Reap the Whirlwind
Everything was burning. Houses. The land they sat upon. Its people. All burning The sky was nothing but blackened smoke as the whole of Konoha burned around him, sending the glowing embers up into the night sky as a last tribute to the passing of everything he held dear. His special people were dying.
Not many of them were left now. Many had been burned to the ground even as his dream burned to the ground. All of Konoha was their farewell pyre, and by dawn he suspected there would be little left to commemorate their passing. There would be nothing left of the Hidden Village of the Leaf, making him the Hokage of little more than smoldering scar upon the Earth.
Naruto Uzumaki shook his head, jaw clenched. That was not the way of things, and there was precedent to consider. A Hokage of the Leaf did not out live his village, a tradition outlined by the previous six. A Hokage died in battle and always took the bad guy with him. The blond smiled grimly, baring a toothy fang as he looked down upon his home from the Hokage monument. There was nothing left, and the word to scatter had been given. If anybody survived the night, they would at least bare the memory that was the greatness of the Will of Fire.
Naruto Uzumaki, the Seventh Hokage of Konoha drew a simple kunai and exposed his abdomen to open air. Chakra coursed through the seal etched upon his belly eagerly, as if sensing what was about to happen. His village would die this night, but he would ensure it passed into legend.
The last Hokage of Konoha began to draw his blade across the seal.
Pain lanced through the awareness of Naruto Uzumaki, causing the blond Jinchuuriki to bolt upright, sheets flailing. After a moment futile struggle, the sheets prevailed, entombing the young man like a some high level ninjutsu that caused him to roll off the bed and the intervening meter's worth of space to the ground. A healthy thud and a painful squawk of surprise accompanied his landing, prompting his struggling ceased as the waking world fully claimed him. A pair of blue eyes flicked upon, rapidly darting to and fro to assess the situation that had jarred him back to consciousness. After a handful of seconds , several facts became immediately apparent.
There was no fire. He was in a room. It was light outside, as evidence by the rays of sun coursing through the a pair of closed blinds. And last, but not least, Naruto Uzumaki, the seventh Hokage of Konoha, had fallen out of a bed.
Naruto sighed, and began to untangle himself from the sheets that had ensnared the high ranking nin. He would have seen fit to reward them for their efforts if it had not been his very person they had captured, and set about the task of ascertaining his whereabouts. He stumbled about in the semi-dark toward the blinding rays and found the curtain pull easily enough, giving the line a good yank. After another moment of sheer blindness courtesy of the dawns early light, his eyes adjusted. The sight caused him to stumbled back with wide eyes.
It was Konoha.
Konoha in all its glory, untouched by fire, marauders or the like. It was the Konoha etched indelibly into his childhood memories, and this view in particular was well known to him. His gaze turned away from the delightfully chaotic urban sprawl and back to the room itself as two emotions warred with one another. There was hope, of course. Hope that his village was alive after everything he had seen and lived through. Hope that beyond that very window his friends were still alive. Hope that competed with the icy dread that was working its way up his spine as he turned back to the room itself.
The icy dread spiked as he took in the details. The accommodations were small and looked as though they had been through their own minor skirmish. Clothing lay in disarray, spread haphazardly across the room and what little furniture that graced it. Spent bowls of instant ramen lined the only table central to the room itself and there was, of course, his nemesis, the bed, crowned by a green froggy night cap.
Naruto's cheek twitched.
It was his old dorm. The nin stepped through it carefully, as if he were traversing sacred ground. It was also impossible. The entire block had been leveled six years ago for new construction. He had watched the demolition nins take the building down while he stood by as a last memorial to his childhood residence before it was raised. If that wasn't enough, the entire district had been destroyed the night of the final invasion, yet somehow he was standing in that very spot right here and now. Naruto glanced into the small bathroom with its peeling, lime green wallpaper. Sure enough, his old goggles were hanging off the mirror, waiting for a new day to start. His own adult reflection stared back and the last Hokage of Konoha tried to smile, but couldn't quite allow the emotion to surface.
None of it was real. None of it could be real. It was all utterly impossible. Genjutsu, was the first thing to enter his mind as he continued to survey the set that was his old academy apartment. No detail was out of place, though he readily admitted that the fine details of those days were lacking. Still, it was nearly as perfect as he cared to remember.
Or sharingan,Naruto frowned, which was even worse. There were still a few sharingan users out there, rare as it was. They might have been scrounged up for the final battle just keep him occupied. The two that he personally knew of, however, were dead. The blond nin suppressed the painful memory, and concentrated on the here and now, but it was all perfect.
Too perfect.Naruto clenched a fist.
He pressurized an enormous amount of chakra- enough to dispel an entire battlefield of genjustu -and the very air wavered with its release. The apartment remained. Naruto waited for something to change. Anything. A minor, insignificant detail he could cling to. After a full five minutes he sighed again.
"Sharingan it is, then." He decided and proceeded to make his exit. Sooner or later the Sharingan user would make his intentions known. They always did. Naruto returned to the window and slid it open, slipping purposefully out and off the edge, into the alleyway below. He hit the ground lightly while grumbling something about the universally arrogant pricks before steeling himself for a trip down memory lane. Strolling out of the alleyway, he was greeted by the early morning bustle of businesses readying for the new day. Pedestrians passed by casting speculative glances at his person as he emerged from the alley, but paid them little attention since they more than likely little more than a Sharingan constructs themselves.
Naruto's own white and orange flame embroidered trench coat shifted with the slight morning breeze as he, in turn, took in his surroundings. The exact details had been lost to over a decade's worth of memory, but nothing seemed out of place. Instead of worrying further, the seventh Hokage picked a direction at random and began to walk. The smells and sights reminded him of better times, and now he couldn't help but to produce a slight smile. He caught sight of the Hokage Monument and stopped, studying it with a cocked head. If there was any doubt as to when in his memories he was, the monument itself clinched it.
Four heads. No more, no less.
