Disclaimer: Naruto and every character of the Naruto universe belongs to Kishimoto Masashi and companies, I don't know.

Applause goes for my precious beta readers: ImaginationJunkie1412, Duesal10 and Minatochan2

Original upload date: 15th of March 2014 (Central European Time :P)

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Chance for a Prophecy

Chapter 29. – Breaking Sun

The world around them became black before the small group found themselves on the flat roof of the Hokage tower. They were in the middle of Konoha surrounded by several people. 'Indeed.' Minato narrowed his eyes, scrutinizing a kunoichi. 'I know this woman.' The people around him started to yell and pointing toward something, and Minato unconsciously followed their fingers and froze at the sight. It was the Hokage Monument. His eyes twitched when he spotted the red poop on the Second's face, and the two colorful swirls on his own stone cheeks and… did he have eyelashes?

"Hah!" He heard an amused snort from Jiraiya. "It looks good on you, pansy boy."

The loud shouts stopped Minato from retorting.

"Stop right there!"

"You'll pay for this!"

"Shut up, you morons! I can do whatever I want because I'm the awesome, one and only, Uzumaki Naruto!"

Minato finally spotted an orange spot shouting back: a small child, maybe twelve, with blond locks. The blood in his veins suddenly froze when a man stepped through him. The man was dressed in Konoha's traditional green chuunin vest, complete with the Uzumaki swirl on his back. Minato heard another set of footsteps and the old leader's familiar and irritated murmur was muttering behind him. He didn't have to turn around; a version of Sarutobi stopped next to him a moment later, looking up at the vandalized monument in what could only be described as the epitome of frustration. The same Sandaime, however, had more wrinkles and liver spots on his face, and white hair

"Uzumaki Naruto! What the hell are you doing during class time?!" the chuunin shouted in front of him, but the scene suddenly gave way to inky blackness.

Three young genin were sitting on a rooftop with shiny new hitai-ate: a black haired boy, a blond one, and a young pink-haired girl. Sakura, the Hokage mused. The one whose older version he had already seen. His eyes drifted to the last person, and he immediately took a step back and sucked in a breath.

"It's your turn to introduce yourselves now." The blond child shouted his name again, then began to mumble about ramen, but Minato fixed his eyes on the older man: on the gravity-defying spiky silver hair, the unmistakable dark blue mask on his face, and the hitai-ate carefully hiding his left eye.

"My dream is to surpass the Hokage and have the people of this village acknowledge my existence!"

"Existence? Hokage? What is that child talking about?" The words slipped out from Minato's lips without his awareness.

Jiraiya's eyes narrowed as he noted his former student's confused expression. He glanced back at the memory of the still rambling boy with a sad, understanding smile on his face. Now he understood his longing. The pranks. All he did was for attention.

The image blurred and blacked out again.

They were in a clearing now next to three poles, the blond child secured to the middle one. The previous man who looked like Kakashi stood in the middle.

"Those who break the rules of the ninja world are trash… But you know what? Those who don't take care of their comrades are lower than trash." The movement of his mask and the way his eyes were crinkling with genuine good humor hinted at the wide and proud smile on his face.

"All of you pass. Starting tomorrow, team seven will begin its duties in Konoha."

Minato's heart drummed against his ribs like it wanted to break free from his chest, but he didn't have the time to think about it. Short scenes started to appear in front of his eyes, and alien emotions forced their way into his soul.

The blond child faced a masked hunter nin in the middle of thick fog. Fear. A young, black haired girl or boy, smiled at him in the next one. Care. A porcelain mask shattered. Betrayal. The newly blooded team seven stood in front of two fresh graves. Determination.

The older Kakashi handed them an application form for the next chuunin exam. Excitement. The blond slammed his palm to a desk, declaring that he would become Hokage even if he had to stay a genin forever. Courage. He jumped between the Uchiha and a giant snake. The urge to protect. Next, he was faced with an Inuzuka in a familiar battle ring. The faces of the spectators were riddled with doubt and condescension. Defiance.

The scenes finally slowed down, and they found themselves in a hospital room. Three boys were facing each other. One of them was obviously a young Nara, the others being the blond boy and another with short, spiky, auburn hair and deep black rings around his eyes. The redhead carried an enormous gourd on his back, and the kanji 'Love' was carved into the pale skin of his forehead.

Minato frowned when the child's eyes sparkled with obvious insanity, his voice shaking with emotion while he declared that his mother would have their blood. Sand started to flow out from the gourd on his back, threateningly hovering around the kids. The Hokage listened, horrified, as the child told his story: that his father, the Kazekage, tried to assassinate him countless times, that he had a real monster inside him.

Minato's mind wandered for a second. The seal. Their trip to Suna with Toroku. Toroku's concern about the baby.

It couldn't be...

Jiraiya just smiled proudly when the boy stood up for his comrade, unknowing of his student's thoughts.

The scene changed again. The blond boy was now yelling and pointing a finger at a white-haired man.

"Who the hell are you?!" Minato couldn't restrain the smug smile on his face when he spotted the familiar wooden fence of Konoha's hot spring.

"Mount Myoboku's Holy Master, also known as the great Toad Sannin. Remember it!"

Minato stumbled forward when something shoved him from behind. He made a side glance at the younger version of the very same man, his eyes wide and his lips trembling and slightly opened.

Now it was Jiraiya's turn to be confused. The kid didn't know him? Why didn't he know his Godfather?! What the hell happened?!

"I don't care! You knocked out my teacher, and even if he was just a closet pervert, he was supposed to teach me tons of stuff! I have to become stronger for the chuunin exams! Take responsibility, and help me with my training!"

"I hate rude and disrespectful brats! And I don't like men!" The oh-so-familiar pout was on the memory's face in an instant as he turned away from the rude brat.

But the boy didn't let him down easily. A sly, foxy grin spread across his face. "Sexy no Jutsu!"

Minato watched with a twitch in his eye as the older version of his sensei slobbered at the sight and almost immediately accepted the request to train the blond child. However, he could also hear as his own version snorted in amusement. He obviously shook off his previous shock thanks to the sight of the nude girl.

His sensei giggled perversely as the naked girl shook her bare hip in a sensual manner.

New images surfaced with increased speed until they slowed down once more. They were now in the middle of an unfamiliar battle ring facing with an older boy with a byakugan. A battle between the great desert monster and Gamabunta, but it slowed down until two children were lying on the ground, bruised, bloody. For a moment things were quiet; then without warning everything went black. And cold.

It was raining, Minato realized after a minute as he stared at the tomb in front of him. The air around them was heavy and thick with sadness and sorrow; the emotion radiated. He fixed his eyes on the picture of his predecessor tidily placed in the middle of a new monument.

He finally tore his gaze away to look to his side where the small blond child was standing, still wounded, likely from his previous battle with the redhead. At least he was bandaged. A smaller child in front of the blond started to sob, and the chuunin from the first scene crouched down and locked him in a tight embrace.

Someone behind his back whispered vengeance on Orochimaru for killing the Third.

The scene changed once more, the funeral replaced by the untidy walls of a bar.

"The Village Hidden in the Leaf has issued a request for you to be the fifth Hokage."

