Don't own Naruto, and if I did, the series probably wouldn't be ending for years yet because I would lose inspiration.
Smoke drifted across the desolated landscape. Trees lay scattered on the ground. The once proud giants of the forest of Hi no Kuni were now forcefully brought low, not to any power found naturally in nature, but by the force of the fierce battle that had raged between the pair of shinobi in the center of the desolation. Deep gashes in the earth criss-crossed the field where a tall man in dark, tattered ANBU armor and a leaf hitai-ite stood over the prone form of a dark cloaked man. The mask had long since shattered. Ragged breaths rattled from his bloodied chest as he carefully approached his motionless opponent, stepping through the multitudes of three pronged kunai and small patches of fire.
'Damn Madara. He's going to rot in hell for everything he's done.' The blonde thought. He gazed at the still form in a bloodstained black cloak with the iconic red clouds of Akatsuki. Those clouds had been the bane of his existence for the last seven years of his life. Ever since Uchiha Itachi and his walking fish stick of a partner, Hoshigaki Kisame, had appeared in the doorframe of his hotel room, his life had been a constant round of training to face the powerful threat that was coming his way. He had trained his body and mind to its fullest extent in an effort to not only evade being captured, but to protect his precious people.
He clenched his fists in anger at the thought as tears mingled with the sweat and blood on his face. Its members had stolen the lives of everyone he held dear. Jiraiya, Sakura, Lee, Gaara, Tenten, Tsunade, and so many others had fallen because of the madness of this one man.
Naruto carefully reached down to check the lifeless corpse before him. He didn't see any breathing, but in dealing with Akatsuki, that didn't necessarily mean anything. Hidan and Kakuzu had survived numerous assassination jutsus and death blows to continue their fights. As he was about to touch the masked Uchiha's body, he felt an incredible chakra spike coming from the area before him. Naruto watched in alarm as Madara struggled to control the jutsu he was casting. The air seemed to swirl in on itself, rippling and moving like a whirlpool in midair. Naruto launched off a flurry of kunai in an attempt to distract the caster from the y from the jutsu. The blonde fought against the force that was pulling him inside the black hole, latching onto a scraggly dead tree with the last of his chakra reserves.
'I don't have enough chakra left to fight this for long, at least not without losing control to Kyuubi. I have to find a way out of this.' He hastily looked at his surroundings and noticed the shaking and subtle flares that the jutsu was giving off. 'He doesn't have absolute control over it.' The young ANBU realized. 'If I can just get him to lose concentration for a second, that…thing might collapse on him, and, if I'm lucky, take him with it.' Naruto thought wryly.
Carefully, he lowered one hand to his kunai pouch, making sure to keep the chakra holding him secure. He didn't have many left and he had to time this right. Carefully, he infused them with wind chakra, and threw them as hard as he could into Madara's chest. His eyes widened as red drops began to fall from the bottom of his mask.
Before Naruto could breathe in relief, the whirlpool exploded, tripling in size and power as deafening roar sounded in his mind. The hurricane winds forcefully tore him from his safe hold and drew the horrified shinobi into the eye of the storm, before it finally collapsed. Nothing was left but Madara, staring with mismatched dead eyes at the world he had brought to its knees.
He hated white.
Whenever he woke up to white, it usually meant that he had been dragged to the hospital for treatment while unconscious by overly concerned teammates. Naruto groaned as he shut his eyes again, blocking out the ghastly color. Hospitals were his least favorite place, at least when he was at the receiving end of their attentions. Having his own resident demon at least kept him from any long term stays in the white walled torture establishment.
'Wait a second….this doesn't look like any part of the hospital I've been in…' He thought as he furrowed his brow.
Slowly he turned his head, realizing it was much harder than it should have been. He came face to face with vertical bars and pastel colored bedding, and of course, a white wall. His eyes widened in surprise. He turned to the other side as quickly as he could and saw more vertical bars and a row of white cribs, along with carts filled with shiny metal instruments and other supplies. His heart beat rapidly in his chest as he tried to raise his arms and found them strapped to his side. He wormed his arms out of the bindings that were keeping them there, and with great difficulty, raised them to his eyes. They were tiny, pale and unusually smooth, a far cry from the calluses and scars that had covered them before. An impossible idea that encompassed these details began to slowly form in his brain. He caught a reflection in a metal basin on the cart outside of the bars.