And what exactly would I be doing today? The blond mused to himself. He still had the goggles back at the dorm, which meant he wasn't a ninja quite yet. The academy? He posed the question to himself, though the answer was all but certain. Maybe I'll even find myself pranking ol' Iruka, Naruto snorted and altered his course to cross the street.
Iruka was, of course, dead, but the Shichidaime maintained the smile for his memory regardless. If there was Sharingan bullshit to be had, he'd find out what they were after when he turned them into fine paste for the unnecessary trip down memory lane. If it was to cause him pain, his mystery opponent was definitely succeeding in that. Every step he took through the idyllic environment of his mind's eye was just another reminder of everything- everybody -he had lost.
Will have to do better than that, Naruto shook his head. At twenty six years of age, he was well versed in the art of loss and hardly needed a Sharingan guided tour to help him relive it. The blond loosened the dark blue ballistic armor residing underneath the trench coat and felt around his stomach, then smiled. Missed a detail, bitch.
He could feel, if not see the scar running across the seal which all but confirmed the artificiality of his environment. The discovery, however, did not prompt his tormentor to reveal himself and so Naruto Uzumaki continued his trek down the side streets of Konoha, taking a shortcut well worn within his memory to the academy. He was just stepping out onto another main street before the turn to the school itself when his blood ran cold. Naruto froze as his blue eyes locked onto another figment of his imagination.
Naruto could only stare helplessly as a thirteen year old Sakura Haruno strolled the sidewalk toward him, obliviously chatting with another girl friend. If she was a Sharingan driven figment, she was one of t the most potent his captor could have chosen to incite. Naruto suppressed the emotions that threatened to overwhelm him. She too was dead. Like the rest. Both girls drew within ten meters and noticed him for the first time, pausing in their conversation while wondering exactly why he was staring. Both picked up their pace to pass by and just as she did do, Naruto broke.
The girl stopped and turned, still seemingly wary of his very presence. Naruto turned back to them slowly and took a step in the pink haired girl's direction. Her detail was correct in every way he cared to imagine her at this age, from the dark pink cheongsam tunic to the innocence held in her green eyes. He took another step and the girl tensed slightly. He bowed to his knee. Wariness turned to curiosity.
"I'm sorry, Sakura." He apologized slowly as the memories came biting back. "I'm sorry I couldn't keep the promise of a lifetime. I'm sorry couldn't protect everybody."
The girl's mouth opened, but nothing came out since little the man had said actually made sense. The blond closed his eyes to chase back the tears and managed some measure of control, then reached out to touch her-
"Remove your hand from the child." Wind gusted around him and five shadows instantly surrounded them, blurring into the masked forms of five combat ready ANBU ninja. Naruto's hand froze and the girl jerked away. "Miss Haruno, please continue along to school."
The now thoroughly skittish girl and her friend looked from nin to nin, then back to the blond, whose own hand dropped lifelessly to his side in defeat. Sakura looked back up to the ANBU in a cat mask, who stepped aside for her with a nod. Naruto watched her stumble away at a brisk pace with her friend, drawing back up to his full height with a sigh. "And let the mind games begin."
"Name, rank and village." Another of the anonymous ANBU ordered, this one's mask sporting a smallish horn protruding from its forehead.
"Naruto Uzumaki, Genin, Leaf." Naruto chuckled, casting an amused look at the nin in question. The seventh Hokage paused, cocking his head introspectively. "Actually, I don't think I've taken the genin test yet." He looked at another ANBU. "Can I change my answer?"
"Where is Uzumaki?"
Now that cause Naruto to outright laugh. "Blond hair? Blue eyes? Fond of practical jokes?" He took his time, as if concentrating intensely. His hand came up, fingers snapping in sudden revelation. "...Haven't seen him."
"What is your purpose here?" The question came from a different ANBU, and Naruto turned to face the cat masked nin.
"Can anyone really know what their purpose here is?" Naruto shrugged, spreading his hands openly while turning a simple interrogation into a question probing the existential meaning of life. The cat masked ANBU looked to her counterpart, who in turn nodded.
"I knew you'd see it my way," The Shichidaime smiled and sidestepped the initial lunge aimed at placing a restraining seal on his back. He spun out of the ANBU's attack and chopped his wrist as the nin struggled against over compensation and momentum. He instantly lost the restraining seal in hand and took the simultaneous leg sweep. The masked nin was quick on the recovery and attempted to handspring out of the sudden reversal of his offensive, but his opponent was faster. Naruto's blurring elbow came down on the man's back hard, almost embedding his attacker into a crater of his own making.
Three more nins engaged and Naruto was already sliding out of the ANBU ring, his white cloak flailing as he took the closest one hand to hand. A kunai flashed out and Naruto dodged and grabbed the offending hand, using it to parry the other slash at his right flank. Metal shrieked with the contact and the blond pulled his ANBU combatant fully through, breaking his wrist with the pass and taking the kunai for himself. The man tumbled into his teammate, allowing Naruto to concentrate on his third attacker for the moment.
A roundhouse kick blazed in just as he disengaged from his first two opponents, but the blond caught the heel and redirected the momentum up and back. The spin kick instantly destabilized, but like his counterparts, the ANBU was a professional. He tumbled out of the counter and landed in a crouch, his hands instantly flashing through seals.
"None of that, now."
A small bluish ball formed in Naruto's left hand, and he powered the technique to about a quarter of its full potential before releasing it at nearly point blank range. The ANBU shock trooper took one second too many in deciding whether to complete the sequence or roll out, and thus took the technique in full. The Rasengan owner didn't even bother to watch the results and spun back around to deflect a fireball with the back of his hand, decimating part of the street before charging its originator.
"You would think I would have conjured more of a challenge for my own illusion of self loathing and torture," Naruto quipped as he stepped into the man's attack range and thrust a singular palm out at him. It seemed to come up short, but aura contained within the palm distorted the air pressure around it briefly before that made contact with the ANBU's body armor vest. The thick material instantly flattened with the intangible impact, sending its recipient tumbling hard down the street.
He turned to the final active combatant with a shrug. "The again, maybe this ismy idea of self loathing and torture."