Minato narrowed his eyes, and a heavy gasp echoed from his sensei's direction. They waited apprehensively for the familiar blond woman to finally give her answer. The older Jiraiya, however, was under no such restriction. "So, Tsunade? Will you answer the call of our village?"

As if to belittle the severity of the request, the woman's delicate features scrunched up in an annoyed grimace. "I decline."

"What the hell!" The blond haired kid was beside himself, shouting toward Tsunade, but the woman ignored him. She, instead, turned toward the frowning Sannin and jerked a finger at the boy.

"Who's the kid?"

"My new apprentice, Uzumaki Naruto," the sage answered, a small, proud smile tugging at his lips, but the restrained expression would be only recognizable to his own younger version. Too bad his attention was glued on Tsunade, watching how she shifted in her seat her chest rose and fell. He could sense the sweet smell he missed so much, but it was most likely from his own memories. Finally, with an inhuman willpower, he restrained his consciousness back to the scene.

"Jiraiya, he's even worse than your last one. In term of looks, speech, and intelligence—" Jiraiya let out a loud laugh next to Minato, but the hokage didn't react at all. There was no annoyed grunt, no twitch, nothing as he supposed it would be. With a heavy sigh, he turned back to the scene.

"What's that supposed to mean!?"

Jiraiya's older version shrugged. "It's tough for anyone to be compared to the Yondaime. He was the absolute best in the shinobi arts."

"But even with that, the Fourth died quickly…" she mumbled softly. "He gave up his life for his village just like Sarutobi." Her features hardened with disgust. "Being Hokage is a shit. No one but a fool would do it!"

The young boy's body tensed from the confined emotions, but he exploded in the next moment. He jumped over the table, his anger rising, and his muscles viciously trembled from the overwhelming feelings that were also washing over them. Rage. Disbelief. "I won't forgive anyone who badmouths the old man or the Yondaime!"

Minato lost his composure at that. He stepped backwards, bumping into Jiraiya who just stood there, his face blank like white paper but his eyes carefully observant with a hard edge. Minato's formerly empty mind swelled with disturbing thoughts. His soul bounced between denial and acceptance with insane speed, the process practically dizzying.

'If this is… If I died… If he is my… why does he call me Yondaime? Why doesn't he call me dad?' As a last resort, he turned to face Inoichi's wide eyes and pale face.

The veteran interrogator locked his eyes with Minato's and slowly shook his head. "Tho—those are real memories, Minato. You can feel the emotions even behind my mind barrier. Those are real."

Minato's eyes widened in shock. "That's impossible."

Funny. That was also Inoichi's first thought after the first scene at the top of the Hokage's office, and he had immediately tried to look after signs of fabrication, but he found none. The boy's emotions were so overwhelming, so clear that they even leaked through his protective jutsu.

There was no chance those were fabricated. The environment, the small details, Shikaku's aged image, even down to the same small crack Inoichi knew was there on the corner of the Hokage tower.

They were too perfect. And the boy wasn't fighting. The connection was stable, and the flow was smooth and continuous as he chose the memories to appear.

Suddenly, they found themselves in the middle of a battle. Minato spotted Orochimaru and the older Jiraiya and also the terrified Tsunade in the middle of a pool of blood. The blond kid slumped to the ground in front of the terrified Sannin, the scene blinking black as the kid was on the verge of unconsciousness. They could hear Tsunade's voice echoing around them, yelling at the kid to not die, to not give up. In the end, the world around them became clear once more, but only for a fraction of a second as the kid reached out for the well-known crystal necklace. They watched as Tsunade gently put the necklace around his neck, the voices around them becoming clear, then muffling again from time to time as the kid came in and out of consciousness.

They listened to the wavering conversation in the background between the three Sannin; they listened as Tsunade declared her position as the Godaime Hokage. Those were the last words they could hear before the boy's body gave up the fight and drifted into unconsciousness.

Another series of short images started to flash in front of their eyes: short memories of fights, spars, pictures of a smiling Jiraiya while walking next to each other in the streets of distant towns.

The images finally slowed down.

A group of Konoha shinobi stood in front of a three-person squad next to the enormous sandstone walls of Suna. Jiraiya glanced around and grimaced when he spotted the older green beast in the background, babbling loudly about the flames of youth, a weary Kakashi seated and not to mention suffering on his back.

The blond boy stepped forward to face with the same boy from before. However, both of them looked older by at least two or three years. Soft sand started to flow and raise the hand of the blond boy to meet with his companion for a friendly shake. Minato narrowed his eyes as he observed the three Suna shinobi. Someone yelled from the background, and a jounin ran out from the entrance, the same, but older version of the man who escorted them all around the village when they were there together with Toroku.

"Kazekage-sama! I'm sorry, but the village council is requesting your immediate presence."

The auburn haired boy nodded, but his gaze was still locked on the softly smiling blond. "Uzumaki Naruto. Thank you." The named Kage made a real, deep and respectful bow toward the teen, who scratched his flushing cheeks in embarrassment.

Jiraiya let his mouth hang open. A kage bowing to a Konoha shinobi? No. To Naruto. To his Godson. A wide and proud grin spread across his face.

"Gaara, note that I secured an advanced favor from you when I'm the Hokage... after Tsunade-baachan finally admits that she's too old."

A soft smile. "When the time comes, I'll give you that favor, Uzumaki Naruto. You have my word."

The scene was replaced with the Hokage's office, crowded with people with worried looks on their faces and… toads? Jiraiya raised his eyebrow and took a step forward. His eyes were glued on the small old toad. Minato's gaze wandered toward Tsunade sitting behind the table, her chin resting on her folded fingers. Her eyes were dark and haunted, missing the sparkle he remembered and loved so much. She looked like she had just after Dan and Nawaki's deaths.

Pa suddenly turned toward the kid dressed in the vibrant orange jumpsuit. "So this boy here is Jiraiya-chan's pupil?"

A frown appeared on the teen's face, who couldn't be more than sixteen, maybe a half head shorter than the blond whose mind they were currently occupying. "Chan? Who does this guy think he is, calling Ero-Sennin 'chan'?!'"

The named pervert silently mouthed his nickname, watching with unfolding annoyance as the ancient old toad burst out in a barking laughter.

"I said watch your mouth! He is Jiraiya's teacher!" Tsunade snapped, but the old toad's laughter echoed inside the office freely for a long time. However, it couldn't wash away the tension of the room.

"Alright, old toad. What'd you wanna tell me?" Naruto asked, with an inpatient tone, his eyes glued on the small figure. Fukasaku instantly shut his mouth, and the thick atmosphere renewed with increased force, choking every attendant as the toad raised his eyes toward the blond boy. "Where do I start…" he mused with a low whisper. Fukasaku's eyes drifted to the side for a long moment, his face saddened. Finally, he released the suffocating stillness with a drawn-out sigh.

"Jiraiya-chan was killed in battle."

The room went silent as the temperature just seemed to drop.

Alien emotions overwhelmed them, pushing their own feelings to the side. First the denial. Then the emptiness. And finally the sorrow… and the overwhelming rage.

