The Uzumaki Descendant
It's been a long while since I updated, for which I must profusely apologise. Surprise, surprise, being a second year law student is even more difficult. It's not like I haven't been writing though. I've written the first two chapters of not one, not two, but three new stories I've been working on. But more on that later. For now, just enjoy the chapter and don't forget to review and check the AN!
Also, Merry Christmas. An update for NPR should be out before 2014. Yeah...
Edited by A Fan1204
CH6: Honest Truths
(Approximately 25 Years into the Future)
A large ship swayed over the ocean waves several hundred miles out from the coast of Mizu no Kuni. It was an exceptionally large vessel with several masts, reaching four stories tall, sixty feet wide and at least twice the length. The ship was fitted for combat; cannons and harpoon guns were fixed on the ready on all sides. The ship was called the Gin no Otome, and belonged to a prominent merchant guild. The Mizu no Kuni flag waved visibly atop another, a grey and silver flag belonging to the merchant guild. This ship was under the protection of Mizu no Kuni and its forces.
Three identical and noticeably smaller military vessels accompanied the merchant ship, one at each side and one ahead of it.
The captain sat in his personal quarters, keeping up to date with his logs and chartering when a large crashing sound and the shouts of his men roused his suspicion. The captain barged out of his comfy quarters and onto the deck. His jaw dropped as his eyes clouded with a thick fog. "What the hell is going on?" the captain barked at one of his many deckhands. His confusion was not unfound for it had been sunny mere moments before. "Turn on the lights!" he ordered. "And get me on the line with the commodore."
"We're frozen in, captain!" another deckhand shouted. "We're stuck!"
"What?" the captain exclaimed. He quickly made his way to the side of the ship as quickly as his portly figured permitted. The fog obscured much of his view but he saw the thick ice at the side of his vessel. How had they missed it?
The captain shivered. Where was this fog coming from, and how did it suddenly get so cold? He had never encountered such a strange occurrence in his long tenure as captain of the Silver Maiden. For a second of madness he considered the possibility he had charted their journey wrong on their way to Frost Country. He quickly dismissed the notion as impossible. Something else was going on.
The lights finally turned on, casting rays of light over the deck. "Alright, calm down everyone!" the captain ordered.
His deckhand came running again carrying a radio. "The navy commodore, sir."
For the pretty penny they were paying Mizu no Kuni, they had best have some answers, the captain thought as he grabbed the radio. "This is the captain speaking. What is going on, commodore?"
"We're catching nothing on the radar. Our sensors aren't catching anything either. This ice formation isn't natural, sir. We may be under attack."
"Well, I ain't paying you for nothing so take care of it!" the captain demanded.
"We're doing the best we can, sir, but keep in mind, following your direction to take a shortcut, it's possible we have entered Uzu no Kuni waters. They don't take kindly to strangers, least of all foreign military."
Irate, the captain squeezed the radio again to mouth off, only to be interrupted by a panicked shout.
"Movement in the water! Starboard!"
The captain squeezed the transmission button on his radio. "You heard that?"
"We did, sir. We'll need your help lighting up on starboard."
"Lights!" the captain roared to this crew. "Come on, turn the damned lights on! Now!"
The spotlights on starboard lit up. The captain didn't know what to make of it, and from the sound of it, neither did his crew.
A single silhouette moved through the fog, seemingly walking on water and ice towards them. It was an eerie and frightening sight none of them could make any sense of. "Fire your weapons, commodore!"
"Is that wise, sir? We don't know what we're dealing with."
Fear clouded the captain's mind. They were running precious cargo, rare minerals worth astronomical amounts of money, and his employers had allowed him significant expense allowances to hire additional security. There was no way in hell he would take any chances. "I don't care, just do it, damn you!"
"Standby. Repositioning all ships for cannon fire."
A minute later several the commodore's cannons began sound off, one after another with hardly any intervals. Cannonballs crashed in the water and chunks of ice exploded into the air under the onslaught of artillery. The scent of gunpowder grew stronger. "Load up our cannons! There might be more of them! We're not taking any chances!"
The crew roared as they fell in line, moving swiftly to their positions as they loaded up. "Try and rob me, did you?" the captain laughed crudely. "That'll teach those damn pirates not to mess with-!"
A series of loud crashes and terrified screams ripped through the cold air. A moment later a series of gigantic spikes of ice abruptly, and violently, erupted from the ocean, towering over the captain's ship. The commodore's ship sat atop the construct, skewered whilst the two other ships were wholly encased in thick, glossy ice.
The ice continued to spread like a symbiotic life form, claiming the stern of the enormous merchant ship like a plague of artic blue. The cold was near unbearable, and the fog thickened so much it could've been cut, mould and worn for a robe of cold.
"Keep it together, men!" the captain barked as he embraced himself. "What in the hell is going on?" he whispered to himself.
Suddenly the fog lifted, revealing the silhouetted figure.
The captain could hardly believe his eyes.
A young man fitted in a black kimono with navy blue trim fitted for combat sat on a barrel, an arm resting on his a raised knee. He appeared to be on the cusp of adulthood, and effortlessly handsome with his jet-black hair, smooth light skin and piercing blue eyes. The youth's kimono was emblazoned with a snowflake over his heart and on his back. Young though he was, he had a certain gravity to him as though he could silence a crowd with his presence alone. "Greetings."
"Who are you?" the captain demanded unsheathing his sword and levelling it towards the young man. "Speak boy! Now, before I skin you alive!
"My name is Yuki Seijūrō. I am a captain with Uzu no Kuni's naval fleet and command the Fuyu no Kōgō. It's a pleasure making your acquaintance," the young man introduced himself with a polite bow of his head.
"Are you mocking me, boy?" The captain turned to his crew. "Men!"
Seijūrō's eyes pierced those of the captain. "There is no need for violence, captain. I had hoped to resolve this matter peacefully."
"Peacefully? You just destroyed our entire convoy!" the captain bellowed. "What are you waiting for, attack!"
The crewmen reached for their swords, only to find it impossible to unsheathe them. Upon closer inspected they found out they were sealed shut by the cold, or more specifically, a thin sheet of ice that had materialised inside their sheaths. Abandoning his sword, one particular crewman found an axe and charged at the young man.