A baby with bright blonde hair and piercing blue eyes looked back him. He tilted his head, and the infant's face mirrored him.
Naruto did the only logical thing he could think of; he screamed as he fainted dead away.
Isoda Yuuka collapsed into a chair in one of the few deserted places in the now busy hospital. The demon attack had resulted in hundreds of people being injured and far too many casualties. The nurses and doctors had been running themselves ragged as they worked selflessly to keep any more people from dying tonight.
Yuuka tiredly sipped a cup of hot coffee that she had managed to snag before finding a place to rest. This night would give her nightmares material for years. She had worked in the hospital for close to thirty years and never seen this amount of sheer destruction, even during the so-called Secret Shinobi Wars.
She had started her career piecing hard-headed shinobi back together until transferring to the Nursery. She had had enough of death, and wanted to be a part of bringing life, but with this night, every hand had been needed. She had been recalled to work triage and had worked herself ragged, putting nurses several years her junior to shame. When the worst of it had been seen to, she snagged a highly needed caffeinated beverage and headed back to her usual assignment, wearily dropping into a seating area right outside the nursery.
The older woman's thoughts wound back to the four children that had been in her care before the attack. Two of them had lost their fathers, just days after being welcomed into the world by them. All of them would grow up in a world shadowed by war, but she hoped, for their sake, that the sacrifices made had bought them a brighter future.
Yuuka rested her head against the wall, and closed her weary eyes, attempting to collect her jumbled thoughts. Suddenly, she heard a terrified cry coming from the nursery. She leapt to her feet, all tiredness forgotten, and rushed into the crib-filled room. The suddenly alert nurse ran to check the children, but none of her four tiny patients were the source of the scream.
Yuuka furrowed her brow in confusion. There were only four children listed when she had left, and no others had been expected. She carefully checked each crib, working her way to the other end of the room. Every single bed was just as she had left it, until she came to the crib on the far end, closest to the windows. She peered over the bars and saw a tiny blonde baby, partially covered in a dirty white blanket. The child only looked to be a few hours old, at most, which puzzled the woman.
Trying not to wake the infant, she lifted it from the crib, and carried it to an examination table. She took the filthy blanket off and found the baby was a tiny boy. She took note of the odd markings on his face. While markings were not uncommon, they weren't part of any clan she had come across in her years. Yuuka carefully wiped away the dirt with a damp cloth. As she gently rinsed the blonde hair, the brightness of it shone through, with the downy softness only infants possess, although, in all her years, she had never seen as much, or as unruly, hair as this little boy had. She continued examining the child, documenting the weight, length, and any other identifiable features, since she had not found a file for him. Yuuka carefully lifted an eyelid and was shocked at the bright blue that she found. While the blonde hair was certainly unusual, there was only one other person she had seen with that particular shade of blue, even if it had only been for an instant, a number of years ago.
Yuuka had covered a shift in the emergency room, when a young man had come through with moderate chakra burns to his hands. She had carefully treated the teen for the burns, and warned him to take it easy, as he had also been suffering a slight case of chakra exhaustion.
Yuuka wrapped the teen's hand in bandages after healing what she could and applying a salve for the rest. "Care to share how you managed to accomplish such damage to yourself?" She asked, with an exasperated, but understanding sigh. She had seen the boy in the hospital before, and he always pushed himself to the limit. She had to admit, he was one of the hardest workers she had ever seen, and one of the brightest.
"I was experimenting, Isoda-san." The spiky blonde before her explained. "I'm working on my own jutsu. Just wait! I'm going to make the old man hand me that hat before long." He finished with a confident grin, staring at her with a determination in his sapphire eyes that dared her to say anything to the contrary.
Yuuka chuckled at the memory, as years later he had done just that. She looked again at the child. She had her suspicions, but if there was anything that she had learned growing up in a shinobi village, it was that sometimes it was dangerous to ask questions. She finished putting the child in a clean diaper, and tenderly wrapped him in a soft, blue blanket, and replaced him in the crib she had found him. If her suspicion was correct, and the information got out, this child would be fighting to come out from under one of the greatest shadows that ever lived.
