Naruto: Potential Realised
I posted this chapter early today, and I mean real early like 5AM early, but it didn't go through due to some issues on FFN.
Fair warning. This chapter contains a lot of new information I've made up to explain some stuff in canon I always felt should have been explained before. You're either going to love or hate this chapter based on that. All I can hope is that you keep an open mind and remember that this is a work of fan fiction. I edited this chapter to the best of my pathetically limited ability. Helpful PMs pointing out errors are always welcomed. Please don't dedicate reviews to them if you're not commenting on the chapter itself.
And if you want to read some more, there should be another chapter of The Uzumaki Descent available soon. If you haven't read it yet, please do give it a try.
Also, yay 700k hits!
Naruto sat on the side of his bed, struggling to pull on his shirt. Though unhurt, his body was still rather stiff and ached when he moved. "Fuck," he swore under his breath when he felt a jolt of pain. "Do you mind?" he asked the pretty kunoichi in the room. Who knew all that sleep could make even the minor movement tiresome?
Rei eyed him with bemusement as she walked over and helped him pull the shirt over his head. "Incredible," she remarked as her fingers trailed over his smooth skin. "You don't have a single scar on you," she clarified when he got a little red in the face. "That's pretty unusual for a shinobi."
"I'm an unusual guy." He reached for her wrist when she finished and stepped back. Though he felt a bit of discomfort when he pulled her on his lap, it was worth it as he kissed her.
For whatever reason, Rei was rather receptive of his affections, enthusiastically so even. Maybe it was because of the fear of losing him she experienced due to Itachi or maybe she was just more comfortable with being intimate now that they had been together for a while. Whatever the reason may was, he rather grateful.
Rei pushed him on his back and allowed entry to her mouth. Naruto ran a hand down the small of her backside and squeezed at her bum. She didn't seem to mind at all and kissed him even more passionately.
"Naruto," she said breathlessly between kisses. "We should get you checked out if you're meeting with Hokage-sama this afternoon."
He sat up, hands around her hips as she stood by the bed. "You haven't asked me why I'm going to meet with her." He looked at her with curiosity. "Why?" He had expected her to ask him as soon as he got back from speaking with Tsunade, but for some reason she hadn't.
"You'll tell me when you're ready, won't you?" she asked, to which he nodded. "Then I can wait until you're comfortable talking about it."
Naruto smiled, not knowing what he had done to deserve her. And maybe he didn't. But he wouldn't give her up for anything. He was happiest when he was around her; she seemed to vanquish his dark thoughts and self-pity. And perhaps most importantly: she knew about the Kyūbi and didn't care. 'I'm in love with her,' he knew. His grin threatened to split his face as he saw her pack his things for him.
"You should go home and take a shower before you – what is it?" Rei asked midsentence when she caught his smile.
Naruto rubbed the back of his head, smiling sheepishly like a complete idiot. "I just realised that I'm actually happy just being around you. It might be soon, I wouldn't really know, but I think I'm in love with you."
Shock flashed in her violet eyes. "I…" What was she supposed to say in a situation like that? She struggled for the rights words, all the while not knowing what she wanted to say in the first place. Were there even right words for a situation like this? It seemed like anything that wasn't along the lines of reciprocation wasn't.
"It's okay, you don't have to say anything," Naruto was quick to assure her once he noticed her hesitance, though his smile lessened. "Sorry. That was a bit random, wasn't it?"
"Yes it was," she agreed with a shaky voice. "I'm not sure how I feel about you, Naruto. I know that I like being with you, but I don't know if it's love. It's too soon to tell."
He held up his hand, nodding understandingly whilst he fought the urge to kick himself. "Don't worry about it, Rei-chan."
"Thank you for being so understanding," she said quietly. "I'll go file your discharge papers." He knew it was a transparent excuse to go collect her thoughts in privacy thus he didn't object to her leaving him alone.
'Smooth, Naruto, real smooth,' he chided himself as he lied on his back and stared at the ceiling.
Being left alone to his thoughts didn't do wonders for him. It was like being left alone in the room while knowing a monster would rear its head from under his bed.
"I misspoke earlier. You are weak."
His fists clenched tightly as Uchiha Itachi's voice rang fresh in his mind.
"At the level you are now, it would be far too easy to kill you."
Even in his mind, the voice sounded as calculative, reserved and condescending as fuck. He hated the fact his memory was so clear. He barely remembered anything else of that day. Why couldn't he have forgotten all of it?
'Still, if there is one thing I can't deny, it's that the bastard was right.'
He hated to admit it, and he never would openly, but it was undeniably true. 'I've improved, but it's not enough. Itachi wasn't even trying and he beat Sasuke and I like we were nothing…'
He clenched and unclenched his fists several times as he looked at his hands. There was so much he still could improve on, so much he had to improve on if he wanted to survive.
'My taijutsu is lacking,' he acknowledged as he took a tally in his mind. 'I can barely dispel basic genjutsu let alone anything Itachi can throw at me and my ninjutsu isn't focused enough to do any real damage when it counts.'
He opened his right hand and charged a Rasengan, losing himself in the perfectly shaped orb of rotating chakra. He shuddered to think what kind of damage Itachi could have done to him if he reversed the technique like he had done with Sasuke's Chidori. Being electrocuted sounded fun in comparison to having his limbs shaved off or being caught in the middle of a chakra explosion like Jiraiya had warned him about when he tried using an unstable version of the jutsu.
'You fucking coward,' he berated himself harshly. 'You were too scared to use it.' Releasing the jutsu, he clenched his fists once more. 'That was pathetic.'
"We will come for you."
Itachi wasn't lying. They, those of the Akatsuki, would come for him, and they wouldn't hesitate to kill anyone to get to him. He had to get stronger – much stronger. Not just for his own sake but also for those close to him, the people he held dear, as they were now all potential targets simply by virtue of meaning something to him. He hated to think what could've happened to Rei if Itachi been someone like Orochimaru. It made him shudder and feel a sickening sensation in the pit of his stomach.
"I'll be ready," he vowed out loud. 'No matter what, I have to get stronger. This isn't just about becoming Hokage anymore. This is about my life and everyone else's.'
He reluctantly got off the comfortable bed and put on the rest of the attire. He had some spare clothing sealed: simple black shinobi styled trousers and a long-sleeved, marine blue and black shirt. His other attire had been destroyed for the most part.
Lumbering over to the unconscious Uchiha he lightly punched him in the forehead. "Don't take too long, asshole." He remembered the deranged, bloodthirsty look in his rival's eyes. "We're going to have a talk when you get out of here." He wasn't going to let Orochimaru's Cursed Seal take his friend away from him, or his lust for vengeance for that matter.
The door opened again and Rei looked at him expectantly. "Ready to go?"
"Yeah…" he answered with one last look at his former teammate. As he joined her, she held out her hand.
She purposefully tried not to make eye contact. He relented and took her hand, leaning in to kiss her on the cheek. "Do you mind if I shower at your place instead? My place is on the other side of the village and I can barely walk."
Rei thought for a moment and then nodded slowly. "Sure. It's about time you meet my sister anyway."
"Oh crap, that reminds me." Naruto then remembered as he held up his hands to create a Shadow Clone. "I have to let Ayame-neechan know I'm OK."
(Hospital Room 23)
Tsunade sat on a stool by Kakashi's bedside and took a deep breath. She mentally went over the procedure she was about to perform, measuring her own heartbeat, chakra reserves and oxygen intake purely by ritual habit. The procedure, as risky as it was, was still rather straightforward and simple compared to the other more challenging procedures she had performed in her time.
With practiced easer, green chakra sparked to life in her hand as though second nature, which it probably was by now after forty-five years of being a shinobi. Tsunade finalised her ritual and performed a quick diagnostic jutsu to take note of her patient's vitals and a slightly more complicated one to take note of his brainwaves. The Hokage then raised her other hand, which now also flared with green chakra and began to weave through a long and complicated string of hand seals.
Shizune's breath hitched as Tsunade muttered under her breath and placed her hands on Kakashi's temples to begin the treatment. Only she and the Sannin were in the small room they had moved Kakashi to. Tsunade would need absolute quiet in order to concentrate as she performed the jutsu.
The treatment required a high level of concentration but an even higher level of skill in chakra manipulation as it involved forcing foreign chakra into the brain in order to meddle with the patient's brainwaves to break the effects of Itachi's Tsukiyomi.
Tsunade's face crunched with concentration as she held her breath; beads of sweat began run down the side of her head.
