Blood splattered the ground as the dull thwack of flesh hitting wood repeatedly filled the air.
The private training grounds of the Uchiha Clan were far removed from the rest of the village. Multiple training dummies stood tall and proud as they were firmly planted deep beneath vibrant green grass. Targets that adorned the trees, rocks, and ground were littered with kunai and shuriken, though not a single of the projectiles were more than a couple centimeters off the bull's eye. The setting sun gave off a sense of despair as its orange color dimly lit the area.
The only movement that could be seen in the once busy training ground was that of a twelve year old boy hitting a wooden post. The blood that dripped from his knuckles to the grass indicated that he had been at this for some time. Beads of sweat dripped down his face and mixed with the numerous tears streaming from the young boy's eyes. He wore the dark black of a funeral kimono; the only other color the outfit possessed was a blood-red obi around the boy's waist. The kimono was not suited to training, but the boy did not care.
"Weak," thought Sasuke angrily, "Too weak to beat Haku in time. Too slow to save Naruto. Too selfish to not kill my best friend. Too...worthless to not be killed that night."
Anger fueled the young boy's tired body as he continued to punch the training post.
"Naruto," Sasuke thought tiredly, "I thought we were the same, but we were nothing alike. If it had been I in your position, you would have found a way to save me. You would not have killed me for power. No, you would have moved Heaven and Hell to save me...but we are not the same."
The memory of the day filtered through Sasuke's mind. Only fifteen had bothered to attend Naruto's funeral. The faces were implanted in Sasuke's mind as people to be grateful towards.
There had been the remaining members of Team Seven of course. Sakura's sobs and tears had been heart-wrenching to see.
What had been worse was the despair in Kakashi's lone visible eye. The man had always appeared so laid back, but also strong in a way Sasuke could never imagine being. Yet weakness had been in the grey-haired man's stance and posture.
Team Eight had also attended. Sasuke had felt somewhat awkward around the red-eyed woman who was the leader of the team, and as such the two had mostly avoided each other with barely a nod of greeting as their interaction. The young Uchiha knew he would have to speak to her soon, but the pain of Naruto's death and everything that had happened was overwhelming. Sasuke had been surprised at Team Eight's reaction. Specifically the reactions of Inuzuka Kiba and Hyuuga Hinata. The young Uchiha's mind briefly flashed back to the conversation with the two,
"Did you kill him?" Kiba asked.
"Excuse me? Sasuke responded with startled eyes.
"Did you kill the bastard responsible?"
"G-good," Hinata's voice surprised both young boys, "I hope he rots in hell!"
Sasuke's grief was momentarily forgotten as he smirked over the Hyuuga's words. Who knew that the quiet heiress had such a cruel side?
Shino had been the only one of Team Eight that had acted normally. He had stood with a stoic expression the entire time. It was obvious the boy was only coming out of duty. Despite this, Sasuke felt grateful to the boy for coming.
Team Ten had also attended. Sasuke had been surprised at how regretful Ino had seemed regarding her treatment of Naruto. The two boys of Team Ten had seemed even worse, however. Sasuke knew that the two had been of the only few who would ever join Naruto on his pranks. Both Chouji and Shikamaru had worn haggard faces throughout the entire ceremony.
The four remaining attendees had been the Sandaime Hokage and his grandson Konohamaru along with the owner of Ichiraku Ramen and his daughter.
Upon seeing the ramen stand owner, Sasuke had immediately vowed to invest in the man's business. It was the least he could do for the man who had showed such kindness to a boy who had received precious little in his life.
Which brought back the white molten rage that had been burning within Sasuke's veins for the past few hours. How dare they...how dare the villagers celebrate over his best friend's death? Sasuke had nearly started a massacre when he had seen the different parties. It had only been Kakashi's hand on his shoulder that had prevented the boy from becoming a criminal.
"Idiots," Sasuke muttered angrily as he threw a powerful punch at the post. Another tear made its way past Sasuke's eye as the boy's anger and grief steadily grew, "Naruto sacrificed everything for this village and they spit on his sacrifice!"
The young boy shook his head. Why had Naruto wanted to become protector of these people who hated him? Sasuke did not think he would ever understand Naruto's motivations. Which brought Sasuke to his next dilemma. Could he still accomplish his own goals as well as becoming Hokage? Which was supposed to be a higher priority? Sasuke sighed as he knew that would be a question that would have to be answered over time.
