So, I'm heading into uncharted territory now. But this is what appeared when I started typing, which is the same method I've used the entire time. I imagine that my portrayal of Kurama and the change to the backstory may annoy some. However, if you've read over 100k words of my story, I also imagine you must kinda like it. So my hope is that anyone who dislikes some of the elements I'm going to introduce in this chapter will stick around long enough to see where I take it. Heck, it's possible I'll scrap whole sections of the chapter at some point in the future. I've changed crap plot points I've written when I did the re-write. Personally, I would consider what I'm posting to be half spell-checked drafts, especially compared to a professional's development cycle, for instance.
Let's find out where my mind will take us next!
* Clown- Sasuke's new nickname for Naruto (pronounced paylo FYI) I'm thinking about making it retroactive.
The next few days passed slowly, though there were some interesting occurrences.
"Damn it Piero*! Wake up, you're melting the bed again!"
There was no reply, as usual.
Sasuke picked up the next bucket lying by his bed and tossed the water in it onto the blond.
"Spluh- what the? Damn it, Sasuke, stop doing that!"
"I'm under orders. We only have so many beds, and Kakashi doesn't want it taking over your body."
"Oh hell, it's not doing anything! I'm learning to access some chakra so I'll know what I'm doing if an emergency comes up." Naruto looked down at his bed. "I wasn't even melting the bed, ass- you just like splashing me!"
"My enjoyment of this task is in no way influencing how often I splash you- I just get a sense of satisfaction when the time comes. Besides, I could tell you were about to melt your bedding," he said, winking an eye.
"You and your frickin' eyes! How would you like it if someone splashed you whenever you turned them on?"
Sasuke smiled, "I imagine I'd be as pissed as you are, but my superpower doesn't destroy my bed," he said smugly.
"Dude, I'm trying to get fuzz-butt to open up to me. If I can get him to be neutral, let alone friendly to me, he'd be an incredible asset. I don't care what Kakashi ordered you to do, don't splash me unless I turn red- purple doesn't count. I'll try and keep it down, OK?"
"I don't know…"
"… I'm so tempted to hang the Venus over your head, or threaten pranks, but that would be wrong if he's actually ordered you to splash me… Just… use your judgment, and try not to splash me unless I'm actually a danger. Please? This is important."
Sasuke frowned, then closed his eyes and shrugged. "I feel pretty sleepy, maybe I'll take a nap. I am recovering… If it were that important a job, he'd keep an eye on you personally. So I'm afraid as long as you don't wake me up, it's entirely possible you might flare up…"
"Yeah yeah, hurry up and figure this stuff out. You don't want to do this in Konoha, there would be riots in the street."
Naruto nodded, and leaned back to meditate. Sasuke relaxed as well, deciding that a nap might actually be a decent idea.
"Why do you keep disappearing, kit? This is vital for our well-being." The force of nature looked irritated, twitching his long tails back and forth.
"I know, but my teammates are rather worried when I start glowing and dissolving things. My sensei is rather worried you will corrupt me, though I've explained what's going on."
"Ugh, foolish mortals. Get them to stop; I need you focused."
"I shouldn't be interrupted again for some time."
"Fine. Maybe we should work some more on the décor then?"
"Is that really necessary?"
"Are you questioning me?"
"Fine. More water removal?"
"Until you are better at that simple task, you aren't ready to shape my surroundings. 'Cheer up,' this will make your pathetic attempts at genjutsu more robust."
"I hardly ever use genjutsu, except for henge. And I'm a master at that."
"Master? Hardly. I suppose you are pretty good for a human, but that's not saying much."
A large hole appeared in the water, in a rough shape of the Kyuubi's face, with nine tails above the head. Naruto was supposed to practice imagining more and more complicated shapes and designs until the water was gone, in preparation for redesigning his soul-space.
"I suppose you can do better?"
There was a snort that made a breeze go through the room, then a pop, as the massive fox disappeared, revealing a woman.
It took a moment for Naruto to realize what he was seeing. It was his Naruko, only aged to be more mature. 36? 40? He couldn't tell, as while she was older, she had this timeless beauty about her. Naruto knew that if this woman were 70 she would still turn heads, though more for her grace and nobility at that point. She seemed more three-dimensional than any of his henge, more real even than several people he'd actually met had.
"Some of it is the smell, of course," Naruko said, her voice the running water of a pure mountain stream. "All creatures are more likely to believe in something if their nose agrees with the eyes. In fact, many animals trust their noses above their eyes- if there is no scent, it automatically isn't real."
Naruto closed his eyes, taking a deep whiff. She smelt of Naruko- that is to say, exactly as she ought to smell, though Naruto had never thought about the smell of his clones or henge before. It just… fit.
The teen opened his eyes to see faux-Naruko walking up to him, and Naruto suddenly wondered if coming inside the bars, as an act of good faith, was such a good idea. The woman stopped inches from the boy and wrapped her arms around him, pulling him against her.
"See what an illusion is truly capable of? Oh, I can admit you weren't bad, but some of that talent came from yours truly. Mmm, you are a strapping young lad aren't you?"
Naruto was frozen, eyes crossed for a moment, before the woman was holding a log, with Naruto standing nearby.
The Kyuubi looked at the log and laughed- a dangerous, seductive laugh. Naruto reminded himself that this was really a giant Bijuu, as she dropped the log into the water.
"Very good! You were able to make a log, under 'duress' even! Though I wonder why you run from me in this state, when you'll stand up to me in my natural form…" she smiled mischievously.
"First of all, I've got a girlfriend, and second of all you're really a giant fox shaped being that, by the way, I'm pretty certain is male."
