Chapter 1: Prelude to Death
Like an eagle she sat perched upon the rooftop, dressed in concealing black attire and shrouded in the haunting darkness that night usually brought. Her eyes, nothing but glistening blue sparks behind a mask, were locked onto a blonde-haired child, watching silently as four other larger children surrounded him. The sparks narrowed into slits as they began striking the smaller boy, their tightly wounds fists crashing into his face over and over again despite his desperate pleas at them to stop.
She watched this go on, keeping a mental timer in her head and was just coming around to the six-minute mark when an adult, the orphanage owner, came running out. It was a woman, a woman who, instead of chastising and possibly striking the other children, only grabbed the small blonde boy by the neck of his shirt and dragged him roughly back inside the building.
The woman on the rooftop closed her eyes and in doing so became one with the gloom and faded away….
Three Years Later
The boy was now nine. He'd gotten taller. His favorite food was ramen, any kind. He enjoyed pulling moderately adorable pranks, some of them rather sophisticated for one so young, and although he was harshly punished each time he was caught it didn't stop him from plotting his next one.
A woman, laying flat on the Hokage's monument on the head of the current third, Hiruzen, looked through an eyeglass; it increased her vision to over half the village away where she saw that familiar blonde from years ago running throughout the streets, closely followed by no less than six civilians. It was broad daylight yet she noticed not a single person bothered to stop this and ask what the cause of it was.
She herself knew the reason. Just an hour ago, the blonde had stolen a thirty yen fish, trying desperately to get some food into his malnourished form as the orphanage only seemed to feed him on odd numbered days. His technique for theft was sloppy and while only the seller should have been involved he, for reasons unknown to the woman, felt the need to enlist the help of several other venders, all of whom were now bearing down on the child as his little legs quickly grew tired.
She increased the scope of her telescope, watching emotionlessly as the blonde ran down an alleyway only to look up in horror when he realized it was a dead-end. The moment he turned around a thick fist caught him upside the jaw and he was thrown back into the wooden fence that barred his path. From there, the woman witnessed something she never thought six grown men would do. While two held the boy down, arms and legs stretched out, the other four took turns berating him with a storm of punches and kicks.
Even from her distance she could hear the boys screams piercing the air and, only for a moment, zoomed out to see if any other civilians or ninjas would heed the noise and come to the boys rescue. No. None of them did. In fact, the ones closest the alleyway went through great lengths to avoid it, walking wide angles around the opening.
The blonde suddenly let out a gargled howl and, cursing herself mentally for looking away, she zoomed back in to see the fish vender driving what looked like a ridged knife into the boys hand, sticking him to the wooden fence like a piece of stuck game. The man snarled something at the boy but she doubted highly he was heard because the boy kept screaming in agony, grabbing the wrist of his stuck hand, his fingers fumbling over the rush of scarlet liquid. More than being frightened of this intense pain, he was scared at sight of so much blood.
After watching him squirm for a few minutes, she expected the men to release him but was slightly astounded by their cruelty when they turned and began walking away, leaving a little child impaled to the fence. The woman stayed where she was, watching silently as the blonde gripped the blade of the knife and tried to jiggle it free, only to receive a pain so sharp that he vomited, adding further to the secretions already spreading around him.
He was still crying even many hours into the night. The impaled hand was all but shriveled with bloodloss and from the wrist down the flesh was turning a ghostly pale. Seconds from acting, the woman paused when a man covered in black fell from seemingly thin air, landing in front of the boy who looked up with bloodshot eyes, tracks of tears frozen to his face from the harsh night air. He reached out with his free hand, gasping, struggling to speak but fell short, the spark vanishing from his cerulean eyes as consciousness left him and he slumped, only held up by his stuck hand.
The figure surveyed the child for a few moments before bending down and grasping the knife's handle. At once, Naruto's eyes sprang open at this fresh chasm of pain but the man was quick and aimed a blindingly fast chop at the blonde's neck, knocking him back into a deeper slumber. In the same instant, he wrenched the knife free allowing a deluge of blood to surge forth between the severed flaps of skin in the boys palm. It was sickening but the man snatched the black bandana from his head allowing a crop of silver hair to shoot up; he swiftly, expertly, wrapped the child's hand up, scooped the shivering bundle into his arms, and leapt high into the sky. The woman kept track of him, wary, until she saw him heading towards the Konoha hospital.
She lowered the telescope, closed her eyes, and, like last time, faded into the night as though she never existed.
Four Years Later
The boy, Naruto, was just turning thirteen today. His lengthy hair had been gathered back into a small horsetail. The hereditary whiskers over his cheeks had become more distinct. He still liked ramen and, oddly enough, had developed a crush on a certain pink haired kunoichi from the ninja academy despite the fact that she treated him like a three-legged dog. He considered it an early birthday present when, just a few days prior, he'd been selected to be on her team along with that jerk Sasuke Uchiha. His sensei had seemed cool enough and, strangely, it felt to Naruto as if they'd met sometime in the past even though Kakashi denied such claims.
