To Learn To Love Yourself
It's funny how loneliness and public exclusion can change the way a person sees things. In a normal setting, a person is surrounded by love, family and friends from birth. They grow, feed and thrive from such affections, each of these things developing a person all throughout their life.
Now, say that such a person was taken away from these settings. No love. No friends. No family. How could such a person cope with nothing but themselves?
Meet Uzumaki Naruto, a child who stumbled across a strange answer to that question.
Some people call him a self obsessed narcissist. Other's claim that he has the biggest ego in all of Konoha. He just says he's in love.
You see, for little Naruto here, his life had been a tough one. Orphaned at birth by a catastrophic event that rocked the very foundations of his village, he was left to deal with the brunt of the anger and resentment over the village's loss. Kicked out of the orphanage at age five, he was left to scrape together his life as best he could.
He was constantly under scrutiny from the people around him, whispering hateful things under their breaths, always just loud enough for him to hear. He could never understand what it was that he had actually done to deserve such treatment, but after years of this, he began to accept it as fact.
That was until one day, he stood on his vanity to see into his bathroom mirror.
The Hokage, generous man he was, had allowed Naruto to rent out a decrepit old flat that even the rats avoided. Still, Naruto accepted the offer with open arms, never having been on the receiving end of a gift before. With everything built for the standard adult though, the child had to drag a chair around the house with him to get anything of use. The bathroom however, had the cabinet that held the basin lowered to his exact height. The reason for this was that years of mould had eaten away at the wood until it collapsed under its own weight, but Naruto didn't need to know this. Granted, the pipes leaked water all over the floor and the water from the taps was stuck at one temperature, but atleast it was easy to use.
So anyway, one day Naruto found himself looking into mirror that always sat above his head. Yes, he had seen his reflection before, but he had never had the opportunity to actually look at himself, what with always having to be on the move. Bright blue eyes stared back at him, reflecting the pain he felt deep inside so clearly. Unruly blond spikes sat up at odd angles off the boys head, springing right back up into place after being smoothed down. Twin sets of whisker like marks wriggled back at him as he made a few shapes with his mouth. Waving a hand around, he saw his other self mimic the action. Grinning, he lifted his other arm and the fun began.
He stayed there for over an hour, just talking to his new friend and playing games, such as who could pull the funniest face, who could hold their breath longest and who could reach the highest. He laughed, talked, sung and whispered away, totally ignorant of the time passing, caring about nothing in the world except his new best friend.
After this first initial meeting, Naruto took to meeting up with himself atleast once a day, two or three times being preferred. It was his sole release from the harshness of his life, a fun escape to the imaginary world him and his reflection created. And in due time, the barrier between real and make-believe began to blur.
After one particularly hard day, Naruto sat before his mirror, tears sliding down his cheeks, no matter how hard he willed them not to. Looking up, he saw an equally tear stained face looking back at him, desperate for some companionship. Diving into the mirror with arms wide, Naruto scrunched his eyes shut tight as he struggled to properly convey his feelings to the piece of glass. Seeing his friend in just as miserable a state, Naruto struggled to smile.
In a small voice, he looked into his own eyes and said, "There there, it's alright. I'm here for you. You're not alone. You'll never be while I'm here."
This sentence was the catalyst for future events that disturbed the town considerably. Because as Naruto said that, his eyes widened as he saw his clones mouth move in perfect synchronisation with his own, repeating the same promise back to him. Pausing, Naruto pulled back slightly, trying to comprehend the kind words that were said to him. Never before had such a phrase been uttered to him, from the people outside, or even from his friend in the wall.
A feeling began to grow in his chest that was difficult to describe. It felt like... well, it felt like he had come home after along time of being away. He had finally found what he was looking for. More than a simple friend. He had found family.
To an outsider, it sounds a ridiculous, telling yourself that you were the person you have been searching for all your life. Sounds completely self immersed doesn't it? Hence the reason Naruto's unusual relationship began to draw confused stares as he started talking to his reflection about himself as he went about his daily chores.
Everywhere he went, Naruto could see his brother, over there in that restaurant window, in that barrel of water, in the polished tiles in the restroom, in the shiny cling wrap that covered the presents he always wanted, yet could never afford.