"Come on…" Shizune whispered breathlessly as the heart monitor began to beep loudly in alarm. "Tsunade-sama…"
"Not yet, Shizune," the Godaime said just as breathlessly. "Almost there." She was about to relent her efforts as there was no telling what prolonged exposure to foreign chakra could do the brain, however, fortunately, it was just then when Kakashi's eyes opened.
Tsunade exhaled in relief as Shizune cried, "You did it!"
Kakashi blinked several times as his one visible eye cleared up. "Ho…Hokage-sama…"
"Good to see you awake again, Kakashi," Tsunade expressed as she wiped the sweat of her forehead with the back of her hand. "There's a lot I have to fill you in on."
Naruto welcomed the torrent of warm water as he stood in the shower, leaning on the wall below the showerhead, deep in thought. As refreshing as it was, his mind was too preoccupied to fully appreciate the comforting warmth. In a few short hours he would finally know who he was - who he really was and where he came from. After fourteen long years, he was finally going to learn the truth about his parentage. How would he feel when he finally knew everything? Nothing would be the same anymore. He couldn't imagine how it would be.
"I love you."
He blinked several times; it was strange to think of her that way given how he knew next to nothing about her, only that she loved him and that she protected him from the Kyūbi at the cost of her own life.
"Her name was Uzumaki Kushina…"
How did the bastard fox even know that? He had killed hundreds if not thousands in its time according to the tales he had heard regarding the demonic fox. How would he even have known? It didn't make sense.
He let out a frustrated groan.
The whole concept of parents confused him. It had always been a mystery to the blond, as he never had any, not really anyway. The closest thing he ever had to a mother was Tsunade and that was only recently. He didn't really know what to think about that either. A lot of the time it felt like the Godaime was feeling guilty. Whether it was over the fact he looked so much like her long since deceased brother or something else, he didn't quite know. He was too scared to ask, if he had to be honest. He didn't even know what to begin to think of his father, whoever he was. Iruka was more like a big brother and Kakashi was, well, he didn't know what to think of his former jōnin supervisor. As odd as it was, the closest thing he had to a father was Jiraiya of all people.
'If my mother died, then what happened to my father?' he wondered as he ran a hand through his hair. 'Did he die as well or did he just leave me to rot?'
The closer it got to his time to meet with Tsunade the less confident he felt about finding out. There was just as much of a chance he'd walk away feeling worse and regretting ever finding out. Maybe he'd be happier if he never found out or maybe he would be better of waiting a few years?
"There's… there's so much more I want to say… to teach you… I want to stay with you…"
No, there was no turning back now. Hearing her voice was a cruel reminder of what he had lost without ever knowing.
Shaking his head wildly, Naruto turned the handles in the shower and stepped out the steaming cubicle. He dried himself off with a towel and looked around. He wasn't so sure where else he would change, so he pulled on his clothes in the bathroom.
The bathroom, he noticed, was rather plain. Much like the rest of the house. Even Rei's room was void of anything that defined her, aside from some medical books. Not a single non-necessity was to be seen. It made the place feeling oddly empty, lifeless even, as though there were never any intentions to make the place into a home.
He finished drying his hair and dropped the towel in the hamper before joining Rei downstairs. Her sister had yet to come back from her shopping.
"How was your shower? " Rei asked as he joined her in the kitchen.
"It was okay, thanks."
She poured hot water in two cups of ramen and stirred before pushing the lids back on them. "Sorry we don't have anything else in the house."
"I love ramen." He sat down by the counter and looked around, noting the kitchen was as undefined as the rest of the house. Absolutely nothing stood out. "You and your sister aren't the decorative types, huh?"
"We moved here recently," Rei explained as she sat next to him by the counter. Had he picked up on it, he would've noticed it sounded a little rehearsed. "Are you nervous?"
"Yeah," he admitted with a nod, catching on to what she was referring to. There wasn't much else he felt nervous about these days. "It kind of feels like a dream. I guess I never really expected to find out about my parents. I guess I stopped hoping a long time ago."
Rei stared at him with an unreadable expression, taking in the melancholy look in his eyes. "My sister and I grew up in an orphanage," she said suddenly, and much to her own surprise, as though she wasn't sure why she suddenly felt like sharing that information.
Turning to look at her with widened eyes, Naruto couldn't help but be somewhat shocked. "You did?"
"But not here though." Rei clenched a hidden fist. 'What am I doing?' She never divulged anything personal about herself. Doing so went against everything she was taught.
"Tell me more about yourself," Naruto asked her as he took her free hand in his own. "You don't have to tell me everything or anything really personal. Just tell me about yourself. It doesn't matter what."
Rei looked hesitant for a moment, unable to look him in the eye. He sensed her discomfort and gave her hand a squeeze as though to tell her he was okay with it if she didn't want to talk. "My sister and I aren't related by blood."
"Really?" Naruto eyes an eyebrow at that. He looked around, expecting to find a picture of her somewhere for some odd reason. He found none, unsurprisingly. "Where did you meet, in the orphanage?"
Rei nodded. "She's an amazing person, my sister. She taught me a lot of things. I'm the person I am because of her. And she's a really good cook." For some reason, Rei found herself blushing when she noticed she was met with curious blue eyes taking in everything she had to say as though every word she uttered was fascinating.
"I grew up here in Konoha," Naruto said when she fell quiet. "I lived in the orphanage till I was eight."
"Did they kick you out?" she asked with a frown. "Because of the fox?"
He shook his head, laughing slightly at her expression. It was rather cute, though it would be best to keep that to himself. "No, I wanted to live on my own."
He expected the look of confusion. "Why?"
"I probably didn't realise it at the time to this extent but I just wanted to stand on my own two feet and live by my own terms without people telling me what to do and when to do it. I guess Sarugaku is right as far as my authority issues go anyway. Pretty ironic I want to be Hokage, huh?"
He was relieved to see it alleviated her discomfort somewhat as she smiled slyly. "Authority issues? That's putting it lightly."
For the next two hours or so they talked, discussing various topics; about themselves, their childhoods, memorable experiences and missions they had been on. Naruto did most of the talking but he slowly got Rei out of her shell more and more, and she had things to share, most of which wasn't as interesting as he had to tell her, like when he summoned Gamabunta for the first time, his mission in Wave or his training with Jiraiya, but he listened intently nonetheless.
Rei was a good listener and was as interested in his life as he was in hers, and so they just talked. For a while it seemed to be taking a dark turn when Naruto confided in her and told her about his burden of being a jinchūriki to much greater detail than he had shared with anyone, not even Hiruzen.
But it felt good talking about it, it felt good to know he could talk about it with her, that he didn't have to hide that part of himself from her. And so he told everything, how the isolation had hurt more than anything, of his fear for losing control and how he scared he was of the fact how he close he may have been to turning out like Gaara.
"Don't you hate him?" she had asked when he mentioned the Ichibi jinchūriki and a dark expression took him. "I asked Nara-san about it. He wasn't very helpful. Though he did say that he hasn't seen you in the same light since."
Truth be told he wasn't entirely sure why, but he shook his head. "Gaara… is complicated." He was being vague and he knew she didn't understand, nor could she understand. "Have you ever met someone that was so much like you but at the same time the complete opposite?"
"No," she shook her head. "I can't say I have."
"Well, it's like that with Gaara," he tried going with the analogy anyway. "One misstep and I could have ended up like him, and if he hadn't made that same misstep he could've been like me. It's strange knowing that, having that information in your head. It makes it impossible for me to hate him."
She cocked her head slightly with a question on the tip of her tongue she was anxious to ask. "Do you pity him?"
"No," he said reflexively. "Maybe…" he then considered, scratching his scalp with uncertainty. "I guess, in a way, I do, but it's not the same pity you feel for someone when they're hurt or in pain. It's weird, I can't really describe it, but if I had to, it's the kind of pity you feel for someone knowing they could have had a different life, one with some level of happiness."
He fell silent after at that, quite clearly deep in his own thoughts about the Ichibi's jinchūriki. Rei reached for his hand in a show of understanding, or at least an attempt at understanding. "I'm… I'm glad you turned out the way are. You're very kind, Naruto."
It was enough to break his thoughts and leave him slightly nonplussed as they leaned in to kiss.
The front door opened prompting them to straight as though they had been caught colluding in some conspiracy.
"Must be my sister," Rei said as she slid of her chair. From what they could hear, her sister was carrying several bags.
Naruto quickly followed, well aware that Rei's sister was pregnant. Turning into the hall, he saw her for the first time.
