Prologue: Meeting Kurama
4-yr old Naruto Uzumaki walked down the street ignoring all the glares directed at him. Acknowledging the venom directed at him only seemed to encourage them. That was one the first things he had picked up in his life. The skill to ignore the world around him. So disconnected was he from reality that he did not see or hear the cart that was aimed at him until it was too late.
The acrid smell of disinfectant and tobacco greeted Naruto as he opened his eyes. Ignoring the shooting pain in his right leg, he sat up with a groan and looked around. He was in a drab, dusty hospital room and sitting by his bed, calmly smoking his pipe, was the Sandaime Hokage, Hiruzen Sarutobi. With another groan, he pulled off the sheet covering him and inspected his leg. As the pain had indicated, his right leg was covered in a swathe of heavy bandages.
"What happened, Jiji? Why am I in the hospital?" he asked softly, staring at his battered limb.
"Don't you remember, Naruto?"
The young boy shook his head.
"You were attacked. There was attempt to run you over. Luckily for you, they botched it up. You only received a glancing blow. Your injuries are not too severe and you should recuperate quite soon. My men have apprehended the people responsible and I will be personally ensuring that they are thoroughly punished."
Naruto nodded slowly, digesting the information. With a grimace, he tried to move his leg. Shooting tendrils of pain rushed up to his head from his leg.
"Don't get up. You need to rest. You're lucky to have no broken bones but its better if you don't move around too much."
Naruto cursed under his breath. He couldn't get up even if he wanted to. The pain coursing through his body was clouding his mind. With another groan he lay back down. He didn't think he would be going anywhere tonight.
"Naruto, why were you roaming around so late at night when I have explicitly told you not to do so? You were supposed to be home with your caretaker."
"She kicked me out."
Naruto glanced at the old man out of the corner of his eye and saw a look of barely controlled anger on the Jiji's face.
"What! Why did Minami-san do that? Weren't you two getting along well? You told me that she was much nicer than the previous two caretakers."
"It was my fault. Not hers."
"Why? What happened?"
"I was playing in the house and I broke a vase. I tried to clean it up before Minami-san saw but I cut the back my hand on a piece of broken glass. There was some blood. Minami-san brought some bandages to tape it. But then she-"
Naruto stopped talking abruptly. He didn't want to remember what had happened after that. He didn't want to remember the look of fear his caretaker had thrown at him. She had taken one look at his cut and a look of abject terror had materialized on her face. She had called him a demon. She had screamed at him to leave and to never come back.
It had hurt. He was used to being called a demon by strangers. But when it came from the nice Minami-san, it had really hurt. Minami-san who cooked so well. Minami-san who was so much kinder than his previous caretakers. Minami-san who had told him that he was like her own son.
"Naruto, I know it is difficult but you have to tell me what happened if you want me to help you."
"I don't know. She just looked at my hand and began to scream. She called me a demon and told me leave," mumbled Naruto, still refusing to look at the man he considered to be his grandfather. A few drops of salty tears slowly leaked out of his eyes.
Sarutobi was once again at a loss for words. He found that this happened a lot when he was dealing with Naruto. All that he had wished for was to give the boy a happy childhood. A childhood free of hatred and assassination attempts. Given his burden, his life was going to be a difficult one at best. Today was the irrefutable proof that he had failed miserably at that. For the first time in all his years as Hokage, he did not know what to do. He didn't know what to say to allay the boy's fears. He lifted the boy off the bed and hugged him as if he was embracing his own son. He stroked the boy's back soothingly.
"Naruto, don't worry. You're not a demon. Don't believe anything that woman said to you. You're a human just like I am. You're just like any other person in this village. What happened was not your fault. It's just that Minami-san couldn't understand how special you are."
"Jiji, please don't leave me like Minami-san and Aoi-san and Inoue-san did. Minami-san said that I had fooled you somehow. She said you would come to your senses one day and see what I really was. I swear, Jiji I am not playing any trick on you. I swear. I would never do anything like that to you. Please don't leave me like the rest of them. Please."
The boy was shaking with sobs.
He was going to flay that women. How could she utter such insensitive words to an innocent boy like this? She had almost broken him. He pulled the boy's head up gently by his chin and looked into his eyes.
"Naruto, believe me when I say this. I will never leave you. I know that you aren't playing any tricks on me. I know what kind of person you really are. I trust you. Don't worry. I swear that I will always be there for you."
Naruto pulled his head free, buried his face into Sarutobi's chest and continued sobbing. Sarutobi had never seen the boy cry before.
"Jiji, why does everyone hate me? Why do they keep trying to kill me? What did I ever do to them? How do I make them stop? Please tell me. I'll do anything and everything. Please tell me."
Sarutobi hugged the boy tighter.
"Naruto, I can't tell you the reason now. You are not ready for it yet but you will be someday and I promise to tell you then. However listen to what I'm going to say to you now and never forget it. When you were born, you were chosen to be the hero who would protect this village. However, the villagers do not know that and they hate you for it. Instead of succumbing to your anger towards them, you have to overcome your hate. You must endure their anger and prove to them with your deeds that you truly are a hero. You must not give in to hate and lower yourself to their level because you are made of better material than them. You're better than them and I know it. Only if you work hard will you ever be respected by everyone. I know that it's not fair. I know that this path is very difficult but that is why you were chosen. You're the only one who can do it. Because you are a hero. It's up to you if you want go down the path chosen for you. Even if you don't understand what I just said, remember it. You will understand it one day, I promise you."