She laughed again. "Fox, human, male, female… I am whatever my shape is. Oh, I suppose it's true that I'm 'a giant fox-thing', but I'm not at the moment. For you and I, we are what we are. You know this on some level, or else you wouldn't be able to use your henge to the level you do… Hmm, maybe that is why you haven't mastered it yet? You need to be what you appear, to the bone- yet never let your shape totally consume you. I wear this shape as a glove, completely filling it, pouring myself into it as water into a vase. But…"
A series of pops accompanied a rapid flickering of appearances, as the Kyuubi assumed the shape of several people Naruto knew, then others he didn't. Some were ugly or beautiful, most average, but all were just as overwhelmingly real as the Naruko had been, despite only existing for a few moments.
The Kyuubi reappeared in all his magnificence again. "… You choose to let the vase hold you, not the other way around. So yes, I am male- a particularly striking one at that…" -pop- "Unless I'm not!" A 20 year-old Naruko finished cheerfully. "You've got a piece of fox-Bijuu stuffed in you, why not reverse that?"
Naruto blinked at the single entendre. "Um, I'll consider it, but haven't we got more important work to do?" 'When the devil ice-skates to work,' he continued mentally.
The Kyuubi reappeared, "Yes, forgive my divergence from matters of import. It has been quite boring in here by myself, and old habits are hard to shake. Too bad kit, I would have shaken the stars in your sky. I do have several thousand years of experience, you know."
"I'm confused, don't you hate me?"
The Bijuu looked confused in return, "What has that got to do with it? Anyway, destroy more water as I tell the story of the Sage of six paths…"
Sasuke woke up to find Kakashi standing over him, frowning. Once a few seconds had passed, the teen realized Naruto was glowing again, though no melting was occurring yet.
"Um, sorry sensei. I am recovering you know… He doesn't seem to be melting anything, are you certain you want me to splash him? He says he's trying to endear himself to the fuzz-butt, and getting woken up constantly in the middle of establishing relations is not helping."
Kakashi closed his eye and shook his head slightly. "I told you to splash him when he flared up. We don't know the long-term effects of the shroud. It could be poisoning his body, or… I don't know; it's youki! It could be doing almost anything!"
The man grabbed a bucket and splashed the blond.
"Bluh- ack! Damn it Sasuke, I told you this was import- uh, hey sensei!"
"I told you to wait until we can evaluate you with better medical facilities," Kakashi said sternly.
Naruto frowned, "If I did this stuff in Konoha there would be riots."
"Not if we did it in the proper places. We could set up a mobile med-lab in a sealed chamber in almost no time. Experimenting out here with no back up is insane, and if you persist in doing it against my instructions, I'll have to suppress your chakra until we get back."
Naruto's eyes widened. "Alright, I won't experiment with youki anymore, I promise. But I'd like permission to continue meeting with him. I have a lot of work to do on both the diplomatic front, and learning from him. Did you know the Sage of Six Paths was a real guy? Kyuubi knew him personally!"
Kakashi's eyebrow rose. "That is quite interesting. That sort of information would be quite valuable to certain people… Fine. You can talk, but no more auras, period. Don't make me angry," Kakashi warned.
"Sure, sure! I promise."
"I'll be checking back occasionally." He left the room.
Haku had been kept on the second story at the other end of the building ever since Naruto woke up and started 'practicing.' His aura could aggravate her wounds from even a few yards away. She was slowly healing, and was now conscious enough to direct Sakura on how to treat her. Zabuza had some small knowledge of tricks to heal youki burns, but the wounds healed at a glacial pace.
Meanwhile, some of the stuff in Gato's fort had been reclaimed by the nearest townspeople. The bridge was going to be finished any day now, and the fishermen had nearly refitted several of the boats so they could reap the sea of its bounty. If there had been any surplus food, there would have been celebrations. Instead, people looked openly hopeful for the first time in quite a while.
"Man, I'd kill for a cold one," Zabuza griped.
"That doesn't really mean much considering…" Kakashi said casually, leaning back in his chair.
The two were outside under some shade they had erected, watching villagers start to cannibalize the compound for building supplies and so on. All the two needed to do was make sure the civilians avoided certain buildings, such as where the female ex-captives were housed, and where the genin and Haku recovered. They had put aside enough food for themselves, as well as the seals containing all the paperwork.
"True enough… I'd fight that evil clone monster again for a cold one."
Kakashi opened his eye slightly, looking over at him. "You must not have had many while on the run all this time, huh?"
"Yeah, the hunter-nin were annoying, but you can never go into a decent bar. That was what really got under my skin every day."
Kakashi looked around, before pulling a scroll out of a pocket. Laying it on the ground, he activated it. A large cooler appeared, mist forming as water vapor condensed off the cool air coming off of it.
"You… magnificent bastard!" Zabuza murmured in slight awe, as he ogled the container.
Kakashi opened the lid, letting a cool damp breeze splash over both of them for a moment before he pulled out two bottles. In moments, the chest was gone and the seal back where it came from. He handed a green bottle to Zabuza and kept a brown one for himself. The two clinked beverages before pulling the caps off with their fingers and taking a swallow.
"Hey, not too shabby! I could have sworn you were supposed to like dry Suna sake. You keep this around for friends?"
"Ah, well, I don't always drink beer, but when I do, I like variety. It is a big cooler; I can afford to carry a few different styles of drink around. Oh, not a word of this to anyone, I'd have to constantly refill it if everybody wanted some every time I went on a mission."
"Of course… Hell, if you had handed me one of these before we started fighting, I would have folded pretty damn quick."