Her hair was sleek and black, done in a traditional hairstyle with an ornament pin. Her skin was pale and her eyes a curious shade of dark blue. She was attractive, even in her simplistic green and purple flower-print kimono, and she was considerably womanlier than her younger sister with her, long legs, defined cheekbones and generous bust. She vaguely reminded Naruto of a younger and even haughtier Kurenai with straight hair.
Most notably, she had a sizeable baby bump in her stomach area. He couldn't quite tell when she was due, but she must have been pregnant for a good while like Rei had told him.
"Jun-neesama," Rei frowned at the sight of plastic bags in her sister's hands. "You're not supposed to be doing any heavy lifting."
Naruto moved quickly, picking up what was left on the floor. "Hello, my name is-"
"Uzumaki Naruto." Jun eyed him blankly for a while, staring at him will dull, uninterested eyes. For a moment he feared she would tell him to get out of her house. Fortunately, she smiled warmly instead and pulled him in for a light embrace to plant a kiss on his cheeks. It left him flustered; he decided to merely bow his head and put away the groceries in the kitchen.
"Aren't you helpful, Naruto-kun." The older sister smiled serenely.
Rei eyed her sister and gave an encouraging nod.
Naruto returned moments later, having caught the time in the kitchen. "I should go, I don't want to be late."
There was an awkward exchange of looks. He didn't know whether he ought to kiss Rei in front of her sister, thus decided against it and pulled on his sandals on the way out. "It was nice meeting you."
"And you, Naruto-kun," Jun returned with a serene smile.
As the door closed behind him the sisters turned to look at one another. The serene smile on Jun's graceful features disappeared and was replaced by a sterner expression.
Rei pretended not to notice and turned to the stairs.
The Senju compound wasn't too far from the Hokage Tower. Naruto had been there a few times before, with his academy class and on his own when he was wandering about. The compound was small, much smaller than it once had been at the height of the Senju's power. Where there had once been a small district complete with its own markets and bath houses and such, the compound was now a set of small houses and storage facilities and one large house detached and on top of a hill, beautifully framed by forestry and a perpetual steam from the natural onsen in the gardens. (1)
Naruto released his Propulsion Palms and touched down. He rubbed his smarting wrists, making a note to find a way to master the jutsu and find a way around the agonising pain. At the moment he was basically pumping chakra into his Reppūshō to fly unsteadily and rather slow compared to what he could achieve on foot, if not for the stiffness. 'But practice makes perfect,' he reasoned.
It was a short distance uphill to the clan house. In the back of his head he vaguely remembered the class he had in academy. The Shodai, using his Mokuton, created the Senju compound by hand.
As he distracted himself with that thought, he passed the tall, arching gates to the house and came to a stop in the courtyard. He could see lights burning and several shadows. They were waiting for him.
'This is it.' Naruto clenched his fists and took a deep breath and exhaled. His heart started beating faster and he found his throat dry with anxiousness. 'This is it,' he told himself once more as he crossed the courtyard and walked into the house.
Tsunade was the first to notice him as he walked in on bare feet. "Naruto," she greeted tersely. "Have a seat."
Naruto looked around the spacious living room. Hiruzen, Jiraiya, Shizune and Kakashi were all waiting for him, sitting in a half circle on the couch.
"Sensei." He was relieved to see Kakashi on his feet again, although with crutches nearby. "I'm glad to see you're okay."
Kakashi eye-smiled. "It's good to see you too, Naruto." He then glanced at the Sannin and Sandaime. "Though I have to say I'm a little surprised."
Naruto sat down opposite them, eyeing the scroll on the low table suspiciously. "No offense, sensei, but why are you here?"
"You'll know in a minute," Kakashi replied vaguely.
"Okay…" Naruto said agreed slowly as he eyed the Sandaime. Hiruzen's unreadable expression mystified him. "I guess this is it."
Tsunade nodded and reached for the scroll on the table. "Then let's get started."
Jiraiya put his hand on hers. "One moment," he interrupted. The Slug Princess nodded to him so the Toad Sage looked Naruto in the eye. "Are you sure about this, Naruto?"
"What's that supposed to mean?" Naruto snapped irritably.
Jiraiya had the same unreadable expression as Hiruzen, though there was a hint of apprehension. "What you're about to learn will change everything. If you're not ready for that, just say the word, and I promise you we can do this another time."
Naruto grit his teeth, glaring at the Sannin. "I've gone fourteen years without knowing where I come from-"
"Then what's another year or two?"
"No," he ground out. How could Jiraiya do this, to try and get in the way of him learning the truth? "Maybe that was an option two weeks ago, but not anymore. I can't turn away from this now, not after I've seen her. So tell me, I don't care which one of you, just tell me who I am – who I really am and where I come from."
Jiraiya sighed and relented, nodding to Tsunade as he leaned back. "Suit yourself, kid. It's your decision."
"Damn right it is."
Tsunade cleared her throat and unfurled the scroll on the table. It looked like a simple storage scroll he could've created by now even with his limited skill. Or so he thought, as the Godaime bit her thumb and smeared blood over the seal array. Whatever was inside that scroll was apparently worth securing with a blood seal.
The seal glowed and went up in a pillar of smoke, revealing several items on the low table: a photo album, some trinkets and other scrolls.
Naruto swallowed thickly and nodded to Tsunade.
"Your mother's name was Uzumaki Kushina, she died shortly after giving birth to you on the night the Kyūbi attacked, but you already know that," she began slowly. "And your father…" Tsunade glanced at Jiraiya momentarily; the Sage merely nodded with a sigh. "Your father was Namikaze Minato, the Yondaime Hokage of Konoha."
Words alone would never be enough to describe what hit him upon hearing the truth. It was as though he was suddenly struck with a payload of emotions of such a magnitude his brain couldn't hope to keep track of all of them, swirling around in his head. Joy, anger, relief and complete and utter shock were at the forefronts of his mind.
He tried to speak but he could not find the words, much less articulate them, not that he trusted his voice a that moment.
Picking up on this, Tsunade decided to continue. "I know this is a lot to take in, Naruto, but please listen closely." He nodded dumbly, almost absentmindedly. "Your mother came from Uzu no Kuni, the whirlpool lands. She was born in Uzushiogakure, or rather, what was left of it. Konoha and Uzushio had always been close, ever since my grandfather and the head of Uzumaki Clan, the founders of Uzushio, established their villages. In fact, the Senju Clan and Uzumaki Clan are relatives."
Tsunade paused for a moment to see if he followed her still. "Uzushiogakure was wiped out decades ago in the incident known only to a few in this world known as the Silent Massacre of Uzushiogakure. (2) It happened long before your mother was born. She was one of the few that came here but with her gone you are now truly the last known member of the Uzumaki Clan."
She didn't like the blank look in Naruto's eyes but continued regardless.
"Kushina grew up in this very house when she moved to Konoha, she lived with my grandmother, Uzumaki Mito…"
Naruto momentarily forgot about his father. "Uzumaki Mito?"
"Yes," Tsunade nodded. "She was the wife of the Shodai, my grandfather." The Slug Princess paused for a moment. "And she was the first jinchūriki of the Kyūbi."
"What?" Naruto burst out with clenched his fists. "The Shodai's wife was a jinchūriki – she was like me?"
"Mito-sama was indeed a jinchūriki much like yourself, Naruto-kun," Hiruzen decided to weigh in. "She came to be one around the time... Well, I suppose this would be going in a completely different direction. Another time perhaps."
Frustrated by the sudden turn, Naruto rubbed his eyes and held his head as he came to grips with the revelations. "Uzumaki Mito must have been practically ancient by the time my mother came around," Naruto said voicing his thoughts out loud. "If my mother lived her, with the Shodai's wife, there must have been a reason for that."
He looked up to find noticeable surprise in their eyes. "The fox knew my mother's name..." He pieced it together before he said it. "My mother was a jinchūriki, wasn't she?"
"That is correct," Hiruzen confirmed gravely.
"So she was brought here just for that?" he demanded hotly. "You brought my mother over her to make her a jinchūriki? Don't tell me that's what she wanted – nobody wants this!" he burst out so angrily Shizune flinched.
Hiruzen shared a look with Tsunade before answering. "What you have to understand, Naruto-kun, is that Uzumaki Mito was old and dying. There was a need for a new jinchūriki. It had to be your mother."
"Why?" Naruto glared at the Sandaime. He couldn't quite remember the last time he had been angry with the man he respected more than anyone. "Out of all the people you could have picked, and I know you had to be involved in this on some level old man, why did you pick my mother? She wasn't from this country so why did she have to be the sacrifice?"
