Note: The idea festered around for years; I thought that personification was a super original idea. And then I choked on my orange when I heard of Hetalia and lamented on a plot device that is now well used. This might be how Suzanne Collins felt after hearing about Battle Royale: maybe.
Additionally, I wanted to note how Naruto knows that Mizu obtained the Byakugan and told Danzo, the Rokudaime, leading to a whole lot more stuff going on, but I got lazy...
Plot Device: Konoha lives in Naruto.
Warnings: AU, unBetaed
Kakashi knows that whatever Naruto is,
Kakashi knows that Naruto had at least two predecessors. The first was Ichiraku Teuchi's civilian grandfather who was a hotspot amongst ninja leaders as a source of conventional wisdom and moral compass. Hatake Sakumo had carried Kakashi to the ramen stand to the aging man and whispered to his son to start looking "underneath the underneath," which soon gave rise to the unofficial motto of the Hatake clan. The second was Uzumaki Kushina who as soon as she stepped foot in the village, claimed herself to be the rival of Namikaze Minato which as far as Kakashi cared to observe, meant that she pounded him to the ground with fuuinjutsu until he retailiated with the same amount of fuuinjustu mastery. The third was their darling, hellion offspring, Uzumaki Naruto, who in his beginning years, effortlessly evaded ANBU by navigating the streets with the knowledge of one who had designed the village.
The obvious signs were there if only one knew where to look. All three of them had (eventually in Naruto's case) the ability to communicate with people... normal people, people that don't embody an entire village. Nowadays, people call it the Naruto Effect or the Chiryo no Jutsu, but it never really limited to just Naruto. And Kakashi, will all his lauded genius and shinobi skills, was at a loss of how to treat someone like Naruto. Was he suppose to teach him? Was he suppose to not even interact with the boy and let the business of Konoha run it's course? The jounin had power at his disposal in the form of a genin who is obligated to obey the wishes of his sensei, but Kakashi would rather not use it: power corrupts and all that. Danzo would be a perfect example. Instead, every three days, Kakashi arrives at the boy's shabby apartment with an eye-smile and a large basket of fruits and vegetables.
Did anyone else even have the vague inkling? No. The Nara heir probably knew that something strange was going on and could pinpoint the inconsistencies, but trying to make the jump between "Naruto was only ever sick after the Chunin invasion and the Pein invasion" to "Naruto is Konoha" requires too many heuristics. Maybe Iruka knew since he manned the mission desk and was seen around the boy and could easily draw a pattern between types of missions and the feral element of Naruto's moods. Danzo, with his eyes everywhere, probably had a suspicion. But other than Kakashi, who knew from a fortunate series of circumstances (most of them compounded from Kushina's wrath), there just wasn't anyone else.
Madara, for all his years, could not learn but only fear
The Sharingan was always bit of a double edged sword, like the Byakugan and it's little inner strife and politics, like the Creation Rebirth and it's aging factor, like the Rasenshurinken and it's destructive backlash, like all of his best techniques, really. Did Madara-teme ever fear him? But that thought quickly perished at the sounds of Kiba and Ino's mocking laughter when he realized that he had been thinking out loud. After quelling down their snorts and giggles, the duo hastily reassured him that he was anything but frightening and then Ino gave him a big hug. The rest of the Konoha Twelve were also trying to hide their chuckling. But some people who were within earshot, the people who's opinion he vaguely valued, either kept silent or smiled stiffly.
Of them, Asuma-sensei still remembered the young blond boy in the gray crowd with the all-knowing, crazed glare and the enigmatic smile, able to stand out in primary shades of color but at the same time blend in till one couldn't see him unless one knew what to look for. Kurenai-sensei' can recall a vision of a boy staring at his own last assassination attempt with a eerily blank face, not even blinking when the ANBU rose from the corner to slowly, ever so slowly, suffocate the killer with shadows. The next day, ANBU rooster hung up his mask and took a part time job at the Academy until he spilled his coffee onto a coworker as he stared in horror at a boisterous, blond nuisance laughing obnoxiously as he raced down the halls with a bucket of paint in his hands and Umino Iruka dogging his heels. Then Nara-sensei promptly retired from the shinobi career altogether. The boy had stared straight, seeing right through, seeing nothing, feeling nothing. And Kakashi-sensei, the man who was still reading his porn? No answers were ever forthcoming. Well, trying to pry any information out of any Hatake was once likened to trying to convert Jiraiya into monk-hood. Notice how all three belonged in the age group where his secret became common knowledge. To any ninja who the Third's law applied to...