"You might want to stop before you seriously injure yourself, kid." a voice spoke from behind the Uchiha.
Sasuke swiftly turned and began to form the hand signs for the fireball jutsu. His anger had reached its peak and someone was going to die.
The boy was about to form the Tora sign before he was suddenly kicked in the stomach and his body roughly impacted the training post behind him. Sasuke groaned in pain as he observed who had attacked him.
The man possessed spiky white hair that flowed down to his feet. Light wrinkles adorned the man's face along with two red lines that trailed from his eyes to his jawline. A headband with the kanji for oil adorned his forehead. It was not this eccentric look that frightened Sasuke; rather, it was the immense chakra and killing intent the man was releasing.
"Who are you?" Sasuke asked despite the chill settling in his bones.
"It does not matter," the man responded coldly, "There is a special place in hell for those who betray their friends kid."
Sasuke reeled back as if struck and began to ramble,
"He-he was going to die anyways! I just did what-"
"You did what would benefit you most," the man growled, "Naruto did not deserve you as a teammate. He deserved better."
Sasuke felt his eyes begin to water once again with tears and half-heartedly tried to hold them back. Naruto had deserved better. And that reminded him of why he had made his promise.
"You're right," Sasuke whispered after a moment, "He did. He deserved more than to have some monster ruin his whole life. He deserved more than to have everyone hate him. He deserved more than a selfish teammate like me. He deserved more than a death on some forgotten no-name bridge. But I swear to you and everyone else. I will honor Naruto's memory. He will not be forgotten by me. I will become the best damn Hokage!"
Sasuke cringed at the words he would say next and knew he would never say them again, but they deserved to be said. And so he whispered,
The man's face seemed to soften and the killing intent disappeared.
"C'mon kid, lets get you home."
Sasuke nodded and weakly stood up as the man began walking towards the Uchiha district.
"What's your name?" Sasuke asked as he dragged his sore body towards his home.
A glass of sake was in the Toad Sannin's hand as he pondered his current situation. Uchiha Sasuke was asleep in his bedroom here in the Uchiha Clan Head's home. And he, Jiraiya the Toad Sage, had been absent from his own godson's funeral. Minato and Kushina would one day have his head for that one.
He had failed magnificently in his role as a godfather. He had thought he would have time. Thought he would have many years to protect and teach the boy, but he had been wrong. And now he was left with a broken twelve year old boy who had been entrusted with the last of Naruto's - and by default Minato's legacy.
Jiraiya had observed the boy for an hour before making himself known. The boy was skilled there was no doubt about that. Even exhausted, Sasuke's reaction to his appearance had been quick.
Though the boy might want to differentiate between friend or foe better, the fact that the boy was confident in his ability to use a jutsu like the Great Fireball spoke volumes for him. Yet it also reminded Jiraiya of Orochimaru. The boy was quite similar to the Snake Sannin...yet somehow fundamentally different. Jiraiya somehow suspected that was Naruto's fault.
The man sighed as he took another sip of the alcohol. Akatsuki would be coming for Konoha soon. Now that the village no longer possessed a legitimate jinchuuriki, the secretive organization would make their move for the artifact. Unfortunately for them, the artifact was currently on Mount Myoboku and being protected by the Toads.
The Kyuubi would be placed within an Uchiha child sometime within the next seven years. A normal shinobi baby could have held it, but it had been decided by Sarutobi and the Council in general that an Uchiha would have a much greater chance of controlling it and would be much more powerful.
Jiraiya shuddered at the thought of fighting a fully trained, Sharingan-wielding Kyuubi Jinchuuriki. The child would truly be a super weapon. And Uchiha Sasuke would be the father. A mentally unstable boy who had lost his entire family would be the father of Konoha's greatest weapon. It was somewhat frightening. Which led Jiraiya to his current decision. He would influence the boy. Sasuke had never truly possessed a loving father figure in his life if Jiraiya's knowledge of Uchiha Fugaku was any indication.
If he could somehow influence the boy towards becoming a man of character as well as power, Jiraiya was certain that Konoha would prosper. And perhaps, somehow, he could be partially absolved for some of his failures.
Nodding to himself, Jiraiya decided to start his nightly research.