"I suppose I should tell you something about your heritage before I answer this question," Hiruzen mused aloud. "The Uzumaki were known for a great many things. They were great scholars, ironic perhaps given your and your mother's dislike for reading, but what they were known most for, aside from their skill in fūinjutsu, was their longevity and vitality."
Naruto frowned with confusion. "Our vitality? What does that even mean?"
"Naruto-kun, your clan was known for its potent chakra that allowed them to live extraordinary long lives and perform feats impossible to the the average person. And even amongst Uzumaki, your mother's chakra was incredibly powerful," Hiruzen tried to explain as simply as possible. "Forgive me if I offend you, and I mean that sincerely, but your mother was the perfect choice to be the Kyūbi's second host."
At this point, Tsunade opened the photo album on the table and turned it for Naruto to see. "Shinobi don't tend to have these, but your mother was very big on friends and family. This should… help explaining things."
While his mind tried to wrap around the fact his mother was a jinchūriki, his eyes fell on a picture of her. If he hadn't realised it already in the genjutsu, he sure did now. 'She's beautiful.'
The grin she wore in the picture was vibrant and full of life and laughter. He could instinctively tell he took after her more than he did his father. The picture seemed to calm him somehow, putting a halt to the questions he has burning on the tip of his tongue.
"Your mother was a tomboy growing up, but she sure grew up to be a beauty," Jiraiya pointed out to him. "Minato didn't stand a chance."
It was just then that Naruto was aware more than ever Jiraiya was the Yondaime's teacher. "You were my dad's sensei."
"Your father was a man unlike any other, Naruto. You would have liked him," the Sage said nostalgically. "Though I have to say you take more after your mother. Kushina had an ill temper that could match that of Tsunade's," the Godaime bristled at this, "And she liked to pull pranks when she was kid. In fact, Minato was on the receiving end of those a lot of the time. Well, up until-"
"Jiraiya," Hiruzen spoke up, silencing the Sage. Naruto's questioning look did not go unnoticed. "There is a lot of history when it comes to your parents, Naruto-kun. And we will tell you in due course, but for now, let us stick to what's important."
"Alright," Naruto agreed reluctantly. "So my mother was a jinchūriki… And my dad made me one after her. What happened?"
"That… would be one of those things we cannot tell you presently, Naruto-kun," Hiruzen answered before Tsunade had the chance to. "For now, all I can tell you is that the Kyūbi escaped at a time where a jinchūriki is most vulnerable: at childbirth. There were other factors," he was quick to add when he saw the look of shock in his surrogate grandson's eyes. "Other factors that exacerbated the situation to the point the Kyūbi could escape. I hope you can find some comfort in knowing your parents saved the village."
"Yeah, at the cost of their lives, and for what?" A dark rage filled Naruto up as he came to realise exactly how much his parents had sacrificed and how little they had gotten in return. "My mother and father died protecting this village and for what? So their only son could be treated like some fucking pariah?"
"Naruto…" Hiruzen tried empathising.
"Where the hell were you?" Naruto spat at Jiraiya and Tsunade. "You were my dad's sensei, you talk about him as if he was your son, but what about me? Didn't you care at all? And what about you, Baachan? You're my… whatever it is you are to me, we're related by blood. Why were neither of you around?"
The Sannin looked as though they wished he hadn't asked that question. He didn't care.
"Naruto-kun, Tsunade-sama was in no position to take care of a child," Shizune said quietly.
"And Jiraiya-sama was and still is crucial to Konoha's intelligence gathering. Without his work, we would have been in even more danger after the Kyūbi attack," Kakashi added.
Naruto snapped his head at the silver-haired jōnin. "Why are you even here, sensei? "
"Flip the page," Kakashi instructed.
Naruto grit his teeth but did as Kakashi said. Upon turning the page he found himself looking at a picture with writing scribbled next to it that read: 'Kakashi! Congratulations on making it to jōnin. I'm so proud of you!' The picture was of his father with standing next to a thirteen-year old Kakashi.
Naruto swallowed the lump in throat. "When were you going to tell me?" he asked quietly.
"I wanted to tell you the first time I met you," Kakashi answered truthfully. "But Sandaime-sama ordered me not to. He was worried for your safety in case you were ever found out."
"What does that even mean?" Naruto glared from Kakashi to the retired Hokage.
"Well," Jiraiya interjected calmly as he picked his ear. "I don't know if you remember your history lessons kid, but Minato made a lot of enemies. And so did your mother. If anyone ever found you were their son, there would be no telling what could have happened."
"You say that but you had no trouble with sticking me in an orphanage and letting be on my own for the past thirteen years, did you?" Naruto spat accusingly. "Save the excuses, all of you. It doesn't change anything."
Jiraiya stared blankly at Naruto. "Get over yourself."
"What the fuck does that mean?" Naruto jumped to his feet in anger.
"Hindsight is always twenty-twenty. Agonising over our past mistakes and shortcomings won't change anything. It certainly isn't making you feel better, is it?"
Naruto clenched his fists so tight his nails dug into the palms of his hand. "And what do you know?"
"You're not the only orphan in this room, kid," Jiraiya informed him coolly. "I grew up during the war, I killed a man at a age before you even stopped wetting the bed. Kakashi here is no different, he was probably still in diapers when he became a ninja."
"Thanks for that," Kakashi muttered quietly.
Jiraiya ignored him and crossed his arms as he eyed the young jinchūriki. "Sure, you were stuck housing the fox, and I sympathise with you on that level, kid, but realise this: just because you were dealt a bad hand in life, doesn't mean you have to cry about it."
Naruto wanted to open his mouth and shout and scream and trash the place, but what Jiraiya was saying run through.
"Now I'm sorry to crash your little pity party before anyone got drunk on angst, I really am, but know this, every single one of us in this room cares about you," Jiraiya continued as blunt as ever. "Did we fuck up in the past? Yeah, excuses aside, I'm sure we could've done better. And hey, I would've been pretty upset too if I knew there was ever a chance I could have had Hime here for a wet-nurse," Tsunade glared at the Sage who pretended not to notice, "But here's what's going to happen, kid. You're going to get over this and you're going to stop feeling sorry for yourself because you're better than that. I'll hit you if you don't, Uzumaki Naruto! That's what Kushina would have done."
By the end of it, Naruto was speechless. There was nothing he could say now that wouldn't make him look like a petulant child. So he did the only thing he could do; he sat back down and fell quiet.
Kakashi was the first to break the silence. "Kushina-neesan did have a certain way with people," he noted dryly.
As odd as it was in the situation, they all laughed as they remembered her with fondness. Even Naruto couldn't help but crack a smile.
When the laughter died down, Naruto began paging through the photo album, quite unsure what to feel and what to think when he looked over pictures of his mother, his father and the people part of their lives. "Who's this?" he asked as he pointed at a peculiar picture.
In the picture, there was a black-haired kid with massive grin on his face and a birthday cake in front of him. He was holding a pair of goggles in his hands as Kushina was leant in to kiss him on the cheek. It was probably why he was blushing madly.
For some reason the room fell silent and eyes fell on Kakashi. "Kakashi-sensei?"
"That's Uchiha Obito, my teammate and one of your father's students," Kakashi answered after a second. "He was quite fond of Kushina-neesan."
Naruto turned to the picture again and felt a tug at his stomach. "What happened to him?"
"He died a long time ago," Jiraiya informed with a nod to Kakashi who looked relieved not to answer the question himself. "He was an oddity amongst the Uchiha Clan."
"And an outsider," Kakashi added. "He felt closer to us, his team and Kushina, than he did to his own clan. It was Kushina who threw his birthday party."
"Oh." It was all he could say. The fact that Uzumaki Kushina was such a lively and vibrant woman made him happy, it made up him proud to know she was a hero and a person capable of incredible love.
It also left him saddened even more knowing what he missed out on.
"And this girl?" Naruto tapped a picture of Minato, Obito and a girl with square purple marks on her cheek. She seemed very pretty, she reminded him of Rei. "Nohara Rin," he read the annotation aloud. "Your other teammate?"
Kakashi nodded. "She died a long time ago," he said quietly. It was clear this was the last thing he wanted to talk about, even more so than Obito.
Picking up on this, Naruto decided to focus on his father. "I'm the Yondaime's son…"
"Indeed you are, Naruto-kun," Hiruzen affirmed with a twinge of guilt. "It's a shame you never got to meet him. You would have liked him."