Seijūrō caught the axe by the blade in one hand, much to the astonishment of the captain. His hand was encased in thick ice. The captain of the Winter Empress retaliated with an ice-encased palm strike to the crewman's chest, and sent him flying. The crewman crashed into one of the masts painfully, his head hung as he slipped into unconsciousness.
The light fixed on Seijūrō properly. "You're just a kid!" the captain outraged. "How old are you?"
"Seventeen," Seijūrō answered shortly. "Not that it matters. Now, are you done, captain?"
The captain grudgingly lowered his sword and effectively called off his men. "What do you want?"
"You illegally entered Uzu no Kuni waters under military convoy of a foreign nation," Seijūrō informed as he got off the barrel and approached the captain. He spoke with the dignity of a noble, courteous but aware of his own standing. "We must respectfully request you adjust course and leave peacefully."
"That's it? You destroyed my entire escort just to tell me that?" the captain demanded through gritted teeth.
"I could only dodge so many cannonballs before I had to retaliate, captain," Seijūrō said with all seriousness. "Next time, please try to engage in peaceful dialogue before resorting to violence."
The captain was at a loss for words. He was furious with the boy – as that was what he was, a boy – but he had his wits about him still, and knew, on a primal level, that if he ordered his men to attack that not only would they fail, they wouldn't even stand a chance.
"I see you understand your position, captain," Seijūrō raised two fingers and erected an ice panel behind him. "Then I'll be on my way."
The young captain stepped back into the ice panel and vanished from sight, leaving the older captain stunned. "Yuki Seijūrō… why is that name familiar?"
"Captain," his deckhand broke the silence. "Don't you remember? He's the son of…"
(Present Time - Nami no Kuni: Tazuna's House)
Naruto sat at the head of the table in the kitchen. The house was eerily quiet; an air of tension and apprehension clung to the air. At his left sat Tazuna and Kaiza, each with identical looks of discomfort aimed towards Zabuza and Haku seated at his right. Tsunami had immediately taken little Inari out of the house when the former Kiri-nin and his subordinate showed up as per his request. The housewife's face had turned white as a sheet as her husband ushered them out.
Tazuna was less afraid of them with his presence but the de facto leader had changed over the past few days and grown more level-headed. He hadn't been seen anywhere near a bottle for a while now. Rather than blow his top, he kept his silence. There was no small talk. It was clear he wasn't pleased to see them alive, much less have them in his house, but he knew better than to question Naruto.
Naruto's eyes studied the clock intently every few minutes. He felt a gnawing sensation in his stomach. Anxiety, perhaps. He had been nervous many a time before growing up, particularly when reciting complex fūinjutus principles, memorising hand seals and history, and performing jutsu that grew increasingly more difficult under Hattori's supervision, but this was different.
Days ago he had known no more than three people not counting his partner, and now he stood to rule over more than two hundred. Hattori's plan had been put in motion from the day his training began but this was the first time Naruto had done anything of significance of his own accord to contribute to the revival of Uzu no Kuni. He had taken the initiative and was proud of it, but the gnawing would not go away.
'Am I getting ahead of myself, Kurama?' he asked his companion. 'I feel anxious.'
'With good reason,' Kurama replied through their mental link. 'I do not think the people will refuse you, the man who brought them salvation, but you stand to take on a great many responsibilities. Calm yourself before you have a panic attack.'
Naruto studied Tazuna. The resentment was still there, even if the bridge-builder refused to give it voice. "Tazuna-san. How much longer?"
Of course he knew. Fifteen minutes and forty-three seconds remained until the polls at the town hall would be closed.
"About fifteen minutes," Tazuna answered curtly. "But I'm sure you already know that, don't you?"
Naruto gave Zabuza a mindful glance. "Is there anything you want to get off your chest before then, Tazuna-san?"
"I do, actually," the bridge-builder said. "I am not exactly thrilled having Gatō's dogs in my house, much less have them around for much longer."
Zabuza kept his composure, unfazed by the insult. Haku's expression was likely as expresionless as the mask she insisted on wearing. Naruto had grown to dislike the mask. "Zabuza-san and his subordinates have decided to join my cause. They are skilled shinobi and worthwhile, I am sure."
"They also helped Gatō terrorise this village! They are just as guilty as the scum that hired them," the village leader said.
Naruto held his gaze unimpressed. "While they certainly are not entirely innocent, they only recently came into serving Gatō. You mustn't forget that they are shinobi, Tazuna-san, as am I. Shinobi do not do what is right, they do what they are told and paid to do."
"So that makes everything alright then?" the disgruntled middle-aged man demanded. "So long as they're on our side it doesn't matter what they did to us or would have done to us if their master ordered them to, is that what you're saying?"
"We have no master, old man," Zabuza spoke with an edge to his otherwise calm tone. "It was nothing personal, just business."
"Well, I don't see it that way!" Tazuna burst out, slamming his palms on the table.
"I didn't expect you to," Zabuza shrugged indifferently. "You're a civilian, you're beholden to your ethics and morals. You don't have to dirty your own hands. That makes it easy to judge others. You don't even see your own hypocrisy, do you?"
Tazuna grit his teeth. "I suppose I should humour you. Pray tell, where does my hypocrisy lay?"
"You hired a shinobi to kill your enemies." The wielder of Kubikiribōchō nodded to the youngest man in the room. "How are you any different than Gatō?"
The vein in Tazuna's neck threatened to explode. "Gatō was a tyrant! We had no quarrel with him, yet he sicced his mercenary scum on civilians!"
"I suppose you think that's makes you better than him, but in actual fact your intentions don't mean anything to a shinobi. It doesn't make you any different, old man." Zabuza crossed his arms and shook his head with a humourless chuckle. "It doesn't surprise me you don't appreciate the difference though."
'You should nip this in the bud,' Kurama advised.
Naruto gave the slightest of nods. 'I will, but for now I want to hear what they have to say. It's best they clear the air now rather than let this fester until it becomes a real problem.'
"You civilians are all the same," Zabuza continued. "You're content to use us for your ends so long as you don't have to get your own hands dirty. You demonise us but you use us nonetheless. Gatō hired me to kill you. You hired Naruto-san to kill Gatō. Dress it up however you like with morality and ethics all you want, but at the end of the day you are no different."
A tense silence resonated through the room.