The scene shifted again, and to their biggest surprise, they found themselves on the head of a familiar enormous toad. Gamabunta shifted inside the dense smoke and dust. Nothing could be seen around them; only the boy's silhouette was sharp as he proudly stood on a smaller toad, his scarlet coat with black flame patterns wildly flipping under the enormous scroll that was secured on his back.

The blond looked around, his confusion immediately reaching them. "Where are we?"

"Where is the enemy?" boomed Gamabunta with confusion.

A new toad hopped next to Naruto, and Pa instantly turned toward his wife. "I thought I told you to summon us to Konoha."

"Take a closer look. This is Konoha. The Akatsuki members who killed Jiraiya-chan are here."

The visitors froze, desperately waiting for the dust to slowly fade away. The silhouette of the enormous Hokage monument slowly evolved behind the smoke, the fifth head of Tsunade boldly sculpted at the end. Devastating fury replaced the previous confusion in their hearts as the boy's emotions switched.

Minato detachedly observed the enormous crater where the village center should've been. Everything was gone. Konoha was wiped from the surface of the earth.

From the corner of his eye, Minato saw movement on the ground, and he finally turned his head to face with the memory again. Six people stood in the middle of the crater, their bodies shrouded by ink black cloaks with crimson clouds. The boy and Tsunade were facing them.

One of the cloaked men rushed toward Tsunade, but the blond teen simply crushed him to pieces with one single punch. Minato could hear a muffled thud, and he averted his gaze from the fight to glance at Jiraiya who slumped to his knees on the ground, his eyes and mouth wide open in his amazement.

"That's—that is… He's using senjutsu! And he's in perfect sage mode! Damn, my Godson is good!"

Minato narrowed his eyes and shut his mouth with an audible knock as his teeth almost painfully clenched together. His hands curved into fits, and his fingernails dug into the soft flesh of his palm, leaving small, moon-shaped bays when he finally released them as a new wave of emotions washed through him.

The boy's almost inaudible plea stabbed his eardrums. "Is Kakashi-sensei away on a mission outside the village?" The emotions kicked them hard on the head, the fading hope suddenly replaced by sorrow when he received no answer.

"I see," the boy finally pushed out through his clenched teeth. The sudden flinch of despair immediately reverted back to raising anger, bubbling inside their veins, melting their own coherent thoughts as the fury overwhelmed their every sense.

The visitors locked their eyes on the enormous and epic battle in front of their feet. Minato watched in disbelief and in silent awe as the teenager attacked with a Rasengan. And not just one or normal ones. Giant ones the size of a house. Then, he heard it. The skirt of the razor sharp wind chakra mixed perfectly into the Rasengan. His unfinished technique used and perfected by a teenage boy. A small amount of irritation rose inside his chest when the realization hit him hard. 'He tricked me. He just pranked me when I taught him the Rasengan…' His azure eyes wandered again toward the Hokage monument until he finally turned to the center again where the young boy was captured by the last person in the black coat with red clouds, pinning him down to the ground.

"Peace? Justice?" the blond repeated with a hushed tone in disbelief, but his face suddenly hardened, throwing his sanity to the edge. "My shishō! My sensei! My friends! My Village! How can you say that when you've destroyed them all!?" He screamed out with all his building fury in the hope that even if he couldn't hurt the person in front of him, maybe his words would do it for him.

Then, the rage suddenly stopped and switched with misery as the man started talking and Jiraiya uncontrollably took more and more steps until he was an inch from the pierced man, his eyes glued on the features. "Ya—Yahiko. It's Yahiko. But—but he died. They all died."

The once rushing adrenalin in Naruto's pounding heart and veins faded the throbbing pain into a dull buzz, slowly disappearing from his system. The man impassively observed the teen before his demanding voice stabbed through the thick silence. "How would you face this hatred in order to build peace? Let me have your answer!"

A new memory evolved in their minds, a memory inside the memory. Jiraiya sitting on the stairs of a wooden house talking about peace, about the spreading hatred, leaving his legacy to a thirteen-year-old boy.

"I don't know…" the boy mumbled faintly.

A Hyuuga girl hurled into the fight and fell soon by Yahiko's hands. Their mind blacked out for a long moment until an enormous rush of sheer, animalistic rage shook them back to the memory. However, their vision was blurred by the red fog. A hushed, dulled voice echoed back and forth between them.

"Do you hate me now?"

And this triggered something. Jiraiya's mind was suddenly filled with emotions which weren't his.

These was the boy's emotions. They were no longer witnessing the memories, they were living them. Struggling between animalistic rage, pain, confusion, pleading for an answer, begging for help, then finally… inhuman despair. The feeling of the deepest grief he had ever felt.

The scene changed again. They were now inside a familiar sewer, the mindscape of the boy who was kneeling on top of the water, curled up into a tight ball in the middle, clenching his head. The hopelessness increased to an unbearable level while deep, alien murmurs filled the air around them, tempting them with the offer of redemption. Freeing him from his burden, his struggle, his grief.

The emotions were so overwhelming and forceful that Minato had to restrain himself from stepping closer to the bars by sinking his nails into his palms. His mind screamed and begged to give up, to let it go, to offer up his soul and body, anything to stop the unbearable pain. Inoichi took a shaky step toward the bars, his will overpowered by the temptation and the boys emotions, and he would have gone further if Jiraiya hadn't taken a hold of his arm.

However, there was no one who could help the boy. Gradually, he gave up. The water around him blackened when a seal pattern on his exposed stomach melted away. He emotionlessly limped toward the giant bars of a cage, but it was only the hollow shell of the once cheerful boy. His hand slowly rose toward an enormous paper marked with one single Kanji: 'Seal'.

A shiver crawled up Minato's spine as one word echoed inside his mind: 'Jinchuuriki'.

The Hokage furiously oscillated on the thin verge of acceptance and the redeeming denial. His balance was unsteady, and an invisible power tugged him further toward the rejection. And he let it. Because if he would accept what the boy had said, he would also accept what he had done to his son: shoving his own blood into misery, into a lifetime of pain and grief. Giving his own flesh a burden no one should carry.

A conversation forced itself into his weary brain together with the sudden shame and regret about something he hadn't even done. Not yet, anyway.

"I understand your point, and it is the same for me. Using a child to create a jinchuuriki is shocking for me also. I would never do that willingly."

"You will do it without a second thought."

"I won't."

"Maybe you will face something that doesn't leave you any other choice. If that time comes, you will do it without hesitation. You are the same as the Kazekage in more ways than one. If it's about Konoha, you will throw away your life with a smile on your face."

"I will cross that bridge if I reach it. But with my current knowledge, I wouldn't do that."

"If a time like that comes…you won't have to make that choice. You'll have a family to look after…I won't let you die."

Suddenly, a man appeared and grabbed the hand which was about to tear away the last restraint of the bijuu. Minato stared in total disbelief at his own reflection, his own mirror image, not even a year older than his current self. Even the pouch on his leg seemed brand new, the pouch with the small embroidery Kushina gave him after their wedding, and he had shown no one. It laid inside his cupboard, tucked into the red paper which still smelled like vanilla. Like Kushina.