Naruto simply nodded as he continued to stare at the picture. "It doesn't surprise me for some reason," he admitted. "I kind of feel like I already knew but didn't. Do you know what I mean?"
None of them knew what he meant. He hadn't expected them to. "It kind of feels like it should have been obvious."
"You look a lot like him," Jiraiya commented on his turn. "You have your mother's personality but you take after Minato physically."
"Do you have any picture of – never mind, found it." He turned a few pages of photos and found one with a much younger Jiraiya close to the camera with a trio of young children on his right; they all looked no older than ten. One of the first things Naruto noticed was that they were all boys and that the one of the far left reminded him of someone he knew. The one in the middle had a hairstyle that reminded him of chickens for some reason.
Though he knew he shouldn't have, Naruto was more than a little surprised he looked nearly identical to his father at that age, though he had slightly chubby cheeks and the whiskers; he subconsciously stroked at them realising his facial features, save his eyes and hair were closer to his mother's than his father's.
"Jiraiya," he looked up from the picture to the Toad Sage. "Why was your team all boys?" A part of him knew he only asked the question because he couldn't come with up anything else to say.
"Regulations were a little different back then after the Second Shinobi World War, kiddo," Jiraiya answered a moment later. "For some reasons the powers that be tried to see if Iwa had the right idea when it came males for fighting and females for supporting… and other things." Jiraiya didn't elaborate as to what he was alluding; Naruto was grateful. "It was an experiment that didn't last very long, but your parents were in that generation."
"So… where are they now?" Naruto asked tapping on the other two members of Team Jiraiya. "Are they…?"
"No," Hiruzen said quickly, for some odd reason.
Naruto gave the old man a quizzical look before turning to Jiraiya. "They're both alive," Jiraiya answered. "The one in the middle, the pretty boy that looks like a girl, his name is, well, he doesn't go by it these days, but you know his other name."
"I do?" Naruto asked with confusion. "When did I meet him?"
"At the hospital before we were sent looking for Tsunade."
With little thought, the answer struck him immediately. "Rooster is your former student?" he burst out, nearly jumping to his feet. "Why didn't you say anything?" It struck him as odd that neither had said anything to one another when they were in the room. Granted, Rooster – 'What the hell is his real name?' – wasn't in the room for long, but still… he couldn't even imagine having that kind of relationship with Kakashi or Jiraiya.
Jiraiya struggled to find an answer, thus Tsunade jumped in. "That's a story for another time, Naruto," she interjected with a meaningful look at the young blond.
'That's another old wound I picked at without meaning to,' Naruto realised with a twinge of guilt. "Sorry."
Jiraiya muttered his dismissal of the apology and reached for the photo album, turning another page. "There's something I want you to see. You're going to love it."
Naruto raised an eyebrow as his eyes fell on a picture of his mother. He nearly did a double take as he realised how much the picture looked like that of Team 7; a woman with sleek, black hair and a facemask stood behind three students. Kushina was on the left side, a Hyūga was in the middle and a girl with raven black hair was on the right.
"EH?" he burst out as he looked up from the picture, looking directly at Kakashi as though the Copy Nin had grown another head. "She looks like – is she your…"
For his part, Kakashi merely nodded with a thin smile. "I never met her, but that is my mother."
There were so many questions on his mind, but for some inexplicable reason he posed the most asinine one. "Is that why you wear a mask?"
Kakashi eye-smiled and chuckled uncomfortably as the other adults visibly tried to restrain their own amusement at his expense.
"So let me get this straight," he said after while. "You taught Jiraiya," he said to Hiruzen, who then nodded as he turned the Toad Sage. "And you taught my dad."
Jiraiya grinned proudly. "Damn right."
"And in turn my dad taught you," Naruto finished as he looked to Kakashi with a dull look in his eyes.
"And I taught you," Kakashi nodded. "Though not as well as I should have, admittedly."
"What I don't understand is why none of you ever said anything," Naruto said sounding both hurt and frustrated. "Maybe you weren't in any position to take care of me, but why didn't any of you say something – anything?"
They looked at one another once more; Naruto found their silent communication getting a tad annoying now. He didn't like being kept out of the loop. "There is no legitimate reason why none of you could tell me, is there? You just left me on my own, not knowing what to think of my parents, or where I came from. Do you know what this feels like?"
"I've got a pretty good idea," Jiraiya remarked.
"No, you don't!" Naruto snapped at him angrily. "You actually knew my parents! You knew who they were – hell, you practically raised my father!" He was shouting again, but he couldn't care less. If they had thought telling him exactly how close they were to him would make him less angry, they couldn't have been more wrong. It only made things worse to know they could've done something to spare his misery, even if only a little, but chose not to.
"You said you're my fucking godfather." Naruto glared at the Sage. "Where were you when I needed you? Why didn't you take me with you or put me in someone else's care? I had no idea who you were until a few months ago."
"I thought we already covered this, kid," Jiraiya tried to reason.
"That was before I found out I had a family out there that chose not to do anything to save me the absolute fucking misery that was my childhood! You failed my parents, Jiraiya. They should've never trusted you to pull through for me. What were they even thinking, with all your gambling and whoring around?"
His words cut Jiraiya deeper than any blade, he knew it without even looking at the stricken expression on his godfather as he fell silent.
He wasn't finished yet, and rounded on the Sandaime. "And don't you even try to justify any of this. You fucked up even more than Jiraiya did. All these years you were playing the role of my "jiichan" you held me at arm's length. You could have helped me, you could have taken me in and given me a family, you could have been there more for me, but you weren't!" He felt like breaking things now. Fortunately his tirade had him standing and distanced from the mementos. He would have surely regretted destroying them once he calmed down. "Do you have any idea what it is like to be hated by the entire village without knowing why? To have this thing inside of you that wants nothing more than to rip you apart, take control and destroy everything you care about if you slip up just once? No shit Gaara went crazy! It's a fucking miracle I haven't!"
Many years ago, Sarutobi Hiruzen wouldn't have been even remotely fazed by the youngster's tirade. The words of angry teenagers had little effect on him; it was probably why his two sons were so distant from him. But a lot had changed over the past few years. As Hokage, he had no choice but to be at least partially involved in the world of politics. He cared little for the doubletalk and innuendo of politics as a young man. He always preferred to settle things with actions. Being Hokage came with its down sides as well as privileges, and thus Hiruzen quickly adapted, creating this inner persona he named simply 'The Sandaime'. As the Sandaime, he never let emotions cloud his judgment; he made decisions with his mind, not his heart. Only a few times had this mask cracked. Once when his eldest, Kaen, left the village to find his own path. He had stayed his hand then to prevent a bounty being put on him. Another when Asuma claimed he hated him and left to join the Twelve Shinobi Guard. Then there was the time he found out Orochimaru, the closest thing to filling the void Kaen left him, turned out to be responsible for the kidnappings that had been happening. The most recent and most painful had been when Biwako died. There had been only a few other moments since and between, but those three were the freshest on his mind.
And now he could add another, as the words of the once cheerfully little child that looked up to him with nothing but affection and reverence, glared at him with cold, hurt eyes that screamed the pain and betrayal.
Unlike Jiraiya, Hiruzen was far older and frail. Though he forgot this for a moment as he stood to approach the youngster. "Naruto…"
Naruto wanted to shout at him to stay away. He even wanted to push the old man back.
All his anger melt away as soon as the Sandaime fell forward midstride.
"Jiichan!" He jumped forward and caught the old man before the others were even on their feet. "Baachan!" Unrelenting fear and panic filled his voice, but he didn't even notice as a cold, sinking feeling settled in his stomach like ice.
Tsunade carried the Sandaime to the couch where Kakashi had been sitting on as Shizune ran off to fetch water. "Relax, he's just a little stressed. He'll be fine after a moment."
Naruto lost all feeling in his legs and fell on his backside. He felt a heavy weight shame and guilt, but more than that, he only just realised how scared he had been in that one moment. It was the kind of fear he hadn't felt since Wave, when he believed Sasuke to have been dead. Though, this time it was a tidal wave compared to before.
Jiraiya picked up on his distraught. "That wasn't your fault. Just relax, the old man is going to be fine."
"I nearly killed him," Naruto said in a hoarse voice as though he was close to crying.
"Of course not!" Shizune half-shouted at him as she handed the glass of water to Tsunade. "Sandaime-sama is going to be fine in a minute. Just… calm down," she finished in a more soothing voice.
"They're right," Kakashi agreed firmly. "Come on, let's step outside for a minute and get some fresh air."