Hatake Kakashi was dead tired. Plain and simple as that. He had just returned from a B-rank mission involving the retrieval of sensitive documents when the Kyuubi had appeared. He had done everything in his power to aid the other defenders, but in the end it had cost him, and the village, more than they had reckoned. Village buildings and structures were destroyed, that much was easily visible. Too easily visible were the rows of sheet-covered bodies. The body count had yet to be finalized, but even he could see that the village was severely weakened. The numbers of dead and missing shinobi were still coming in, but Kakashi's heart had already been broken, and he didn't know how he would recover from this loss.
The Kyuubi had finally been defeated, yes, but it had cost the life of the last two people who he had come to view as family: his sensei, Namikaze Minato, and his wife, Namikaze-Uzumaki Kushina. The rest of the village didn't know it yet, but they would soon. It wasn't possible to hide the death of the Yondaime Hokage for long. A number of shinobi had seen him fall from the back of Gamabunta, but no details had been given as the body had been swiftly moved to prevent the word from getting out before an emergency government had been instated.
Kakashi sorted through the happenings of the last few hours as he made his way from the Hokage tower to the nursery of the hospital.
Kakashi watched in awe as the fearsome beast with the fiery chakra roared in agony as it almost instantaneously disappeared from the landscape. His heart clenched as the figure on top of the toad boss, Gamabunta, slowly started rocking back and forth before falling head first off the giant amphibian. Gamabunta quickly caught the man before he plummeted into the earth. Gently laying him next to his wife on the churned up ground, he hung his head in sorrow. Kakashi shunshined to the spot and didn't want to believe his eyes. There lay his sensei, his skin deathly pale in the moonlight. Kakashi raced to his side and hoped against hope for a miracle that was not to be. He couldn't stop the tears that flowed, soaking into the mask that he always wore. He didn't notice as Sarutobi and Jiraiya appeared. Sarutobi surveyed the scene with a hint of confusion before he noticed the small, white bundle clenched in his successor's arms.
"Jiraiya." He addressed his student.
Jiraiya was pulled from his grief for a moment at his teacher's words. He glanced at the Sandaime and noticed where his eyes rested. Following the unspoken order, he carefully made his way towards the heartbreaking scene. Kakashi barely noticed as the small bundle was removed.
Jiraiya crouched on the ground and started unwrapping the cloth until he was left with a small, sleeping blonde infant. He channeled the smallest hint of chakra into the little boy and hung his head as he saw the seal surrounding the child's bellybutton.
He quickly rewrapped the child, and carried him over to Sarutobi.
Seeing the look in his student's eyes, Sarutobi's eyes closed as his suspicions were confirmed. The shinobi were starting to draw near, and while Gamabunta blocked the view from the majority of the onlookers, it wouldn't do for this news to be spread, just yet.
"Boar. Cat." Sarutobi quietly ordered. Two dark figures in dirt encrusted armor appeared on knee before the Sandaime. "Take their bodies to the ANBU morgue. You will stay with them until further notice."
"Hai, Sandaime-sama." They acknowledged before respectfully carrying the two fallen shinobi and disappearing from sight. Kakashi still knelt on the broken ground, the scene still replaying in his mind's eye.
"Jiraiya, take the child to the hospital nursery. He should be safe there for now. Make sure no one sees you. Anonymity is his only protection for the next few hours. Meet me in my office when you're done. You and I have much to discuss." Sarutobi sighed, as he pinched the bridge of his nose tiredly.
"Kakashi, come with me." He placed a hand on the young jounin's shoulder, and the two disappeared in a swirl of leaves, leaving the shinobi in the field to wonder what had happened.
Kakashi looked up, and found himself in front of the hospital already. He headed inside, and carefully wound his way through the makeshift cots and around the busy doctors. Following the signs posted, he arrived at the nursery door a few minutes later. Sarutobi had ordered him to bring the child from the farthest crib. He had given the older gentleman a puzzled look, as he carried out the command. The jounin walked in to see an older woman, presumably the nurse watching a small bundle with concern.
"Excuse me, but I'm here on the Sandaime's orders." Kakashi voiced in as professional a tone as a teenager who hasn't slept for over 24 hours could muster.