"The seal is set so that if the eight tails are released, I'll appear within your consciousness. I didn't want that to happen. I never wanted to see you again, Kyuubi." Minato's chest tightened dangerously, his mind frozen by the last word. He wanted to shout at his own mirror image to shut up, to stop, to not say anything more! However, it continued, his voice kind and excited. "But… I looked forward to seeing how my son had grown. Naruto."

The suffocating despair and anger suddenly disappeared, and confusion replaced the previous emotions as the teen raised his eyes to finally meet with his saviour's. He stared at the man, his mouth opening and closing until he was finally able to press out the word he was looking for. "You—you are the Yondaime... Why does the Yondaime know my name?"

"Well, I mean, I gave you your name. You're my son after all."


"Like I said, you're my son. I guess Sandaime never told you." Minato watched his own self, heard his own voice, and saw his own gestures with wide eyes. He could even smell his own scent before the scene changed again. The sewer with the furious bijuu behind the bars disappeared, and they stood in the middle of a yellowish void.

His mirror image's eyes gradually saddened as he silently watched the boy in front of him like he also couldn't believe to his eyes. His lips were unsteadily parting and closing, desperately trying to find the right words, his whole composure screaming about excitement. Finally he braced himself and murmured into the void. "Forgive me, Naruto." Minato flinched at his own pleading voice, but his eyes flung toward the boy as a new emotion flared. Anger.

"Dad…" the boy murmured with a low tone, but it still held a strange, warning edge. And in deed. In the next blink, they all know why. The Hokage winced as the young boy sent a hard punch to his mirror image's stomach, forcing out every last bit of air from his lungs. "Why did you seal the damn Kyuubi in your own son?! Do you know how tough it's been living with that!?" The mixture of reversed emotions raced inside his head: anger, betrayal, even hatred. Then, suddenly forgiveness and happiness, then disbelief, denial… and in the end, overwhelming joy. Finally, the boy broke down in front of them from the enormous pressure and the rollercoaster of emotions.

His mirror image first did nothing to comfort the boy. He stood there lost in his own perplexity, lost what to do to sooth his broken son, until he finally found his voice. "Naruto, how old are you now?"

"Sixteen." The teen sobbed into his sleeve while he tried to get rid of the evidence of his break down.

"I've caused you a lot of pain, Naruto. I'm sorry. I've caused you nothing but grief. Some father I am. All I can do is apologize." Minato stared at his mirror image's face as the emotions fell. The care. The shame. Pride and love.

"It's okay. I can deal. I am the Yondaime's son after all."

Minato finally tore his gaze from the scene and unsteadily glanced to the side to face with his two companions watching him, Inoichi with wide and shocked eyes while Jiraiya watched his every action, every twitch of his muscles, with a sad smile.

The scene switched again, the rollercoaster of emotions finally dying down, and only sheer determination flooded their minds. The blond man was facing with another redhead's surreal form.

"There's no such thing as real peace! Don't tell me this! Just let me capture you Kyuubi!"

"Then, I'll break this curse. If there's such thing as peace, I'll find it. I won't give up!"

"You—that is sensei's…"

Jiraiya took a step forward, his eyes widening in shock. "Na—Nagato. Konan."

The three visitors were hanging on the conversation between the two men for long minutes. It was with awe in the case of Jiraiya and confusion and curiosity with Inoichi. With Minato? It was nothing. He got rid of his emotions, tossing them into a box and burying them in a deep pit of his mind.

The redhead finally made his decision. "I will believe in you, Uzumaki Naruto. There is still time to save those I killed when I came to Konoha. It's the least I can do."

The scene changed again. The people of Konoha cheered and yelled around the blond boy, tapping him, embarrassing him and tossing him into the air. Familiar faces could be seen everywhere. Minato's eyes slipped through Jiraiya's wide and obviously proud grin to spot the older version of Inoichi in the back rows standing together with Nara Shikaku, and to his biggest surprise, Kakashi hopped down next to him, his mostly calm and uninterested visible eye burning with sheer pride. Minato almost missed the soft murmur behind the mask. "I hope, sensei, you are watching him from up there."

Minato desperately shook his head. A part of his mind screamed for acceptance. But that would mean he had failed. He failed to protect Kushina. He failed to protect Naruto. A tiny, selfish part of his mind gave a final push, and he fell over the line he had previously been balancing.

He sank into the deepest abyss of the redeeming denial. And for the first time in his life, Minato had to admit with a sour smile that he was a coward. The fearless Yondaime Hokage averted his eyes from the scene to observe a small green leaf at his feet.

The scene finally disappeared, and the four men found themselves again inside the giant hall with the enormous quantity of scrolls. Minato didn't avert his gaze from the floor despite the fact that the leaf had already disappeared. Nor did Naruto look up at his father. Their eyes were locked on their own feet, not daring to raise their heads and met each other's eyes.

The boy's weak voice stabbed the silence. "The future from this point… I don't think you want to see that." Naruto finally looked up but still didn't meet with anyone's eyes, nor did he speak. It was Inoichi who broke the silence with his cracking and weary voice.

"Who—who was the blond girl?"

Naruto glanced toward Inoichi with a sad smile on his face. The hall disappeared, and they found themselves on the streets of Konoha. A younger version of the blond boy, maybe in his fifteens, walked side by side with the pink haired kunoichi from that memory while they reached their destination and stepped inside the familiar flower shop.

The blond girl behind the counter flung her head toward them with a wide smile, her long ponytail gracefully following her head's movement. "Hey! Naruto-baka! Forehead girl!"

A furious snort left the pink haired kunoichi before she stamped toward the still grinning girl. Only Naruto's arms around her waist restrained the pinkette from punching the girl behind the counter.

"Ino! What's with you? Do you want to kill yourself?" Inoichi's throat squeezed even as he had already known the answer to his question. His eyes were locked on the features of the girl: her brilliant blue eyes, her platinum hair. She had the same wide and cheeky smile as her mother.

He was so blind. He was so utterly blind.

"Hey, dead-last. I don't need your advice!" The blond teen froze, his eyes narrowed and he simply let go of the struggling pink haired kunoichi to answer to the offense. A small fight started immediately between the two girls, and after one more poke, the blond boy also started to shout. A new voice echoed inside the small shop, freezing them in their motion. It was maybe older and raspier, but it definitely belonged to the almost mirror image of Yamanaka Inoichi, who just stepped inside the small shop.

"Yamanaka Ino! What the hell is going on here?"

The blond girl flung her head to the side to meet with her father's stern and piercing gaze. "We were just talking."

The shinobi let out a weary sigh and rubbed his temples. "Ino. Behave! You are sometimes just like your mother."

"But, Dad!" Inoichi winced, but his expression slowly softened to a proud, fatherly smile. She will be strong; she will surpass him and all the previous generations.

"No buts, young lady!"

The image slowly faded away once again, revealing the blond teen who hadn't moved from his spot.

Jiraiya cleared his throat to gain Naruto's attention. "Can we see Kurama?"

The teen obediently turned his head to glance up to his godfather. His eyes slightly widened, and his tensed muscles relaxed when he noted the soft smile on his face.

