AN: Yet another idea that just would not leave me alone. This fic draws heavy inspiration from Scorpion's Disciple by nobody102. Unfortunately, due to ever-ongoing changes with the canon, this might at some point be AU in background. At the present it will simply be a one-shot. However, if it draws interest, I may expand it at some point. I do not own Naruto, and I hope you all enjoy.
Prologue: Scattered Remains
Kabuto breathed heavily as he was finally allowed to collapse on his back in exhaustion. Apparently, his race had been run. And amazingly, especially considering his opponent, he had won. For the moment. Perhaps a very fragile and fleeting moment.
He was pretty certain that he'd lost Orochimaru's forces. Semi-certain. Perhaps he had a moment to recuperate. Or a minute. Or seconds. Either way, he needed that time. Because he had apparently screwed up rather badly, and he now needed to find a way forward.
Even subconsciously, Sasori's orders had been rather easy to follow. He could still remember meeting the terrifying legend right after Kikyō. The battle that had made him a local legend for being the only survivor. There, amidst the wreckage and ruin, amidst the decaying bodies, Sasori had found him. He still remembered the paralyzing fear, the large, brutal scorpion, and the young, red-haired teenage boy who emerged from it to exercise control over his life. It was so simple, so devastating, a minute needle to the head. It was small, neat, precise, and utterly surgical; which was also an apt description for his life up until this point. That seal, that sand-memory seal, had been what brought him to this point.
After that, he had been rescued his father. His adoptive father. The only person he'd had technically. But really, he'd never had him; the man would never be able to understand this. And it was sad that it couldn't be even after all the time and opportunity his father had given him. A small part of him still longed for a familial connection that could override the present tragedy.
Either way, the seal pushed him onwards. Pushed him to gather intelligence. To learn medical Ninjutsu. To become a ninja. Battle tactics. Properly Analyzing strengths and weaknesses. Herbal remedies. And the list could go on, and did, to include things like deadly, ensnaring Genjutsu. All skills that Sasori had demanded he acquired. All skills Sasori had forced him to put into action.
And then Sasori had pushed the boundaries- which had driven him to this point. He had ordered him to infiltrate Orochimaru's inner circle. It was true that the S-ranked missing-nin always had need of capable medics to conduct his experiments. That was why he was thought to be a perfect fit.
And indeed, he was a perfect fit. For a time. With Sasori pulling the strings, Kabuto had proven himself time and again to Orochimaru, had delved further and further into the world of psychotic research the man- if he could still be called that- was undertaking in order to achieve his own goals. Power and Immortality.
He still remembered the first experiment Orochimaru had personally forced him to oversee. A young boy, to be implanted with the Kayuga bloodline. A true test of loyalty. He still remembered the cold, metallic feel of the needles and equipment Orochimaru had provided him with, the look of terror, the resistance. And the boys rather untimely, tragic, horrific, and exceptionally graphic death when the bloodline did not take. But even if the experiment had failed, Kabuto had proven himself.
Even now, there was a part of him raging with curiosity of the most depraved sort, wondering what would happen if this bloodline was transferred to that test subject, or how to improve on the use of some of the most deadly and morally questionable jutsus. Unfortunately, for better or worse, his time at Sasori's command, and under Orochimaru's care, had made sure that there was a taint upon his soul. Perhaps, he thought rather detachedly, it was part of the curse of power they had laid upon him.
He heard a faint rustling in the bushes nearby. A curious Oto Shinobi poked his head through the brush, nervously glancing from side to side in search of his prey. Unfortunately, his prey rested below him, unseen until it was too later. Kabuto silently reactivated his chakra scalpels and decapitated the curious enemy ninja with a wave his arms, who fell to the ground silently, his face never betraying any shock at his untimely demise.
Even as some of the blood stained his dark clothing, and the head rolled around like a misplaced ball, Kabuto could not bring himself to move. How had he screwed this up? How had Orochimaru caught on?
Perhaps it was the last assignment he had been given- access his personal files in regards to Jinchuuriki and Akatsuki. Sasori was apparently rather curious as to the snake sannin's thoughts and plans concerning his own shadowy organization. Maybe that had been what had blown his cover.
Whatever had truly caused his unmasking was unimportant. What was important was that Orochimaru had called him into his private study earlier that day. The mad scientist had sat him down and restrained him while he began a rather painful interrogation. And that was when he discovered Sasori's ingenious invention- the pin. After removing that, Kabuto suddenly saw what had happened, suddenly understood the unconscious depths of his duplicity.
Of course, Orochimaru had observed such a change as well. The snake Sannin had all but demanded Kabuto's unquestionable loyalty and fealty. On pain of death, no less. Well, such was the norm with Orochimaru.
However, after his employment was so unexpectedly terminated just minutes prior, he'd had no desire to enter into another, eerily similar, agreement. Not that he could say such a thing to Orochimaru, of course. Rather, he'd weighed his decision.