Steel hissed at his back and he glanced back to the cat masked nin, who had thus far declined combat. One of two katana strapped to her back cleared its sheath and she gave it an experimental spin in her left hand. Sunlight flashed through its arc and she buried the tip into the stone cobbled street before her. She raked the katana sideways to her left to clear it for the initial stroke. To her right, the ANBU with a broken wrist scrambled up and fished into one of his vest pockets, retrieving a pair of tagged kunai. Two of their comrades remained inert, evening Naruto's odds down to three versus one.
"Of course, the smart money says you're the quick reaction team delaying me until reinforcements can arrive, right?" The cat ANBU didn't respond, but he continued his musings anyway. "Maybe a squad or two from Heavy Intervention being so close to the Academy and all?"
A voice at his back replied and a smile crept across his lips. It was a voice he would recognize anywhere, and he hadn't even sensed the arrival. Nice to know he's still got it, Naruto turned around with that same grin, noting the central figure flanked by a new wave of ANBU perched upon the rooftop overhead, weapons drawn. He was an old man clad in his own white and red cloak and an overly wide kasa sitting atop his head. He was also a man that existed solely in his fondest recollections.
Naruto Uzumaki gave the man a nonchalant wave. "Heya Jii-san!"
"And exactly how long have you been in Konoha?"
Naruto sniffed with amusement at that question, looking around the office and seeing every scroll and every book exactly as he remember it. Organized chaos, he labeled it and continued his tour. The Third Hokage of Konoha cleared his throat, returning the blond's attention to the here and now. He shrugged. "Your Konoha or mykonoha?"
The old man favored Naruto with a patient, but unyielding serious look, tapping the ashes out of his kiseru as he conducted the interrogation personally. "MyKonoha."
"Mmm, about an hour now." Naruto nodded, earning a dry look from Sarutobi.
"And before that?" He pushed as the man before him found something else in his office to study. He was all but certain the stranger would overturn his entire office in curiosity if there weren't six ANBU guards confining the space his attention wandered.
"I told you already: MyKonoha." The Uzumaki stressed and rolled his eyes. "Seriously though, this has got to be the lamest Sharingan mind fuck to date."
"This wouldn't be the first time you've mentioned the Sharingan since we've brought you into custody," The elder of the pair confirmed evenly. "You would have us believe that you've been affected by it in some way?"
"Well you're here, aren't you?" Naruto shook his head, following the simplest line of logic. "Either I've travelled back in time or I'm talking to myself, which is more likely, old man?"
"Then you still maintain you're Naruto Uzumaki." It was less of a question and more confirmation, to which Naruto crossed his arms and stared back at the Hokage. Sarutobi had to admit the resemblance was uncanny, and it wasn't a jutsu of any sort. Still, coincidences in the ninja world got you killed and he wasn't about to put any weight on this one either. It was a plot. Or a trap. Or some other ruse that they were going to root out sooner or later; especially if it had to do with the Fourth's own son and that which was sealed within as missing. "Then, 'Naruto', we have a thirteen year old boy missing. Perhaps you can help us with that?"
"Not unless you've got a good shrink." Naruto threw the man a cheeky smile, then frowned. "Look Jii-san, it's been really good seeing you again, but this Sharingan dumbass is wasting my time. I've got stuff to..." An assortment of weapons cleared their sheaths as the blond turned toward the door to confront his ANBU handlers. "...do. Right. The hard way it is, then."
Now it was the Sandaime's turn to frown. He had in his office what was by all rights a skilled and powerful ninja; easily a jounin or better if the initial burst of chakra they had felt an hour ago was any indication, facts likewise backed up by the application of force to the initial ANBU quick reaction unit. The burst of chakra triggering the initial alert had the teams up early resetting all the wards it had triggered, and now that same person was rapidly contemplating further violent options.
Genjustsu trauma? The Professor theorized, having spent more than enough time in the field to have seen the symptoms for himself. The victims were normally so mentally damaged that they could no longer differentiate the technique from reality, creating a paranoid schizophrenicthat simply didn't know which way was up. Nin suffering the disorder normally went on insane killing sprees jumping at every shadow or at very least had to be removed from active duty. He's been amiable so far. Perhaps humoring him...
The Professor cleared his throat again. "You must understand, this is all very difficult to believe."
Naruto paused, laughing. "Well, you are a figment of my imagination, so of course it's hard for you to believe since Ifind it hard to believe."
Sarutobi arched an eyebrow at the thoroughly twisted logic, but conceded the point none the less as it seemed to have distracted the young man. "Some proof would be helpful."
"I'm sure it would," Naruto nodded, likewise humoring the Sharingan construct before him. Still, it offered him a way to possibly trip the illusion up further. Having been stripped of his body armor, the next part came easily and he pulled up his black and minimally orange striped shirt. "Recognize your work, old man?"
Sarutobi looked up into the humorous glint of the young man's blue eyes then focused on the nin's stomach with a squint. His eyes slowly widened as his study traced the outer circumference of the seal and its hand painted symbols. He most certainly didrecognize his own work, but that work had been severely modified. It now branched out to other portions of the blonde's body for purposes that would remain unknown without further study.
He looked back up at the smiling man. "Impossible."
"Now it's my turn to play twenty questions." Naruto snorted, tracing the seal with one index finger. "You get to tell me who did what."
The Third blinked as he parsed exactly what the young man was asking, and plied his intellect to the task. Aside from the long scar of newly healed skin running across the seal, his work was immediately evident. His study flicked outward along the seal's edges and found a pattern that differed from his, spiraling away from the original work. Sarutobi recognized that as well with no small shock.
"Keeeep going." Naruto nodded and the Hokage turned back to the task, tracing his own student's work outward. The toad Sannin's seal abruptly terminated- overwritten in some instances -and new seal work began. While he could decipher it, the author was unknown to him. He looked up at the person who was rapidly beginning to look like an older version of Naruto with each passing second, and then back to the seal structure without a clue.
"I don't know." The Hokage shook his head, causing Naruto to cock his head.