An equally small smile appeared on Naruto's face as he beckoned them to follow. He lead the small team to the end of the hall. Minato followed them like a robot, his azure eyes wandering toward a small drawer in the end, unconsciously reading the titles of the scrolls. Techniques he'd never seen, techniques Toroku had never used. Techniques all developed from the Rasengan. A small amount of pride started to rise inside his chest, but he immediately pushed it back to where it came from. The Hokage slowly shook his head and continued following the boy automatically without a word until they reached the shore of a large patch with soft green grass, tenderly swinging together with the gracious branches of the osier trees.

Inoichi's mind unconsciously started to observe the look of his original mindscape to further analyze it. Thick bushes of ivy grew on the pipes and the concrete walls which were spotted with fungus at the cracks, and he also could spot some thuja here and there covering the harsh environment, but all of these were shrouded by the giant osier trees and cypresses.

This was the real consciousness of the boy. No. Naruto. Important bonds and friendships that slowly overgrew the evidence of the harsh childhood, the loneliness of it, but it was also shrouded by grief. A frown sat on the interrogator's face.

His eyes travelled down to his feet, where he noted that they weren't standing on grass as he first thought, the meadow was made from white clovers. Promises. The green field was spotted with several flowers here and there, dandelions, the symbols of faithfulness and happiness, crocuses as the sign of the cheerfulness, daisies which meant innocence, purity, faith, cheer, simplicity, but all of those were mostly in front of the background in a straight order and only here and there mixed into the other parts of the mindscape. And that meant they were dissembling. A mask of happiness the boy wore before.

Inoichi narrowed his eyes once again, collecting his confused thoughts.

But the previous and the obviously new mindscape also contains all of those, but not in the same straight lines. They had grown in a natural and chaotic way. Those weren't a mask. The boy was really happy here. He was really the easy going and always smiling cheerful blond boy.

The teen cleared his throat, kicking Inoichi from his thoughts and stepped aside to fold his arms in front of his chest, obviously waiting for something to happen.

Soft ruffling could be heard behind the giant trees, and the three men couldn't help the unconscious step they made backward when the enormous fox rose from behind the giant trees. Minato narrowed his eyes, looking for the oversized cage and the bars. A wide, cunning grin spread across the fox's face as he slowly and viciously stepped forward. Inoichi uncontrollably started to shake with fear.

Kurama took one more step and leaned his enormous head toward the small group, resting the giant, razor sharp canines only meters from them.

The veteran interrogator flinched one more step backward from the giant canine, fighting with his every nerve against his instinct to flee from the mindscape which would cause everyone else to be forced out from the kid's mind also. Their projected bodies suddenly blurred for a second as Inoichi almost lost his grip on the connection, but with willpower above a normal human, he braced himself, and their figures become normal again.

A smirk appeared on the fox's face, raising the tension to an unbearable level. The muscles in the visitors' bodies tensed until the breaking point, their bodies ready to attack or flee. Most likely flee. The strain reached a level where Naruto thought he could simply reach out and touch it.

The enormous red eyes moved toward the Hokage, locking with his blue pools for a long and heavy moment before the fox smirked. "Long time no see, Namikaze Minato. At least personally."

Jiraiya slowly opened his mouth while his eyes desperately ran through the environment, looking for an escape if it became necessary, forgetting that this wasn't real. One thing caught his attention, forcing him to make an unconscious step backward. "Where—where is the seal?"

A chuckle bubbled out from the fox while he raised his giant paw and slowly straightened himself. A wet tongue ran through a razor sharp claw threateningly which was soon placed in front of the small group slowly and menacingly, almost touching Jiraiya and passing only a centimeter from Minato's leg, ruffling the textile of his coat.

"There is no more a seal. It's only me…and you." A wide and satisfied smirk appeared on his face, when Inoichi took a sudden step backward and hit the ground, his mouth falling open and his eyes widening by the horror, his body uncontrollably shaking while the rest of the visitors except Minato immediately tensed. He was staring up to the fox with an emotionless face. "It was me all this time. I took over his body a long time ago, you mortal fools!" It broke off into harsh, mocking barks of laughter.

"Kurama! Stop fooling around!" The blond teen's voice was harsh and came back with an echo. However, it held the tone of a father scolding his son after he misbehaved.

"What? It was fun. You have to admit."

"I already told you, you got no sense of humor. Geez, grow up!" An irritated snort left his giant mouth. Annoyed red orbs flung toward the blond teen, who rolled his eyes in response.

"Like you got any right to speak, brat!"

"Don't call me brat." Naruto paused, then suddenly barked out in frustration, "Flea bag."

Enormous red orbs flashed with anger. Kurama narrowed his eyes while he leaned close to the teen, his shining black nose only centimeters from his face. "Ramen freak," he spat out, his breath grabbing the boys form and shaking it.

Naruto's eyes dangerously narrowed by the insult. Then, a grin appeared on his face which sent a shiver down Jiraiya's spine. It wasn't a happy grin. It was a dangerous grin, absolutely out of place on the face of the blond boy. "Repeat it, if you dare."

"Ra-men freak. Plus, you are an immature shrimp."



Naruto slitted his eyes and sucked in a long breath before he let out his gathering frustration. "You are a Megalomaniac, Egotistical Furball with fleas who can lick his own butt!"

A furious snort left the fox's mouth, the wind of his breath dangerously grabbing Naruto's clothes and hair, but he stood still, glaring daggers to those enormous crimson orbs. "You insolent brat! I am the great Kyuubi no Kitsune! Without me, you would be long dead! Without me, you would be only a useless, hairless monkey! You weren't even able to sense Jiraiya back then in the bar!"

Naruto suddenly froze. "You! You knew Jiraiya was there!? You purposefully spoke to me like that!?"

"Of course I did it on purpose! Why the hell would I speak with you by a clone if I can do it in your mindscape!? But you need help! You played this game alone far too long! Don't bear everything alone or you will lose yourself!"

Naruto tilted his head to the side, eyeing his furry companion for a long silent minute, his eyes dangerously slitted, but after the silent fight, he let out a long and weary sigh and nodded. "I'm sorry…" Naruto murmured softly.

Kurama straightened himself, and a wide grin appeared on his face from the small victory, sending shivers down everyone else's backs besides Naruto, who moved next to the giant paw and tapped his fur, eying the shocked group in front of his eyes.

Everything looked so other-worldly. Their argument, their small bickering with Kurama. But at least it eased away some of his tension, and he was grateful for it.

"We teamed up and became partners. I am no longer his prisoner, and there is no longer any need for the seal. The brat over here earned my full respect, even if he is an idiotic, loud-mouthed monkey who screws up everything."

"Hey! I'm right here! I can hear you!"

Kurama simply ignored his presence, his eyes still glued on the leader of the village. "Do you still think Naruto lied to you, Namikaze Minato? You know very well who my previous vessel was. Or who is now... it depends how we think about our situation. Or should I inform also Inoichi? But I think he already figured it out."

Minato narrowed his eyes dangerously, his hands squeezing into fists. "I don't believe you."