"I swear that kid isn't normal. You got to admit that the Fourth was a genius at seals and that the kitsune hasn't shown itself yet but. Kami, I know that the kid didn't have the best upbringing but he's beyond fucked, you know? Seriously, look at him, just look at him. And you see that? Look away before he stares too long like, like, he knows. I don't know what he knows: how my sister tasted like on that day? Or, no, he knows more than that. It's not human at all, nobody normal would EVER-"
Eyes were half lidded, the blue eyes were slitted and tinted red around the iris edges but blue still dominated, the whisker marks would darken on some days and lighten up on others, corresponding to the suicide rate immediately following the Kyuubi attack. He often casually walks into the training grounds that held it's own forest ecosystems and venture into the heart of the jungle, and would sit on a rotten, mossy log, and sit there for hours and hours and hours and maybe even days until Jiji grew worried and sent out his people. His other haunt was at the park by the swings, idly kicking his legs back and forth and back and forth, watching the other kids play, watching.
Of course there were people still bitter about his existence, but he never had problems with Konoha people. If any of the adults came up to him with the intention of doing harm, he would give the perpetrator a final look of warning where his eyes flashed this unholy gleam as if daring the man or woman to try. Sometimes, the person didn't heed the warning and got a week of bad luck, or a month, maybe even a year, depending on the crime. Did you dislocate your shoulder again? You didn't tell little Miki-chan that the pond had parasites in it? Her father is on warpath, careful there. Food went bad within a couple of hours? People can't seem to tolerate you anymore? The kunai almost nicked your carotid artery? Nobody believes you? And still, while some people got smarter, others were too dumb to learn the lesson and repeated the mistake. They die alone. And it's a wonder why so many parents, ninjas and civilians alike, told their children not to associate with the likes of him.
There are echoes in the trees from the times of the Shodaime that only he can hear. When he hears, he knows on an instinctual level, and he can see and there's understanding. The insight comes in a way of a surge of information, some more relevant than others, that he just knows. One look and he can tell you everything about yourself public and private and even some things that you don't know about yourself.
But that was back then. He likes to think that he's a bit more normal as they come.
For Anyone Else,
Naruto is always there: he was Konoha the moment Kurama was sealed into him and the moment Kushina breathed her last. The instinct of all the past personifications area all stored into his brain, causing him to perceive differently from the world. The Kyuubi views him with as much interest as one does to an annoying fly and that's all the best he can get out of him but at least the Kyuubi has staved off his desire to eat him, grumbling that village spirits do not taste as good as the succulent flesh of humans.
If people thought that Sai was a bad case of walking social faux-pas, they should've seen Naruto before his third year repeated at the Academy, before people started noticing what an annoyance he was. It wasn't the made up sexual nicknames or had a creepy smile that... no wait, he did have a creepy smile, it fitted onto a face of a small, whiskered, silent, nearly emaciated blond child with an all too knowing stare that reminded too many people equal parts of the Yondaime and the fox. He had a tendency to not care: to not care about the masked people following him around, to not care about his deplorable health or the people that caused it or the people that further sought from him emotional, mental, and physical harm. He didn't really bother to find out his origins nor who his birth parents were: for all intents and purposes, Kiba might've been correct, that he had sprung up from the ground one day from a shrine of Inari. The only person he liked at that time was Jiji, no matter if anyone else was nice to him, he couldn't extend the respect to others. If Jiji signed him up for classes, he went. If Jiji told him to be polite, he would thank Teuchi and Ayame for the ramen. If Jiji told him to eat healthy, then he would start picking at the assortments that Dog left at his doorstep every three days. "Stunted" was a nice and delicate way to phrase it.
