The Open Cage
"I have to admit Naruto, I really didn't believe you had it in you. I'm glad you got to enjoy the gift we left you. How did it feel having to kill your friends? Having to kill Tsunade, the closest thing you ever had to a mother? Having to kill Hinata? Having to kill your unborn child? Just because we needed all nine Biju to enslave the world doesn't mean we can't use the power of eight of them to enslave your home. Pity the Kyuubi protected you from that."
A quick kick to the chest ended the blondes attempt to get back up. Looking up at the Hokage tower, Sasuke couldn't help but smile. "I'll admit, you put up a good fight. You even manged to kill Tobi and three of his pet biju. Not that I wasn't going to kill that man myself anyways. The arrogance of him, claiming to be Madara. No matter. It's fitting that you die here, in front of the seat of power you long wished for. The Hokage seat is even open. After all, you killed the Fifth."
Struggling to get back up, Naruto didn't even have enough strength left to curse at Sasuke. Even the Kyuubi's healing couldn't keep him alive much longer. Heavy burns covered most his body. Most of his clothing had long since burned off. His stump where his right leg used to be was draining blood too quickly. At least his left arm, lost at the elbow, wasn't bleeding. The wound that caused it cauterizing it instantly. The right side of his face was caved in from a heavy impact, crushing his eye, leaving only his left one.
Even after taming her, the Kyuubi just wasn't a match for this fight. The other eight Biju, the entirety of Konoha, Tobi, Sasuke...Sakura...That's where it all went wrong. On the mission to retrieve Sasuke, and she joined him. Together, they killed Kakashi. Naruto only arrived in time to watch them leave with Tobi. The few fights where he had a chance to kill Sasuke, and Sakura managed to turn the tide and keep him healed up. "Of course, I have no need of Tobi's plan. Without him, we couldn't seal the Kyuubi anyways."
Another boot stepped down onto Naruto's heavily burned chest. Sakura smiled down at Naruto, the Sharingan she stole from Kakashi spinning wildly. "Naruto, I wash my hands of you. I'm going to let Sakura kill you. Heh. She used to be the weakest of our team, but she's far surpassed both you and Kakashi. We kept getting stronger, while Konoha kept you weak!"
Reaching down, Sakura grabbed Naruto by his throat and raised him to eye level. Smiling, she activated her Sharingan. "I'm going to tear your head off, just like I did with your leg, Naruto-kun. You'll see your wife and child again in just a moment..." Activating Kamui, the space around Naruto's head began to distort.
"KIT! Look her in the eye! She's given us a chance!"
Opening his one good eye, Naruto stared into her Sharingan. What little was left of the Kyuubi's chakra poured out of his eye. Everyone immediately felt the technique go out of control. Or more specifically, be truly controlled for the first time, just not by Sakura. The field quickly expanded to include the all of Naruto and part of Sakura's arm. With a small clap of onrushing air, Sakura was screaming at the loss of most her right arm, the blonde nowhere to be seen...
'Today was a great day. Jiji bought me ramen AND told me I can start in the Ninja Academy next month!' Walking down the street, Naruto felt like nothing could get him down now. Having just left the Hokage tower after spending most the afternoon with the Hokage, even the glares he was getting went unnoticed by the happy child. Soon he will be training to be a ninja! 'Then they'll acknowledge me! I'll become Hokage, like jiji!'
With a loud thunderclap, Naruto looked up just in time to watch a body appear out of the air and collapse on him. His screams, along with the screams of everyone on the street quickly summoned several ANBU from the Hokage tower. The body was a mess, missing and arm and a leg. Blood was flowing too slowly, as if there wasn't enough left to bleed. Most his clothes were burned off, with heavy burns covering his body. The woman's arm covering gripping his throat slackened and fell off, hitting Naruto in the face while he was pinned by the body.
Quickly grabbing the body, none of the ANBU recognized the man, but the Konoha forehead protector stood out to them immediately, his remaining bright blue eye slowly closed as he finally lost consciousness as the ANBU frantically worked to save him. Drawn into his own mind, Naruto knew he was soon going to be dead.