Sarutobi slowly rocked the boy on his lap. With time, the boy's sobs faded away. After a while, Naruto pulled himself free and climbed back gingerly onto his bed. He wiped his face with the sheet and started staring out of the window. Sighing, Sarutobi got up to leave.
"Naruto, you stay here for a while. I'll try and find a new caretaker for you as soon as I can. Someone more trustworthy than the previous three."
"No Jiji, don't bother. She'll also leave me as soon as she can. I don't need a caretaker anymore. I can take care of myself. Let me be. It's better like this. It's easier like this. I'm sick of the betrayals. I don't need any more of them."
Once again Sarutobi didn't know what to say.
"Fine. I'll get you an apartment and open an account for you in the bank. Since, your parents were shinobi, the village will give you a yearly grant. It's not much, but if you are smart then you will be able to get by easily."
With that and a heavy heart, he left the boy to his thoughts.
Naruto watched the man he considered to be his grandfather walk out of his room. Once the old man had left, he turned his attentions to his window.
Naruto stared out of the window, his eyes out of focus, as he thought about what the old man had told him. His words hadn't made any sense. How could somebody like him be a hero? Why had he been chosen in the first place? He had no special skills. At least none that he knew of. And why had he not been given a choice in the matter? It was a mystery.
That was what his life was. A complete mystery. He had so many questions but nobody ever answered them. No one. Not even the old man. He was kind and took care of him but he never gave him what he really wanted.
His whirling thoughts coupled with his pounding leg to give him a headache. He lay back down and let sleep overpower him. He sighed as the pain faded away and he drifted off into oblivion.
In his dreams, he was floating. Floating in a sea. A red sea.
"Boy, do not listen to the foolish ramblings of that old man. He does not understand your pain. I do. I know how it feels to be hated by everyone. Kill them. Kill all of them. Take out all your hatred on them. Use my power and end everything."
Naruto opened his eyes with a start. He stood in a large room. A dark room. There were rusty, corrugated pipes running up the walls and the floor was flooded with dark, bubbling water.
In front of him was a large cage. Large enough to fit the entire Hokage building within it. Within it was a gigantic red beast with 9 tails.
The beast was radiating pure hatred. And sheer power. It pushed forward against the bars of his cage and pinned him down with its monstrous killing intent. Images of his impending death flashed through Naruto's mind. He could feel the caged animal's anger penetrating through his skin and all the way to his very bones. It was primal. It was unimaginably powerful and overbearing. His knees began to shake as he struggled to remain standing.
"You...you are the Kyuubi. Bu... but yo...you're supposed to be de... dead. The Yondaime Hokage killed you. There's a festival held every year for it. Where am I? What's going on? How did I get here? Is this a dream?" cried Naruto in panic.
"This is no dream. This is the realm inside you. This is your mind. Use my chakra. Use my power. Use it and kill all those who looked down upon you. Only then shall you know peace."
Naruto woke up with a jolt, his stomach burning as it were on fire.
Sarutobi was almost at the end of the corridor when he felt an aura. An aura that he had last felt 4 years ago, the night Naruto had been born. The night his successor and his wife had sacrificed themselves for the sake of the village. Dread filled him. He shunshined back into Naruto's room. The boy lay on the bed covered in a red chakra cloak. His normally cute whiskers were now feral. Like that of a fox. Fangs were protruding out of his mouth. His nails were transforming into claws. Sarutobi stood shocked for a second. Then his hands rushed together to make handsigns. The tips of the fingers of his right hand began to glow blue.
"Let's hope this works," thought Sarutobi as he slammed his hand onto the boy's stomach.
Naruto jolted awake and noticed that his stomach felt as if it had been hit by a boulder. He looked up and saw the Jiji staring at him with anxiety in his eyes.
"Naruto, what happened? Are you okay? How do you feel?"
Naruto was confused. His mind was spinning. With a shaky breath, he slowly sat up. Had that been a dream? Had he been hallucinating? But it had felt so real. Was the Kyuubi really sealed within him? His head pounded with all the possibilities. He needed time to think. He looked up at the old man and was about to open his mouth but was interrupted before he could utter a word. Two uniformed shinobi burst in through the door before he could answer. Simultaneously, an ANBU operative in a boar mask materialized noiselessly behind the Hokage with a hand on his tanto. Naruto stared at the intruders blankly, his confusion growing every instant.
"Hokage-sama, I fel-" started the ANBU in a toneless, modulated voice but was interrupted before he could say anything more.
"Yes, I know what you felt and it has been taken care of. Leave us and do not breathe a word of this to anyone," snapped Sarutobi, his eyes boring into Naruto. At their commander's order, the shinobi vacated the room as quickly and silently as they had entered.
