"For ten years I have scoured these lands, searching for remnants of my parents' pasts. I have seen the ruins of Uzu, the deserts of Suna and the blood soaked land of Kiri, but now, now I return to the one place I never really knew: Konoha."
Uzumaki Naruto left Konoha nearly ten years ago to find out the truth of his parents. Armed with the most powerful weapon for a Shinobi, the truth, Naruto returns to his birthplace in order to answer that one lingering question in his mind: 'Why Konoha?'
Shoved onto a team of 'burn-out's by the well-meaning Hokage, Naruto finds himself reluctantly laying down roots in his parents' home all the while desperately trying to bury his past. But Naruto has forgotten what all ninjas do best: they look underneath the underneath.
"I Have to Wonder Do Those Ten Years Mean That I Get Ten Years Worth of Interest on My Inheritance?"
Sarutobi took a long, drawn-out look at the man sat before him, adjusting his pipe as he did so.
Kotetsu and Izumo had – on one of the rare occasions where they weren't sleeping on the job – picked the young man up trying to enter the village with forged papers. Following protocol, the guards had taken him into custody and a search later found him armed with enough weapons to set up a shop and enough explosive notes to put a dent in the earth.
According to the rather rushed report the duo had given the Hokage, their initial suspicion had been that this man was a smuggler, trying to bypass customs in order to make a tidy profit selling his goods in the village, but it simply hadn't fit. The weapons were too used – even though they were well maintained – to have been intended for sale. That, apparently, was when Kotetsu and Izumo had noticed the katana.
And that Katana, in essence, was the reason that this man had been shackled in chakra-suppressant handcuffs and dragged before Sarutobi.
The monkey summoner let his eyes drift down to the blade. It was truly a work of art, even fully sheathed as it was. Inscribed into the sheath was a simple label 'aoshiro', written in beautiful calligraphy. Still not certain of the reports he received, the Hokage tested the hilt, attempting – and failing – to draw the blade from its sheath.
Sarutobi turned the katana over in his hands and caught sight of the exact reason that this man had been brought into his office.
There, clear as day, on the sheath that Sarutobi had been admiring just moments before, was a blood seal. And Sarutobi hadn't seen that sort of blood seal in nearly sixteen years.
It was an Uzumaki seal.
"Where did you get this sword?" Sarutobi asked, his eyes finally shifting back to the man.
The man said nothing, merely kept his head down, tilting his sugegasa (AN1) so it covered his face.
Sarutobi debated his options. The man was quite obviously in no mood to speak and the preliminary psych evaluations from the Hokage's ANBU had shown this man to be the annoyingly stubborn type who wouldn't talk just because it would be a show of bowing down to authority. Adding a bit of Killer Intent to the mix would probably just make the man more uncooperative too.
Tch, in the words of the infamous Nara clan: how troublesome.
Sarutobi stared the young man down, willing for him to crack.
The man was dressed simply, like a farmer, and would have most likely been mistaken for one if not for the tell-tale signs of a trained soldier.
He wore dark brown trousers which were wrapped at the bottom with bandages – something any shinobi worth his money would recognise as a way to hide gravity seals. While his lean figure and tanned skin suggested a life of hard work on the fields, the man before the Hokage lacked the slightly malnourished look most farmers in Fire Country had due to the famine five years ago. Lastly, though the straw sugegasa was reminiscent of a farmer's, a lowly farmer would have removed his hat when in the Hokage's presence, instead of angling it so that it obscured his face and refusing to answer questions.
Sarutobi didn't relent his stare on the non-farmer, his eyes now moving to what little of the man's face he could see.
The jawline visible beneath the brim of the hat was tanned and cleanly shaven, but that wasn't the feature that gave Sarutobi pause. That feature was the six whisker marks that stained the young man's cheeks.
The monkey summoner narrowed his eyes.
"Who are you?" he demanded, his voice taking a more hostile tone unintentionally.
For the first time in the meeting, the man raised his head, reaching up with a surprisingly un-shackled hand to tip his hat back. Piercing blue eyes bore into Sarutobi's own empty ones.
Sarutobi's pipe dropped from his mouth and clattered to the table, spilling hot ash over the paperwork that he'd just completed.
A vulpine grin adorned the all too familiar face that was staring back at the Hokage.
"Long time no see, right, old man?"
Sarutobi openly gaped. He hadn't seen that face in nearly ten years.
"Na—" he paused in shock, blinking to make sure his senility wasn't finally getting to him.
"Naruto?!" he finally managed.
The blond sat across from him merely widened his grin before standing up, dropping the handcuffs that had occupied his hands to the floor. Uzumaki Naruto, who hadn't stepped foot in Konoha in nearly ten years, pulled his hat down off his head and swept into a deep bow.
"The one and only," he announced.
Sarutobi stood stock still for a moment, taking in the sight of the now grown up boy he had viewed as his grandson. He couldn't help it. Formalities be damned. The Third Hokage of Konoha abandoned his desk and pulled the slightly surprised sixteen year old before him into a crushing hug.
"Just think about it…"
Naruto stared down at the object in his hands many hours later. He'd left the Hokage's office, not quite sure where he was going, and had ended up here, on top of the Hokage Monument, standing on the Fourth's – his father's – head.
"This was your mother's. It was one of the only things she brought with her to Konoha…"
It was a forehead protector, similar to all of the ones that he'd found back there. But, on the back of the metal plaque there was a leaf, like was found with a Konoha Ninja.
"Your father put that leaf there, after the fall of Uzu…"
Naruto tightened his grip on the strip of fabric before pushing his fringe up and tying it around his forehead.
