Date written: 25/04/10 – 08/05/10
Posted on FanFiction: 01/06/10
A/N: I always wanted to write a non-serious Naruto fic. Now this here is just an experiment on writing a Naruto with a devil-may-care attitude, with some odd quirks thrown in just for the sake of it. This is categorized in the Humor genre for a reason, yet do not even think for one second that there are no serious moments in this. It's Humor, not Parody. As far as the Naruto universe goes in its grasp of human psychology and unwavering sense of forgiveness (would you still give pardon to an S-Class missing nin like Sasuke? Forgive him after killing the Rokudaime Kouho, Danzo?) that I sometimes wish I could go there, befriend Naruto, and rampage everywhere, anytime just for Naruto to stop all attempts of people killing me. What a chilling and tempting thought . . .
In this story, Naruto will retain that sense of morality and forgiveness, but I also want to implement the effects of post-traumatic stress disorder that goes beyond the normal ones found in war-experienced soldiers. In the Naruto universe, nobody is satisfied with normal. Hahaha. I'm not that proficient in Psychology (I've only gotten a basic rundown of the subject), so don't expect me to go all technical and factual in my long paragraphs, much less make things overcomplicated. But the fact still remains, Naruto will be different. I've already found a fitting theme song for him when he's in his carefree façade: "A Pair of Idiots" from the Clannad OST. Just search YouTube for the song, and you'll have a better understanding of what I have in mind. And while you're at it, if you're looking for a funny but tear-jerking anime to watch I strongly recommend Clannad. I haven't shed so much manly tears in one sitting, let alone with just one anime series.
Disclaimer: This is purely fictional and fanfictional. None of the characters present in this story are considered canon to the original Naruto series, which is owned by Masashi Kishimoto. But the OC's belong to me, while the original concept of the story belongs to Grining Prey. Even when he quitted, he's forever grinning.
- CHAPTER 1 -
Naruto knew it was suicidal. There was no big sign to tell him it was so, no person to inform him, no cosmic revelation to predict that what he was about to do would either put the whole planet in jeopardy due to some reality-breaking stuff he didn't have the brains to completely comprehend, or Madara would just survive it and then the shit would really hit the fan this time. Too bad that whether he could pull it off or not, he wouldn't be around to see what his actions would do to the world.
He was twenty-two years old (twenty-three if he'd survive for another six weeks), and the so-called child of the prophecy who would be the turning point of the ninja world. Bring the world to darkness or save it with all the imperfections intact. Tough choice; didn't mean he could choose with just mere words. Actions were the medium for his choice, and quite frankly it wasn't enough to get what he wanted out of the Morton's fork, choosing between a rock and a hard place and all that. Therefore, he was left with the default option: let the world be subjected to Madara's global illusion.
But many people had counted on him, sacrificed their lives for him. If he were to give up now, then everything they had done for him would just be in vain. And Naruto was too honor-bound to let the lives of his precious people be wasted because of his resignation to fate. He didn't believe it, after all, so why should he? He was Naruto Uzumaki, the epitome of diehard.
The war had escalated to continental proportions, and nothing was spared from Madara's tyranny in the land. Naruto conducted a special mission to breach through Madara's base of operations, bypass all of his guards (including Kabuto, the Orochi-wannabe), and face the man himself. But this would not be completed without a diversion to drive most of Madara's forces and the bijuu away from the final battle. Most of the plan had been flawless (and why wouldn't it? Shikamaru was the one who thought it up!), but fighting Madara was no easy task in and of itself. Naruto had to use every trick up his sleeve and the lessons he had learned throughout the years before he could even get close to the guy and seal up his teleportation ability or whatever-he-called-it. Now it was just a simple case of killing the guy permanently.
Not much success in that department, apparently. Madara also had a few more tricks up his sleeve, and Naruto had been ill-prepared. Naruto was beaten, his team wiped out, leaving him the sole survivor of the botched up mission. And now Madara was finalizing the ritual in reconstructing the Juubi since the final piece of the puzzle had waltzed right into his greedy hands. How fucked up could this get?
So here Naruto was now, in the middle of another Morton's fork for him to decide the fate of the world and also his own. You see, during his training in mastering the bijuu inside him, he stumbled upon an ancient technique that had been created by the legendary Rikudou Sennin himself. Apparently, the man had a slight case of autophobia, fear of his own self. Rather, he was afraid of the beast he had sealed within himself taking over his mind and continuing its carnage at the world. So what better way to prevent such a tragedy from ever occurring again by simply dying and then dragging the beast with you to the pits of Hell?
Yes, this was why Naruto knew it was suicidal: it was a suicide jutsu from the very start!
Fortunately or unfortunately, depending on the person's viewpoint, the jutsu was made solely for a Juubi jinchuuriki's suicide attempt, therefore the backlash of the Kyuubi's destruction would be catastrophic since it is pretty much unstable and incomplete chakra fueled by human malice and hatred. Destruction awaited this place and he was sure that the surrounding little towns near here would no doubt be affected by the blast, but it was the only way to ensure the safety of the world. Well, at least safety from Madara's iron fist tyranny, he supposed. Frankly, after what happened throughout his twenty-two years of life in this world and how whatever deity watching over them seemed to look the other way when good people—even Naruto's precious people—die because of their involvement with the Kyuubi jinchuuriki, he began to care less and less of what would happen to the world and the people in it. Not enough to disregard the slaying of innocents, though. Apart from his precious people, he would just tell everyone else to go copulate themselves. He didn't know when he had been dubbed 'cynical' and a 'smartass,' but he'd rather think of them as the symptoms of the next stage of his coping mechanism when the whole blond-idiot-who-is-always-happy-go-lucky façade began to show its age and dullness. His new attitude sure gave him a new life outlook and lots of ammunition for disparaging his opponents, but it also distanced him with his precious people. Ah, there was no use thinking anything else. All of his loved ones were dead, and he'd really like to at least kill the antique Uchiha before he met his end.