"Naruto, are you okay?" asked Sarutobi gently.
"I'm fine, Jiji. Just some sort of weird dream."
"A dream? Indulge this old man and tell me about this dream of yours."
"I don't remember anything," lied Naruto. "I can never remember my dreams." He could see that the old man didn't believe him. The old man stared at him for a few seconds and then turned around.
"Get some rest, Naruto. I will come back later to check on you."
He watched as the old man walked out, thankful that he hadn't been pressed for an answer. He would have been hard-pressed had that situation arose. He waited for a while to make sure that the old man was really gone.
The pain in his leg had receded to a gentle throb. He seemed to have healed up significantly in his short nap. He slowly got off the bed and gingerly stood up. His stomach rolled with nausea and his leg twinged as he put his weight upon it but both were bearable. He was used to physical discomfort. He opened the window of his room and slipped out.
Sarutobi stormed into his office with a vicious look on his face, glaring at the man waiting for him.
"Explain yourself," he shouted at the top of his voice.
The target was a silver-haired ANBU agent in a wolf mask. The man bent down and kneeled as his leader stormed towards him.
"I gave you this responsibility because I trusted you. I had believed that you would protect your own sensei's son with your life. Yet, Naruto is in hospital now. Explain yourself!" he roared. The room shook with Sarutobi's anger.
"I'm sorry, Hokage-sama. He was in the market-place and I was consigned to the rooftops. I was too slow in noticing the attempt and too far away to stop it. I have failed sensei and I have broken the trust you placed in me. I accept all responsibility for my actions and am ready for any punishment that you see fit to mete out to me."
Sarutobi's anger collapsed like a burst bubble and was replaced by deep sadness.
"Kakashi, Minato never wanted this for his son. He wanted his son to be known as a hero. But I could not keep that promise. Naruto's lineage had to be hidden to protect him. We have both failed in our duty to Minato's memory. I am no better than you. Keep a better watch on him. Do not fail your sensei again. The boy was lucky this time. His luck may not hold the next time somebody makes an attempt on his life."
"I am grateful, Hokage-sama. This will not happened again. If I may speak freely, sir."
"Why do you insist on assigning him civilian caretakers? They know nothing about the Kyuubi. They think Naruto is the demon himself in human form. Why don't you give him to a shinobi family? There are many who are more than ready to accept the responsibility. He will be safer and he will be able to meet other children of his age and actually have a normal childhood."
"No. I have thought about but decided against it. By doing that, I would be compelling him to be a shinobi. That is something I do not want to do. If he wants to become a shinobi, it should be of his own choice. If he chooses to, he may remain a civilian. I will not force him to be a weapon for the village."
"That is your reason? You consign him to a childhood of hate just because you don't want him to feel compelled to become a shinobi? He is a Jinchuuriki and that of the Kyuubi no less. He is destined to become a shinobi. Think of who his parents are."
"Yes. That is true. It is also true that he has been cursed to a difficult life without him having a say in the matter. He will never have a normal life and he will never be given the same opportunities which others will be given. I want to give him the chance to at least decide if he wants to die in a battlefield or of old age surrounded by family."
His trusted shinobi was rendered mute for once.
"I believe its time you got back to your duties. If I know him correctly, Naruto must have sneaked out of the hospital already."
Without a word, the Copy Ninja melted away. As soon as he left, Sarutobi called in his secretary.
"Let it be known that today's attackers have received life imprisonment. If there is another attack on the boy, I will have the perpetrators executed"
With a heavy heart, Sarutobi sat down and reached for his hidden stash of sake. He was going to need it when the civilian council arrived and demanded that he overturn his ruling. He thanked his lucky stars that he had placed the boy in an isolated wing of the hospital. If more had sensed the Kyuubi's chakra, he would be facing a riot.
Naruto settled himself down on top of the Yondaime's head. This was the place he went to whenever he needed to think. Or a place to hide. The place had a calming effect on him that he never felt elsewhere.
He was the Kyuubi's container. What he had seen could not have been a dream. It had been too real. He could still feel his bones vibrating from that fleeting meeting. His mind was still reverberating from the fox's voice.
That was why everyone hated him. The Yondaime had not sacrificed himself to kill the Kyuubi. He had sacrificed himself to seal the Kyuubi within Naruto. To the villagers, he was the one who had killed their kin, razed their homes and taken away their beloved Hokage.
Why had he been chosen? His birthday was on the same day as the Kyuubi attack. Was it because he had been a newborn? He might have been the only newborn available at the time. Could the Kyuubi only be sealed within newborn babies? Why not seal it within a strong shinobi like the Jiji?
The old man's words suddenly made sense to him now. He realized why the old man had called him a hero. He understood what the old man wanted from him.
For the first time in an eternity, his life made sense. He knew now why the village hated him. He got up and went back to the hospital.
A Week Later
Naruto ran into his new apartment with barely contained excitement. He had left the hospital as soon as the Jiji had gotten him this place. The Jiji had hired someone to bring over all of his belongings from Minami-san's house. He was grateful for the old man's thoughtfulness. He had been dreading returning there.
