Happy Hippie Harmony in Suna and Other Tales
096. Writer's Choice: Butterfly
History is written in stone: what has been done can never been undone. Time is that merciless dimension where it's only possible to move in one direction. (Discounting those rumours about Sharingan at its highest level, but they've never been proved and are probably just wishful thinking, denial on steroids.)
But history can also be strangely flexible. One single decision can spin its course into another decision entirely. The year Zabuza decided to join the Kirigakure Ninja Academy…
Zabuza wasn't a student yet when he might have slaughtered the whole graduating class in hopes of entering the ranks. During the reign of the Fourth Mizukage, Kirigakure had begun using a new graduation ritual where the members of the graduating class were paired against each other in death matches; yet more proof that Uchiha Madara had some serious deep-reaching issues, though this fact wouldn't be found out in a long time yet. It was a lot better than going through pointless years in the Academy, he decided, watching when his supposed peers tried to hit the edges of the target with a kunai and have it land with the blade forward.
But on his way to the training grounds Zabuza walked past a kunoichi-hopeful. She was a small one, due to the lack of nutrition during her early childhood, and she was nearly shaking from fear. She was crying because she was certain she would not live to see another day and for the first time in his life Zabuza felt pity. He asked for the girl's name and it was given; no-family-name Noriko, just another orphan who'd joined the Academy to have a roof over her head and three meals a day. He asked for her opponent's name, and she told him.
Zabuza waited until Noriko's match came and challenged the boy she had been pitted against, killing him easily. Then he demanded entrance to the Academy, which he could easily have claimed just by walking in and writing his name on the entrance form – or asking someone else to write it, since he couldn't actually read or write at that point. Ten minutes of pity had him going through one full year of the Academy and then slaughtering every instructor there because he was just that pissed off by the whole thing. The village administration judged the instructors unfit for falling to the blade of a first year student and decreed that should a student manage to kill an Academy teacher, they would automatically graduate – which only served to make the teachers that much more paranoid.
Zabuza became first a candidate and then a member of the Seven Swordsmen of the Mist and later attempted a coup, after which he fled for his life and became yet another missing-nin from the bloody village, and that was that. Only it wasn't.
This action made many impacts, though they weren't easily seen. Noriko lived to graduate without fighting anyone because of a bureaucratic mistake and the ballyhoo over a pre-Academy hopeful killing a graduating student, but this only earned her two more years of life before she died on her first B-ranked mission. More importantly, the graduation ritual wasn't cancelled. Many more people continued to die in the years to come because Madara was as easy to reason with as a rock and sanity wasn't one of Tobi's good points; and as a result Kiri's forces slowly but surely began to thin out, since the influx of new ninja didn't quite make up for those who died in line of duty or went missing. The practice was finally cancelled one year after the perfectly cut-and-dried graduation inconsequential students Mizushima Konatsu and her half-brother Kaede escaped from their match. This all left Kiri much diminished and Madara madder than a beehive that had just been hit with a stick because that accursed Senju had not been wrong about something not working. Oh, and a lot of people were dead who might otherwise have lived, though Madara didn't really care about that.
But there were also some people who lived who would otherwise have died; half of the graduating class of the year Zabuza made his bloody entrance to the ranks, to be exact.
Mori Satoshi was a talented ninjutsu-user and good at taijutsu. He quickly rose to the rank of a chuunin where he was promptly recruited for a special training for people with Intelligence potential. He reached the rank of jounin in a timely manner, but the life he led made him age before his time. There were strands of gray in his hair and wrinkles around his eyes when a young white-haired boy approached him in one of Kiri's ninja bars.
"You are too young to make that kind of career choice, brat. Go play ninja with your genin team."
"If you can't trust yourself to remember who you are, pick someone to remember it for you and do whatever they think you would do."
Another man would have said something else. A butterfly's wings flapped, creating the tiniest current of air – but those have a way of growing, given time. The rest, as they say, is history. It is written in stone and cannot be changed.
097. Writer's choice: Promise
Naruto knew whose child he was and he was over the moon. His father was Namikaze Minato, the Yellow Flash and Naruto's greatest hero, and his mother was Uzumaki Kushina, the last Uzumaki, even though she hadn't actually been called the Last Uzumaki because people had a much smaller stick up their collective ass about the Uzumaki than about the Uchiha.
