A/N: This chapter completely deviates from Naruto Canon after Madara's revival. That means everything is AU, so I don't want to hear about how this and that aren't what really happened in Naruto. I know that. I just don't care. As far as I'm concerned, Naruto started to suck after Sasuke told everyone he wanted to be Hokage.
Chapter 35: A Time Long Past
My story actually begins long before I was born. I think it was several hundred years or so, but it could have been a thousand. A lot of history has been lost, and it was never really clear on just when the events I am about to speak of take place.
It had been a time of great strife. A period of continuous warfare. I was told that this time, which was called the warring states era, was the bloodiest period in our history, beating out even the wars that happened between us shinobi.
During this time of bloodshed, a man appeared. I do not know his name. I never learned it. All I know is that he called himself the Rikudou Sennin, or the Sage of Six Paths. Wielding power that was beyond most mortals, the Rikudou Sennin ended the warring states era and bringing with it a long lasting peace.
While the Rikudou Sennin is known for bringing an end to an era of bloodshed, he is also known for something else. I don't know when it happened, whether before, during, or after the wars ended, but sometime in his life, the Sage battled a being of extraordinary power, a primal god that had taken on the form of a beast with ten tails. He battled this monster, and eventually won, by sealing it inside of himself, becoming the first human sacrifice.
"He sealed it inside himself? Is that even possible?"
"Don't interrupt me when I'm speaking, Uzume!"
"Heh he. Sorry."
The Sage journeyed after that, spreading his teachings among the land, instructing his fellow man in the art he had created called Ninjutsu. Sometime during his journey he sired two sons. Each son inherited some of the power from their father. The older son inherited the Sage's powerful eyes, while the younger inherited his strong body and powerful chakra.
"Actually, I am curious, too, Naruto-san."
"Alright, alright. I'm sure at least some of you have heard the term chakra before, yes? I thought so. Much of what you know about chakra is probably wrong, or even an outright lie. Chakra is a combination of the bodies physical and spiritual energy mixed together within a series of pathways called the Chakra Circulatory System. Think of this system in the same way you would the veins that pump blood through your body, only instead of blood, they pump chakra."
"So this chakra is some kind of energy, then?"
"Yes. It's an energy that most humans are no longer capable of using, though it looks like anyone who is an Ashikabi has the potential to use it."
"What can people do with chakra?"
"A lot of things, actually. By directing the flow of chakra via a series of hand seals based on the twelve animals of the zodiac, chakra can be made to power and shape ninjutsu, ninja arts. The effects can be varied. Anything from controlling the elements to sealing powerful entities inside of humans to even making corporeal copies of yourself become possible."
"Like you and your clones!"
"Yes, Musubi, like me and my clones."
"Wait. You can clone yourself? Does that mean you can do a rendition of the Clone Wars, bro?"
"You couldn't pay me to do a Star Wars skit."
"Can I see you make a clone?"
"Maybe if I can finish telling my story."
"Sorry. Please continue."
"Right. Now where was I? Oh yes!"
So the eldest inherited the eyes, and the youngest the chakra. The Rikudou Sennin taught his sons everything he knew, showing them his art, and teaching them about peace. Yet he was troubled. He knew that his life would eventually end, and he would need to choose a successor.
His eldest son was said to be a true prodigy, a genius in every sense of the word. Everything the Sage taught him, the son learned, soaking it up like a sponge. On the other hand, his youngest had absolutely not talent, proving to be the eldest son's exact opposite in every way.
Despite his lack of talent, the younger son pushed on, forging his own path. Because of the struggles he faced, he grew stronger and more mature with each passing year and ended up making many friends along the way. In the end, the Sage decided that his younger son, who believed the path to peace was through love and understanding, who would inherit his ideals and lead the world to true peace.
Inspired by his younger son, the Sage separated the Ten-Tails' chakra within his body and used his Creation of All Things ability to divide it into nine separated bodies, creating the tailed beasts and giving each a name. As a result of extracting them all at once, the Sage was left weakened and incapacitated for several months, though the powerful life force of the Ten-Tails' husk kept him alive. Some time after their creation, the young tailed beasts were told that they were all still linked to one another despite being separate entities. The Rikudou Sennnin also told them that they would eventually become one again, yet not as they originally were, and that one shall appear at that time to show them what true power is. The Sage eventually used Chibaku Tensei to seal the husk of the Ten-Tails in what would become the moon. On his deathbed, he chose his youngest to be his successor.
It was this critical decision that caused the world to once again spiral into war and strive once again. The Sage's eldest son, angry and bitter about his father choosing the younger son as his successor, tried to kill his brother. This sparked what would later become known as the war-torn era.
The two sons would eventually go on to form their own clans. The Senju clan, given birth by the youngest son, and the Uchiha clan, created by the eldest son. And much like the two sons of the Sage, these clans would be bitter rivals. Whenever someone hired a Senju to do a job for them, you can bet that those opposing them would hire an Uchiha.
Two figures rose to eventual prominence within these clans. Senju Hashirama and Uchiha Madara. These two would go on to fight each other many times, until, eventually, one of them got sick of all the fighting and struck a truce.
Senju Hashirama was a man who dreamed of peace. In his desire to create that peace, he managed to strike an accord with Madara to stop the senseless fighting. He gathered more shinobi clans to his cause, and eventually went on to form the first hidden village, Konohagakure no Saito. The village hidden in the leaves, and my home.
"Village Hidden in the Leaves? Who names a village that?"
"So no one was very good at coming up with any original names. So sue them."
"You know, I think I will."
"Be quiet, Uzume. Let Naruto talk."
"Look at you, getting so defensive, Homura. Are you falling for bro?"
"F-f-falling for―don't be stupid! I'm simply interested in the story! Nothing more! This and that are two different things!"
"Sure, sure. I believe you... not."
"Oi! Do you two want me to continue my story or not? If so, then shut up!"
"Good. Now then, the village hidden in the leaves was where I was born. It was decades after the Senju Hashirama, who became the villages first leader, its Hokage, passed away..."
"Get back here, you damn brat!"
"We're going to get you!"
"You've gone too far this time!"
With paint spilling out of the buckets I had in my hands, sloshing all over the ground, I looked behind me to see several ninja with blue pants, blue long-sleeve shirts, blue sandals, and a green flack jacket, chasing after me. I felt a brief moment of pity for these fools. So much blue... they were obviously upset because they didn't have any orange to wear. Standard ninja attire was pretty much all blue.
What a boring color.
Note to self: the first law you make as Hokage must be that all shinobi under your command must wear orange.
I laughed at the people chasing me, especially when one of them stepped in the present I left them and ended up falling face first to the ground and tearing his shoe apart. "Hahahaha! You losers are just jealous because you didn't think of this first!"
The chase I gave them was a merry one. I like to think I was helping them become better shinobi. I get to play my pranks and they get some exercise. It was a win-win as far as I could see. Though, I think they might have gotten a slightly better deal out of this. I mean, after all, I am pretty damn awesome.
I eventually got tired of being chased, however, and ended up camouflaging myself to blend in with a part of the passing fence using one of my super awesome ninja techniques that let me hide from people. They moved right on passed, never even noticing that I had become one with the wall, or the fence, but you get the idea.
After the last one had left, I pulled down the tarp, painted like the fence, laughing as I thought about how those Chunin were probably still chasing me, or at least they thought they were.
"Who's a loser, Naruto?"
A voice behind me startled me, causing me to leap several feet in the air Paint splashed as I hit the ground. I tried landing on my feet, but must have tripped over something, because the next thing I knew, I was lying on my backside, rubbing my tailbone from the hard fall I'd just taken. There was a shadow looming over me.
Umino Iruka was one of those people that looked plain. Like the others, he didn't have any orange on him anywhere, just the standard blue uniform and green jacket. His skin was the color of light brown, showing he'd spent much time out in the sun. Both his eyes and hair were a darker shade of brown, and his hair was tied up and made his head look like a pineapple. A single scar ran down the bridge of his nose.
Iruka was an instructor at the academy I went to, the place where I trained to become a badass ninja. He was also really stern. The man didn't seem to have a single funny bone in his body, always getting in the way of his pranks and ruining his fun. The jerk.
"Hehehe..." I scratched the back of my head, trying not to show just how nervous I was at being caught. Who knew what kind of punishments this man would give me. I could already see the crap he would put me through. "Hey there, Iruka-sensei. How's it hanging?"