"Are you sure you don't know?" The Shichidaime blinked as a flaw in his master plan to unravel the Sharingan matrix surfaced. His brow scrunched, thinking the matter over. "Because I'm pretty sure you should know since I know."
"Naruto..." Sarutobi hesitated with the name as he was also uncertain of the ground they now walked. "You are not under a genjutsu or the Sharingan. The way things are now, that is simply impossible."
"Yeah, might want to talk to Danzo about that," Naruto perceived the veiled message loud and clear: That there was only one Sharingan user in the village and that he hadn't even activated his yet. Still, he decided to throw a stone into the pond just to see what would happen. "I hear he knows a thing or two about the Sharingan."
Sarutobi stilled, already having his own suspicions about the man concerning other events surrounding him. Now those suspicions were now on high alert if he was connected to this man. "Whatdoes Danzo know about that, exactly?"
"Dammit, you should know that too." Naruto frowned, scratching his head. The Third glanced over to a ninja and nodded briefly. A single ANBU instantly disappeared, even as the blond before them puzzled over his predicament. Naruto noticed nin leave and fixed the Hokage with a stare. "You really don't know, do you?"
The old Hokage sighed. "I know a great many things, but your very existence confounds me if the evidence written on your very body is any indication. Perhaps we should go about this from a different angle."
Naruto watched as the village leader metered out another dose of tobacco from a small silver case and loaded it into his pipe, lighting it with a mere snap of the fingers. He studied the Sharingan construct's activities for any intrinsic flaw but found none. He shrugged. Anything to get this game over with."What do you have in mind?"
"Things that I know that you should not," Sarutobi thought the matter through, then nodded as it passed his own internal logic.
"Which would either make you the real thing or the Sharingan dope himself," Naruto grinned, liking the new direction they were taking. "Let's do this jii-san."
Sarutobi would have groaned with a new application of Naruto's favorite name if not for the fact that his gambit had unexpectedly just put him on very dangerous ground. If his nebulous theory didn't satisfy the man in front of him, there was only one way this was set to end. The Hokage posed his next suggestion carefully. "Ask me something you've been curious about but have no actual knowledge of."
"Hmmm... Huh..." Naruto began to pace his ANBU confined space, thinking the conundrum over. He had to hand it to the old man, if in fact he was real in the first place. Of course, the entire point of the illusion was to make the victim believe in the first place, so there was the very real possibility that it was his own subconscious supplying bullshit in lieu of real information. But I'll know that the instant it drops from his mouth, Naruto reasoned, assuming he knew himself and the old man better than the idiot trapping him. Something behind the old Hokage caught Naruto's eye and a crafty smile surfaced. "All right. Got it."
The Third nodded patiently and Naruto pointed to the table behind him. "How the fuck does that thing work?" The graying man blinked and glanced behind him, finding the only artifact of interest instantly and leaned back to retrieve it.
"Yes, that!" Naruto confirmed, now becoming somewhat agitated as he referred to the crystal ball in hand. The blond continued to fume about his experience with it. "I swear I tried everything to get that chunk of glass to work after I found it. Ended up using it as a paper weight for scrolls."
"You used the Eye of Urna as a paperweight?" The Sandaime favored the blond in front of him with a dry look. Naruto shrugged and waited. Sarutobi shook his head in disappointment, all but being convinced against his will that the young man in front of him had to be Naruto... as impossible as it seemed. But it certainly seemed like something he would do. The Third took a breath. "The eye is a chakra lens fused with a fuinjutsu seal that tracks any specified chakra signature."
"Alright, and how does it do that?" Naruto pressed his own inquiry; a question that the Third answered easily.
"A corresponding fuinjutsu seal is placed on the target or in the general area to be viewed," The older man explained, taking a puff from his kiseru and letting the smoke from his exaltation curl into the air. "The seal feeds off the target's chakra, allowing a viewable radius within the eye of approximately ten meters. The added bonus is that unless the seal is found, it is completely undetectable..."
"...since it uses the target's own chakra, as opposed to generating its own," The blond arched an eyebrow, admiring the simplicity of the device. "Alright, I can see that. How'd you use it to track me all the time, then? I could lose every ANBU between here and Ichiraku's until you got involved, and I'm pretty damn sure I never had a seal stuck to my ass, even back then."
"Not your ass, exactly." The graying village leader chuckled for the first time since their meeting. He pushed the Eye of Urna and its resting cushion onto the table between them and touched it with both hands, feeding it a token amount of chakra. The chakra lens fogged up, then cleared after a moment to reveal an aerial view of the very room they stood in with Naruto himself as the focus. The blond blinked. "Though it would go a long way toward explaining why it focused on you instead of the boy I sought when I called upon Naruto Uzumaki's chakra signature."
Naruto stared in wonder, bending down to peer at the Eye even as the image within showed him bending down to get a better look. He glanced back up at the ceiling. There was, of course, nothing there and he looked back, then scrutinized the man who was the closest thing to a father figure he had ever known when something in his explanation clicked. "Alright, I know I just got here and I know I don't have a seal on me...?"
Sarutobi pulled a sheet of paper and a brush from his desk and dipped the fine hair tip into an ink well, then painted a flowing symbol onto the paper. Naruto's eyes widened fully, and his left hand drifted to the complex seal network inscribed on his very flesh. He knew the symbols there by heart and he knew that was one of them; quite literally embedded within the first generation containment seal that the man before him had drafted by his very hand.
"Jii-san, you crafty son of a bitch," Naruto breathed. He watched as the old man leaned back with a smile upon hearing the rounded compliment, taking a long drag from his pipe even as the blond determined the ramifications of what he was seeing. It was not only plausible and workable, but completely outside of his own methodology. The Third's usage of the eye while combining its fuinjutsu seal within the containment seal reeked of the old man's simplistic elegance; an elegance that would never have occurred to himself.
That was the key.
"This isn't a Sharingan," The young man stated, allowing the slightest measure of awe to creep into his voice. Sarutobi shook his head.
"No, it is not."
"I'm in the past." He moved to the next point of contention, shaking his head at impossibility the very idea represented.