Naruto eyed both sides of the table. Tazuna sat back down and continued to scowl at Zabuza, who remained unimpressed. "Are you done?"
"For now," Tazuna said gruffly.
"Good, then it's time to get back to the matter at hand." Naruto glanced to Taji for a moment. "Assuming the referendum results are as planned, we need to make sure word does not leave the island. Not until it is safe to do so."
Taji took his hand in her own. "Whatever you are going to do, you need to do it quickly. You are expected in Konoha."
"That is a problem," Kaiza said concerned. "How long will you be gone, Naruto-san?"
"I cannot say with certainty." He could tell none of them was comfortable with that. "Before I leave I will place several barriers around the island to ensure the people's safety."
"What kind of barriers?" Tazuna asked.
"I won't bore you with specifics, you wouldn't understand them anyway." He wasn't being condescending, simply factual. He doubted even Zabuza would have the faintest idea what he was talking about if he went into details. "The barriers are of my own design, built upon sealing Uzumaki clan principles dating back several centuries. They will keep Nami no Kuni safe from harm, through siege and invasion. No one will be able to enter this place from the outside without my authorisation."
Kaiza squirmed under the thought. "Uzumaki-san."
"You're concerned," Naruto stated. "What is it?"
"Won't those barriers get in the way of commerce?" the fisherman asked as politely as possible, hoping not to cause offense.
"We need to get food and medicine to Nami no Kuni," the fisherman's father-in-law further supplied. "And materials for the bridge."
"That reminds me, I must ask you to cease construction on the bridge for the time being, Tazuna-san." At this even Zabuza perked up.
Naruto saw the bulging vein make its return. "Rest assured that food and medicine will reach your shores. In fact, they should already be on the way."
The heir turned his attention to Tazuna. "As for your bridge, Tazuna-san, while I am not unsympathetic, you must realise that word of Gatō's failure will have reached Hi no Kuni by now. Where he failed, others will likely try again. Therefore it is most unwise to build a bridge to the mainland. Not only is it costly on resources, you would simply make it easier."
"That bridge is a symbol to this country!" Tazuna said loudly. "The people look to it for hope and courage-"
"I will be the symbol of hope and courage for this country, Tazuna-san," Naruto spoke firmly as he locked eyes with the older man. "No aggressor shall ever again set foot on these lands."
"You're no king yet, boy!" Tazuna spat. "Don't presume you can rule us without regard for our values!"
The temperature in the room instantly dropped significantly as an unknown pressure rose.
Zabuza stirred in his seat. 'His chakra spiked only for a split second but I got a sense of its depth… It's like staring into a bottomless pit,' the shinobi swordsman thought with no small apprehension. From a mere glance he could tell Kaiza was unsettled.
"Tazuna-san," Naruto spoke as calmly . "I do believe I made it clear you ought to be addressing me with more respect." His eyes seemingly turned a darker shade of blue, glinting coldly.
Tazuna swallowed thickly and mumbled an apology. In the back of his mind he couldn't help but wonder how close he had been to death.
'You should have a thicker skin,' Kurama chastised. 'What ruler loses his composure over such an insignificant slight?'
'Theatrics, Kurama,' Naruto responded with the slightest twitch of his mouth. 'I suspected his tongue would slip once more.'
'You had me fooled,' the bijū said with seemingly newfound respect. 'Such unexpected cunning… Perhaps I taught you better than I thought.'
Naruto had a particularly rude comeback in mind but saved it. He was in the middle of an important meeting after all. "Don't let it happen again."
"Naruto-san," Kaiza spoke up again with a nervous smile. It was obvious he wanted to change the subject for his father-in-law's sake. "You said food and medicine are on the way?"
"That is correct." Naruto smiled mischievously. "Bought and paid for by Gatō himself." From the corner of his eye he saw Zabuza visibly smirk beneath his bandages.
"Gatō?" Kaiza repeated dumbly. "But Gatō's dead."
"Not quite," Zabuza revealed with odd satisfaction. "He's currently rotting away in one of his own cells while we're bleeding him dry financially. Gatō Industries will be supplying the people with all the food, medicine and supplies they need for years to come."
Naruto raised an eyebrow. Zabuza had purposefully lied on his behalf. To say Gatō was rotting away was an exaggeration to say the least. Though a prisoner, the amoral little man was confined to his quarters. He had a fire, a comfortable bed and plenty of alcohol left to pass the time. It was far more than he deserved, true, but he was about to lose his entire life's work in reparations. "I had Gatō send word to his corporate headquarters with specific instructions to send a freighter with supplies roughly twenty miles from here. The first shipment should be enough to last our relatively small population for months, and there is more on the way of course."
Father and son-in-law looked at each other with disbelief before bursting out in roaring laughter. Even Kaiza couldn't hold back his laughter, though his reaction was not as grand as Tazuna whose laughter actually had him tearing up.
"And here I was worried they would take offense," Naruto said to his mother who had been quiet all day. "Mother?"
Taji's vacant eyes stared soullessly at her son.
Naruto frowned. "Mother," he called again.
Taji snapped out of her daze as though she was roused from a dream. "Yes, Naru-chan?"
'She still calls you that even now, here?' Kurama guffawed.
Naruto turned a light shade of red, ignoring the fox as best he could. "Nothing. You should go lie down, you look tired," he said dismissively.
"I'll go do that." Taji rose out of her seat and wandered off to her room.
He didn't like the look he was getting from Tazuna and Zabuza. "Not a word." He'd have to remind his mother not to address him so affectionately in the presence of others next time.
'She's your mother, know your place.'
'That's unusual coming from you, Kurama.'
'Children should respect their parents,' the bijū replied.
"And when we're done using Gatō, then what?" Tazuna asked.
Naruto expected the question. "I believe Gatō will be of use to us for quite some time, Tazuna-san."
"And when he isn't?" the bridge-builder pressed.
"Then I'll deal with him."
"What does that mean?"
Zabuza eyed Tazuna. "You're being too pushy, old man."
"Stay out of it, no-brows!"
Naruto sighed as they glared at one another. "You are trying my patience, Tazuna-san."
"Am I now?" the bespectacled man said belligerently. "Well excuse me for not wanting to have to put up with a murderous punk longer than necessary."
Naruto mouth turned into a thin line. "No."