The nurse glanced up at the sudden noise. She looked over the silver haired figure in the doorway.
"You're here for the child, aren't you?" She said. "No records of his birth. Bright blue eyes. Sunshine blonde hair." She quietly uttered, knowing that Kakashi could hear it. "I've worked in this hospital for close to thirty years, and I've only ever seen that combination on one person." She gave him a pointed stare as he joined her at the edge of the crib.
Carefully, Yuuka reached over the edge of the frame and lifted the tiny bundle into her arms. A sad smile crept over her face as she stared at the sleeping angel. Kakashi looked her in the eye as he awkwardly took the baby from her. After she helped him to hold the sleeping babe properly, she stole one last glance at the child before he turned away. Kakashi took two steps before disappearing with a swirl of leaves.
"Take care of him." She whispered to the wind.
Naruto slowly drifted back to consciousness. He opened his eyes to see a familiar stone wall. He breathed in relief as he sat up in his mindscape. He had long ago learned how to shape his inner mind, and had done so with an eye to making it more difficult for anyone to get information from him. While the Yamanakas were the elite in mind invasion techniques, they were by no means the only wielders of the skill. When he had first entered ANBU, it had been one of the first things he learned. Being able to withstand intense torture and interrogation were part and parcel of the job, and the trainers had drilled the recruits in it until they dropped from exhaustion.
The young blond slowly stood up, and let go a breath he hadn't known he was holding as he finally peeked down to see the muscled and toned body that he remembered. He inspected the strong arms and admiring his ANBU tattoo with the signature red swirls of the captain surrounding the black. 'Thank goodness for small favors.' He shuddered at the thought of crawling around in his mind as a baby. His armor was in place along with his favorite coat that he wore in honor of his father, with his own twist of course. Black and orange replaced the white and red, respectively. He admired the man, but he already looked enough like him; he didn't need to be a clone.
'Time to see if the ol' fuzz ball knows anything about this….' He gazed down one end of the paved hallway before making his way towards the soft glow that was coming from under the large, iron reinforced doors at the far end.
With a push, he opened the creaking doors only to be greeted by a sight that made the stomach drop to his feet. The cage was empty. He ran across the flagstone floor, his footfalls slightly echoing across the huge room. Naruto reached the bars and quickly found the seal. It was intact. It hadn't changed since he had almost broken it when he was sixteen. The blonde wrinkled his brow in puzzlement. If anything else, it looked too good. There were no tears around the edge and the writing was crisp, as if newly inked.
"What the hell…" He swore.
"That's what I'd like to know." The voice echoed from inside the cage. Naruto backed up a step in surprise. A man with blood red robes stepped out of the shadows. His hair that shade of red that was so dark, it was almost black. A pair of fiery eyes pinned the shinobi with a stony expression that demanded answers. Nine black tipped tails twitched fluidly as he walked to the bars before being stopped by the seal.
"Kyuubi?" Naruto exclaimed. His eyes widened in alarm at the sight of a human male in place of the terrifying fox that he had been accustomed to.
"In the flesh, so to speak." The demon replied dryly.
"But what happened to you? I mean, aren't you usually ten stories taller and well….more furry?" He questioned.
The demon sighed in response to the query. 'Don't they teach their kits anything these days?'
"If I so wish, I can assume any shape or form, human." Kyuubi answered with a patience that Naruto had never seen, albeit, it was visibly wearing thin.
"Sooooo, what happened? I mean, you've always been in the 'Scare the hell out of Naruto' mode every time I've visited you in the past. You're also way more interested in talking than manipulating me to break the seal at the moment."
"You tell me. I was sealed for years inside your mother, and then the seal broke. My next clear memory is of being trapped by that damned whirlpool that you managed to get us into. Everything else is jumbled together." Kyuubi said as he paced down one length of the bars in contemplation. Suddenly he stopped as his head jerked up in an epiphany. "Madara." He muttered.
"Wait, I killed that bastard. What does he have to do with this?" Naruto yelled as he jumped to the bars. He wanted an explanation. Now.