Some of his fellow genins were confused when Team Gai confessed to not noticing his presence at the Academy though the rosters had "Uzumaki" on them (not Uzumaki Naruto, just Uzumaki) but it's hard to make a connection when one doesn't know that a connection was there to begin with. It makes it even harder to find the connection of one who thrives to hide in plain sight, only deigning people to notice him when it suits his fancy.
His identity came to him in a series of visions and feelings: after he failed the genin exams for the second time on the eve of October 10th as he was hidden in an underground bunker waiting out the series of celebrations and riots. Bored as ever, he was picking the dirt under his nails and scratching his skin so with claws so sharp and force so hard that his skin nearly bled. Dog was his silent companion for the night, having already brought his orange book and a sewing kit for clothes repairs. Once, Dog tried to stop him from self harm by burying him neck deep into the ground, but he had easily escaped. Then Dog tried to distract him by giving him the sewing kit and a piece of cloth and tried to teach him the art of embroidery but that came to a screeching halt when he began stabbing himself. October tenth was a day where the skies bled hatred, so much hatred, so much searching for that one demon. It was a day that he's more vulnerable to emotions than any other day. It might be because it's his birthday. And on that particular day, as he listened to Dog's breathing, detectable only because Dog didn't want to startle him, he slowly curled up, knees to his chest, and fell asleep.
His first vision was a woman in chains with blood red hair so long that it pooled at her feet hanging off a seal tied to a the bars of a darkened cage. She told him that she never wished the burden upon his shoulders, especially not with the label of a jinchuuriki on his stomach; but unfortunately, curses begets curses and this was the way of things. She added as a side note that he should learn how to function normally as an everyday person, if not but to not attract the wrong attention and that he should know what she means because she knows. Dattebane. His second vision was someone's first memory, his own first inception. He was born from the ground, inseminated with human hopes for another sanctuary for ninjas and civilians, hidden in the leaves. He looked up sleepily and breathed in the crisp air from the fall and quickly chose the most suitable living host available and inserted himself into the conscious. Before him were two noble men who he greeted with the slight inclination of the head, "Uchiha and Senju." The two men surveyed his appearance and wordlessly bowed, ninety degrees at the waist. His third vision dived deep into the ground of Konoha until he could feel the vitality of the soil, the underground passages, an abandoned laboratory and a still working training facility, and then shot upwards, higher and higher, until he saw the people on the streets, the families in their houses, the clans in their compounds, the shadows on the rooftops and the stars and clouds and that lone moon hosting the ever sleeping Juubi.
Uzumaki Naruto wakes up with a start, turns to his side, and violently pukes.
The next day he was called into the Hokage's office with some news pertaining to the re-enlistment to the Academy. The room smelled of year old scrolls and layers of dust, enough to make his nose wrinkle in disgust. "Go back again?" He nonplussed asked Jiji, "But that will be my third time. Three times is a lot of times. No one redoes the Academy for a third time." He held up three fingers as emphasis.
"Hai, Naruto-kun," the old man behind the desk patiently replied, fingers laced together, pressing so tightly together that they were almost white. It made him curious as to what was agitating the other. Maybe the council will blow up if he refuses to return to school? Maybe it had to do with that sketchy looking old man with the bandages?
"But what if I don't want to? I'll have the Will of Fire, honestly I do, but I don't want blood or body bits on my hands." He folded his arms and pouted, "Ao-kun has too much blood and look how he ended up, dattebayo. Killing them special people left and right." He could hear Dog groan behind him and start a rapid fire silent communication with Jiji via hand signals. Whatever Dog said eased the ki atmosphere around Jiji. Naruto's own ignorance of the exchange made him sigh in frustration: it would be another month or so before he can clearly read into an individual's intentions. For now, he's been idly scratching the surface of human thought. He tapped his feet on the ground impatiently, blew his bangs upwards, and announced proudly, "If I don't go to the Academy, I will keep gardening. I love gardening. Gardening is the heart of Konoha. It builds the bottom up and I can fix the damages that you don't see. Nature loves green."
"But in order to do so, Konoha must stand." The Sandaime offered a rebuttal, "You have a great potential to protect Konoha."