"No, you won't be excused," Naruto said coldly. The man had to be put in his place. "In the short time that I've been here I been of great service to the people of Nami no Kuni. Gatō's regime has been ended, his rōnin are either dead, imprisoned or have fled. Food, medicine and other supplies are on their way as we speak. I have done all this and you continue to question my judgment."
Tazuna's expression remained stony. "Let's not pretend you did all this out of the goodness in your heart. You only helped us because you want to rule us. That was the deal, wasn't it?"
"If that's the case then why have we been talking about the referendum for the entire evening?" Zabuza looked to either side of the table for an answer.
"The referendum is a foregone conclusion," Tazuna replied, though his eyes remained on Naruto. "He's as good as daimyō already, but you already knew that, didn't you? We all know it."
'He's pushing the limits of my patience,' Naruto thought ominously. 'I thought I made myself perfectly clear.'
'Your inexperience is showing,' Kurama commented. 'He knows you cannot hurt him. You would lose the people the moment you lay a hand on him.'
Naruto frowned internally. 'I had no such plans, Kurama.'
'Good,' the gargantuan fox replied. 'You will have to earn his trust with actions, not words. He is the key to successful dominion over the people.'
"Gatō will pay for what he has done," Naruto vowed.
He almost grit his teeth. "When we no longer have use for him, the people will have their justice. For now you should be satisfied that his life's work, the empire he has built for himself, will be used to make reparations."
"Speaking of the dwarf, Gatō's got a lot of money," Zabuza said. "He paid me a thirty million ryō retainer for a month's work. He paid half as much for Haku and five each for the Demon Brothers. He liked to complain about it but I always knew it was hardly a fraction of what he's worth."
"Where are you going with this, Zabuza-san?" Kaiza asked.
Naruto and Tazuna caught on immediately.
"That is out of the question," Naruto agreed.
"Be reasonable." The former Kiri-nin's brows furrowed
"What's going on?" Kaiza looked around the table confused. "What is he proposing?"
"Zabuza-sama is proposing hiring freelance shinobi to defend Nami no Kuni," Haku supplied helpfully. She offered no opinion of her own, either happy to let her master make his case on his own or simply not bothered with either outcome.
The fisherman frowned at her as though it was her idea. "That's preposterous! There is no way the people will accept that, not after what Gatō did."
"Damn right they won't," his father-in-law grunted.
"I understand your reasoning, Zabuza-san, but I am in agreement with Tazuna-san and Kaiza-san on this," Naruto decided. The thought had crossed his mind the night before but he quickly dismissed the idea. Not only would it upset the people, he couldn't trust outsiders to protect Nami no Kuni, there was simply too much at stake.
"We're going to need the manpower," the sword wielding shinobi reminded them. "In case those barriers of yours collapse."
Naruto forced a thin smile. Uzumaki in general weren't fond of their jutsu being called into question. "The chance of that happening is infinitesimal, but I understand the need for a contingency plan."
"What do you suggest?" Tazuna queried.
"You will know by tomorrow," he replied vaguely. The contingency he had in mind wasn't exactly from a textbook. It would take some preparation. "Until we can build a shinobi force of our own we'll need to make plans for securing more manpower, on that point I agree with you wholeheartedly, Zabuza-san."
"Hold on a minute, what do you mean by that?" Tazuna demanded. "A shinobi force of our own?"
Naruto blinked. "Surely you understand we'll need some form of a standing army to defend ourselves, Tazuna-san?"
"Sure I did, but I'm not comfortable with having children dying for that cause! No offence, but judging from the way you turned out, my conscience can't support a program like that!" Tazuna said bluntly.
"There's that civilian ignorance again," Zabuza spat. "You had no qualms using him when it worked to your advantage but now you've gotten what you needed you're back on your high horse again, condemning the very thing that brought you salvation!"
Naruto raised a silencing hand before further argument could break out. "Tazuna-san, before you say anything that offends us even more, allow me to assure you that so long as I draw breath my people will never have to support any program similar to the one that I endured."
"I find that hard to believe, given the results," the de facto village leader questioned. "Who wouldn't want an army of you?"
"I for one," Naruto replied coldly, deciding there was some truth to the Zabuza's words. "You speak of things you know nothing."
"I doubt we could pull it off even if he wanted to," Zabuza added with a curious look at the blond. "Naruto-san is an Uzumaki. That may not mean much to you, but any shinobi worth their salt knows exactly how dangerous they are because of their unique vitality. Whatever he had to go through to become as strong as he is, I doubt there's anyone else out there that could survive it."
Tazuna had the good grace to seem at least a small measure of sheepish. "I may be out of my depth here."
Zabuza snorted derisively. "You're damn right you are."
"I believe we could use a break," Naruto called as a tense silence resumed. "I am sure we all have each other's best interest in mind. We are on the same side and that is what is important to remember."
"Don't be so sure," Zabuza remarked with a sideways glare at the bridge-builder. "If this is a preview of what's to come then I have to be honest and say I don't hold much optimism for the future of this country."
Naruto refrained from smiling. It was good to know Zabuza had the future in mind. "I understand your concerns, Zabuza, and yours Tazuna," he added with a mindful look to the oldest man in the room. "I am very much a student of history, and the Uzumaki clan has the greatest archive in the world, thus I am very familiar with the… discomforts of an alliance such as this." Neither bridge-builder not shinobi seemed very optimistic. "I think it's best we clear the air now. For that purpose we must be honest and upfront with one another." He gestured to Tazuna. "Tazuna-san, I am perfectly aware of your concerns. You feel that a government run by shinobi will not have the people's interest at heart."
"That's… somewhat accurate."
"And you, Zabuza, do not want to feel misused and judged by the people you are supposed to protect."
Zabuza held his gaze but gave neither response nor any inclination for that matter.
"Perhaps we have been getting ahead of ourselves," Naruto conceded to their astonishment. "I have been focused so much on assuming leadership over Nami no Kuni, I failed to consider your legitimateconcerns. For that, I apologise."
Both were visibly stunned by his apology, as though he had just displayed a level of maturity they simply hadn't expected, and perhaps that was the case. Naruto could tell he had them then, for now at least.
