Disclaimer: Unfortunately, I do not own Naruto. If I did, I wouldn't be getting up at four in the morning, nor would I worry about my bills. My only worry would be which anime- loving insane chick to pursue next.
The Peace-Bringer Trilogy book one: Rage of the Maelstrom
Naruto Uzumaki was a small, unassuming child of ten. With short, spiky blonde hair, cerulean blue eyes, and an ever present grin, it was hard to imagine why such a boy would be doing what he was doing at the moment. Slipping from one shadow to the next, the many alleyways present in the village of Konoha aiding him as he followed after a pair of semi-lucid men, Naruto had felt the need to practice his stealth skills, and thus far, even after being followed for nearly two hours, the men in question had no idea that they were being watched. In the shadows, Naruto let a small smile cross his face as he remembered the day that he had learned the importance of stealth.
Five year old Naruto frowned up at the woman who had taken him into her home, her family, and her heart. "But okaa-san, why would we want to hide from people?" he asked, confusion displayed on his features.
The woman in question gave him a somewhat lopsided grin. "Think of it this way." She began, hands on her hips. "Do you like being hurt?" she asked, watching Naruto stiffen before rapidly shaking his head. "Well then, it's very hard to hurt what you can't see, and even harder to hurt what you can't find." The woman finished, watching understanding, then elation cross Naruto's face.
Naruto frowned as the two men parted ways, trying to decide which one to follow. Making a decision, he decided to follow the one that appeared to be the more intoxicated of the two. Before long, the man was letting himself into an apartment. Naruto watched through the windows as a woman came out of one of the rooms, greeting the man with a firm hug. Ignoring the ache in his chest, as he had had a lot of practice at it, Naruto listened in on their conversation.
"I really wish you would stop staying out so late, Jisaru." the woman said, lightly scolding the man who was obviously her husband.
The man gave a good-natured shrug. "Days are long, and the only thing I have to look forward to is a scolding I get from my beautiful wife when I get home late from a bar." he joked, making the woman give a small grin. The man stretched, grunting as he did so. "I suppose that Kiriko is already asleep?" Hearing no reply, the man turned to see a small frown on his wife's face. "Tsukimi?"
"She came home later than usual. I asked her where she had been, and she said that she'd been goofing off with one her classmates." Tsukimi said, leaning against the wall as her husband ambled over to the cupboards, obviously for some sort of snack before turning in for the night.
Jisaru paused in his search for a little tidbit to satisfy the pleasant grumbling in his stomach. Turning his head, he gave his wife an odd look. "You say that as if her having friends is a bad thing?"
Tsukimi pursed her lips. "She said it was that Uzumaki child that she was with."
Jisaru, his quest for a midnight snack forgotten, gave his wife his full attention, his brow furrowed in slight annoyance. "and?"
Tsukimi mildly glared at him. "Don't 'and' me! You know I don't want her around him any more than she has to be! He's dangerous!"
"What part of her going to a school where they teach children to be trained killers is supposed to be safe in the first place?" Jisaru deadpanned, watching his wife cautiously.
"Don't give me that. There's a difference between a shinobi and a demon!" Tsukimi spat, glaring at her husband. Outside, Naruto sucked in a shallow breath.
Jisaru, beginning to grow irritated, glared right back. "Have you ever spoken to the boy? Ever watched him go about his business? He may have a demon within him, but Naruto Uzumaki is the container, not the contained!"
Slipping away from the arguing couple, Naruto hurried home, his thoughts plagued by what he had just heard. Getting to his apartment, Naruto paused in the doorway as he took in the one room. He could have had a real home. He could have stayed with the woman and her family who had taken him from the streets. Ultimately though, he couldn't. Even back then, even at six, Naruto hadn't been blind to the attention he received, or to the attention that his adoptive family had begun to receive because of him. He had left them. Sure, he saw the boy who was like his brother often enough, sharing a classroom with him made it hard not to, but it had been four years since he had spoken with either his adoptive sister, or his adoptive mother. Naruto knew, even knowing how lonely his life had been since, that he would make the same decision again, and with a smile on his face. In this case at least, they really were better off without him. Collapsing onto his bed, Naruto quickly fell into a troubled sleep.
Morning came, and with it came thoughts of what he had overheard the night prior. Unable to really concentrate on anything else, Naruto wandered around the village without any clear destination in mind, making a subconscious effort not to be seen. After all, it didn't hurt as much when people ignored your existence if you could pretend they didn't even know you were there. Eventually tiring, Naruto sat on a bench, lost in thought. A sudden flash in the corner of his eye informed him he was no longer alone. The feeling of a blade at his throat was accompanied by a bright, overly spunky voice. "What's up gaki?"
