Disclaimer: I don't own Naruto.


Chapter One:


Naruto snickered, eyeing his target with barely suppressed glee. That statue was totally stupid looking and didn't belong in this awesome park.

He'd stumbled across it maybe a month ago and was awestruck. All the bushes were carefully sculpted to resemble famous animal summons that had belonged to Konoha ninja over the decades. Each was larger than a full grown adult and had a small engraved plaque naming what clan the summons belonged to and which ninja had possessed their contract. He must have slept through a really cool class sometime in the academy, because he'd never heard that the Yondaime could summon toads. Naruto wasn't entirely certain how toads could be used in battle, but they must have been pretty damned useful if the Yondaime had bothered with them.

Naruto had stuck around for a while, admiring the bushes, until a grizzled old man with a cart of gardening supplies arrived on the scene. Awesome timing! If this old guy was responsible for the bushes, maybe he could give Naruto some tips on how to do the same with his own plants.

"Hey, mister!" Naruto had shouted with his trademark exuberance. "Are you the one that works on the bushes around here?"

The old man's head snapped around to face Naruto and his face immediately drew up into a snarl. Oh, it was another one of those folks, uh? Years of experience had conditioned Naruto to what was sure to come next.

"What the hell are you doing here, you little monster?" ground out the old man, reaching into his cart for a pair of well-honed sheers. He waved them in Naruto's direction threateningly. "Get out of here! Go on! I won't have you ruining all of my hard work!"

Momentarily disheartened and his good mood ruined, Naruto didn't make a scene. Quietly slipping away, he headed back toward the academy, plans for revenge already percolating in his mind. The old gardener should have known better.

Now Naruto was back for revenge! The seal tag he'd been saving for months was tucked safely in his back pocket. The shop keeper who sold it to him guaranteed that it would release a huge cloud of orange paint when triggered! It took only a few seconds for him to scramble up to the top of the statue and place the tag. A spark of chakra to prime it and he should have plenty of time to get awa-.


The pain lasted only the barest moment before Naruto's world went black.




Sitting behind his desk, shoulders stooped with weariness, Sarutobi Hiruzen felt every one of his sixty six years. A young ninja in their physical prime would have been hard pressed to make the trip from the capital city of Fire Country to Konoha in six hours. After receiving notice of Naruto's injury via summoned messenger bird, Hiruzen had done so in three. His bones ached and his muscles burned and he would have liked nothing more than to succumb to his exhaustion. If the gods had any mercy, when he woke, it would be to discover that the past day had been nothing but a nightmare, one of the many he'd accumulated in his long career as a ninja of Konoha. Were others not present in his office, Hiruzen would have at least been able to indulge in a pipe of tobacco to soothe his nerves, but he feared that doing anything beyond clenching his gnarled fists would reveal the tremors he'd been unable to control since first learning of the incident. Hiruzen was the Hokage, the effective military dictator of the Village Hidden in the Leaves, and he could not allow his subordinates to see his weakness. "Your report, Inu?"

Dog-masked ANBU captain Hatake Kakashi bowed once and said, "Hokage-sama. As you know, we initially responded to reports of demonic chakra detected in the eastern civilian district. Upon arrival, initial evidence suggested the detonation of a high yield explosive tag or a fire technique of at least mid C-rank, leveling much of a small topiary garden. The explosion apparently caused the partial collapse of a previously unmapped bunker. It was in the bunker that we discovered Naruto Uzumaki, impaled through the abdomen by a large metal spire." Kakashi paused, as if considering his next words. "My medical expertise is limited, Hokage-Sama, but I have seen more than my fair share of battlefield injuries, and Naruto's were undoubtedly fatal. If not for the Kyuubi, whose chakra initially led us to the bunker, Naruto would have succumbed within moments."

"Where were Naruto's minders during the events that led us to this…situation?" The urge to assign blame was strong. Hiruzen pushed it aside with effort and waited for a response.

Kakashi tensed briefly and Hiruzen got the impression that the silver-haired jonin was scowling behind his mask. "Naruto has grown quite adept at slipping the proverbial leash, sir. From my own inquiries, I can only assume that he deliberately lulled his ANBU escorts into a state of complacency. For the past two weeks, Naruto has not deviated from his normal routine to any great extent and has limited mischief to classmates and academy faculty. Once their guard was dropped, Naruto was in the wind, so to speak."

Hiruzen mentally counted to himself, slowly working backwards from ten. There was no sense in allowing his anger to consume him at the moment, even if he very much wished to break open the heads of the so-called elite operators of his village to check whether or not their skulls were empty. To be outwitted by a poorly trained and not terribly bright ten-year old child, it was just disheartening to discover that his ninja could fall so far. With a sigh that revealed none of his contempt or suppressed rage, Hiruzen spoke, "We will discuss that matter at a later date, Inu. I apologize for interrupting. Please continue with your report."

With that very minor disaster averted for the time being, Kakashi continued, "I immediately dispatched a runner to acquire medical assistance from the hospital once it was determined that Naruto was still alive. Neko attempted to check Naruto's vitals, but was burned by the cloak of demonic chakra enshrouding Naruto. I unsuccessfully attempted to give Naruto a blood replenishing pill." Kakashi brought a bandaged hand from behind his back. "Though the burns we received are relatively minor, the demonic chakra disrupted Neko's diagnostic technique and rendered the blood pill inert. Roughly three minutes passed before medics arrived." And here was where things started to get really weird, and that was on a scale that already involved a child with an all powerful demon sealed in his gut. "In that short span of time it became apparent that the Kyuubi was not only sustaining Naruto despite his injury, its chakra was also interacting with the spire that had inflicted the injury. The spire was visibly shrinking, almost as if being melted."