"Don't you hows it hanging me, Uzumaki Naruto. You're supposed to be in class."
"Was I?" I would have whistled innocently, but I didn't know how to whistle, so decided not to. "I guess I forgot. Heh, whoopsies."
"Whoopsies? I find you not in class, come out here and search for you, only to find that you've completely defiled the Hokage monument, and all you can say is 'whoopsies?'"
"Um!" I beamed at him. "Pretty much. I'm glad you understand, sense―Ow! Ow, ow, ow! Gah! Let go of my ear! That hurts!"
"Good. Maybe the pain will teach you a lesson. Now come on. We have to get too class. I think I'm going to be giving you guys a pop quiz today, to make sure you're actually learning, you know, since you decided not to show up."
"W-what!? A pop quiz? Come on, Iruka-sensei, have mercy here!"
"Sorry. All out of mercy."
"No! No! NOOOOO~!"
"Oh my, it sounds like Naruto was a real trouble-maker back in his youth," Miya said, her hands raised to her cheeks. "If that is what you were like as a child, it's no wonder you've become such a lecherous beast."
"Oh gee. Thanks, Miya. You always know just what to say to make this humble Uzumaki Naruto feel good about himself."
Miya's smile was beatific. "I do try."
"Heh he," Uzume gave her customary chuckle as she grinned at the blond-haired man. "I would have loved to meet you as a kid, bro. You sound awesome."
"I know, right? Think of all the pranks the two of us could have pulled."
"Ugh, just stop right there," Homura said, grimacing. "That's something I don't even want to think about. The ruckus you two cause on your own is bad enough. I don't even want to think about the kinds of chaos that would be unleashed if you decided to work together."
"In that case, you'd better be careful, Homura-chan." Uzume gave the fire user a teasing grin. "Bro and I might just decide to give you and Maison Izumo a make over."
"I do hope you will not touch my house, Uzume-san." Miya's smile, though pleasant, carried with it an underlying hint of terror, one that had Uzume gulping. "I would hate to have to force poor Chiho-san out on the streets because you couldn't contain yourself."
"Uh, ah, d-did I say redecorate Maison Izumo? I simply meant redecorating my room. Ah ha. Ahahahahaha ha..."
Chiho shook her head. "Very smooth, Uzume-chan."
"Would you all be quiet," Tsukiumi said, glaring at the people around her, except for Miya, who scared the crap out of her. You don't glare at a person who can produce freaky ass hanya masks at the drop of a hat, unless you were insane or your name happened to be Uzumaki Naruto. "Please continue with your story, husband."
Naruto smiled at Tsukiumi, partly for her words, but mostly because, even after what he did to her, she still called him husband.
I had failed. I couldn't believe it. After years of practicing, after years of training, I failed to pass my ninja exams... for the third time in three years.
If only Iruka-sensei hadn't made the jutsu needed to pass that stupid clone jutsu. I could do the substitution fine, and my henge was impeccable―anyone who saw Oroike-chan would know that. The only jutsu I was incapable of doing was that Kami be damned clone.
A rush of anger surged through me, but it left just as quickly as it had come. I felt empty. Empty and alone and unwanted. I was a failure. How could I be Hokage when I can't even pass a stupid test?
Depressed and lonely, I watched as the other students, all of whom were sporting headbands, bragged to joyful parents about how they passed their ninja exam with flying colors. They were all so happy, so excited, like they were on top of the world. I wanted to feel angry at them, but couldn't seem to bring the emotion up.
Two women noticed me.
"Hey, did you hear? That one failed... again."
"It's a good thing, too. Could you imagine what would happen if they let 'him' pass? I mean, he's the nine―"
"Shh! We aren't supposed to talk about that."
I ignored the two women as they talked. This wasn't the first time it had happened. It probably wouldn't be the last either.
I did wonder what they were talking about, though. Call me crazy, but I always had the feeling that the people around me, the people who ignored me and looked me with the scornful, hate filled eyes, knew something that I didn't. Something about me. Something I should know but didn't know. I remember asking old man Hokage once, if he knew, but he just said it was misguided hatred and they would get over it eventually.
That was six years ago.
They hadn't gotten over it.
"There you are."
I blinked, coming back to myself. Looking up, I saw Mizuki-sensei standing in front of me. He dressed a lot like Iruka, all blue clothing and green jacket. I swear, it's like every ninja has the fashion sense of a brain-dead earthworm. Sitting atop his head, covered by a bandana with the metal headplate of a leaf on it, was bright, silvery hair. Unlike Iruka, who had brown eyes and tanned skin. Mizuki had blue eyes and pale skin. He actually looked kind of pasty.
"I've been looking everywhere for you," Mizuki continued. He then made a gesture with his hand. "Come with me. I wanted to talk to you."
I hesitated for a moment. Nothing personal sensei, but I didn't really feel like talking right now. That's what I wanted to say, but I didn't. Instead, I stood up and silently followed him, which was how I eventually found myself sitting on the roof of a small building, one of several that made up the shinobi academy.
"I know Iruka may be harsh," Mizuki started, "But he only wants what's best for you. He's afraid that if he sends you out into the field, untrained and unprepared, you won't survive. That's why he's always so hard on you."
"I know that..." I grumbled. "I know that, but I just... I really wanted to graduate this time." I think a little emotion bleed into my voice, maybe. I couldn't be sure, because calling up any feelings other than how depressed I was seemed to be a choir.
"Then I guess I'm going to have to tell you," Mizuki said, and I looked over at him to see him smirking at me.
"Tell me what?"
"Tell you about the secret make up test, of course."
Secret make up test. It almost sounded too good to be true, but it wasn't. Mizuki told all about it, how all I had to do was steal a scroll locked inside of the Hokage mansion and learn a single jutsu from it. This was right up my alley, I thought to myself. Sneaking in places was something I was awesome at. I would have that scroll in no time.
It probably helped that the Hokage monument was only lightly guarded. A few Chunin patrolling the grounds. They were easy to sneak past. I evaded Chunin on a daily basis. If the Hokage or anyone else thought those idiots were keeping me from graduating, then he had another thing coming.
The make up test went off without a hitch. I stole the scroll, a big one that I had to strap across my back using some ninja wire, and made my way into the forest, the meeting place for the final portion of the test. It was just a small clearing with a storage shed. I set the scroll down, spread it open, and then looked at the first jutsu.
"Shadow clones?" I blinked, then felt my face twist into a rictus of horror. "Not another clone jutsu! Dammit! I suck at making clones!"
Despite my inability to make clones, I actually found out that the shadow clone, or rather, the Kage Bunshin no Jutsu, were actually very easy to create. It only required a single hand seal, and after about an hours worth of practice, I had managed to form three clones, which appeared before me in a puff of smoke.
After celebrating my success, complete with giving my three selves a proper high-five, I bent back down to see if I could learn another jutsu. I mean, sure, I could pass the test with just one jutsu, but if I learned two, then I would ace it. No one would question the awesome might of Uzumaki Naruto ever again. The old man might even decide to just give me the hat.
Too bad Iruka chose that moment to ruin my chances of learning more.
I was surprised, but I didn't let it show. Never let 'em see you sweat.
"Ha!" I jumped to my feet, pointing at Iruka. "I found you, sensei!"
"No, idiot! I found you!"
"Hehehe, you're fast, Iruka-sensei. I only managed to learn one jutsu from the scroll."
Iruka blinked. Stared at me. Then blinked again. He then looked around the clearing, his eyebrows furrowed. I wonder what he was thinking.
Whatever. Time for me to show off with my new kickass jutsu!
"Ne, ne, sensei." I got his attention again. "Now that I've got a super cool jutsu down, don't you think its about time I graduated?"
"Yeah, yeah. That's how this works, right? I sneak in and take the scroll, learn a jutsu from it, and then I get to graduate."
Iruka narrowed his eyes. "Who told you that?"
"Mizuki-sensei did. He told me about how to get the scroll and this... place..." I trailed off as I noticed the look on Iruka-sensei's face. He looked angry. I felt panic for a second. Was he angry at me? But I did everything right! I snuck into the Hokage mansion and didn't get caught by anyone. I managed to get out with the scroll and looked a kick ass jutsu. Why he was angry?
That's when I heard the whistling sound
It all happened too fast for me to follow. Iruka shoved back, sending me to the ground. I groaned, sat up, and was about to complain to Iruka when I saw something that caused my throat to close up in horror.
