Author's Notes: Solvdrage here with another Naruto fanfic! This story is an attempt at xxfreefallangelxx's Naruto Time Travel Challenge.
WARNING! This story is going to be dark in the beginning. I'm not going to lie. I feel like I'm channeling enough GRIMDARK to make Games Workshop and the F.E.A.R series proud at times. The nature of the challenge doesn't lend itself to cheerfulness, at least to me. There will be bright spots, however. Namely, NaruHina. I ask that you give this story a chance. I promise that Prince Naruto and The Hyūga's Hound will continue to be ultimately uplifting stories. So, if this isn't your cup of tea, the tone of this story won't carry over to the others.
I know I usually put my Author's Notes at the end, but I feel like this is the best place to put this. Oh, and I hope no one likes Danzō. Because you'll probably hate him after this chapter (no worries, not bashing, at least that isn't my aim. I try not to bash any characters). Please leave reviews! I'm really excited to see how people react to this story! Even if it's telling me to get back to work on The Hyūga's Hound and Chains of the Kindred.
Team Guy was madly rushing through the forests in an attempt to return to Konoha. They had seen the smoke plume and a great dread filled their hearts. Neji had activated his Byakugan to divine the cause of the calamity. His wordless cry of agony was easily the most terrifying experience his teammates Tenten and Rock Lee had ever experienced. Might Guy remembered the Nine Tailed Fox's rampage. The team rushed off. Neji never deactivated his Bloodline Limit.
"No…" He whispered and leapt to the top of the nearest tree. Neji's closest friends and teacher quickly followed.
Rock Lee stared in slack jawed shock at the devastation in front of him. "That's one of Jiraiya-sama's Summoned Toads!"
"What?" Guy shouted in disbelief. It was not just one of the Summoned Toads; it was Gamabunta, the chief of all toads. The Toad Chief's happi jacket was torn and the great toad was unconscious.
"ANBU!" Neji stated in a tone that was a forced attempt at his usual self control. Three masked ANBU wearing dark grey cloaks appeared on the branches a few feet away.
"Konoha has been attacked. We shall show you the safest way to enter the village."
Team Guy nodded at the ANBU and followed them. Neji knew the ANBU should make him feel secure but there was a wrongness at the edge of his perception that he could not shake.
In a darkened complex far from the epicenter of Pain's destruction of Konoha, a crippled man sat on a throne. Danzō sat silently and contemplated his rise to power and waited for the reports to filter in.
"Danzō-sama, the Kikaichū Colony that tagged Nezu reports that Team Guy has been intercepted and delayed."
The Leader of ROOT nodded at Aburame Torune. Danzō was aware of the cruelty of his actions, but Konoha was greater than the life of any one individual.
Haruno Sakura struggled through the debris littering the ground. She could barely stand but she continued onwards. One of her friends was done there! Hinata had been severely injured in her selfless attempt to save Naruto. Sakura had to save her!
"Haruno Sakura, please refrain from entering the crater, it is not safe."
Sakura whirled around despite the thrill of pain shooting up her left leg. "One of my friends is down there and I have to help her!"
"Please desist." There was something off about the ANBU's tone. Sakura glared at the shrouded figure and was struck by a memory of Sai.
"I'm a medic nin and I am going to save my friend's life!" Sakura growled and tried to turn. The ANBU sighed and grabbed her by the shoulder.
"If you are going to be so stubborn, let me at least show you a safe way down."
Sakura huffed and nodded.
Nagato slowly began to form a hand seal as he smiled at his brother apprentice. "I will believe in your dream, Uzumaki Naruto. I only hope that when I next meet Jiraiya-sensei, he will forgive me."
Naruto smiled. "Ero-sennin will forgive you. He was stronger than me in that way."
It had been years since Nagato truly laughed. However, the name Naruto had given Jiraiya-sensei was so true and brought back memories of a happier time. "Uzumaki Naruto, I wish we could have met years ago. We would have helped to guide the world to peace."