"When you were born, that man attacked your mother, in an attempt to free me for his own ends. I remember seeing that mask through Kushina's eyes. When the seal broke, I had escaped, but don't recall anything after that until a few hours ago, when you managed to land a kunai where it finally belonged." The fire-eyed man reasoned. It made perfect sense to him.
"I still don't understand how Madara has anything to do with you going from 'RAAAR' to this." Naruto said, waving his hand to indicate the now human appearance of his 'guest'. Kyuubi sweat-dropped at the denseness of the blonde.
"Look, gaki. Do you remember what type of sharingan Madara has?"
"That Eternal Mangekyo, right? Why?" He puzzled.
"That version of the sharingan has the potential to control bijuu. Now what am I?" Kyuubi asked, trying to lead the slightly slow ANBU to the answer.
Naruto thought about it for a split second before the answer dawned on him. "So you're saying that Madara has been controlling you for the last twenty years, and the jutsu, or whatever, broke when I killed him?"
"In a sense. That form of the sharingan has the potential to control the tailed beasts because it reaches into our subconscious, and draws out the pure rage and anger inside us. We are eternal creatures. You have felt these emotions, human, but imagine that multiplied by thousands of years worth of experience."
Naruto paled at the thought. The tailed man continued on.
"It is enough to make any intelligent being go insane. Those who are blinded by anger are easily manipulated. Madara must have locked me in a state where I could not look past the fury, and used that to further his own ends. When you gave him his just desserts, the power faded, returning me to my own mind. For that, I suppose I owe you thanks." He grudgingly gave a slight nod of the head to the young man. Naruto, who had been listening intently, processed the information he had heard. He swiftly turned to face the demon as another question rose.
"And what does any of this have to do with why I'm back to a chibi version of me?" Naruto asked, eager to find out why he was back in diapers.
"Madara fought using a space-time jutsu. From what I can infer, the backlash from the loss of control, coupled with the surge of my chakra caused the time stream to send you, and by extension, me, back to the past. I do not know why it landed in this particular timeframe."
"I'm going to have to live my entire life over, aren't I?" Naruto whispered in a dead voice, hanging his head as the true extent of his situation hit him. He looked like he was going to collapse as his shoulders dropped in grief. 'Just when I had things going right. The villagers were giving me respect. I had precious people that loved me! Even with fuzz...er, Kyuubi inside of me.'
"I fail to see why you are complaining. Many humans have wished for a second chance. You have been granted the impossible gift of receiving it." Kyuubi swished his tails about as he peered through the bars at the shinobi deep in thought. Naruto pondered the kitsune's words.
A second chance. Images of Sarutobi-ojii, Jiraiya, Sasuke, and so many others flashed in his mind's eye. 'I can save them. I won't lose them, not this time.'
"You're right. I've got a chance to change things for the better, and I'm going to take it. Dattebayo!" He exclaimed as he straightened up, visibly changing from the devastated youth to the confident, determined ANBU captain that he was. Kyuubi caught a glimpse of a familiar fire in his sapphire eyes before Naruto turned around and left the chamber.
'This could be interesting…'Kyuubi thought with a mischievous, foxy grin on his face.
Kakashi carefully shifted the infant in his arms as he waited in the Hokage's office. The Sandaime and Jiraiya had yet to return to the room. With nothing else to do, he gazed at the infant in his arms. The golden tufts tugged at his heart, reminding him of the loss he had been dealt mere hours ago. As he settled the baby in a more comfortable position, the baby woke up from his slumber. He drew in a breath at the deep, sleepy, blue eyes that met his gaze. Kakashi's heart wrenched. His sensei had been looking forward to being a father. He smiled sadly as he remembered the shock on his face as he had wandered around after finding out from Kushina. It was one of the few times he had ever seen the Yellow Flash at a loss for what to do. It hadn't lasted for long though. Shortly after he was running about, letting his closest friends know the good news. He remembered trying to talk him out of naming his child after ramen, but then again, his sensei always was different, to say the least.
"Namikaze Naruto." Kakashi whispered, trying the name out, now that he was actually holding the boy. It wasn't fair. This little boy has had so much taken from him. While Kakashi had at least known his father, Naruto would never have the chance. He would be shunned because of the burden his own parent had given him. Some people would never understand.
