This is a story I've been working on since early 2011, but never got around to finishing yet. It's a long haul, and will end up being my longest piece yet, but for now I'm finally putting some chapters on the internet where I haven't before, and will continue to add them one by one periodically, as I once again work on the story. Enjoy.

Note: This story takes place at the tail-end of the first series and is not in the Shippuden timeline, thusly. This is an alternative 'what if' to Naruto leaving with Jiraiya to go train for three years. This is why Kyuubi is referred to as Kyuubi, not Kurama, as was later revealed in late Shippuden. Just mentioning this for clarification.

Everything (C) to Kishimoto and not me

The stench of still water was stale and putrid, and engulfed the twisting sewer hallways so completely that it was as if the air itself was heavy. A dim orange light sank in from a hole in the ceiling, and lit up a portion of the passage, flooded as it was with half a foot of water. And to accompany this brooding atmosphere was nothing but the gentle sound of water dripping from somewhere unseen. But soon, the sound of splashes with falling footsteps drowned out that noise.

Through the gloomy and poorly lit hallway walked two figures. One was of average height, and had a generously shaped figure; the other was larger, taller and bulkier. Moving without a hint of fear or nervousness in their strides, they took a turn down a side passage, and from the end of it, sprang a new sound. Distant as it was, it was of a menacing growl, as if from a cornered beast about to strike. It reverberated off the walls, and got louder and louder with every advance the two figures took. But nothing deterred them; they pressed on, and made their way to the very heart of the terrible sound.

Rather suddenly, the narrow hallway opened up into a massive square chamber. It bore a ceiling so tall that it was impossible to see with the naked eye, and at the opposing end of the room sat a monstrous locked gate. The two figures stopped and held their ground in the center of the massive area; all was still and silent. The air here was even heavier with tension than the outer hallways, but not one flinch, shake or sign of unrest came from the two.

No, not from them.

As if waiting for something to happen, the silhouetted pair stood; one with crossed arms, and the other with a hand resting impatiently on their hip. Both stared into the void of darkness that lay just beyond the locked gate, and it was from here, in this black hole, that two gargantuan, menacing blood-red eyes sprung open. They darted down at the two trespassers, and it was only a few seconds later that a horrible toothy grin accompanied the gaze. Every tooth rose numerous times taller than any man, except for the canines. Pointed like war javelins, they sat at the forefront of the behemoth's mouth, and could easily crush anything unfortunate enough to come within their reach.

A moment of brief silence, and then a deep and awful voice came from inside the gate. Every word spoken caused a small ripple in the water that flooded the room.

"Well, look at this. My chamber is graced by the presence of not one, but two of the Legendary Sannin. How I am honored."

As the ripples from the floor reflected what little light there was, the two figures were finally given shape and form. A man with long snow-white hair and a massive scroll dangling from his back stood on the right. Eyes narrowed and serious, expression flat, he met the beast's nightmarish face with a look of both understanding and contempt.

The figure on the left was a women; she had striking blonde hair, a long green coat that bore a red symbol on its back, and an expression even more serious than the man. She was the first to walk forward, closer still to the gate. With a flip of her twin pig tails, she forced a smile up at the monster behind the bars.

"Kyuubi. Been a long time," She said, in a sarcastic welcoming tone. "Very homey place you have in here, though I can't say much for the interior decorating."

The beast let out a low growling laugh, shaking the chamber slightly as it readjusted its position from where it lay inside the confines of its prison.

"It has been an even longer time since a mortal has addressed me by that name," It replied. "And so sorry to hear it, but sadly, I had no choice in my living arrangements. We all know who to thank for that, Tsunade."

"Unfortunately," the white-haired man intervened. "Or perhaps in this instance for you, fortunately, we didn't come in here to look at your ugly face for no good reason."

The Toad Sage, otherwise known as Jiraiya, smiled deviously as he went on. He too stepped closer to the gate and accompanied the Fifth and current Hokage by her side. Subtly and in the briefest of moments, their eyes met, and Jiraiya only then went on.

"I guess you could put what we're going to offer you, as a proposition."

Kyuubi, known to every person in the Land of Fire as the infamous Nine-Tailed Fox Spirit, changed his gaze from one sannin to the other. His smile diminished, but his interest was forever peaking. His entire body now aglow with his burning red chakra, the sheer size of his true proportions was now obvious. Still, neither Jiraiya nor Tsunade looked the least bit influenced or phased. Flaring himself like a peacock wasn't going to impress them, of all people.

"Go on." The fox demon said, his nine appendages twisting and writhing slowly at the back of the cage.