The Rinnegan wielder and the Sage shared the laugh and unspoken memories of their beloved teacher. In that moment, they forgot about their total exhaustion, their previous battles and the pain that had forged them into men. In that moment, they were brothers.
The Last Student of Jiraiya slid his master's first book into his jacket. "We still can…"
A flurry of shuriken, kunai and Raiton jutsu erupted. Naruto turned and leapt in front of Nagato but his body began to revolt under the constant strain. The rigors of the battle against Nagato's Deva Path, the aftereffects of seeing Hinata struck down in front of him and the conflicting demonic and sage energies had weakened him. The Chakra Blade Nagato had put in his stomach a few minutes ago wasn't helping either. Nagato was also experiencing something that was almost an impossibility.
The Planetary Devastation and the battle against Naruto had severely depleted his reserves.
Konan had been mostly silent in the exchange between the two students of Jiraiya. She leapt into battle and created a Paper Shield to defend Nagato and the young man with whom he had placed his faith.
"Danzō's puppets!" Nagato roared. In an instant, several dozen ROOT agents were launching themselves at Nagato. Naruto screamed and intercepted one of the ROOT agents. The fight should have lasted mere moments. However, Naruto was still physically exhausted and injured. The Yondaime's Legacy was winning but was fading quickly.
"Raiton: Sacrifice of Perkūnas!" The sole surviving ROOT agent screamed. There was an explosion of electrical energy that engulfed the entire chamber. Konan managed to shield herself and Nagato.
"Naruto!" The paper wielder yelled in terror. He was too close to the suicide detonation for her to shield. She heard the scream. It was a primal call of pain.
"Get Nagato-niisan out of here!" Naruto screamed as he clutched his eyes. "That bastard Danzō will send more people! GO!"
The cry was filled with pain and concern. Konan shook her head. "We'll take you with us!"
"I can't leave, Konoha. I… I have to see if Hinata and the others survived! GO! There isn't any time!"
Konan and Nagato vanished in a flurry of paper. Naruto stumbled from his brother apprentice's hideout. He began to falter when a familiar presence grabbed him.
"Naruto!" It was Neji's voice. "Your eyes…"
Naruto turned his ruined eye sockets to his friend. "Are gone. Where is Hinata? You have to take me to her!"
The surviving loyal Rookie Twelve were waiting in a clearing. They had brought their wounded comrades to an open clearing so Sakura could try to save them. Shikamaru, Kiba, Ino and Shino had been successfully healed. They would survive. Sakura did not fight the tears as she poured her chakra into Hinata's wound. All she could do is ease her friend's pain. In the distance there was the sound of branches breaking, but they were ignored.
Until a voice called out. "Hinata!"
"Naruto-kun!" Hinata responded to the call with all of her fading strength. Sakura stopped her from rising.
"Please…" Sakura whispered and turned. That could not be Naruto! Naruto was a Sage. He was a powerful, confident and unflappable man. He was the glue that held the Rookies together. He was Tsunade-shisō's successor.
The pitiful man with no eyes desperately searching for Hinata could not be Naruto. Sakura's teammate was so full of energy; so full of life. Not even in her nightmares would Sakura have pictured Naruto crawling on all fours feebly groping for Hinata.
"She's here, Naruto." Sakura took his hand and guided Naruto to where Hinata lay.
"Hinata-chan." The blond whispered. If he still had eyes, Naruto would have shed uncountable tears.
Hinata caressed her love's cheek. "I… I can't tell you how long I've waited to you call me that."
"I failed you. I know that after what I've done you can't…"
Naruto suddenly felt a sharp pain where once there was a tenderness. The wound was more agonizing than Nagato's chakra blades or the ROOT agent's Raiton. "Naruto-kun, I stand by what I say."
"Because that is our Nindo. I… I have always been blind. I should have loved you sooner."
The Hyūga Heiress shook her head. "I would have waited until the stars died for you. Naruto-kun, I have one request. I have never asked anything of you… Kiss me. Kiss me so I can die without regrets."