"I hope that's hyperbole, I'd hate to think you can be bought for the price of a craft beer."
"Maybe a bit of a stretch… But then 'water is worth more than gold in the desert,'" the man quoted.
Kakashi nodded, before picking up a large pebble from the pile between them and tossing it. It flew through the air, and hit a man's hand, which was reaching for the door to the barracks the genin were in. The man shouted a curse, shaking his hand, and looked around, before deciding to choose another place to scavenge.
Everything was ready for them to depart.
Except for Haku.
It had been six days since the battle, and everyone else was recovered. The bridge had been built, there were fish in the market stalls, and though Wave had a long way to go, they had taken the first steps to recovery.
The women were in no shape to make the way back to Konoha, but the relief teams would have some experts that would give them the care they needed. The relief teams would arrive in another couple days, most likely.
Tazuna had begrudgingly taken over as de facto chief until a ruling party could be organized. When everyone realized he was more or less directly responsible for their freedom, no one attempted taking the position from him, though there was some argument over a few of his decisions. There was discussion of making a constitution, and organizing an official defense force. Kakashi left Tazuna with a seal holding all the weapons they had collected in the fort, telling him that even a militia would need something to use. The relief team would open it if Tazuna wished, once things were stable.
So really, they were ready, except for the stubborn wounds Naruto had given Haku.
"I'm so sorry Haku. I was just so mad. I thought you had killed him and I-"
"You were supposed to think that. I wanted you emotional and sloppy. On any normal genin it would have worked… You and I are very similar, you know. In the land of Water, those with bloodlines are hated for participating in the civil wars that have wracked the nation for decades. It got to the point where anyone with a hint of one was killed, usually by a lynch mob. When my father discovered I had control of ice, he killed my mother, then was about to kill me…"
"Zabuza saved you?" Naruto asked, thinking he saw how it all connected.
"No, I defended myself and… killed my father." She paused, fighting to moderate her emotions, managing to restrain herself to simply frowning. "I was alone, an orphan amongst so many others, for so long. It was hell. Zabuza saw there was something special about me though. He lifted me up, gave me purpose-"
"You need to develop other reasons to live," Naruto demanded. "Think about it, even if he's never defeated in battle, you're still going to out live him! Are you just going to sit down and wither away when he passes?"
Haku winced. "… I… try not to think about that day, though I've always assumed I'd die defending him long before that."
"Oh hell, I've screwed the pooch on this, haven't I?" Zabuza said from the doorway, surprising both of them.
"What do you mean, Zabuza-sama?"
"We… aren't just tools, Haku. Neither of us has been for a long time. I haven't been one since the coup, hell, almost since I graduated! And though I thought I wanted a tool when I first picked you up and started polishing you, you're more than that. Haku, you're my apprentice. For a while now, I've been teaching you everything I thought I could so my legacy would continue on."
Haku had started crying, despite a faint grin on her face. As the tears fell off her cheeks, they flash froze as they hit the pillow under her.
"You're also my daughter in all but blood, and though I still need your partnership, I'm not putting up with this fatalism. Sure, if you can keep me alive, go for it, but not if you have to get yourself killed! I don't have time to adopt another kid, let alone train one!"
"Thank you… Otōsan," she said with a smile.
Zabuza's eyes grew wide, "Whoa now, let's not get carried away… er… fine, but only in private."
Naruto had backed away so they could talk, but heard Haku make a small giggle at Zabuza's obvious discomfort for the title. He was about to slip out…
"I've got some serious news though. I'm afraid that you need professional care soon. I'm going to carry you to Konoha with the rest of them when we leave tomorrow morning. I know this will be painful, but you need specialized treatment before your burns turn septic."
Naruto winced and kept walking.
They set out the next morning. All the goodbyes were said, and loose ends tied; it was time to go home.
It had taken them nearly a week to get to Wave, with Tazuna making them crawl along at civilian speed. Normally they could have made it in two or three days, less for Kakashi of course. But Zabuza forced them to a slower pace so he could avoid jostling Haku, whom he carried. Kakashi was carrying Miyaka, who still had knowledge Konoha would need to cleanly destroy Gato's empire and the smaller fiefdoms it was comprised of. She seemed resigned to it all.
Haku was obviously in pain, but managed to bear it stoically, hardly ever making mention of it. All three genin worried over her. Sakura felt attached as her main healer so far. Naruto, of course, felt terrible about the whole thing. As powerful a tool as the Kyuubi had been, Naruto worried about his ability to control himself. Sasuke, too, seemed awfully concerned about Haku, confusing his genin teammates. He didn't seem to hold any grudge at all about being turned into a pincushion.
They were in sight of the Konoha south gate. They had gone around the entire hidden village so they could approach the least often used entrance.
"Alright team, shut up and let me do the talking," Kakashi told them, "Zabuza, please don't do anything stupid."
Zabuza grunted. "… Fuck. Take my sword."
"Huh?" The genin watched their sensei taken by surprise.
"I'd rather you had it than some punk gate guard taking it from me so I can enter. Just treat it right, and don't show it off."
"… I'll take it when they ask you to deposit it. You don't want to walk up without it, right?"
The seven came into close range of the gate, and watched the chunin on duty go through a process involving confusion, blinking, and elbowing his partner, who was taking a nap.
"Team seven returning with three extras."
"On what terms are they entering?" the chunin asked.
"Defector, informant, and medical patient."
The chunin blinked. "… I need to make a call."
Kakashi nodded. "Tell them the code on this," he said, handing over a card.
The chunin moved into a guard station and spoke into a phone for a bit.
Everyone waited, somewhat nervously, for him to return.