Kurama opened his mouth to argue but suddenly stiffened and shut it when a new presence strolled into the scene. It stopped at Naruto's side and leaned closer. "See? I told you he wouldn't believe. You won't be able to convince him." Naruto's hands curved up into fists, his lips pressing into a thin line. The entity nodded in satisfaction and passed his counterpart. But his previous expression melted into a deep, troubled frown on his face as soon he turned his back and walked toward the nearest tree, sinking down with a worried sigh.

Kurama's attention flickered back to the group, his eyes narrowing as his gaze inadvertently landed on Inoichi's frowning and uneasy face. The mind reader's eyes were glued on the same spot Naruto's counterpart had chosen to sit. No. Not exactly on him, but close. The Yamanaka could feel the other's flickering presence.

"You aren't the Kyuubi. All of this is just part of your illusion," Minato stated with a cold edge.

Red eyes flickered back to Minato while nine enormous tails slowly started to swing behind his form like they were living a life separate from the fox's body. The fox finally disregarded the still frowning blond copy and let a small trail of glowing red, demonic chakra seep in Minato's direction. The glowing energy wrapped around his ankle only for a second, just long enough to make direct contact so that the Fourth would feel it, before it retreated.

"Oh, so you are denying it? It's hard to accept the truth, isn't it? Which part is harder to accept? That Naruto here is your son from the future; or that you made a jinchuuriki from your own son? He didn't show you everything. He wanted to spare you from a part of his memories, but I'm not that soft. He lived the first twelve years of his life alone, feared, hated, ignored and shunned by your beloved Konoha." Guilt darkened Minato's azure eyes several shades, dimming the sparkle in it for a moment.

"Kurama... Stop it… Please." But Kurama ignored Naruto's plea. Minato had to know. He had to know what was waiting for him, what he had done. No more lies. No more secrecy. Just the naked truth. He mercilessly continued for his sake.

"Namikaze Minato. I was finally free, and then, you came and ruined everything. I hated you for long long years because of what you had done to me while that brat over here suffered from your decision, by the burden you had put on his shoulders. But he was strong, and he never gave up. The village's pariah became a hero, even your successor." Kurama paused, letting the words sink in. "But you made the right choice. The world you live in will soon fade away, and Naruto is able to stop its destruction. He is the one who can bring peace to your world. He is the destined child of prophecy."

Kurama turned his head toward Naruto, who suddenly found something very interesting on the green grass, his face burning a bright red tone in his embarrassment. Kurama had never praised him. Never ever. And he continued. "Naruto has a power that is greater than yours or even my own. He's got the power to change people around him for the better. He managed to turn his enemies into allies; he managed back then to unite the shinobi nations; and he managed to turn an ancient, old, furious fox demon blinded by hatred into something else. He earned my full respect and my friendship."

Naruto's head unconsciously traveled toward a lonely osier tree where his mirror image sat, his arms folded in front of his chest, and his face was the perfect picture of worry. His eyes were defiantly locked on Naruto, not releasing him even for a second to blink. The lines on his forehead were deep from his scowl.

Kurama narrowed his eyes, as he traced back Naruto's slightly turned head. His eyes widened, and he licked his suddenly dry lips. Gears turned, and he almost faltered, ruining his previous perfect performance. But the fox grabbed himself in the last second.

"You've known about him the whole time, haven't you, Naruto?"

Naruto's shoulders stiffened under Kurama's searching gaze. But they relaxed as he slowly nodded and released his sight from the tree to concentrate on his father's still figure, not daring to look up at his never missing companion.

"I do. It's...It's not a big deal. You were overreacting. He is as much a part of me as you."

The ancient, old bijuu held his gaze on the golden crown before he shook his head. His lips turned upward into a small smile before he also glanced back at the still indifferent Minato. The fox eyed the defiant leader for a long minute, but his eyes softened and drifted back to his jailor.

"Even after almost eighteen years, he still amazes me. He can still teach me new things about humanity. He surpassed you a long time ago, Minato. You can be proud of your son. Because... I am proud of him. Naruto… Tell them everything." With this last simple statement, Kurama simply turned around and walked back behind the trees.

Jiraiya's eyes widened with disbelief when realization hit him. "The memory. Konoha was gone, and you said that the future became darker? What—what did you mean?"

Naruto finally moved his eyes to meet with Jiraiya's, hesitantly observing his clenched jaw while he was musing how the hell he would say it. In the end, he didn't beat around the bush. "War, sensei. The Fourth Great Shinobi War. The world will face someone… something which will bring disaster to the ninja world. Madara's plan was to collect all the bijuu and become the juubi's jinchuuriki. He made the first step. He unleashed the ten tailed beast on the shinobi world, but he failed to became its jailor." He slowly shook his head.

"Even the Allied Shinobi Forces won't stand a chance against him. Eighty thousand ninja will fall, together with countless civilians. Even the joint power of the five Kage won't stand a chance against that…thing. Tsunade-obaachan was the third who fell. Bee-ojisan saved my life by sacrificing his own. My comrades…" Naruto stayed in silence for long, hesitant seconds, tossing his emotions to the side.

"Then, Tsuchikage 'Jiji', the Mizukage, the Raikage and Gaara will fall together with Suna…" The boy, let out a shaky sigh, and his hand ran through his golden locks. Sorrow fogged his eyes, darkening his azure blue orbs into a royal blue shade, and somehow the eighteen-year-old boy seemed to be older by at least a decade.

"Everything will start with my birth and with dad's and mom's death. Everything."

And that was it for Minato. Until now, he had been able to grasp his composure. He desperately tried to hang onto the last piece of the dam that was holding his storming emotions at bay. Maelstrom. His boy really deserved his name. Because he stormed into his perfect little life, making it happier than ever only to crush it into millions of tiny pieces together with his will that previously had steadily held him together.

It shattered to shards by that one sentence. He said it. Kushina… Kushina was going to die. His own life? It would be damned. But Kushina's. Their child's life… The large hall suddenly shrunk around him.

Jiraiya flung his head to the side when he heard a painful, choking gasp from his former student's direction. His eyes were wild, the always intelligent pools foggy and feral.

This was what he was afraid off. Minato lost it. He finally let go of his denial, but in doing so he entered more dangerous lands

The world around them suddenly tilted when Minato lost his grasp on his chakra control. His essence flared from moment to moment like a baecon, desperately trying to break the connection between him and Inoichi.

One harsh wave finally shattered the already wobbling technique.

A heavy breath rushed out from Naruto's sore mouth. His eyes immediately flung open to search for his father's. He found him several steps away.

Naruto parted his lips to speak, to push out any coherent words, but he failed when he recognized the sheer panic in the identical blue pools. When he finally found his voice, it rasped through the room. "Dad." The Hokage desperately shook his head and took a step backward, his back almost hitting the wall. "Minato," Naruto corrected himself.

In that moment, a loud knock could be heard behind the door, and an ANBU stepped into the small room, with a thin paper file in his hand. "The test results, Hokage-sama."

Minato didn't move, but Jiraiya immediately saved his student from the situation. He raised his hand and took the file from the puzzled ANBU's hands. He left after a slight bow and one last, unsteady glance at his leader.