"Before all else, I propose a separation of powers if you will, in order to ensure that both civilian and military interests are addressed," he finished. "Tazuna-san, you will be entrusted with all matters regarding the civilian populous. Zabuza-san, you will be in charge of our military force. I will be the balance in between and will take an interest in sides and the final authority on all matters."
"Sorta like Hi no Kuni's Ministers of the Left and the Right, huh?" Tazuna scratched his growing stumble. "Yeah, that could work."
"I have no complaints," Zabuza agreed after moment of consideration. "But why would you be so eager to defer authority to either of us?"
"Experience," Naruto answered simply. "For all the power and knowledge I may have, I was raised in isolation. I know things, but I do not necessarily understand them."
'Careful with your words, Naruto. You do not want them to think of you as weak,' Kurama cautioned.
'I am weak, Kurama. In this regard anyway,' he told the fox. It was important they knew he needed them, that they were important in his plans, so that they might come to understand trust him. "Then we have an understanding?"
"For now," both men replied simultaneously. They scowled at one another for a moment. It was almost comical.
There was a knock on the door.
Naruto looked to Tazuna curiously. "So soon?"
"Looks like it."
Kaiza rose out of his chair and disappeared for a moment. He returned shortly with the messenger, who then placed a sealed document on the table. "The results."
Naruto reached but stalled and looked to both sides of the table. They wore expressions of apprehension and uncertainty, unsure of what to expect, even though they were forging their plans mere minutes ago.
The envelope levitated and floated to Tazuna. "I think it best you do the honours, Tazuna-san."
"Yes, thank you." Tazuna plucked the envelope from the air and carefully undid the seal. The room fell silent as they intently waited to hear the results.
Naruto tried to read Tazuna's body language but the old man kept his cool and gave nothing away. 'Remain calm,' he told himself.
After what felt like an eternity, Tazuna finally spoke up. "It appears Nami no Kuni has a new leader. Congratulations."
Naruto sighed in relief but quickly regained his composure, adopting a grave expression. "Thank you, Tazuna-san." He rose out of his chair and extended a hand to the bridge-builder.
"We're kin now, you and me," Tazuna said quietly in all seriousness as they shook hands. "I trust you'll keep your promise to protect our people."
"You have my word," Naruto acknowledged seriously, nodding as mentally committed himself to his new responsibilities. "There remains a lot of work to do, and many obstacles ahead of us, but I am confident that we can overcome them together."
Zabuza leant on the table, his shark-like smirk clear under his bandages. "We'll see."
Kurama chuckled. 'So it begins.'
(The Next Day)
The entire village had turned out to hear him speak outside the town hall. The referendum had passed and the word has spread. He was their leader now, and they were his people. Exactly what that entailed, he wasn't so sure even he knew. What he did know was that they would look to him now, that they would expect him to know what to do, to lead them down the right path. He had made plans with his ancestor, they had talked at length – or rather, Hattori had talked at length and he had simply listened obediently. No measure of planning could have prepared him for what he was feeling now, for what he was thinking. He was a leader now, with over two hundred under his charge.
They awaited his words patiently, quietly. He would not rush them. He could not rush them. Whatever he would say next, it had to be honest. It had to be sincere. By those words he would finalise the referendum.
By those he would become a leader.
"I know you're all afraid of what you've signed up for," he began in a loud voice so they could chear him clearly. Perhaps it wasn't his best choice of words, but it felt right. It felt honest. "I promise you, by no small measure do I feel the same. This world is not very forgiving. It is human nature to conflict with others, to exploit them out of a primal sense of fear that they would do to us what we do them if given the chance."
They began to wonder where he was going with this, he could see it in their eyes, and he felt the same. Where was he going with this? He was never one to speak before thinking, so why was did he start now of all times?
"You have suffered at the hands of men you do not know, men that do not care for your wellbeing. These men have taken your freedom, your security, and your livelihoods. For some, they have taken their loved ones."
His words resonated with the people. His words were perhaps not cheerful, but they were truthful. He was not there to make promises he couldn't keep, to sell them on a dream he could not realise for them. He was there to make things better, and they were beginning to see it.
"I wish to never see the suffering you have endured ever again, and on my life, no aggressor shall ever step foot on Nami no Kuni soil ever again. As the heir of the most ancient and great Uzumaki clan and rightful leader of Uzu no Kuni, I have placed this land and its people under my protection."
There were no cheers. Only uncertainty. The vast majority of them knew nothing Uzu no Kuni, and they knew nothing of him.
"I know this referendum did not pass easily. I know many of you have your doubts and fears, and I know that many of those who did vote for in favour did so out of desire for security. I will not pretend I have your trust, that I need not earn it still. What I will do is to make it my life's purpose to ensure you the safety and prosperity for which you voted in favour of this referendum. The nations of Uzu and Nami are now one."
The cheering began. Slowly at first, but before long they were all giving voice to their support. Naruto glanced to his right and saw his mother. He smiled at her, but all he got in return was a worrying, soulless expression and unfocused eyes. The crowd demanded his attention.
"People of Nami no Kuni," he spoke up again, louder this time. "As your newly elected protector, my chief concern is to ensure a steady stream of supplies. As we speak, a freighter is on its way to deliver food and medicine. It is the first of many." Their cheers grew ever louder, and more approving. "Tazuna-san will be serving as my advisor. He will hear your concerns and requests when I am not available. Please also speak to him if there are specific supplies required."
They were chanting his names as he left to attend to his mother. He had earned their trust and adoration for now, and he had every intention to build on that further.
(Uzu no Kuni)
Hattori sat cross-legged on the floor, his eyes closed and hands entwined in a hand seal. Though it had only been merely days since his descendant embarked on his journey, the relic had gained some noticeable weight. Colour had returned to his skin and strands of red flowed from his crown.
The relic's eyes opened with a snarl. "Such betrayal!" Hattori clenched his fists and grit his teeth. Anger and hate boiled inside him as though his rage threatened to quite literally make him explode. This was not how it was supposed to be, it was not meant to be this way. The plan did not account for this.
What good was it if the boy did not abide by it? Oh, how he hated him now. He had always resented the boy's strength, his youth, his potential, but now he hated the boy for all that he was. He was a betrayer, an oath breaker! He had betrayed him at the first opportunity for independence. After he had poured all of his time and effort into moulding the boy,
Hattori vowed to make the boy suffer for his betrayal. He vowed to make him hurt, to make him pay for his insolence. He vowed he would destroy the boy for this.
