Special Thanks To:
Time is Eternal, Time is Law,
When the world is in peril, it's sunk in maw.
One hero, one destiny, and one hope,
Please make sure this isn't some big dope.
One world to other, and one that goes bang,
Let this one person leave this world, forever changed…
Chapter 1: Nothing Ventured, Nothing Gained
Oh Land of the Rising Sun, Land of the Leaves… Oh Land of Nature...
"WHY DID THIS HAPPEN!?"
…Please don't let this situation get any worse for our friendly neighborhood knucklehead, Naruto. Our orange and black jacketed, blonde Genin was currently slamming his head into a nearby, wooden fence repeatedly. As he continued to bore his way into the wood, he started to wonder why he was even doing so in the first place. He stopped momentarily to ponder this, rubbing his now-throbbing forehead under his Konoha headband. His thoughts, still a tangled mess, unraveled temporarily to inform him of just why he was assaulting the fence…
…It involved him banging his head repeatedly once again with a renewed vigor as he recalled the events.
It wasn't that long ago... 15 minutes to be exact. It was mid-afternoon in the breezy town of Konohagakure, and Naruto had a plan. A prank. A devious excuse to laugh his ass off. He had just gotten back from a rescue mission involving Gaara and needed a way to rid himself of stress. What better way to kill said stress and time between missions than to make someone's life a living pain for a few minutes?
It was a simple plan really… Naruto was out in an alleyway, a path frequently taken when one needed to go to the Hokage tower. He had a cardboard box on his head—emblazoned with 'Please Open Me' on the front in big, bold Kanji—and a couple of innocent looking pellets. Why was the cardboard box on his head? It could have been because he wanted to be stealthy. It could have been because he could talk to boxes in some dead language that only he knew...
…Or he was just an idiot to begin with. Regardless, Naruto took the box off his head and set it upright with the pellets still in his hand. He brought the pellets into the sunlight in order to inspect his guaranteed success of laughing the day away. A red and blue pellet, each polished to a glossy finish, were necessary for this devious prank to work.
"Paint Pellets," Naruto muttered mostly to himself, "This is going to be funny as hell."
Naruto took a deep breath and began to push some of his chakra into his right hand, the one holding the pellets. As he infused the pellets with some of his chakra, he immediately placed them inside the box and closed it up, making sure no sunlight would reach inside… unless someone were to open it of course. As Naruto looked around for anybody walking up the alley, he set the box in the middle of the road, being careful as to not agitate the contents any further. Then, he dashed behind a nearby trash can, giggling like a little school girl.
Five minutes had passed, and not a single person had came down the alley. Not a soul, not a creature, not a single one. Naruto peeked out from behind the trash can. No footsteps, no whistling, no talking, just utter silence. Naruto crossed his arms, thinking.
"I could've sworn this was the busiest road... It's the fastest way to the tower, right?" he questioned himself. As he began to ponder just how strange this was, he heard footsteps approaching. He dove back down behind the trash can more out of reflex than anything else. He didn't even see who was coming up the road, but he couldn't peek out and risk of being seen. He had put more time into this prank than any other before, and he wasn't about to blow it. Naruto was silently giggling to himself, waiting for the inevitable. The footsteps grew ever closer. They immediately stopped, maybe no more than 10 feet away. Naruto assumed that whoever it was just stumbled across his 'present'.
"Hook, line, and sinker. Heh heh…" Naruto said to himself quietly. His face sported a devilish grin of delight. What he heard next took that grin right off his face and uppercut it straight off into next year.
"Oh my. What's this box doing here... I wonder what's inside?" said a familiar, feminine voice.
Naruto swallowed, his adam's apple forcing its way down into his chest, knowing who that voice belonged to. Immediately, he jumped out from behind his hiding place wide-eyed, watching a familiar, raven-haired girl with white pupils crouch over the box. The girl already had one of her hands spreading open the folds of the box when Naruto finally found his voice.
"HINATA, DON'T OP-!"
But it was too late. As soon as she opened up the flaps completely and looked up, the box exploded. Blue and red smoke flooded the area after the explosion, billowing out from where the box and Hinata had been. The smoke slowly started to dissipate after a few short seconds—which seemed to last an eternity for Naruto—until Hinata came into view. The look on her face was that of an injured puppy: mouth agape and eyes wide open in blatant shock. She stood there with blue and red markings all over her clothes, her face, and even her hair, creating what seemed like an art experiment gone wrong. Hinata looked at her hands, shaking as the red and blue paint dripped off her and mixed together into a purple concoction.