Or it could have been that his mother had tried to kick the first person to call her that in the head and screamed about not wanting to be reminded, thank you very much, and she wasn't going to be the last because she was going to have children. And be Hokage, damn it! Or so Jiraiya-sensei told him. Naruto wondered how long his mother had continued to challenge his father to "friendly" training spars for taking the hat and decided to ask Jiraiya-sensei. Really, the only cloud in his sky was that he wasn't allowed to tell people.
"The hordes petty enough to take revenge on a dead man's son wouldn't even be your worst trouble," Jiraiya-sensei had said. "Not that there won't be plenty of those once the truth comes out. The real problem will be the people who look at your father and mother's respective careers and lineages and decide to pre-empt a re-enaction of the last war. You don't have a Kekkei Genkai, but there's nothing wrong with your bloodline. Or everything, depending on the point of view."
"Why care about that? It's not like there's a war brewing or anything," Naruto had complained, only to receive a flat stare.
"We are shinobi. There's always a war brewing," Jiraiya-sensei had said. So. He was keeping his mouth shut, as hard as it was. He had to leave the house even though it was well after midnight just to burn off some of the excitement and Naruto was absolutely sure he wouldn't going to sleep even then, but maybe he'd be able to sit down and not bother the others so much. That one room for sleeping was really inconvenient.
Once outside, Naruto noticed he wasn't the only person awake after all. The woman Jiraiya had brought with him, Tomomi, was sitting on the wall that separated the neighbouring geisha house from the safe house's yard and staring at the waning moon. She seemed colourless in the moonlight, even though the geisha house's lanterns shone red behind her, nothing but drab brown and paleness. Naruto's first thought was that he had thought Miwa-chan had taken her to sleep with the rest of the girls. His second thought was that she looked really, really sad.
"Hey, Tomomi-chan? Is something wrong?" he asked and hopped to sit on the wall next to her. "Did something bad happen?"
"I don't think that anything good can happen that will make you go missing-nin – though I'm not sure if I'm just presumed dead instead. I have a lover, you know? His name is Deidara and I have no idea where he is or if he even is still alive." Tomomi-chan gave the wall a vicious kick that actually made the old bricks crack a bit.
"What happened?" Naruto asked and patted her hand. He was actually a bit at loss because this wasn't how these things usually went. Some people initially ran away and some fought, but usually people didn't just talk to him like that without making things difficult for everyone at first. It was messing with his equilibrium.
"The Anbu of our village tried to kill me. Or – I'm not even sure of that; the man was dressed as an Anbu, but Tsuchikage-sama knew that we were together for more than seven months. So why make an issue out of it now? But whether it was Iwa or someone else doesn't change the outcome. Deidara tried to kill Tsuchikage-sama and blew up his tower. He can never return to Iwa now, and neither can I after running away with one of the Sannin to search for him. And since Jiraiya-san's network hasn't found him yet, all I can do is sit tight in Konoha with no idea of when they will trust me enough to let me out of the village. I never thought I would become a missing-nin for anything, but I guess we all have our price after all." Her voice was more tired than bitter. Naruto almost crowed that he didn't have a price and then patted himself to the back for thinking before he blurted out the first thing that popped into his head, for once. He did tell her his second thought, though.
"I'd just drag him back by the hair. I'll do it for you if I ever see him. What does he look like?" he asked and Tomomi-chan whirled around to stare at him. Naruto squirmed under her gaze; it felt like she could drill holes into his brain and read his thoughts at the same time. But he had promised and he wasn't going to back down. "Technically speaking I'm not supposed to tell strange ninja about this, but that cat's so out of the bag, it must be in another country by now and having little rumour kittens there. I would have dragged Sasuke back from Orochimaru if Kabuto hadn't brought him in that barrel, and I'm going to bring your Deidara back. This is the promise of a lifetime!"
"I think you will do your best," Tomomi-chan said with a puzzled voice. "You are Jiraiya-san's student, and apparently a jinchuuriki as well. A generous commitment from you, considering we only met today. I think that considering that promise, you can call me Tomomi-neechan, little brother." Then she smiled, and all of a sudden she didn't look quite so colourless anymore. Naruto was reminded that she was actually really pretty – though of course nothing that could be compared to Sakura-chan!
And he got to call her nee-chan! Other kids always had people they called nee-chan and nii-chan even though they weren't, not really, but no-one ever let Naruto call them that before. Iruka-sensei might have, but he was already Naruto's teacher at that point.