Iruka-sensei was standing several feet away, his arms crossed over his face. Several kunai were sticking out of his arms and flack jacket. I could see blood, glistening red in the moonlight as it trailed down his arm and stained his shirt.
"So glad of you to join us, Iruka." The familiar sound of Mizuki-sensei's voice had me focusing on a tree branch several meters away. Mizuki-sensei was crouched down, dressed in his normal ninja attire. The only difference was that Mizuki-sensei had a large fuuma shuriken on his back.
I looked at him in confusion. What was going on?
"Mizuki," Iruka-sensei scowled. "I see... so that's how it is. You were just using Naruto to steel the Forbidden Scroll of Sealing!"
Mizuki-sensei laughed. "That's right! I did!"
"Wh-what's going on?" I asked.
"Naruto!" Mizuki-sensei held out his hand. "Give me the scroll!"
"Don't do it, Naruto!" Iruka-sensei shouted. "You can't let Mizuki have the scroll! It contains forbidden jutsu that could put the village in great danger! Mizuki used you to gain the scroll for himself, for his own power!"
"Naruto." Mizuki's voice flowed like silk. "Iruka's just trying to scare you because he doesn't want you to have the scroll."
Numbness spread throughout my body. What was going on? Forbbiden scroll? Using me? Who was using me? Mizuki-sensei? Or Iruka-sensei? Was Mizuki-sensei right? Was Iruka-sensei lying to him because he didn't want him to have the scroll? Who was right?
"Don't listen to him, Naruto!" Iruka-sensei shouted. "He's just trying to trick you! He's lying!"
Mizuki-sensei chuckled, dark and sinister. I felt a shiver run down my spine. "Oh, I'll tell you who's lying."
Iruka-sensei's eyes widened. "No Mizuki!"
"They've been lying to you your whole life," Mizuki-sensei said, heedless of Iruka-sensei shouting at him. "Since the degree of twelve years ago."
I felt something in Mizuki-sensei's voice, something that made my spine shiver. I didn't know what he was talking about, but my heart couldn't help from beating a little bit faster.
"Everyone knows except you. Iruka's trying to hide it even now. He'd do anything to shut me up."
"What is this degree? What are you talking about?" I couldn't help but ask. Was this degree the reason everyone hated me? Why every time I walked down the streets people glared at me? Why I was hated, alone, unwanted? I had to know.
"Mizuki don't! It's forbidden!"
"The degree is that no one can tell you that the Kyuubi no Yoko, the demon that destroyed our village is sealed inside of you!" My eyes widened. "The fox that nearly eradicated our home and killed Iruka's parents is inside your body. You are the Kyuubi no Yoko!"
"Wait! You're telling me that The Kyuubi no Yoko is sealed inside of you!?" Homura, surprisingly, was the one to break the silence first this time. The female fire user looked like someone had just told her that Elvis had come back from the dead as a Sekirei.
"Was," Naruto corrected. "The Kyuubi was sealed inside of me. Oh, and please don't call him the Kyuubi. He was only given that name by humans because they didn't know his real name."
"And what is his real name, Naruto-san?" asked Miya, sounding equal parts curious and disbelieving.
"Kurama." Naruto smiled, nostalgia rushing through him like a flowing river as a series of memories paced across his face. "He and I never got along when we first met. I used to think of him as a burden, someone who caused me large amounts of grief, and I took that out on him by demanding chakra and ignoring him like he didn't exist, treating him just like the villagers treated me."
Naruto's hand went to his stomach, where the seal that held his friend had once been. It was gone now, along with Kurama. Back when he had first woken up, it had actually been Kurama's loss that hit him the hardest. The fox had always been with him, ever since he was a baby, and while Naruto had seen that as a burden at first, the ornery kitsune had become his most cherished companion and friend.
"Over time Kurama and I became friends. When the Fourth Great Shinobi War came upon us, he and I teamed up for the first time and formed a bond of friendship."
"What is the Fourth Great Shinobi War?" asked Matsu. A glance at the bespectacled woman revealed that she was typing on a small tablet, her fingers flying over it at incredible speeds. Naruto could only assume she was taking notes of everything he said.
"It was..." Naruto paused, considering. How did one explain the war that started it all? The war that had given him his curse? "It was a war that had been started by a madman. A war filled with betrayal and pain and death. It was the first and last war where I truly lost everything. I'll tell you about it soon, but let me get back to my story."
After beating Mizuki, I was allowed to graduate. At the time, I used to think it was because I showed off my mad skills with shadow clones, but the more I think on it, the more I begin to think Iruka had seen something inside of me. Perhaps it was the will of fire that my people cherished and spoke of so much. I don't know.
Becoming a genin also meant I would be placed into a genin team. In Konoha, genin teams consist of four ninja, a Jonin sensei, the highest rank among ninja and just below the Hokage, and three genin. It was the first Hokage who formed this idea of four man squads. It was his belief that teamwork was one of the most important aspects a Konoha shinobi could have. By having four members to a squad, it meant that you had enough people that you could all protect each other, but not so many that you would be bogged down and unable to move swiftly and efficiently. I suppose you could say he made the whole concept of four man squads a national standard.
Anyway, I became part of a four man squad consisting of Uchiha Sasuke, Haruno Sakura, and Hatake Kakashi, and our designated call number was Team Seven.
It was tough at first, being on this team, I mean. We didn't really get a long very well, or at all, actually. Our dynamic was absolutely terrible. I remember, back then, I had a crush on Sakura, but she had a crush on Sasuke, and Sasuke, well, I think he ever loved anyone.
Despite our lack of team dynamic and inability to work together, we managed to do alright. We passed our genin test set by Kakashi and ended up going on a number of missions.
I will tell you right now that D-rank missions are the bane of every genin teams existence. We did everything from walking talks to painting fences to pulling weeds. None of that was much fun, and I don't think there was ever a time back then when I wouldn't complain to Kakashi about how I was too awesome for such lame ass missions.
Back then, I hadn't know the real reason for D-rank missions. They weren't given as a means of boring genin to death, but to help foster teamwork. Had my team and I tried working together, we might have eventually realized that. We didn't, though, because none of us had been that smart at the time. And while Sasuke might have been considered a genius and Sakura was a bookworm, both were blinded by their own misguided perception of the world. I wasn't any better. In fact, I might have been worse.
Still, we continued to work and continued to grow. Our first mission out of the village had been a real eye opener. My team and I had almost gotten ourselves killed when a seemingly innocuous mission to escort a bridge builder ended up with us fighting for our lives against a ninja on the same caliber of Kakashi. Our team just barely managed to make it out of that situation alive, but I think we came out stronger for it.
Team Seven faced many trials and tribulations after that. In our first and only Chunin Exam, the examinations that determine which among the newest batch of genin has what it takes to become a Chunin, we ended up fighting against giant snakes, a powerful S-class ninja who turned traitor to our village, and an unstable Jinchurikki who'd had the one-tailed tanuki, Shukaku, sealed inside of him when he was still in his mothers womb. Through all of that I trained and grew stronger, if not smarter, and finally managed to start making a difference in the way Konoha saw me.
Perhaps it was because of my own naivete at the time, but those good times did not last.
Sasuke, who I had begun forming a bond of friendship and brotherhood with, became increasingly angry at my own incredible leaps in strength. Within a month, I had gone to the dead last of my graduating class, to someone who could fight people that were possessed by powerful chakra entities. It must have seemed as if I was surpassing him by leaps and bounds. And so, about a day or two after our last mission to help someone with a race, Sasuke abandoned the village, leaving us to link up with the traitor Orochimaru.
We didn't let him go without a fight, naturally. He was our comrade, and so we gathered together a team and went after him.
At first, I think we all believed that Sasuke had been kidnapped. It was a well-known fact that Orochimaru, the S-class traitor I was speaking of, coveted jutsu. It was his desire to learn all the jutsu in the world, which would explain why he wanted Sasuke.
I think I mentioned this before, but Sasuke was a member I the Uchiha clan, the same clan that descended from the Sage's eldest son. Like all members of the clan, Sasuke had the Sharingan, a powerful ocular ability that allowed him to copy any technique he saw by analyzing the flow of someone's chakra. It was a powerful ability, and the main reason why Orochimaru wanted Sasuke. It was his plan to bring Sasuke into the fold, and then steal his body using a kind of possession jutsu.