Looking up at the Kyuubi, the cage long since opened, Naruto could see the sadness and pain in her eyes. "I'm dying Kitsune-chan. Even Tsunade wouldn't be able to save me. They took everything from me, and we couldn't stop them. We couldn't stop Sasuke."
"I'm sorry kit. I did the only thing I could think of. I took her technique, and controlled it. I brought us over a decade into the past. You actually landed on your eight year old self." Naruto grimaced.
"It's too late for that to help though. I'll be dead in minutes."
Kyuubi shook her head slowly. "I'm sorry it had to end this way. It may too late for you, but it's not too late for your younger self. I can take whats left of your chakra, and go to the child. . Be at peace Naruto...be with your wife again...I will miss you kit..." and I love you...She wasn't going to tell Naruto, but she was dying too. Between the wounds from fighting eight Biju on her own, and the drain from the time travel, she only had a few minutes left herself. Unable to save either Naruto or herself, there was only one course of action available to her. To join with her other self, and hope to retain something of her knowledge.
Chakra exploded from the older Naruto, knocking back the ANBU. A mass of chakra flew to the younger Naruto, hitting him with enough force to knock him back right into the Hokage who just stepped out. The short scream he could let out ended quickly. He was already unconscious before he the Hokage even caught him. He wasted no time passing the child off to one of his guards, who ran him to the hospital. Unlike most of Konoha, the ANBU were actually quite fond of the child. The current commander, Kakashi, knowing just who Naruto is, along with the Hokage's attitude towards the child meant they had little choice in the matter but to accept him. His infectious optimism made it hard for anyone to spend much time in his company and not like him. Sarutobi knew he could trust the ANBU with the child's safety. For now, he had to deal with this mysterious body that just attacked Naruto. This is going to be a long night...
Looking down at the reports on his desk, Sarutobi was tired. He was certainly feeling his age, and wished once again that there was someone he could pass off the title of Hokage to. He had three reports on his desk. One unclassified, one classified at A-rank, and the last classified at SSS rank. A classification that doesn't exist. A classification used only three times since the founding of Konoha. That he knew of at least. Not even the full authority of the council could access anything with this classification, or even learn of the classification itself.
The first report detailed what was known of the body. The list of damage done to the body was quite extensive, though nothing warranting any sort of classification. The cause of death was listed as unknown. Something killed him before the damage to his body did. Details about the seal however, were most certainly classified. The fact that the body was identified as a 20 year old Uzumaki Naruto though, along with details of numerous tests done to identify the body, is why is classified at such a high level. Every test showed that it was, indeed, Uzumaki Naruto. The seal on his stomach also proved his identity. It was slightly modified, but that seal was without a doubt, the seal that the Fourth used.
The second report concerned the same seal on the 8 year old Naruto. The report detailed the minor changes that happened to the seal, and concluded that the ANBU doing the inspection have no idea what the changes mean. As fortune would have it, Jiraya would be back in town shortly and he planned on sending Jiraya to look at the seal. Sarutobi hoped the seal wasn't breaking. If it was, there wouldn't be anything he could do for the child.
The last report on his desk wasn't classified. It was the medical report on Naruto. High fever, minor burns along most his stomach and chest, a couple broken ribs, a concussion, and every attempt to treat him with medical ninjitsu had failed. There was a note detailing the absence of the usual self-healing the boy displayed, with several references to previous entries in his medical records. The doctors expect him to wake up in the next day or two despite that. Even without the Kyuubi healing him, he still healed quicker than the average person.
Sighing, Sarutobi called in the two ANBU who already knew what was going on. It was going to be a long night of falsifying reports for the council. These secrets were just too big for them to hear.
"Sensei, I've looked through the notes Minato left me..." Seeing exactly where Jiraya was going with this, Sarutobi waved out the ANBU. Taking a moment to activate the privacy seals, he took a deep breath, hoping for the best but fearing the worst. Unrolling a scroll onto the Hokage's desk, Jiraya began pointing out the relevant portions. "According to this, the seal is designed to change like this if certain conditions are met. This is probably the best news that we could have received. A portion of the seal was maintained by the hatred and aggression of the Kyuubi itself. That part is gone. The only explanation is that the Kyuubi itself is no longer a threat. Well, not intentionally a threat to us at least. It's still a 500 foot tall fox that can accidentally destroy a small town by sneezing." Following along the notes on the scroll, Sarutobi couldn't help but smile.