"Deidara has a slim build, and a beautiful face with slanted blue eyes and long blond hair that he wears in a half ponytail with the rest hanging down his back. Remember, he thinks I'm dead, so if you meet him, tell him… The first time we went out together I told him I can never keep my flowers alive. Bringing me a cactus to the hospital was a beautiful thought, but really, learning flower language first would have spared us from an embarrassing misunderstanding. He then went on to learn hanakotaba, ikebana, sumi-e and how to play shamisen. All of those skills were used in a mission he will deny to his dying day he ever took part in, and I will deny I kept a picture of him in a pink kimono. In the end, I gave him a cactus and later he blew up the potting soil, and that makes him officially even worse with flowers than I am."
Naruto wondered what sort of misunderstanding a cactus could cause and thought to ask. Then a misty memory about Sakura-chan talking with Ino about flowers surfaced and he blushed.
"Do you still have that picture, Tomomi-nee?" he asked instead and Tomomi-nee suppressed a snicker, shaking her head.
"Too bad, I had to leave it. That's what you gets for being prettier than your girlfriend," she said. Her smile got smaller and sadder, but didn't quite disappear. "The first time we were out of the village together, I was tortured because I wouldn't betray my village. Now we're missing-nin. This is the world we live in."
"Well, then it's up to us to make it a place worth fighting for, right?" He was the son of the Yondaime Hokage and Uzumaki Kushina, and he would not fail.
098. Writer's Choice: Suna
The hidden village of the Wind Country was named Sunagakure no Sato, the Village Hidden by Sand – but in truth Otogakure would have described the village quite well, even better than it suited Orochimaru's personal fiefdom. It was never quiet in Suna; the windmills that pumped water from the rivers deep under the bone-dry sands whined and rattled, the wind turbine generators whooshed as they spun electricity, and the gusty winds yowled between the houses. But noisy as the village was, the people were quiet. Temari claimed this was the nature of the Suna shinobi; to be as silent as the scorpions out in the desert and just as deadly.
Kankuro said that it was because they could barely hear their thoughts over the wind, let alone spoken words. There were days that Gaara was ready to buy to his brother's version. He and Temari were from the most prominent Suna lineage and they certainly had no inborn need to be quiet. They used to fall silent whenever Gaara stepped into the room, but they had almost wholly forgotten that terrified compliance now, and he preferred it that way. It had been one of the rare calm nights when Yashamaru tried to kill him; his ninja still became unmoving and silent in their attempt to not catch his attention, and while Gaara wasn't loud himself, listening to the silence of others stressed him.
"Most of them are pregnant," Temari complained in disgust as Gaara walked into his office. She was sitting in front of his desk with a stack of papers on her lap. Gaara sighed and wondered if Naruto had any idea of the amount of paperwork that awaited him when he achieved his dream.
"You say that like there was something wrong with getting pregnant," Kankuro said, with a cant to his voice that Gaara had realized meant that Kankuro was deliberately baiting Temari. It was strange how much he had learned of his siblings just by paying attention for the first time.
"I have nothing against pregnancy; I wouldn't be here if mother hadn't gotten pregnant. But those idiots get pregnant practically before they even start getting B-ranked missions and there goes a career down the drain." Temari snorted and Gaara knew that the idea filled her with disgust - why in heaven would anyone waste years spent training and survived near-misses just when they were on the verge of making something of themselves? "Besides, I have enough on my plate keeping you in line, Kankuro. Oh, and with the factions opposing Gaara, but you're even more bone-headed than they are. Oh, good morning, Gaara."
"Good morning, Temari, Kankuro," Gaara said and noticed how his appearance made Kankuro swallow his protests – and Temari's timing surely wasn't an accident. Gaara liked noticing things about his brother and sister. He would have tried to smile at them, but Temari had hesitantly asked that he only smile if his mouth did that on its own because "it didn't look right if it was forced". Kankuro had said that his grin fell just short of pants-pissing scary when he thought Gaara was out of hearing range, but this had been right at the beginning of their new, improved relationship and Gaara hadn't tried to smile since, so no other hurtful comments had been made.
It was difficult to be a people person. Maybe he could write to Naruto and ask for advice.
Gaara didn't make any motion to start a conversation. "I have a few A-ranked missions for you to look over," Temari said a short while later, handing the papers over the desk to him. The Suna mission office could approve all mission ranked D through B, but the Kazekage had to personally approve anything higher.