Naruto took a step forward towards Hinata, trying to utter something, anything, but couldn't bring himself to. Hinata slowly looked up towards Naruto, eyes twitching on the brink of tears as she slowly backed away. Step by step, she backed away, each step bringing her closer to a full breakdown until the third step back. With tears coming out of her eyes, she turned around and ran away. Naruto took another step forward, raising his hand in front of him as if he was about to grab something.
"O-oy! Hinata! Wait! This is all a big misunderstanding!" Naruto shouted. But his words fell on deaf ears as she rounded the corner and fell out of his line of sight. His shoulders slumped down as he turned to orient himself to the wooden fence running along the alleyway and began smacking his head into it over and over again.
Which brings us back to where Naruto is now, contemplating just why he went ahead with this prank to begin with. A good prank is fine once in awhile, but if it involves your dear and trusted friends, especially someone as sensitive as Hinata, it turns into a very cruel joke. Many thoughts were running through Naruto's thick skull as he kept running through the situation repeatedly. 'Why did I do that just now? Can I reverse it? Why can't anyone take a joke and forgive you?'
The fight between the fence and a hard head wasn't making any notable progress. Would Hinata hate him after this stupid prank? Why didn't he chase after Hinata after she ran off crying? Was it because he didn't want to rub salt in an open wound? Or is it because he didn't want to make it worse with excuses that she wouldn't believe? Several similar thoughts flooded his mind, but none of them gave him an answer. As he kept up the valiant effort against the fence, a man walked by, sporting a straw, Japanese hat that kept his entire head out of the sun and wearing nothing but a black and silver Japanese robe. Attached to his belt was an assortment of small oddities, such as a couple of brown pouches, each a different size, a couple of bottles of strange liquid, and even an assortment of small needles.
The man seemed to have long, black hair, wrapped in a ponytail, as well as the face of an innocent and kind man. He saw the young, blonde banging his head over and over into the fence, muttering how he's hated and unwanted. He raised his brow and walked up behind the kid.
"You'll get brain damage if you keep that up, young one." the ponytail man said.
Naruto stopped banging his head against the wall and turned around quickly, flinching when he saw a man standing no less than a foot away from him. The blonde took a deep breath, leaned against the small, cratered wall and stared back at him.
"Maybe I should get it after what I did. What I did was unforgivable…"
"So you accidentally pranked a close friend of yours, hmm? I'm starting to understand why you were leaving a dent in that wall…"
The man felt sorry for the way Naruto was treating himself earlier, so he took Naruto to Ichiraku's. Ichiraku's Ramen, as Naruto had claimed, was the best place in all of Konahagakure, no, the world, for ramen. As Naruto stuffed his face, he nodded a couple of times towards the man.
"If waf fainful," Naruto said with his mouth full, splattering beef broth and noodles across the table. The man blinked. A bead of sweat made its way down his face before he snapped out of his stupor.
"Swallow your food please… That's just plain rude," the man said as Naruto swallowed the face full of food in just one gulp.
"You're a prankster?" the man asked. Naruto simply nodded as he faked a smile.
"The best prankster in all of Konoha. No one can match my talents!" he said proudly. Naruto paused, suddenly realizing he was both talking and eating with some foreign stranger. Better yet, he didn't even know his name.
"I'm Naruto by the way. What's yours?" The man only smirked at Naruto's sudden urge to be courteous. He only shrugged in response.
"Yajirobi. Samurai by name, and Alchemist by trade," Yajirobi said proudly to Naruto.
Naruto tilted his head at the last title he called himself, "Alchemist?"
Yajirobi nodded, tilting his straw hat forward.
"Indeed, an alchemist, a person who can create tonics, remedies, or, as you folk commonly say, people who can turn lead into gold." Yajirobi broke out into a full-bodied laugh at the last comment he made. "Of course, turning lead into gold is a bit of a ridiculous fairy tale since it isn't even possible."
Naruto 'ooohed' to the small but simple explanation of what an alchemist was. The small bottles of liquid on Yajirobi's belt caught his eye, curious about what they contained.
"An Alchemist huh… So you can create things like food pellets and soldier pills or something?" Yajirobi only laughed at Naruto's comment.
"Something like that. Alchemy can be used in all sorts of ways; it's nearly endless," he said with an arm leaning on the table, smiling at Naruto. "You could create a tonic to boost your strength, a tonic to make you immune to disease, or even create an explosive that can burst into flames upon impact. Alchemists have been around for centuries, my friend. Most of the things you take for granted were created and improved upon by others like me."