Naruto nodded. It was a simple thing. There was no great passion because there was no time and less strength left in them. Naruto, in spite of everything, refused to believe this was the last. Hinata knew that she had to save her strength to make a final request of someone else.
"Sakura-san." Her voice was weak. Naruto gripped Hinata's hand tightly.
The medic leaned in close. "Yes, Hinata."
"Give Naruto-kun my eyes." Sakura shed the tears Naruto was incapable of.
"NO! You will need them! We will survive, together!" Naruto screamed.
"One last time, Naruto-kun. One last time, I love you with all my heart."
A ROOT agent wearing a frowning porcelain mask with two red markings shaped like wheat stalks knelt in front of Danzō's throne. "Danzō-sama, we have located the surviving 'Konoha-Eleven'."
"This is fortunate. Deploy my remaining agents to remove them. Extinguish Hiruzen's deviant philosophy from this world. The strike force is to spare the Container. The deaths of his comrades will transform him into my instrument."
The agent nodded. "As you command, Danzō-sama." There was a pause. "My lord, there is an… unfortunate complication."
"I am aware, Sai has betrayed us. The Kyūbi has somehow managed to break my conditioning of the tool. Eliminate him with the last of Hiruzen's line."
Sai did not know what possessed him to abandon his mission and return to Konoha with Yamato-sempai. He knew that his feeling, his long dead emotions were driving him. As he plundered ROOT's secrets for Naruto, he realized he was betraying the life he had known.
Sai also realized he was betraying it for the life he wanted. He felt Danzō's Cursed Seal threatening to overwhelm him. The Seal was attempting to paralyze the man with the awakening emotions for his betrayal of ROOT. Unfortunately for Danzō, his Seal had never encountered a human being whose will had been awakened by Uzumaki Naruto. Sai ignored the agony wracking his body and pushed onward. Naruto never gave up and neither would he.
The traitor ROOT burst into the clearing where Naruto and Sakura had gathered with their companions. Sai came to a complete halt when he saw the man that had awoken him from shadow. He barely recognized the strong and indomitable Uzumaki Naruto. In his stead, there was a broken man holding a woman weeping from bandaged covered eyes. In that moment, Sai saw the depths of true emotional pain and wondered if his awakened emotions were worth the risk of experiencing such naked agony.
I will have time to explore this later. He struggled against his own mind. "ROOT… is… coming."
The Seal was doing its abominable work. Sai felt his entire body seemingly turning into stone. He trudged forward and laid the files and ledgers at Naruto's feet. "I give you truth."
Sai collapsed and Chōji moved to steady him. Yamato leapt from a nearby tree, and like the others, stared numbly at the scene before him. "Naruto?"
Naruto turned to the source of the voice. His body was still adjusting to Hinata's final gift of love for him. A sudden flare of Chakra that Naruto saw even through the sealed bandages filled the clearing.
"Great Old Geezer?" Naruto whispered. "Nagato-niisan?"
The enormous and ancient toad nodded. "My sympathies, young Naruto. Time is not as it should be."
"If it was…" Naruto looked in the direction of his friends. "If it was, we would have not lost baa-chan, Shizune-neechan, Kakashi-sensei or the others. I would have not lost Hinata!"
Nagato panted. "My brother, the Great Toad Sage has shown me a great many things. He has shown me the cause of this tragedy. We have discovered and wish to give you one last gift, my brother apprentice."
The New Toad Sage lifted his hands to his, no Hianta's, Byakugan. "I cannot bear another gift."
Konan walked over and knelt beside the young man. "Can you bear hope?"
The Great Toad Sage nodded. "We have the power of the Mokuton, the Rinnegan and my affinity for time."
Naruto looked to the charka of his brother apprentice, the Great Old Geezer and to Yamato. "What are you trying to say?"
"We can reverse the flow of time. The damage and horrors can be undone." Nagato breathed heavily.
Yamato looked at the group. "Time is something we do not have, tragically. As Sai told us, Danzō is sending his ROOT to destroy us."
