The castle just collapsed and it wasn't my fault.
All I wanted to do was to go home, but that damn idiot couldn't leave me alone. It's bad enough when the mailman laughs at the sign on my office door, but can't a guy have a vacation without everything being shot to hell?
And that was when the acid breathing demon snakes jumped out of the rubble and started chasing after me. This was so not my day.
If you don't know, I'm Naruto Uzumaki.
I'm a wizard.
Yeah, yeah, I've heard it all: a freak, a cop-out, couldn't make it as a ninja, yadda yadda yadda. I'll have you know that I went to the Konoha Academy and did quite well, thank you very much. I've even got a business card:
Naruto Uzumaki – Wizard
Lost Items Found. Paranormal Investigations.
Consulting. Advice. Reasonable Rates.
No Love Potions, Endless Purses, Parties or other entertainment.
I'm also an inspector with the Konoha Police Department and I freelance a bit, (working for the state does NOT pay well). I know, most people want to know about the ninjas with the wiggly hand jives that summon up chakra for Elemental Paper-Rock-Scissors, but that's not me. Unlike some Konoha Academy graduates, I got passing grades in chemistry. No, my talents fall in other areas which unfortunately lead to trouble. I was here for a little vacation. I wanted to see the sights, play some games, hang out on the beach. But as usual, the people at the travel agency are a bunch of dirty, rotten liars.
Now if I could only lose these acid breathing demon snakes.
It's days like these that make me wonder how I ended up like this.
I remember back when I left the orphanage. I was about four or so. Now, while I wasn't exactly well liked, I wouldn't say it was violent, more of a pervasive passive aggression towards me. Pretty much instantly I was given an apartment in an average neighborhood. The Old Man set it up for me, nice place. But that's not what this story is about. This is about becoming a wizard.
You see, most parents discouraged other kids from playing with me, so I didn't have many (read "any") friends in those days except for my favorite eatery, a friendly barkeep and the Old Man, so when I had free time (and boy, did I have free time), I used to spend it playing pranks around town or in the parks exploring.
There was this one particular park that wasn't so much a park or a training ground as it was an unintentional memorial. You see, this part of town was pretty well abandoned after it burned after the last war when some big fox attacked, leading to the events that would bring me right there. As such, there was a lot of new growth, partial house ruins and a whole bunch of stuff lying around. It was there, in amongst some forgotten cellars and rubble, I found a skull.
A skull, you say? Not a big surprise in a ninja Village, you say? Well, in this case it wasn't really the skull that was important as who was living in it. I remember the eyes lit up and for some reason it seemed to grin.
"Hey there!" it said.
"Hi," I said, not quite sure what to make of a talking skull. "I'm Naruto."
"Hey, kid, my name's Bob, or at least that's what Harry called me, and it's worked well for a few others, so I might as well keep it," said Bob, not explaining who Harry was or why people would call a skull "Bob" in the first place. It seemed like a silly name to me at the time.
"WOW!" I said with childish amazement. "I've never met a talking skull before."
"Well now you have!" Bob said with what seemed like a smile. "So what do you do around here?"
"I'm just a kid," I said. "I went exploring and found you and a box of candles that somehow didn't melt in the fire, some silvery dust in a bag, a purple felt bag with a bunch of strange shaped dice in bright colors, a bunch of books with monsters on the covers, a-"
"That's okay kid, you don't need to tell me everything about it," Bob told me. I was a bit excitable back then. "Why don't you pick it up and we'll go over it when we get back to your folks' place."
The emotions that statement provoked must have shown up on my face because he quickly changed his tune.
"No parents, kid? Where do you live?" Bob asked me.
"The Old Man gave me a flat," I explained. "We could go there?"
"Sounds great, just remember to bring everything with you, okay?" Bob said, glancing his eyes towards the pile of stuff. I tried to carry it all at once, but it wasn't working, so I took off my shirt and tied it around the books, the skull, the bags, the candles and all the other trinkets and nicknacks hidden away in the cellar chest. I'd later figure out that something had protected the box and cellar I'd found from whatever fire that taken the house, not that it had done anything against weather, gravity and time. I was about half way home when the sky opened up and the rains came down. I got back to my house shirtless, sopping wet, dragging about half the storm in with me. I tossed the bundle on the table, getting a slightly outraged noise from the skull.
"Sorry," I said, quickly untying the knots I'd bound my shirt into carrying it home.
"I'm a delicate spirit, I have my housing needs," Bob said in a chiding voice. "So, this is your place. Not bad kid."
"I know," I said with a smile. "The Old Man got it for me. I've even got my own refrigerator and everything!"
I wasn't sure how, but I could tell that Bob was giving me an incredulously raised eyebrow in classic Spock fashion. And I know Star Trek because Bob told me all about it, but I've never gotten to see it. It's one of a lot of things that Bob talks about that I hadn't seen then and most of them I haven't seen since. Cars, trains, gas pumps, science fiction and other cool things. I've seen a few later on, but Bob says that even now, they're nothing like he remembers.
"What?" I asked.
"How can you use that?" Bob asked.
"I open it up and put things I want to say cold inside," I said, looking at the skull like he just told me the sky was fuchsia.
"No, it's got electronics, how are you using it?" Bob asked.
"What do you mean?" I said, granted I was only four, but in hindsight I was a bit of an idiot back then.
"Kid, you're putting out more magic than most experienced wizards," Bob said. "That thing should be fried, your TV sparking and your radio shitting the bed."
"You said a naughty word!" I said pointing at him with a scandalized voice. Granted at four, if he'd said "poop," I'd have been laughing my ass off. One thing the old man had instilled in me was that there were certain words you just didn't say in public. The Old Man was nice, but man, he could get pretty upset if you did certain things around him. Painting his office orange was one of them, but that's a story for another time.
Bob rolled his eyes at me.
"But I'm guessing that this means that Magic's changed again," he said.
"Magic?" I asked. I'd heard about it on cartoons and children's shows, or fairy tales or the like, but everyone said it wasn't real.
"Yeah, life creates it, makes it grow and all that crap," he told me. "You've got it, kid, you've got it in buttloads."
"Relax kid, it's just an expression," Bob criticized. Bob went on to explain that every so often Magic changes. In centuries past, Magic made dairy products go bad, or scare cows, or, as Bob last remembered it, it fried electronics like you were blinking. Sometime between then and now it changed to something else: unless you live out in the boonies, fossil fuels don't burn for crap. That's why all our tech is chakra or electrically based with a few chemical based propellant things here and there. Hell, even the one car I saw was fueled by burning alcohol. All our tech is specialized, high demand, low supply equating mucho moola. Bob talks about how at one point, we'd get these things made in big factories, but since everybody's using magic and that screws with fossil fuels, it's pretty hard to make the parts in mass production. But once again, that's another story.
"So, Naruto, if you want to learn how, I can teach you," Bob told me. "It's not that hard starting out and you need some control. I can give you tips on that. You can be a Wizard, kid."
Well, I was four and while I'd always wanted to be Hokage and a ninja, it wasn't everyday you got the chance to be an honest to goodness wizard. After about two seconds of careful thought, I agreed. Immediately afterward, Bob started in on magical theory.
"I didn't know you meant right now!" I protested.
"Why not?" Bob asked me. "Now's as good a time as any!"
"Okay, fine," I said. Soon though, I was deep in the books I'd found with Bob, although he told me to leave the Player's Handbook, the Dungeon Master's Guide and the Monster Manual for later. That was about when Bob realized I couldn't read.
He sighed the sigh of the long suffering.
"I guess we'll start at the beginning then," he said.