The more Yajirobi explained to Naruto about his profession, the more he became curious of this 'Alchemist' thing.
"Can it be used for pranks?" Naruto asked. Once again the man broke out into a laugh.
"I knew you were going to say that, ha ha…" Yajirobi took a few ryo out of his pocket and placed them on the table to pay the bill. Yajirobi stood up from the table and motioned for Naruto to follow.
"Come, I shall explain more as we walk. I have nothing else to do at the moment."
Naruto got up with Yajirobi and began his trek towards the crowded marketplace. Several people rushed by, going from one place to another while merchants kept advertising how their goods are better and more reasonably priced than others. It was noisy, but he could still hear Yajirobi speak clearly.
"Like I said, it can be used for numerous things, including pranks. Fire bombs, for example, can be multi-purposed. You could even make something that spouts out tar, mud, or even water… but then again, water in a bottle would just have the same effect as regular old water, ha-ha…" The joke fell a little flat for Naruto, since it didn't really make that much sense. Yajirobi looked at Naruto for a moment, forcing a cough before continuing.
"So in short, yes. Alchemy can be used for pranks, or to help for the greater good, ha-ha!" Naruto couldn't help but smile at Yajirobi's words. Learning Alchemy is the only thing Naruto wanted to think about right now.
"Ooh, ooh! Can you teach me how to use Alchemy!?" Naruto said while hopping up and down like a little school girl. Yajirobi stopped, shaking his head and dashing Naruto's high hopes. A smile graced Yajirobi's face, and he tussled up the blonde's messed up hair some more.
"I'm only here in Konoha for one more day… However… you should read up on alchemy if you wish to learn. It is not that difficult, and I'm sure you'll have a knack for it, if…" he said as he placed a finger on Naruto's headband, "…you have the persistence, patience, and motivation for it. You seem to have everything nailed down but the 'patience' aspect. Just remember that good things come to those who wait." He stressed the last word by flicking Naruto's headband.
Naruto immediately nodded, more out of reflex than complete understanding. Alchemy… The art of turning lead into gold, of combining ingredients or other such objects into one entity—it sounded magical and endless. Yajirobi couldn't help but laugh once more at Naruto's look of bewilderment and excitement. He took a small flask, in the shape of a small beaker, from his belt and grabbed a bigger bottle full of brown liquid from his carrying sack. Naruto raised an eyebrow at what he was doing, but the samurai/alchemist only smiled in reply.
"I'd like to give you a parting gift. A memento, if you will, of this conversation we've had. This... " He poured what was in the bottle into the beaker, like a faucet filling up a small cup, "... is a potion that I've used countless times before for all those sleepless nights."
"It's a Vitamin Potion. Drink it before you sleep tonight. It'll give you the necessary nutrients and vitamins you need for a young man like yourself to stay healthy. It will even boost your mental prowess overnight, allowing you to think harder, but much more easily and quickly. I take it every day, and it's made me into what I am now," Yajirobi said with a smile and a twitch of the brow.
Naruto went wide-eyed at his explanation, and stared at the brown liquid inside the beaker. He couldn't believe what his ears were telling him. A potion could make him faster, stronger, and better than ever before with almost no effort at his part. The thoughts of his future self plastered a grin all over his face. He looked back at Yajirobi in awe.
"Wow Yajirobi, are you sure!? This must have taken a long time to create!" Yajirobi gave a small chuckle at Naruto's response.
"The tonic is easy to make, and it's my own special recipe. Don't worry about it. I've got a big bottle full of it, so I'm in no danger of running out any time soon," Yajirobi said with a smile. He furrowed his brow at the setting sun, looking back at Naruto with his smile still.
"My my, time flies when you're walking around town, it seems," he said as he crossed his arms, with his eyes closed as he nodded. He opened them once more and said, "It seems our time was short, but pleasant at that. I will be departing come first light tomorrow."
Naruto looked up with a pair of puppy dog eyes towards Yajirobi. "But Yajirobi! Can't you stay in town for at least a couple more days?" Yajirobi only shook his head at this comment, causing Naruto to frown. Then the samurai patted Naruto on the head once more.
"I hope to see you tomorrow then… Ja ne."
Late at night…
The moon cast its radiance all over Konoha, bathing the town in silver moonlight as the inhabitants slept, dreaming peaceful dreams. Some use the night to their advantage. To kill people in their sleep or go out and party all night long… or stand guard and watch over towns to make sure that the peace is not disturbed.