His new house was small but completely furnished. He supposed that he would have to learn how to cook, now that he was going to be living alone. He sank onto his couch. It was threadbare and lumpy but it was his. This whole place was his. He let out a small hoot of happiness.
His happiness faded away after a while. It was time to get down to business. He had been planning this for a week. Ever since his dream.
He sat down in the middle of his living room, closed his eyes and formed the Lotus position. He then started to meditate. He reached out to the boiling rage within him that he could always feel bubbling away. The rage he had always kept locked away. When he opened his eyes, he was back in the large room with pipes. He looked up at the cage within him. His prisoner was wreathed in darkness. He could only just make out his monstrous form in the darkness.
"Hello," he called.
The room reverberated as the Kyuubi released a deep growl. Two huge eyes flicked upon and glared down at him. There was no killing intent directed at him yet. The Kyuubi moved forward into the light and settled down onto his paws.
"You have come here of your own volition, mortal. You are stupider than you look but brave."
Naruto stared back at his prisoner with no fear in his eyes.
"Tell me, what do you want?"
"Nothing. I just wanted to see the reason why my village hates me."
Naruto opened his eyes and returned to his house.
The Next Day
Naruto woke up with a grumbling stomach. He decided that it was not a nice way to start the day. He sighed. He supposed he would now have to go shopping for food. His caretakers had always taken care of that till now. Then it struck him that he had no clue what to do with the food after he bought it. He cursed himself for not learning how to cook from Minami-san while he could. His stomach released another loud grumble. Cursing his stomach, Naruto got up and decided to wing it.
Naruto stared at the sheer number of vegetables, fruits, meats and dairy products arrayed before him. He had no idea what to buy or how to cook any of them.
Now that he thought about it, he didn't even know if his apartment came with the utensils that he would need to make a meal. Not that he knew how to use them. In a daze, he wandered deeper into the store avoiding the sullen gaze of the owner. His wandering eyes came to rest on the instant food counter. That was something he could handle. Instant pasta. Instant pizza. Instant ramen. A quick inspection told him instant ramen was the cheapest. He picked 4 packs and made his way back to the sales counter.
The owner schooled his face into a small smile as he approached.
"Sir, if you don't mind, could you please replace those packs from where you picked them up. Those items are for display only. If you'll wait a few seconds, I'll bring some fresh stock from the back."
Naruto nodded. This was the first time shopping. How was he supposed to have known about display items? He replaced the packs and waited for the owner to return. The owner was back in a few seconds like he promised.
"Let me ring these up for you, sir."
"You mind if I see those?" a female voice called out. Naruto turned and saw that the owner of the voice was a young woman with brown hair. She stormed up to the counter and snatched the box of ramen from the owner hands. Turning it over, she peered at the label. What she saw did not make her happy.
"You sick bastard. How dare you try to cheat an innocent boy like that? Don't you have any shame? These are all way past their expiration dates."
"Ayame-san, this is not some innocent kid. This is that demon kid. He doesn't deserve your kindness," the shopkeeper replied hotly.
"Shut up. Look at that cute face of his. Does he look like a demon to you? Shame on you. I'm going to tell all my friends to avoid this place from now on."
She walked up to Naruto, smiled at him and held out her hand.
"Hi. I'm Ayame. Come with me. I'll help you buy whatever you want."
She grasped Naruto's hand and pulled him along behind her. Naruto stared up at the kind lady who had helped him. She had touched him. She was still touching him. Almost everyone avoided physical contact with him. Her hand felt warm and nice.
"So tell me what do you need to buy? Oh wait… that was so rude of me. I didn't even ask you your name."
Naruto pulled his hand free.
"Why are you doing this?"
"Huh? What do you mean?"
"You touched me. Nobody touches me. People run away when I go near them. And you stopped that shop-keeper from cheating me. Why?"
Ayame frowned down at him. A vein appeared on her forehead. A very angry vein.
"Young man, do you know how rude that was? I help you out and you insult me in return? Apologize now."
Naruto backed away in fear. The woman looked scary as hell. He guessed that it wasn't a good idea to piss her off. He help up his hands in apology.
"Sorry, nee-chan," he said with trembling knees. "I was rude and stupid. Please forgive me."
Ayame smiled, her anger disappearing in an instant, and bent down to his height.
"Just because others aren't nice to you doesn't mean that I have to be the same. Besides, you're so cute there is no way I could be mean to you."
She reached out and pulled his cheeks. Naruto grimaced but didn't try to free himself. He didn't want to set this woman off again. He had thought looking for food to buy had been hell but this was much worse. This woman was angry at him one instant and petting him the next. He decided to do his best to avoid her in the future. As he came to this conclusion, his stomach let go another rumble. She heard it and let go of his cheeks. For the first time today his stomach had done something useful for him.
"You're starving aren't you? Come on. My dad and I run a restaurant. You can eat something there. It's not too far away."
The Jiji had told him not to follow strangers. Especially the ones that offered him things. His stomach groaned again. He shrugged and followed the crazy woman. If she was going to kill him, then at least he would die with a satisfied stomach. If he became a ghost, he didn't want to be stuck haunting people whilst he was eternally hungry. He would prefer to scare them with his moans. Not with his grumbling stomach. A couple of hours of hunger was more than enough for him.