"Jiraya, is this right? It says here that Naruto should be able to draw the Kyuubi's power." At Jiraya's nod, the Hokage couldn't suppress his grin even if he tried. Any way he looked at it, if this was correct, then whatever happened was truly for the best. For the boy, his greatest burden and the greatest threat to him, just became his most powerful tool. For the village, once trained and able to draw the Kyuubi's power, they would have an unstoppable Jinchuuriki. If only the village could accept the boy.
"The only thing I don't understand is how it happened sensei. What really happened? And don't give me that bullshit story you fed to the council." With a nod, he made his choice. He was already prepared to give him the information, even if he didn't ask. Pulling out a file, he passed it to Jiraya. Raising an eyebrow at the classification on the cover, Jiraya wasted little time in reading through it. Eyes going wide, even Jiraya couldn't hide his shock at what he read.
"...I really wasn't expecting that. How can this be true..?"
"We don't know Jiraya. Everything we know was in that file, and Naruto himself isn't sure what happened. His memory is a bit shaky on just what happened, but he whatever happened didn't change Naruto himself. If what you said about the seal is accurate though, I'm worried." Pointing at the autopsy report "The amount of chakra he could wield is...high. It's estimated to be more than that of all the Kage's combined, and that's the conservative number. The side effects of sage chakra is there too, or so they suspect. For obvious reasons, we couldn't go out and get second opinions on the findings. Even with that, and the power of the Kyuubi to call upon, something left him in this condition. What I've planned for him, to let him go to the academy and become a ninja with the rest of his age group...I'm going to have to change."
Standing, the Hokage turned to look out his window, admiring the view of the Hokage monument. "Jiraya, whatever happened to him in twelve years, I suspect very few of us survived. I don't know how he came back, but whatever happened between him and his younger self, I'm sure it was meant to help him be stronger, to be ready for this. I could only wish he was alive to answer these questions."
"Sensei, let me train the boy. If we can get him a head start on training, he might be able to stop this, whatever it was. Not only that, I've seen how the people here talk about my godson. The ANBU can't be there to protect him forever, and even after all this time, the anger and hatred for him because of the Kyuubi is only getting worse. Let me take him with me from the village. I'll make him my apprentice."
Slowly, Sarutobi shook his head. "No Jiraya. The boy isn't even 9 yet. If you take him as an apprentice, you'll paint a bulls eye on him. Only the most dense of shinobi would fail to make the connection of his parentage if you were to make him your apprentice. The resemblance is already strong. I ask that you offer what help you can to train him when you can. Even under your care, I doubt he'd live very long out of the village. The boy is your godson, start treating him as such. Once he's strong enough to survive, you can take him as an official apprentice."
Jiraya wanted to argue, but was forced to admit that he was right. If he took an apprentice that couldn't defend himself, it was almost a guarantee that the other villages would assassinate him. Even Jiraya couldn't guard him every hour of every day for however long it would take. "He'll be a good student for you when you're in town Jiraya. He tried to hide it, but coming face to face with his future self, even if he didn't know it, left him scars. Unlike almost every other child training to be a Ninja, he's seen the price of failure, and taken the lesson to heart. Instead of being overcome with fear, he only gave him resolve. He knows this isn't a game, and is still determined to walk the path."
The past few weeks were, for the most part, the most boring Naruto could remember. He's never had to stay in the hospital this long before, recovering overnight from much worse injuries. Naruto wasn't sure just what happened to him, and no one else really knew either. The last thing he could remember was being hit with a falling body. The smell of the burnt flesh was still fresh in his mind, the look of pain on what was left of the mans face haunted his nightmares. Naruto slowly came to understand that being a ninja meant he could end up like that man. It unsettled him and disturbed him to be honest. Greatly. But it left a seed with him. Having seen firsthand the horrific cost of failure in his chosen profession, Naruto was more resolved than ever to take his upcoming training seriously.