"I can protect myself," He replied stubbornly.
"But how about the people around you? A village is it's people, yes?" Jiji waved a hand at the bay windows behind him.
"But what if I don't like the people? What if I don't think that they deserve protecting?"
Dog coughed behind him but offered no further comment. "They may not be the best people around, but they breath the life into a village, and that is what makes what you see here." As he spoke, Jiji's face, overshadowed by his ridiculously huge hat, fell, "I'm a bit disappointed in them too, but I've tried my best in my power for your benefit but even then I still underestimated the power of memory. There's a human element in everything and it can bring insurmountable success and cataclysmic disasters. You have to be aware of it to appreciate it's influence: the good and the bad. For the good, the human element is capable of building and protecting. I'm not apologizing on their behalf because I'm unable to do so. I would ask, no, beg, for you to forgive them, but I'm not quite sure if you're capable. I'm not saying that you can't start building, but we've been fixing since ten years ago and it won't be the best for you, not for what you are made of. What I'm suggesting is that you are better at the latter. Take pride in your strong points."
Jiji had the patience of a monk. Naruto was fully aware of how much of an obnoxious brat he was being and how much punishment he deserved for questioning the decisions of a Kage that was not given for the sole reason of his own... unique label. Still, he kept pushing. Even his inclination to listen to Jiji's words weren't enough for this big step in his life and he would rather not be sucked into anything against his will at any stage of his life. "So the Academy will allow me to be able to protect? Is that really what being a ninja means?" He asked dubiously, fully aware that they were speaking circles around delicate topics.
Jiji smiled benevolently. "Outsiders believe that our pacifist tendencies makes us weak, but what they don't know is that if provoked, we will stand and protect. Our skills amplify to thousand folds in order to save our loved ones, to guard our livelihood that we spent generations to cultivate. Our loyalty gives us strength. That is the Will of Fire." There was a significant pause so silent that he could hear soft breathing and the birds beyond the window and the bustle of the people far below the tower. Even though he knew that the old man had avoided the topic completely, Naruto still felt appreciative goosebumps crawling down his arms from the declaration of true passion, "Forgive me for my ambitions. What I had envisioned for you to be is the strongest ninja there is, Naruto-kun, the biggest protector."
"...But that's your job." He casually pointed out.
"I wish for you to be the same."
Naruto blinked twice in surprise. "So," He slowly drawled out, the gears running about in his head. "You want me to be Hokage?" He stuck his pinky in his ear in an attempt to clear his hearing.
Jiji opened his mouth and closed it again. He tried to imagine what was going on in such a complicated mind. It wasn't that Jiji didn't want him to become Hokage, but that the heart of the matter, the principle and the spirit of his wishes weren't that specific but can be subjected to personal interpretation. It was, pushing it through the Occam's razor, a wish to do one's best for the greater good. A self application to one's strengths is a noble deed indeed. But the aspirations of such a public role such as a Kage can suggest many complications for someone of his... caliber. Alas, if only the naïve boy could read underneath the underneath! They could come across to a mutual understanding! But things must be said to make that point. I am sorry, Naruto-kun. Finally, the Hokage came to a shaky conclusion, "If that is what it means to you."
"If you really, really, really want that, I can do that." Stressing the words, Naruto slowly uncrossed his arms and left them hanging at his sides. Since Jiji was the Hokage and Konoha embodies the Hokage's needs much more closely than wants.
The words were spoken with such resignation, it was almost as if Jiji felt guilty of condemning him to... something. In a way it was true as those words do hold power over him. Naruto cocked his head to the side thoughtfully and pondered the decision before giving the same inward shrug. Once, he thought that Jiji knew who he was and therefore gave him the respect of his station as the spirit embodiment of Konoha. Then he realized that Jiji thought of him as the living vessel of the Kyuubi, the humanoid Kyuubi, which had a chance, if carefully nurtured, to weild human emotions. Maybe he should be sad that the one person that he vaguely likes had such little faith in his humanity. But even if the reasons didn't justify the means, he will try to reach those means. If Jiji wants it, he will deliver. "Ok."
And that's essentially where the story begins.