"Hey, dad. We have a customer. This is Naruto-kun. Whip him up a bowl. "
"Sure, sure. Have a seat, young man. What'll you have?"
Naruto stared at the menu for a few seconds, struggling with the characters. The Jiji hat taught him how to read recently but he still needed more practice.
"One miso ramen."
"Good choice. It'll be ready in a couple of minutes."
True to his word, Teuchi-san placed a delicious smelling bowl in front of him. As Naruto inhaled the aroma, his hunger amplified. He dug in with gusto. It was even tastier than it smelled.
"Oy, Jiji. How much for one bowl?"
Naruto ran a couple of calculations in his mind. Another skill the Jiji had taught him. Eating here would turn out to be cheaper than buying the food himself. Besides it saved him the hassle of learning how to cook. Plus, the food smelled heavenly.
"Great. One more, old man."
2 Days Later
Naruto walked back into his house after dinner at Ichiraku. He had been eating all his meals in the place for the past couple of days. Two days he had spent thinking about his prisoner. He had questions. Many questions. And for once he believed that he was going to get answers.
He closed the door behind him and walked over to the center of the room. He sat down and closed his eyes once more.
His sandals were soaked through with water in an instant. The water had been hot enough to scald him when during his first involuntary visit into his mindscape. This time, however, the water pooling around his feet was cool. Cold enough to feel pleasant against his skin. He opened his eyes and stared up at the Kyuubi once more.
"Back then, you offered to give me power. Why?"
One ominous eye flicked open and peered down imperiously at him.
"You wanted to kill. I offered you the power you needed to do so."
"I didn't want to kill anybody," said Naruto shaking his head. "I was angry. Angry at them. But I didn't want to kill anyone."
"I can sense your emotions, boy. I have been doing so for a long time. I know what hatred feels like."
"I don't WANT to kill them," repeated Naruto.
"Why not? Why do they deserve your mercy? They have tried to kill you on multiple occasions in the past. I've been watching. You have only survived so far because of my healing power."
"Why save me? Let me die. Then you'd be free."
The Kyuubi growled and lifted his head. He opened both his eyes and looked at Naruto.
"Because if you die, then I die."
"No, you don't. With time, I will reform. But it is a painful and time-consuming process. Even this sewer is preferable to that!"
The Kyuubi growled in distaste and settled back down.
"You didn't answer the question. Why did you try to give me power?"
The water began to bubble. The temperature in the room shot up in an instant. The Kyuubi's eyes snapped open and glared down at his jailer in fury.
"I did give you an answer, boy. I do not like being asked to repeating myself. To kill them."
"But why? The villagers have done nothing to you."
The gargantuan beast reared up and roared. Lifting his arm, he took a mighty swipe at his cage but the bars blocked his attack with ease. He reared back again and charged at the bars. The bars vibrated from the force of the attack but held. With a snarl of rage, the Kyuubi stuck his hand through the bars and clawed at Naruto. The water boiled with a vengeance and began to rise in level. The Kyuubi's huge killing intent was directed at him again. Panic and fear clawed at him. With a huge effort, he held them at bay.
"You puny humans have imprisoned me in this cage time and time again for no fault of my own. I have been cursed and hated for centuries. Why should I not tear all you mortals apart?"
For the first time, anger bloomed within Naruto as well.
"No fault of your own? You attacked us. You killed so many families. You destroyed more than half the village! I have heard the stories and I've seen how much of the village is newly built!" he shouted.
The Kyuubi's anger seemed to subside. He retreated back into the shadows. His deep voice was much softer when he spoke.
"I... I did not attack your village."
"Lies!" screamed Naruto.
"It's true, boy. When I attacked your village, I... I was under somebody else's control."
"More lies. How can anyone control something like you?"
"There is one who can do it."
"Uchiha Madara!" spat the Kyuubi.
Naruto had never heard that name before. He would have to read up about this Madara person and find out if he even existed. If this man was powerful enough to control something like the Kyuubi, then he was most definitely famous. He snapped open his eyes and returned to the real world. He was going to have to ask the old man and he really wasn't in the mood to talk to him anytime soon. Not after he had hidden something like the Kyuubi from him.
The Next Day
Naruto walked into the Sandaime Hokage's office as the mission assignment shift ended. The old man looked up from the note he was reading and smiled at Naruto.
"Hello Naruto. How's your new flat coming along?" he asked as he got back to reading his note.
"It's ok," said Naruto as he sat down.
"Good. Good. What're you doing for meals?"
"I'm managing," replied the boy evasively. "I have something to ask. It's about a shinobi."
Years of dabbling in politics had required that he be able to detect even an undercurrent of hostility. And right now, Naruto was generating quite a lot of it. He put down the note and turned his full attention onto his adoptive grandson. Not one for games, he jumped right in.
"You seem angry? Have I done something wrong?"
The boy's eyes widened on being caught out.
"No. I'm not angry."