So he asked himself mere seconds away from forming the two final hand seals of the suicide jutsu: What awaits me after death?
No one was there to give him an answer. And it was probably for the better. The jutsu did its part quite nicely, and the image of seeing Madara Uchiha disintegrate into dust, screaming and squirming, right in front of his eyes before the cold, dank clutches of death gripped his soul and claimed him was undoubtedly priceless.
With the prophecy fulfilled, somewhat, Naruto Uzumaki died with a smile.
But why do I get the feeling that it's not yet R.I.P. for me?
Naruto came to that question when he had finally lost every feeling in his five senses. And he was beginning to think that the deity that pretty much liked screwing up his life with prophecies and wars and all that life-is-unfair montage was not yet done with its little human toy.
His senses only had a momentary pause before they reset. First off was touch. And boy did it welcome him with a warm embrace, a scorching, pain-inducing embrace that made Sasuke's improved Tsukuyomi attack feel like a baby's slap. It was almost like the Kyuubi's chakra engulfing his very soul with its malevolent will, like it was angry or annoyed . . . or probably PMSing without menstruating. The fox definitely needed some anger management.
Next came the smell. The environment had that familiar scent in his fragmented memories of being rushed into the operating room and Tsunade-baa-chan saving his life at one time or another, though he couldn't for the life of him understand why he recalled the OR's scent, of all things. He also smelled blood, and he was certain it was his. His taste buds then kicked in and he could even taste the thick liquid in his mouth.
His sense of hearing returned, too, and he listened to the frantic orders and mutters of the doctors and nurses inside the room, the constant beeping of a heart monitor next to him. There was one voice in the group that was much louder than the others, her no-nonsense tone and steeled emotions even in the face of a patient lying between the boundaries of life and death were enough hints for Naruto to guess that it was Tsunade leading the operation. But then a simple memory came back to his groggy mind, and Naruto realized that his guess was only wishful thinking; Tsunade had been dead for four months now. It was probably someone who sounded like her. Yeah.
Just to be sure that his eyesight hadn't been damaged from the supposed suicide jutsu (never trust old scrolls again!), he let them slowly bathe into the glaring lights above him. Squinted at first, so as not to be overwhelmed, his eyes blinked while opening a tad bit wider for every interval. His strength was low and his breathing ragged. An oxygen mask was on his mouth and the nurses were rushing left and right inside his peripheral vision, but they had the shapes of blobs in distorted white and fleshy colors. His overall vision was as blurry as a camera out of focus.
"Dammit! He's not responding to the meds!" the Tsunade-like voice cursed.
"It's his healing factor," one of the nurses said. "His body is probably counteracting them."
"Shit! Give him another shot and double the dosage. We can't risk him waking up at a time like this."
"But, Tsunade-sama, he's already close to overdosing and with his immune system cou—"
"Just do it!"
The nurse seemed to hesitate. Then: "Yes, ma'am."
Whatever anesthesia they administered to his body took effect almost immediately. His regained senses weakened and dulled, and their embrace was replaced with the cold arms of sleep. Darn. He wanted to check if he heard the nurse right when she called that blonde-haired doctor 'Tsunade-sama.' Maybe it was just a woman with the same name as the Godaime Hokage. Maybe . . . maybe . . .
And Naruto knew no more.
As the red lights of the OR sign flickered and then faded, a buxom blonde in a surgeon's outfit walked out of the double doors below the sign, her expression weary and exhausted. Sitting alone on one of the chairs next to the OR was an equally tired woman, who stood right up when the blonde neared her. She had that stance that made her seem prepared for the blunt truth of the situation's severity. Needless to say, the woman wasn't expecting a great resolution to all this.
"We did all we could," the blonde said after a long sigh, her brown eyes looking straight at the other woman's worried gray eyes. "He'll be fine, but the damage was"—she paused, not sure how to word it without making it too blunt for the receiver—"life-threatening." Crap, still blunt. Ah well, she wasn't always good at this kind of thing, which was why she let the nurses talk to the people in the waiting room instead of her. Whether in physical strength or verbal declarations, she didn't hold back her punches. But she couldn't do it this time because the patient and the patient's mother were people she knew deeply.
The gray-eyed woman licked her dry lips. "Is Naruto . . .?"
"Going to be one-hundred percent okay? I doubt it. Scarred, but he'll pull through. Thought we lost him for a couple minutes, but his healing factor alone restarted his heart, surprising everyone in the operating room."
"I thought I'd never see the day to be thankful for the Kyuubi's presence inside him." The woman brushed strands of her long crimson hair behind her ear. She meant for the sentence to be taken lightly, but in her tired state it almost sounded cynical.
"I wouldn't think so."