"And Number Four-and-Half has something he wants to speak about," Kankuro quipped, screwing a new poisoned needle into the hand of one of his smaller puppets. Temari didn't sigh as much as she whooshed.
"The poor man has a name too, you know," she said.
The poor man was named Yoshiro and he had been voted as the interim leader of Suna while the village had debated the matter of their next Kazekage. The man was a jounin and a good administrative leader, but had neither the skills nor the desire to become a kage, which had made him the man to keep the village in business and direct the reconstruction of the decimated ninja forces while the village council squabbled. Kankuro had named him Number Four-and-Half as a joke and it had stuck, much to the consternation of the man.
Yoshiro wound up sitting behind the Kazekage's desk for seven months since the councilors couldn't bring themselves into naming Gaara as Godaime, but were quite frankly out of options. Not only were even the strongest and most experienced shinobi in the village very leery of trying to take something Gaara clearly wanted, but the sad truth was that Suna had diminished greatly under the current daimyo's rule. Their strongest were too old for the job with the sole exception of Gaara, whose change of heart no one quite trusted just yet. Eventually the daimyo had started making noises about how the village didn't really need a kage, that a good administrative leader was all that was needed these modern days and he had just the right cousin in mind – and now the Council couldn't push the hat on Gaara fast enough.
Somehow that didn't feel very satisfying, but at least Gaara had managed to convince Yoshiro that he was a changed man during the long weeks that constituted the change of guard in the office. The older shinobi had become Gaara's mentor in the bureaucratic side of the job, and Gaara rather liked him.
"And we need to set some kind of incentive for the kunoichi to wait longer until they start to make babies," Temari demanded. "We're still short on manpower after the invasion, and will be several years more; the last thing we need is for the young and promising to retire young to stay in the kitchen. Damn patriarchal societal norms about mothers being the only caretakers, and since when can't people at least hire nannies if they insist on spawning before they even hit their twenties anyway..."
Gaara stopped listening to her. He knew she could go on and on when she got like this, but there was also something at the edge of his hearing. Something light and melodic, a metallic sound. It came from outside the window.
"Like little bells," he mused and Temari shut up. Both she and Kankuro were accomplished ninja and they strained to hear what Gaara had, well aware that the strangest sounds could herald an assassination attempt.
"I think it's more like chimes," Kankuro said, but didn't relax as Gaara walked to the window. Suna didn't have tower like Konoha, but the Kazekage's building was still high and Gaara's office was at the highest floor. At first sight the crowd below him looked like strange white mushrooms.
It was a group of thirteen people, guarded by two shinobi openly and five more surreptitiously. They all wore the strangest get-up Gaara had ever seen on a civilian: a white straw hat that looked like an upside-down turned bowl that hid most of their face, entirely white clothes that had turned brownish with dust and a wooden staff. They were all holding wind chimes in their hands, and the winds played a tune.
"We have pilgrims here? Is there a civil war somewhere with an important temple or something?" Kankuro asked and leaned out of the window to see the pilgrims better.
"What are pilgrims?" Gaara asked, frowning. It was apparently one more thing that everyone was expected to know.
"They're people who travel to holy places so the gods will like them better," Kankuro explained and Temari made a small derisive noise deep in her throat. The ninja didn't have much use for religions as a general rule; those tended to have inconvenient rules like "Do Not Kill" and "Do Not Covet" and their job description mixed with that like oil mixed with water. But Naruto had gotten himself a cult of his own. Naruto always did things his way - but then, Gaara wasn't sure Naruto had ever actually killed anyone. He was sure, however, that if he had, whoever it had been had thoroughly deserved it. Naruto hadn't even killed him and he had invaded Konoha.
"I want to believe in something. I wonder if those clothes are mandatory," he said and his siblings made strangled sounds. He wondered what deities Naruto's cult worshipped, if any. According to his intelligence people they mostly worshipped Naruto. The image of Naruto flailing around embarrassed and red-faced made him want to smile.
A knock on the door interrupted them before either Temari or Kankuro could tell what they thought of his spiritual leanings. It was Yoshiro, whole two hours before his appointment, and Gaara knew that he had been sent because he was the one Gaara was least likely to kill - his siblings excepted - and also because he wouldn't have protested.