"Did you by chance view this process with your sharingan?" Hiruzen queried. They were getting to the crux of the matter now. The Kyuubi should not have been able to interact with the outside world, not at this point in time, and definitely not before Naruto consciously accessed its chakra. He and Jiraiya had studied the seal imprisoning the demon and poured over Minato's notes on the subject. Never had they come across any such possibility.

"I uncovered it the moment we entered the bunker, sir." Kakashi's implanted sharingan eye did not possess the byakugan's ability to perfectly discern chakra, though it did provide some measure of enhanced chakra perception.

"And what did it reveal?" Hiruzen prompted Kakashi.

"The seal itself was visible as a chakra construct and appeared intact, sir, though the flesh it was engraved upon was pierced almost directly through the center and torn away. At the time, we assumed the Kyuubi was working to dissolve the spire in an attempt to save Naruto." Kakashi did not likely attribute any altruism to the demon, Hiruzen felt. He knew that Naruto's death signaled the end of his tenant.

Though he would have preferred to question Kakashi further, Hiruzen felt his remaining chakra wavering. There wasn't much left in his coils after his mad dash back to the village. "Very well, Inu. Please continue your investigation. I want details on this heretofore unknown bunker Naruto discovered; age, contents, creator and so on. On your way out inform my secretary to send any representatives from the hospital directly to my office, so long as they are bringing news of Naruto's condition."

Kakashi bowed and disappeared from the room in a wordless body flicker.

Hiruzen retrieved a soldier pill from an inner pocket of his robe. He'd taken three so far today. Given time elapsed between doses, his age, and relative chakra capacity, he should be able to ingest two more before risking poisoning or permanent damage. The pill had barely passed his lips when a ninja in the garb of the medical corps hurried into his office. Mitate, if he recalled correctly.

"Mitate, your timing is excellent. I do hope you have good news to give me?"

The medical ninja bowed deeply. "Yes, Hokage-sama, I bring good news." The medic's complexion was pale and the dark bags under his eyes looked almost like bruises. As he felt the fourth soldier pill of the day begin to flood his coils with chakra, Hiruzen envied the man's simple fatigue. "The patient is now in stable condition in a medically induced coma. It was touch and go for a while, but once the demonic chakra fully receded we were able to begin administering blood transfusions."

"You had to induce a coma in Naruto?" That was odd. If anything, Hiruzen would have assumed Naruto would require assistance to regain consciousness, not the other way around.

"It was necessary, sir, to avoid what could possibly be catastrophic damage to the patient." Mitate withdrew a small scroll from his coat and placed it on Hiruzen's desk. "The full details of our findings are recorded on the scroll for your perusal, sir. To summarize, through an unknown method, though the Kyuubi was obviously responsible, a huge quantity of pure unalloyed chakra conductive iron has been absorbed directly into the patient's body." It was rare to encounter any significant quantity of the substance, as it was fantastically expensive and coveted by ninja the world over. The metallurgical secrets required to properly alloy chakra conductive iron into weapon grade steel were closely guarded by the few smiths with necessary skill to work the metal, most of whom resided in Iron country.

Mitate no doubt noticed Hiruzen's raised brows and puzzled expression. Before his Hokage could ask, he continued, "The patient's bone matter has either become coated in a layer of the metal or entirely replaced by it, though his chakra density and other extenuating factors make it impossible to know for certain at present. It is too early to tell what impact this will have on the patient's future well being. Of more immediate concern, however, is his chakra network and musculature. We've found that a great deal of muscle tissue has been replaced by a fibrous weave of the chakra conductive iron, including the heart and diaphragm. These fibers, for all intents and purposes, appear to function as regular muscle tissue so long as an abundant supply of chakra flows through them. And that brings us back to the patient's chakra network itself. I would have been here to deliver the news sooner, sir, but we had to wait for a Hyuuga to come on duty to confirm our suspicions."

The creeping horror Hiruzen had felt building during the medic's explanation of Naruto's condition – what exactly warranted a label of stable nowadays anyway – was reaching a crescendo. He was too old for this shit.

"The patient's chakra network is completely intact," Mitate said, momentarily easing Hiruzen's concerns, "but every coil and all three hundred and sixty one tenketsu are totally saturated with chakra conductive iron."

Hiruzen found himself at a loss. This situation was so far outside the realm of what he would have considered possible that he simply didn't know how to approach it. He wasn't even sure what questions he should be asking the medic standing before him. Finally, he settled on a quiet, "And the coma?"

"Ah, yes sir. While the patient's altered musculature and chakra network appear to be functional for the moment, we cannot safely predict what would happen if he were to make any sudden movements. Muscles could be shredded by the iron or his very chakra coils could tear themselves from their moorings in his body."


A/N: My first attempt at writing in a number of years, not to mention my only foray into Naruto fanfiction thus far. As far as I know I'm not journeying too far into already charted waters with this story. I've not come across anything like what I intend to write here, though the Naruto fandom is huge and new ideas rare and precious. Hopefully this will turn out fairly well. Please review, as I could use any constructive criticism to improve the story. I'm rusty and would appreciate your input.