"Alright, entry is permitted. Please wear these at all times until told otherwise," he said, coming back with three stamped tags on lanyards. "I must ask that you temporarily hand over your sword, Zabuza-san."
Zabuza looked at Kakashi who nodded, and removed the blade from the man's back. "If it's allowable, I'll be holding onto the sword for Zabuza-san."
"… I… Certainly," the chunin wilted a bit under Zabuza's stare. "You are all free to enter, you will be contacted with a time to meet the Hokage; he's quite interested in hearing the details."
Zabuza quickly took Haku to the hospital, while Kakashi dropped his passenger off at the T&I guest accommodations (not a euphemism, they often needed to interact with people who were not going to be tortured.) The genin were glad to go home and get a shower, then lie in a familiar bed.
Team 7 was at the bridge the next morning, Sakura and Sasuke doing some light sparring against Naru-clones while Prime and some more clones practiced chakra control. Though Naruto had improved greatly, Sasuke was once again far beyond him in taijutsu, at least when he activated his sharingan.
"Um, guys, we aren't meeting today…" Kakashi spoke up, after appearing on the bridge's railing.
The genin looked at each other. "Oh, right… Well what are we supposed to do then?" Sakura asked.
Kakashi chuckled, "Take a break, go see Haku, restock your fridge… I'm sure you can find something to do with yourselves. You're off for at least a week, and in three days is the general day off, so you can join your friends then. First, though, I suggest picking up your paychecks. Remember, put most of it in savings; trust me. Also, while you're there Naruto, you need to see the Hokage about your tenant. We'll be doing some tests soon, so you are still banned from making an aura."
"Alright, any questions? Then have a pleasant break! I'll contact you if something comes up."
He disappeared as usual, and the three genin took off to see how much money they had earned.
Naruto walked into the Hokage's office with a massive smile on his face. "Hey Gramps, I had no idea it was possible for checks to have that many zeros!"
Sarutobi grinned and switched on the privacy wards, "You lot earned it. Come, we have much to talk about. How frequently have you spoken with it?"
Naruto sat down, "I've spoken with him several dozen times by now. He admits to hating me, but can vary from playful to helpful, though he usually is rather arrogant. Apparently, he thinks I need to be educated by him in several fields if I'm going to survive. My survival is apparently a goal of his, seeing as my death will apparently send him into a hellish existence for a hundred years or so. He keeps referring to 'hidden pieces' and 'the shadow board.' Is there some sort of conspiracy?"
The Hokage sighed, and looked tired. "There's so much I don't know about the night it attacked. It seems that many things in the last few decades are connected, but our analysts can't figure out how. Not that most of them are even cleared for much of the information…" The old man looked uncertain.
"It is time, sensei."
Naruto turned in his seat to see a man with white hair and a non-standard hitai-ate.
"… I've seen you before… Wait, you're Jiriya-sama?"
"Oh, so he gets a –sama, hmm?" the Hokage asked sarcastically.
"I'm sure that'll change once I get to know him," Naruto responded, still looking curiously at the man. "Why have I seen you before?"
"Ah, well, I was around occasionally when you were a kid. I see you outgrew the goggles, you used to love them."
"… You needed to keep an eye on the seal?"
"I'm hurt! I'm your honorary uncle! Of course I looked after my cute nephew! I've just been… busy lately, is all."
"For 10 years or so? Never mind, it's classified I'm sure. How are you my honorary uncle though?"
"That's a good question! Why don't you hit the little red button sensei?"
"You aren't going to take no for an answer, are you, Jiriya-kun?"
"Nope. The secrets end today. It will be more dangerous for him if he doesn't know, than if he does."
Sarutobi let out a sigh, "Fine." He opened a drawer and clicked something. Immediately, steel slid over all the windows and doors, and the air faintly hummed with the power of seal wards.
"Well this can't be good," Naruto started. "If the Kyuubi is an S-class secret and we could talk about it before…"
"Yes. What we're about to discuss has no secrecy level, because the knowledge doesn't exist," Sarutobi said grimly.
"You guys are making me nervous…"
"Naruto, we've always known who your parents were," Jiriya opened up. Sarutobi rolled his eyes at the bluntness.
Naruto froze in his seat and closed his eyes. "… So I'm like, the Fire Diamyo's bastard or something? I assume my parents were important, or I would have been allowed to know…"
"You're… taking this calmly," Sarutobi half asked.
"Well, I always considered it as an option. Either the fourth used some orphan like everyone thinks, or he used someone very important for political reasons."
"Well, he used someone very important, but not for political reasons…" Jiriya said, hoping to lead the boy to the answer. "Uzumaki is your mother's maiden name, Kushina Uzumaki, but you look so similar to your father…"
Naruto's eyebrows scrunched in thought. He suddenly looked up. "Please tell me I'm not related to Ino!"
"Ino, who's that?" a lost toad sage asked.
"A classmate of his, Inoichi Yamanaka's girl," Sarutobi answered between chuckles. "No gaki, Minato Namikaze, the fourth Hokage, could only place the burden of being a jinchuriki on one person. His son."
Naruto looked dazed a moment, before he fainted.
"…Well, that went well!" Jiriya said brightly.
"Shut up, brat," Sarutobi grumbled. He lazily ran his hands through a few seals, causing a small blob of water from his pitcher to leap into the air and splash against the blond's face.
"Damn it Sasuke, I wasn't even talking to him this time- oh. You two. Can I just say I'm getting tired of being splashed awake?"
"Sure kid, that's nice. Do you remember what we were speaking about?" Jiriya asked.
"Oh hell. This isn't fair at all!"