Kakashi carefully adjusted the blankets as the child started wriggling, finally managing to free a tiny hand. Naruto quickly grasped the front of Kakashi's shirt as strong as he could, trying to pull himself closer. He looked down and saw the intense feeling reflected in the boy's eyes, as if he didn't want to let go. He didn't want to be alone. Kakashi cradled the child close to him.
'I won't let you down sensei. I won't let him grow up alone.' He vowed. Namikaze Naruto was the last he had left of family, and he wasn't going to stand by and let him grow up without that love that Minato and Kushina had so freely given him.
Naruto awoke to the sight of a familiar one-eyed, silver haired jounin hovering right above his face.
'Kakashi-sensei!' The last time he had seen the man had been several months ago, right before he had left on a mission. He never returned. Naruto wriggled free to give the closest thing that he could to a hug. Tears threatened to fall as he held on for dear life.
He didn't even hear when the door opened, admitting Jiraiya to the room.
"Kakashi, bring Naruto. Apparently the council wants to see him for themselves." The white haired sage said on a sigh before leading the cyclops and his charge to the chamber where they had been summoned.
The council room was a large, circular room, with chairs around the edge. A number of the dozen or so places were reserved for the clan heads, while others were occupied by civilians and merchants who were elected to the position. At the head of the arch, opposite the double doors, on a slightly raised platform was the Hokage's seat, along with a pair of chairs on either side for the advisors. The room wasn't as crowded as it might have been. Only the shinobi on the council had been summoned.
As the small party neared the chamber, the noise levels increased dramatically. The shouting and arguing could be heard outside the heavy doors, and as the door opened, it caused Kakashi to wince at the assault on his sensitive hearing. He glanced down at the infant. Naruto wasn't crying like he thought he would. 'Strange, I thought babies were supposed to be easily disturbed. Then again, I can't remember the last time I've been around anyone under the age of ten.'
The shouting gradually subsided as Kakashi brought the child forward to where the Sandaime was sitting. Naruto wriggled in his arms, trying to get a clear view of the room.
"Meet Namikaze Naruto." Sarutobi announced. The family name caused more than a few eyes to widen.
"Namikaze? I wasn't aware that the Yondaime had any relatives left." Tsume mused. The confusion on her face deepened. She had seen the young Hokage a number of times around the previous Jinchuuriki, more than could be counted as coincidence... "Unless…he used his son to seal the demon?" Inuzuka Tsume asked, shock clear on her face as the truth dawned.
"Would you have volunteered your child, Tsume? If I recall, you have a son a few weeks old." The wizened old man asked softly. A pained expression crossed the Inuzuka matriarch's tired visage before she hung her head, knowing the answer.
"For a sealing such as this, a container that could withstand the sudden influx of demonic chakra was needed. An infant's chakra coils are still flexible and malleable enough to contain it without damage to the one chosen to contain such an entity. That is all he is though, a container. I've looked over the seal personally, and there is no chance of the fox ever breaking through that seal, or taking over this child." Jiraiya explained, his patience wearing thin, as if this was the seventh time he had been forced to explain it.
"What about the seal? How do we know it won't break? The sudden appearance of the demon was unexpected. Everyone was in a rush to defend the village, including Namikaze-same. How do we know that he didn't make a mistake?" Uchiha Fugaku stated in an oily tone, staring intently at the blue bundle. Kakashi felt the malicious intent and clutched the baby closer to him. Naruto softly cried out from the sudden tight grip, before Kakashi loosened it slightly, fearing he had hurt the child.
"He didn't. I've already told you. I've checked it over. It's perfect!" Jiraiya replied vehemently. "There's not a chance that it would break from the inside. If you doubt my expertise, check it yourself. But unless you've suddenly joined the ranks of the seal masters, you're not going to find anything wrong that I wouldn't have seen first." The sage heatedly shot back. Jiraiya glared at the stoic Uchiha, daring him to doubt him. Fugaku broke the stare first, unwillingly admitting defeat.