Turning his head, Naruto looked at his early morning companion. Anko Mitarashi was a force unto herself, her personality having all the subtlety of a hurricane. He had met her six months ago while enacting a prank on a merchant involving fifteen pounds of cheese, thirty mice, two cats, and a pair of sheep shears. When the unsuspecting merchant had triggered the prank, Naruto had laughed so hard that he had fallen from his perch on a second story roof, his fall being broken by the unwilling body of Anko. Like now, he had wound up with a kunai to his throat, while Anko had given him the scariest dressing down of his life. Somehow, the two had ended up being friends, though neither was going to complain. Friends were hard to find for the pair, and they would take what they could get.
His friend was, to say the least, complicated. The former apprentice of one of Konoha's most famous traitors, she received more than her share of grief over that fact, but there was more to it than that. In spite of the fact that the pair hadn't known each other for very long, Naruto was one of the few that Anko had willingly told about her past, or at least as much as she could remember. Her old master, a snake of a man by the name of Orochimaru, had literally left his mark on her, in the form of a curious seal on her shoulder that resembled three tomoe. However, there was even more to it than that.
Evidently, the seal on Anko's shoulder hadn't been the only thing Orochimaru had created. Stasis seals had only been theorized to be possible, and demented as he was, Orochimaru was still brilliant, and had come up with a viable one. After Anko had survived the application of the curse mark, he had used his stasis seal on her, to great effect. All higher functions of Anko's brain had immediately cut out, her heart and other organs stopping, and even the division of her cells had ground to a halt. She had been, for all intents and purposes, dead, but still alive. Anko called it her unwilling nap that happened to have lasted for seven years. While his friend should have been in her twenties, she appeared to be around the age of fourteen, two years having passed since the breaking of the seal in question, and her subsequent return to Konoha.
Still confused as to what he had heard the night before, Naruto voiced his curiosity to Anko. "Hey Anko, I got a question for you." The girl in question, having removed her blade from his throat during his musings to begin picking her teeth with it, raised an eyebrow to show that she was listening. "Well, I heard someone say that I was the container," here Anko's hand stilled, " but not the contained. They were saying that to somebody who was talking about demons. Do you know what that means?"
Anko allowed her hand to drop to her lap, all too aware of Naruto's hopeful gaze. While she didn't look it, she was old enough to remember the attack of the Kyuubi, as well as whom its container was. All at once two loyalties began to conflict within her. Loyalty to the Sandaime, whose laws she had sworn to upkeep, and loyalty to Naruto, her friend, and the unknowing object of one of these laws. The war between the two was viscous and brief. In a world where secrecy was prized, what was one more secret between two friends?
Still, while she had decided to tell him, she couldn't just come right out and say it. She would much rather avoid irking the Sandaime. Better for Naruto to be able to truthfully say that he had found out on his own. Looking out the corner of her eye, she gave him a lopsided smile. "How about we make this a little more fun?" Anko quipped, making Naruto groan in response, only causing Anko's smile to grow. "You're not going to find too much on it in the library, but look up some of the books on fuinjutsu. The answer you're looking for is mentioned in one of them as one of the purest expressions of the art." Naruto, having listened closely, nodded seriously.
Anko stood up, and grabbing Naruto by the collar of his shirt, began to drag him to the nearest set of training grounds, much to the boys consternation. "Hey, let me go! I need to go to the library!" he shouted, struggling to get out of her grip.
Anko grinned. "That's too bad, you'll have to do that later. Right now I'm feeling bubbly, so you're going to show me just how far you've come on your taijutsu." she replied, making the young blonde pout in response.
As it neared noon, Naruto and Anko could be found, Anko panting heavily while Naruto was gasping for as much air as he could get. Anko would be the first to admit that Naruto simply had more stamina then she did, but when she was using a tenth of the amount of energy to spar against him as he was using against her, she was guaranteed to come out on top, it just took an inordinate amount of time. Still, she figured it was good for her, forcing herself to keep up with him. She had to use steadily more and more energy to exhaust him, and her own stamina was steadily rising as well. You never knew when having the ability to go five hours straight without breaks of any kind would come in handy, and it really was five hours straight.
She and Naruto had arrived at the training ground early, around seven in the morning, before running through an exhausting set of exercises made for muscle failure while on the surface of a nearby pond for Anko's part, and the vertical surface of a tree for Naruto, Anko having taught the chakra juggernaut the tree-climbing exercise. They had continued that for three hours before throwing themselves at one another to tear each other apart with their bare hands. It was good practice for if they had to fight while exhausted.