At least he had a few guests show up during his stay, and the two ANBU guards posted were friendly, one even getting Jiraya to autograph a book for him. Jiraya, that white haired old pervert, dropped by a few times to keep him company. The first time he showed up with the Hokage, he spent a few minutes looking at his stomach, but Naruto wasn't sure why. The other times, he stayed much longer, talking about life as a Ninja. The way the ANBU guarding him acted around the old man, he could tell they respected him almost as much as they did the the Hokage. The lecherous pervert even left him a few books on Fuuinjutsu, and a scroll detailing a few training programs for him to start while at the academy. Unknown to Naruto, Jiraya tried to convince the Hokage to let him take him as his official apprentice, without much success. That didn't keep him from leaving a few gifts for the boy, in both the hospital and back at his apartment.
"Heya gaki. I see you're already on the second book. You actually understand any of that?"
Looking up from the book, Naruto gave Jiraya a smile and a light laugh, wincing a little at the soreness he still felt. "It's not THAT bad ero-sennin!" Seeing that Jiraya wasn't buying it in the least, Naruto hung his head. "Alright, I may have to read it a couple more times..."
Jiraya's couldn't help but laugh at the kid. "Gaki, you're only 8. If you have to read the book only 'a few more times', you're picking it up better than most full fledged shinobi." Taking a moment to quiz the kid, it didn't take Jiraya long to realize that he really was picking up some of the material. Kid, you'll be as good as your father at this rate. "Well, enjoy your night Gaki. I dropped by to let you know I'll be picking you up tomorrow when you're released. I've seen what some of the villagers have done to your place. I may have left a few security seals, and I'll have to key you into them. I don't think anyone will be breaking into your place again anytime soon though!"
Sharing a laugh, Naruto tried to not look too relieved. As much as he hated the hospital, the two ANBU guards that the Hokage assigned meant he could sleep here without fear, unlike at home. "Thanks Ero-sennin. Since you're leaving this early, I'm guessing the nurse is getting off?"
"Hahaha. You're a sharp one kid. The one on the third floor is real cute, and quite interested in hearing about my heroic deeds! One of these days gaki, I'll teach you all about the fairer sex. Life is too short, so live it up while you can!" With another bark of laughter, Jiraya left to go meet up with a nurse. Shaking his head, Naruto went back to his book. A few hours later, he finally put it down to go to sleep.
Waking up, Naruto immediately knew something was wrong. Instead of the hospital, he was in a sewer. "Hello?"
Looking over, Naruto saw a cage, door wide open, with the largest fox he's ever seen curled up. Sitting there in shock, Naruto just stared at the Kyuubi. "wha...wha...how...?"
"Truly, your mastery of the spoken word leaves me in awe..." After giving a quick yawn, the Kyuubi put her head back down on her paw.
"Who are you?" Fear was slowly working it's way into the boys head, but hadn't overpowered the shock yet at seeing the giant fox.
"Let me see. Giant fox. Nine tails. Demon. I'm going to hazard a guess and say I'm the Kyuubi." Ok. Kyuubi. I'm stuck in a sewer. With the Kyuubi. Oh Kami I'm in trouble...
Seeing the obvious distress in the boy, she couldn't help but chuckle a little. "Don't worry Naruto-sama. I'm not going to hurt you. This is your mind scape, this cage is the seal the Fourth put on you, to contain me."
Sama..? The Kyuubi called me Naruto-Sama? Wait, the fourth sealed the Kyuubi in me? Thinking over his life, Naruto finally understood it. The looks, the whispers. Everyone KNEW. Everyone except him. "Um..the cage is open though..."
"Truly a ninja of the ages. Your perception knows no bounds. It opened a few weeks ago, but something happened. Instead of escaping and destroying everything, I was overcome by...something. Whatever it was freed me. I am myself again. Except, I feel as though I've forgotten something. Something important. And yet, it feels like it was something I never knew."
"How could you forget something you never knew, and you arern't going to try and destroy Konoha again?"
