Honest Face


Uzumaki Naruto finds a lot of things in life are easy. He can say that because most things in life are hard.

As an experienced shinobi of the leaf, as its Hokage, Naruto has the right to feel certain things about his village. It's a cage of a different kind. As Konoha's jinchuuriki he has the potential, the reason, and the validation to hold a grudge against the people who made his childhood so lonely and full of hate.

It would be easy, so easy, to hate those who bred hatred, but Naruto does not. He works, worked, and will work hard for their approval. He knows the satisfaction of hard work is better than a hateful grudge.

As a man Naruto watches each time a new name is chiseled into the memorial stone. He knows most of them, grew up with most of them, and fought alongside most of them. He mourns them like a friend should, but he berates himself in the night for sending shinobi on missions that they aren't prepared for.

It would be easy, he thinks, standing there like his sensei before him, scanning the names pulled from the past and etched in stone, to lose himself in grief, in shame for his incapability, in anger because he lacked foresight, in sorrow because those whose names fill up the memorial stone leave places empty and vacant behind in the real world, but Naruto does not. He is proud of his comrades, of his subordinates, and of his friends. Naruto knows best of all how important the Will of Fire is. He knows best how easily he would die for his village.

As a child Naruto wondered why. Why were the shop owners mean to him? Why were the villagers cruel? Why was it dangerous for a toddler to walk the streets during a festival, but not to live alone in a crumbling shabby apartment? When Mizuki tells him that day Naruto is ashamed and unwittingly, unwillingly he knows. Instinctively he feels that Konoha's changes, its fears, and its sorrows are because of him, because there is a beast sealed inside him and that beast once broke the village in two. That beast killed Konoha's hope.

It would be easy; sometimes to be frustrated with the life he's led so far. It would be easy as a child and as a teenager to crawl away to his little apartment and cry at how unfair the world is. It would be easy to let go of his dreams and disappear into obscurity like the villagers of Konoha want him to. It would be easy to vanish out of their sights so they can pretend he never existed, that the murderer of their loved ones doesn't rest inside a tiny blonde kid under a seal nobody knows anything about, but Naruto does not. He crawls, climbs, bleeds, screams, and shouts for attention. He uses the wind. He is the wind. He learns the truth about the beast, Kurama, and then puts his own name down, prostrates his body before all those who wished to ignore him because he is a byproduct of love lost and tragic endings and they don't know that, but Naruto wants them to recognize the past for what it is. He wants them to recognize the glory, tragedy, and hope all mixed together as something familiar, something like the future they looked towards when they were unblemished but not quite innocent.

As a son Naruto is mostly ignorant. The people who raise him are close, but they aren't father. They aren't mother, because even though they only lived an hour or so of his life, Naruto remembers the warmth of their arms and the soothing waves of love surrounding him. He thinks maybe he finds that feeling again sitting at Ichiraku with Ayame or watching the old man file paperwork in the Hokage's office. He thinks he feels it when Iruka smiles at him with pride or Kakashi ruffles his hair with calloused fingers. He thinks "Maybe this is it" when Tsunade places her necklace around his neck or Jaraiya splits an ice cream with his loud student because nobody's ever done that before, but it's not that feeling. It's close, but it's not.

Naruto learns his heritage in the midst of war. He meets the man who sired him as a failsafe, a man that made everything Naruto is from everything Minato died to preserve. He meets the woman who shares his eyes at the moment he is least in control. Kushina's red hair billows, though in his mind there is no breeze, and she helps tame a beast he later learns never needed taming at all, only an unselfish hand held out in friendship. His mother and father smile at him from his mind.

And he knows, intimately, how easy it would be to hate his parents. He knows how easy it would be to blame his circumstances on those two people who died for a foolish yet heroic dream. He knows how easy it would be to never forgive his father who in his last moments split his attention between a village and his family. It would be easy to never forgive his mother for the blood that runs in his veins and contemplate how unfair it is that he is an Uzumaki, the only Uzumaki left, and is therefore predisposed to a life as a demon vessel, but Naruto does not. He remembers in his heart a glimmer, a sliver, a speck of what it means to have parents, a mother and father who loved him. He thinks anger might ruin their sacrifice. He believes he knows when his father wraps broad arms around his teenage shoulders for the first and last time. He believes he knows when his mother cradles his head in her lap, crimson hair falling to tickle his forehead. They are proud. They love him. They tell him so in the short moments they have. Naruto won't hate them for his life. He knows in those few moments, "This is it."

