The Wanderers

Chapter 73 – War Between Minds

Disclaimer: I don't own Naruto. If I did, there would be flash-forwards.


***Previously-On***

Though they had the best intentions in mind, the help that Naruto and company offered was not needed to win the battle in the Land of Fire. Neji was grateful for their arrival but disappointed that they didn't bring the Cascading Flow army with them. To compensate, Neji asked him to intervene at Suna and get Gaara to work with them. As such Naruto and Hinata left for Sunagakure and met with some old friends when they arrived. However Gaara was unwilling to give them what they needed for fear that it would leave his village vulnerable. The Quiraji attacked the village once again and they were able to fend them off, but Gaara understood the message. With a heavy heart he gave Naruto what he asked, a Sunagakure army with himself at the head. On the way to help the Otogakure shinobi, Naruto suffers a mental attack that incapacitates him and the Suna army is forced to leave him and Hinata where he fell.

***End Summary***


It always seemed to smell here, noted Naruto as he tried to find a dry patch of ground to stand on and failed miserably. The sewer that always seemed to populate his mindscape was lower than he remembered, but the dirty water still seeped through his toes in his sandals and sent shivers up his body.

Naruto sighed and looked around for a way out; he had no interest in entertaining his occupant at this stage of the game. The Kyuubi had been suspiciously quiet over the past week or so, but to pull him completely in like this meant it had to be making a major play.

He felt the urge to copy Shikamaru and complain that it was bothersome, but that felt oddly out of character for him. Instead he discovered that his headache was gone and concentrated on being happy about that.

It was only when he saw ripples in the sewer that he understood what that meant.

Turning around he saw a large shadow approaching from the other side of the sewer, slowly forming into a shape he hadn't seen in a long time. Unlike the many previous times they had interacted, the Nine-Tails had regained its full form as a massive red fox with nine flowing tails behind it and a matching look in its eyes that immediately pissed Naruto off.

"What the hell am I doing here?" asked Naruto to his occupant before realising it was an inherently stupid question. If the Kyuubi was here in that form, it only meant one thing.

Well possibly two things, but he didn't like the thought of playing shougi with a fox beast ever again.

"You should have sealed me when you had the chance," came the Kyuubi's rumbling voice, echoing around the sewer far more than usual. "You will suffer for your arrogance."

"It wasn't arrogance, it was compassion."

That seemed to surprise the Kyuubi, but it recovered quickly and continued to growl threateningly at him. "It is time I took your body for my own and squash you like the insect you are."

Naruto groaned loudly and rubbed at his arms sorely, "Couldn't this wait? I'm kind of in the middle of a war right now. Can't we have our 'final battle' after that? Now doesn't really work for me."

If the Kyuubi wasn't angry before, now it definitely was as it slammed its claws into the sewer floor and caused torrents of water to splash around everything. However there was something else in its monstrous expression that Naruto noticed, something he knew the Kyuubi was trying to hide.

Impatience. Impatience and fear.

"You have no choice. You will fight, you will fail and you will die. I have no interest in fighting your pointless war."

"It's your war too," said Naruto with a frown. "You were there at the start of it and we are cleaning up the mess that you couldn't."

The Kyuubi snarled and snapped its mouth threateningly, "You know nothing, boy! I will not partake in this fool's errand."

"What, you want to run away?" It was laughable considering the source. "I thought you were a hateful bastard and a murderer, but I never took you for a coward. Clearly I was wrong."

Naruto immediately regretted making that observation as the Kyuubi shot across the distance between the two of them and drove its claw into his chest, sending him crashing into a nearby sewer wall. He groaned and struggled to pick himself up, holding his side tenderly. Instinctively he'd hardened his body with physical energy, but the blow had still cracked two of his ribs, which was never pleasant. He had no memory of whether injuries suffered here translated back in reality, but it hurt like hell now and that's what mattered.

Glancing up at his foe, Naruto's eyes widened as he saw the Kyuubi bearing down on him, its mouth wide open to show rows and rows of razor-sharp teeth that begged him to enter their loving embrace.

Not wanting to risk further damaging his ribs with a teleportation right now, Naruto dug into his kunai pouch and tossed a seal-covered kunai through the gap between the Kyuubi's body and the ground far off into the distance. Just for the Kyuubi was able to bite him into little pieces, he used Hiraishin to teleport to the kunai, reaching out to grab it in mid-flight but fumbling it and letting the projectile fall to the floor.

"Damnit…Dad made it look so easy…" he muttered with a shake of his head. He leant down and picked up the Hiraishin kunai, shook off the sewer water and placed it back into his pouch before taking another moment to examine his damage. His ribs weren't as injured as he'd thought so he was confident he would be able to fight, but it certainly wasn't going to feel good.

Across from him, the Kyuubi turned and snarled in frustration at its prey escaping its grasp. Having lived inside the blonde shinobi since his birth, the Kyuubi was well aware of every trick and technique the little boy knew, but that didn't mean he wasn't annoyed at how slippery he could be.

"You don't seem to understand the situation you are in. The man that calls himself Benkei is a destroyer of life. You have already lost this war."

"Are you trying to warn me, or kill me?" asked Naruto with an exasperated tone.

The Kyuubi gathered up its nine tails and began beating the ground to create shockwaves that made it difficult to keep balance, "Kill you!" Suddenly two long arms of red chakra shot out of its chest and screamed towards Naruto at an unthinkable speed. It took every part of agility he had to dodge out of the way with a leap to the side, but before he could find his footing again another pair of chakra arms came towards him and grasped him in a firm grip.

His enemy laughed deeply and started to walk towards him as it tightened its grip on him. Naruto cried out in pain as he could feel his bone screaming out for relief, but the Kyuubi's grip was iron-tight. "Now I will take over your body and make my own way in the world. No longer will the Kyuubi be slave to a shinobi and made to fight his wars!"