"If it hadn't been for the Kyuubi, he wouldn't have gotten hurt in the first place. You weren't here when he was brought in. He had multiple deep gashes with faint traces of wind chakra. His skull was cracked in two places, blunt force. No signs of brain damage . . . again, courtesy of his healing factor. He also had eight kunai embedded on his back. One punctured his left lung, two were dangerously close from stabbing his heart and spinal cord. When that ANBU operative arrived in the hospital's doorstep, I thought that he was carrying a bloody piece of meat he got from the slaughterhouse. Never in my years as a medic-nin could prepare me to see a five-year-old child look so . . . so . . ."
The woman sobbed. "I failed him. I told him that I'd protect him, yet I . . ." She sat back down, drowning in the sorrow of her mistake.
The blonde stood there, unsure how to proceed. She had no previous experience with consoling people after the news was broken to them, but this was a different case. For one, the patient didn't die. But still, the woman breaking down in front of her was the only kunoichi who was able to convince her to stay in Konoha, and by doing so, she was able to regain something she had lost and the old wounds had finally begun to heal.
"Kushina," she called, sitting down on the seat next to the redhead, "it's going to be all right." Her hand went to the woman's shoulder.
"I put too much faith in this village." She clenched her fists. "Only a ninja could have done those things to my son. A ninja blinded with hatred."
"I'll be sure to report this to the Hokage as soon as possible. The ANBU only found him by chance. He had been left for dead."
"Where's Naruto now?"
"He's being moved into a new room. We gave him enough sedatives to sleep through the night and probably for the rest of the morning, so I suggest you catch some shut-eye too."
"No," Kushina retorted. "I want to be with Naruto. I can't leave him alone after what happened tonight."
"I knew you'd say that." The blonde smiled. "That's why I specified that Naruto be moved into a room with two beds."
She understood the implications right away. "But Tsunade-ba-chan . . ."
Tsunade shook her head, raising a hand in gesture for her to be silent. "Come on, I'll take you there."
". . . thank you."
"I'm the kid's godmother." Tsunade had a smirk on her face. "No harm in a bit of spoiling, right?"
Naruto had grown used to the swift change in perception even when he hadn't been into this place for a long time. From the encroaching darkness flooding his vision until sleep came for him to the feeling of being wide awake inside the dank and reddish sewers of the fox's mindscape intertwined with his own. But the feel of the place seemed off. He couldn't put his finger on it, but the place looked to be . . . less dank, maybe.
"Wonder what the furball wants?"
Naruto usually didn't acquaint himself with the fox, and the few times he had come to this mindscape was only because of chance or desperation or both. The fox hated him, and he hated the fox. It was as simple as that. Maybe when he was still a teen, he must've wished for a harmonious relationship with his tenant, but after years and years of trying to get the fox to see reason and make its stay inside his belly less of a nightmare getting rejected at every turn, he began to lose hope of ever taming the beast completely like Killer Bee did. Before that special mission which inadvertently led him to his current predicament, he had mastered the Kyuubi's demonic chakra and could take it from the fox at will, but the way he was taking it was considered stealing than willingly given. As such, his prowess was still incomplete. Still, it was better than nothing, and the added control over the demonic cloak was a godsend whenever he was ambushed by bounty hunters who took up Madara's offer.
So with all that said, it left Naruto to wonder why he had come into the mindscape. He wasn't the one who made the house call, after all.
Walking along the one-way path, he wandered through intersections and dark corridors. The only way for him to get some answers was to find the main room where the fox resided behind its cage, but Naruto found no sense of familiarity inside this sewer maze. Even in his brief stays within the mindscape before this one had come with that feeling of instinct where his legs did the travelling while his thoughts observed the shapes and colors of the place and memorizing the corridors he passed. He used that knowledge to work his way around the place now, but it was like giving a blind man a map to read.
In a nutshell, he was lost inside his own mind. How more fucked could he be?
Time had a different meaning inside a mindscape, though, so Naruto couldn't be sure if three hours really did pass or just three minutes. With his rotten luck in the past few months, he wouldn't be surprised if he had been asleep for three whole days. Regardless, he had finally found the lair of the great, bad fox. The sight that welcomed him was the usual cage and the seal embedded at the center, but there was a slight addition in the center of the room.
There was a little boy in here, sleeping on ankle-deep water. The weird thing about it was that the kid was floating like a boat.
"Huh. You don't see that every day," Naruto muttered. He walked towards the kid, spotting his dark red hair and whiskered cheeks. Naruto unconsciously traced his own marks.
Whether it was because the kid sensed his presence or the low growl coming from the beast inside its cage woke him up, Naruto knew that it was best to hide in the shadows. He wanted to know at least a bit more about the kid before he confronted him, wanted to discern if this was just a ploy for the fox to try and escape its prison.
The boy rose, rubbing his eyes to ward off the rest of his sleep. When he raised his arms to stretch, his floating ability somehow deactivated and he was left sputtering and struggling through very shallow water, panicking that he was drowning and he wanted his mommy.
Naruto found the scene very much hilarious, and he had to bite his lip to silence the booming laugh that wanted to burst out of his mouth. He also tried to minimize the shaking of his shoulders. No luck with that. His amusement had to have some outlet for its release.
When the kid had calmed down, berating himself that he got excited over water that couldn't possibly drown him, another low growl coming from the other side of seal got his attention.