All of my friends fought hard, and thanks to them I was able to reach Sasuke, but I soon came to realize that it was no use. My friend wasn't being manipulated. He was willingly going to Orochimaru. I tried to stop, by force when I realized words were having no effect. The ensuing battle damaged much of the surrounding landscape where our fight took place. I fought as hard as I could. I gave it my all. But my best hadn't been good enough, and Sasuke managed to beat me and leave.
I wouldn't see him again for over two years.
After my battle with Sasuke, I left Konoha to go on a training trip with my godfather, Jiraiya, a powerful ninja on par with the one that Sasuke had joined. I learned a lot, and returned to Konoha a little over two and a half years, stronger, and maybe even a little more mature.
Maybe it was due to my new strength, or perhaps it was because there were other forces at work, but the dangers I faced after returning to Konoha became more difficult than ever.
The first of those dangers, and the one that posed the greatest threat to myself, was a group calling themselves Akatsuki. They were a group of nine S-ranked ninja, each one powerful enough to take on a kage and each one possessing a unique ability that made them even more dangerous. Their goal was to gather all of the Bijuu unto themselves, though at the time, none of us knew what their reasons were. All we knew was that we couldn't just hand over power like that, not to them, or anyone else.
There were other threats that came our way as well: demons, people who wanted to wipe Konoha from the face of the map by raising an army of ninja zombies, and all manner of threats. These threats soon came to a head when a man calling himself Pain attacked my village.
Pain was the first person I ever fought who truly made me doubt my strength. His power was unbelievable. He attacked Konoha on his own, a one man army, and destroyed the entire village. All of its ninja were defeated, and by the time I arrived from my own training on Mt. Myoboku, Konoha had become nothing more than a large crater.
My battle with Pain had been the most difficult one up to that point. Even after my training on Mt. Myoboku, where I had learned to gather and channel the nature energy of the world into myself in order to increase my physical abilities and range when fighting hand to hand, I still wasn't strong enough to win. Pain eventually had me, defeated and lying on the ground,unable to move. I would have been captured right then and there, but the timely intervention of one of my friends. Even then, my friend almost died and I became so angry that Kurama, who I still wasn't getting along with at the time, managed to take control of my body and rampage across the ruins of Konoha. Only the timely intervention of my old man, who had sealed a portion of his chakra inside of me just in case things ever got to the point they had. He saved me, and thanks to him, I was able to wrest control back from the Kurama and beat Pain.
I confronted the true person behind the persona of Pain, a man named Nagato, who had been an apprentice to Jiraiya just like me. Though both of us shared a desire for peace, our ideologies and beliefs on how to achieve that peace were vastly different from each other. Through discussion and understanding, we were able to come to an agreement. I don't think I'll ever be able to forgive him for killing my sensei, but at the same time, he gave his life to bring those who had died during his invasion back to life. If nothing else, I'll always respect him for what he did.
Life continued on after that. We set out to rebuild Konoha. With the fifth Hokage, Senju Tsunade, comatose from the battle against Pain, a man named Danzo stepped up to the plate and assumed the position. I never liked Danzo much, but I guess it didn't matter, because during a summit meeting of the five kages, he was killed by Sasuke, who had joined Akatsuki for the purpose of destroying Konoha.
A lot happened after that. Tsunade woke up and resumed her position as Hokage. She convened a war council in order to prepare for the coming war, which I guess happened sometime during the meeting of the five kages. I don't know much about what happened. I wasn't there, but I did hear that the summit meeting place was pretty much trashed by Sasuke during his assassination of Danzo. It didn't really matter anyway.
What did matter was what happened afterward. I was given a mission to go and master Kurama's powers. I set off with another Jinchurikki, an odd fellow named Killer B, who was really bad at rapping. We went to a remote island somewhere in the Land of Lightning.
Killer B was an amazing Jinchurikki. Unlike me, who had not even bothered getting to know my Biju, he had accepted the Hachibi sealed inside of him as his friend and partner. I wanted that for myself, and though it took some convincing, I was eventually able to convince Killer B to become my teacher.
A lot happened while I was learning how to master Kurama's chakra. I was forced to confront my own darkness. I had to fight Kurama in battle in order to gain control of his chakra. I met my mother, who had a portion of her chakra sealed away inside of me. She helped me defeat Kurama and gain control over his chakra. After that, we were confronted by a member of Akatsuki named Kisame, who was defeated by Maito Gai, a ninja of Konoha who had the bushiest eyebrows I have ever seen in my life.
After that battle I learned the truth behind my mission there. It wasn't actually a mission, but a means of keeping me and Killer B from helping the shinobi alliance in their war. I was able to convince Killer B to come with me and help the alliance, and though many people tried stop us, we eventually arrived at the battle field to find an unusual sight.
An army of White Zetsu clones attacking the allied forces. Zetsu was one of the members of Akatsuki. I don't know much about the guy, other than that he looked like a man who was being eaten by a plant and got stuck halfway down. I don't know how the guy was cloned, but I hadn't really cared at the time. All that mattered to me was getting rid of the clones and helping me friends.
Of course, there were other problems, bigger ones than just an army of white Zetsus. Someone had used the Summoning: Impure World Ressurection technique to summon several powerful warriors back from the dead, including some of the most powerful kages in the history of the Elemental Nations.
Through the combined strength of the Allied Shinobi Nations, we managed to defeat the majority of those who had been summoned, along with much of the Zetsu army. But our luck ran out when 'he' showed up on the scene. Uchiha Madara, one of the most powerful shinobi to have ever graced the shinobi nations.
Madara devastated the battlefield, killing all those who stood in his way. I myself did everything I could to fend him off, but even the combined might of both me and Killer B amounted to little when faced with such impossible destruction.
With the five kages, including Tsunade, having been killed battling him previously, we were left with no other option but to retreat.
'You seem tired.'
'That's because I am tired.'
I tried blinking the sleep out of my eyes. When that didn't work, I pinched myself hard enough to draw blood. My thoughts, turning about my head in slight disarray, turned to what I must look like right now. I didn't have a mirror on me, but I imagine I couldn't look good.
A year had passed since Uchiha Madara's revival, and things had only gotten worse. While we had managed to stay alive up to this point, the death toll on our side was far too high. A number of our most powerful ninja were already gone. Most were killed by Uchiha Madara himself, but a number were done in by either Kabuto or Sasuke.
Uchiha Sasuke. I was truly beginning to hate that name. Sasuke, the first person who ever acknowledged my existence. Sasuke, my first friend, someone I had considered a brother in all but blood. Sasuke, the person who betrayed everything I stood for, who had gone to join a traitor, who had appeared again as a traitor, and who had joined up with Uchiha Madara and killed a number of my friends and those who served me.
I pressed my hands to my face, feeling the sweat that had gathered there despite the cold air blasting down on me from above.
Very few good things had happened this year. In fact, the only thing I could consider good about this entire year was that I had finally managed to track down and eradicate Yakushi Kabuto. And had done so in such a way that I know for a fact he would not be able to come back.
I really did have to thank Darui for traveling all the way to Uzu no Kuni. Without those techniques on sealing and kekkei ninjutsu, I would not have been able to erase every trace of Kabuto's presence from the world. Still, the cost for his death had been far too high.
'You really should stop thinking about this.'
'I can't help it. If I had been a more competent leader, none of them would have died.'
I thought about Rock Lee and Tenten, Choji and Ino, and how all four of them had been killed by several shinobi that Kabuto had resurrected when we launched our surprise attack on him. That battle had only gone as smoothly as it had because those four had willingly given their lives to ensure that he would be able to finish Kabuto uninterrupted.
'They chose you to be their leader. You know as well as I do that there is no one else who can. Darui may be a tactician, but he doesn't have your charisma. None of them do. Not Temari, not Shikamaru, and don't even get me started on Killer B. That man is...'
'Alright, alright. I get it. There really wasn't anyone else for the job.' I sighed. Exhaustion seeped into my bones. While I had plenty of energy, this was more of a mental exhaustion, the kind that came not from the body but from the spirit, the mind.
There are several different kinds of exhaustion one can suffer. Exhaustion of the body is the most common. People eventually grow tired the longer they stay up, the more energy they expend. Their bodies eventually shut down with the need to rest. There was also exhaustion of the mind. It came mostly from working that organ in your skull for too long, for thinking too much and too deeply. It was a kind of exhaustion I was becoming intimately familiar with now that I was the leader of the remnants of the Allied Shinobi Nation.