His conversations lasted all day, talking about everything he came across, about what he needed to buy, about all the pretty girls he saw, and especially the bad looks and words that were directed his way. Buffered by the never ending promises that his brother will never leave him, no matter what was said about him, his confidence grew. The hateful words began to lose their effect on him and day by day, Naruto was able to hold his head higher. It was truly a remarkable thing. His brother soon took to suggesting ways to get back at the villages for their hurtful comments. Thus began Naruto's pranking spree, every attack more elaborate and brilliant than the last. As the saying goes, two head is better than one, no?
Eventually through all the attacks and rapidly growing self esteem, villages began to fear who was to be attacked next and the whispers dropped back to merely hateful glares. Naruto was, as expected, completely ecstatic when his brother mentioned this to him. He had hardly even noticed until it was pointed out! It wasn't long after this then that the Hokage decided that it was time for Naruto to enter the academy.
Once in, Naruto found that the majority of the teachers treated him like the civilians did. He took to memorising which teachers were worst at this, waiting until he had learnt enough from them so that he could prank them without being caught. He learnt that lesson after being found undoing the screws in his teacher's chair. His arm had throbbed for hours after having to cover every single blackboard in the school in, "I will not make a nuisance of myself."
It didn't help his condition when the following day, he was ordered to dust them all down. He couldn't write a single word that day.
But through all this bias treatment, Naruto's brother stood strong, always whispering small encouragements into his ear, urging him to push on, to not let them get to him because when the time was right, he'd get them all back.
About a year after his induction, Naruto managed to successfully pull off his first prank on one of the worst teachers. This instructor always left writing on the board from the previous lesson so they could quickly review what they had learnt last time. Naruto used this to his advantage as he managed to get in just before the rest of the class, rub out some of the words and write, 'I'm with stupid' on the board with an arrow pointing to where the man always stood. The roar of laughter from the class was music to Naruto's ear when the teacher had started off by saying, "Ok, so who remembers what we learnt yesterday?"
From that began a list of pranks that always focused on Naruto's more hated teachers. They always knew he did it somehow, but never actually had the evidence to pin it on him. As such, he was designated the seat farthest from the rest of the class, usually the dark back corner where no one ever sat. But still, Naruto's confidence grew.
One boring day, his eyes fell to a certain girl that always sat up the front of the class. She had this vibrant pink hair that Naruto had never seen before. He had often pondered this, wondering just how she had ended up with such pretty hair. She also had a cute face, brilliant green eyes and the most adorable little smile. He had always been attracted to her looks, so one day after his brother's encouragement, he confronted the girl and asked if she'd like to go out sometime.
She had promptly rapped her knuckles on the top of his head, making it known that she would never date a loser like him, and that her one and only true love was a boy named Sasuke. Naruto didn't know much about this Sasuke fellow, but quickly made it his business to find out.
It turned out he was the heir to the infamous Uchiha clan. Naruto just thought he was an arrogant prick. So spurred on by his brother, he made this Uchiha Sasuke his rival in love and war. Naruto was totally determined to win away the pink haired girl, who he found out was called Haruno Sakura (and a very pretty, not to mention fitting name at that!), and defeat the Uchiha bastard at his own game.
During his time at school, Naruto's skills increased as he continued to push himself. The boy also managed to stumble across an interesting transformation technique after looking through a dirty magazine he found on the ground. The desire to have a womanly presence in his life largely affected the outcome of the technique as unconsciously, he had always imagined his mother as a bright, beautiful, very well proportioned lady who was a good deal larger than life. So he simply took all these elements, placed his hands together, chucked some chakra into the mix and stirred.
Aptly naming the creation Oiroke no Jutsu, Naruto was more than eager to show his brother his newest ability. It interested Naruto slightly that while in this transformed state, he was several inches taller than before and able to see himself in the mirror without having to climb up onto the vanity.
Never the less, he posed for his brother (who also had worked out the technique, just by watching Naruto do it!), laughing as bits stuck out here and there when they pushed their chests out, giggling also as the overextended movements caused other pieces to jump and sway with the movement.
Hours were spent playing with this technique until a small voice from the other side of the mirror asked if they would stop doing that. Freezing, Naruto stared at the pretty face before him, eyes wide. He didn't even realise his own mouth moving as the girl in the mirror asked politely that once the brothers were done checking out her naked body, they would find her some clothes.