"Come here, kit," the low voice of the Kyuubi ordered. The boy stiffened, almost struggling, then came closer to the bars of the Kyuubi's prison. "Yes, yes, just like that. Closer . . ."
Naruto's eyes narrowed. This scene looked familiar, a faint recollection of what occurred back when he first encountered the fox behind its cage. The kid didn't seem to look afraid or even taking cautious steps towards the voice that undoubtedly sounded like a pedophilic stalker charming his newest boy toy. It made Naruto feel ill just thinking of it. But he was more worried about the boy than the unnecessary images he implanted into his thoughts.
He was getting too close to the prison. And Naruto just knew that it wouldn't end well.
"Get away from there!" Naruto yelled, breaking the boy out of his trance and making him stop midstride, right before the malevolent presence of the Kyuubi's paw shot out to try and grab the boy.
The boy escaped by a hair-thin gap between his face and those sharp giant claws. And like all kids that got scared out of their minds, he bolted away from the seal, screaming "Monster!" But he must've momentarily forgotten about the ankle-deep water his feet were in, and he tripped and splashed face-first into it.
With a sigh, Naruto stepped out of the shadows and confronted the towering appearance of the Kyuubi. "What's the big idea, furball?"
The Kyuubi only shot a glance before he started bashing his claws at his prison. "You! You!"
"Yeah, Kyuubi. It's me, myself, and I. Too starstruck to politely say, 'May I have your autograph?'"
"You insolent monkey! I'll kill you."
"Come on, furball, I know you can threaten me better than that. Where's the killing intent, the passion, the compulsion, the slight hitch in your voice whenever you try to say 'I'm gay!'?"
The fox's eyes narrowed. "I've never said such a thing."
" 'Oh, I love cock, really,'" he continued with that slight hitch.
"I said I never said such things!"
Naruto raised a brow. "Prove it."
"Okay, then—wait. Damn you! How dare you mock me?"
He noticed it just now, huh. "It's better than staying quiet and absorb your verbal abuse." He shrugged. "I'd like to think I'm retaliating than insulting you."
The Kyuubi growled ferociously. "Mark my words, Yondaime, I will have your head for this!"
"Yondaime?" Naruto chose to ignore it for the time being. Well, he should wrap this up; he already had his fun with the furball. He glanced at the boy, seeing that he was looking at him and the giant fox back and forth with a look of utter bewilderment. Looking bored at the Kyuubi, he said, "So why were you trying to lead this kid into your lair? You sounded like a sick pedophile with that voice earlier."
The Kyuubi kept bashing at its cage. The floor rattled due to the impact as the fox strained itself in getting out of its damn prison, so that it could grab the blond nuisance and be sure to deliver a very painful end to his unfortunate soul.
"I don't think I'll be getting much answers from him in his rage," Naruto commented, more likely talking to himself than directing his speech to the boy standing beside him. Still, the boy looked at him and nodded. "Well, Kyuubi, if you can still listen to me, I'd like to just say that we're leaving. No offense, but your mere presence is scaring the kid half to death."
"Then let your monkey brat die so you wouldn't have to worry about him being half dead," the Kyuubi growled, still on his mad but futile rampage inside its prison.
"Nah, that's a horrible idea," he said offhandedly. His next sentence was directed to the boy: "Let's say we go somewhere quiet."
With a snap of his fingers, Naruto and the boy were transported into the white room. This had been the same place he and his father had that final father-and-son talk before Naruto had to come back to the real world to finish off the fight with Pein.
"Sorry you had to see that, kid," he said, rubbing the back of his head and looking sheepish. "The fox has chronic PMS issues even when he's a male."
The boy didn't say a thing, probably not hearing what Naruto had said. He only stared at him, slack jawed. He also blinked a few times, as if trying to force his eyes that what they were seeing in front of him was an illusion. Then with a shaky breath, he uttered, "Dad?"
"Uh . . ." Naruto scratched his right cheek. "No, I'm not your Dad, kid."
"But you look so much like him." The boy's hand shifted to his own cheeks. "And we have the same marks on our cheeks. Well, you didn't have them in Mom's pictures of you, but . . ." He stopped, unsure how to proceed.
"What's your name?" Naruto didn't know what else to ask.
"I said what's your name, kid." Surely the boy must've confused his question or something. No way would his name be—
"Naruto! My name is Naruto Uzumaki."
Naruto stared. Apart from the whiskered cheeks, the kid didn't look a tad bit like him. And his name happened to be the same as his own? Not only that, they were inside his own mindscape. It would have been so easy and much less complex if Naruto were to believe that this boy with the slightly tamed red hair and the dark gray eyes—complete contrasts to his spiky blond hair and sky blue eyes—was nothing more than a figment of his imagination. But if he were to think really hard on this situation, he would realize that no other being existed inside this mindscape (apart from the Kyuubi and a piece of his Dad's soul), so that preferred escape through ignorance was shot out. Sometimes Naruto wished he didn't wise up. Ignorance is bliss, after all.
"If you're not my Dad," chibi-Naruto said, "then who are you?"
"Look, Naruto"—man, did it feel weird talking to someone who shared the same name—"I need to clarify something about you first."
"To make clear."
"So what was the last thing you remember before waking up in this place?"