"What?" the men asked.
"I'm the son of the Fourth Hokage, but it's some super secret that I can't tell anyone! Why the hell can't people know?"
"Oh, yes. There is that. You're right; this is a secret. Think for a minute. After sealing the Kyuubi, what is the next most famous act he accomplished?" Sarutobi asked.
Naruto pondered, "… By saying act, that rules out the Hiraishin… Whoa! Do I inherit his scrolls and stuff?"
Jiriya chuckled at the predictable side tracking. "Yeah, you get some stuff, but don't get too excited, if he ever wrote that technique down, he must have destroyed all traces of it. Once we let you announce your heritage, you can get a nice house, a decent bank account, some scrolls and diaries, and some personal belongings. But you can't claim them yet because of what he was infamous for."
"… Oh, the slaughter of an entire flank of Iwa-nin? … Oh, yeah… I can see why some people might not want me around."
"That's putting it lightly, gaki. Half of Earth country would cut off their left hand to have the honor of killing you, once it was known who you were."
"So how am I going to claim my heritage then?"
Jiriya snorted, "You're the son of the fourth Hokage, and a jinchuriki. Unless you're an idiot, you're going to be such a badass in a few years time that everyone will want to kill you on your own merits! By which point, you'll be able to defend yourself from anything Iwa can disavow as 'rogue elements'. Admittedly, there are a few people who can fight on our level that might pay attention to you, but we'll play it by ear."
"Er… being a badass is cool and all, but I'd rather not have people who can fight on level with you even know I exist."
Sarutobi took over again. "That is why we needed to explain all this to you now." Jiriya looked smug. "Stop gloating, there were good reasons to wait… Anyhow, Naruto, you likely have been targeted already as a jinchuriki. There is an organization of S-class nukenin who seem to be curious about the locations of the 9 Bijuu."
"…Expletive! How the Expletive am I supposed to do missions with a group of Kage level warriors interested in me?"
"Why are you saying 'Expletive', kid? Am I going to have to teach you how to swear properly?" Jiriya asked confused. "Is this a new fad sensei?"
"Why am I saying Expletive? Because fuck isn't evocative enough! This is scary! I'm living in fucking interesting times!"
"Calm down, it's not the end of the world, kid. The reason I haven't been around to hang out with you for over a decade is because I'm the head of most of Konoha's information gathering networks. I got interested in Akatsuki- the name of the group- when Orochimaru joined."
Naruto squeaked and went fetal.
"Stop being stupid kid. He had some disagreements and left, violently at that. However, while he was still a member, I learned a fair bit about the group. I believe that they plan to capture the Bijuu and jinchuriki and use them as weapons to take over the elemental nations."
Naruto stopped rocking back and forth. "Okay, seriously now, you can start laughing any time. I'm sorry I called your writing poor. You are obviously a master, as you have created this entire elaborate tale as a prank against me. I suggest you turn it into your next series."
"Naruto-kun, you know we aren't joking. Your father was Minato Namikaze, there is a plot to start the next great war, and you are unfortunately going to be an integral part of it, whether you are ready for it or not!"
Naruto uncurled and sat in the chair properly. "Fine. Nothing has changed from 15 minutes ago, except now I'm better prepared. I can deal with this. Deep breaths… … … You keep saying it's not so bad. What's the good news?"
Jiriya raised an eyebrow. "The good news is that they seem to need to wait for something. They've been raising funds for years, but Orochimaru's defection disrupted their plans. There seems to be more to it though. They don't know where the Bijuu, or the various jinchuriki, are located. Some are obvious; Kumo-gakure has shown off theirs for quite a while. Luckily, because of the law about you, it will be a bit trickier for them to find out. No one really talks to strangers about you, so unless they decide to be unsubtle, they will have a harder time of tracking you down."
"Okay, so do we know the members? Would I recognize any of their names? I ought to memorize them so I can make myself scarce if I see one of them…"
"If you see one, it's probably too late. But yeah we know a couple. Orochimaru left, as I said. Your teammate's brother we know of, as well as Kisame Hoshigaki. I've heard rumors that Sasori of the Red Sand has started showing up on the radar again, after quite a bit of time with no sign of him. Most of the info I've collected is half wild mass guessing. We do know there are ten positions, and they always wear black cloaks with a red cloud pattern. Silly hats, too."
"Man, I've heard those names… No clue who they are, but I can recognize them- that's bad!"
"They work in pairs as well."
Naruto started to go fetal again before Sarutobi beaned him with a paperclip.
"Ow… Alright, so what's going to happen now? Do I go on a training trip? Do I sign up for ANBU school?"
"ANBU school? Are you serious? You think there's a school?"
Sarutobi sighed, "Focus please."
"…No kid, you're still going to continue what you've been doing. Kakashi is pretty bright; he's done a fine job with you so far. You might not realize it, but your team is getting pushed faster than most. While Kakashi doesn't know any of this," he paused a moment, "probably anyway- he was one of Minato's pupils… Anyhow, he keeps his thumb wet and knows which way the wind blows. You still need more basics for now. Later… well, we might just see about that training trip, see if I can teach you a few of your dad's less famous techniques that I managed to pick up along with a few of my own."
"Whoa. That's awesome! Hey, can you tell me about him? You too, gramps. And… my mom as well? You must of known her too… Wait, you lied straight to my face about them when we were talking back on my exam day, old man!"
"Of course I did, you weren't supposed to know the truth yet. Even if you had been allowed, I wouldn't have discussed it in the middle of the village for anybody to hear. You still have a ways to grow if you can't figure out the easy stuff like this."
"Hmph. Well, you can make it up to me by telling me what you remember."
