floor, Hokage-sama." He stated sincerely, looking embarrassed at the mess.
Hiruzen lead them both away from it and toward an open window. "Do not worry yourself over it," he responded softly, still contemplating just what to do.
After several seconds of silence the boy spoke up, "If you saw the same things I did, then does that convince you?" Naruto asked softly.
"I do not know what I believe, Naruto." Hiruzen responded evenly and heard the other suppress a sigh.
"You know there are space-time techniques, right?" He asked.
Hiruzen nodded his head without answering.
Naruto glanced at his reaction and continued. "Madara uses one to teleport himself or anyone else wherever he needs with just his Sharingan, and Kakashi-sensei uses his Sharingan to manipulate dimensions for a similar result." He paused to gauge the reaction again.
Hiruzen remained silent, not showing an outward expression but inside growing a little more worried.
"I kind of got caught in between them when I was in Sage mode about eight and a half years from now," Naruto continued, "the natural energies got entangled with the space-time energy of the jutsu and... well.. as far as we can tell, I got blasted back in time. But I don't know if this is the same dimension as the one I'm supposed to be in." Naruto finished, staring at Hiruzen and almost demanding that the old Hokage acknowledge him.
Further silence won out for another minute until Hiruzen sighed. "Tell me everything you know, Naruto. Everything you can that I haven't already told you about at your age but planned to in the years ahead," he answered him.
Naruto grimaced. "Aw, c'mon! You didn't share a whole lot before the Chūnin exams! Can't I just say where ero-sennin is or something at this time frame and you send out a shinobi team to verify?" He complained, finding it hard to believe after everything else.
Hiruzen shook his head. "Not quite the same," he answered, though inwardly he agreed that it could be a useful way of truly solidifying what he was being told.
Naruto huffed in indignation and sat down on the floor, sighing.
"This is gonna take a while. Lemme consult myself a few times to make sure I've got it all set," he stated, and as before with the proper motions he summoned three more duplicates.
Hiruzen frowned but stepped back as the foursome pressed heads together and whispered among themselves for several minutes.
End Chapter One.