Struggling in the chakra-based grip, Naruto grimaced before regarding the Kyuubi's hateful expression, "Oh, I wouldn't count me out just yet." He closed his eyes for a moment and gathered his spiritual energy from within himself before swirling it around his body like a whirlwind. The effect was instantaneous as the spiritual energy technique was stronger than the Kyuubi's chakra grip, causing the red mass to dissipate as Naruto dropped to the ground with his full body Kattoken swirling around him.

Temporarily off-put by his sudden escape, the Kyuubi couldn't defend itself as Naruto leapt into the air and slammed a wind-powered fist into the front of its face, sending its massive form crashing backwards in a flailing ball of limbs and tails.

Landing back on the ground, Naruto cancelled his Kattoken and placed his hands together in a handseal. It was clear the Kyuubi wasn't going to listen to him and needed a good beating, but he had to take advantage of the Tailed Beast's arrogance and underestimating him before it realised that he was quite likely fighting far above his level and took him down.

As the Kyuubi recovered and roared out at the indignity of being struck by such a small shinobi, Naruto created hundreds of Kage Bunshin behind him, filling up the sewer area with bodies until it was bursting at the seams.

Once the area behind him was filled with clones, every second Kage Bunshin put their hands together to transform into a large windmill shuriken to be held by their partners. In the sewer there had only been room for hundreds of clones, but now it was filled with hundreds of weapons ready to be thrown at the large red monster at a moment's notice.

The lead Naruto was the only one without a windmill shuriken, but he was clearly in command as he slowly raised his right arm.

Opposite the young shinobi army, the Kyuubi chuckled deeply. "You cannot think that normal shinobi weapons can hurt me."

A matching grin came over Naruto's face, "You're right." He dropped his arm.

In perfect synchronisation, the army of clones hurled their windmill shurikens at the Kyuubi. Many of the projectiles traced along the same lines towards their target, while the projectiles on the sides flew around to flank the Kyuubi and come at it from every angle.

Confident in its chakra-enhanced hide, the Kyuubi didn't even bother to put up its tails to defend itself, instead taking a single step towards the young shinobi to punish him for his arrogance.

It was when the first windmill shuriken buried itself halfway into the Kyuubi's shoulder that it was reminded how dangerous it was underestimate the Uzumaki heir.

Turning its sharp eyes to the projectiles flying towards it, the Kyuubi realised how Naruto had pierced through his hide; he'd infused the windmill shurikens with wind chakra to enhance its edge to the extent that it could injure it.

It turned and covered its right side with four of its tails just as a hail of windmill shurikens threatened its flank. The Kyuubi fuelled a tiny portion of its chakra into the tails so that the projectiles bounced off harmlessly and repeated the trick on its other side, but because of the sheer number of shurikens the Kage Bunshin had thrown at it the Kyuubi wasn't able to protect itself completely.

Once the air was clear of spinning blades, dozens of massive shurikens stuck out of the Kyuubi like oversized splinters, causing little more than irritation to the massive beast. But to Naruto the attack was a complete success and he and his clones were already charging forward with kunai in hand to attack the Tailed Beast en masse.

The Kyuubi let out a roar of frustration and went to pull back a claw to swipe its attackers away like the pests they were, but its limb felt too heavy to move. When it turned its large head to see what was wrong, the Kyuubi saw that the shurikens that had bounced off of his defences had turned back into their Kage Bunshin forms and were weighing down his claws and tails through weight of numbers.

The Tailed Beast bit at its own claw furiously, dispersing scores of Kage Bunshin at once, but it knew that it would take too much time to regain its full movement. Instead it turned its attention back to the horde charging towards it, feeling its anger boil to levels it didn't know shinobi were able to get it to.

Naruto allowed himself to be overtaken by the front elements of his shadow clone army as a group of clones began to form a large chain of clenched hands. He took the lead clone's hand and allowed them to swing him around like a ball and chain, not even needing to use wind chakra to enhance his speed. While spinning Naruto had an odd thought that his body didn't even seem to react to the momentum at all, clearly his Hiraishin training had given him a good resistance to such things. Through frenzied glances he could see the Kyuubi seemed to have grown a red cloud of chakra around it that had dissipated the shadow clones holding it down.

Immediately regretting his course of action, Naruto didn't have time to warn his clones not to throw him before they did exactly that. Trying his best not to scream and failing miserably, Naruto rocketed through the air between the clones and the Kyuubi, breaking through the Kyuubi's defences and through to the other side. The Tailed Beast didn't seem to even notice his approach and subsequent failure as he neared a solid wall behind the Kyuubi.

In desperation Naruto reached out with his chakra and grabbed onto the nearest Kage Bunshin he could find, using the Kamawiri no Jutsu to substitute himself with the clone just before impact. He felt the clone's pain as it dissipated against the wall, but that wasn't as bad as the judgement his clones sent him for his action.

On the other side of the Kyuubi his clones were keeping the Tailed Beast occupied with their own complex formations of attacks with wind-enhanced blades. Naruto took a moment to grin; he was proud of how independent his clones could be in combat situations. His wife had warned him that eventually they would rebel against him, to which he had reminded her of all the times they had ignored his commands and gone out for their own missions.

He turned to his enemy to see a part of the Kyuubi's red chakra cloak had dissipated slightly as it concentrated on destroying the Kage Bunshin army in front of it. His clones weren't doing any real damage to it, but they were keeping it occupied and that worked perfectly for him.

Pumping chakra through his legs to greatly enhance his speed, Naruto shot forward and leapt high into the air before landing on the middle of the Kyuubi's back. It seemed to notice his landing as it stretched its back upwards and flail itself wildly. Naruto noted with interest that the same chakra technique that allowed him to run along walls also worked on the chakra beast.

Running up the Kyuubi's back, Naruto collected chakra around his arms and formed them into sharp wind drills just beyond his fists. They were less powerful than when he used spiritual energy, but when he used chakra he had much more control over the technique and he'd learnt that at times that had its uses.

The Kyuubi tried to shake him off, but Naruto only needed a moment to get his footing before launching himself high into the air and pushing off of the ceiling to slam his wind drills into the middle of the Kyuubi's back.