"What do you plan to do with the child, Sandaime-sama? Train him?" questioned Yamanaka Inoichi, breaking the tense silence that had filled the council room. "He cannot be allowed to be left in just anyone's hands. The sheer power that he could wield…"
"I cannot say with complete certainty what will happen, as all reports have not come in regarding the attack. At this moment, I do not intend to train him into a mindless weapon. I doubt that Minato-kun and Kushina-chan would want such a life for their only son. For now, he's still a child, and children must grow up." Sarutobi said, playing on the fresh grief that a number of these people held.
"Jiraiya-sama, what would happen to the demon if the child were to be attacked, killed even?" Inoichi continued.
Jiraiya looked the blonde in the eye before delivering a carefully worded answer. "As of this moment, I believe that the death of the child would result in the demon being taken completely from this plane of existence, in a sense the demon would 'die' in this world." Muttering erupted in the stone-walled room at this declaration. Jiraiya caught a strange glint in a few of the councilors' eyes.
"That does not mean the demon would not return! It would only be a temporary stop-gap. Eventually, the Kyuubi would reform in this world. It could be months, it could be centuries, but it would be free again. I ask you, is it wiser to banish a threat, giving it time to refortify and plan, or is it better to keep it where we can watch it? While it is in that seal, the Kyuubi can do nothing to influence the outside world. It cannot harm us. It has no contact with other beings. It is being weakened by the seal. Minato ensured that the strength of the demon would be used to protect the village." Jiraiya glared around the room, meeting the plotting faces of a few present.
"Before you try anything drastic, councilors, let me inform you of one thing: If you even think about touching my godson I will personally make sure that you pay for it tenfold." The toad sage whispered, the threat echoing in the still room. A few people looked surprised at this revelation.
"Jiraiya. Enough." Sarutobi intervened. His student backed off to one side of the room, keeping an eye on those present.
"Sandaime-sama, there are many who would wish him harm, if only because of his parentage. Let me take him, and raise him until he can be trained. We could adequately protect him." Hyuuga Hiashi requested, confusing Jiraiya and Sarutobi.
"Tell me this, Hiashi-dono. If a clan that has a well known attitude towards outsiders were to suddenly take in a blonde-haired, blue-eyed child after our famous Yellow Flash has died, do you think anyone else wouldn't notice? People would start to question the sudden act. From what we can see, the child already greatly resembles his father. Giving him such obvious preferential treatment would be the same as painting a target on his back." The Nara clan head lazily interjected.
"Thank you for your counsel, Shikaku-san, you have great insight, as always." Sarutobi stood up, and made his way to Kakashi and Naruto's side. "Many children have been orphaned this night. He is just one of many." He sighed as he laid out the plan that had surfaced during the discussions.
"He will go to an orphanage, under his mother's name. Hopefully he will grow up as a normal child."
"Is that possible? He has one of the most powerful demons alive sealed in him. Those who lost family and friends in the attack will want revenge. People have a right to know how their Hokage died. Just how do you think those people will handle the news that the demon that killed their loved ones is now jailed in a much smaller, and fragile form?" Jiraiya argued heatedly. "They're not going to let him have a normal childhood!"
"I understand your concerns. Grief and hate can drive normally calm and reasonable people to do reprehensible deeds. As to those who would take…more drastic action, there will be a guard to deter them, and protect the child." Sandaime gave a pointed look at Fugaku and his supporters. "I hereby make a decree that those who know of his burden are not allowed to speak of it, even to him. On pain of death. As to the child himself, if he is not aware of the demon by the time he reaches genin, I will inform him myself."
"You're dismissed. Go, get some rest. We are going to need it before long. Jiraiya, Kakashi, with me." Sarutobi commanded. The occupants filed out of the room, some glancing back at the child, and meeting the single eye of the teen who was still holding him.
Kakashi followed the newly reinstated Hokage back to the office. He had refused to let go of the child.
Naruto had listened to the entire council proceedings, not really being surprised at the majority of it. What did surprise him was that the Hyuuga clan head had offered to raise him. He allowed himself a moment to contemplate growing up with Neji and Hinata as siblings… 'That would have been weird….to say the least.' Naruto felt his heart skip a beat as he realized that he had a chance to be with Hinata again. 'This time, I'm not gonna lose you, Hime.'
He was startled out of his thoughts as he felt the chest rumble next to him as Kakashi began speaking.
"Hokage-sama, if I may make a request." He respectfully addressed the older man.