When you lived as long as Sarutobi had, you got quite good at detecting lies as well. Becoming Hokage at an extremely young age had just steepened the learning curve. He now had two options. He could either call Naruto out or he could let him simmer for a while. The boy would open up to him sooner or later.
"I see. Who did you want to talk about?" he asked.
Sarutobi schooled his face with ease. Years as Hokage had helped him develop that skill as well. Madara was a name he had not heard in a while. Hearing it from a 4 year old boy was even more surprising.
"Where did you hear that name?" he asked softly, his voice level.
"Um... I heard two chuunin talking about him in a restaurant."
Another lie. And a rather bad one at that. He let it pass.
"I see. And what were they saying about him?"
"Well... they were saying something about how he can control the Kyuubi..." he said, his voice trailing away uncomfortably. Another obvious lie. And a troubling one at that but it was too late for him to call him out on it now.
"Not how he can. How he could."
"Uchiha Madara is dead. And he has been so for many years now. He was defeated in battle by the Shodai Hokage," said Sarutobi, pointing at his predecessor's painting with his pipe. "So what did you want to ask about him?"
"Well, if people can control the Kyuubi then why did the Yondaime have to sacrifice himself to defeat the Kyuubi?"
Something was wrong and Sarutobi knew it right away. All these questions hit too close to home to be a coincidence.
"No. It is impossible to control a bijuu. On-"
"Wait!" interrupted Naruto. "You mean there are more like the Kyuubi?"
Sarutobi nodded. "Yes. There are nine. They range from the Ichibi to the Kyuubi."
The boy stared at him, listening raptly.
"Yes. There are nine," said Sarutobi contemplatively. "Anyway, back to your question. It is normally impossible to control a bijuu. However, an extremely few exceptionally talented people have managed to do so over the years. Uchiha Madara was one. The Shodai Hokage was another." He looked up at the ceiling in thought. "If you want to know more about them, than you should read the Academy textbook on the history of us shinobi. From what I remember, it has quite an in-depth description of the rivalry between Uchiha Madara and Hashirama-sama."
"I see. So the Yondaime had no choice."
"Yes," said the Sandaime gravely.
Silence fell upon them for a while.
"Thanks, Jiji," said Naruto as he jumped off his seat and made to leave.
"Naruto," called the Sandaime. "Be careful who you talk to about this... topic. It's quite sensitive. You're welcome to come to me about it whenever you want."
Naruto nodded as he left the room. Sarutobi stared at the closed door. The boy was definitely too intelligent for his own good. He was going to have to keep a closer watch.
Once the door was closed behind, Naruto's face split into a tiny smile. He was making progress. The old man was definitely suspicious but had given him the information he wanted nevertheless.
The Next Evening
Naruto burst into his flat with a gigantic scowl plastered on his face. He had spent the entire day in the public library reading up on anything and everything he could find on Uchiha Madara. And he hadn't liked what he had found.
"Uchiha Madara is dead! He has been dead for more than 50 years," he screamed at his prisoner.
The Kyuubi released a hot breath of air as he stood up and looked at his jailer.
"I know. I was there. I saw him die. But the man who wrenched me from your mother had-"
"My mother? What are you talking about?"
"Your mother. My previous host."
"You were sealed within my mother?" asked a stunned Naruto.
"Yes. Kushina Uzumaki."
Naruto didn't know what to say. The Jiji had told him that his parents had been shinobi. He had been told that his parents had died during the attack of the Kyuubi. He hadn't in his wildest dreams even considered that his mother had been cursed to the same fate as he was. He gasped as he returned to his room, his thoughts in a turmoil and his focus completely shattered. Why hadn't he been told about his mother? Why hadn't the Jiji told him about the Kyuubi?
With a growl, he punched himself in the face to control his turbulent thoughts. It didn't help. Confused, he went out into the cool, dark night.
He shivered as he walked aimlessly down the street, cursing himself for not wearing something warmer.
Why had the old man not told him about the monster within him? Did the old man not trust Naruto? Was he afraid that he would use the power the Kyuubi had offered to kill others?
Completely lost in his own thoughts, Naruto walked squarely into another pedestrian and they both crashed to the floor. With a groan, he cradled his head as he sat up. He had cracked it quite heavily against the pavement. Shaking his head to clear the lights dancing in his eyes, he looked up to see the man he had walked into glaring at him with barely-concealed hatred. The man obviously knew who he was. What he was.
"You fucking bastard!" the man snarled at him as they both scrambled up. "How dare you attack me like that?"
Naruto didn't even blink. He was used to others twisting his actions.
"I'm sorry," he said, bowing his head to the man. "I did not see where I was going." He brushed past the man and walked away briskly before he could say anything else.
"Why? Why stoop your head? You have done nothing wrong. You don't deserve their rejection. Why apologize? Yo-"
"Because if I fight back, then I'm no better than them."
Naruto closed his mind to the beast within him and walked until he couldn't walk anymore.
2 Days Later
Naruto stood in front of a grave with a bunch of flowers in his hand. Bending down, he placed the bouquet on the grave-marker and sat down next to it. The flowers had cost him most of his month's allowance. It had taken him 2 days of persistent scouring to find his mother's grave.