"We're not done with the info dump yet, settle down. There's still more to go over."
"Ten S-class nuke-nin who are planning on controlling the elemental nations by stealing the Bijuu and jinchuriki aren't enough, huh? There's more to tell me?"
"Your mother was the Kyuubi's container before you. When she gave birth to you, something happened and it came out."
"What? That contradicts everything publicly known! How did you manage to completely control the information flow and yet manage to let everyone and their little sister know I was the jinchuriki? Didn't people know my mom?"
"No one knew she was a container except for a few key people. As to your fame, you have your father, and some bad judgment on my part to blame," Sarutobi began. "Your father's last wishes were that you would be celebrated as a hero. He was a brilliant ninja, but slightly naïve at times."
"Hey, watch it old man," Jiriya started, "his philosophy-"
"Don't you start thinking you can call me old man as well," Sarutobi reasserted control of the discussion. "He was a true believer in the spirit of fire. He tended to see the best in people, just like the three of us. Unfortunately, as a kage, you can't have that luxury. I followed his wishes, hoping that he was right, and that people would see you as a symbol of safety and assurance, despite my worries. Naruto, many of my largest mistakes can be traced back to allowing myself too much compassion."
"Orochimaru can still be saved sensei-" Jiriya started.
"No he can't! Every day I regret that I didn't slay him when I had him right in front of me! He is no longer your friend! He was a great man once, but there is nothing left but a monster!" the God of Shinobi shouted.
Jiriya closed his eyes. "…Maybe so."
Sarutobi took a deep breath, letting it out in a sigh. "If you find him with your heart in turmoil like that, he will kill you, Jiriya-kun."
Naruto quietly observed the two, each a Titan in their own right, as they stared at each other. They looked away in synch, Jiriya pulled out a sketchbook and sat on a waist-high book case, one of many pieces of furniture devoted to book storage that lined the room. The Hokage opened his pipe drawer and retrieved the paraphernalia needed to light up.
Naruto didn't know when it was safe to say something; they both looked tense. Jiriya was sketching something, (if his reputation was accurate, it was safe to assume heaving bosoms would be involved) while the old man tapped his pipe out, and scraped the crud out with a brush. Naruto had watched him prepare his pipe many times; it was somewhat like watching a tea ceremony, only for tobacco.
"Um-" the men looked up at him. "I thought I'd go see what fur-butt would have to say about being in my mom, he's mostly been teaching about the Sage of Six Paths, not exactly current affairs…" They both looked intrigued at this, and the Hokage gave a minute shrug.
Naruto took this as approval, and started to dive into himself.
"Interesting that they decide to tell you this now, is it not?"
Naruto had just arrived and was slightly disoriented. "Why do you say that?" he asked, after he processed the question.
"I was in your mother for several years, I knew who your parents were. I was planning to tell you that after I got done with the important history."
"Important history? You spent an hour describing the Sage's favorite breakfast!"
"The Sage was an important man, and you will respect him!"
"I do! He was a god amongst men! I don't need to respect his breakfast preferences though. I can appreciate the value of chronological order, but maybe you should organize the history lessons by importance. You keep mentioning that there is a game being played, but I doubt it will be necessary for me to know about blueberry waffles in order to be a decent player!"
"Player? You're hardly a pawn at this point. With a bit of work you might be a… what do you call them… the horsies? Knight, yes. Unpredictable, can jump over other pieces, can fork two pieces unexpectedly… Yes, if we are lucky, and we pool our resources together, we might become a knight in time."
"Me? Or we? You aren't a player?"
"Ha! Trapped in your body, with no outside influence? I'm not valueless, but even restored to my true nature I'm just a queen…" Naruto saw a flash of illusion, a naked half-fox woman on a throne of gold, crown glittering with jewels.
Naruto rolled his eyes, and mentally poked the image, causing it to unravel.
"Did I get my pranking nature from you as well?" He blinked as the illusion disappeared to reveal the queen from the image standing in front of him.
"Well… let us say you were predisposed to it. Your mother gained some of my traits just by being my host. She gave birth to you, and you were almost immediately used as my next host. You have quite the interesting pedigree, especially if you consider my contributions."
"You really like to mess with people. You sure you aren't a player? Or maybe you were at some point…"
"… Make us some furniture, those 'beanbag' chairs at your clubhouse ought to be at your level of competence…"
Naruto closed his eyes and focused. "You seem to know a lot about my life, why exactly do you need a movie screen showing what I see when you can already tell?"
"It takes a lot of effort. There's also more static than I'd prefer if I try to see by myself."
Naruto grunted, as a large blue beanbag chair appeared across from a rough copy of the Hokage's chair. It was far from perfect, but the large, ornately carved chair was immediately identifiable. The queen smirked. "If you were smarter, I would have thought that was an attempt at a power play, giving yourself a big important chair like that, staring down on me…"
Naruto blinked, "Oh, that's why his office is set up like that. Heh, and I kept telling him to remodel so the place felt more comfy."
"As I said, if you were smarter…" they sat, or rather Naruto sat and the Yoko/woman amalgam reclined into the beanbag in such a way that she seemed to simply melt into it. Naruto blinked a few times when he realized she had finally stopped shifting around and had settled on a posture. The pose managed to look natural and comfortable, while simultaneously drawing attention to every aspect that made her female; from breasts, to hips, down to where her single, fluffy, fox tail came up between her open legs, slowly swinging back and forth, playing peek-a-boo with her 'feminine flower', as Jiriya once named it. He wasn't stupid enough to think the display was anything other than completely intentional.