Quickly dispelling the technique, Naruto and his brother took a few deep breaths, trying to work out what that... who that person was. Sitting down in the basin, Naruto and his brother considered this strange development. Wasn't this a technique? How come she spoke to them? Growing curious, Naruto asked his brother if he could change back into the mystery girl so Naruto could talk with her.
Doing so, Naruto was now again faced with his creation, naked, as per the jutsu.
Mustering up the courage, Naruto began asking her questions, like who she was, why she was in his technique, where she came from and the likes. Unfortunately, she didn't have many answers, but did ask if she could be his friend. Without hesitating, Naruto quickly jumped at the opportunity to expand his small relationship circle.
A few months had passed since Naruto's discovery of his female friend and the three way bond had never been stronger. While still actively pursuing his Sakura-chan, Naruto had taken to letting off the day's frustrations to his girl friend, and after some reassuring words from her, his brother stepped in and boosted his confidence by giving him a slap around the head and telling him to never give up, because that was their ninja way!
This continued on like usual for a little while until the day of the Genin exams. Naruto had unfortunately failed the past exam and despite his own confidence, still felt a small nagging amount of worry for what was to come. After an extra hearty talk from both friends behind the glass, Naruto raised his chin and walked out the door.
That whole day proved to be rather upending. He failed his exam, stole a secret scroll, learnt a very useful technique, found out he was the container of the Kyuubi, beat a traitorous teacher to a bloody pulp and then had his previous mark rescinded and passed his exam.
He was now standing before his mirror, talking with his brother about everything that had happened and trying to make sense of it. Naruto had even ventured to ask if his brother was the Kyuubi, to which he received a very harsh talk down for thinking such a thing. It was then that they came to the newly learnt technique that they grew quiet. Amidst the adrenalin fuelled rush of battle, Naruto hadn't considered anything other than beating Mizuki senseless.
Now that he had time to think though, the possibility of the technique really sunk in. Eyeing up his brother, Naruto quietly whispered, "Kage Bunshin no Jutsu."
In a puff of smoke, a clone of Naruto stood there, patting itself down experimentally. After checking out everything, it slowly looked up, and a breathtaking grin spread across both faces of the boys. In an unrestrained whoop of joy, both boys jumped into each other's arms for their first official hug.
Over the next week, Naruto was introduced to his new team which included his Sakura-chan, Sasuke-teme and a Jounin sensei by the name of Hatake Kakashi (who he didn't really respect all that much). He battled his teacher for two bells, was left starving until he was spoon fed by his team mates, and then passed the test of teamwork. That was all well and good, but something more important awaited him at home.
Each night after training, Naruto would instantly give his brother and girl friend a physical body. Naruto had since worked out how to create clothes for the female of the group, much to her pleasure. She had placed a rather wet kiss on his cheek for that which left him blushing for a good thirty minutes after. His brother had laughed the whole time. They had also taken to calling her Naruko, as it was too difficult to try work out who was who while having three of them in the room, not to mention it was a bit more feminine.
They would speak on all things, not limited to training, ramen, strange noises from the floor below, the stars, girls, boys, body parts, bodily functions (farts); honestly, every subject that a boy Naruto's age could hope to know was commented on in these times.
Then came the mission to Wave. This was to be the first time Naruto was to be away from home for an extended period. Naruto was quite happy to bring his brother along, but he wasn't so sure about his girl friend. Even though they had been friends for a while, they still weren't quite family like him and his brother. They had been through more together so their bond was closer. But Naruto didn't want to leave Naruko alone. Unfortunately though, his hand had to be pushed due to time restrictions and as such, left her behind.
A week later Naruto staggered into his home, thoroughly exhausted. He barely had the energy left to give his brother and Naruko a body before collapsing into his old arm chair. Had he been more awake, he would have noticed Naruko's eyes water up. She stared at him for a moment or so, before diving onto Naruto and kissing him.