"That is still open to debate," The Third's good cheer faded with the very idea. It was impossible, of course, but the Eye of Urna confirmed the presence of the target seal, which he himself had painted on one and one person only. There was also the fact that this Naruto looked very much like the one he knew, save older; if not in his twenties. And if this one is here, then where is his younger counterpart? The Professor broached the more disturbing question. Assuming it was all true to begin with.
Another heavy sigh caught up to him. And Sarutobi put forth the last test he could think of. "One last thing."
Naruto broke from his own introspective as the man behind the desk folding his hands at his lips and leveled his best 'stare through your soul' look at him. "At age four, you pulled a prank in this very office. What was it?"
Naruto blinked at the out of the blue question, then smiled. "The ol' bubblegum on the seat trick."
Sarutobi frowned. "What flavorwas it?"
The smile blossomed into a full blown grin. "Trick question. I must have chewed five different packs of every flavor just to ensure the seat was fully covered."
The Third Hokage maintained his stare for a moment before abruptly deflating, mentally drained by the implications. "Dammit. This shouldn't even be possible."
"Welcome to my world," Naruto Uzumaki nodded sympathetically even as the shock of potential time travel still wracked his brain.
"And little Naruto?"
The elder Naruto's jaw clenched with the unexpectedly murky question. After a moment of silence, he shook his head. "I don't know. I woke up in my old bed, the one that's on the other side of town even as we speak. He wasn't there."
"Is there anything else out of the ordinary?" The Hokage questioned in a nearly blind attempt to probe the length and breadth of the temporal breach. "Anything that seemed off?"
"Nothing." Naruto replied plainly. "Hell, I was even watching for it since I thought I was under the Sharingan."
"Hokage!" A shadow dropped onto the balcony beyond his office. Sarutobi turned his full attention to the ANBU nin's return.
"Danzo Shimura's estate is fully engulfed." The armor clad trooper kneeled before the village's supreme commander. "The fire corps are containing the blaze, but Danzo himself is nowhere to be found."
Hiruzen stared for a moment, barely able to comprehend the sudden turn of events, then turned back to the young man who returned his look. "Something's changed. This didn't happen last time."
The Third Hokage of Konoha grimaced and turned back to the ANBU presence guarding Naruto. "Find him."
With a gust of wind, Sarutobi and Naruto suddenly found themselves alone, and the old man leveled a serious gaze on the blond. "What is going on? What about him and the Sharingan?"
Naruto's gaze grew equally serious, and for the first time the Hokage could see the adult the child he knew had become. The blond pulled over a chair now that he wasn't under tight guard and sat in it, leaning forward.
"Might want to get a drink for this one, old man," He returned soberly. "It all goes downhill from here."
It took another full hour and several intervening questions to relate just what had gone so horribly wrong. It was a thoroughly twisted tale of lies, deceit, assassination and corruption; not to mention Konoha facing down an army of clones, the undead and s-class nukenin mercenaries all seeking to rip the heart out of the ninja alliance.
Sarutobi stopped him, staring skeptically.
"An army of clones and risen undead?" He arched an eyebrow, watching the blond across from him simply nod. The Third pinched the bridge of his nose. "This sounds like bad fiction."
"Wish it was, Jii-san." The Uzumaki confirmed with heavy emotion. "Madara had been planning this shit for a long time, systematically sending adversaries our way to weaken us, while sowing the seeds of chaos in the other villages. We got the alliance together, but couldn't get it strong enough fast enough. Too much time spent bickering and cleaning our own houses. He took us apart, piece by piece."
"And Kakashi was Hokage for this?" The elder of the two confirmed and Naruto nodded again.
"After Tsunade and after Pein's own invasion attempt." Naruto continued filling in the details. "After Danzo tried his own hand at taking control of the alliance. That's when Madara went for the end game, launching random attacks against the allies and forcing us to respond to one fire after another."
Tsunade. That, more than Kakashi becoming hokage illustrated just how bad things had gotten. The woman had sworn herself never to set foot in Konoha again as long as she lived, and if she had come back... "And then?"
"And then we found that army of clones and resurrected nins camping outside our doorstep." The young man snorted derisively. "They laid siege to us, old man. Damn near three years worth of it. With our forces split across half the goddamn alliance, we could never bring enough firepower to bear to decisively break it. Personally, I think Madara just got tired of waiting one day and kicked it off himself."
Sarutobi poured himself another full cup of sake and began to partake of it. By his count, that would make three separate invasions since the Nine Tails event, and even thatseemed to line up with what this Naruto was describing to him: A systematic plan to deplete Konoha of resources and manpower until such time as it could be decisively wiped off the map.
"They rolled us, old man." Naruto continued bitterly. "The clones would have been manageable, but the 'talent' they had resurrected was more than enough to keep the bulk of our remaining forces occupied all by itself. The clones reinforced them and then Kabuto rode in on that giant two headed snake of his."
Naruto paused introspectively. "Speaking of which, I'd suggest you go and grab him right now."
Sarutobi blinked, alarm spreading across his face that such a dangerous nin was roaming the streets of Konoha unchecked. "He's... availableto be grabbed? Isn't he-"
Naruto held a pernicious grin. "Not yet he's not. Did I mention he was the snake-bastard's double agent?"
Snake-bastard.There was only one of those he knew of. The Professor snapped his fingers and an ANBU guard flickered into view beside Naruto. The older leader turned back to Naruto. "Full name?"
"Yakushi, Kabuto," Naruto relayed. "Posing as a genin right now but he's hiding something closer to tokubetsu jounin skills. He's got mad regeneration abilities and is adept in the use of chakra scalpels. Don't take him lightly."
Hearing that he was in league with Orochimaru made the Hokage's next decision easy, and he turned back to the ANBU. "Two full containment teams. Detain Yakushi-san for interrogation. Have Ibiki see to it personally."
The ANBU bowed and disappeared once more to carry out his instructions.