"Hello mother," he said staring at the inscription. "You probably don't recognize me but I'm your son. Naruto."
He paused for a while.
"I came to talk to you, you know. I guessed that you might have wanted to know that I was doing okay. I'm fine, I guess. The Jiji got me a new flat last week. It's small but I like it. It's just me in there and I like it that way."
"I'm 4 years old now. Should have told you that first, I guess. Only 3-4 attempts on my life in 4 years. So I guess it's been an okay 4 years for me," he said bitterly.
He sighed as he stood up. "That was sarcasm, in case you didn't realize. I don't even know whether you appreciate sarcasm or not."
"I guess that I'm never going to find out," he called over his shoulder as he walked home.
A Week Later
It was raining very heavily as Naruto walked down the line of gravestones.
"Hello mother," he said as he placed the drenched bouquet on the grave-marker.
"Hope you don't mind wet flowers. I picked them myself. Can't afford to buy them again. I don't have an umbrella so there's nothing I could do about it," he said as he brushed his wet hair out of his eyes.
"I just ate at Ichiraku's. They sell really awesome ramen there. Teuchi-san, the owner, is really nice. Not like the other villagers. He gives me a couple of free bowls every week. Says that I'm his best customer. I have to be his best customer since I eat there every day," he laughed.
"His daughter, Ayame-san, is nice too. She's scary but nice. She's also not like the other villagers."
"Did the villagers hate you as well? They must have cuz they definitely hate me."
"Did you hate them as well?" he asked softly.
He closed his eyes and looked up at the stormy sky. He could see the flashes of lightning through his eyelids.
"I used to hate them as well. I went out to the festival last year and they tried to kill me. An ANBU stopped them before they finished the job."
"I used to hate them. But it was tiring."
"I was angry all the time. It just gave me a headache. Made my mind spin."
"So I gave up. Stop caring about them. Made everything easier."
"What did you do? Did you try to kill them? Did the Kyuubi offer you his power as well?"
"Every time I come here, I curse myself for talking to a dead person. Someone who can't talk back to me. Every time I go home, I get lonely. So I end up coming here."
"You must have had people to talk to. A father. A mother. A family. My father. Must have been nice."
Hot tears mixed with the cold rainwater and ran down his face.
"Why me, mother? Why was I chosen? Why did you die and leave me with this thing inside me?"
Naruto's sneakers squelched noisily on his carpet. He pulled off his sneakers and lay down onto his couch, not caring if it got wet. He closed his eyes and focused on entering the world within him. Each time was easier than the previous one.
With a sigh, he sat down in the water and hugged his knees.
"Don't you ever get tired?"
"Of being angry all the time."
"Try being imprisoned alone for years on end, boy."
"I'm a prisoner as well. I can't leave this place because of you. And I'm alone. Nobody comes near me because of you."
The Kyuubi stared at him intently but gave no response.
"I used to hate them as well. For how they treated me. The people in the orphanage. My caretakers. I was angry at them all the time. But I just got tired of it. Being angry didn't help me in any way. It didn't make my life suck any less. It just made my head hurt. So I stopped. I stopped caring."
"Why are you telling me all this?"
"You're the only person who I can talk to, you know. You're not just imprisoned with me. Both of us are imprisoned together in this village."
The Kyuubi rose on his haunches and stared silently at Naruto.
"You're a strange one, boy. No one has ever talked to me before. Not your mother. Not the one before her."
"Huh?" said Naruto lifting his head from between his knees. "You're lonely as well, are you?" he laughed softly. "Ironic, isn't it?"
The room reverberated as the Kyuubi's chest rumbled with laughter.
"Not ironic, boy. Sad. Laughably sad."
They stared silently at each other for a while.
"Uchiha Madara. He was killed long ago. You lied to me."
"I did not lie to you. I saw Madara die with my own eyes. I was there when he fought the Shodai Hokage. But... but the man who pulled me out from your mother. I did not see his face but he had the same chakra as Madara. The same malevolence."
"Why should I believe you?"
"I am placing no compulsion on you to accept my words. I'm simply telling you the truth. It is up to you if you want to believe it. I can offer evidence if you need persuasion."
The Kyuubi stood up, pushed his fist through the bars of his cage and held it out to Naruto. Naruto stared at the fist with a blank expression on his face. Then he stood up and started walking slowly towards the Kyuubi.
"Aren't you afraid that I'll kill you if you come any closer?"
"You could. But I'm willing to take the risk. I'm curious about this evidence you want show me."
"You trust the word of a stranger so easily? You're naive, boy. You'll die easily in this world."
Naruto shrugged. "The last time you tried to kill me, the water was boiling. It almost burned my skin off," he said gesturing at the water as he walked. "Look at how calm it is right now. Somehow I get the feeling that if you wanted to kill me, I'd know."
He lifted his fist and pressed it against the Kyuubi's fist.
"You're lucky, boy. If you had come this close yesterday, I would have shredded you. Today... well today I'm curious to see how you react."
A rush of images and sounds flooded Naruto's mind.