Unlike the wind-enhanced shurikens that had struck it earlier, Naruto's hands that had been formed into rapidly spinning drills bored deep into the Kyuubi's hide and caused it to buckle in agony as he felt himself strike something that sounded like its spine.

The Tailed Beast went to turn to shake him off, but it was clear that every motion caused it absolute agony, so it did the only thing it could think of. All around the Kyuubi appeared small coloured balls of chakra that began to surround the original Naruto on its back. The blonde shinobi glanced up to see what the Kyuubi was doing and swore under his breath as he realised that the Kyuubi was willing to blow up both him and itself in order to defeat him.

He had no interest in such an outcome, so he cancelled his technique and used his spiritual energy technique to teleport to the remainder of his Kage Bunshin army as the Kyuubi's body began to regenerate rapidly. It lay on the ground for almost a full minute, staring at Naruto through hating eyes, unable to understand why he was just standing there, not attacking it.

Naruto watched the Kyuubi cautiously, feeling an odd sense of vulnerability in his own mindscape in front of the powerful creature. It was clear that his smaller size and greater speed gave him a distinct advantage in the battle, but he had no interest in killing the Kyuubi; if anything he suspected doing so would kill him in the process.

But in the same vein, if he wasn't striking to kill, the Kyuubi could easily take him over and do as it pleased with his body. He had no doubt that the first casualty of the Tailed Beast's subsequent rampage would be Hinata, and that wasn't acceptable under any circumstances.

He had to win, but had no idea of how to go about doing so. The Kyuubi was a creature of almost unimaginable power and chakra. While he had clearly struck a good blow against it, it had taken a not-so-insignificant amount of his strength to do so and without the Kyuubi's chakra seeping into his chakra pools for him to use, using Kage Bunshin to such an extent was surprisingly taxing.

He had to fight smart, as opposed to with his instincts. He didn't like being forced into changing tactics, but this wasn't like fighting the Quiraji. "I thought you'd be tougher than this. Clearly the stories about your attack on Konoha were greatly exaggerated."

It was a cheap taunt, but the Kyuubi took the bait with gusto with a furious roar that almost made his ears bleed and blasted enough air across the mindscape sewer to dissipate large numbers of his shadow clones.

"You know nothing! Had I my full power you would be little more than a smudge on the wall!"

Naruto laughed to hide his nerves, "So what, you're holding back to make it more interesting? At this rate I won't even break a sweat." He hated sounding so arrogant; it was a line he had shamelessly stolen from old-Sasuke-isms. But he had a plan and that required a certain method to proceed.

The Kyuubi seemed to be in a constant state of fury, though this was much more similar to the time before it had almost been extracted from him. Its wounds had regenerated completely and it had full mobility once again, but the Kyuubi hadn't lunged at him just yet. It was cautious of him and that played exactly into Naruto's hands.

"When I killed your mother and father, your father took half of my chakra with him," said the Kyuubi with a smug yet hateful look in its red eyes. "I might only have half of my former strength, but that it MORE than enough to squash an insect like you."

Naruto gave his deceased father a mental thank you as he began to implement the next stage of his plan. The Kyuubi began stomping towards him with its tails swirling around to collect small balls of chakra that changed colour rapidly. Naruto knew they were very dangerous and to avoid them at any cost, but he also knew that the Kyuubi wasn't going to let him get in close either by how quickly it was moving towards him and the movement of its claws.

However as the last of his Kage Bunshin got into place, Naruto knew that he didn't need to get close again either. He had other methods of fighting that only required his opponent to come into the right area.

Once the Kyuubi stepped within striking range of him and pulled back a claw to swipe at it, Naruto put his hands together in combination with his Kage Bunshin and activated a high-level technique he'd only recently developed.

Around the Tailed Beast his shadow clones stepped onto the seals they had placed on the ground and activated their handseals to form a large square of flowing chakra. With Naruto completing the connection, the Kyuubi found itself unable to proceed any further forward.

"Raiton…um…damnit I don't have a name for this one yet…" He thought about it for a moment before just shrugging and turning his attention to the Tailed Beast in front of him.

The giant Tailed Beast struggled as it beat its arms and tails against the cage of lightning chakra that had been erected around it. It didn't spark until it came into the area between seals, but when it did the field lit up with flashes of lightning that sent it flying backwards into the caged area. It roared out in frustration as it had several times before and shot several of its chakra balls towards its attacker in an attempt to take him out.

However Naruto had prepared for that as well.

Using his chakra as a springboard, Naruto launched himself up into the air to intercept the chakra balls and used his extended spiritual energy to catch them in a slingshot motion before sending them back at their creator. When he designed his main technique he'd made it so that the lightning field would only react to large masses passing through it, meaning the chakra balls flew past as if nothing was ever there.

The Kyuubi barely had time to defend itself with its tails as its own attacks slammed into its body. Since it was a creature made of chakra, the chakra blasts didn't do as much damage as they would to something made of flesh and bone like his jailor, but it still hurt him enough to preoccupy him for a short period of time.

While the Kyuubi was recovering, the Naruto clones stepped forward and compressed the lightning field, pumping as much chakra as they could into the seals to make the technique as strong as possible. Once they got close enough that they could almost jump forward and touch the Kyuubi's hide they kept their positions and waited for the Kyuubi to realise it was in a hopeless situation.

Standing on the other side of the lightning cage, Naruto was thankful that the Kyuubi had taken the bait and fallen into his trap; things could have easily gotten out of his control if it had noticed the clones moving around its flank or if it had just attacked from a distance. He was proud that it had worked though; he felt Shikamaru would have been proud of his multi-layered plan.

"Do you admit your defeat?" he asked hopefully, not wanting to draw the fight out any longer than he had to. He still wasn't sure why the Kyuubi was only now lodging its claim to his body but on, what felt like, the eve of battle he wasn't about to let himself be taken over and destroyed.