Chibi-Naruto's face scrunched up. Naruto had heard many jokes from his friends that whenever he thought really hard about something, his face would scrunch up the same way this kid was showing. It didn't alleviate his worries, but merely added a lot of coal in the fire.
"I was waiting for my Mom to get back home. She got called to Hokage-jiji's office. When she left, some white-haired ninja kicked the door of our house and tied me up. He said"—chibi-Naruto's voice hitched—"that he was going to kill me for killing Tsubaki over and over. He smelled funny, too."
Tsubaki . . . that name ringed a bell, somehow. Even a white-haired ninja that was involved with this Tsubaki. White hair . . . Tsubaki . . .
Wait! Tsubaki was Mizuki's former lover. Then that means—
"I don't know where he took me, but just the way the ninja looked at me . . . it was scary. When we stopped, he started doing something with his hands like this"—he started doing the motions for hand seals but nothing except the Tiger seal were correct—"and . . . I don't remember."
Naruto could already tell what happened even without proof. But the blanks he filled into this kid's story were outside the logic of reality since a) Mizuki had committed suicide three years ago; and b) Tsubaki was killed in action the year after that.
Where the heck was he, the Twilight Zone or something?
"I want my Mom."
Naruto swallowed. None of what was happening made any sense, and this visitor seemed hell-bent in making him even more confused. But throughout the conversation with the boy, he couldn't detect even a single lie. Chibi-Naruto was either telling the truth or he was merely a figment of his madness rather than imagination. God knew that Naruto must've snapped at some point during his hellish life.
"What's your mother's name?"
Yeah. That deity really had it in for him, huh? Naruto really wished he could tell the deity to go copulate itself.
Resigning to the unsolvable mysteries inside this mindscape, Naruto extended his hand to the kid, and said, "Well, let's go look for her, Naruto-kun." He suppressed a shudder. Was talking to yourself—a red-haired and gray-eyed version of yourself that is probably seventeen years your junior—still considered madness? It should be, Naruto decided.
Chibi-Naruto looked at his hand warily at first before reaching for it with his own little limb. When their hands touched, both felt a sudden jolt of electricity and magnetic attraction. Naruto was able to let go in time before the two of them collided with each other, but the short seconds of contact left him groggy and adorning a painful headache.
He remembered the face of a beautiful redhead smiling down on him.
He remembered the soothing lullaby she sang to him as he slowly lulled to sleep.
He remembered the questions he asked her about his father and the country she had originally been in.
These were alien memories; memories of a childhood that couldn't possibly have happened to him. Yet he could never mistake the face of the one who gave birth to him. It was Kushina Uzumaki inside those memories. Kushina Uzumaki, his mother. His mother! He had only ever seen her in old pictures, but he could never mistake that angelic face with another.
When he came to his senses again and numbed the pain in his head, he tried to make sense of the rest of the memories that were somehow transferred from the kid to him. Naruto couldn't possibly think of any other explanation than that. It hurt too much to think anything else right now.
And as he sorted through these interesting viewpoint of a life he could've lived if his mother had survived his birth, Naruto noticed too late that he had been alone in the white room throughout it.
Kushina Uzumaki had gone through plenty of grief during her twenty-eight years of life. Her mother died when she was five due to an illness incurable at the time. And if that hadn't been enough, her home, her whole village, had been swept away by a flash flood while her team was out on a C-rank mission. Kushina always had a feeling that a village situated so close to the ocean would bring trouble. She also suspected foul play, that a flash flood large enough to level the whole village had to have been artificial. But there was no trace or evidence that she could acquire, and her suspicions of Chigiri no Sato's (tr. Village of the Bloody Mist) involvement remained as speculation. With the Uzu daimyo's decision to disband the ninja system in the Land of Whirlpool, Kushina and her team, along with a few other Uzu ninjas who weren't in the village at the time, were left with two options: leave the life of a shinobi and become civilians, or remain in the path and charge forward. That had always been a quote her father used to tell her, and she wasn't about to break it.
Unfortunately, she was the only one in the three-man cell to remain as a shinobi, so she was pretty much on her own. Her sensei did try to persuade her to give this dangerous life up, but she couldn't even think of a life other than being a ninja. When the former Uzu jounin asked her where she would go, to whom she would pledge her services to, she answered one simple word: Konoha.
She had been in Konoha before, back when she was only four. Her mother and her side of the family, the Hasegawa clan, were originally from that ninja village. The Uzumaki family had gone there once for a family reunion, and Kushina had gotten to know a lot of the different cultures in that country, not to mention joining in on the pranking streaks of her cousins. Konoha politics might be weary of her at first, but at least she had a chance to reunite with what was left of her family. Bad news awaited Kushina, though. The Sandaime informed her that the Hasegawa family was one of the many casualties in a Kamikaze attack from Iwa during the Second Great Shinobi War, which would not end for another eight months. But the Hokage did not turn away her willingness to join Konoha.
The rest of her life inside Konoha had been rough at first, but they got better through time. She found love in that village and even started her own family. Sadly, her happiness was short-lived when her lover sacrificed his life to save Konoha from the Kyuubi's rampage, ending up with the sealing of the bijuu inside their own son. If Tsunade hadn't been there when she delivered, she might've died from postpartum hemorrhaging and left Naruto as an orphan. Bleeding to death was not something Kushina considered a great way for a kunoichi to die, especially when it came from childbirth. She persevered through the days of being bedbound, and at least she had all the time in the world in taking care of her infant son now that Minato was dead. There was not a trace of Minato in him, though. Oftentimes she wished that Naruto had looked more like her father than her mother, but never meant it. Naruto would always be Naruto to her.