"That is the question. I'm unsure how I could forget something I never knew. As for destroying everything, I never had any such desire. It wasn't by my choice that I was here years ago. Something in me though...it tells me to stay with you. To protect you and help you. Something I never knew, and something I forgot. The seal on you is meaningless, I have an open door. I can walk out of here, and wash my hands of you. But this feeling is too strong. Lets keep this our little secret however..."
Waking up in the morning, Naruto was excited. What few injuries he still had healed up overnight. The conversation with the Kyuubi went on for a few hours. She didn't know what happened, or how it happened, but she was sure of a few things. Her unwavering certainty that Naruto was her master left both of them uneasy. Having broken free of the control she was under, Kyuubi was understandably fearful that she might have fallen into another. She was also extremely insistent that Naruto tell no one that the seal is now an open doorway.
The reason he was truly excited however, was because she was going to help teach him. Before leaving, she already got him started on his education. He knew more about chakra after that meeting than most genin probably did. She also told him, in probably more detail than he needed, about his chakra system in particular. Thanks her, he had more Chakra at 8 than most chuunin and some Jounin had, and his chakra was only going to grow from here.
Naruto wasn't up for more than half an hour before Jiraya showed up with a nurse to pick him up. It didn't take long for him to get discharged. Naruto and Jiraya wasted no time leaving heading out to Naruto's house. "Alright gaki, if you keep up with your fuuinjutsu, I expect you to remove my seals and replace them with your own sometime. The ones I put up are only good for a couple years. Lets get you keyed in now. After that, I have to leave. I've already stayed in the village longer than I should have. I left you a few more gifts, just some items I've picked up over the years. I'm sure you can get more use out of them than I can."
After getting keyed in to the security seals, Naruto gave Jiraya a hug. "I'm going to miss you ero-sennin. Will you come back and visit?" "Hai...that I will gaki. I'll be back for a few weeks a couple times a year. I'll be sure to visit." Saying their goodbyes, Jiraya took off, feeling guilty. He should have been watching over the boy more often. He hadn't even spoken to the kid until sensei had him look at the seal. He was determined to make it up to the kid, even if Naruto didn't know, couldn't know, that Jiraya was his godfather.
Meanwhile, Naruto looked over his apartment and noticed it was quite different. He had new furniture. Most notably, a weapon rack, a book shelf, and a scroll shelf. The weapon rack had several weapons in it. A katana, wakizashi, tanto, ninja-to, and a naginata. Everything but the tanto and ninja-to was much too large for him to even hold right, and the ninja-to was closer to a longsword to him. The book shelf had a large collection of books on a variety of subjects covering Taijutsu, Kenjutsu, Fuuinjutsu, Chakra, and the collected works of Jiraya. Shaking his head, Naruto couldn't help but chuckle at the orange books. Also on the shelf were a couple other books by Jiraya. The Tale of the Utterly Gutsy Ninja, and a few more advanced books on Fuuinjutsu. The Fuuinjutsu books were handwritten, apparently not books meant to sold or given away. It was a sign of trust that a shinobi like Jiraya would let Naruto hold such books. Moving to the scroll shelf, he found a few that were definitely far too advanced for him. Advanced taijutsu, elemental manipulation, some of the more advanced chakra control exercises...Jiraya was certainly trying to future-proof his gift. It'll be quite a while before Naruto could learn enough to understand what some of those scrolls had.
"Hmm..where to start?"
"Start with the orange ones kit. You'll enjoy them." Looking to the side, Naruto stumbled and fell. The Kyuubi was standing by him, though somewhat less imposing than she was in his mind scape, barely coming up to his knees. "What? I told you I'm free to come and go as I please. Just because I'm staying in you doesn't mean I don't feel like stretching my legs on occasion. Don't worry, I can't fully manifest outside of you, so you don't have to worry about a five-hundred foot tall fox playing fetch in the middle of Konoha."
"Haha...you just surprised me Kyuubi-chan. I really wasn't expecting you to do that. Why the orange ones?" Getting up, Naruto pulled down the first Icha-Icha book. "Well, I can see why that one ANBU is always giggling while reading this book..."