The Kyuubi struggled against the lightning walls but found itself unable to move more than a few metres in every direction; its attempts at attacking the Kage Bunshin holding the seals proving equally as fruitless. It thought about creating more chakra bombs to throw around, but with the ease in which his jailor had thrown them back it knew that wouldn't keep working.

It wasn't about to admit defeat though. "I cannot be defeated so easily, boy. I fought the Quiraji long before you were a twinkle in your daddy's eye and I know the consequences of fighting such battles."

"Sounds like you're scared," observed Naruto with a hint of irony in his voice. "The great and powerful Kyuubi is scared of a single man and his minions? I couldn't write stuff this good."

"I AM NOT SCARED!" With that, the Kyuubi disappeared in a fine red mist, leaving little trace that it had been there at all.

The Naruto clones maintaining the lightning field glanced at the original with confused looks on their faces, to which Naruto could only shrug with a similar expression. He had no idea what had happened, but he couldn't sense the Kyuubi in the nearby vicinity.

Dispersing his clones but keeping the seals on the ground in the sewer just in case, Naruto reached for his side pouch to take a soldier pill to replenish his chakra until he realised that Hinata had been carrying all the medical supplies for their trip. She insisted it was purely because she wanted to make sure they were all there, but Naruto knew it was to stop him from abusing soldier pills to do excess training. There had been times when he'd nearly overdosed on the chakra-enhancing pills and Hinata had to keep reminding him that he wasn't immortal.

As he thought of those conversations he'd had with his wife, an odd thought came to Naruto's mind.

When the Kyuubi died, it would always be resurrected at some point in the future. Why then was it so terrified of facing the Quiraji in battle? What could they do to scare something that powerful?

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Once it realised that it wasn't able to defeat Naruto in a regular fight, the Kyuubi took control of his mindscape and transported the two of them to an entirely new location.

He hadn't seen it in many years, but Naruto knew his old village when he saw it. His heart sank as he realised that the Kyuubi didn't bring him here for nostalgia.

Even as so many years, he still felt partially responsible for the village's destruction. If only he'd been there, maybe he could have helped prevent the tragedy.

The sky around him was pitch black, yet Naruto could see around the village as clearly as day. The buildings felt the same and the air tasted just the same despite the fact that it was in his mind. However when he looked at the Hokage Mountain, Naruto frowned as he saw that it had been partially destroyed by some kind of chakra blast. Glancing around the village, Naruto realised what the Kyuubi was doing.

It was destroying the village he had held so dear. Every swipe of its tail smashed apart buildings and tore down trees, while its roar was ear-piercingly loud. He was sure that the Kyuubi was replaying the events that had happened during his birth; a scene it had shown him thousands of times during the time when it had tried to torture him with horrific images.

But with a clench of his fists, Naruto remembered that this time he wasn't just an observer. He had the power to fight back and save his home.

He went to jump towards the massive fox monster, but was almost knocked off his feet by a large group of Konoha shinobi that had the exact same thoughts ass he did. Naruto steadied himself on his feet and tried to see if he could recognise any of them, but before he could get a better glimpse of them the Kyuubi's tails shot forward and slammed a nearby building so hard that it fell on top of them and killed them instantly.

Naruto gritted his teeth and reminded himself that they weren't real; they were figments of his mindscape conjured up by the Kyuubi and populated by its desire to kill shinobi.

However the battle of Konoha was not going the way Naruto had previously seen it. The Kyuubi had not been too inaccurate when showing him the battles of the past; it recognised that it had been beaten back by the Third Hokage and his forces, something that Naruto had respected greatly about the old man.

However this time, the Kyuubi was winning the battle by a significant margin.

Every fireball and weapon that was thrown at the Kyuubi was deftly blocked by one of its many tails before being quickly countered by either tail or claw. While revelling in its killing, the Kyuubi had yet to notice his presence, though it seemed to be preparing itself to fire one of its chakra balls at the Hokage Mountain.

Naruto turned with alarm, until he saw his father standing on his own face on the mountain, a kunai between his hands ready to teleport the blast. His chest swelled with pride at his father's image; he still hoped to be as strong and as great as him someday.

Just as he had been shown, the Fourth Hokage teleported the chakra blast far away from the village, sending shockwaves throughout the ground that shocked Naruto on his feet.

However what happened next was not what he recalled at all.

While recovering from teleporting such a powerful attack, the Fourth Hokage was unable to defend himself as the Kyuubi shot through the village at a speed Naruto could never image in such a large creature. In a single motion it reached forward and clasped his father in one of its claws.

Naruto called out for his father to get away, but a flash of light showed that he needn't have worried himself over the Fourth Hokage's safety.

With its prey temporarily unavailable, the Kyuubi finally turned its attention back to its occupant far away on the ground of the village.

"Your village is pitiful, boy. See how easily it crumbles. Just as you will in the coming battle."

Naruto snarled and clutched at his sword from his belt. He'd beaten the Kyuubi before and he would be able to do it again. No matter how big the Kyuubi made itself.

If the Kyuubi can change things, maybe I can too.

He turned and tried to summon up an image of his wife standing at his side.

Instead of the beautiful young Hyuuga heir, Naruto was confronted by the grinning face of the giant monster that had been trying to kill him since it had pulled him into his mindscape. When they'd fought before the Kyuubi didn't have that kind of speed at all; it was one of the advantages that he had held over the Tailed Beast that had helped his previous victory.

If the Kyuubi could maintain that kind of speed with that kind of power, there was no way he'd be able to defeat it.

The Kyuubi opened its giant mouth and leaned down to eat him in a single gulp, but before its teeth could clamp down on him a yellow flash appeared between them and shoved him out of the way. Naruto turned and watched in horror as the Kyuubi bit straight through his father's body and tore him into pieces. He couldn't believe it had happened; his father's Hiraishin surely would have allowed him to escape the attack in time.