The image of a red eye. A red eye with three tomoe. The eye began to spin. A masked man with a red eye. Loss of control. A beautiful woman with red hair. The Kyuubi trying to kill the woman. A man with blond, spiky hair just like his. A man who looked just like the Yondaime Hokage's statue. The village. The Kyuubi attacking the village. The Jiji fighting back. Freedom from the control. Confusion and a boiling anger. A huge, black ball of energy. A giant toad. A huge explosion. The man and the woman again.
A new-born baby. A baby with blond hair.
A giant claw impaling the man and the woman.
The woman's last words to her baby. The woman's last words to him. His mother's last words to him.
His father's last words to him.
With a cry, he jumped back and fell to his knees in the lukewarm water. A barrage of hot tears escaped from his eyes and flooded his face. He pressed his hands to his face and tried to calm down his racing heart and mind. He tried to make sense of the images he had received.
The Yondaime was his father. He had sacrificed himself and his mother to save the village.
"You... you... you killed them. You killed my parents."
"Yes. Yes I did."
Anger and grief flooded him. He saw red.
He woke up with a roar of rage. Tears were still streaming out of his eyes. Tears of anger. Tears of grief mourning the death of his parents.
He burst out of his flat barefoot. He ran. He ran into the raining night.
He ran until he could feel no more.
When Naruto woke up, he was lying in own bed. With tired, shaking arms, he lifted the covers and saw that was wearing his pajamas. He rolled off his bed, wondering how he had gotten back home and who had changed him.
He walked into his bathroom for his morning ablutions. He glanced at his reflection in his mirror as he pulled off his shirt. He took a second, longer look. He looked just like his father. As he stared into the mirror, memories of the previous night flooded his mind.
With a cry of anger, he struck his mirror with all his might, instantly shattering it into a million pieces. Droplets of warm blood trickled from his fist and landed on his floor. He lifted his fist and examined it. Shards of sharp glass were sticking out of it. He pulled out the pieces one by one and then washed his hand in warm water. He held up his hand again and watched as the punctures closed up.
The Yondaime was his father. His father had been the Hokage. The strongest man in the entire village. And the village still existed only because of his sacrifice. His hands tightened into fists.
He wouldn't let his parents' sacrifice go in vain. He would do what they had wanted him to do. He would be a shinobi greater than either of them. He would do it for them. Not because he loved this village. Not because he wanted to prove himself to others. He would do it because he could not let his parents' sacrifice be in vain.
And the first thing he needed to do was get a new mirror.
He closed his eyes and landed in his inner world. He walked right up to the prison within him and stared up at the Kyuubi.
"I'll make you a deal."
"What kind of deal?"
"You help me become Hokage. In return I'll study up about this seal. When I figure it out, I'll open it and let you go."
The Kyuubi leaned down and held his head at Naruto's level. Hot breath escaped his maw and hit Naruto's face.
'You would do that for me?"
"Why? I killed your parents. I tried to destroy your village."
"Yes... Yes. You did. But I don't blame you. My parents. They were treating you just how the village treats me. You were angry at the ones imprisoning you against your will for no fault of your own. They were trying to imprison you again. I understand you. I've had to bear this hatred for just 4 years. You've been shunned this way for god knows how many years now."
"But why? Why trust me now? Why trust me now when no one has done so before?"
"You could have killed me yesterday. You didn't. I guess I owe you one. Plus, you showed me the truth yesterday. You didn't hide that you killed my parents. You gave... you gave me my parents' final words to me," he said holding his fist against his heart. "That means a lot to me."
The Kyuubi was silent.
"It's not that straightforward. Your chakra coils has developed around my presence. If you let me go, you will definitely die. You cannot break open this seal. You will have to unlock it the way it was designed."
Naruto stared at the Kyuubi and silently held out his fist.
"If that's what it takes, then I'll do it. It's not like I have anyone to live for anyway. Partners?" he asked.
The Kyuubi stared at the offered fist for a long while before pushing his own fist through the bars.
"Yes. Partners. For now."
The Kyuubi pressed his fist against Naruto's.
"You break the deal and I'll kill myself. Take you down with me."
Another hot breath escaped the Kyuubi as he growled softly.
"I keep to my words, boy."
"Don't forget that your death will not kill me."
"If you prefer this sewer, then I'm sure it must be bad enough. So, you got a name or do I have to keep calling you the Kyuubi?"
An expression of surprise flitted onto the Kyuubi's face.
"What makes you think I have a name, boy?"
Naruto shrugged. "Nothing. Just thought I should ask you your name considering that we just became partners."
The Kyuubi stared at the boy standing in front of him for a long while.
"You're a strange one, Naruto Uzumaki. Unlike any human I have met before. Yes, I do have a name. Kurama."
"I see. That's good to know. Well then Kurama-san, I'm off. See you around."
Naruto opened his eyes and returned to his bathroom.
This is my first jab at writing fanfiction so please excuse any errors I may have made. Positive criticism will be appreciated.
Note: Quite a lot of reviewers criticized this chapter and I realized that they were right. It was kinda crap. Naruto's interaction with the Kyuubi wasn't realistic at all. So I went ahead and rewrote most of the chapter. I hope it makes more sense now. Let me know what you think.