Sarutobi sighed. "I believe I know what you're going to request, and I cannot allow it. You are little more than a child yourself, Kakashi-kun. I cannot allow you to take guardianship of him, especially since you are already know as Minato's student. Like Shikaku pointed out, if Naruto-chan were to be placed in the care of yourself, Jiraiya, or any of the major figures here, no matter what the ties, he will have a target placed on his head before he can even walk. The similarities are just too obvious." He reasoned.
Kakashi hung his head in disappointment, before he was startled by Jiraiya's forceful interjection.
"I'm his godfather sensei. It's my responsibility to keep him safe, just like his parents would have wanted." Jiraiya argued.
"Perhaps, but how safe would he be on the road with you? It could be argued that he would be in even more danger, away from the safety of the village."
"So I'll stay here. I can rent a place for a year or so, while he grows, and then take him on the road with me. Extended training trip if you will." The toad sage proposed.
"And what of your network? You are the only one who knows all the contacts inside of your tangled web. The information you collect is invaluable. I agree you can train him, someday, but I must put the safety of Konoha first and foremost, and where you can serve her best right now is in the field, gathering the whispers that may grow into more if let free on the wind." Sarutobi softly intoned, puffing on his pipe.
Jiraiya turned to look out on the village. Small fires still gave off tendrils of smoke as they smoldered. He closed his eyes in defeat.
"So I'm to leave him here, just like that?" He said.
"I will be having him guarded closely. The ANBU answer directly the Hokage, so there are no questions of loyalty. He will be looked after. I will do my best to make sure he has a good childhood, and when the time is right, you can teach him what it means to be a shinobi, and a good man, just like his father."
Jiraiya and Sarutobi shared a sad smile at the mention of their mutual friend and student.
"I understand why, but still don't like it." He grumbled, running a hand through his spiky locks. "Once he's settled, I want to know where he's living. I also want permission to put protection seals around his quarters."
Sarutobi nodded his head in agreement.
"Until then, sensei." Jiraiya left the office, through his unorthodox method of the window.
Seeing an opening, the silver haired teen approached the hokage again.
"Hokage-sama?" Kakashi asked, still stinging from his earlier rebuke.
"If I can't raise him, let me be a part of his guard." Kakashi requested.
"In order to do that, you would have to join ANBU. I admit you are an exceptional shinobi, Kakashi, but are you ready for that?" Sarutobi surveyed the young man before him.
"If this is what I can do to protect my sensei's legacy, yes. I am." He gave the older man a determined look.
"Very well. But know this, as ANBU, you will not be allowed to interact with him as you would otherwise. He is not to be aware that he is even being watched." Sarutobi warned.
"I understand. For now, it's enough."
"Report at 8 am tomorrow morning, and we shall see if you are indeed ready." He ordered, fixing the jounin with his gaze. "For now, leave him with me. I will arrange for him to be placed in an orphanage."
Kakashi reluctantly pulled his shirt from the grasp of the child, and placed the infant in the aged Hokage's hands.
"Get some rest. You're going to need it." He ordered.
The silver haired teen took one last look at the infant before disappearing in a swirl of leaves.
Sarutobi took his first close look at the whiskered face of the baby blonde. He was surprised at the focus he saw there. 'Not even a day old, and already carrying the burden of a lifetime. If you're anything like your parents, this village will never be the same.'
Naruto met Sarutobi's gaze head on, attempting to keep focus, but his new body was fighting him. 'I guess I'm back to the stamina of an infant too, but just you wait, jiji, I'm going to do my best to protect you this time.' Naruto thought as he finally gave into the arms of sleep.
A/N: Okay, I'll admit it straight out. This is a test run. I do have more written for this story, but I tend to write in spurts. I feel a little uneasy about posting something that's not finished, but we'll see if it works out.
If there's something that bothers you, like glaring errors, please point them out or give me some pointers.
If your aim is solely to tear somedown for your own fun, please go elsewhere.
Um, I could write tons of denials, but it's safe to assume I'm not a professional writer, so please be understanding?
Anyways, adios y buena noche.
As of 10/16/11: This is somewhat edited after very thought provoking reviews. I hope it doesn't screw with the story too much .