And now she almost lost him, too. Throughout her son's growth, he had always been weak. Pale as ivory, thin to the brink of appearing like an anorexic, and heavy bags under his eyes. The Kyuubi's chakra inside his system acted like a slow poison, killing the victim in a snail's pace. As for food: from breastfeeding to solid foods, Naruto would rather have little scraps than eat everything in his plate. Give him a bowl of ramen, he'd sip around five teaspoonful of the broth and only nibble on the noodles. There were a lot of times when she had to force him to eat a lot more than he wanted. She wasn't proud of doing this to her own son, but he was already thin as it was; she was afraid he'd die of starvation. It was a wonder that he had survived for over five years.
There was also the matter with the villagers to think about. Ever since the Sandaime made it public knowledge to everyone in Konoha (except for the younger generation) that the Kyuubi was sealed inside Minato's illegitimate son, the villagers divided into two factions which Kushina had called the 'Ignorant blamers' and the 'Smart people.' The latter people were more accepting of Naruto's status as a jinchuuriki, though there were still bits of fear she sensed in their actions and expressions. They tolerated Naruto, as if he were some permanent disease they had to live with, but most of the time they wanted nothing to do with him. The Ignorant blamers, however, were a more outspoken group in their hatred towards the disaster that brought many deaths to the village. They used Naruto as a scapegoat in their grief, pinning all the blame on him because he housed the Kyuubi. Many attempted to persuade the Konoha council to kill him, with little to no success; few even dared to take matters into their own hands. Out of the twelve attempts at Naruto's life, only one succeeded . . . partially.
Naruto still lived, but Kushina was afraid what this trauma could do to him. Tsunade made it a point not to discuss the extent of Naruto's injuries to her until the Senju medic-nin submitted her full report to the Hokage. It would not help his case if Kushina suddenly went on a rampaging path of vengeance, seeking the horrible man who almost killed her son, without reporting this first to the leader of the village. The evil of politics. Gah!
When Naruto awoke around lunchtime, he seemed chipper than Kushina would've guessed after surviving such a traumatic event. She called for Tsunade, and the Slug Princess gave the boy one final checkup to be double-sure that he was fit to leave the hospital.
"Mom, why am I here?" Naruto asked as Tsunade did her checkup.
"What do you remember last night, Naruto-kun?" Tsunade questioned, her chakra-covered hands scanning for any lasting damage on the boy's body. Apart from increased brainwave activity, there were no anomalies to be found. Not even a faint scar on his unblemished skin.
His face scrunched up in concentration. "I remember hearing someone kicking the door open and shouting out something."
He shook his head. "I remember the cool dream I had, though. Does that count?"
"No." He probably repressed his memories by his own. Her eyebrows furrowed as she shifted her hands towards Naruto's stomach. Or the Kyuubi had something to do with it. Maybe.
"It was a really cool dream, though," Naruto continued, his trademark foxy smile adorned. "I was walking to this really huge cage because some voice inside it told me to go there. Then somebody shouted 'Get away from there!' so suddenly that I was catched by surprise."
"Caught, Naruto-chan," Kushina interjected. "It's caught."
"Yeah, caught. The shouter probably saved me from getting grated by these really huge claws that appeared from inside the cage." He mimicked the motion, but after a quick retort from Tsunade to stay still, he substituted for smaller movements. "I think it was the Kyuubi inside that cage."
The two women looked flabbergasted, but Naruto didn't see it.
"And Dad was also there. He showed the Kyuubi who was boss, believe it!"
Tsunade looked at Kushina, who looked back. There was a silent conversation going between them that Naruto didn't even notice as he went on with how his father denied that it was him (but Naruto knew better, hah!) and when they were about to touch hands he woke up.
Tsunade seemed to think that the fox must have been trying to possess Naruto, but Kushina silently argued that this was not so. She had been here through the whole night, sleeping in the same room as Naruto, and with her honed senses to danger (a trait she'd gotten from her Uzu ninja training) she would've noticed if there was even a small speck of demonic chakra leaking in her son's system. Demonic chakra has that malevolent presence to it, like the feeling of terror and vertigo as you stare at the ground from the sky.
"So," Kushina interjected, stopping Naruto from elaborating more about his dream, "what's the verdict?"
"He's free to leave the hospital. No use keeping him here when he's a hundred percent healthy."
"Are you sure? No lasting damage?"
"At first, I thought there would be. But apparently we've underestimated the extent of his healing factor. Nothing is amiss." She then chuckled. "With this kind of trait, I wouldn't be surprised if he regrew bones or even repaired a damaged eye."
"I'm cool that way," Naruto said, although he wasn't sure why she was praising his healing. Didn't other people heal the same?
"Don't get cocky, brat." Though she said that, truthfully she was glad her godson wouldn't be suffering any kind of trauma from the experience. He didn't seem to remember what happened to him after he had been kidnapped by the ninja, and his current state was as if he had never been injured at all. "Can I talk to you for a minute?" she said to Kushina.