Then there was exhaustion of the spirit. When you lose people who are close to you, the spirit suffers. It's a deep seated fatigue, the kind of exhaustion that only comes after you soul has taken a beating, just like mine has. This was the exhaustion I was suffering. Too many people had died because of my mistakes. Each death was like a fire jutsu scorching my already extra crispy heart.
I felt old. Despite only having just turned seventeen a few months ago, I felt more like old man Oonoki, brittle, weak, feeble. With each day that passed this feeling of ancientness became greater. Each time I sent someone out, knowing that I would likely never see them again, caused something in my chest to get ripped out, violently and without warning. It was painful.
'You might not realize this, Naruto, but everyone here looks up to you. They respect and admire you. No one else has garnered the kind of veneration that you have.'
'So what are you saying?'
'I am saying that if you were to ask something of them, everyone here would gladly sacrifice themselves for you.'
'I would rather die before sacrificing them. You know that, Kurama.'
'Indeed I do. That is why we need to end this way as soon as possible.'
'The way you say that makes it sound like you have a plan.'
'I'm in the process of thinking something up.'
Before I could respond, the door to my office slammed open and Darui rushed in. The man looked frantic, his white hair messier than usual, his eyes wide. I had never seen the man looking so frantic, ever. Darui was always my calmest and most composed commander. That he looked like he was on the verge of a freak out now honestly freaked me out.
"Darui, what's wrong."
"H... Hokage-sama," Darui gasped, out of breath. Sweat had formed on his brow, making me realized that he'd run here from the next subterranean base that I had him setting up for our eventual move. The base that was over two days travel by foot. He must have run here without pause. "I... I'm sorry..."
"Easy there. Calm down, Darui. Take a slow breath." Darui did as told, but it didn't seem to help much. "Now, tell me what's wrong."
"I'm sorry, Hokage-sama." Darui closed his eyes, grimacing. I don't know why, but seeing the disposition expression on his face caused my stomach to drop. "It's Sakura-san. She and her team were ambushed by who we think was Uchiha Sasuke."
I stood amidst a desolate landscape. This place had once been a beautiful forest, filled with trees and all types of flora and fauna, a veritable wellspring of life. Not so much anymore. The ground, cracked and burnt, full of holes and pockmarks. It looked like the very gods themselves had made this land their battleground, devastating it with hellfire and earthquakes and all other kinds of natural disasters. In a way, I suppose my words about gods were right.
In some ways, the battle that was taking place here was a battle between gods.
I extended my arm, a claw-like appendage shooting from it, glowing white with an intensity that would burn the retina of most. Held within the grasp of the claw was a small, swirling orb of white chakra with several blades running a ring around the middle. A miniature rasenshuriken.
The attack headed towards Uchiha Madara, who had his arms crossed, a smirk plastered on his face, and looked as cocky as ever. His entire body was wreathed in a white haori composed entirely of energy with nine magatama situated near the collar. His hair, once a dark black, had now become a dark red and his skin was gray. Black pants, shirt, gloves, and boots covered the rest of him, and ten black orbs surrounded him on all sides. Truth-seeking balls.
As the clawed appendage came near, the man uncrossed his arms and dashed forward at speed. He no longer had his Gunbai. I had already destroyed that weapon at the start of this battle with a physical attack that used nature chakra, so he was forced to slip around my rasenshuriken claw.
He bypassed the claw easily, which I had expected. My eyes narrowed as his form seemed to blur. Madara was fast, no doubts there. But thanks to my new, if incomplete, Six Paths Sage Mode, I was just as fast.
We clashed, somewhere in the center of our respective positions. A thunderous roar shook the lands. Cracks formed underneath us, and an updraft of powerful wind tore at our hair. Like Madara, I was using two of my Truth-seeking balls to attack in a melee battle. Where as the greatest member of the Uchiha clan had transformed his into a single staff with a three-fourths circle on the top, I had transformed mine into a pair of smaller staffs that I could dual wield.
The staff in my left hand flashed out at great speed, the air around it literally screeching as I lit it on fire. Madara spun his staff around with both hands, then blocked the one in my left, before shifting his grip, spinning the staff and causing my arm to go wide. He then brought his staff back in and blocked the one in my right hand, which I had thrust out in a jab, by moving to the left and allowing my malleable energy weapons to grind against each other.
We pushed back, if only for a moment to gain some space, and then were right back into the thick of our battle. Each time one struck and the other blocked, the world around them exploded with shock waves that caused dust and debris to go flying away like scattered particles. The earth underneath us shook, several cracks appearing along the ground, growing larger as the force of our blows against each other became stronger.
Over and over and over and over, we fought with our melee weapons. Neither of us wanted to use ninjutsu, as the Truth-seeking balls had the ability to negate almost all ninjutsu. The only attack that could actually repel the weapons was my Rasenshuriken, because I always pumped a lot of nature chakra into those attacks and thus they could withstand the truth-seeking balls negating power.
Up so close and concentrating only on the fight, I was unable to focus enough to use any of my rasenshuriken variants. It was too bad, because I was sure that Madara would not be able to survive a face full of magma release: Rasenshuriken.
I brought the staff in my left hand overhead and swung it down hard. The attack was blocked, naturally, by the long staff in Madara's. The kinetic energy from the staff was soon transferred into the ground, which exploded with indescribable violence. As rocks and rubble and dust were kicked up into the air, surrounding the two of us, I wove backwards, avoiding having the bottom end of Madara's staff ripping into my stomach and chest. I then moved back in, and proceeded to attack my nemesis with a series of powerful slashing attacks.
As the battle continued I began to realize something. The two of us, Madara and I, were about equal. I think he had a bit more power to him, but I was faster. He also had more experience, but I had better reflexes. In a battle like this, the victor would normally be determined by who had the better skill set, or was stronger, but all of our powers and abilities and skills were negated by the others qualities.
A battle such as this would not come down to who the better fighter was, but by who made the first mistake.
Our last clash ended in a powerful shockwave that caused us both to be sent flying away. I was sent skidding along the ground, dust and gravel being kicked up in my wake. Rather than let myself be deterred by this, I extended one of my chakra claws with a miniature rasenshuriken, hoping to plant the attack in Madara's gut before he could notice. It didn't work, of course. Madara had the Rinnegan and could see the attack well before it got within range. He moved backwards two steps, then to the left just as the arm came within reach. As the arm flew past him, the staff in his hand came up, slicing the clawed hand off and causing the chakra it was composed of to disperse.
"You've gotten pretty strong for someone who only recently acquired that power," Madara commented, that arrogant smirk still on his face. "I'm surprised you have such a good handle on it considering you stole it from me just a few weeks ago."
Madara was referring to the first attempt I had made at killing him. The original plan had been that Killer B and I would engage Madara in battle, distracting him. While we kept his attention occupied on us, Shikamaru and Darui would steal the Bijuu that had currently been sealed into the Gedo Mezo using a seal that myself and Kurama had created together.
The plan might have worked, too, had Madara not proven to be stronger than both myself and Killer B combined. After toying with us like a cat toys with a mouse, he had summoned the giant statue containing the other seven Bijuu and attempted to steal Kurama and Gyūki from us. He might have even succeeded, but Killer B had chosen to make the ultimate sacrifice, giving up his life in order to seal Gyūki inside of me before the eight-tails could be taken. With the combined power of Gyūki and Kurama fueling me and increasing my chakra levels, I was able to activate the seal myself.
I only succeeded in taking two of the Biju, Shukaku and Chomei, before Madara realized what I was up to and cut off the power. After that, I had been forced to retreat because the combined chakra of four Bijuu had taken my body to the breaking point.
Shikamaru and Darui had sacrificed themselves to give me the time I needed to escape.
"You shouldn't be. Unlike you, I've been a Jinchurikki all my life. I'm used to having a lot of power sealed within me. Also unlike you, I made friends with my Bijuu. Kurama, Shukaku, Chomei and Gyūki, all of them are important and precious friends."
"Hmph! Friends. What a joke!" Madara crossed his arms over his chest and looked at me with a bored expression. "There is no need to make friends with those beasts. All they are good for is serving those better than them. You don't need to make friends with tools."