The sannin immediately flipped the brown cover open, chewing on his lower lip while he ran his eyes over the lonely paper. His tongue unconsciously wetting his dry lips before he parted them. But no words came out at his first attempt. Nor his second. Finally, he was able to push out the results on his third try. "It—it's matching, Minato. They are first generation relatives. Mother and son."

The Hokage shook his head violently once more and took another step back, his back hitting the wall with a loud thud. Minato's eyes darted to Jiraiya and back to met Naruto's, and it almost made him try to sink into the hard wall. But his body was not ethereal. He couldn't slip through it. He had nowhere to run from the piercing blue eyes, shining with hope and a hint of despair which hadn't left, not even for a second.

"Say something, please." No answer came. "Say something, God damn it!"

Namikaze Minato, the Yellow Flash and the Yondaime Hokage of Konohagakure no Sato, did the first thing that had come into mind. An act that he had never ever done until this point in his life.

He fled from the room with a brilliant golden flash.

No word was spoken for an eternity after Minato's disappearance. Inoichi slowly sank down to the ground and hid his face in his trembling hands.

Naruto continued to unblinkingly stare at the spot where his father had disappeared. He wasn't aware of what was happening around him until his muscles suddenly started tingling with numbness like there were thousands of ants marching inside his veins. He blinked back to reality. Jiraiya's hand was still on his chest above the disappearing paralysis seal. The toad sage made an apologetic smile as he crouched down to unbind Naruto's still secured arms and legs. Jiraiya restrained a wince when he was finally able to get rid of the ninja wire around his wrist, his eyes locking on his scarred skin. He blinked when he felt a surge of foreign chakra, and the bruise was almost immediately gone. Only the remaining pink shade indicated the previous injury on his skin.

The blond's hands curled up around the arm of the chair, his knuckles turning white. The Sannin slowly shook his head and straightened from his crouched position, his hand already on the blond's tensed shoulder, squeezing it reassuringly.

"Give him some time." The time traveler blinked out the last fog from his vision and raised his head to glance up to the softly smiling man. "He will come to terms with it. He just needs time."

The blond slowly nodded.

"Ero-Sennin…" Jiraiya made a sour grimace, but it soon morphed into a smile when Naruto continued. "...I missed you."

The toad sage playfully ruffled the golden mass. "You did good, Gaki. I'm proud of you."

Uzumaki Naruto silently sat on the head of his father's face carved into the mountains. His legs were tucked tightly to his chest to offer some warmth and comfort, his chin resting on his folded arms.

He had been sitting there for long hours. He didn't have the courage to go back to the Hokage mansion. He didn't have the courage to face with his father, with the fear and panic that burned inside his father's eyes before he ran away. He wasn't angry at him. At first, he was. Because he would never have thought that his father was a coward. He ran away from the problems. From him! But eventually, he would calm down.

Naruto stiffened, his muscles tensing when a new presence appeared behind his back, but he didn't move from his position. His cerulean eyes stared down at the village, completely unfocused. He didn't move or look elsewhere when he heard the textile's soft ruffle, when he felt the warmth of a body sinking down next to him. The two men sat next to each other without a word for unending minutes in total silence. Both of them waited for the other to start the conversation, but neither knew what to say.

Finally, the older one found his voice to break the awkward stillness. "You—you really painted poop on the Second's face?" Minato was soft and calm, his voice sounding much more curious than worried. But the time traveler was sure that it was due to his will and not because his father was actually calm. He could see the slight shaking of his hands, the tension in his shoulders, the stiffness of his movements.

Naruto nodded. "Yeah, the day before I graduated. Iruka-sensei made me scrub the monument clean with my bare hands. It took me the whole day." The edge of his lips curved up into a satisfied half-smile. "But it was worth it. That was the biggest prank in Konoha's history."

The heavy mood suddenly melted away when a soft chuckle left Minato's mouth, forcing the time traveller to mimic it.

"How on Earth did no one catch you doing it? What about the ANBU and the other shinobi?"

An ironic snort left Naruto's mouth. "ANBU? I've been able to hide from them since I was six. Jiji always glued one or two on me ever since I can remember, so it was a piece of cake." A small chuckle was again his answer from Minato and a knowing headshake. 'Elite of the elites, and they were led by their noses by a small kid once he figured out their standard lurking techniques.'

The mood lightened for a second, but it was gone again. The air became heavy around them again in the disturbing silence. Not even the nature around them made a sound like she also felt the seriousness of the situation between the two men on the stone head. Minato slowly ran a hand through his golden locks and opened his mouth, but he was silenced when Naruto beat him to the chase.

"I'm sorry. I'm really sorry." For the first time since the Hokage appeared, his son finally faced with him. "I wanted to tell you. I wanted to tell you the truth so much. I almost told you everything, but that damn secretary came in and—" Naruto bit on his lower lip.

However, his father knew what he had wanted to say. "But you were afraid we wouldn't believe you, and we would put you into an asylum, weren't you?" Naruto nodded. If that damn secretary hadn't rushed into the office…Who knows what would have happened back then? Maybe that would have been better, if he confessed months ago. "I understand, Tor-Naruto."

The jounin flinched slightly by the name and quickly averted his gaze. He had craved for this moment for months, the moment when his father finally called him by his real name. But it was so surreal now.

"It's… It's me who should apologize instead of you. I can't even begin to tell you how sorry I am for what I did to you."

Naruto immediately shook his head. "You don't have to. That was the right decision. I never bore a grudge against you. I know why you did it, and I'm happy you believed in me, that one day I could handle the power you gave to me. And I have to tell you, Kurama and I are a good duo. Except when he has a bad day. You know, he can act like a harpy or a sulking child sometimes." Naruto shrugged, ruling out Kurama's harsh and furious snort. The time traveler ran a hand through his golden locks and continued. "Growing up as an orphan was hard, but in the end, it just made me stronger. If you hadn't sealed him inside me, I would be long dead. So would a lot of people I really care for. Without his power, I wouldn't have been able to protect them. So I'm glad."

Minato stayed in silence for a long moment, weighing his own thoughts, observing the flicker of light on his son's face. "They were really important to you, weren't they?"

"No." Minato raised a confused eyebrow at his son. "They are still important. They are here even if they don't know about me. They are here again around me. They are alive. I failed last time, but there is no way I'll fail this time. I'll protect all of them."

Minato stayed in silence for a stretch, watching his grown-up son curiously. He let out a sigh and ran his hand through his golden locks once again. "I have so many questions…I don't know where to start." His eyes flared up for a second. "You tricked me with the Rasengan." Minato folded his arms in front of his chest, almost sulking like a kid.

Naruto let out a chuckle and waved his hand apologetically. "Yeah, sorry about that."

The Hokage pushed his broken pride aside, his eyes flared with curiosity. "Who taught it to you?"

"It was Ero-Sennin when I was almost thirteen. After Jiji had died and we went to find Tsunade. We made a bet with obaa-chan. I won, and she gave me her necklace because I learned the technique in a week."

"In a week?" Minato's brow rose until it disappeared under his forehead protector.

A proud smile appeared on Naruto's face, relaxing his expression even more. "Yup. And I developed the Rasenshuriken for the first time by mixing it with wind chakra when I was sixteen. Kakashi-sensei helped me on that one."