It's almost unfair, Naruto thought to himself, but dismissed the ridiculous thought even as it manifested itself. He was already guilty of high treason in the here and now, let alone what he would do when left to his own devices. Let the asshole burn, the blond growled within the privacy of his own thoughts, returning to the matter at hand. "Where was I?"
"The third invasion." Sarutobi prompting, not missing the edgy glint residing in the young man's eyes.
"That's right." Naruto picked up where he left off. "I was about the only one who had the ability to take Kabuto and his snake, while Kakashi went after Madara. The theory was that decapitating the invasion commanders would make it easier to clean up the rest, but even that was bordering on impossible. Skilled as sensei was, he just couldn't match a natural Sharingan user nearly three times his age and experience. He was getting his ass handed to him while I was locked in a stalemate with Kabuto and his S-rank bodyguards. Good ol' Sasuke, though..."
"Uchiha?" The Third latched onto the name immediately and Naruto confirmed the name.
"Wish Sakura could have been alive to finally see him come around. Evened the odds against Madara damn quick." The older man made mental note to probe that topic further as Naruto continued the tale. "Kakashi went down, alive but unable to continue the battle while we were back to back fighting our own separate battles, trading insults just like old times."
Sarutobi allowed the young man a moment in what was obviously a fond recollection. Naruto sighed as the recollection turned solemn. His blue eyes gained a glassy reflectivity. "He took the prick out. Classic Chidori. Madara didn't even see it coming. The asshole tried to Izanagi out of the damage but Sasuke was ready for it and triggered his own. They both just vanished, chakra and everything."
"That left just me, a ton of S-class undead, a clone army, a giant two headed snake and Kabuto himself." Naruto explained in a grim manner. "Kakashi handed the title of Hokage to me in his dying breath, but the writing was on the wall. Too many fronts, too much to protect. Konoha was going down so I gave the order to scatter. The only thing left was for me was to buy enough time so everybody else could get the hell out."
"This is a fairly bleak future by all-" The Sandaime's thought trailed off into silence, his mouth left hanging open for the next word as a critical fact lodged itself between what he was going to say and what he was thinking. The log jam finally cleared after several seconds with a single word. "Hokage?"
The right edge of Naruto's lip curled up into a smile as the elder caught on. "That's right, Jii-san. You're talking to the Shichidaime himself." The smirk persisted for several seconds as Naruto relished the stunned look Sarutobi's face had taken until reality reasserted itself. The smile dropped off rapidly as the obvious shadow of pain passed over his very being. "That's me. The seventh and last Hokage of Konoha."
It was a pain that Sarutobi shared by proxy, and like the young man in front of him, the incredulity of his announcement was all but washed away by the cold, hard reality of his very presence. In spite of a life time of service to the village, the death of this very boy's father and his subsequent retaking of the position, The Hidden Village of the Leaf would still die by fire. Sabotage from within. Schemes from without. Powerful enemies, old and new. The Third stared at what was now his counterpart from a decade hence, then glanced back to the bottle of sake and considered partaking of the bottle directly.
No, wouldn't do much for what little dignity I have left,he sighed internally, digesting the entire tale. The outlook was the worst possible scenario one could imagine with the only bright spot being that he actually now knew of it. Sure, the hand of fate had already begun to fall against Konoha, but only just. Hiruzen Sarutobi returned his attention to the younger man sitting across the desk from him. He was their sole ace in the hole at this point and he intended to use the blond to the utmost now that the threat was known.
"What would you suggest?"
Naruto remained silent for a moment, almost amazing the Hokage outright as he thought about his answer while providing yet more evidence that this version of the boy had certainly matured. He gave a slight snort. "Don't know about you, but I'll be kicking ass and taking names. If you're looking for a definitive plan beyond that, I'm still getting over the fact that none of that shit has even happened yet."
"Hmm," The Third murmured, contemplating their next course of action. "I'll have accommodations arranged for you then. "You'll understand if I assign ANBU overwatch."
It wasn't a question and Naruto took it in stride. Even he realized this shit was just too weird to do otherwise. "And I'll draft a list of known Root and Akatsuki members while I'm sorting things out." Both code names instantly gained the Hokage's undivided attention. "A lot of Root went underground when Danzo bought it, so that list is going to be small. On the other hand, I have the Akatsuki's complete roster."
"I'm looking forward to seeing it," Sarutobi replied almost warily. The intelligence trove this Naruto represented was unprecedented- almost frightening in scope.
Naruto sat up and turned to the door. He glanced back. "I may just drop by Ibiki and help him if that's okay."
It really wasn't really a request, causing Sarutobi to frown as the man from the future excused himself. It was going to be a long, longday.
One that apparently wouldn't be over for quite a while.
Naruto Uzumaki sat on a rock. The rock was in a cramped clearing of overgrowth and flora. The clearing was within the Forest of Death. He gave the general area another once over for interlopers- which technically described his very presence -before biting his thumb and running the wellspring of blood across the scarred seal. Chakra exploded to his right revealing a man sized fox; orange in color and an unhappy disposition writ large across its face. Nine tails lashed impatiently as its predatory gaze scanned for prey before finally settling on Naruto himself. The pair stared at one another for a moment before the kitsune settled and sat back on it haunches.
"What happened?" Naruto began without preamble, to which the beast's ear merely twitched.
"How in the hell should I know, mud-rat." The bassy gravel of his voice growled irritably, scraping against Naruto's eardrum like sandpaper. "One moment I was happily chewing the neck of a giant snake off, the next I find myself sucked back into the seal. Speaking of which, where the hell are we now? I wasn't done with that genetic abomination and can't exactly finish the job this small."
The blond cast a critical eye on the demon, whose nine tails lashed with impatience. You don't know either, Naruto determined and set to the short version. "We're in the past. I was hoping you knew how."
The tails abruptly stopped their swish, all but assuring the demon container that it was just as surprised as he had been.
"The past." It confirmed doubtfully. Naruto didn't even spare a nod for the creature as it, in turn, sniffed the air with its sharp muzzle. Its eyes narrowed on the young man, as if something had been confirmed by the action. "How far back in the past?"