Kakashi guided Naruto by the shoulder as he led him outside to the balcony attached to the siting room by glass slide doors. Jiraiya looked like he wanted to tag along but seemingly decided against it and stayed inside.
Moments later Naruto stood on a deck and leant over the railing, letting out a long groan and rubbing his face with exhaustion he hadn't felt earlier. Kakashi said nothing, remaining tactfully silent as he tried to come to terms with all he had learned moment since he had come to the house. "My father was the Yondaime Hokage."
Kakashi sensed the young blond wasn't fishing for an answer and thus gave none, only nodding slightly.
"My mother was Uzumaki Kushina. She was the Kyūbi's jinchūriki before me." His voice was monotone now, as though his mind was absent and he was merely stating facts. "She was taught by your mother." He turned to Kakashi as his sensei joined him by the railing. "You know that's weird, right?"
Kakashi gave a light chuckle as laid back as always. "I suppose it is."
"What was her name?" He was curious to find out a little more about the person that trained his mother and give birth to his sensei.
There was a hint of mirth in Kakashi's eye. "Chidori," he answered simply.
Naruto eyed the silver-haired man for a long moment. "You named your jutsu after her."
"Yes I did." The Copy Nin was leaning on the railing next to him now, his eye on gazing over the village.
The silence that followed lasted to long for Naruto's tastes. "So what's with the masks?"
Kakashi didn't answer immediately, laughing quietly to himself at the question. "My mother hailed from the Okute Clan, a clan of independent Hunter Ninja from Kaminari no Kuni. From a young age, Okute children are inducted into clan's traditions, which include wearing facemasks. I never knew my mother but I wanted to honour her in my own way."
Naruto found himself questioning whether he had ever truly known Kakashi prior to this evening. He always thought he had a good idea who his sensei was and what he was about, though as it turned out he clearly didn't. He certainly hadn't known about the more pensive side of his sensei he was seeing now. There was more to Hatake Kakashi, elite Konoha ninja and jōnin supervisor to Team 7, and he felt somewhat ashamed he was only just finding out. The level of trust Kakashi had shown in telling him about his family wasn't lost on him. "Thank you for sharing that with me, Kakashi-sensei." He meant that more than he could possibly convey.
"I knew about you all this. Consider us even now on that front," Kakashi said only half-jokingly. They both knew they were never going to be 'even' as far as that went, but Naruto smiled nonetheless. "I'm sorry I wasn't there for you when I should've been, Naruto." The blonde's smiled faded; it was rather unnerving to see his sensei so apologetic. "Minato-sensei was like a father to me. I should've returned the favour."
Naruto hated excuses but he hated seeing people care about beat themselves up even more; Kakashi was the least guilty of the lot anyway. "No offence, sensei, but I doubt you would've had any idea what to do with me when you were only a kid yourself."
"You still have no excuse for me screwing me over when you were my sensei though." Naruto wasn't that forgiving. Kakashi had shown favouritism to Sasuke and more or less pawned him off to Ebisu even though there was most likely nothing that man could have done to prepare him to fight Neji and win. "You never taught me anything as useful as the Chidori and you blew me off when I asked about it."
He half expected and half wanted Kakashi to be defensive about it, he still had some anger left in him. Whether Kakashi picked up on it though or not, he didn't give him the opportunity, merely nodding apologetically. "I know you still look up to me," Kakashi said quietly. Naruto didn't deny it nor could he; Kakashi was one of the people that had inspired him them most to strive for more than himself and to put his life on the line for the sake of his comrades. "I wish things were the same as when we just met, that you could still be the same naïve kid and I could be the hero you thought I was."
Naruto said nothing as Kakashi turned to him with a look in his eyes he could only describe as a mixture of regret and self-loathing; neither of which were for his sake, or at least not entirely. "Even heroes have their demons, Naruto. This eye," he didn't have to gesture for the teenager to realise what he was talking about. "It was a gift from someone who I believe truly understood what being shinobi meant."
"Uchiha Obito." It felt odd speaking the name of a dead person, as strange as when he said his father's name. "That's his Sharingan, isn't it?"
Kakashi nodded again and looked in front of him. "Obito gave it to me the day he died. I promised him to… Well, it doesn't matter anymore. I failed to keep my promise to Obito and to make up for it, I tried to redeem myself in teaching Sasuke what Obito taught me, to protect my comrades with my own life."
There was a poignant pause that lasted only a moment. "You're a lot like him, Naruto."
Who would've thought it? Uzumaki Naruto was actually happy to be considered similar to an Uchiha.
"Still, my desire to redeem myself shouldn't have come at the cost of your training, Naruto. I'm sorry."
At this point Naruto knew that holding that grudge would simply be childish and counterproductive, so he merely grunted his forgiveness. He was never one to kick a man while he's down. Though maybe he'd do some kicking when the man was on feet again.
Another awkward silence lasted longer than he felt comfortable with; enough to make him strike up another conversation. "So your mother was my mother's sensei, huh?" Naruto scratched his cheek in thought. "That's kind of weird."
"It gets weirder," Kakashi informed with a genuine smile as he reached into his breast pocket and showed him the picture of his mother's genin team, indicating the girl on the right. "Who does she remind you of?"
Naruto squinted his eyes at the girl: she was rather cute with her raven hair and pale skin, but there was something off about those pitch black eyes. They reminded him of another pair of eyes that, for the majority of the time, had looked at him with disdain.
"Get the fuck out of here!" Naruto exclaimed as he realised exactly who he was looking at. In his surprise he hadn't realised in whose company he swore. "This is – that's Sasuke's…!"
Kakashi actually laughed heartily; it was more than just a little unusual and a tiny bit creepy. "I told you it gets weirder." Kakashi then added. "Her name was Mikoto-san. And the Hyūga girl in the middle is Hyūga Hikari, Hinata's mother."
"Hinata's mother?" Naruto repeated to which they nodded. That was hardly as surprising, but he gave a heavy sigh nonetheless and ran a hand through his hair and rubbed his face as he allowed himself a moment for the information to sink in. "My head is going to explode."
Kakashi chuckled at this expense as he handed him the picture for the blond to scrutinize. "I can't believe it." Looking at the picture he immediately noticed how all three girls seemed to be the best of friends rather than rivals. "I can't believe they got along."
"They grew apart later in life but were still good friends from what I can tell," Kakashi informed still chuckling. "I believe there was even talk of Mikoto-san being your godmother."
Naruto stared blankly at Kakashi. "That's definitely a lie."
"You got me. But I wouldn't have been surprised if it had happened," the jōnin admitted. "Though Kushina-neesan would have probably picked Hikari-san instead. The Uchiha's didn't like her very much, least of all Uchiha Fugaku – Sasuke's father."
Naruto glared at Kakashi as though he were responsible. "Why is that?"
"Your father became Hokage, thereby ruining the Uchiha's first real chance at the position since the founding of Konoha. They were rivals for the job, Minato-sensei and Fugaku-san. By all means, Fugaku-san had the advantage of being born to one of the most prominent clans in the village with the support of many, but your father was a once in a lifetime genius, Naruto. The difference in power was simply far too great and after the Third Shinobi World War Konoha was feared so much because of him. Ultimately that's why your father became Yondaime." Though there was more to the story, Kakashi knew now was not the time to discuss it at length; stories of the founding of Konoha and the Uchiha's inferiority complex would have to be shelved for another time.
"What was it like being around my dad?" Naruto asked looking up to Kakashi, who tall frame was the more prominent up close. "Jiraiya doesn't talk all that much about him."
Kakashi took a moment to formulate his response. "Minato-sensei was a great teacher. I looked up to him, but more than that, I wanted to be just like him. Minato-sensei always knew what to do, he never lost his cool and always put everyone else before himself in the battlefield. He was one of a kind."
Naruto gripped the railing tightly. There was a strange sensation in his chest; he felt happy, proud even, but also melancholy about it all. His father was the Yondaime – the Yondaime! "I wish I could have known him."
"Me too," Kakashi nodded.
They remained there, standing in silence as they looked across the village from the balcony as the evening sun began to set and the sky turned a beautiful shade of blue and orange and a light breeze picked up. The days were getting shorter and a little colder in November. Neither sensei nor student said a word; they had said all that needed to be said for now.
'He's growing up,' Kakashi thought as he glanced at the young shinobi, noting the look in his eyes as he took in the beauty of the village hidden amongst the leaves. The scarecrow wanted to say something, he wasn't quite sure what; words of encouragement? Reassurance perhaps? None came to mind at first until they did. "I'm proud of you."
