The Morality of Sacrifice
"Where the hell am I?" mused Naruto. Only moments before, he had been in free-fall down a gorge, pushed by that damn pervert Jiraiya in some half-arsed scheme to use the Kyuubi's power. Now, he found himself in some weird stone building, dimly lit and lightly flooded. Before him was a massive cage, with bars far bigger around than he was. Given the size of the cell and the slip of paper on the gate that read 'Seal', even he didn't take long to figure out what was contained within.
Red, slitted eyes, each taller than the young genin, became visible as the demon awakened. They took a few moments to focus, before they homed in on him. Beneath them, Naruto could just barely make out a mouth brimming with dangerous-looking teeth.
"Uh... hi," he said weakly. Not only was he more terrified than he had ever been, he wasn't even sure if the Kyuubi was capable of understanding him or talking back. For all he knew, this was a pointless waste of time. And if this was supposed to be a place inside himself, then that was time he could be using to figure out how not to fall to his death.
The red eyes narrowed.
"So you are my prison now? Pitiful."
"What the hell is that supposed to mean, ya damn fox!?"
Never let it be said that Naruto backs down from a challenge – or that he thinks before he speaks. In the back of his mind, a part of him noted that the demon's mouth hadn't moved at all when it spoke.
"Had I the chance, I would destroy you and be free of this cage. For a lesser being such as you to imprison me is... infuriating."
"Well I didn't exactly ask to have you inside me. But since you're sharing my body, it's time to cough up rent!" He emphasized his demand by pointing dramatically.
"And now you seek my power, because you have found your own to be lacking. Humans are such pathetic creatures."
"Says the one who got his ass kicked by the Yondaime," Naruto retorted. He grinned widely, clearly believing himself to have won the argument.
"Yondaime... that is the identity of the man who sealed me in here? I fail to see why you believe him to be the victor. He is gone, while I yet remain – not that one such as I can ever be destroyed."
Naruto's face scrunched up in thought as he tried to come up with a response. He found himself recalling one of the few Academy lectures he had actually paid some attention to. Something about basic wartime strategy, if he remembered correctly.
"Whether sparring with a comrade or leading troops into battle, you must always keep your ultimate objective in mind. So long as you accomplish your goal, you are victorious. If you fail, than you have been defeated even if every enemy lies dead on the field."
"Well the Yondaime was trying to stop you from destroying Konoha, and he did. So unless you actually wanted to get sealed away... I guess that makes him the winner." He nodded to himself, apparently satisfied with his own reasoning.
"And in stopping me, he has done far more damage to your kind than I could ever have accomplished."
That most certainly wasn't something he had ever expected to hear. If the jutsu used to seal the Kyuubi had done more damage than the demon itself, then why was his name still revered in Konoha? Why had no one ever mentioned such an important detail about his hero? Surely the history books would have mentioned if there had been some sort of catastrophic jutsu backlash, and the Yondaime was one part of history that Naruto actually paid attention to.
The Kyuubi sighed.
"Humans are mortal. Death is the one fate you all share. Every human that I killed would have died anyway. Every building I smashed would have toppled eventually. It was only ever a matter of time. Every human that yet lives because of the Yondaime will still die and still make the same journey to the afterlife. He saved no one, and damned himself."
That only served to piss Naruto off.
"Just because everyone dies eventually doesn't mean it's okay to go around killing them! Maybe we mortals want to enjoy our lives!" He folded his arms in a defiant gesture. "Besides, how does any of that mean he caused more harm than good? He only sacrificed himself, right?"
"I'm no math expert, but one is less than the population of Konoha, last I checked."
"It was not just his life that he sacrificed to seal me, foolish child. He called upon the shinigami itself."
Naruto was surprised to feel the Kyuubi shudder in disgust, as though trying to shake off a bad memory.
"The contract he entered with that foul entity demanded his very soul in payment. He will never make the journey to the next world, yet he is gone from this one. He has been removed from the cycle of souls for all eternity."
Realization slowly dawned on Naruto's face as he began to comprehend the point that the demon was trying to make.
"Whether a mortal lives a full life or is cut down decades early is irrelevant in the long term. The same fate awaits them. But by removing even a single soul, he has done something truly abhorrent."
"But... but he was just trying to save everyone. He's a hero – that's what everyone calls him..." By now his mouth was mimicking a fish, trying and failing to come up with words to defend the Yondaime's actions.
"Even if the soul was his own, and it was given willingly, he still should never have done it. Some things are far too valuable to ever give up, no matter how much you may be able to accomplish by doing so. To call such a man a hero only demonstrates the ignorance of you and your kind. He disgusts me more than any other."
By this point, Naruto was staring down at his feet, wide-eyed, barely breathing, and lost in thought. The demon observed this and decided it was time to bring the conversation to an end. As it closed its eyes, blood-colored chakra began oozing between the bars and racing towards Naruto. When it reached his feet, it rose and began swirling violently around him.
"I tire of this discussion. Take my power, foolish child. Leave me now, and do not bother me with such absurd claims again."
The toad sage Jiraiya wasn't surprised when Naruto managed to use the Kyuubi's chakra; strong emotions and life-or-death situations were the key, so there was no way he'd fail. He was a little surprised when he saw the boss toad Gamabunta, but not too much. The Kyuubi was extremely powerful, after all – more than strong enough to pull a boss summon across dimensions hundreds of times over.
No, what surprised Jiraiya was the thoughtful, almost depressed look Naruto had on his face as he stood on the toad's head. He'd been expecting either joy at succeeding, or anger at being so rudely pushed off a cliff.
Even more perplexing was when the genin calmly dismissed the angry toad and requested (demanded) the rest of the day off from training. While tailing the boy, he observed Naruto make his way to the Hokage monument, seat himself on the Yondaime's head, and spend the rest of the day absently staring at the village, as if seeking answers from the deceased Hokage.
'Huh.' Jiraiya pondered. 'I guess contacting the Kyuubi gave him more to think about than I expected.'
AN: The Naruto canon has an afterlife, and those who summon the shinigami don't go there. The implications are... disturbing.