Focusing on her face, he found a grin, though it was tinged with a hint of disappointment.
"I don't suppose you could knock that off?" he asked.
"How else am I supposed to have any fun? I swear kit; you have a force of will greater than the average tsunami. Most humans your age would be frothing at the mouth by now. Figures I'd be hoisted by my own petard. You must've gotten some of my natural perverseness as well, you're naturally resistant."
"Well, I did watch the female hot springs for like a week in order to perfect my Oiroke technique… Of course, if his reputation is anything to go by, simply having Jiriya-san named as my godfather probably outweighs any contribution you had."
She snorted, "Ah yes, the toad fool. I have often thought of how I would like to fuck him to death. The irony would be amusing," she smiled a predatory grin.
Taken aback at the mood change, Naruto asked, "Uh, what the heck did he do to you?"
"He trained your father, who is directly responsible for sticking me in this seal! I wish him dead for his part in my containment!" she shouted, her tail sticking out straight towards him in anger.
"Right, of course," Naruto placated. 'I keep forgetting she, er, he's sort of a demigod with an alien point of view…' "Am I getting fucked to death, or do you still plan on feasting on my bones?"
She seemed to calm at the question, looking away. "Wouldn't you like to know? I'm keeping my options open. I suppose I could always fuck you to death and then eat your bones. Hmm, you apes don't actually need any bones to achieve an erection, maybe I could consume your bones and then… Well, anyway, who knows, if you continue to be a good host, I might spare you entirely when I figure out how to escape."
Naruto looked a little green. "Why do you seem so certain that you'll escape?"
"Because, kit, you and I are going to be together for a long time, assuming you don't get yourself killed. I have plenty of time for some loophole to come along."
"Huh? What do you mean? I'm going to live a long time?"
"Oh my yes. Your mother… sacrificed herself to help seal me in you. My first container sealed me into herself after fully maturing, and also passed me down to your mother as she aged. If she had kept me bound, she would have lived another few decades at least. Your mother would have likely lived a few centuries. You, a second-generation host? Well, I'm not certain, it's never happened before. But I'm guessing we're going to know each other pretty well by the time you pass. Hmm, maybe I have been a bit forward…" she pondered.
Naruto looked like his brain had broke. "I'm going to live for centuries?"
"At least. You'll probably have to add a zero or two to get in the right vicinity," she said nonchalantly.
"But… my friends… Hinata!"
The queen looked rather embarrassed, and then frowned. An instant later Iruka was sitting on the bag, thankfully fully dressed. He walked over and put a hand on the blond.
"Believe it or not, I am sorry you will know the pain of the immortal. Losing every friend you make, every lover… It will be painful. But you must rejoice in knowing them while they live. Creating joy with others… One thing I can promise, your mind will never forget any memory you truly care about."
"What is with you? You're like tri-polar crazy! One second you're describing your plans to kill me, the next you're trying to comfort me, but only after dropping the largest shock of the day on me like it was nothing!"
Faux-Iruka looked sheepish, an expression that never would have worked on the Kyuubi's standard face. "Kit… How long ago do you think the Sage lived, keeping in mind he created the Bijuu?"
"Well, several hundred years ago is when the myths put it… But you mentioned being several thousand years old… I have no clue."
"I'm 63 thousand years old, give or take a dozen centuries. You know that some of us are crazy, or seemingly unintelligent? All of us have tried that. Heck, I spent a millennium convinced I was a chicken, compulsively attacking hardwood floors. Another thing to keep in mind? I've watched humanity crumble, rebuild, and dissolve again. You lot are like roaches, only you like to wipe out most of yourselves every 6,000 years or so. The Sage of Six Paths wasn't such an amazing man because he was powerful. Yeah, he was unstoppable back then, but most of the rest of his species were three hairs short of being poop-flingers at the time. Heck, despite what the myths say, you could have beaten him up. He discovered jutsu- that means there's been a lot of refinement since then."
"Why was he an amazing guy then?"
"Because he took a look around at his world, discovered magic, rallied your half-baboon great-great-great-to-the-25th-power-grandparents, and created a peace and stability that lasted ten thousand years before things went to hell… My point is, Bijuu are old. We've transcended crazy; we eat crazy for breakfast and shit sane two centuries later. So, forgive me if I seem a little odd to you. I've spent the last half-century in solitary confinement, at least until your mother and I got to know each other a bit better… I'm bitter."
"Look, I'm trying to meet you half way here, but you keep trying to mess with me. The sooner we get your window to the outside made, the sooner you'll have outside stimulus. Then you won't need to mess with me as much, and we can get more stuff done."
"…We shall see kit… You wish to know why I attacked Konoha?"
"Yes! What happened that day? Gramps is obviously missing some key piece to the puzzle from that day, your motive might be the key!"
"I just wanted to get the hell away while your mother's seal was vulnerable. The key that you all are missing is the main player of the game. His advantage is that no one thinks he's alive. Tell your Hokage that Madara Uchiha still wants revenge."
"…Wait, the Mada-" Naruto was able to get out, before a giant crimson tail whacked him in the face, and out of the prison.
Jiriya was leaning over the blond, whose shirt was pulled up so the man could study the seal. Said seal was active, and he was sketching various sections of it while simultaneously solving what looked like matrix calculus on the margins.
The seal flashed brightly for a moment before disappearing. Jiriya cocked an eyebrow, and finished another expression and sketch while it was still fresh in his mind.
Naruto's eyes opened, and focused on the man above him, then down at his stomach, and then back.
"Jiriya-san, I would like to give you the benefit of doubt, but I remember the one about the two young teens that run away from their feuding families to elope. Please show me the pad."