The redhead nodded, telling Naruto to stay put, and both women stepped outside the room. "I'll be adding into the medical report of Naruto's repressed memories. If we want justice to be served, I believe it's best if we let a Yamanaka dive into Naruto's psyche."
"And let my son remember and relive the traumatizing event? I would have to say no, even if it means we have to bag the motherfucker the hard way."
Tsunade pursed her lips. "It's not my decision, Kushina. But at least hear the Yamanaka clan out if the Hokage suggests you do this. There may be a part of their clan's techniques which keeps Naruto's memories repressed while they rummage around for the image of the culprit."
Kushina was silent. She then said, "Will they guarantee Naruto's mental stability?"
"Years ago, I've had a case similar to this one, and the patient came out fine in that regard."
"Who was that patient?"
"Classified information. Doctor's oath to secrecy, you understand."
"Yeah . . ."
"Look, whether you agree to this or not, I'm supporting your decision all the way."
Kushina showed her surprise right away. "Tsunade-ba-chan . . ."
"We want what's best for the little guy, and if you believe that it's better to not irritate the bandaged wounds then I'm all for it. Mother knows best, after all."
Kushina chuckled. "You're a mother, too, you know."
"Yet it seems I seem to spend more time with work than with my daughter."
Her good-natured chuckle turned to a nervous one.
The door to Naruto's hospital room opened and the boy himself peeked out. "Mom, I'm kinda hungry." His stomach's growl would attest to that statement.
Well, that's new, Kushina thought. Naruto-chan rarely asked for food. Not to mention this is the first time I heard his stomach growl.
"Tsunade-ba-chan, do you think—"
"That this could be a side effect of the healing factor?" The older woman was fully aware of Naruto's reaction to the Kyuubi's presence in his system, and like Kushina, was caught by utter surprise at the scene played out before them. "Probably. He would need to have some source other than pure chakra to heal all those wounds, and it looks like he must've depleted it."
"I hope that's the only side effect. Really hope." She then said to Naruto, "What do you want for lunch, Aka-chan?"
Naruto groaned. He hated that nickname. "How about ramen?"
"Ramen, you say?" She grinned. "Then how about we head down to Ichiraku after we're done here?"
"Really? All right!"
"Quiet, brat," Tsunade scolded. "We're in a hospital."
"Oh, right. Sorry."
"He's free to go. Do try to get him something to eat. He'll need it."
"I sure will, Tsunade-ba-chan." She then hugged the woman. "Thanks for everything today."
"It's the least I could do." Tsunade returned the smile Kushina gave her.
Taking Naruto's hand in hers, she said to him, "Let's get some ramen, Naruto-chan."
Back inside the inner chambers of Naruto's mindscape, the blond-haired, twenty-two-year-old version of Naruto was done skimming through five years' worth of memories, and he couldn't help himself in comparing the parallelism and vast difference (as contrary as it sounded) between this world and the world he had left behind—specifically, the world he had no choice but to sacrifice his life for, because he was fated to do so. In a nutshell, the world that fucked him up. Royally. Anyway, the comparisons he found were not quite what he had envisioned for a fresh start. He didn't go to heaven, so something must've gone wrong with the jutsu. The best thing Naruto could think of was that his soul had been transported into an alternate reality where he had been born to look more like his mother than his father. That, and pretty much Konoha as a whole looked entirely different than in his world.
For starters, Tsunade Senju never left the village. Apparently his mother had something to do with that, around a few years before he was born. The story leading to Tsunade's intention of leaving Konoha was still pretty much intact, but the point of divergence from what he had always known was when his mother confronted her about her leaving. They argued—which he learned from the Shizune of this world that it had been a common occurrence during those days—and then, like when Naruto and Tsunade first met in the old world, a bet was made. And since Tsunade was also known as "The Legendary Sucker" in this world, the winner of the bet was obvious. Tsunade honored the bet's condition that she would stay if she lost, and subsequently she ended up starting a family in Konoha and had a daughter named Chiyome, who was around three years older than him. After that, Kushina and Tsunade became quite close friends.
He figured this all out from Chiyome herself when his redheaded self asked her about why their mothers were very close. She didn't get the full details of the story (if she did, he would've known what the bet was, because he was damn curious about it), but the gist of it was enough to sedate his curiosity. A little for him, anyway; his redheaded counterpart believed that Chiyome's story was the full picture, so his curiosity was fully sedated.
The second difference was the layout of the village. The basic foundation of the area was the same, but the structures (the houses, the towers, Ichiraku Ramen, among others) were no longer where they were, as if he was entering a Konoha that had its buildings' locations scrambled and swapped. For example, the Hokage Monument in the original reality was situated in the center of the village. In this one, the monument is located at the Northeastern side of the village, attached to the corner boundaries, and is curved inward rather than outward, forming a C-shaped twenty-story wall around the Hokage Tower built in the very middle.
Basically, this was a reality seventeen years behind his own, yet any kind of foreknowledge he had was next to useless since none of it would connect well to what had already occurred in this reality. His foreknowledge in the general may be of some help, but not much. It might sound fun predicting what was about to come correctly, but most of what he could remember were the bad things, since the previous world was adamant in its mission in supplying Naruto with enough grief to drown the ocean. This time, he cursed Fate to go copulate itself out loud.