Three buildings away was where she had station herself, poised between two water cylinders on the roof. She didn't need a telescope to see him clearly. He was like a beacon to her, shining brightly, drawing her eyes no matter how far she happened to be. Her heart swelled with pride at the sight of him. He was taller now, almost reaching her height, and, despite still being denied food on a regular basis, had came into a svelte build. Growing as he had was a necessary evil, this she had come to realize very early. Such hardships were needed in order to form a sound body and mind, one that would take a lot to cave or break into. Humans were bred for survival and if you put one into a hostile environment, they either adapted or were crushed into nothing. Naruto was still standing, still breathing, and, better yet, had attained a very positive outlook on life, wanting nothing more than to rise above the shackles placed on him and stand above all as Hokage.
Although she had vowed never to interfere until today, the woman had taken it upon herself to devise training regimens and schedules for the boy that she left in sealed letters around his apartment that would only open upon touching his own personal chakra. The lessons he found helped him to grow physically, gave him advise and tips on what areas he needed the most work in as the teachers at the academy barely glanced his way let alone offered any help. To her joy, this helped Naruto excel at a quicker rate than his classmates, a feat that baffled many, but none said a word because that would mean acknowledging that he was somehow better than them, able to stand up as their equal. None of it mattered to Naruto who was overjoyed at his progress. It made him happy to know that he did have what it took to stand besides his fellows.
That last bit of sentimentality meant absolutely nothing to the woman. She knew in her heart there could be no redemption for the people of this village. And if a smidgen could be found, it didn't matter to her. Ninja worked best as a collective so as a collective they would be punished. Yes, from ninja to civilian, from civilian to wife and husband, and from them down to their offspring, none would be exonerated. She'd waited long enough, far too long, but she was not entirely without a heart. She'd specifically chosen this day to decide if vengeance would indeed flow through the streets of Konoha like a plague.
Having watched the blonde grow up from a boy into a handsome young man, she knew that every year on his birthday, like clockwork, the villagers would band together and hunt Naruto down. The implements they used in their endeavor varied annually but already, after just one casual glance down into the streets below, she could see the mob surging forward, picking up more and more followers for every house and dwelling it passed on their way to Naruto's house.
Her eyes lifted, one eyebrow quirked behind her mask. This was odd. Naruto was by no means stupid—despite what teachers and others students constantly yelled at him—yet he still resided within his apartment, kneeled down before the only table in the scarce room. On top of it sat a cake that he himself had made and it was brightly lit with thirteen glimmering candles. It went without saying that he couldn't eat it as the ingredients included things that no edible cake comprised of. Ketchup, rotten eggs, wheat flour, hot sauce, brown cinnamon—all of it haphazardly thrown into a bowl and then baked into the molting one-tier pie that he stared at with such joy and pride. The woman almost smiled at his brave attempts at baking. No one else would have even thought twice to do him such a kindness but this year, being a special year, he had wanted a cake to celebrate properly, even if he'd never take a bite of it.
But she had to wonder why he had not fled. He had to know what was coming for him; he had to be able to hear the drunken cries of "Demon!" ripping through the still night air. She stared harder, perhaps missing something. And that's when she saw it. Tears...a deluge of clear liquid leaking heavily from both eyes, dripping off his chin. The woman was perplexed, her heart, once kept in check, beginning to race. Crying? Why was he crying?
When realization crashed into her, the woman slowly crouched down. She knew why Naruto had not run. He was through running. He was...tired. Tired of running all of his life. Had he…given up? Was he going to let the villagers kill him? What about his dreams to become the Hokage and rule over them? Too many questions flooded her mind and she subsequently ceased all thought.
This day was special for Naruto because he was turning thirteen, becoming a teenager. This day was special for the woman because it would be the determining factor of whether she forgave the villagers for their vile acts or took matters into her own hands. Had they matured, come to their god given senses, she would have spared them and this night would have ended on a happy note. Not terribly happy as this was indeed the anniversary that the legendary Nine-Tailed Fox tore through the village, but that was not Naruto's fault. To blame an innocent child for something he had no part in was downright foolish, a cop-out that the weak used as an excuse to mentally and physically abuse him. They saw him as way to relieve stress after a long day rather than treat him as the hero he truly was. It made the bile in her stomach churn to know that everyone within this corroding village hated Naruto because he had virtually saved their lives. He was the one who had to deal with a vicious demon clawing at his very soul, threatening to consume him at a moments mental weakness. Not them! Without his sacrifice as the Nine-Tail's carrier, they'd all be dead and this village would be nothing but a scene of death and destruction, a smoldering crater upon the world.
Actually...that's just what she was about to turn it into. Her mind was made up. This would stop tonight. She would purge this village of all the corroded souls that inhabited it. Just as her student Itachi Uchiha had done to his clan...she was about to do the same to the entire village.
"Hear me now, residents of Konoha. My name...is Uzumaki Kushina." At the mention of her name, the mob below came to a startling halt, each and every one of them feeling an icy cold finger drag its way down their spine. Heads began turning, eyes swiveling as they tried to figure out where in the world this sensation was coming from.
"On my word as a Konoha shinobi...none of you will ever lay hands on my child again."
A/N: I'm going to enjoy writing this. Who will live? Who will die? Guess we'll see.