The toad sage looked surprised. "Man, if that's what you think of me, I need to get a PR agent. Sure kid, knock yourself out." He turned the pad around to show the seal sketches and math.
"…Right. Sorry. I just keep getting hit on by Fuzz-butt, and when you take into account that he can literally take any shape… My mind's just in the gutter."
"Wait, it's trying to bump uglies with you?" Jiriya asked confused.
"He's… really complex, shall we say. He just got done telling me that the Bijuu are over 60 thousand years old, and that they go insane for recreation, or something. More importantly, it told me that 'the player' it keeps referring to has the advantage because everyone thinks they're dead. And he told me that 'Madara Uchiha still wants revenge.' I'm no genius, but that suggests-"
"A very bad picture, Naruto-kun," Sarutobi said gravely. "As unlikely as it seems, his existence would explain many mysteries. If he orchestrated the day you were born, no wonder the Kyuubi attacked us. Certain other things take on new meaning in light of this… Should it be true."
Jiriya blew out some breath, "Well, we can almost guarantee he's a member, if not the elusive leader, of Akatsuki. He'd be able to control the Bijuu completely, making them effective weapons against the nations. This changes things. All right, we'll need to talk more later, but there's one last thing we need to speak of before we run some tests on you to determine how your shroud is affecting you."
"What is Hinata's cup size?" the man asked with a grin.
"I'm not telling you that! … Because I wouldn't know it, seeing as my Oiroke research was years ago, and the Hyuuga don't use the communal spring anyway."
The two older perverts looked at one another and chuckled. "That was a decent recovery, but you still aren't ready to keep secrets of this caliber kid. Come here, I need to put a seal on you," Jiriya said as he took out a small slip of rice paper and a razorblade.
"Time out, what kind of seal are we talking about here?"
"A potent secrecy seal. It prevents you from talking about specific things. Very useful, but normally it has the unpleasant side effect of frying parts of the brain during interrogation. So not something we can give to everyone. We modified it a bit, and between the changes, and your regenerative qualities, you'll merely get the occasional head ache."
"Wait, I'm getting a custom made, never before used seal that could result in brain damage?"
"Calm down, I've gone over the numbers a dozen times and checked the tests you did back when you were trying to read the whole library with clones. If I remember correctly, you should have been getting grand mal seizures instead of migranes."
"… I suppose I don't get a say in this?"
"Maybe if you gave me the occasional '–sama' instead of the guy who showed up again after a decade," the man said with a grin.
"How am I going to talk about it with you two?"
"You'll see; now stick out your tongue." Jiriya grabbed the protruding tongue, slashed the bottom of it with the razor, and slapped on the rice paper over the cut. There was a flash, then the paper was gone, along with the cut.
"Okay, time to test it. Who is your father?"
"… Um, you know, I have a funny feeling you've told me, but I can't recall… Waaaait a minute- oh wow. That thing's good! How do I talk about it if I need to though?"
"You can only do it in your Naruko form!" the frog sage exclaimed happily.
Sarutobi face palmed. "That's not what we agreed to…"
"Come on kid, let's see it! After we're done, you're showing me your Oiroke and Harem technique too!"
Naruto looked at the man bemusedly. "I don't think you can live through the Harem, but we'll talk about that later." He disappeared in a puff of smoke, reappearing as Naruko.
"Who's your dad?"
"Good! One second," he reached over and bent her finger back painfully. "Who's your dad?"
"I don't know! Ow! I'm an orphan!"
Jiriya let go of her finger. Pretending to buff his nails, he boasted, "Yep, I still got it!"
"Some god-uncle you are," Naruko frowned, rubbing her digit. "I suppose that was to test me under torture?"
"Yeah. Here, I'll give you a half hour window to talk normally." He grabbed a set of flute-pipes, blowing a tune that was half silent. Naruko thought she could almost hear some notes that he was clearly blowing.
"Pitch modulated seals, new idea of mine! One more thing before we leave the old man to his office! Here- while you were out, I made this for you." He flipped a few pages back on his large sketchpad and presented it to his nephew-slash-niece.
"That's… what they looked like?"
"Yeah. They were a great couple. They both loved each other so much…"
Naruko looked at the sketch of his parents that took up the whole page. The two were leaning against each other on a park bench, Minato's arm wrapped around Kushina, smiling at each other.
"They were both great ninja, and even better people," Sarutobi said wistfully.
"That they were," Jiriya agreed. He waited a minute or two until Naruko looked up at him, then gently tore the sheet out of the sketchpad. "It's cruel, but this will have to stay in his office. I'll draw you some more of your mom, since she isn't quite as identifiable. We've also got some photos you can see sometime soon… But right now we need to run some tests on your shroud, and see how it's affecting you…"
Naruko started to cry, before popping back to Naruto and hugging Jiriya. "I thought learning about the Kyuubi was hard back then… today I learned so much, and that's not even counting the fact I'm going to live to have a couple thousand birthdays!"
Jiriya held the boy while mouthing 'thousand birthdays?' towards his sensei.
Sarutobi shrugged, and mimed fox ears, then shrugged again.
"What's this about birthdays?"
"…Being a jinchuriki changes you, right? So my mom was changed, then gave birth to me, now I'm his container… He says I'm going to live a long time, and this is from the thing that's 63,000 years old!"
Jiriya held the teen; Naruto was on the verge of sobbing. "We'll figure something out, kid."
End Chapter the 14th.
I figure that's a good stopping point. We'll pick back up with aura tests, see Haku, and have a friendship and Naruto/Hinata chapter. Then chunin exams. Things are off the tracks as far as canon is concerned.