It took a moment, but when Naruto's sleepy mind caught up, he found himself with the girl in his lap, sobbing gently about how much she had missed him and how worried she had been. A ghost of a finger drifted over his lips as he struggled to comprehend what just happened. Technically, she was a clone, but she hadn't been a clone from the start... had she? Naruto couldn't quite work it out. Yeah, he had clones, but then he had his brother and Naruko. They weren't clones, right?
Absentmindedly wrapping his arms around the blond in his lap, he looked over at his equally confused brother. He struggled to say something, but failed, so slowly shut his mouth. Something didn't seem quite right about this, but then, there wasn't anything explicitly wrong with it to begin with. Was there?
Feeling Naruko shift in his lap, he looked down to meet her tear filled eyes, each blue orb just as confused as the other members of the room. Sniffing, she wiped an eye with the palm of her hand.
"So... is this ok? Or what?"
Naruto shook his head, struggling to comprehend it. In all his twelve years on earth, he had never had to deal with something like this. Relationships had never been explained to him properly, outside of girl meets boy, they fall in love, something happens and then a baby appears. Throw in that the girl was technically a replica of the boy, and you get the recipe for one seriously confused Genin. But their relationship had transcended the simplicity of a clone/ master relationship long ago. So what to do?
Naruko seemed to have the answer when she shyly looked into his eyes. "Um... I duno how well this'd work but, instead of me as a girl friend, would you wana try me out as an actual girlfriend?"
Naruto had already said yes before the full meaning of the question sunk in. And with that, the odd, overly egotistical boy publicly declared his undying love for himself.
People called him a freak. Ninja looked down on him for using a forbidden technique of all things for such a perverse pleasure. Naruto couldn't be happier.
Ever since that day, he took himself out on a date each night to his most favourite of restaurants, Ramen Ichiraku. The owners of the store, while somewhat perturbed by the strangeness of it all, to their merit stayed true to their most frequent customer. In due time though, Naruko stopped being a strange clone and became a person to them, just like she did to Naruto, only less real.
They went on walks, they sat on benches, they held hands and whispered the sweet nothings a couple in love did. Because of this, Naruto came to realise that he really did love himself more than anything.
And so, life carried on.
"You realise you're just playing with a clone for your own dirty pleasure, right?"
Naruto's one time crush had confronted the two of them on a day off from training. Ever since Naruko, Naruto's focus on the girl before them had began to wane. Having a loving girlfriend tends to do that. While happy she was now left alone, Sakura couldn't stomach the idea that she had such a stain of society on her team. And like any good team mate would, decided to end the fantasy once and for all.
"This is just a sick form of public masturbation."
While not too familiar with the word, Naruto could definitely grasp the meaning behind the big word.
"No, this is my girlfriend! And I love her!"
Sakura shook her head. "No Naruto, you love yourself. How can you be so narcissistic? Honestly, it is revolting."
Small tears began to well up in Naruko's eyes at this, clearly not liking what the pink haired girl was saying about her.
"B-b-but, I'm not him..."
Sakura tisked as she looked up at 'Naruko'. "You are a clone. Look at it from any angle you want, you're still just a clone."
Now rather angry, Naruto spoke up for himself. "Oi! You can't just go around claiming that stuff!"
Sakura waved her hand around. "You see these people? They all know what I'm saying is true! Hell, the only person who can't see it is you!"
Glaring at Sakura, Naruto turned around. "Come on Naruko, let's go."
Frustrated beyond words, Sakura pulled out a kunai and chucked it at Naruko. The girl gasped in pain before quickly going up in a puff of smoke.
Frantically bringing his hands together, Naruto formed her a body again. Her eyes were wide with fear, but that was all he saw before a kunai from another direction dispelled her. Turning, Naruto saw a faceless Chuunin with his arm outstretched.
"Quit playing with yourself in public you freak!"
Ignoring him, Naruto tried again, only to see the familiar fear filled eyes before she disappeared again. Crying out in rage, Naruto tried again and again to bring her back, but a group gathered, all making the recreation of himself impossible. Screaming in frustration, Naruto began to run.
How could they ever know what he experienced? They didn't love themselves the way Naruto did. He doubted there was anyone in the world who did.
So why did it still feel wrong?
A/N – a little depressing, but I got the idea after hearing a song about loving yourself. I pumped this one out in a matter of hours.
Hope you enjoyed a slightly darker look at things.