It was just as the Kyuubi wanted. Unlike previous times when it would torment him, this illusion seemed to be fulfilling its use as an elaborate distraction, one that almost cost Naruto his life. With the horrifying speed it had displayed earlier, the Kyuubi moved its head and went to do the same thing to its first victim's son, but Naruto was able to teleport away with his own version of his father's technique.

Standing on his father's face just as the Fourth Hokage had earlier; Naruto felt his rage culminating at the frustration he'd been building up. It hadn't been obvious at first, but after the first battle it was clear that the Kyuubi wasn't just trying to mess with him. It wasn't trying to kill him either.

It was trying to take him over. And if Naruto had it right, that would involve breaking him in every manner possible.

However, that also worked both ways. Naruto had already proved that he was better than the Kyuubi as a fighter and now it was trying to change the circumstances to try and beat him down.

Without thinking, Naruto leapt off of his father's face towards the massive creature, intending on cutting it down with the Second Hokage's lightning sword. Just as the Kyuubi had increased itself in size and speed to take him down, Naruto's acceptance of the circumstances allowed him to replicate the feat on a massive scale.

His large foot crashed through a half-destroyed house as Naruto almost fell on his backside at the sudden transition. He glanced down at his giant hand to see that it was now as large as the faces on the Hokage Mountain behind him, while the shinobi beneath his feet gawked up at his giant form with expressions of awe.

The Kyuubi's expression was difficult to read when it was in its Tailed Beast form, but the small amount of fear in its eyes was enough to convince Naruto that he was already winning the psychological battle.

But that wasn't enough to stop the Kyuubi from letting out a thundering roar and collecting its tails near its jaw to summon up another chakra blast to shoot at him. It seemed to have confidence that he couldn't reach it before it fired the blast, but the Kyuubi hadn't yet learnt that underestimating him was still the biggest mistake it could make.

Teleporting himself straight in front of the Kyuubi, not caring about the destruction that his large feet caused in the knowledge that it wasn't real; Naruto ignited his lightning sword and slashed across the Kyuubi's tails. The Second Hokage's blade was able to cut through several of the tails before the Tailed Beast roared out in pain and shot its chakra blast straight into his face.

He was fast enough to dodge most of the blast, but the chakra blast still grazed the side of his face and exploded with terrible force. If he'd taken the blast full-on he knew he would have died, which he had no idea what would happen afterwards.

Because of his increased size, he only took heavy damage to his side and face, enough to send him flying into the village. His large form crashed through dozens of buildings and tore a terrible path through the already suffering village. He tried not to think of all the shinobi that would have been killed by his fall, thankful that it wasn't real.

Picking himself up, Naruto glared at the Tailed Beast with a snarl. He didn't want to think of what he looked like; it felt like half of his face was on fire. He chose to concentrate on taking out the Tailed Beast that was giving him so much grief. The Kyuubi grinned a toothy smile at him; proud that it had struck a blow against its enemy.

However its joy wasn't meant to last as Naruto shot forward and slammed his shoulder into its head. As the Kyuubi fell back with a roar of pain, he stabbed his sword into its body. Its chakra body was strong enough to stop him from piercing its heart, but his attack still did plenty of damage to the Tailed Beast.

Several of its tails shot forward and knocked him backwards, leaving the lightning sword sticking out of the monster fox like an absurd splinter. The Kyuubi reached across its chest with one of its claws and slowly pulled out the Second Hokage's sword. It took a moment to give Naruto a look that could have melted steel before crushing the hilt of the sword between its claws, deactivating it as it was thrown uselessly to a destroyed part of the village.

"Hey, that's an antique," said Naruto with a disapproving tone, despite being well aware that it wasn't the actual Raijin no Ken. He clenched his fists dramatically and began gathering spiritual energy around his body. "Enough foreplay."

Evidently the Kyuubi felt the same way as it began to gather up its chakra to fire another blast at him from the distance between the two of them. Naruto resisted the urge to roll his eyes at the Tailed Beast's lack of imagination. Fighting battles require quick thinking and being able to surprise your opponent; using the same technique over and over again was just stupid.

In the knowledge that he didn't need to worry about damage to the fictional Konoha and hurting the non-existent Konoha shinobi, Naruto expanded his wind spiritual energy out like a whirlwind, ripping apart buildings and trees alike.

He recognised the irony that he was now doing the same damage as the Kyuubi had before, but his attack had also blown back the Tailed Beast and forced it to cancel its chakra blast to defend itself with its tails and claws.

The distraction was enough for Naruto to make thunderous leaps forward and harden himself with physical energy at the same time. He dodged out of the way of a single tail strike that the Kyuubi had instinctively lashed out at him with and slammed one fist after the other into the Tailed Beast's face.

The Kyuubi fell back under his barrage and tried to defend itself, but Naruto deftly ducked under lashing tails and wandering claws and continued his barrage of attacks, letting out all of his frustration and anger at the Tailed Beast in that moment.

Eventually he pulled back his fists and looked down at what he had done. The village around them had disappeared and they were back in the sewer that his normal mindscape looked like, with the Kyuubi having nearly halved in size under his attacks.

Naruto stumbled back as he realised what he'd done. He'd lost control of his emotions and tried to butcher the Kyuubi as it had tried in the past. He was horrified at what he had done, while being e

0ternally thankful that Hinata wasn't here to see him like that. /8*-*

Beneath his fists, he saw the smaller Kyuubi look up at him with real fear in its eyes for the first time. Naruto went to apologise for the brutal way he attacked it, but the Kyuubi disappeared in a red mist and his mindscape shifted once again. He bit his lip and centred himself with slow deliberate breathing and tried to figure out what he was really doing.

There was no seal holding the Kyuubi back, yet it hadn't tried to escape from his body. He knew he'd never be able to replicate his father's seal, but Naruto wasn't sure he wanted to seal the Kyuubi again.

He knew what it was like to be trapped with nobody caring about you at all. Despite all the horrible things that the Kyuubi had done to him, Naruto didn't hate the Tailed Beast.