"Naruto. Your social abilities leave a great deal to be desired. You'll probably learn more that you need to know to actually live your life in those books than anywhere else. Disturbingly well written too. *cough*andIenjoythem*cough*"
"The mighty Kyuubi...a pervert. What the hell happened to my life? You're not gonna stop bugging me until I read them, are you?" Shaking his head, Naruto knew he didn't have much choice in the matter and started reading the book.
The next few years went by pretty quickly. Between the bits and pieces of training that Jiraya would give Naruto when back in town, and the teaching and training from the Kyuubi, the Ninja academy was a joke, though no one realized just how good Naruto was. Both Jiraya and the Kyuubi advised him to keep his showing off to a bare minimum, and keep his training a secret. Kyuubi couldn't explain it, but she made her distaste of both Sasuke and Sakura known quite vocally to Naruto. As a result, he did his best to stay away from them. If she didn't trust them, Naruto didn't want anything to do with them. Truth be told, once he looked past Sakura's looks, her shrieking about Sasuke all the time really was annoying. Sasuke's arrogant attitude wasn't winning him any friends either, but at least he seemed to have the skills to back his attitude up. Sasuke really was starting to improve at a fantastic rate, being pushed by Naruto's own performance in class.
His second year, during training with Jiraya, the old pervert caught Hinata stalking her crush. He had to admit, her skill at tracking and remaining hidden were quite impressive. He barely even noticed her. Naruto hadn't noticed her yet, and the way he was trying to run up the tree, it was unlikely he ever would.
"Hey gaki. Take a breather." To quick for anyone to notice, Jiraya replaced himself with a shadow clone and already circled the Hyuuga. Hinata was too busy watching Naruto, amazed that he was able to run up a tree like that. She knew he was better than he let on, despite him fighting for the top of the class with Sasuke. Even with her Byakugan active, she never noticed Jiraya sneak up on her. "You know, it'd be easier to walk up and say hello to him. He won't bite."
Giving a startled yelp, Hinata fell down. Blushing furiously, she was trying to not pass out. "Ah..um..ano..." Noticing that the Jiraya next to him was a shadow clone, Naruto kicked him to dispel it and walked over to the voices.
"Hey! Ero-Sennin! Whats going on?" walking past a few bushes, he saw Hinata on the ground, looking nervous.
"Ah..um...hello Naruto-kun..." Hinata was blushing furiously, looking like she was trying to not pass out.
"Hey! Hinata-chan! What you doing out here?" Smiling down at the kids, Jiraya got an idea.
"Hey gaki, lets call it a day. How about I treat you two to some dinner? There's a new barbeque place that wasn't here last time I was in town." It took a little prodding, but he finally got both the kids to agree. Naruto wanted ramen (which Jiraya was really starting to despise, since it's all Naruto wanted to eat) and getting full words from the shy Hinata proved it's own unique challenge. Naruto, cued in both by the Icha-Icha books and Kyuubi, didn't take long at all to pick up on Hinata's crush. His treatment in the village was the same as ever, so he was quite happy to have her company.
Over the next two years, Naruto trained with Hinata as often as she could get away from home, and both trained with Jiraya whenever he was in town. By the time the graduation test came around, she was by far the best kunoichi of the class. Her father turned a blind eye to her frequent disappearances, more than happy to let his daughter spend time with Naruto. Her relationship with the boy did for her what he failed to do as her father. It gave her confidence, and a source of strength. The major clan heads all knew exactly who Naruto was, and knew he was also being trained as Jiraya. Hiashi couldn't have set it up better if he tried. Naruto didn't know it yet, but he already had his blessing to marry his daughter...in a few years.
Finally, it was the day of the graduation exam.
A/N: Re-uploaded with some formatting fixes and a few other minor fixes. Critiques and reviews appreciated. Expect chapter 2 to be up in a few hours. Minor note: This fic isn't going to concentrate on bashing Sasuke and Sakura. That's not saying they won't be roughed up some, but if you want unashamed bashing, you'll be disappointed. They're just too perfect for my uses to make them the butt monkeys :)