Naruto sat on his bed cross-legged, holding the bottle that Yajirobi handed him not long ago. He wore his usual nighttime pajamas with his signature black hat. The brown liquid inside sloshed around as he tilted the bottle in the moonlight coming through the window. It absorbed the light completely like a sponge, making it look even darker than it did before.
"Some kind of vitamin and mental prowess increasing thingamabob huh…" he said with one hand on his chin, looking at the contents. "Alchemists sound so amazing… I wonder if I could somehow learn it myself? All of the pranks I'd be able to pull…
He could imagine it now… A concoction that could turn people into chickens, or cows, or even a bowl of ramen if he so chose. But those kinds of thoughts he shook out of his head with a smirk and giggle.
"Yeah, right. As if Alchemy could go that far! I really doubt it… But…" The thoughts still lingered in his head. So many possibilities, so many new prospects. He couldn't wait to know more. His eyelids became almost unbearably heavy as his fatigue began to catch up. A sidewards glance at his bedside clock confirmed that it was indeed late.
He shut the light off, plunging the room into semi-darkness, moonlight breaking up the darkness slightly. Naruto looked at the liquid inside the bottle once more, as if staring down an endless abyss of darkness. He shrugs to himself, popping the top off at the same time. The potion may have looked bland, but it sure didn't smell like it.
"Good KAMI THIS STUFF REEKS!" Naruto said out loud. It seems that Yajirobi may have left out a major detail concerning the smell… or heck, maybe even what it tastes like.
"Urk… Why didn't he tell me this stuff would smell bad… Geez… Do I really have to drink this?" Naruto pondered this for a moment as he gave another whiff of the stuff. Well, it certainly didn't smell any better than before. But then again, some say the taste is different from the smell. He could just be exaggerating. Maybe it tasted like strawberries, or melons... or maybe even pork ramen. His mouth twitched. That last line of thought made the mystery drink more appealing despite the smell. In the end, he manned up.
"Down the hatch!"
Placing his lips on the tip of the bottle, Naruto tipped the bottle up and slowly started to consume the brownish liquid, pinching his nose to keep the awful smell out.
He blinked. It didn't taste that bad actually! It was almost like eating a potato, just in a liquefied form. A few seconds later, the entire bottle was drained, and he threw it into the nearby trashbin. The smell still lingered, but at least it did taste better than it smelled. Feeling a bit satisfied it didn't make him throw up, he leapt into bed, the prospects of tomorrow all the brighter.
15 Minutes later.
Naruto woke up in a cold sweat. His throat was on fire. His stomach was doing belly flops in a pool of magma, and his entire body ached in pain. Spasms rocked his entire body, pain tearing at every single molecule in his body both inside and out. Breathing was a whole other problem as he gripped his neck with his shaking hand, trying to get any air into his lungs. His heart thumped in his chest rapidly as his face lost color just as quickly. Even when he was experiencing an almost immeasurable amount of pain, his mind was racing through possible avenues of what in the world may be causing this. He rolled off the bed and onto the floor, curling into a ball, trying to fight through the pain.
Naruto wheezed. Maybe it was something he ate? He opened his mouth and jabbed a finger at his tonsil, before bending over and vomiting all over the wooden floor boards. One thing stood out as he emptied his stomach.
That's when he knew it. He was dying. He didn't know why, but he was dying. He prayed that the fox inside his body would heal whatever was trying to kill him; however, the fox didn't seem to be helping at all. He couldn't even sense the fox or even hear anything. The room started to sway and spin in nauseating circles even though he wasn't moving. Even his arms and legs were starting to feel limp and cold.
Naruto's movements slowed to a crawl. He couldn't move his legs anymore. His head was twisted away from the bed, looking out over the rest of his room. His Konoha forehead protector lay on the table, facing him, as if scolding him for doing something so rash and stupid. Naruto was laid out on the hardwood floor, limbs and organs no longer responsive, his eyes bloodshot and unfocused.
Naruto… was dead.
Evil laughter could be heard in the distance. What Naruto's lifeless corpse didn't know was that there was a spectator in his midst, watching everything that happened. A man on a nearby rooftop sat quietly as he twiddled his fingers.
"Foolish Nine Tailed Fox… I forgot to tell you one last thing about alchemy…" the man in robes began as he stood up onto his two feet.
"…Is that it can also create the deadliest poisons known to man." He couldn't help but widely grin at his accomplishment, disappearing off into the night.