"Then only a few of us will go back. I, for one, will stay behind. Naruto, you rescued me from my darkness. I shall finally, and truly, repay that debt. You will have your chance to save us all again and I shall make sure ROOT cannot defile Hinata-sama's body with their inhuman experimentation." Neji's voice trembled with emotion.
Tenten took a defiant step forward. "And I will be with you, Neji."
"No, you must go with them. Help stop this nightmare from occurring."
"Hell no, you stubborn Hyūga! I won't go back in time and have to live in a time where you are still wallowing in darkness. I couldn't bear knowing that you stayed behind. Living through those years knowing what we shared and waiting for you to be freed from 'Fate' would be worse than what awaits us here!" Tenten gripped Neji's shirt tightly.
Sakura stood up. "Naruto, there will be dozens of ROOT. We will ensure the ritual is complete. Go back, stop this." She looked down at the man she now considered her beloved brother. "Love her. Not many people get a second chance."
"You all deserve it as much as I do!" Naruto screamed. Sakura lowered herself to eye level and gently punched Naruto in the shoulder.
"Idiot, we'll all get it. We just won't know it. I'm going to go ahead and apologize for my younger self being a jerk. If you go back that far."
Yamato put his hand on Naruto's shoulder. "If we are going to do this, it must be now." Naruto nodded numbly. The Jinchūriki ran his hand through Hinata's hair and kissed her on the forehead one last time. He fumbled for Sai's documents and held them tight.
"I am proud to call you all my friends… no, my family. I will not fail you again!" The blond turned towards Yamato, Nagato and the Great Toad Sage. "Let's do it."
Naruto sat facing Nagato. The Two Children of Destiny were channeling their Chakra into a seal the Toads had drawn up. The Great Toad Sage was sitting between them with Yamato standing on his massive hands. Tenzō struggled to maintain four massive ornate pillars that rested at the edges of the seal.
The Great Old Geezer chanted in a language that was impossible for humans to reproduce. Naruto struggled under the strain to maintain Sage Mode. In the distance, each of the Shinobi and sages could hear the sounds of a raging battle.
Suddenly, there was a great cry from the Great Toad Sage. Suddenly, there was light.
"We have succeeded."
"Have we, Great Old Geezer?" Naruto could barely speak.
The Prophet of the Toads nodded his bulbous head. "Indeed, Child of Prophecy. There were, however, unforeseen complications."
"You've never had a prophecy be wrong before!" The young sage willed himself to stand.
"This was not prophecy. The complications are not insurmountable and they are temporary."
Naruto raised a hand to his bandages. "What are they?"
"While Yamato and Nagato have merged with their past selves, you have not. Young Naruto, you exist as you are now, while your younger self sleeps soundly in Konoha as an eleven year old child."
"I am not sure I understand. How is this temporary?" Naruto breathed deeply and realized he was on Mount Myōboku.
The Great Old Geezer looked down at his small friend. "Time is attempting to compensate for your Bya…"
"Hinata's Byakugan." Naruto interrupted.
"Time is attempting to compensate for the Byakugan you now possess. As your younger self did not have it, there will be a period where you slowly merge."
Naruto shook his head. "How long and what will happen?"
"It will take one year. As the compensation occurs, your memories will merge with your other self. His personality and 'current' memories will become dominant, but he will possess all your knowledge and abilities. As to the Byakugan, it will become dormant in your counterpart's blood. He will likely pass it to his children, but will not have access to it."
Naruto nodded. This could actually be a boon. He could guide his younger incarnation along the correct path and prepare him for the terrible burden of Naruto's knowledge. "Great Old Geezer, I ask that you send me to Konoha. I want to speak with, uh, myself."
"Of course." Naruto felt the pull.
Moments later, he was home. The old smells came rushing back. The dirty clothes were in the same corner. The musky smell of training scrolls wafted in from the closet-turned-training-room. Naruto couldn't help but smile. He truly was in the past. Konan was right.