Eventually catching their breathe, and feeling sufficiently recovered, the two friends began to make their way toward the village to get some food. However, as they were passing one of the training grounds, their eyes were draw to the form of a young man holding a katana. While Anko was impressed by the obvious restraint of skill shown by the man as he went through each kata with an exaggerated slowness, Naruto's jaw had gone slack. All fatigue seemed to leech itself from his body as he ran towards the man, startling him into stopping. Shaking her head, Anko followed after her impetuous young friend.
Spotting Anko, the man gave a slight nod of greeting before coughing into his shoulder. "What can I help you with?" he asked politely, which immediately raised the duo's estimation of the man. Few people were polite to them. Blinking, the man seemed to remember something as he coughed again. "My name is Gekko Hayate by the way." he said, his next cough seeming sheepish.
Naruto was bouncing up and down slightly, obviously excited. "I'm Naruto Uzumaki, and this is my best friend, Anko Mitarashi." Naruto jabbered excitedly, pulling Anko forward as he introduced her.
To his credit, despite knowing of both of them, Gekko only blinked at meeting them in person. "Again, I must ask, what can I help you with?" his voice as polite as the first time.
Naruto leveled a finger at Gekko's katana. "I want you to show me how to use that. Please!" he half-shouted, adding the please almost as an afterthought. A few months ago, Naruto would have demanded to be taught. Anko had only had to make him bleed twice before he had started being slightly more polite.
Raising an eyebrow, the ghost of a smile appeared on the man's face. Kneeling, he looked Naruto in the eye. "What would you do with what I taught you? What would wielding a blade such as I do mean to you?" he asked, the lightness of his voice somehow still carrying a serious tone.
After a few moments, Naruto, blushing lightly, leaned forward to whisper in the man's ear. Whatever he said must have impressed Gekko, because he quickly stood. "Well, in that cast, it would be absolutely appalling manners on my part to refuse you. Your friend here can join in to! That is, if she wants to?"
Anko raised her eyebrow. She was hungry, but it looked like he wanted to start now. Rocking back onto the balls of her feet, she put some thought into the matter. The man had appeared to be skilled, and in the shinobi world her treacherous master had been right in saying that knowledge was power. The more you knew, the more you could be prepared for. Kenjutsu, while not a highly favored art, was still prolific enough that most gained at least a mild understanding of it for the simple purpose of staying alive against one of its many practitioners. However, as with any of the shinobi arts, the more you knew about it, the better prepared you were to counter it in combat. Anko chewed her lip as she weighed her options. What finally clinched the decision was the fact that she knew her former master had possession of the Kusanagi no Tsurugi, and very likely knew how to use it with some skill. Sighing to herself, she nodded, pushing her hunger to the side for later as she settled herself into a comfortable position on the ground, listening to Gekko begin to talk about the maintenance of a blade.
It was several hours later that the three parted ways. After going over how to clean and maintain a sword of any kind, he had delved lightly into the philosophy of a swordsman, and how they were wielding an extension of themselves as a tool of judgment. After that, he had simply shown them how one held a blade, using a well maintained but obviously inferior blade for them to practice with. When they had parted company, he had seemed oddly pleased, and had offered to meet them again, which they happily acceded to.
Still, as dusk began to settle on Konoha, Naruto, despite his exhausted state, could be found making his way to the library, desperate to look for the clues that Anko had told him about. Slipping in quietly, Naruto made his way unnoticed to the section dedicated to the shinobi arts. True, there was little enough here on actual techniques, merely a hint here and there, and even those only at the most basic and generic ones, it did hold a surprisingly large amount of information on just about every single one of the shinobi arts. Naruto smiled tiredly as he remembered how scandalized he'd been when he'd found there were no techniques in the library, but he supposed it made sense, as techniques of any kind could be deemed as information sensitive to the security of the village. Shrugging off his exhaustion, he began to skim through the titles, pulling out anything that seemed to deal with fuinjutsu.
Winding up with nearly a dozen books on the table, Naruto groaned, knowing his night was far from over. For the next several hours, Naruto looked through every book, his patience, what little that he had, finally paying off as he happened across what he was looking for in one of them. Anko was right, there wasn't much on it. Naruto leaned back as he began to read.