"Kazekage-sama, we seem to have... pilgrims who have come to... that is, damn it." Yoshiro swore and wiped his hair off his forehead with the back of his hand, at a loss for words for the first time since Gaara had met him. "They are followers of Narutoism. Uzumaki Naruto has declared you a living saint who protects the world from the evil of the biju within you. They have requested to be allowed to meet you so that they can give you their offerings. And pray for your health and long life. And they want moral teachings."
Gaara went to them. Temari was trailing behind him as though she were in a trance, and Kankuro was griping about how that religion was screwed if Gaara was allowed to teach it morals, and in truth Gaara had some doubts himself. But these people wanted this, and it didn't seem like an unfair exchange. No one had ever prayed for his long life. He was certain that many had prayed to gods they didn't even believe in for a swift and sudden death instead.
"Just say what you think Naruto would say," Temari whispered just before the doors to the audience chamber opened.
There were eight women and five men in the audience chamber when Gaara entered. As one, they all knelt on the stone floor.
"Salutations to Him who stands up for the world; peaceful, independent and radiant. Pure like white camphor, the Incarnation of Compassion..." they chanted. One Anbu dropped off the ceiling.
The pilgrims extolled all kind of virtues that Gaara hadn't even known he had, starting with soft and religious-type things like compassion and truth, but then edging into the territory of strength and proving all these virtues via combat and it started making sense.
"Very much like Naruto," he concluded when the chanting ended, satisfied.
"Gaara-sama, I am Risa, the leader of our pilgrimage. In the name of all our Makimura sisters and brothers I wish to present you with these chimes so that their sound may drive away evil spirits, and with prayers for your good health and long life," one of the women said and rose from the floor, collecting all the wind chimes before walking to Gaara, her eyes respectfully downcast. She appeared the oldest of them, with gray strands in her dark hair. "I also wish to tell you of the marvelous meeting on our way here. A young man happened upon our company and he was revealed to be the good brother of Yondaime Raikage and the jinchuuriki of Gyuuki, Killer B. He couldn't enter the village, but he wishes to meet with you as well."
"Kazekage-sama!" One of the Anbu materialized out of a genjutsu, walking briskly to them and wringing his hands. "Your safety..."
"Wait, didn't he go missing?" Kankuro asked. "Again. Except Raikage didn't declare him missing-nin for some reason. He just wants him back, yesterday."
The door to the balcony was opened by another Anbu and a strong gust of wind got in, making the chimes Gaara was holding by their strings jingle. Ting-a-ling-a-ling, went the chimes. It was a new sound, and Gaara cherished it. It was a sound that meant people he had never met, who lived in a country he had never been to, had walked for thousands of miles just to express their wish that he would not be eaten by an evil spirit. Naruto had promised him that if he chose to protect people he would eventually be accepted. He hadn't expected it to be by Tea Country, but he wasn't going to complain.
"When Naruto redeems a promise, he doesn't settle for half measures. I will meet with Killer B," he spoke and found he was smiling. It wasn't like one of Naruto's grins that he had tried to emulate before, but much smaller. It felt right, however, and no-one flinched from the face of it.
099. Writer's Choice: Makimura
Makimura had done Naruto a lot of good. The bombs were a given. First Idate, then Gai had straightened out his taijutsu, and Konatsu-chan had taught him some wicked water jutsu while Tsubaki had gone over some basics he hadn't bothered to learn in the Academy but had turned out to be kind of necessary as the basis for learning other things. On top of all that, Makimura ended up making Naruto rich. The yakuza family that he destroyed had been wealthy and Naruto had taken all that money as prize to help the girls he had saved. He really used it practically, down to the last ryo, to turn the old bordellos into inns and to form the fire brigade fund, and thought it money well spent because his new friends were safe and settled now.
But the thing about investments is, they're supposed to make more money, and Naruto had some very devoted employees. The casino boat and the inns soon started to bring in money and even after the necessary cost of running a business and the wages there was a nice amount of money over budget every month. And Naruto never came to Makimura to draw money from the account, so it added up. Konatsu wanted to wager on how long it would take until Naruto realized he was rich and how much he would care, but Kaede said no. He knew a sucker's bet when he heard one.
Also, there were religious paintings of Naruto now and while most of those were as accurate as the sculptures of the Hokage Mountain, some people managed to recognize Naruto from them. People handing him rice because apparently bowls of rice should be handed to holy people confused him, but protecting them from bandits and such he at least understood.