While there was a part of him that realized that he was trapped, that it was a lifestyle he could learn to love, that he truly owed his own village nothing, his own self-preservation instincts had won out. Sasori was sure to find out. Sasori, and his organization, the one Orochimaru had recently left, filled with other dangerous S-ranked nin who had way too much free time on their hands, were sure to find out. Could the snake Sannin keep him safe?
In the end, he had decided on the answer: no. Orochimaru could not keep him safe. Half-truths, misunderstandings, and subterfuge could keep him safe far better than Orochimaru could. Besides, he'd had quite enough of his time and energy devoted to advancing other people's efforts. And, after all, he knew Orochimaru's tricks, his strategies, much of his experimental data and results. And his modus operandi. Even if he were to flee, he could willingly return to Sasori and offer up his services again. Possibly. If he was rather convinving. And particularly charismatic that day.
In the end, he had decided that freedom- true freedom- away from either side's machinations was valuable enough to possibly pay for with his life. He'd run. He knew Orochimaru's base's layout better than the snake Sannin himself, after much time and effort had been devoted to examining it for Sasori. He knew the fastest escape route, the ninjas he'd likely encounter patrolling the hidden village. He knew he could outrun Orochimaru, who would be bogged down by a desire to make sure all of his precious research and various facilities did not go up in smoke- quite literally, if only Kabuto could have had his own way.
Still, it had been a close thing. Orochimaru's guards were vicious. The snake Sannin himself landed several nearly lethal hits. Only the continuous use of his special regeneration technique in such a short span of time had made the entire thing possible. Well that, and his knowledge of the base and strategic use of explosive notes. And he had escaped. And he could say, as of this moment, that the price was certainly worth it.
But what to do with his new-found freedom? Where could he go? Back to Konoha? No! Wait… well, maybe. He did have a place to return to, after all. One that would welcome him back with open arms. If they even noticed his absence, of course. And it was rather unlikely that Sasori and friends would decide the risks associated with tying up this particular loose end were worth the chances of exposure to one of their greatest enemies.
But what to do? What to do? Yes, fine, he was heading back to Konoha. Back to… home. The word itself seemed to make him shiver with disgust; that he had fallen so far as to cling to that pitiful village once more as a safe haven. What did he want, now that he was free, and also potentially being doggedly pursued by an army of S-ranked ninja.
One word came to mind: revenge. Revenge against Sasori, who had dictated his life for so long. Who had maneuvered him like a puppet from so far away. Who had ensured that he could never have a quiet, peaceful life; he did blame the puppeteer, even if he was grateful for that last result of his actions.
Revenge. Against Orochimaru. Who had forced him to delve into a dark world, he'd rather have ignored. Who'd unlocked that dark hunger within him, which, even now, had a barely sated appetite. Who was also pursuing him for as long as he could and time would allow.
But there was more. More to it than petty revenge. Sasori and Orochimaru had set him on a path. The path taken by those ninja who'd striven for power. Who'd worked to make sure their names were feared in the minds of every brat who'd ever passed them. He too, now had such a destiny. Because he was Kabuto Yakushi, former puppet of Sasori of the Red Sand, former stooge of Orochimaru of the leaf, and now a man free to pursue his own ends in search of destiny. And with that, Kabuto picked himself and once again began stealthily retreating back to friendly territory.
One Year Later
The blond nuisance was finally in sight once more. The target he'd been tracking for months now. The Kyuubi Jinchuuriki. Even in broad daylight, he was hard to track in his orange eyesore. He was the one who could help enable his revenge against his old masters. The one who was soon to be his pawn.
"Why are you following me?" He asked curiously, finally turning around. Even he could admit he was slightly impressed that the boy had caught on so quickly. Hopefully, his newfound insightfulness and awareness would not become a trend before he was ready.
"You are Naruto Uzumaki?" Kabuto asked cheerfully. He already knew damn well who the boy was. The boy didn't know him though. He was… pretty sure of that.
"Um, yeah," he replied confusedly. Confusion. Confusion was good. It made things easier.
"Good to hear. My name is Kabuto Yakushi," He glanced around, trying to make sure no unwanted ears were intruding upon this seemingly otherwise everyday conversation in the street. Amazingly enough, there weren't any other observers. The Anbu patrol wasn't supposed to come by for several minutes. "You don't seem to be well liked, Naruto-kun."
"Yeah! What do they know?" Naruto shouted. Damn, the brat was rather loud. If he kept this up, he would attract attention. Three minutes; thirty-eight seconds left in his window of opportunity.
"I think they're wrong," he confidently asserted. "However, I've heard you've been having some trouble in the Academy. That's why I came; I wondering if you could use a tutor?"
Naruto's eyes lit up in a kind of guarded curiosity. "What will you teach me?" he asked. Thankfully, he'd lowered his voice a few notches. It might have seemed unusual that he would so readily agree, but he was the village pariah, after all. No one had ever made a smiliar offer to him. Probably.
Kabuto chuckled. "A bit of this, a bit of that. Things that would certainly put you well ahead of your classmates. And impress certain people." He let that last bit slip in an idle tone, as if he didn't know of the boy's obsession with the pink-haired banshee. The one person in the villager who could be possibly louder than the menace in front of him.