Sasuke awoke the next morning in intense pain as a result of his training the day before. Sighing, the boy crawled out of his bed and made his way to the restroom for a shower. As he went to take off his shirt, he noticed a letter stapled to the shirt. Eye's widening in surprise and irritation, Sasuke quickly read the thing:
"Meet me at Training Ground 21 at noon. We will begin your training. -Jiraiya"
Sasuke felt a bubble of anticipation enter his stomach as he reread the words. Jiraiya, one of the Sannin, was going to be training him. That was...unexpected.
Quickly showering and making his way down to the kitchen for food, Sasuke shook his head once again in amazement. The past few days had been full of emotions, mostly painful, but the thought of training with one of the most powerful shinobi in the world filled his mind with excitement.
Looking at the time as he ate, the boy recognized he had another three hours before they would be meeting. Perhaps this would be a good time to meet with his new betrothed. The young Uchiha felt the excitement in his stomach turn to dread. He was not angry at the choice of his future wife. He recognized the logic behind it. However the thought that the woman might be angry at him for the situation frightened the boy. Or worse, she would treat him solely as a child. While Sasuke would admit that he was young, he knew that his experiences had pushed him beyond that of a child. The young Uchiha could only hope that the woman would understand and that they could have an equal relationship.
Deciding to man up, Sasuke smirked and made his way to get ready. He would remain confident and proud. He would do his clan proud.
Yuuhi Kurenai smiled as she read over the files again. Her team was really shaping up well.
Shino slowly seemed to becoming more sociable as well as increasing his shinobi skills. His use of his bugs to break free of genjutsu was an excellent strategy. His skills in taijutsu, while not horrible when he was assigned to Team Eight, were not the best in the world. However as he trained with Kiba and Hinata, who were both taijutsu oriented fighters, it had improved by leaps and bounds.
The woman sighed softly as she thought of Kiba. The boy was brash, rude, and a complete dog. Something she was sure he would take a compliment. His social skills left much to be desired, however his shinobi skills were probably the best among her team. His taijutsu, while not on Hinata's level, was superb and his ninjutsu with his partner Akamaru was phenomenal. Genjutsu he was somewhat weak in, but was gradually learning to see through the techniques and break out of them.
And finally she turned to the last file. Hyuuga Hinata was shy, had low self-esteem, and had seemed in a state of depression since she had heard of Naruto's death. Kurenai knew the girl had had a crush on the boy, but the death seemed to hit her harder than even the Genjutsu Mistress had expected. Kurenai could only hope the girl would break out of it soon. Her taijutsu was chuunin-level easily, though Kurenai knew that was to be expected of a Hyuuga. However she was quite weak in the other shinobi disciplines. Her ninjutsu was nonexistent and her genjutsu casting was terrible. She was skilled at seeing through genjutsu only because of her kekkai genkai.
The woman sighed once more. She had been going over these files for two hours in an effort to get her mind of the real problem. And so she turned to the last file. This had been one she had requested from the Sandaime herself despite the fact that the boy was not a member of her team.
Name: Uchiha Sasuke.
Ninja Registration Number: 012606.
Birthday: July 23rd
Height: 153 Centimeters
Blood Type: AB
Kekkai Genkai: Sharingan
Kurenai shook her head as she repeated the information once more in her head. She knew these things about him, but she did not know him.
It had been disturbing when she was told that she was to marry a boy fifteen years her junior. She understood the logic behind it and was even somewhat grateful for the benefits she would receive from this decision. Though her father had been a shinobi, he had been the first of her family to ever be one. She was only a second generation shinobi which had been a stigma attached to her when she was younger.
The thought of her children lacking the status of a shinobi family was annoying to her. By marrying into the Uchiha Clan, there would be no doubt that her children would be afforded the status of not just a shinobi clan, but the status of a founding clan. Added to that that the Uchiha Clan was quite wealthy, and the logical side of her mind jumped at this.
Then her emotions spoke to her. For one, this act would be placing the burden of a demon on her firstborn child. It angered her that she had been asked to do this to her child. Secondly, she would be doing this with a boy not yet at full adulthood. A boy who had had his entire family ripped away from him in one night. How caring of a father would he be? How loving of a husband? How skilled of a lover?
Kurenai mentally slapped herself for this last thought. The boy was still only twelve. He probably thought girls still had cooties. It would be a good year before he even started noticing females and it would be three years yet before she would even be required to perform this act with him.
The woman was broken from her thoughts as she heard the doorbell to her apartment ring. Mentally wondering who would be visiting her at this hour in the morning, she walked towards the door and opened it. The scene before her surprised, but her inner girl was screaming at the cuteness.