Stunned orbs of blue widened as the jinchūriki turned to the older man. He was at a loss for words, but was saved from having to fumble for them as the balcony door slid aside and Shizune beckoned them inside.
Kakashi walked past him without another word and he followed a moment later.
Inside they found Hiruzen was back on his feet, so to speak. Tsunade laid him down on the couch and placed an empty glass on the table. "Take it easy, sensei."
"Naruto, I hope you can forgive me for falling on you. Please do not blame yourself," Hiruzen said after much couching. "It is true, all of what you said. I would not have collapsed so pathetically if it wasn't."
"Jiichan, please don't-"
Hiruzen shook his head and held up a hand to silence him. "No, I will allow no more excuses. You will have no memory of this, but when you were an infant, you were not in the care of the orphanage, but in mine. I considered adopting you into the clan and raise you myself. I had just lost my dear Biwako back then, but there were others that could have helped me."
"Then why didn't you? You took care of me when I was a baby… why did you send me to the orphanage?"
The Professor let out a heavy sigh. "The clan took to you immediately. There were no objections to you becoming one of us, but there were other elements that opposed the idea. Some wanted to turn you into a weapon to compensate for the lives lost in the attack. Others believed it would be too dangerous to even let you live and wanted you dead." Hiruzen shook his head, crestfallen. "In the end there were too many reasons why we could not take you. The popular opinion amongst the non-shinobi was that if we took you in, the Sarutobi Clan would have to take in all others that were left orphanage by the attack, and perhaps even those before it. Amongst the shinobi clans there were objections to us taking you because they feared we would use your status as jinchūriki as leverage. In the end… we decided against inducting you into our clan. Had we not done so there is no telling what such strife could have led to, certainly not after our village was left so vulnerable and without its Hokage to protect it." Hiruzen let out a sigh, a tired and anguished sigh as he closed his eyes and took a deep breath. "However," he said as he found his voice once more, "In retrospect, I should have disregarded those who opposed the idea of Sarutobi Naruto and I should taken you in and given you the family you've always longed for. I am so sorry, Naruto."
The teenager in question was left wide-eyed and stunned. Numb was the only word that came close to describing what he felt, for there it was, the reason why his entire life up until that was, the reason for his loneliness, the secrecy and half truths, the reason why he had to struggle through live, clawing his way inch by inch.
There had once been an opportunity for a family with his own, with Jiraiya, or with the Sarutobi Clan, or perhaps even with Tsunade in some parallel universe.
And yet the one thing he desired the most, more than acknowledgment, more than becoming Hokage, he was denied.
By whom, for what, why? It hardly mattered to him, he couldn't bring himself to be angry with Hiruzen, nor the village and or its council that had bartered with his life as though he was nothing but stock to be used as leverage for their own gain. Why wasn't he angry? He had every right to be. He had every right to scream, to feel angry and betrayed and cheated; he had every right to want his vengeance against everyone who had wronged him, who had wronged his parents by disregarding their sacrifice and by making him the scapegoat, the target for their animosity and disdain. He every reason to feel this way, so why didn't he?
Maybe he was angry only he didn't know it yet? Would he suddenly erupted like a volcano, spewing scorching hatred, burning down everything that reminded him of the hurt and loneliness? He didn't know, and if he had to be honest, he was afraid of the answer.
He noticed that quite some time had passed without saying anything.
"Do I have any relatives left?" He hardly recognised his own voice. He sounded so empty he couldn't blame them for being disturbed by it. "Do I have anyone out there I can actually call family?"
"Your father came from a small shinobi clan. The Namikaze Clan have been around for as long as Konoha has. Unfortunately most Namikaze died young and your father was no exception (3)," Hiruzen answered quietly. "As for your mother's side… I am certain there are other Uzumaki out there still, though the odds they go by that name are slim."
He looked up at that, blinking several times. "What?"
"There is something you need to understand, Naruto," Jiraiya began to explain with a mindful glance at Hiruzen, who looked thankful not to speak and helped himself to another glass of water. Naruto tried not to look his godfather in the eye. "The Uzumaki Clan go back in history farther than any clan I know off. They were masters of fūinjutsu and were feared for their knowledge. They also had a thing for, well, let's just say they were dabbling in things they shouldn't have."
"What do you mean?"
Jiraiya pinched the bridge of his nose. "There's a lot I can't tell you right now because explaining it would not only take hours, you wouldn't quite understand, and that information is too dangerous to be given out to people who don't know how to protect it. I'll tell you the full story when you're a little older, but for now, just trust me when I say the Uzumaki Clan were a dangerous folk. Their involvement in the First Shinobi World War-"
"Jiraiya…" Hiruzen interjected tersely.
The Sage frowned at the Sandaime. "We can trust him with this much, sensei." Turning back to Naruto he continued. "The Uzumaki Clan were more or less responsible for the First Shinobi World War. There were other reasons why of course, but they were a large factor in it. They were capable of unrivalled jutsu, and as if that wasn't enough, they knew everybody's dirty secrets. Ninjutsu, political scandals, and pretty much everything else."
"So they were wiped out?" Naruto swallowed thickly, sensing he had guessed correctly.
"That's right," Jiraiya confirmed with a nod. "They were one of the first go. When the war ended, as part of the treaty that stopped it, all evidence they ever existed had to be removed from history. As far as the world is concerned, they never existed."
Naruto clenched his fist subconsciously. It was a small miracle he hadn't lost his mind yet with all the revelations, but then again, he was capable of withstanding the effects of the Kage Bunshin training method, so perhaps he wasn't as susceptible as most to mind-straining news like this? "You're telling me my mother's clan was wiped from history itself?"
"I'm afraid so. And it wasn't easy, trust me, since the Uzumaki were practically the royal family of their lands and had friends and contacts in a lot of places. If you come across anyone who actually recognises the name, be wary. I wasn't exaggerating when I said they were feared. Now, you might be angry the old man here signed off on that treaty, but you should know he was a wet behind the ears Kage with next to no political experience under his belt. Even so, he fought hard enough for the Uzumaki's, to keep a trace of them alive. And you can see it right there on Kakashi's back."
Kakashi took the cue to stand and up and turn his back. Naruto eyed the back of the vest and was reminded how his own was different as it lacked the spiral on the back. "Mine doesn't have that spiral."
"That is because yours flak jacket model predated this one," Kakashi explained.
Naruto still didn't quite understand what they wanted him to see. "So the spiral is what…?"
"The spiral is the Uzumaki Clan's emblem," Hiruzen filled in helpfully. "I have some tomes in my possession that are rather taboo as they belonged to your clan. According to what I have read the spiral symbolises that what has no beginning and no end, what is tangible and intangible. It is how they believe the world's truth is most accurately described."
The young shinobi's frown deepened. "I don't understand. What 'truth'?"
"Perhaps it would best if you took a look at the books later. They are your rightful heirlooms after all," Hiruzen offered.
Naruto nodded slowly, grateful for the excuse of postponing more revelations. He felt overwhelmed and in need of a break, some time to let it all sink in his head, but decided against it. He had waited his whole life; there was no turning back to he. He couldn't stop, and he didn't want to either.
Naruto eyed the photo album and flicked through a few more pages, coming to stop on the picture of a man in his thirties with a rigid face, sharp blue eyes and long, spiky blond hair. Kushina had captioned the picture with: 'Namikaze Seijuro – I wish I could have gotten to know you better.'
"Is this my grandfather?" Naruto asked as he looked up from the photo album. He noticed Jiraiya glancing to Kakashi, before turning back to him.
"Yes it is, Naruto. Namikaze Seijuro was one of Konoha's most elite shinobi," Jiraiya looked in Kakashi direction once more. "And Hatake Sakumo's teammate."
"Hatake?" the jinchūriki looked confused for a moment and then quickly pieced two and two together. From what he could tell, this was another sensitive topic he was better off leaving for another day.
Unbeknownst to Naruto, Namikaze Seijuro had been one of the teammates Hatake Sakumo had sacrificed the mission for. He would probably not have felt any better knowing Seijuro was amongst those that resented Sakumo for putting his comrades before the mission, nor would he feel any better that Sakumo's suicide threw Seijuro in a spiral of guilt that ultimately led to him taking on suicide missions one after the other until he found the embrace of death by the hands of Ryōtenbin no Ōnoki, who he had been ordered to assassinate in a last ditch effort to avoid a war.
Naruto decided to put down the photo album to avoid bringing up more sensitive topics, deciding to look at the other items that had been unsealed by Tsunade. One that caught his eye was a necklace with a transparent ocean blue spiral attached to it.