Naruto stared at him for a long moment, as if weighing his options. Kabuto could only imagine the dilemma. On the one hand, he'd never met anyone who'd offered him help without expecting to exact a hefty sum later. And he probably never would, Kabuto thought neutrally. On the other hand, the seemingly docile guy in front of him who was offering him help couldn't be that bad. And if he was, he could have just quit, right?
As expected, Naruto soon came to a favorable decision. "All right. I'll take whatever help you can give me!" Kabuto was sure his first item of "help" would be to see if he could turn down the blonde's volume. Either willingly, or manually, if necessary. Though, that might be more of a help for the village at large.
Four Years Later
"Why are we doing this again?" Naruto asked. Fortunately, he'd turned down the volume a notch in the years since Kabuto had met him. Willingly, yet. Apparently, someone ready and willing to devote time to training him was all that was needed. Would wonders never cease?
"Because your Kyuubi problem means that you can't have the chakra control you need without this," Kabuto explained easily.
Beside him, Mizuki scratched his head. "That's it? Why does it matter if his control will never be perfect?"
"Because, if it isn't absolutely perfect, he can't learn the last few techniques," Kabuto explained. "And without them, he can't qualify as a medic-nin. And without that, our plan is shot."
Mizuki glanced at him uneasily. "So I have to?"
"Yes. I can not place the seal for personal, medical reasons," Kabuto explained patiently. And really, he couldn't. The technique Sasori had used on him so long ago disrupted his own abilities with fūinjutsu.
Mizuki sighed. "Fine." He placed his hand on Naruto's head and began pouring in chakra to activate the seal.
Really, once he had returned to the village, it had been rather easy to seek out Orochimaru's prize informant and turn him. Not that the Sannin would ever know that. Mizuki was… valuable, for giving him cover, and for handling Naruto's tutelage.
And Naruto was exactly what he needed. The Kyuubi Jinchuuriki was such a fascinating test subject. The demonic fox made him into such a different animal, such a different lab rat, than the usual clientele he'd had access to. And he didn't complain or let slip information, which increased his already high value exponentially.
He began examining Naruto. "Yes, it's done. Congratulations, Naruto-kun, you are finally able to become a medic-nin."
One Year Later
"Mizuki, what the hell are you doing?" Naruto shouted. Was he out of his mind? Was Kabuto out of his mind? He must have ordered him to do this, after all. But why the hell were they trying to swipe the forbidden scroll again. They'd already accessed it one; it was how he'd learned about creating Shadow Clones.
Mizuki stared at him. Mournfully. With a hint of regret. And then he attacked. Naruto quickly dodged and activated his chakra scalpels. Was this one of Kabuto's many tests? Mizuki turned and lunged once more, a kunai now in his grasp.
He leapt backwards and flew through hand-seals. Mizuki raised his arms, but couldn't block his Great Breakthrough jutsu, rocketing him into a nearby tree. Recognizing the threat now posed, Naruto formed a battalion of shadow clones to surround Mizuki, who had quickly picked himself up and scrambled back into the fray.
He quickly substituted himself with one of the clones, as the white-haired ninja struck, forcing his target to poof into smoke. With silent regret, he ordered his clones to start attacking Mizuki. Soon, his old comrade lay bloody on the ground.
"Why, Mizuki?" he whispered, grasping for the depths of his betrayal.
"Orochimaru…" he whispered, before he lay still.
"-I've trained him for the past five years, you see," Kabuto explained casually to the Hokage and head-interrogator. Naruto nervously glanced at him.
"You worked for Orochimaru?" the Hokage asked angrily.
"And Sasori, as I've already explained. Not willingly in either case. However, after being forced to escape, I decided laying low was the best option. I never expected one of Orochimaru's agents to be so close by, after all," Kabuto mentioned.
"Akatsuki and Orochimaru, the Otokage of the new hidden village," the Hokage muttered quietly. He sighed. "I can not, in good conscience, let this go, Kabuto. Even with your record." He beckoned to his Anbu guards. "Take him away." Kabuto glanced at Naruto, and they both knew what that meant.
The Hokage turned to Naruto. "I still can not belive you did something so foolish." Naruto hung his head. "However, in light of the circumstances, I believe the correct lesson has been learned. You are free to go."
Naruto spared one last glance at his friend and mentor before he left the room.
"I see you got my message," Kabuto commented idly, glasses flashing, as Naruto sidled up to him in the deserted alley street.
"I'm ready to go, Kabuto-sama," Naruto declared quietly, his voice full of steely resolve.
Kabuto chuckled. Perfect. "And you are ready to follow me in all I attempt?"
Kabuto or Jiji? "I am," Naruto replied after a brief moment of hesitation. He glanced around, making sure no one was around, though it seemed unlikely at this time of night.
"Then I believe this is to be the beginning of a wonderful partnership, Naruto-kun," Kabuto chuckled lowly. He glanced around. "Come on, it's time to move."