"They aren't tools!" I could feel my blood boiling at that comment. The Bijuu have already suffered so much. For centuries humans have tried to abuse the powers of the Bijuu, using them as tools for their wars. This man, Madara, was just like every other two-bit fool who thought they had the right to trample on the hopes and dreams of another just because that other being happened to not be human. "They might not be human like us, but they're still people! They have names! And they have hopes and dreams of their own! What right do you have to take that away from them!"
"I have every right!" Madara howled, laughing. "Might makes right! My strength if beyond anyone else's! I have powers other people couldn't begin to comprehend!" Madara stopped laughing, but the grin on his face as he stared at me didn't go away. "The only person in my way right now is you. If you weren't always interfering with my plans, little Hokage, I would have been a God by now, and the Infinite Tsukoyomi would have already been cast. The world would have finally known peace."
"Your peace is a lie!" I couldn't help but feel my anger at this man overtake me. Peace? What did he know of peace? All Madara knew was war. He fought and killed and slaughtered, and he enjoyed it. Someone like him could never understand true peace. "It wouldn't be peace! You'd just be turning everyone into your slave! I won't allow that! As long as I live, I will never allow someone to bring about a false peace like that!"
"Hahahaha!" Madara laughed. "Then why don't you show me your resolve, little Hokage. Let's see who's ideals are stronger. Yours or mine."
Both of us prepared to unleash our next attack. All ten of our respective Truth-seeking balls were combined to form the weapons that would be used in our final clash. While Madara's had become a giant Gunbai similar to his old one, mine had turned into a sword with two blades that had taken on the shape of a double helix.
This was it. Our last battle. Everything would be decided today.
And I had no intention of losing.
Naruto sighed, drinking the last trace of a cup of tea that had been set in front of him. Setting the now empty cup down, he slowly proceeded to finish his story. "I am... unsure of what happened after that final clash. I remember Madara and I meeting in another exchange, one in which we both used our full powers, and then I remember something happening to Madara. He was screaming, and then I was screaming, and the next thing I knew everything went white."
"Time after that seemed meaningless. I was alive, yet not living. I could feel, but was number. It was like I was stuck inside of a bubble where time had no purpose."
"I do not know how long I was left that in state, of the years that passed. But when I woke up, everything I knew was no more. The Elemental Nations were gone, the continent that had comprised of my home was no more, and I woke up in a coffin far beneath the earth's crust in a city called Akkad."
"Akkad!?" Homura was the one to voice her shock the loudest. "There is no way that's possible! Akkad hasn't existed for thousands of years! It's nothing more than a pile of rubble, and has been for the last several hundred years."
"Indeed it has," Naruto nodded towards Homura. "The city of Akkad was destroyed long before the the supposed birth of Jesus Christ and the making of the new calender." The blond squinted his eyes as he recalled his memories of the once large city. "I think I remember Akkad being destroyed around 1400 BC, or thereabouts. It's hard for me to truly say, since I left the city not long after I had woken up." An amused smile crossed his face. "The denizens had not been pleased that I didn't want to stay with them."
Everyone was silent as Naruto's words began to truly sink in. Matsu was the first who seemed to get it, as her eyes widened a second later and she began typing furiously on her tablet some more. Naruto would have wondered what she was doing, but Miya had chosen to speak up.
"Naruto-san," she started, her voice sounding strained and tentative. "Are you trying to tell us that you are over 5,000 years old?" At the sound of her question, everyone except for Kusano stopped what they were doing. Even Musubi ceased her actions in order to look at Naruto, her expression curious.
"Technically speaking, I think I'm somewhere over 10,000 years old," Naruto admitted, shrugging. "I may be even older than that. When I was alive, there were only two continents, one to the far west of where I lived, and the Elemental Nations. The landmasses were all shaped different as well. It takes a long time for the tectonic plates beneath the earth's surface to shift large bodies of land like that. For all I know, I could be over 50,000 or even 100,000 years old and just not know it. However, I woke up around the year 3,000 BC, or thereabouts."
"That would mean that you are at the very least, 5,020 years old." Homura's glare was growing more baleful by the second. "That's impossible! It's completely impossible! No one could be that old! You're trying to tell us that you're some kind of immortal who has been around for thousands of years! Who in their right mind would believe that crap!"
Naruto frowned at Homura, who was breathing heavily and looking pissed. He opened his mouth, about to make a suggestion that would prove his age, when Matsu interrupted. "Actually, Homura-san. There is a very real possibility that Naruto is, in fact, an immortal who has been around for thousands of years."
"Oh?" Kazehana, speaking up for the first time since the meeting had started, leaning over the table, her large breasts resting against the wooden surface. "Do tell, Matsu? Explain to us how someone can be several thousand years old."
"Here." Matsu set her tablet on the table, in the center, making everyone except Naruto and Kusano stand up and lean over to get a better look. And while they stared at the image presented on the screen, Matsu continued speaking. "That picture you all see before you was taken in the year 1942. The person in that picture apparently went by the name Namikaze Minato. This isn't the first or last time someone has gone by that name, however. While I have been unable to find anymore images, there have been people who went by the name Namikaze Minato throughout the years. I've even managed to find text of a Namikaze Minato during the edo period."
"That doesn't prove anything, though!" Homura was the one to argue once more. "Just because they have the same name doesn't mean anything. And that's not even Naruto's name."
"But you can't deny this picture looks a lot like bro," Uzume said. "I mean, I can't see their hair color or anything, cuz it's all black and white, and this person doesn't have any whisker marks. But it does look a lot like him."
"You still can't prove that's Naruto!"
"Do you believe me, Uzume?" asked Naruto, ignoring the fuming Homura.
"That's a tough question to answer." Uzume looked thoughtful. "I mean, I know you're really different from everyone else. I've seen you do some freaky stuff, and you saved my Chiho when no one else could. You've got these strange powers, and you're not afraid of Miya. You've also done a lot for me, so I think the least I can do is believe you."
"I believe in Naruto-sama as well," Musubi voiced her own thoughts with a cheerful mien.
"As do I," Tsukiumi added, glaring at Musubi for beating her to the punch, before turning her attention back to Naruto. "It is only right that I believe you. I am your wife, after all."
"You are not! Stop saying you're his wife! I am the only wife in this Shogun Harem!"
"Muu~ it's rude to interrupt people, you know."
"If you want, Homura, I can give you indisputable proof that I am immortal." Naruto ignored Musubi and Tsukiumi as they began butting heads over who was the "proper wife" again. Those two would never learn.
"And how can you possibly hope to do that?" asked Homura. The silver-haired fire user looked skeptical. Naruto merely smiled, even as his hand came up and gently tapped a spot on Kusano's neck. The young girl slumped backwards against his chest, and he scooped her up and handed her over to Akitsu, who took the girl from his arms without question.
"Naruto?" Miya questioned the not-so-young man.
"Sorry, but I don't want Kusano awake for this." Naruto smiled, then stood up. He soon began unbuttoning his shirt, which caused a bit of ruckus.
"Whoo! Take it off, bro! Take it off!"
"What do you think you are doing, Naruto-san?"
"Oh my, he's got a nice chest."
"H-husband! Why are you stripping?"
"Put your shirt back on, Naruto!"
"Sorry," Naruto apologized again, even as he finished unbuttoning his shirt and took it off, throwing it to the floor. "But I don't want it to get all bloody."
"Bloody?" Miya frowned, her brow furrowed. "Naruto..." her voice sounded out in trepidation. "What did you mean by that? What are you planning to do?"
And then shoved his hand directly into his chest.
Blood shot from the wound like a geyser as his skin was pierced, then his muscles soon after. It poured out of the cracks around his hand, dark crimson flowing down his chest like a river. Naruto dug his hand further in, a loud squelching sound coming forth, followed by the crack of bones as he snapped his own ribcage. Seconds later, there was another loud squelch, and then Naruto pulled his hand out of his chest.
In his hand was a still beating heart.
For a second no one spoke, not until Naruto threw the heart, still beating, onto the table, where it hit the wood with a wet thud.
"W-w-what the fuck do you think you're doing!?"
"Holy shit! Bro just tore his heart out!"
A threnody of voices all cried out. Shock and horror and confusion filled the air. The loud exclamations of terror that reverberated around the room caused the flimsy paper walls to rattle.
The only people who were not screaming were Akitsu, Kusano, Musubi, and Miya. Akitsu was silent as usual. Unlike the others, she was just staring at Naruto, her eyes wide. Kusano was, well, she was still asleep in Akitsu's arms. Musubi was staring at the heart. She looked confused, like she wasn't quite sure what she was staring at.