Uchiha Sasuke stood before her, a black shirt with the typical high collar of the Uchiha though it was long sleeved. White cargo pants covered his lower body and blue sandals covered his feet. In his hand however was a single red rose.
"I-uhh-" Sasuke began nervously and Kurenai mentally giggled, "I know this is awkward and the situation we have both been placed in is not the best in the world, but my mom always said that flowers always make everything better for a woman so I figured I would get you one."
Sasuke awkwardly held out the rose and Kurenai could tell that the boy was swallowing his pride. While it would be perfect to tease the boy; Kurenai decided that Sasuke would probably not appreciate the action, and it would not do to create enmity with the boy who would one day be her husband.
And it was hardly his fault that the Council wanted a pair of breeders.
So she smiled and took the rose.
"Thank you, Sasuke. Would you like to come in?"
"That would be best I think. We do need to talk about...well... everything," Sasuke shifted nervously.
"I agree," Kurenai offered a reassuring smile and opened the door wider for the boy. Sasuke nodded in thanks and the two walked in.
Sasuke took in the apartment with a keen eye. The place was clean if somewhat small compared to his house in the Uchiha District. Organization appeared to be the theme of the house. It had a somewhat feminine look with some flowery pictures, but was not overbearing.
"Would you like anything to drink?" Kurenai asked as they entered the kitchen.
"Just some water please, thank you," Sasuke nodded as he noticed the files on the kitchen table. The boy smirked slightly as he recognized his own name among the files.
"Please, take a seat," Kurenai offered and turned to the boy with the liquid-filled glass. The Genjutsu Mistress quickly saw the perusal Sasuke had given the files and felt a light blush stain her cheeks in embarrassment.
"Research?" Sasuke asked with a raised eyebrow as he took the glass and sat at the table. The young boy irritatedly noticed that the chair was a tad high and his feet barely touch the ground. Not a good impression to give. Turning his attention from the chair, Sasuke observed the black-haired woman as she began to speak,
"My apologies. I had asked Hokage-sama if I could have your file. I was curious and wished to have some background knowledge about you."
"It's fine," Sasuke waved his hand lazily in acknowledgment to the woman's apology, "If I had access, I would have probably done the same regarding yourself."
Kurenai smiled briefly and took a seat at the table. Feeling somewhat awkward despite herself, Kurenai tried to broach the subject that had brought Sasuke to her apartment,
"If its a girl, she will be named Mikoto," Sasuke spoke suddenly and softy, "As for a boy? I will let you decide the name."
Kurenai was stunned for a moment at Sasuke's words before smiling. The boy seemed to either be taking this really well or he was still in shock regarding the situation. Kurenai smiled however as she recognized the boy's wish for his daughter to bear his mother's name.
"That is perfect," Kurenai smiled at the Uchiha. Sasuke seemed somewhat embarrassed and he spoke slowly.
"Before Naruto's death," Sasuke's eyes grew somewhat darker at the mention of his deceased teammate, "I would have been paralyzed at the thought of having a family. I knew it would be required of me as the last Uchiha loyal to Konoha, but I had no intentions of pursuing it."
Kurenai listened to the Sasuke as he continued to speak. The woman could almost feel the grief Sasuke possessed regarding his teammate and his family.
"Naruto's death gave me a purpose beyond hatred," Sasuke continued speaking softly, "I will become the best Hokage. I will protect the people of Konoha."
The woman across the table from the Uchiha felt her eye's widen at Sasuke's ambition. She was going to speak before she noticed Sasuke lock his activated Sharingan eyes upon her. His blood red eyes so similar to her own stared into hers with an intensity she did not think she could find in one so young.
"I will make a family. I will protect and cherish our children. And I will do whatever I must to make this marriage as easy for you as possible. That is my promise."
Duty and honor.
Sarutobi Hiruzen smiled in approval as he stared at his former student. The request put a slight wrench in his original plans, but Jiraiya had always been unpredictable. For him to ask such a thing...it was beyond imagining, yet Hiruzen could not help but feel warmth pervade his being at the man he had trained. Jiraiya had his faults, but the man had a good heart.
"I hereby approve your request to take Uchiha Sasuke as your apprentice, Jiraiya."
The addressed man smiled and said,
"I'll have him back in time for the Chuunin Exams."
Hiruzen smiled and murmered softly,
"Give him your time, Jiraiya. He needs it."