Well, as far as he knew, he would have to get comfortable for now. The mindscape he had conjured up by the snap of a finger was impressive, but the white emptiness was starting to scare him, what with the echoes (—go copulate yourself . . . –pulate yourself . . . late yourself . . . yourself . . . yourself . . .) and endless no-colors theme. It was as if he had stepped into a padded room for the insane. If that was so, then it was a fitting place, although that didn't mean he liked it.
Well, what worked once should work again, he thought cheerfully as he once more snapped his fingers with the thought of what to conjure. The entire area morphed into Naruto's old apartment, complete with empty ramen cups he never gave time to pick off the floor and throw into the garbage bin. Ever since the Akatsuki started a more offensive course of action in the war, Naruto barely had time to relax, much less clean after himself. The most down time he had before the Hokage gave him another mission was one night, which he slept through.
He lay down on the bed, arms crossing behind his head, and yawned. Blowing out air through his mouth like a horse's mouth-snort, he stared at the gray ceiling. Everything was in perfect detail, all the way down to the wavy cracks that looked like cartoon sea waves, the brown spots where the paint had been chipped off, and the dark stains where rain water leaked through the tiny crevices. Naruto picked his apartment as his mindscape's scenery because it was familiar and a place he knew he'd be in his element, even if it was just an imagined place based on the real one, but this was the first time that he concentrated on the little details so as not to think of any other thought. But try as he could, he was still Naruto Uzumaki, and Naruto Uzumaki was known to have a short attention span outside training and ninja-related activities. Stray thoughts concerning his current predicament always burst into the forefront no matter how many times he distracted himself. Other than observing the bland, rain-stained ceiling, he went to the kitchen and started counting his kitchen utensils, drinking containers, and food products, like a man with OCD on counting. The stray thoughts breached his defenses. He tried closing his eyes and counted sheep; he got to fifty-nine when the stray thoughts attacked again.
And he promised to never count sheep again because he found fifty-nine of the fluffy white BAA!-ing creatures inside his bedroom, which expanded in size to accommodate them.
"This is getting ridiculous," he uttered, while banishing each and every one of the sheep. All except for one, though. He figured he kept one so as to remind himself that inside this mindscape, he was like a god who could create and destroy at the speed of thought. Well, the sheep needed a name now. His first idea for the sheep's name was Baa-chan (an easy thing to remember since that's the sheep's sole vocabulary), but he didn't want to confuse Baa-chan the Sheep with Baa-chan the Old Maid (at least in his original world).
He gestured for the sheep to come closer, and surprisingly the sheep complied. "Got a name?" Naruto asked it.
"You're seriously asking me that?"
Not the least freaked out that a sheep was talking, Naruto answered, "Then what should I call you, Mutton-meat?"
If sheep were capable of showing human facial expressions, it would've looked at Naruto as if he were crazy. Considering he was talking to a sheep . . .
"Well, if you don't like that name, do you have any preference?"
The sheep tilted its head to the left, which Naruto mirrored. "You do realize that you're talking to a sheep, right?"
"Yeah. Your point?"
"You're not freaked out about this . . . at all?" Again, the sheep looked at Naruto as if it thought he had too many bats in his belfry.
"I've seen talking animals before. A talking sheep is nothing new to me."
". . . were they imaginary?"
"No, they were actual animals."
"And you still doubt you're crazy?"
The sheep shook its head. "Better I didn't ask, then."
"Whatever. Look, Sheepie, I'm mentally exhausted right now, so I want you to stay quiet while I get some shut eye."
The newly christened 'Sheepie' looked like it was embarrassed of its given name. "My name is not Sheepie."
Naruto took off his ninja sandals and jacket, and lay down on his bed, squirming for a good spot to rest. "Why not? It's very sheepish."
". . . not funny," it deadpanned.
He grinned. "Then I'll think of a name later. I need sleep."
"But what am I supposed to do while you're sleeping?"
Naruto closed his eyes and prepared for a well needed twelve-hour slumber. "I don't know, play Solitaire?"
"I'm a sheep, human. Hooves and no opposable thumbs, remember?"
"Look, I don't know. Now shut up. I need sleep."
"I need sleep."
"I need sleep!"
Enough was enough, so Naruto took a page from Iruka-sensei's book and used the infamous Big-Head Technique. "I NEED SLEEP!"
After a long moment of silence, the sheep said, "Yes sir. Good night, sir." It then left the bedroom.
Naruto lay his head back down on the soft, fluffy pillow. He took a deep breath. Inhale. Exhale. Inhale. Exhale. The exhaustion trailed after his body and sleep came for him in no time flat.
I'm not proficient in Japanese, so I can only implement what I do know about the language. If there're any Japanese-speaking readers out there, please inform me if what I had done is incorrect. Anyway, let me tell you the reason why Naruto hates his 'Aka-chan' nickname. For the Japanese-speakers, you might've already guessed it right (if I got it right). You see, the word 'Aka' is a pronunciation for the kanji character 「赤」which means red. The color is a reference to the new Naruto's hair color, which he got from his mother. Now this kanji character can also be used in conjunction with the hiragana characters 「ちゃん」 which means chan. An affectionate term that when combined together, you get 「赤ちゃん」 that could either mean 'Red-chan' or 'Baby,' but more commonly the latter one. Chibi-Naruto doesn't like being called a baby, much less a Mama's boy.