He felt sorry for it. There was no pain greater in the world than loneliness and he figured the Kyuubi had been alone for longer than anyone.

But as long as it threatened him or the people he cared about, he would have to keep the Kyuubi in check.

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"Why do you continue to struggle? Don't you realise you can't win this war?"

Naruto watched as the Kyuubi appeared in front of him as a seven-foot-tall man with blazing red eyes, glaring at him intently. Its face was surprisingly tired; clearly the effort of fighting was taxing on the still-recovering Tailed Beast. However he suspected the Kyuubi was getting desperate now and that made it all the more dangerous.

"That doesn't mean we should run away," said Naruto stubbornly. "If you want to leave so much, why don't you just do that?"

The Kyuubi frowned angrily as a long red katana appeared in its hand. "Would that I could, boy. You are the best chance I have for survival and I refuse to let you throw away my life for your meaningless conflict."

Naruto sighed and pulled out the Second Hokage's sword, depressing the button to ignite its lightning blade. "Clearly you aren't going to listen to reason. We can't fight like this forever, Kyuubi. One of us will have to win."

The Tailed Beast in human form didn't respond, but rather shot forward and tried to cut off his head from his shoulders, but he brought up his lightning blade to block the strike effortlessly. It seemed to want to try and overpower his blade, but Naruto had no interest in playing by its rules.

Without any hesitation he let go of his blade temporarily and ducked under the sweeping blade before driving a fist into the Kyuubi's temple. He caught his sword's hilt on his foot and kicked it back up to his hand to grab it in a backwards grip and attempted to drive it into the Kyuubi's chest.

Taking a cue from its jailor, the Kyuubi used the momentum to clip Naruto's head with its foot, causing both to fall to the ground clutching at their heads painfully.

Naruto groaned and glanced up to see a red cloak of chakra appear around the Kyuubi's human form, similar to what he'd been told he'd done during his battle with Gaara during the Chuunin Exam. He knew how dangerous that form could be and jumped up to his feet before leaping backwards before the Kyuubi's chakra spiked out and attacked him.

Dropping onto all fours, the Kyuubi adopted a stance that was reminiscent of its original form with a wicked grin to match. Sticking out of its backside were three long chakra tails that flailed about like its original form would.

Naruto glanced down at the Kyuubi's feet and swore under his breath as he realised he'd left the Raijin no Ken behind. Seeing little other option, he reached into his belt and grasped three kunai per hand to hold between his fingers. He predicted that the Kyuubi would strike at him from a distance with its chakra arms and his occupant did exactly that, so Naruto was able to weave his way around the flying arms and toss his kunai along the ground between them.

No longer underestimating its occupant, the Kyuubi used bursts of chakra to destroy the kunai that he predicted Naruto would use to channel lightning towards him. During that time, Naruto began weaving his body from side to side, looking for an opening in the Kyuubi's defences. From either side of his body shot out shadow clones that began moving towards the Kyuubi at a rapid pace. He had no belief that they would be able to defeat it, but he watched it dispatch his clones with cautious eyes and absorbed the experience from his clones. It was clear the Kyuubi was far slower than it originally had been earlier in their fight, but the chakra cloak was very dangerous and would require a complex strategy to defeat.

Or a really simple strategy with overwhelming power.

"Admit your defeat, boy!" pleaded the Kyuubi in a manner that made it sound almost desperate. It knew he would come for it seriously now and in its weakened state it had to admit that the blonde shinobi had more power than it did at this stage, particularly with his abilities that were frighteningly similar to the Quiraji's. "I will take your body and destroy everything you care about. Accept your defeat and lay down for your final rest."

"Oh shut up," said Naruto impatiently. "I'm sick of hearing your stereotypical bad-guy speech. There hasn't been anything in our fight to suggest that you are winning, or that there is any chance of me running away from this battle or the war." He clenched his fists tightly and began gathering his strength once again, "I'm not going to stop hitting you until you realise that you cannot break my resolve. You will not threaten me anymore."

The Kyuubi went to taunt him as a fourth tail grew out of its rear, but held back its words as Naruto shot forward and moved to strike it with his Kattoken. With its chakra cloak enhancing its physical abilities the Kyuubi was easily able to dodge his attack by leaping to the side. However Naruto had seen this motion several times when it was fighting his clones and moved in line to catch it. He pulled back a leg and made a kicking motion towards the Kyuubi that was clearly out of range, but because of that the Kyuubi didn't bother to defend itself from his attack.

As such it wasn't prepared for him to throw out a burst of wind chakra in the shape of a kick that struck it straight in the chest, causing it to curl up defensively to recover from the damage. The chakra cloak wavered slightly as it absorbed the chakra from Naruto's attack to stifle its damage, but held steady as the Kyuubi prepared itself for its counter-attack.

Naruto wasn't about to let the Kyuubi take the pace though, shooting forward off his legs and barely missing the Kyuubi with his extended Kattoken technique as it dodged from side to side. It tried to strike back at him with its chakra arms and tails, but Naruto had so much experience fighting that style that he was able to read the movements like they were at a snail's pace. He moved the smallest distance possible to dodge the attacks and increased his speed substantially until the Kyuubi was unable to keep up with him and he began landing blows one after the other.

At first his Kattoken battered against its chakra cloak and was unable to pierce through, but every strength increased in power as Naruto poured everything he had into the Kyuubi so that it couldn't fight back at all.

Blow after blow slammed into the Kyuubi's human form until its chakra cloak broke and the ground beneath it started to crack under the barrage of Naruto's attacks. It tried to slip away, but the wide range that his spiritual energy encompassed forced it into a small curled up circle on the ground.

Naruto punched and punched and punched until he ran out of stamina, before stepping back and looking down at the broken person lying in front of him. The Kyuubi's human form lay broken and deformed, a section of its face visibly beneath chunks of earth giving him a mixture of terror and hatred.

But there was no more fight in its eyes, no ability to fight back or any intention to do so either. While he had defeated the Kyuubi through brute strength, it was clear that the Nine-Tails knew it no longer had the strength to defeat him or subjugate him. If he was going to fight the Quiraji, it had no choice but to accompany him and suffer the consequences.