Naruto arched his eyebrow in slight surprise. "What, you're not going to bitch about how it's impossible?"
"I'm the nine tailed Kyuubi, you insufficiently evolved mammal." The kitsune hissed at him. "Of course time travel is possible. If it weren't, I would berate you in some other manner, then gnaw your leg off for being so gullible."
Properly chastised, Naruto answered the question directly. "Just before I graduated."
"Ten more years with you..." The fox growled, baring his fangs in frustration. It then cocked its triangular head in a remarkably introspective look. "But then again, I would assume you will be looking to 'set things right' and other such noble drivel?"
"I was thinking about it." the Shichidaime cast a dry look back at the beast.
"This preemptive dispensation of 'justice' will undoubtedly result in copious amounts of bloodshed," Kyuubi licked his chops. "Including one Madara Uchiha, per chance?"
He almost hated agreeing with the fox when he was like this, but nodded nonetheless. The demon's muzzle curled into a fanged smile. "Then I will be more than happy to participate in the protection of 'your special people'... with extreme prejudice."
Naruto's cheek twitched with the demon's 'means to an end' logic. "Dammit fox, I feel like I need a shower now."
"And the rivers of blood will flow," The tails began to swish eagerly now, his jailer's words going unnoticed. "We will string their entrails from one boarder to the next. Nonewill survive and even the Shinigami will quake at our passing..."
"I will savor sucking those wretched Sharingan orbs from his skull," He continued unabated, snapping his jaws. "And then we will return for seconds upon disposing of his cursed brethren..."
The tails stopped swishing and his triangular swiveled upon him curiously. Naruto ran a hand through his hair, scruffing the blond crop in exasperation. "Just remember the deal."
"The deal." Kyuubi growled, clearly communicating his disgust. "The dealcuts both ways my little chakra leech."
"Yeah, not my brightest idea," Naruto mumbled to himself, filing the act under the 'desperate measures' header. He returned his attention back to the demon impatiently. "Look, do you know what's going on or not?"
"Aside from the opportunity rain our vengeance upon the unsuspecting meat sacks?" The demon asked rhetorically. "Hardly, nor do I care."
The 'vengeance upon the unsuspecting' stuck a positive chord within the last Hokage, causing him his own measure of eager anticipation. "Yeah, I'll bet Kabuto shit his pants when the ANBU took him in."
"A matter we should have handled ourselves." The kitsune snorted its disapproval. "The current monkey Hokage is far too soft for these matters. And the others?"
Naruto frowned at the demon's missive as it hit upon the ever so slightest sliver of doubt that had wormed its way into his consciousness. He crushed the train of thought and answered the question directly. "No idea. Looks like Danzo bolted, though. He shouldn't have known, but he must have known somethingbecause he sure as hell didn't stick around."
For once, the response wasn't followed up with a snarky comment and the fox simply stared. An ear twitched, and Naruto's patience began to wear thin. "What, Fox?"
"Another diseased Sharingan carrier." The kitsune stated, but this time the insult carried little malice. Kyuubi cocked his head with an almost thoughtful look. "And perhaps not so unsuspecting."
Now that caused Naruto pause. "Explain."
Again, Kyuubi didn't outright balk at his order or insult him, putting the young man further on edge. "Their plague baring eyeballs are attuned to time and space. Our prey is potentially awarethat something is amiss."
Attuned to time and space.Naruto rolled the idea around in his thoughts and couldn't help but to at least consider the theory. The Sharingan arsenal included techniques like the Izanagi and Time Space Migration, making the demon's explanation at least plausible much as he hated to admit it... And potentially losing the element of crushing surprise in the process.
"Going to need to think about this," The Shichidaime grumbled as his brain tried to work the overwhelming number of angles. Regardless, there were still a lot of people he could get the drop on who didn't have the benefit of a Sharingan. Naruto blinked as a couple came unbidden into his mind's eye. "I think..."
"Don't strain yourself." Kyuubi snorted. "And if you insist on doing so, leave me to dance amongst the shadows and do not summon me again until there is a payment of blood."
Naruto brushed the fox off and it sniffed at him contemptuously before taking a leap into open space, disappearing into ether as it did so. There were so many variables to consider this time through, and he almost had to assume that the Akatsuki would alter their plans if Madara was leading them by the nose. Itachi dies by Sasuke's hand, but then he wanted that anyway, he reasoned internally. Of course, even if the man did benefit from time-space awareness in some form, he'd only see his death, nothing after that. Certainly not the ass-kicking Madara has lined up for us.
The sun began to set. Alone in the clearing within the forest of death, Naruto Uzumaki sighed from atop his rock and began to make plans.
"I... I don't know anything!" Naruto watched determinedly as the man on the other side of the one way mirror struggled against his sealed restraints while one Ibiki Morino retrieved a simple cup of water from a nearby interrogation table. He splashed Kabuto with it, causing the man posing as a genin to squirm within the ridged confines of his iron skeleton chair all the more. Beside Naruto, the Third Hokage took a drag from his kiseru even as Ibiki calmly set the cup back on the table, his purportedly genin victim dripping wet.
"Once more." Ibiki began anew in a supremely calm, menacing voice. "What is your affiliation with Orochimaru?"
"I... I don't know who you're talking about!" The genin wheezed pathetically and his interrogator simply shook his head. "Just let me go! I didn't do anything!"
"Frankly, I'm saddened by the fact that it took an informant within his ranks to point you out, as opposed to our counter intelligence arm." Ibiki simply nodded and returned to the table. The action caused his victim to plead even more. The scarred man retrieved a pair of sharp metal rods with cables attached to them. He clicked them together, causing a blinding spark to arc between them. "I will give you another chance to reconsider your answer."
"I don't even know what an Orochima- AHHHHAAARRRAARR!"
Ibiki didn't even allow the man to complete his sentence and touched his left ribcage with the rods, causing the bespeckled nin to spasm in excruciating agony. The Head Interrogator left the rods applied for three whole seconds before removing them. Kabuto continued to scream for another two seconds while his body twitched uncontrollably for the next ten. Steam rolled off the genin's clothing as the man continued, setting the tongs aside in favor of a manila folder. He opened it up and lethargically leafed through its contents.