Miya, on the other hand, was staring at Naruto in horror. Her eyes, wider than they had ever been, peered at the gaping hole in Naruto's chest, watching as the muscle fibers knit themselves together. Noises, strangled and choking, emerged from her throat, but refused to come out as anything more than a squeak. Her mouth was agape in undisguised alarm. She was trembling, her entire body shaking and quivering and rocking, as if she were staring at some kind of eldritch horror, an abomination from that had transcended the planes of oblivion to come here and show her what true terror really was.
Throughout all the chaos, Naruto stood there, silent, his body unmoving and statuesque. His eyes betrayed none of what he was feeling. Even as his clothes became rapidly stained in crimson ichor, he remained standing there, his face set in stone, expressionless in a way that everyone there would have found disturbing had they not been freaking out.
Naruto remained silent for several more seconds, before deciding that everyone had freaked out enough.
Every single person within the room found themselves lying flat on the ground, their faces literally planted into the floor as the feeling of gravity within the room increased by a factor of ten. Even Miya found herself struggling to do more than squirm about.
"W-what is this? Why can't I move?"
"I-I―why―what is this horrid feeling?"
"Have all of you calmed down?" asked Naruto. No one answered him, for obvious reasons. Sighing, the blond sat himself back down, choosing to sit seiza instead of crossing his legs. He then began to let up on his power, slowly easing the chakra off the bodies of the other Izumo residence, allowing them to slowly sit up, albeit, they were shaking horribly. "I hope that this has convinced all of you that I am, in fact, immortal."
"Convinced?" Homura was, again, the first person to respond. "Convinced us!? You ripped your own fucking heart out!"
"I did indeed. Your point?"
"My point?" Homura stopped short, her eyes going unfocused. "Well I, uh, I guess I don't really have a point." She then looked at the heart and her face turned slightly green.
"I can't believe you just ripped your own heart out to prove a point," Uzume was holding onto a fainted Chiho, who had passed out when Naruto shoved his fist through his chest. "You've got some serious problems. You know that, bro?"
"Probably," Naruto agreed, "but it doesn't matter. Besides, my heart has already grown back." To prove his point, he wiped off all of the blood on his chest with the shirt he'd just discarded, allowing them to see that the gaping hole in his chest had completely healed over. It looked like he hadn't even ripped his own chest open.
The no longer beating heart on the table was the only evidence that Naruto had indeed torn a hole in his chest and ripped out his own heart.
"Wha... bu-but how!?"
Naruto looked at Homura like she was an idiot. They stared at each other for several seconds before, her face red with humiliation, Homura looked down.
"I trust that you all believe me now when I tell you that I'm immortal?" asked Naruto.
"It's kind of hard to not believe you after you rip your own heart out, bro."
"I would have believed you regardless, husband." Tsukiumi's face looked more than just a green. She also was looking at everything except the heart laying on the table. "You did not have to... to do that just to convince me."
"I've suspected you were much older than you look for a long time now," Matsu admitted, putting her glasses back on her face. "The only question I had was how old you are."
Naruto nodded, slowly. He knew that Matsu had been trying to pry into his past without success. He had been very thorough to make sure there was little to no evidence of his life throughout the ages. There were a few stories about him in certain periods that were filled with strife or significantly important. But, for the most part, it was almost impossible to find anything about him. That had to be frustrating for Matsu, yet somehow she managed to piece at least a few things together from their conversations.
"In that case, does anyone have any questions?"
"I have many questions," Homura said. The young woman still looked quite shocked, and a little green around the gills, but mostly shocked. At least she was able to speak now. "I have so many questions that I don't even know where to start or what to ask."
"I have a question," Matsu said. Everyone turned their heads to look at her. "What was that strange pressure just now? It was caused by you, right?"
"Oh that? That was merely me imposing my will on you," Naruto explained. "It's a chakra based ability. Basically, each persons chakra, when released, has a very unique feel to it. Certain people can use this feel to create certain effects. A good example would be Miya's hanya masks. They are her power, physically manifested to convey her negative emotions. What I did was similar, only rather than manifest my emotions through my power, I simply imposed my will on you."
When everyone just stared at him like he was speaking a foreign language, he sighed.
"Okay, think of it like this. Animals are creatures of habit and instinct. In general circumstances, when they find themselves in the presence of an predator, they run, because their instincts are telling them that the creature before them is something they don't want to mess with. With humans, it is a little different. Because we are capable of rational thought and logic, we're generally capable of taking actions that fly in the face of logic. However, what happens when you are faced with something so powerful and terrible that it's impossible to comprehend?"
"So, what? You're saying that our minds locked up or something? What about that strange pressure?"
"There was no pressure," Naruto said, "that was all in your mind. My power is simply overwhelming on a scale beyond mortal comprehension that your mind can't begin to fathom it. It automatically interprets this power as belonging to something that you stand no hope of defeating and shuts down in order to present yourself as less interesting target. That pressure you felt, was basically just your body shutting down. You struggled to move, but couldn't, yet nothing was restraining you, making you automatically assume that what you feel is a several times increase in the earth's gravity."
"I see." Matsu typed into her tablet again. She looked intently focused upon something on whatever it was she was typing.
"Does that mean everyone can learn that ability?" asked Kazehana. Naruto looked at the woman, the only Sekirei aside from Uzume and Miya who was not a part of his harem. He gave her a nod.
"Not like mine, no, but it is possible for everyone to come up with their own chakra manifestation ability. Even regular civilians have enough chakra to do that. The problem is getting your power to manifest itself on a physical plane. It requires a lot of effort and concentration to accomplish."
"Does anyone else have any questions?"
A few of the Sekirei there looked like they had questions, including Miya, but most seemed either unable or unwilling to voice them.
"In that case, I think we should leave things here for now. It'll give you guys some time to think about what I said. Plus it's almost lunch time."
Naruto wondered when sitting on the porch of Maison Izumo had become a habit. Ever since arriving at this inn, the porch leading to the backyard had become his go to spot when he wanted to think. Perhaps this was another sign of how old he was.
"If you're going to keep staring at me, the least you could do is stare from up here." Naruto patted the spot next to him. "Come on, pop a squat and tell me what's on your mind."
There was a second or two of silence, before the dull thud of slow moving footsteps reverberated in his ear. Naruto soon found Homura sitting next to him, the fire user looking not at him, but at the backyard. She was clenching her hands, he noticed.
"Is it true? Are you really immortal?"
"Are you really asking me that?" Naruto sighed, then scratched the back of his head. "I suppose I can't really blame you. It does sound pretty far-fetched."
Homura snorted. "That's putting it very mildly."
"Yes, I suppose it is." Naruto turned his head and looked at the backyard as well. It wasn't quite evening yet, but a splash of color was starting to fill the sky. "I'm not sure what I can do to convince that I'm telling the truth, short of cutting my head off." The blond Uzumaki looked at the young woman. "Would you like me to do that? It takes a little while to regrow my head but..."
"No!" Homura shouted, her face turning green. She brought a hand up to her mouth, then swallowed whatever bile had risen in her throat. Coughing several times, she said, "no, that's fine. If you say that you're immortal, I guess I can give you the benefit of the doubt, even if it does sound really far-fetched."
"In that case, thank you. I wasn't too keen on cutting my own head off."
Silence pervaded the porch. Naruto didn't mind the silence, but Homura apparently did. The fire user kept glancing at him from the corner of her eye, only looking away when he deigned to look back.
"You know, Homura, if you keep staring at me like that, I'm going to assume you want something from me," Naruto commented lightly, his voice airy and unconcerned. "Then again, maybe you do want something." Turning his head ever so slightly, he gave Homura a small smirk. "Perhaps now that you've finally finished your miraculous transformation, you want to know what it's like being with me?"
Homura's face turned a very expectant shade of red.
"Not that I can really blame you. I mean, Musubi and I were pretty loud yesterday."
Steam began pouring from Homura's ears.
"Don't worry, I understand it might be a bit embarrassing for you to admit, since you used to be a guy and all. But it's okay. Curiosity about sex is completely natural for a woman like you. And even though you used to have a dick, I don't think I'd mind seeing what you have hiding under that skirt, um, pants."
"That's not what I wanted to ask you about you!"