Konatsu and Kaede ended up staying in Makimura. Konatsu decided that the climate was nice, really, and even if the place was rather boring now that Naruto had left, that was a challenge, not a hindrance. Besides, Kaede liked it there. They continued to train the fire brigade together, along with Idate, until it had become the only fire brigade in the world that doubled as a paramilitary force. None of the girls reached chuunin level of skill, but as a band of mercenaries and the shipping magnate who had hired them found out, even genin level was more than enough to deal with non-shinobi. Together they managed to give the poor police chief gray hairs, but Takumo consoled himself, thinking that at least the instigator had left before he could make things any worse.
His wife read a letter to him breakfast. "You have been made an honorary member of the fire brigade, because Satou felt bad he thought you were a chauvinist."
Many words not fit to be repeated followed.
Idate negotiated a shipping contract between the Wasabi family and Naruto's enterprise and he remained in Makimura to court Miwa. He finally got her to agree to go on a date at try number seventeen – which didn't yet mean Miwa had fallen in love with him, he realized, but he was working on it. And at least Miwa's religious fervour and devotion scared away any potential competition.
The Great Naruto Fire Brigade became a tourist attraction entirely by accident. A year after it was established, one of the big pavilions built by the sea caught fire during the Mermaid Festival. Because half the fire brigade was there already to party, it was very quickly taken care of. Also, very flashily. The tourists got soaked, but they found the real jutsu the most fascinating thing they had ever seen. The fire brigade was mostly annoyed by the crowd taking pictures of them when they were trying to do their job, and so they began to organize fire drills to give them something to ogle when it was safe and keep them away when there really was a fire.
Firefighting became a traditional women's profession in two years. Everybody agreed that it was the quickest gender normative tradition ever to be formed.
Miwa continued to happily spread Narutoism and organize the Church of Naruto. She didn't know a good number of the people who came to her were agents of foreign countries who tried to figure out what Konoha's ploy was, but she would have answered the questions the same way even then. A woman who is absolutely sure that she's in the right is a force to be reckoned with. Those agents reported the Church of Naruto believed in world peace and the communal hobby was making explosives out of foodstuff. This was, according to the High Priestess, entirely logical and just.
100. Writer's Choice: Konoha
Naruto gained a small following in Konoha. It was more of a moral support thing for Tsubaki, Kakashi, Hinata, Neji and the Ichirakus than anything else, but Sai took the religion entirely seriously and managed to convert the rest of the Rootlets – like Tsubaki dubbed her and Iruka's new charges – to his point of view, much to Iruka's consternation. He refused to join even as a joke because as a teacher it was his responsibility to present good example and teach children that joining cults was bad and there his good effort went down the drain. He managed to separate Sai from the children before he took to explaining about tantric sex rituals and considered that a small victory; Sai had yet to learn that such concepts as "age appropriate subjects" existed for a reason, and that while answering questions honestly could be a good thing...
Gai and Lee seriously converted to Narutoism, though not actually because they were true believers – unless one was to argue that challenges were a religious matter to the two. Gai happened to bug Kakashi about picking a challenge one morning, after Kakashi had just returned from a week-long mission and wanted to just sleep another week. Sleep deprivation always did terrible things to Kakashi's sense of humour and so he named being a good, devoted cultist as his challenge before shunshining away. He regretted this dearly once he woke up the next day, but the damage had already been done. Because Naruto's whereabouts were a secret, they made their pilgrimage to Suna where Lee bonded with a baffled Gaara and caused his Anbu bad headaches. Several of them developed a phobia of intervillage incidents because Lee insisted on sparring with the Kazekage. He kept losing, but that didn't discourage him at all.
Tsunade got very, very drunk when she heard of this. For once, Shizune didn't scold her.
No-one could understand why Hyuuga Hiashi allowed Hinata and Neji to remain even titular members of the cult and the only one brave or stupid enough to ask – one Inuzuka Tsume – wasn't interested enough to bother finding out. It might have had something to do with a training spar which had ended in Hinata actually beating Neji, and Neji had smiled, congratulating her.
Cleaning up after Danzo was a nightmare and a half. Many former Anbu were called into service again just to get a little more manpower to sort through the mess that was Root, Kakashi among them. This caused a bit of a problem because many of the old masks had been returned to the circulation and so Kakashi wound up with the codename and mask Dove for two weeks. He found and destroyed two stashes, but Ibiki still has blackmail pictures.