Vengeance would be his, and vengeance was served best by an Uzumaki. What better way to make your enemy pay than to lull them into a false sense of security, to make them feel as though their plans went smoothly, as though their satisfaction would last, only to then tear their world asunder and lay waste to their hopes and dreams in a utterly ruthless and methodical fashion? What better way indeed.
Hattori cackled darkly as he reigned himself. 'Let the boy do as he please for now,' he convinced himself. 'There will be a time and place for retribution. All that is required is patience.'
(Nami no Kuni)
In the hours after his speech, it appeared each and every single last citizen of Nami no Kuni requested a personal audience with him. Even some of the children had dropped by to give their thanks and adoration. At first he felt an overwhelming wraith of anxiousness, though he put on a façade of calm and collectedness, but with time he grew used to seeing so many faces. He made the effort of memorising them all, and the names that went with it. He even bothered to remember details like occupations and interests whenever they were brought up.
'That'll only make it harder when you must make decisions for the greater good,' Kurama chimed in as the last visitor left, a colleague of Tazuna. 'You can't please everyone.'
'Perhaps not, but that doesn't mean I shouldn't try to.'
Kurama harrumphed. 'That kind of inefficient thinking is unlike you, Naruto.'
'Is it a bad thing?' He was genuinely curious to know.
'It can be.'
'I'll keep that in mind,' he promised as he rose. Tazuna remained seated next to him. "Have either of you seen my mother?"
"I think Taji-san went home with Tsunami," Tazuna answered.
Naruto nodded thanks. "It's about time we go. My clones have deposited the significant amount of chakra I parted with each of them and finished setting up foundations of the seal. Isn't right, Zabuza-san?"
The shinobi in question touched silently from the bannisters and nodded. "According to one of your clones you just have to activate it now."
"Once I leave the island, I will."
"The Demon Brothers are asking when they can avoid the villagers," Zabuza relayed. "I don't mind per se, at least not for now, but it can cause some issues later down the road."
"Fair enough." Naruto looked to the bridge-builder. "I've asked Tazuna-san to take care of this issue in my absence. He has agreed to smoothen things over with the people when the time is right?"
"And when will this be?" Zabuza asked the man in question directly.
Tazuna held his gaze. "When the time is right."
"Message received," Zabuza grunted with a resentful tone.
Not wanting to go down this road again, Naruto quickly moved on. "I'll be departing this evening."
"So soon?" both older men said simultaneously.
He denied himself a laugh at their expense. "It is not ideal, but I will be making frequent journeys back here."
"With that space-time jutsu of yours," Zabuza surmised.
"That's is correct," Naruto confirmed. "In the unlikely event there's a threat you are unprepared to face and the barriers fail, I will be leaving a clone of mine behind." Naruto stepped away from them and formed a hand seal. "Kage Bunshin no Jutsu." He might as well make a demonstration of this, he reasoned, given how vulnerable he made himself before them earlier.
A single Shadow Clone burst into existence next to him.
"Just one Kage Bunshin?" Zabuza said bemused. "Assuming there's a threat I can't deal with, a single Bunshin might not do the trick. Perhaps you mean to insult me?"
"Of course not, and I'm not done yet," Naruto said with a knowing smile as he continued to form a string of complex hand seals, many of which Zabuza now realised he didn't recognise. "Allow me to demonstrate something very interesting, Zabuza-san." Naruto placed his hand on his clone's back. "Onmyōton: Ishi Jitsugen."
A shroud of black and white chakra enveloped the clone, and swirled like a miniature hurricane, seemingly melding with the clone as it vanished, leaving the clone's head hung low as though awaiting activation like a puppet without chakra strings attached.
Naruto observed their reactions, ranging from confused to outright disturbed. Though they couldn't even begin to comprehend the complexity of what his jutsu, his Will Materialisation technique, was, they knew they had witnessed something extraordinary. Something unnatural. He fought the desire to show his satisfaction.
'You're enjoying this more than you should be.'
'I am,' he admitted. "This clone is a truer replica of myself than any other jutsu known to me, short of actual cloning that is. His strength and intellect are comparable to my own. If necessary, he can act as a medium between you and I."
"No jutsu is that convenient," Zabuza said with disbelief. "There has to be a drawback to it somehow."
"There are two," Naruto extended two fingers for emphasis. "One, there's an expiration date to this one. Regardless of where it is activated or not, my clone will cease to exist in three months"
"And the second drawback?" Tazuna asked.
"It will last up seventy-two hours under combat conditions. If used sparingly, we can make use of him for a month, provided he doesn't use up the considerable chakra I imparted," Naruto explained simply. "I know it's not ideal, but I will have to rely on you to be the intermediary between the people and myself, Tazuna-san. If they ask, tell them the truth, or rather, variation of it."
"You mean you want me to lie," Tazuna interpreted, a stern expression on his aged face.
"Tell them I've gone abroad to do business in the interest of the people, which is the truth," Naruto promised, refusing to show his annoyance. "You won't be lying to them. You'll simply be telling them what you can."
Tazuna didn't like it, that much was obvious. The man wore his emotions on his sleeves when it came to his people. "Can you at least tell us what you're going to be doing in Hi no Kuni?"
Naruto hesitated. They were his people now, he wanted to reward that trust, but at the same time he couldn't afford to divulge too much. Not so soon anyway. Perhaps he could tell them a part of the truth, if not all of it. "I'm expected to become a member of Konohagakure's shinobi force. Of course I have no such intentions," he added quickly before Zabuza or Tazuna could interrupt. "I suppose I should give you some background to this."
"You're damn right," Zabuza ground out.
Though he took exception to his compatriot's tone, they were allies now, and he had to admit he probably shouldn't have lead with that particular information. The heir reached inside his cloak and withdrew a vial of special, chakra-infused ink used for fūinjutsu. Crude as his method was, he had to ensure privacy though he sense no unfamiliar chakra or evil intent. The ink spread over the hardwood floor and formed a large seal beneath their feet.
"A privacy seal, huh? Whatever it is, it must be big if it's got even you jumpy," Zabuza observed coolly.