Tsunade closed her eyes gave a sigh, working over how she was to word this. Trying to reason with a demon was bad enough, but the most intelligent of all the tailed beasts could very well be harder still. That said, being two of the most renowned ninja in history definitely had its perks. The fox was already willing to listen to them. That wasn't common in the slightest. Anyone else, and the demon wouldn't have given them a second glance.

"I'll get right to the chase," She declared, her voice a bit more projective and serious than before. "Naruto has been thus far trained by Kakashi Hatake, and to a more minor extent by Jiraiya. But now, the village is starting to see very bad signs of possible war with some of our surrounding lands, and thusly, the majority of the Leaf Villages' shinobi no longer have the luxury to laze about in the village and go on mainstream missions. Even Jiraiya and I are up to our necks in work. The fact is that Naruto's development at this point in time is halted, and there's absolutely no one that can risk taking the time to train him when the Village needs them in the field for in case there is an attempted invasion."

Kyuubi listened in patient silence, non-blinking and watching with rapt attention as the Hokage continued. His two massive front hands lay out in front of him, and before long he laid his chin on them, almost reminiscent of a dog.

A dog the size of two large mountains, with a mouth that could crush a mountain peak in a single bite.

"Therefore, not long ago, Jiraiya came to me with a solution that I at first absolutely refused to try. But our options are slim, and we can't afford to be picky. Additionally, with the Akatsuki having been restless for months now, we are also at risk of them coming after Naruto again. He needs to become stronger, and he needs someone to keep his neck out of trouble, or he won't stand a chance once they inevitably make their move." Tsunade continued. The pair of demonic eyes stayed still and intent, as the fox demon easily began to piece together where this was going.

"…So, let me see. You're saying you want me, the demon who's had enough of this idiotic boy to last ten thousand lifetimes over, to try and get the brat to become an Akatsuki slayer?" The beast surmised with a mocking tone in its voice. "You truly are desperate aren't you? But I'll humor you. Even if I was able to get him powerful enough to keep himself from getting killed, what could I possibly gain from this plan?"

Tsunade rested her voice. She looked to Jiraiya to take it from there.

"Well to be fair, it should already be in your best interest to make sure Naruto stays alive." Jiraiya countered. His eyelids were drooped towards the shallow, water-logged floor. "If he dies, you go right along with him. But aside from that, I'm pretty sure you could find a few fringe benefits in this plan as well, if you go along with it."

"Fringe benefits?" The fox echoed. With an ego of limitless proportions, a part of the nine-tails could scarcely stand the fact that two humans were actually catching its attention with something. "What could mortals possibly have that I would desire besides freedom from this kid's infernal abdomen? You don't honestly expect me to believe you're going to release me. Your 'proposition' seems to have a few holes in it thus far, 'legendary ninja'."

Jiraiya's eyes turned back up and met with the monster's once more.

"On the contrary," he began. "We have the next best thing." His hand moving in a flash, a long crimson scroll unrolled rapidly, until it reached its end only mere inches above the wet floor and jumped back up from the lash-back. Holding it out for the fox to see, the old man tapped his forefinger against the top of it.

"This can be accomplished through a special jutsu I've been able to develop." The old Toad Sage explained, smiling proudly and smirking accordingly. "It's called Ninja Art: Reverse Sealing Manifestation, and without spoiling anything too much, let's just say that while you'll still be firmly sealed up in here, it'll give you a chance to see what it's like to be on the outside again as well. That's where you'll train Naruto. Under a few special precautions we'll be taking, of course."

Kyuubi's blood-red eyes widened slightly. On the outside? How could he possibly be on the outside, truly, without being completely released? There was a moment of silence as the ancient beast looked down at the two of them carefully, his expression narrowed to read the tiny scroll. After a minute, another rumbling laugh shook the entire room.

"I must admit I'm curious to see what this alleged jutsu of yours does." Kyuubi began, once again readjusting his position. "And also to see if you've done your homework right, and are sure what you're doing won't result in my being able to escape entirely." He stated, ever present malicious smile on his muzzle. "Looks like I have nothing to lose, and so very much to possibly gain. So be it, you have yourself a deal on my end. I'll assist the boy until he's no longer a helpless kit. Much as I despise this place, being seized and used by a band of ninja outcasts is hardly any more appealing."

As soon as the humungous fox had finished its decision, Tsunade once again took the floor. Both hands firmly placed on her hips, she summoned up the most authoritarian voice she could muster.

"Good. As soon as we leave here and Naruto wakes up, Jirayia will be filling him in as well. In another day or two from now, expect the jutsu to be cast for the first time." The Fifth Hokage proclaimed. "And I'd say it's in your best interest to listen out for Jiraiya's conversations with Naruto, because I assure you, there is no room for you to try anything funny and you'll soon hear why." She finished, before abruptly turning on her heel and marching from the gloom-filled chamber. For the briefest of seconds there was nothing but the splashes caused by her footsteps receding from hearing.