As a friend, because Naruto defines himself that way first, he has had many blessings. When he was younger the children around him didn't quite understand why he was so loud and boisterous. They didn't understand his need for trouble. When he was younger his friends weren't really friends, because they emulated their parents out of love, unknowingly, innocently spreading hate. Unwittingly they broke his little confused heart and he couldn't call them friends, not really, but he did anyway, because they were all he had. Time changed that. Children grew older, though not too much older and Naruto found himself enjoying Academy because the Nara kid was so lazy it was funny and Choji always offered him a snack because he was a little on the thin side. And Kiba smelled a bit like dog, but he didn't push Naruto away when the group wanted to play shinobi. He didn't make Naruto the bad guy either. Friends were something new to the orphan, so exhilarating and fresh and oh, oh so sweet to his lonely heart.

And Naruto knows, he's seen, how easy resentment could have settled and festered in him. He knows how easily he could have succumbed, like Gaara, to the cruel whispers and the painful innocent discrimination. He knows how easily he could give up and just hate Sasuke for leaving, for breaking an unbreakable bond. He knows how easy it is to be solitary, to push people away in hate, because they hated first and little boys have no business being hated for something they don't know about and can't control, but Naruto does not. He does not because back then his friends, as tentative as that term was, were the first to believe. He spoke the language of children, and they, being children and capable of it, listened the best. "I'm going to be Hokage!" "I'm going to be the best shinobi!" "I never go back on a promise!" He believed, but most importantly, they believed. They believed in something that adults were unable to see, but as children they could feel underneath their feet, in the air, floating in clouds against a bright blue sky. They believed in change. They believed in Naruto and their beliefs were not without foundation. Naruto did become Hokage. His face was carved in the Hokage monument and the adults, so ignorant to things that couldn't be seen, or touched, or heard, finally turned their heads to the truth. They finally saw Naruto, not the demon sealed within him.

But his friends were and are shinobi, almost every single one of them. Naruto sends the people he calls friends out on a daily basis to face death and he has to hold himself back in the mission room. He has to restrain himself from ripping mission scrolls from the talented hands of his friends. Every bone, every muscle, sinew, and cell scream at him, "No! No! You idiot, you are doing it wrong! She'll die out there! He's skilled, but it's not enough yet!" He wants to shelter the children that once gave him shelter when he needed it most. He wants to take the easy route so badly it hurts, to keep them flesh and bone instead of carvings upon stone, but he can't because they believed in him first so he most of all should believe in them now. They no longer speak the words of children, but Naruto thinks his friends are better adults, kinder adults, than their mothers and fathers before them. He believes in them. He lets them go and sometimes they come back. Sometimes they don't. It hurts, but it's necessary. It's hard, but he lets them walk their own paths with a smile that he both means and forsakes.

It occurs to Naruto one day that maybe there is virtue in struggle. The day he doesn't really remember. It isn't particularly happy, nor is it very turbulent. He thinks it might have been a day in the middle of a week in the middle of a month, because maybe it's more poignant that way, on a day that is the day where time runs so slow it almost stops while the world is still pushing forward, attempting to chug along against the resistance because there is an ending in sight and maybe a new beginning. Naruto has been struggling all of his life as a shinobi, as a child, a man, a vessel, a son, and a friend. He rarely takes the easy path. He mostly pushes against time into the unknown. He wonders, too, what that says about him, whether that makes him good or foolish. He wonders if he needs the struggle for validation, if the struggle has become him or he has become the struggle. He is the dreamer always (but not really always because he knows there's no such thing as always) acting as the world trapped in the middle month-day, pushing against tomorrows, against the future so his dreams, and theirs, will come true.

Naruto thinks maybe he's okay with the struggle because most of the time he is happy with life. He thinks most of the time he has few regrets, most of the time he and his village share peace. He thinks maybe it's the struggle that makes peace so worth it. He thinks if he had taken those easy paths before, his life wouldn't be nearly so special.

Uzumaki Naruto finds a lot of things easy in life. He can say that because most things in life are hard.

But he knows the struggle make all the difference.

-AN: I know what you people are thinking, "OMG it's HAPPY-ish!" Yes, yes it is and I don't really know where it came from either. I wrote this during my lunch break at work today. I hope you guys like it and as always I love reviews!

Until next time!