Naruto looked him in the eye. "It is. What I'm about to tell you does not leave this room under any circumstances, not until I decide the time is right."
"Go on," Tazuna invited.
"As you know, I am heir to the Uzumaki clan, and by birth right the ruler of Uzu no Kuni. That much I have shared with you already." They nodded in acknowledgment. "What you don't know is that that side of my heritage comes from my mother. My father was Namikaze Minato, the Yondaime Hokage of Konohagakure no Sato."
Zabuza looked like he took a punch to the gut, pupils wide with astonishment. Tazuna seemed equally shocked, though not entirely for the same reasons. Namikaze Minato had been the most fearsome man alive in his day in the shinobi world. Most bingo books had a flee on sight order when it came to the Yellow Flash, and with good reason. Only now did Zabuza come to appreciation exactly how much Naruto looked like the feared Yondaime.
To Tazuna, though he knew of the infamous Hokage's feats in battle, what shocked him more were the implications this could have for Nami no Kuni, the political ramifications that would surely threaten to destroy them. The Yondaime had had many enemies.
"This… explains a lot," Zabuza finally found his voice, though he remained in a state of mild shock. "You even look like a younger version of the man himself."
"So I've been told." Naruto remembered Jiraiya's words. The Sage had said the same thing on every occasion they met. "I take it you both understand the need for secrecy? If this information were to come out before the time is right, the repercussions would be considerable to say the least."
"Considerable?" Zabuza appeared amused with the situation now he had wrapped his head around it. "That's one way of putting it. Between your mother's bloodline and your father's infamy, the entire world will be out to kill you before you become a real threat."
"I don't like it but you have my word on this, I'll cooperate," Tazuna agreed grudgingly. The magnitude of the situation wasn't lost on him. "But no more surprises, alright?"
That would be a difficult promise to keep. 'Kurama?'
'It makes little difference to me. It is you who is at risk.'
"Then there is one more thing I need to share with you."
"Let's hear it then," Tazuna said expectantly.
Naruto took considered his words carefully. It would be best if he kept it as simple as possible, if that were even possible. "I lost my parents the day I was born. Before they passed away, they entrusted me with the Kyūbi no Yōko."
Their reactions were different this time around. Zabuza's eyes narrowed, though not in a threatening manner, but rather as though he should've known, whereas Tazuna seemed perplexed, which was not a reaction he hadn't expect.
"You're a jinchūriki," the former Kiri-nin stated. "That might complicate things more than your lineage."
"He's a what?" Tazuna looked thoroughly confused. "What does the demonic fox have to do with you?"
'I think I'll let you answer that, Kurama.' Naruto closed his eyes. When they opened his features grew noticeably darker and more profound. His nails, fangs and hair grew and his whisker marks become more pronounced. Most noticeably his eyes had changed from blue into red, vertically slit orbs. "To start, I am no demon."
Zabuza leapt back a significant distance purely on instinct and reached for his blade as though he were about to fend off an ambush. Tazuna stumbled backwards and fell on his behind, unable to move as fear paralysed his body and dilated his pupils.
"There is no need to be afraid," Kurama cracked a sly grin. It was an odd sight on his host to say the least. "Naruto and I made a pact long ago. I have no interest in hurting anyone that doesn't threaten him."
"You're the Kyūbi." Zabuza's grip on his sword tightened. "The kid's full of surprises. Is there anything else we ought to know?"
Kurama idly looked to his host's elongated fingers. "I've shut him out of this conversation, but he's grown rather strong so I'll have to keep it short."
"Wh- What do you mean?" Tazuna stammered as he picked himself off of the floor. His legs felt shaky and uneven, but he was too proud to stay on the floor.
"My host is immensely powerful, and not even I can see the end of his potential, but he has somehow retained some of his innocence throughout his hellish childhood. The world is no smaller or unknown to him than any other boy his age."
"What happened to him?" Zabuza asked. His shinobi training allowed him to be more courageous than the bridge-builder.
"That is not my story to tell, but perhaps one day he will tell you of his own accord." Kurama swiftly changed the subject. "Despite my advice, Naruto believes he can make this dream of his come true. This paradise he wants to create… even if it's possible, he can't do it on his own. He lacks experience and knowledge of what the world is truly like. He will look to you for both."
Tazuna looked to Zabuza for a moment and then back to Kurama. "So you want us to help him? I thought we already covered that."
"What you do and the choices you make are none of my concern," Kurama replied with genuine indifference. "But know this," the fox looked at them directly, "I am not nearly as kind as Naruto. If the thought of betrayal ever comes across your mind, then think of me. Think of the demon fox you fear so much."
"I thought you said you're not a demon," Tazuna replied feeling brave for a moment.
"For his sake, I could be." Kurama words chilled their bones. "Though worry not, I'm not here to demand your servitude. Naruto has no need for servants. He needs true, honest counsel from people with experience to advise him on matters he is too young or ignorant to understand."
"And you think that's us." Zabuza's grip loosened slightly.
"It appears to be that way, Kurama said simply, though he did not appear to be particularly disappointed. "Never lie to him and speak your truth even if it means opposing him, and you will have his respect. Betray him and you will have my vengeance."
Zabuza looked to Tazuna for a moment, before turning his gaze back to the bijū. "We understand."
As soon as it happened, the fox withdrew himself, and his host's body reverted to its natural form. Naruto needed a moment to regain his bearings. It wasn't particularly pleasant or easy for that matter to forcefully regain control. 'Kurama, you know I hate it when you lock me out of my own body. What did you say to them?'
'That is between them and I.'
Naruto observed their expressions. "I see Kurama made an impression."
"Kurama?" Zabuza raised a hairless brow. "Is that his name?"
"It is. Though he would prefer you called him Kyūbi. My partner is very picky." The fox growled through their mental connection. "Judging from your expressions I'm afraid to ask what he said to you."
"I don't think he'd want us to tell you," Tazuna said quite visibly shaky still. The colour had been drained from his skin. "And I need a drink. Badly."
"You and me both, old man," Zabuza agreed. It wasn't everyday you met a bijū, much less that you lived to tell the tale. He would certainly have to reconsider his position from there on out. It was one thing to have a Kage level shinobi on your side, but to have a Kage level shinobi with a bijū partner was on a league of its own. "That was one hell of a surprise."