"One hundred and ninety-one missions," He continued as if he hadn't just applied a large amount of electrical current to the nin. "One hundred and sixty three D-Rank missions and only twenty eight C-Ranked missions." Ibiki looked up from the manila folder with a clearly doubtful look. "Tell me, Yakushi-san, why are you still here? With such an abysmal record, why are you even still a ninja?"
"I've always wanted... wanted to be... a ninja..." Kabuto panted. Ibiki simply nodded, removing Kabuto's glasses and folding them as if they were liable to break through handling alone.
"And who is covering for you?" He continued, setting the glasses on the desk gently to be traded for the next paper cup of water in line. "The academy should have washed you out by now. No genin does fifty D-Rank missions, and somehow you've accumulated over three timesthat number. How is that, Yakushi-san? Is the money that good?"
"I'm just a genin!" The nin seemed to plead as the water splashed him once more. "Maybe it's a paperwork mix-up. Maybe it's- AHHHAAaaAAAGHIIEEGH!"
"And maybe you're a sleeper agent for Orochimaru," Ibiki concluded after another three second discharge. Kabuto slumped over, breathing heavily. "Our informant within his ranks also advises us that you have exceptional regenerational abilities. Personally, those are my favorite subjects to question. We're able to prolong the experience muchlonger."
"I don't... I don't have..."
"The scars that should be on your ribcage and aren't say otherwise," Ibiki tisked. "We've been at this for three hours now and yet there's not a mark on you. Why isn't that in your dossier, Yakushi-san?"
"It's a mistake..." The genin whined. The Tokubetsu Jounin looked unconvinced and snapped his fingers. The only exit to the small room opened, admitting a masked nin swathed in black, carrying a white roll of cloth in hand. Kabuto tracked him as he set it on the table and unrolled it, revealing several thin, silver lengths. Needles.
"The electricity is obviously ineffective by itself and my associate is an artist when it comes to acupuncture information extraction." Ibiki explained almost conversationally. "I thought, why not combine the two?"
Kabuto's head jerked upright as he watched the the black clad nin pull the first needle. Behind the one way glass, Naruto arched an eyebrow.
"That man is as scary now as he is ten years from now." He commented, watching Kabuto thrash as his clothing was torn off. The Hokage simply nodded, watching in kind for a moment before turning to a new topic.
"Have you considered your course of action?" Sarutobi asked plainly.
"I need a team."
The Third folded his hands, watching the scene play out before them. "I'm sure I can scrape together an ANBU hunter-killer team for whatever you have in-"
"Maybe later. Right now, I need a team from this year's genin class." The Hokage stopped dead and glanced over at his future counterpart with a small measure of surprise, and took an educated guess as to the thrust of the request.
"Would Sasuke Uchiha be one of the members you will be requesting?" Sarutobi inquired, earning a terse nod from the blond to his right.
"Sasuke Uchiha, Sakura Haruno and Hinata Hyuuga specifically." Naruto confirmed, puzzling the Hokage further.
"I believe I understand the request for Sasuke. The other two confuse me." Sarutobi admitted. Beyond the glass, Kabuto had lapsed into a listless state, his head lolling to and fro while at least twenty senbon needles jutted out from various points along his naked body. A syrupy smile inhabited his face as he mumbled something about his mother... Until Ibiki applied the rods to two separate needle points, prompting the man to scream in agony.
The elder turned away from the scene. "The Haruno girl is near the top of her class, but doesn't exhibit any noteworthy traits. In terms of the Hyuuga, the general consensus is she is far too introverted for the lifestyle chosen by her clan. Perhaps the older Hyuuga would be better suited-"
"Hokage from the future, remember Jii-san?" Naruto produced a childish peace sign, causing the Third's cheek to twitch slightly before the young man lapsed into seriousness, his voice softening. "These are the people I need Hiruzen-sama."
The old man returned to the scene of Kabuto moaning with lascivious pleasure as another needle was inserted, and almost wished he hadn't. The electric tongs were applied moments later. "Even with a henge, secrecy will be all but impossible to maintain. Right now our biggest advantage is keeping you unknown."
"Things are already changing," The Seventh Hokage replied. "I have it on good authority that anybody with an active Sharingan may already know something is amiss. It would explain Danzo, and that means Madara is probably feeling jumpy as well."
"And were I him, I would begin to revise the original plan," Sarutobi murmured.
"At a minimum." Naruto agreed. Another round of prolonged screaming interrupted him, and he felt it best to wait the full fifteen seconds until it died off. "Pretty soon the original course of events will be shot all to hell anyway and I've never been much for conventional wisdom."
"So I remember." The elder of the pair chortled softly, recalling the young man's childhood that had all but slipped away over night. "Still, your request won't be without consequences. There will be ripples."
"Ripples?" Naruto's grin held a feral edge as he sat up from the seat. "I'm looking to create goddamn waves, old man."
"Hmmf." Sarutobi sniffed without commitment. "Then I'll forward the order to Iruka. Expect some pointed questioning when this becomes public."
"The price of doing business." Naruto turned for the door, then paused and leaned over to the station mic directly connecting their observation room to the interrogation chamber's intercom. Sarutobi watched curiously as Naruto keyed the mic. "And don't be afraid to open the bastard up. He can take that and more."
Ibiki's ANBU needle specialist stepped between his boss and Kabuto to try and talk some reason into the head interrogator. His good cop performance was flawless and Ibiki brushed him aside, taking Naruto's suggestion in hand in the form of a glinting scalpel.
The instrument was well known to Kabuto and his eyes began pooling with terror.
Author's Notes—Here's to another fic I probably shouldn't be doing out of spite, but somehow am anyway. The Naruto genre is full of just plain awful time travel plots, so I just had to try my hand at it as well. No guarantees this won't joining them ;)
Special thanks; Dragon Dagger, Materia Blade and the good folks from #scarlet.