'-Amongst the many and varied uses of fuinjutsu, perhaps the purest form that this ancient art can take is that of the jinchurriki. The so called 'power of human sacrifice', these are men and women who hold the might of the nine bijuu sealed away within them, often carrying the malevolent chakra of their literal inner demons without any around them being the wiser. Jinchurriki are normally marked out by having vast chakra reserves, extraordinary stamina, chakra more potent than the average shinobi, and above average health. No matter their situation, jinchurriki are rarely received well by those around them, and often lead lonely lives as little more than political tools, deterrents against war from enemy powers, a life that precious few of them ever find any true purpose in.- excerpt from Exotic Arts: A Thesis On Fuinjutsu'
Closing the book, Naruto drew in a ragged breathe. Why nobody had ever told him was his first thought, followed immediately after by why him at all? Later on in his life, he would deem his thoughts as petty, as he had wished for it to have been anybody but him, but others would not be so quick to agree. Any child, succored on loneliness and drowned in mistrust and contempt, who had broken his teeth on the dregs of others hate, could be forgiven a moments pettiness.
Unable to stand, Naruto hit his knees, hand reaching up to clutch at his chest, his heart aching as it never had before. Tears attempted to well up and fall, but Naruto furiously held them back. Crying fixed nothing, all it ever did was make things worse. That was a truth he had learned a long time ago. Naruto's shoulders shook with the effort of holding back the tidal wave of emotion crashing around him, struggling to bottle all he felt and hide it away from the world.
Unbeknownst to Naruto, in his secluded corner, the civilian run library had closed a few hours ago, and the building was devoid of all but Naruto and one other. Tired as she was, Anko had still perched herself on the top of a bookcase, and had seen the hammer blow hit Naruto. Unable to stop herself, Anko leapt down, landing in front of the stricken Naruto. Looking up to see who was in front of him, Anko was momentarily taken off-guard when the ten year old threw himself into her arms, shoulders shaking, and every muscle in his body quivering. There were no tears, no sobs, no sounds of grief ever came from Naruto's body. Her impassive features softening for a moment, Anko wrapped her arms around the boy. Holding him lightly, she waited patiently until Naruto fell into a restless sleep.
Once he was asleep, Anko stood. Leaving the library, she began to walk to her home. While she knew where Naruto lived, being left alone right now would be the worst possible thing she could do. No, the blonde bundle of energy was going to need a friend when he woke up, and Anko had no problems with being that friend.
Early morning light streamed through a window, illuminating the small form of a blonde child curled up in the lap of his best friend, who was herself siting on a bed with her back against the wall and snoring lightly, though the sounds were more along the lines of breathy inhalations than anything else. As the early morning progressed without fail into midmorning, the two on the bed began to stir. Anko was the first one awake, and she watched with hidden trepidation as Naruto opened his eyes. Clearing her throat, she got his attention, making the boy blush at where he was. "So, I take it that you found what you were looking for?" she asked, looking at him carefully.
Making a note of how warm he felt, Naruto borrowed deeper into Anko's arms. "Yeah." Naruto replied, eyes saddening momentarily.
Amused, Anko shook him lightly. "If it helps," she began, aware that all of Naruto's attention was on her, "I'll always be your friend." Normally, Anko was whole-heartedly against such sappiness, feeling it drastically out of character for her, but watching the joy all but begin to radiate from her little friend made it well worth it in her opinion She couldn't help but shake her head at him. Sometimes his moods swung so fast you would think he was bipolar. Feeling Naruto burrowing as deeply into her arms as he could, she shook him again. "Gaki, if this ever leaves this room," here she gave an evil laugh, "I will castrate you myself. Understand?" Smiling, Naruto nodded.
For a time, the two were still, Naruto drawing on Anko's comforting presence like a leech. Eventually, Anko spoke again. "Naruto." she said, rousing him from his slight stupor, "What exactly do you intend to do now?"
Naruto pulled his head back, looking Anko in the eye. For perhaps the first time in her life, Anko was shocked totally speechless by what she saw. Raw determination filled Naruto's eyes. "I'm going to change it.!" he declared. "I'm going to change the world. I'm going to make them see the jinchurriki as more than weapons!" Such was the strength of conviction in his voice that Anko didn't doubt for one second that he would be able to do as he said.
Grinning widely, Anko met Naruto's determination with more than a little of her own. "Well then, that's probably going to be dangerous eventually, and knowing you, you'll just do it anyway. You're going to need some help changing the entire world. Count me in!"
Naruto's elated shout was her only reply, and really, it was the only one that she cared about anyway. All too soon, the sleepy world of shadows around them would find itself pitted against Fate's greatest foe. A Child of Destiny had taken his first steps, and they would eventually rock the world to its core.
A.N. I figured that I'd try to rewrite my Naruto fic as well. Really, comparing the two, I am much more satisfied with this one over my last one, but please, tell me what you think.