"They would have wanted you to have it."
Naruto shook his head, amazed by how comfortable he felt with the plaque there. This was who he was: Uzumaki Naruto, the last surviving heir of the Uzumaki clan.
He'd spent ten years searching for that person and, stepping foot in the village that both his parents had called home, Naruto finally felt like he had found him.
Naruto stared blankly over the village. This was why he had come back, wasn't it? He had very few fond memories of Konoha, very much limited to the Hokage and the nice man who had given ramen, and yet his parents had died protecting this place.
He'd left Konoha ten years ago to find answers. Now he was back, armed with the truth but still trying to find an answer that was so much harder to grasp. Why Konoha? What was so great about this village, this village that had hated him for something he couldn't control, couldn't change, that his parents had fought and died for it?
Naruto had no idea. But, Naruto was back to find out why.
Uzumaki Naruto straightened himself up before forming his hands into a seal and disappearing in a small haze of smoke.
"All due respect, Hokage-sama," Haruno Sakura said, looking up from her book, "but you better be messing with me."
The Hokage looked at the pink-haired kunoichi with amusement clear in his eyes.
"I assure you, Miss Haruno, I am perfectly serious," Sarutobi said, staring at Sakura with the knowing gaze he had become famous for.
Sakura snapped her book shut with a loud clap.
"Then, Hokage-sama, I am going to have to most respectfully tell you to shove your request right up your venerable—"
Sakura was cut off from her rant by a hand being clasped over her mouth.
"What Sakura meant to say," the owner of the hand hurriedly moved to correct, "was that while she is honoured by your offer, Hokage-sama, she isn't interested right now and will have to politely decline."
Sakura glared at the person beside her. Yamanaka Ino didn't even flinch under the gaze, completely used to it after a year of being the young kunoichi's bodyguard and years prior of being her best friend.
"Ah, Miss Yamanaka," the Hokage said, as if only now realising that Ino had been sitting in on the entire conversation. "I think I have something for you too…" The Hokage pulled a scroll out of his robes and handed it to the blonde.
Ino gingerly took the scroll and, sparing a glance at Sakura, read it.
"Now, Hokage-sama?" she asked.
The Hokage nodded.
Ino removed her hand from Sakura's mouth, muttering a quick excuse as she did so and then took off, bowing slightly before she left.
Now alone with Sakura, the Hokage looked expectantly at her.
"No," she said with finality. She paused, then seemed to remember she'd forgotten her manners. "Hokage-sama," she added on the end.
The Hokage sighed.
"You know, Miss Haruno," he said conversationally. "I am always surprised by your ability to be extremely respectful and insulting at the same time."
"The answer's still no, Hokage-sama," Sakura said, preparing to take her book back up and read it again.
Sakura was one of the two people alive who dared to read in the Hokage's presence. Hatake Kakashi was the other.
Sarutobi knew he was losing Sakura. He could order her to comply to his wishes, but that would create a lot of bad blood… It was more logical to merely sweeten the deal.
"If, Miss Haruno," the Hokage said carefully, "you are willing to consider my offer, I am willing to consider removing your bodyguards."
Sakura was so shocked she dropped her book.
"And, of course, this would be a way for you to reach chuunin via the more … traditional … method."
Sakura didn't even bother with formalities when she formed the next response.
"If I do this, no more bodyguards?" she asked.
The Hokage nodded.
"Training ground 7," the Hokage said, knowing he had Sakura's attention, "tomorrow morning before nine."
Sarutobi smiled as he watched Sakura leave his office in a daze. Sometimes it was too easy. The other two would be just as easy to persuade…
Sasuke looked down at the scroll and frowned. Not that he wasn't glad to be finally returning to active duty – Orochimaru had sure as hell done a number on him six months ago – but it was a bit strange.
To put it simply, he was being reassigned to a new genin team.
Sasuke hadn't been on a genin team since his teammates and sensei died on a mission three – or was it four? – years ago. The mission had been incorrectly ranked and their first C-rank had quickly gone B-rank, then later A-rank, involving them facing up a veritable one man army of a missing-nin.
If not for the timely arrival of both their backup and another faction, Sasuke openly admitted that he would have joined his teammates in their graves.
It was strange, that the loss of his teammates was the one thing that could have hammered the importance of your comrades into him.
Even his three years with Kakashi as his sensei could not have enforced the message as well.
But that was beside the point. Sasuke sighed, before throwing a katon jutsu at the scroll and starting to throw senbon at the target again.
It was almost funny. A team of 'burnt-out' genins with a 'burnt-out' sensei…
Judging by the profiles, though, and what he knew of Sakura and Kakashi, this team would be anything but a team of burn-outs.
Sasuke sighed again – exasperation was one of the few emotions he ever showed – and made his way home. He briefly wondered how the Hokage had managed to persuade Kakashi into this…
"I'll do it," Kakashi said immediately, without even looking up from the mission scroll.
Sarutobi smiled triumphantly to himself. He had been expecting some sort of complaint, but give Kakashi the right motivation and the Shodaime himself would have to help whoever stood in his way.
It appeared that the past was the one thing Kakashi could not let go of.
Sensing he owed it to his successor to say something of comfort to his student, Sarutobi struggled to find something to say.
"It wasn't your fault, you know," he eventually settled on.
Kakashi eye-smiled sadly.
"I know," Kakashi repeated softly before turning and leaving via the window. "But that doesn't mean I believe it."
AN1: a sugegasa is one of those conical straw hats you always see farmers wearing in anime.
So here's my new story. Any questions, leave a review. No questions? Leave a review anyway.
Over and out,