Naruto couldn't help but laugh as their reactions were rather amusing. "You have a lot of questions," Naruto acknowledged in all seriousness. "I'll answer what I can before I depart."
(Later That Night)
Several hours later, the evening sun set over Tazuna's house. Naruto exited the house, accompanied by Taji and his new advisors. Tsunami, Kaiza and young Inari followed suit.
"You're leaving so soon?" the housewife said concerned.
Taji bowed politely. "I'm afraid we have already overstayed. We will have to make haste to Konoha. Thank you for everything, Tsunami-san."
"It is us who should be grateful," Tsunami insisted returning the bow. "Please come visit us again soon, Taji-san."
A fair distance away from the bridge-builder's family, Zabuza pointed his thumb over a shoulder towards the doppelganger. "So I guess we'll have to do you with your clone until you get back, huh?"
The clone in question stood by itself several feet away. "He's not a mere clone, Zabuza-san," Naruto reminded the former Kiri-nin. "He is made of my own essence. He is very much alive, and he has a name."
"You named it?" Tazuna said incredulously.
"I named him," the heir corrected rather pointedly. "His name is Shinachiku. (1) He'll be staying in the spire. He'll guard Gatō and hibernate when he has no other business to attend to."
"Interesting name," Zabuza pointed out with a hint of amusement. There was a pun to be found.
Naruto shrugged. "It was either that or Menma, and for some reason the alternative gave me chills. Perhaps Shinachiku is a little long. Call him Shin if you'd like." He reached into his cloak and withdrew two solid black kunai and offered one each to both men. "These are anchors for my teleportation ninjutsu, so to speak."
"I see you've taken a page out of the Yellow Flash's book." Of course Zabuza would have heard all about the Flying Thunder God jutsu, being as knowledgeable of the shinobi world as he was.
"Then you know what do with them." Naruto extended a hand to the older shinobi. "Until we meet again."
Zabuza took his hand and shook it. "Until we meet again."
Naruto released the older man and then shook hands with Tazuna. "I'll be counting on you, Tazuna."
"Yeah, I know," the bridge-builder acknowledged. "You take care of yourself and your mother, kid."
Naruto didn't think to correct him this time. They were a team now, and Kurama often referred to him the same. "Mother, it's time to go."
Taji returned one last bow to Kaiza and patted Inari on the head. "Take care, everyone."
Naruto looked to the sky; it was getting late. They were expected in Konoha by tomorrow at the latest. He bit his thumb and performed a string of hand seals. It couldn't be helped, his mother wouldn't be able to keep up otherwise.
"One last trick up your sleeve, huh?" Zabuza remarked as Naruto walked a safe distance away and finished his string of hand seals.
Naruto smiled. "Hardly." He then placed his hand on the ground and pushed chakra through his fingertips as a seal took form. "Kuchiyose no Jutsu."
With a sizeable burst of smoke, a shisha appeared, a creature resembling half lion and half dog. Its limbs were a beautiful pearly white; its fur crimson and its tail and mane resembled pure white clouds. The shisha was as tall as a horse and wide as a bear. It stared at Naruto through amber eyes. 'So it is you who we serve now, young Uzumaki.' It spoke directly to its summoner through a telepathic link, drowning out the audible and collective shock of bystanders.
'I am indeed,' Naruto affirmed as he reached out and patted the lion on its nose. 'I am in need of your services.'
'Very well,' the shisha bowed its sizeable head.
Naruto climbed the lion-dog, and extended a hand to Taji. She hesitated at first, understandably, but took his hand nonetheless and climbed on. He found Haku and the Demon Brothers standing by Shin. For a moment their eyes met. "I will return soon."
Naruto nodded to them once more and then guided the shisha. The summon quickly took off at breakneck speeds, off into the horizon.
"He's full of surprises, isn't he?" Tazuna looked to this shinobi counterpart.
Zabuza glanced to Haku, not entirely sure what he had just seen, if it was anything at all. "Something tells me we've only just begun to scratch the surface."
So a big part of me feels like I've been showboating too much with Naruto, that he's been sharing too much too quickly, and so on. At some parts it feels like I'm trying to constantly set up him as this cool, over-powered figure and I absolutely hate doing it, but the reason I'm doing it is to speed up the plot. The entirety of the story takes places over several decades, meaning I've got a lot of timeskips planned in the future. I can't stay bogged down in the present taking my time to set up the story. It'll never get finished that way, at least that's how I feel, so please do excuse me on this.
If it helps: Naruto isn't that powerful. In a fight, canon Naruto and Sasuke (by that I mean current versions) would beat him like he owed them money, and the way things go down the road, there will be others out there with comparable strength, and some who are just stronger than him. Ultimately, at his prime (around late thirties-early forties), I plan to have Naruto only a shade stronger than the Shodai Hokage, which isn't that impressive when you consider canon Naruto is sure to achieve that. There difference is really their style of combat. Also, please keep in mind that Naruto won't fight all that much in this story to begin with, he'll be more into politics as his primary concern will be to ensure the growth and prosperity of Uzu no Kuni.
So on the chapter, what did you think of the flashforward? I'm guessing it's obvious as heck who Seijūrō's parents are, huh? Well, you'll be seeing more of these flashforwards, though not necessarily every chapter. They're a good way for me to introduce certain characters and set up future events without spending too much time in the present timeline. Also, I haven't written anything like this before so it's a fun experiment.
For the curious ones, Shin will be something similar to Zetsu in this story, with the difference that he looks just like Naruto (for now anyway) but has an expiration date. I've got some ideas for him in the future. For now he's just a guardian though.
That's it for now! Don't forget to review!
(1) If I recall correctly, in an interview a long time ago, Kishimoto mentioned that if Naruto ever had a son he'd probably name him Shinachiku, which means bamboo shoots in Japanese, another condiment found in ramen. Shinachiku could also be written Menma, but that's already been done in the Road to Ninja movie, so his clone will be referred to as Shin for short.
(Onmyōton: Ishi Jitsugen – Yin-Yang Release: Will Materialisation) - S rank, supplementary, close range. Through infusing a Kage Bunshin with a part of his essence, detracted and stored with Onmyōton, Naruto is able to create a near perfect copy with comparable intellect and strength. This jutsu incredibly taxing however and thus can only be performed on one clone at a time.