"Boy…as impatient as ever." The old sage sighed, rolling up the scroll and making a tiger seal. The scroll vanished in a puff of smoke, and he quickly followed Tsunade's lead out the only opening to the room.

"One thing." The demon said calmly after them. The two sannin stopped in their tracks.

"I'll listen, and if what you say is true, that I'll finally be granted access once again to the outside world in some way, then I'll uphold my end of the bargain. But that said…"

Jiraiya turned his head ever so slightly, looking back at the beast. Its eyes were full of impatience.

"One thing you better make sure that boy knows above all else, is that he will not receive any patience from me. Unlike even you, Tsunade, my anger knows no bounds. If that brat willingly arouses it, well then, don't blame me for what may or may not happen to his well-being. He'll live, as he must for me to survive, but that's about all I can promise."

"…"

"…"

"If that is all, then leave my sight."

A burning bright light instantly penetrated the entire room, forcing the eyes of both the Fifth Hokage, and her perverted sage comrade to clench and bare a few tears. The shallow dripping of water became the melodious chirping of birds, the stench of stale sewer water transformed into the wooden smell that accompanied the Lady Hokage's office, and the heavy feeling in the air that had put a weight in their chests had lifted. When Tsunade next opened her eyes, she was once again standing over a shirtless, snoring Naruto lying on her desk. One hand lay over his forehead, the other his seal, just as they had been before they entered.

"Well." Jiraiya said, rubbing the back of his huge head of white hair. "That went well."

"…Jiraiya, this worries me." The Hokage said quietly, both her hands returning to her sides. Kyuubi's final warning rang around the inside of her head like a wrench in an otherwise perfect plan.

"Tsunade, I've already explained this to you." Jiraiya said calmly, turning to her and putting a reassuring hand on her shoulder. "The jutsu only allows a minor, extremely minuscule amount of the beast's will and chakra to be released into the manifestation. He'll barely be the size of a large dog, and certainly won't be stronger than any of our toughest jonin." He explained for, what felt like the twentieth time in the past few days. "It's his sync with Naruto and his knowledge of how Naruto's chakra network works from being stuck in there for thirteen years, which makes him the only one who can do this. Please, trust in my jutsu-"

"That's not it!" The Fifth yelled, smacking his hand away. Jiraiya remained silent, beaming at her and awaiting the list of her doubts. Boy was she predictable.

"…It's not that. I do trust your jutsu. What bothers me more is the fact that…this may not pay off in the time we need it too. Even worse, it may not pay off at all. What happens if even Kyuubi can't prepare him for them in time? Neither you, nor any of us can afford to constantly look after him right now. And we certainly couldn't deal with a war and the Akatsuki at the same time." She said, voice full of blatant irritation and worry. She cupped Naruto's drooling, absently lop-sided head. "And there's no one but Yamato's long-ranged wood clones looking after Naruto when the manifestation is out, and even they can't take on an elite jonin-leveled Kyuubi. He may be jonin level, but that doesn't mean he has a leg up on normal Shinobi. We have to assume he has otherworldly jutsu that humans have never even seen."

"Tsunade…" Was all Jiraiya could manage. She was right. Upon developing the technique, Jiraiya had made a counter-jutsu to completely turn off the manifestation, so that if Kyuubi did decide to betray them, or just got out of hand, he could be compressed. It was a swell idea on paper, but there a problem.

Only himself, Tsunade and Yamato knew the jutsu. On top of that, it was a bit tricky to learn. The wood clone was there to use it if need be, but if Kyuubi caught on to its presence and decided to destroy it before the clone could release the manifestation, it would all be but a matter of time.

"…I need to teach the release to Naruto. That's the only sure-fire way that we can be almost positive." Jiraiya said, walking to one of the large glass windows looking out over the village, and resting his hands on the edge. "But it's a tricky jutsu for someone that young and inexperienced, and thanks to my reconnaissance mission, I've only got one full day before we need to try this out, or not do it at all. I'll do my best, but I can't make any promises."

With a tired sigh, Tsunade hooked her foot around the front of her rollout chair to pull it out, and slumped down into it. Letting the soft cushion take away some of her physical stress away, she rubbed her temple and groaned. Things were going to be incredibly risky, that was sure. But first thing was first, there were missions, papers and other documents she needed to tend to. For the time being, this situation with Kyuubi was out of her hands until tomorrow, and now, she needed to get to work.

"...Well, do the best you can, and good luck. I'm sure you'll need it. Hell, we may all need it." She finalized, ready to leave the subject alone until tomorrow.

"Right."

"Now, Jiraiya." Tsunade said, chuckling a little and poking the loud, snoring pre-teen laying on her things. "Help me get this idiot off my desk. I need to get to work."