"It's not?" Naruto blinked, confused. "Then why do you keep staring at me, if not because you want to see what's hiding underneath my boxers?"
If Homura's face got any redder, it would likely begin outshining a red star.
"It certainly wasn't because I was interested in what's under your pants!" Homura spat.
Naruto tilted his head. "Oh, well then, what did you want to talk to me about?"
Visibly calming down, Homura sighed, and then went back to her distant, somewhat shy self. Naruto had to admit, it was kind of cute seeing her act like that. She was usually trying her hardest to act "cool" and when that didn't work, she was normally a spitfire of emotion. This new side was adorable.
"I wanted to... what I mean is, you've probably seen a lot of things, you know, since you've been around for a while," Homura started saying.
"Did you want to ask me about a specific time period?" asked Naruto. "I know a lot about certain periods, having played a part in most of them. I could tell you about the time I destroyed Atlantis, if you wanted?"
Homura looked startled. "You destroyed Atlantis?"
"Or I could tell you about the time I seduced Nobunaga Oichi."
"No! I don't want―wait." Homura blinked. "You seduced Nobunaga Oda's sister?"
"Of course. Why do you think Oda went insane? He caught me fucking his sister six ways to Sunday. That sort of sight leaves some serious mental scars on you, or so I am told."
Homura opened her mouth to speak, then shut it closed with a snap. Eventually, she just sighed and shook her head. "I don't want to know about that. I really don't."
"Then why don't I tell you about the time I posed as various Gods and played pranks on humans?" said Naruto. When Homura just looked at him like he was crazy, the blond grinned and began his tale. "It was sometime around 1200 BC when I found myself traveling through Greece. I hadn't been down that way in a while, and thought I'd take a look and see what was going on."
"I was pretty old by that time, as you can imagine, and I was also pretty fed up with humans as a whole. No one seemed interested in the concepts of peace and understanding that I kept trying to pass on to them. It was like humanity had become overcome with greed and lust. They always wanted more than they had any right to, and were perfectly willing to steal and kill in order to get what they wanted."
"At the time, I had arrived in Greece, there was some kind of war going on."
"The Trojan War," Homura supplied. Naruto smiled.
"That's right. You seem to know your history. I'm not really surprised, since you've got all those books in your room." While Homura flushed at the mention of her history books, Naruto continued his story. "Well, I had gotten pretty damn fed up by that point, and decided that if they weren't going to listen to me, then I was going to fuck with them. So I changed my appearance using henge and―"
Naruto looked at Homura as he was interrupted, blinking, before snapping his fingers. "Right, I forgot that you don't know what henge is. It's basically a transformation technique that lets me turn into anybody I want. Here, let me show you." Naruto made a single hand seal and was engulfed in a puff of smoke. When the smoke finally cleared, it wasn't Naruto sitting next to Homura, but another Homura.
"Holy shit!" Homura, quite naturally, freaked out.
"Pretty cool, right?" said Naruto with Homura's voice.
"Freaking creepy if you ask me." Homura stared at, well, herself―or at least Naruto taking on her appearance, with a look that could only be described as "what the fuck?" "Change back. Change back right now."
"Alright, alright. Spoilsport." When Homura just glared at him, Naruto chuckled and changed back into his original form. "Now where was I? Oh yeah! Right, I was pretty pissed off, so I transformed myself into another person, and then descended onto the battlefield and created a massive lightning storm that killed several thousand people. I then told them that if they insisted on acting like a bunch of fucking brats, then I was going to treat them as such and smack their asses with my lightning bolt."
Homura just sighed. "So you're Zeus?"
"Not just Zeus," Naruto said, grinning as he remembered his greatest prank to date. "I transformed myself into a lot of different people. I remember one time when I created this huge title wave that engulfed an entire city. And then there was this other time where I raised the dead and had them slaughter a small town. Ah, and then there was this time where I―"
"So, basically, what you're telling me is that you posed as all of the Gods and Goddesses in order to, what? Prank humans?"
"I didn't pose as all of the gods." Naruto pouted. "Athena, for example. And Artemis. Or Hera. Those were all women I had slept with. Well." Naruto looked up at the sky. "Athena and Artemis were my daughters, but I slept with them, too, so I'm not sure it matters."
"You slept with your own daughters?" Homura looked disgusted. Her nose was wrinkled and her face a pale shade of green.
"Sure. I don't see why I shouldn't." Naruto shrugged. "Genetically speaking, they gained none of my traits, except for my strong chakra. None of our children had any birth defects either so..."
"Wasn't Artemis supposed to be a man hater?"
"Yeah, but that's just because no other man could match me in strength, skills, or underneath the sheets."
"I give up," Homura groaned. "And in any case, weren't the Greek Gods supposed to have existed before the Trojan Wars?"
"Yes, but I had visited Greek before. Like, two thousand years before that. Back then they called me Aether because of my strong wind affinity. It was the one I was born with, so wind was always my strongest power."
"...I see. I think I'm just going to shut up now."
"That's probably for the best. I still have to finish my story, after all. Now let's see, where was I? Oh yes! So I had disguised myself as a bunch of different people, and created as much chaos as possible. By then, everyone had come to the conclusion that all these different people were gods, and they began to worship me. Which I thought was kinda funny, because I kept sleeping with their women, but whatever. Anyway, I suppose that's my story. Since you're such a big history buff, you probably know about most of the major things that happened. Like the birth of my sons and daughters and the things they accomplished."
"And was there any point to this story?" asked Homura. She looked tired, like all of her hopes and dreams had just been crushed and she was no longer sure what to do with herself.
"Not really. It was just supposed to be an interesting story."
"Oh it was interesting alright. And I just learned that my Ashikabi is a sociopath who toys with humans for his own amusement," Homura practically growled. She did not seem pleased to know that Naruto, the person she was bound to, was a jerk.
"You say that likes it's a bad thing," Naruto said, looking out at the sky. "Let me tell you something important here, Homura. Humans are like ants. They populate this world in great numbers, thriving regardless of the circumstances or conditions and are incredibly resilient. However, unlike ants, humans are greedy, selfish, backstabbing liars who would sooner kill you than help you, especially if they thought doing so would benefit them. What does it matter if I kill a few hundred, or even a few million of their kind? Why should I care? They'll grow back soon enough."
"You..." Homura stared at Naruto for a long, long time, before finally regaining her voice. "You really are broken, aren't you?"
"You're just now noticing that, are you?" Naruto chuckled. He then cast Homura a grin that had her looking away, her body shuddering uncontrollably. "Homura, I have been broken for a long, long time. You can't live as long as I have, see the things I've seen, and do the things I've done, and remain intact or even sane. I've long accepted the fact that I'm not even remotely close to sane."
Naruto leaned back against his arms, sighing as he thought about his past. When was the exact moment he had broken? Or rather, how many times had he been broken, put back together, only to be broken again? It must have been hundreds of times by now. His time posing as Greek Gods was just one of the many times he'd grown fed up with humans and fucked with them to amuse himself.
"You shouldn't have to..."
"Hmm?" Naruto looked over at Homura.
"You shouldn't have to accept that," Homura said, her voice low.
"Homura, are you crying?"
"No." Homura wiped at her eyes. "Don't be stupid. Why would I be crying."
"I don't know. Why don't you tell me."
Homura ignored Naruto, instead choosing to look at him in fierce determination. "I'm going to fix you. Even if it takes the rest of my life, I'm going to fix you."
Naruto stared at Homura for a long time, contemplating the much younger person. After a moment, he smiled. "Then the only thing I can do is wish you luck. You're going to need it if you want to fix someone like me. But I suppose I should give you a reward if you do manage it."
Homura stared at Naruto, her eyes wide. "What? A reward?"
"I know! How about a kiss?"
"W-w-w-why do you think I'd want to kiss you!?"
"Because you love me?"
"L-lo―don't be stupid! Why would I―I mean how could I possibly lo-lo-love you?"
"I don't know. That's something only you can answer."
Homura, unable to conjure up even a basic argument in her defense, could only say one thing.
It was her fallback defense mechanism.
So, here it is. It's pretty rough. I only had enough time to go over it once because I've been so busy. I imagine there are more mistakes in this chapter, but I hope you enjoyed it.
Updates will be coming in slower. If you wish to know why, then you can read my blog. If not, please don't PM asking why I won't be updating as quickly. I won't answer you.
Thanks again for reading my story.