"That was your mother's gift to Minato when they started dating, I'm sure she would want you to give it someone special," Tsunade informed as he held it up for closer inspection.
Jiraiya shot her a strange look she decided to ignore. He hadn't known that bit of information himself.
Naruto eyed a peculiar kunai and picked it up after carefully placing the necklace down. "A kunai?" Upon closer inspect the trident-shaped kunai was rather rough and engraved with markings he couldn't make out.
"Not just any kunai, kid." The perverted sage actually looked a little excited to tell him. "That right there is the first ever Hiraishin kunai prototype."
As much as he had hated history classes in the academy, even Naruto had paid attention when they mentioned the Fourth's Flying Thunder God jutsu used to decimate Iwagakure's forces during the Third Shinobi World War. It was a shocking reminded of who the Yondaime actually was aside from his childhood hero and father.
The Yondaime was the greatest shinobi Konoha had ever produced.
The act of surpassing him become considerably more daunting, though this wasn't at the forefront of his mind as Naruto examined the kunai and thought back to the night he visited Hiruzen and learned all about the Nidaime's space-time ninjutsu which was directly related to fūinjutsu.
"So what now?" Naruto asked after a while of aimlessly sorting through the various trinkets in front of him. Aside from framed pictures, some books, a shamisen Jiraiya told him Minato had played on occasion, there wasn't much that caught his eye. "I guess I know everything now? At least everything I wanted to know. So what now?"
The adults looked at one another before Jiraiya crossed his arms and looked him in the eye. "Akatsuki is coming for you. We don't know when but you need to be prepared."
Naruto clenched his fists tightly and nodded. "I didn't stand a chance against Itachi. Not even when Sasuke joined in. And the fox… using him didn't make any difference."
"I'm going to put you on indefinite leave for the time being," Tsunade informed him. "It's best if you don't leave the village for a while."
He nodded knowing that there'd be no point in arguing against her. It was for the best he didn't participate in missions for a while, not when his team were merely expendable in the eyes of those that would come for him. He had to get ready, and the more time he had to train, the better. "What should I do?"
"Kakashi and I still have a lot to teach you," Jiraiya answered.
The scarecrow nodded. "That's right. And this time, I'll do right by you, Naruto."
As they began discussing his training amongst themselves, with even Shizune and Tsunade offering their insight and help, Hiruzen remained oddly quiet as he eyed the young jinchūriki.
"What do you think, Jiichan?" Naruto asked, turning to the Sandaime.
Hiruzen kept the peculiar look in his eye as he then glanced at Jiraiya and Tsunade and back to his surrogate grandson. "I think you should come with me to the Sarutobi Clan compound in northern Hi no Kuni."
"Sensei." The Third's students turned to the retired Hokage, eyes suspiciously apprehensive. Jiraiya shook his head numerous times. "It's too soon. You can't be serious."
"Time is not a luxury we possess, Jiraiya," Hiruzen responded evenly. "Tsunade, as Hokage it is up to you. Any objections?"
"Of course!" Tsunade raised her voice at her teacher. "There is no way I can allow it. Naruto isn't ready, and you are in no shape to train him."
"Train me?" Naruto looked at each of them with a confused look. "What are you talking about? Jiichan is going to train me?"
Jiraiya firmly shook his head. "Not if I have a say in it. You're not ready."
Naruto grit his teeth, glaring at the Toad Sage. That was the second time he was told he wasn't ready in a short space of time. "What do you mean I'm not ready - what are you even talking about?" It came out sounding more petulant than he had intended but he went with it.
"Nothing you should worry yourself with," Jiraiya said sternly with a disapproving look at Hiruzen.
"Stop treating me like an idiot." Naruto's fists clenched as indignation rose in his chest. He hated being underestimated. Exactly what wasn't he ready for? Whatever it was, it got Jiraiya and Tsunade worked up. 'All the more reason to want to know,' Naruto reasoned.
Kakashi let out a sigh, scratching the back of his head. "I have to agree with Hokage-sama, Sandaime-sama."
Hiruzen took no offence, merely nodding his acknowledgment of the objection. "I do not blame you, Kakashi. Or any of you for that matter," he added with a look to the Sannin. "However, given the nature of the threat, we have to be prepared. Naruto-kun has to be prepared."
The aged shinobi looked directly at Naruto. "What do you think, Naruto-kun?"
"It doesn't matter what he thinks," Tsunade fell in with an angry tone. "As Hokage, I am his commander. He can't leave the village without my approval."
"I am well aware of that, Tsunade," Hiruzen said evenly. He held her gaze with a reserved, dignified air about him that frustrated the Hokage to no end, for she had grown up being faced with it many times. No man other than Hiruzen could make her feel like she was a hot-headed teenager. "Let's not fool ourselves here that time is not of the essence. We have no certain way of determining when they will be back again for Naruto-kun. Perhaps we have a few years, perhaps we have a few weeks. I would think that, as Hokage, you could see the prudence in allowing Naruto-kun to train with the Sarutobi Clan. It is the best option we have at this moment."
Naruto looked to Tsunade for her response feeling somewhat apprehensive himself. After a long moment she related, sighing as she nodded her conceded approval. "Fine."
"Tsunade!" Jiraiya glared at her. Clearly training with the Sarutobi Clan wasn't a picnic if you Jiraiya of all people was so opposed to it. "Think this through. Naruto isn't ready for this. If he goes now who knows what could happen?"
"Could you stop pretending I'm not here and tell what you're talking about?" Annoyed was putting it lightly how Naruto felt about being discussed about rather than included in their conversation. "Why can't I go train with the old man?"
Jiraiya turned to him placing a hand one of his shoulders. "Listen to me, Naruto. Training with the old man isn't as straightforward as it sounds. You're essentially going to submit yourself to torture, both physically and mentally. I've never managed to complete the training camp myself, neither has Tsunade or that rat bastard Orochimaru for that matter. I'm not trying to insult you but this isn't something you can do at your level."
Naruto swallowed hard. "What do you mean you never completely the training camp? You're the legendary Sannin."
"Jiraiya, have you still not figured out why you failed time and again?" Hiruzen had the brass balls to actually look and sound slightly amused. "Naruto-kun," he then said as he focused on the young shinobi. "I will not lie to you, this camp will be more arduous and difficult than anything you have ever done in your life. You will suffer, you will bleed and you sweat until your bones are heavy and your back is broken, but I promise you, if you stick to it, if you give this your all, you will succeed and the rewards will be worth it."
Jiraiya shook his head at the blond but he had already made his decision. "Alright, Jiichan. I'll do it, I'll come train with you at the Sarutobi Clan." He felt somewhat guilty about disregarding Jiraiya's wishes like that, given how the Sage had been his most effective teacher by far thus far, however he also knew that Hiruzen wouldn't have suggested it to him if it wasn't necessary.
"Suit yourself, kid."
"We will come for you."
Steeling his resolve, Naruto nodded firmly more so to himself than to anyone in particular. "When do we leave?"
I'm ashamed how long it took for me to produce this chapter. I'm a first year in law school now so it's kinda hectic but hey, so far I've gotten great gades. Still, I'm sorry for the wait. Expect the next (few I hope) chapters to follow shortly.
I've filled in a lot of gaps this chapter, more so than I'm usually comfortable with and perhaps Naruto's reaction to it all isn't so great, but whatever. I'm getting back to writing and I'll be working on chapter 18, the intermission between this arc and the next, very shortly. I'm kinda excited for the next arc mainly because it'll take me into the 20 chapters/2000 reviews bracket by my estimate, which I'll take as a real sign this story is going somewhere. Also, plot wise, it'll be quite different than anything else I've written so far for the story.
Regarding Naruto telling Rei he loves her – keep in mind this is the first time he's felt anything like it and been in a relationship. It's never pretty the first time around. For those who aren't sure where Rei's loyalties lie, this story element isn't cut and dry. See for yourself where it goes, but for now, do try to keep an open mind.
(1) In episode 246 of Shippūden, the flashbacks of Kushina, we see a house where Kushina lived in. It looked pretty nice, and I'm presuming Uzumaki Mito and other Senju lived in it.
(2) There's a TUD reference.
(3) Think Jojo's Bizarre Adventure. The Namikaze's are the Joestar's and die young. I thought some of you Jojo fans would like that.
(4) 'Okute' means 'late crops'; I went with that name because it goes along with Kakashi's name, which happens to mean scarecrow, and his perpetual tardiness. The Okute Clan hailed from Kaminari, which serves to explain Kakashi's lightning affinity and facemask.