"There is still hope. There is still hope for us, Hinata." The elder Naruto ran his thumb along the collection of documents Sai had sacrificed so much to bring him. Naruto easily maneuvered through the comfortable and familiar setting and sat at the rickety kitchen table. He reached up and removed the bandages. Neji and Hinata had once told him that an active Byakugan could see in the dark. Sakura had also informed him after the transplant that there may be some residual chakra memories that would allow him to activate Hinata's selfless gift.
"Byakugan." Naruto whispered and willed Hinata's eyes to aid him. The world erupted in a clarity and range he did not think possible.
Unfortunately, the clarity brought pain. He saw petty crime in the streets. Worse, he saw his friends. They did not know, or in many cases, even care for Naruto at this point in time. Naruto knew he would change that. The greatest heartache was that he could see Hinata at the edge of their shared vision. A few feet away, his younger incarnation slept as well and likely dreamed of being Hokage and his infatuation with Sakura-neechan. How could I be so blind?
"Focus." He ordered himself and opened Sai's gift. Naruto immediately wished he hadn't. The truth would set him free, but he would wish he had never learned the realities of Konoha. It would have been kinder to guide the Other Naruto towards the dream of Hokage while grooming him to utterly destroy ROOT and assist Nagato in the pursuit of peace.
That luxurious illusion was stripped from Naruto as painfully as the eyes of his birth had been. The files detailed and confirmed Danzō's complicity in Nagato's Second Great Pain. There was evidence of dozens of other crimes. Naruto bit his tongue to prevent crying out and awakening the Other. Several of the crimes committed by ROOT had been known to Old Man Hokage. The simplicity of the agreement was insulting. Hiruzen turned a blind eye to Danzō's actions outside the walls of the Hidden Leaf, so long as ROOT did not act inside the walls. Naruto felt Hinata's tears on his cheeks as he uncovered three great abominations.
ROOT had many dealings with the Hyūga. Danzō conspired with the Hyūga Elders to remove 'threats to the purity of the Clan' in exchange for supporting Danzō when the cripple sought to seize the Tower. ROOT and the Hyūga had conducted a systematic campaign to break Hiashi, and later Hinata. They had sabotaged security the night of the attempt to steal Hinata. Naruto bit his index finger so hard that blood was drawn. They had murdered Hinata's mother in their attempts to seize the Clan.
Naruto felt the Kyūbi stirring behind his reinforced seal, but continued. The next file detailed the tragedy of Itachi and Sasuke. As Naruto read, he felt his respect and love for Old Man Hokage begin to die. Surely, there had to have been another way. It was true that the planned Uchiha coup would have been disastrous for Konoha. But to have Itachi murder the entire clan? Naruto felt his bile rise even further as he read that Danzō only agreed to Itachi's pleading request to spare Sasuke because the leader of ROOT sought to turn Sasuke into a weapon.
The final abomination broke Naruto's heart. He would never be able to look at the Sandaime again. Naruto could not tell his younger self about this file until they merged. Danzō and Hiruzen both had plans for Naruto. They both wished for him to be Konoha's weapon. It was just that they sought different ways to 'condition' the Jinchūriki. The bastard Danzō wished to strip Naruto of all emotion and turn him into an unthinking automaton. The Sandaime, on the other hand, wished to tie Naruto to the village with emotional chains that he held in his grip. Each of the dueling elders had even gone so far as to alter the reports Jiraiya received on Naruto's life.
This was not the Konoha Naruto or his father had given their everything for. They defended the dream of Konoha.
"This village did not deserve you, Father. This village does not deserve you, Hinata."
Naruto rose from the chair and hid the documents behind a loose floorboard. He re-wrapped the bandages after casting a final glance towards his sleeping counterpart. Originally, Naruto planned on guiding his young self towards destroying only Danzō and ROOT. Now, he had a new goal.
The reality of Konoha was rotten and unworthy of the grandeur of the dream. He would see this mockery of his father and his love's sacrifice cast down. Konoha-the-Reality would be destroyed so that Konoha-the-Dream could bloom in its place.