It took Iruka and Tsubaki a better part of a year to sort out the Rootlets, but eventually they were deemed as sane as anyone ever got in Konoha. They celebrated this with a wonderfully quiet movie night and a bottle of sake and wound up in the same bed – only sleeping, because they were drunk and Iruka was the responsible sort, despite Tsubaki's best attempts to rectify this. They started dating and now that they actually had some free time, they became friends with Taiki and Tomomi, who had in turn bonded over settling in with the local loons also known as Konoha nin.
Sasuke got away with becoming a missing-nin with what was practically a slap on the wrist, by shinobi standards anyway. This was partly because of the Sharingan, partly because Tsunade was a big softie when it became to Naruto and Sakura, partly because she got to vicariously redeem a fallen teammate, and last but not least: because the whole Uchiha Massacre had been an atrocity that never should have happened and had screwed a small boy's head up very badly and Sasuke should have been forced into therapy no matter how much he didn't want to go, damn it. He got a year's probation and his clearance was revoked for that time. He wasn't allowed to leave Konoha. It was made clear to him that he was under surveillance so strict that if he talked in his sleep, wrote a shopping list or greeted a grocer, the T&I would receive a detailed report. He also had to go to therapy – which he considered part of the punishment. He continued his training, though, because Tsunade wasn't stupid.
Of course, Karin following him to the village and defecting wound up being a punishment as well because in a fit of pettiness, Tsunade disregarded all advice and housed her with him. She regretted that decision as soon as Sakura found out, however.
Kabuto remained Kabuto. He made everyone nervous and the only ones who trusted him were Konohamaru and his friends, who were elated someone called their Naruto-niichan "Naruto-sama". He was sent into therapy as well, but he frustrated his therapists because he knew all the right answers to the questions they asked and didn't trust them enough to actually let them help. Kabuto was always unfailingly polite to Iruka and while he was polite to everyone, he almost managed to not be unnerving with Iruka. Iruka paid this back by being supportive, more for Naruto's sake than anything else, but Kabuto appreciated this a lot more than if Iruka had done so for his sake so it worked out, kind of.
Outside Konoha things became even more complicated. Orochimaru fumed because he had lost both his new designer body and his right hand in one fell swoop. He made several attempts to contact Sasuke again, as well as catch up to Naruto and exact some well-deserved revenge (and that special Uzumaki chakra was interesting as well, come to think of it), but Jiraiya grudgingly accepted assistance from Kabuto, and they managed to keep Orochimaru preoccupied with defending his foothold in the Rice Country. It is a sad day indeed, Jiraiya bitched to Tsunade in one of his letters, when Orochimaru could be considered small potatoes.
The other great hidden villages interpreted Narutoism as an attempt to seduce their jinchuuriki into defecting and gain political and financial influence in their countries and that went down as well as one might expect. Not all such consequences were negative. Tsunade's reputation had taken a serious hit during the years she wasted gambling and drinking, and now she established reputation as a brazen, magnificent bitch – crazy of course as well, but then, had there ever been a wholly sane Hokage? Entirely by accident, Naruto had managed to convince the Elemental Countries that Konoha was back at the top of her game again.
The Raikage was furious, though, because his brother had been entangled in the mess. Iwa collectively wasn't too impressed when the Yellow Flash was declared a saint. Kiri didn't like Naruto appropriating one of their hunter-nin, made worse by the fact that while Taiki hadn't been particularly famous, he was a very good jonin and they were suffering shortage of manpower. Good hunter-nin didn't grow on trees, and it took years and years to train a small percentage of all available ninja to that level of skill! Daimyo Kazahana Koyuki had always favoured Konoha, but now her reaction to Naruto highlighted this favouritism, causing a lot of bitterness - made worse by the fact that no one could claim Naruto hadn't earned it. The Wind daimyo got all bitchy too, and Tsunade praised every higher power who might deign to listen to a ninja - and wasn't Jashin - that Gaara didn't actually mind.
The jinchuuriki's opinion wasn't asked, and if they did say anything useful, it was anything appropriate, it could only be a lie, right?
And then there was Akatsuki.
AN: And we are done! Thank you to BiblioMatsuri again.
And watch out for the sequel! I have yet to come up with a clever name for one, but I have planned a short story where a few people find out about Narutoism and have reactions, Karin realizes that she has family she's on the same side with and decides a bonding experience is in order, while Naruto manages to get into another strange situation.