It was pitiful and Naruto hated that he had to do something so vicious, but like the Kyuubi he was equally as desperate.

With both its human form and regular form beaten, the Kyuubi didn't appear to have the energy to pick itself up from the ground. Naruto hadn't just defeated it through his superior ability in battle; he knew he'd broken the Kyuubi's spirit.

It no longer had any will to resist him, but he in turn had no interest in subjugating the Tailed Beast.

If anything he felt sick that it had come this far. Clearly the Kyuubi was terrified of the upcoming war and wanted to get as far away as it possibly could, but hadn't the strength to leave him and go out on its own without being tracked down and killed by the Quiraji for the part it played in the destruction of their culture.

"Why don't you understand that you will die? You will all die!"

Naruto looked down at the creature with pity in his eyes, "Then we will die fighting for the people we care about. At least we'll be doing something."

The Kyuubi struggled as it brought up its head to glare at him through bright red eyes, "You do not know what it is to die, little boy. What the Quiraji will give to you isn't death…it is destruction. There is no coming back from this battle."

The blonde shinobi knelt down next to the Tailed Beast and shook his head, "It won't be our death but theirs. Do you want to know why I'm not afraid of the Quiraji? Because I have Hinata. I have Sasuke. I have all my friends and comrades. I trust that they will keep me safe and I will keep them safe. Because I'm not alone, I'm not afraid."

He could see the Kyuubi staring at him with a mixture of emotions in its eyes, reminding Naruto that despite its age and power it was little more than a child emotionally. It had been used, hated, abused, everything that Naruto had faced in his own life at one point or another. He had escaped that horrible life, but the Kyuubi was still stuck in that vicious cycle.

Naruto no longer had any will to fight either. He'd gone from wishing the Kyuubi gone, to wanting to help the Tailed Beast find its place in the world.

That would have to be after the war though and Naruto suspected the Tailed Beast had a part to play in it yet.

When he looked down to ask the Kyuubi whether it was willing to work with him or not, Naruto found that the Tailed Beast had disappeared once again. There were places in his mindscape that it could hide that he'd never find it, but Naruto doubted that it would stay away for long. It had almost no strength to speak of, even in his mindscape.

The Kyuubi had a decision to make and he couldn't pressure it into making a choice it didn't want to make.

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Having defeated the Kyuubi both physically and psychologically, Naruto took a moment to catch his breath and really look at the insides of his mindscape. He had no real understanding of how to manipulate and change it; much of what he had done during his battle with the Kyuubi was instinctive and when he tried to recreate them now it didn't work at all.

It was now that he'd leave his mindscape back to the real world and his wife, but for some reason that wasn't happening. Without the seal holding the Kyuubi in there was no telling what might happen next, but during their battle Naruto had figured that the Kyuubi was far too terrified to go out into the world on its own.

The shinobi world was far too hostile for creatures such as it, despite its overwhelming power. Clearly it figured its best chance at survival was within Naruto.

All at once it clicked in his mind. He'd often been considered a slow learner by the other villagers growing up, but even he wasn't that slow anymore.

Glancing up at the endless ceiling, Naruto spoke as loudly as he could. "If you've got something to say, you might as well come out with it. It not like you have anyone else to talk to."

He didn't really expect a response, but to his surprise he could hear a loud rumbling in the background.

"We are not friends, boy. You do not command me despite your…victory."

"Kyuubi, I'm not your enemy here. If we don't work together, I doubt either of us will survive. Now if you have any information that can help me, speak it now."

He couldn't see the Kyuubi, but Naruto could have sworn he could hear the hesitation in the surrounding silence. Eventually the Tailed Beast's voice sounded again, but the tone was just different enough to be noticeable to the young shinobi.

"So be it…boy. There is one final piece that you need to be wary of. That's all you can expect out of me."

An image shimmered in front of Naruto's eyes as the Kyuubi's voice thundered all around him.

"Do you recognise this woman?"

Naruto leered forward and stared at the robed woman, his eyes widening at the sight of her. He turned to where he assumed the Kyuubi was hiding. "Of course I do, what's your point?"

He could hear the fox's snigger before it actually sounded in his mind. "What do you know of her?"

"She's one of the Quiraji leaders," said Naruto quickly. He would recognise that face anywhere, though seeing her now was just as unnerving as the first time he'd seen it. "Is this what you're so scared about?"

"I'M NOT SCARED OF ANYTHING!"

The roar of the Kyuubi's frustration was enough to bring a grin to Naruto's face, though it was clear that something had shaken the Tailed Beast to the point that he was willing to risk everything to get away from the conflict.

With the static image in front of him, Naruto took a moment to look closer at the Quiraji leader. For a woman of such remarkable power, she had an unassuming look that betrayed how much death and destruction she had wrought over the years. She wore the pale robe that he'd always seen her in that concealed her body within, but it was very face that was the most unsettling.

Her eyes were closed as they had been the last time he'd seen her, but they still brought mixed feelings to the young shinobi. While he had only recently become aware that she was the instigator and facilitator of the destruction of Konoha, she had also brought him back to life after his training accident.

After a minute of silence, Naruto glanced around with a confused look on his face. "If you don't make your point, Kyuubi, I'll force it out of you. You know who runs the ship now."

He heard a loud sigh around him before a red mist appeared in his peripheral vision. Naruto turned to see the Kyuubi appear in a tall human form with shocking bright red hair and a pair of piercing eyes. Unlike the previous times he had seen the Kyuubi like this, there was something different about its appearance. It was somewhat similar to when the Tailed Beast told him about the Quiraji history with the shinobi, though Naruto knew that was more for self interest than anything.

The Kyuubi was different somehow; Naruto knew he no longer had anything to fear from it.

With a long robed arm, the Kyuubi indicated to the Quiraji leader.

"She is the reason I exist."

"I thought the Sage of the Six Paths created you. Something about taking apart the Ten-Tails or something."

The Kyuubi snorted in front of him, "Close enough, but you don't know the truth. We were once a single creature, but the Ten-Tails came into being because of her action."

He turned and waved a hand across Shiori's face. In front of them she began to change, slowly getting taller and her hood fell backwards to reveal a long length of oddly coloured hair and softer features than she once possessed.

Naruto couldn't understand why the Kyuubi was changing her appearance, but judging from the creature's serious expression he knew it wasn't just to mess with him.

That was an entirely different expression.

A long line appeared down her forehead, but it was the horns that protruded from her forehead that made Naruto question whether the Kyuubi had learnt a new way to mess with him.

She no longer looked anything like the Quiraji leader she had started out as.

"Do you recognise her now?"

Naruto sighed and threw his hands up into the air, "You know I don't. If you continue being so damn illusive, I'm not going to play nicely anymore."

The Kyuubi shot him a hateful look before moving to stand behind the woman that had once been the Quiraji leader. He placed his hands at either side of the woman's head, "This is your ancestor, Naruto. The mother of all shinobi."

"Kaguya…" Naruto had no idea how he knew that name, but it felt right. He leaned forward and nearly jumped back as the woman's eyes shot open. Her eyes were a pure white colour that was eerily familiar to Naruto, dispelling all doubt in his mind.

He shook his head and turned his gaze to the Kyuubi behind her, "So this is my ancestor. Nice trick, but what has this got to do with anything?"

The Kyuubi sighed and put down his hands, "I'm seriously tempted to start attacking you again. How I lost to a deadbeat like you is beyond me."

Naruto smirked as he crossed his arms over his chest and stepped back from the woman, "Because I'm just that good."

His occupant snarled but moved to the side of the woman and waved his hand across the air. Beside the image of the mother of shinobi appeared the image of Shiori once again. He hadn't been able to see it at first when one changed into the other, but seeing them side-by-side he finally understood what the Kyuubi was getting.

He frowned and pointed at them one at a time while staring at his occupant, "Wait, wait, wait, wait, wait. Are you seriously telling me that…"

The Kyuubi nodded as if it was obvious.

"But that's impossible! She must have died long before any of this happened." He could see his occupant about to say something, but Naruto could already see the connection. "But she clearly has the ability to bring people back from the…" He reached up and cradled his head, "This is making my brain hurt. How the hell is this possible?"

For once, the Kyuubi didn't have an answer for him. He waved his hands over the images to make them disappear as his expression intensified. "There is someone coming."

Naruto frowned and turned around before his face grew into a wide smile. He watched proudly as his young wife shot into his arms and embraced him in a rib-cracking hug. It had felt like years since he'd held her in his arms and nothing could stop him from enjoying the moment even as he could hear the Kyuubi scoffing in the background.

"How did you get here? We're in my mindscape."

Hinata pulled off him and kept their hands together tightly, "I noticed that the Kyuubi's chakra wasn't hurting you anymore and kept healing you and just…appeared here."

Naruto didn't really understand what she meant, but he was grateful for her presence here nonetheless.

He turned to the Kyuubi to ask another question about the Quiraji leader, but to his surprise the tall red haired man shook his head slightly and pressed a finger to his lips to silence him.

There are things that others are not ready for. The shinobi world isn't prepared for Kaguya's return.

The blonde shinobi cocked his head slightly in questioning.

Another time, boy. Just remember that she is not who you shinobi think she is. While you fight against the Quiraji leader, be wary of that woman. She will be your death.

Despite himself, Naruto smiled and silently thanked the Kyuubi for the information. While they had been fighting he'd sensed a shift in the Tailed Beast, one that he couldn't quite explain. However it was clear that the Kyuubi no longer had any fight in it and was beginning to believe in Naruto's argument that hope wasn't lost for them.

"Can we go back now?" asked Hinata, unaware of the silent conversation between her husband and his occupant. "We've lost a lot of time from the others and the Quiraji could come at any moment."

Naruto nodded and took Hinata's shoulder in his arm, "Of course. I couldn't forgive myself if something happened to everyone."

They turned to leave, but the Kyuubi stepped forward and placed a hand on Naruto to pull him back.
"Why don't you seal me again? What guarantee do you have that I won't try and break free again?"

Naruto turned with his arm still around his wife's shoulder, "I guess it's because we're both in the same boat, both fighting the same enemy for the same reasons. Strange as it might sound, we are teammates in this conflict."

He watched the fox's expression shift as he said each word, but the Tailed Beast had no idea how to respond when it looked down to see his hand waiting in front of it.

"I know it's a bit delayed, but there it is. My name is Uzumaki Naruto."

The Kyuubi hesitated as it stared at the shinobi's hand before its human form disappeared and it stood in front of him as its regular form. Extending a long red fist towards his old captor, the Kyuubi let Naruto close his fist before they touched. They both grinned at the same time; their past behind them and the future ahead of them.

"Kurama. My name is Kurama."


Author's Note:

So…I originally was going to not having the Kyuubi turn good. And to be fair, it didn't really turn good. The way I've been approaching it is similar to before this happened in the main story, though taken a bit further here.
What I do want to clarify is that this is not a power-up for Naruto. Remember what the Kyuubi said earlier about fighting the Quiraji. I have no intention of doing a Chakra Mode for him. That's not how his character has developed in this story. He's forged his own path with his own power.

I'm hoping the battle between Naruto and the Kyuubi is up to snuff. I tried to make it an interesting group of fights, but it did get a bit one-sided after a bit. Naruto at this stage is pretty powerful and clever in battle in his own right and the Kyuubi is barely in a reasonable fighting form. I hope you enjoyed it.

And yes, there is more to the explanation at the end. You guys know me, I like to reveal things in trickles.

Please review and tell me what you think. I try to take each review into account, and believe me I read them all. Tell me what can be improved, what you liked, what you didn't, everything. I'm a writer so I'm always open to criticism.