"You've never let out everything during your fights, have you?" Minato blurted out his question. His only answer was a wide and cheeky grin from his son. Minato's brows knitted together suspiciously. "How strong are you?"

Naruto shrugged with a foxy grin, his eyes shinning with the familiar mirth. "I could kick your ass anytime."

Minato raised an eyebrow and a doubtful expression appeared on his face. "I doubt it."

Naruto only winked. And it made Minato uneasy in an instant. It wasn't a playful expression. It was confidence. How his son straightened himself. How his composure shifted.

Another frown appeared on Minato's face when his thoughts wandered back to the conversation with the fox. "The fox—"

"His name is Kurama."

"Right. Kurama mentioned something." Minato fidgeted on the hard stone, his gaze travelling between the sleeping village and his son.

"He babbled about a lot of things. You should be a little bit more specific," the jinchuuriki said warily, not sure what his father was referring to.

Minato shifted in his seat one last time before letting out a sigh. "About you being my successor. What did he mean by that?"

It was now Naruto's turn to fidget on the stone, his ears burning crimson red, but in the next second, his nervousness was replaced with pride, his posture straightening unconsciously while his eyes shifted toward the village under their feet, and his mouth turned into a soft smile.


However, his small smile almost immediately faltered as the word left his lips, and his form slumped. Naruto didn't hear any answer, only a sharp breath from his father. So he continued.

"Before Tsunade obaa-chan died, she gave the hat to me. But I declined. I didn't feel strong enough. In a week, Konoha was gone completely, and that time, there was no one who could resurrect the dead. I never wore the title." Enormous silence fell among them, and Naruto didn't dare to glance to the side. He locked his eyes on the village under them to avoid his father's gaze burning his body from the side.

"I see," Minato finally murmured and let out the air he was holding until then.

"No, you don't. And if it's up to me, you never have to understand."

Minato watched his son's sad, but determined gaze. A funny feeling spread across his chest, and it took him awhile to identify the feeling. It was pride. He tucked his knees to rest his head on his folded arms. "Hokage at seventeen…You're awesome you know that?"

Naruto scratched the back of his head nervously, the previously serious mood gone in an instant. "Well, actually I was sixteen-and-a-half ya know? But Gaara was even younger when Suna elected him. He was fifteen. Gaara… he was precious to me. When I first met him at the chuunin exam, he was insane. He thought Shukaku was his mother. He hated everyone, and he loved only himself. He was what I could have became if there wasn't Iruka sensei, or Ayame-chan and old man Teuchi, or Sandaime Jiji. I could have snapped, and I could have become the same murderous beast."

"What happened to him? How could he become Kazekage like that?"

A wide smirk spread across Naruto's face. "I beat some sense into his thick skull." The blond jounin glanced to the side to note his father's confused face. He made a hesitant shrug before he continued. "I don't know what I had told him exactly. But it pushed him into the right direction."

"That is how you knew about the seal, about Shukaku." Naruto only nodded, but it faltered half way.

"Well, technically I did hear Shukaku. So I wasn't lying to you. The bijuu, they can talk to each other if they want to."

Minato nodded in understanding. He was already over the lies. Minato observed the teen—no— his son for a long moment. Then he suddenly made a confused face. "How old are you exactly?"

The younger made a wandering face. "It depends. Do I have to count the time since I'm here?" Minato shrugged, not sure of the answer himself. A quick count later, Naruto answered. "I came here a month before my seventeenth birthday. Then I'll be eighteen on the tenth of October."

"Eighteen…" Minato repeated softly, his gaze still on his son's features. He studied his face for a long, silent minute, his eyes lingering on the small traces of childhood still hovering on his features, but he could already see the sharper jawline and hints of a soon to be fine man. And now, he found Kushina in him. The shape of his eyes. The contour of his jawline. The smile that now shadowed his mouth as Naruto watched him watching him. He was so blind. His son's hesitant voice kicked him out from his thoughts.

"Did you… Did you tell Kushina? Does Mom know about me?"

Minato slowly shook his head, and an embarrassed expression appeared on his face. "No, I—I haven't been home. I was wandering in Konoha. Mostly," the older blond muttered in the end. "Do you want to tell her?"

The time traveler nodded. "I want to, but I don't know how she will handle it. That she's suddenly got a grown-up son. "

Minato made a wondering look, and a cheeky smile appeared on his face. He couldn't help himself as the teasing so naturally slipped from his mouth. "I think she'll be glad that you're out of diapers."

Naruto had frozen, but after a second, he gladly chuckled at the joke and playfully hit his father's shoulder. It was surprisingly easy to slip back to the old customs. For both of them. Like the previous day hadn't shaken the very base of their connection. Like nothing had happened before. But none of them could deny the fact that something had changed. If not a significant thing, but something had definitely affected their relationship. The way they looked at each other. How they reached for each other's company. Both of them finally realized that everything could change and could be gone in a blink if they let it. Their relationship became closer and stronger than ever, even without words. It was a silent understanding.

Minato wordlessly watched his unnaturally silent son with a small, caring smile on his face. "She'll manage. It'll be hard at first. It was hard for me too. But I could handle it, and she'll also handle it. She is stronger than me in some cases."

"I know," Naruto softly agreed and unconsciously fidgeted closer to his father. The Hokage indeed realized the small motion, but didn't move, nor disturbed the shooting warmth next to him. He let it wrap around their bodies, stilling their thoughts.

They watched together as more and more lights disappeared from the windows as the citizens retreated back to their homes and beds. The night was still warm despite the fact that the end of the year was closer than the middle of it.

Minato finally straightened from his seat and raised his inviting hand toward the younger.

"Come on. It's almost dawn. Kushina must be furious wondering where we are."

Naruto hesitantly eyed the offered hand, but with time, he gratefully grabbed it. Both were gone with a flicker of their golden locks to discover a new aspect of their relationship.

Kurama was silent during the last hour or so. His attention was glued inward on the troubled form under the tree. The copy uneasily chewed his lip, and Kurama could see the flicker of fear in the black and red eyes as his form wobbled from time to time. His silhouette became unsteady, and the fox could see the rough surface of the tree through him.

The bijuu eyed the defiant mirror image for long minutes. He could see the same stubbornness and the same determination he would in Naruto, grasping into his last resort to stretch his remaining existence as long as he could.

But Kurama also caught a glimpse of the hurt. Loneliness...like his existence was needless. Like he was unwanted. His teeth were clenched and a muscle flickered in his jaw. The entity finally raised his head, his eyes accusingly pinning Kurama in place, freezing the breath in his lungs he was about to let out.

"You can be happy. You won't see me for some time. But you can't get rid of me. You will never be able to stop me! I will live!" He spat venomously, his eyes hardening with determination again.

Kurama held his gaze and finally released the breath he was holding. "I know. I finally understand." Black eyes widened with disbelief, his shoulders tensing as Kurama continued in the same, calm and shooting voice. "Naruto was wiser than me. He was well aware of your presence, but he wasn't afraid of you like me. I finally understand that you'll always be here because you are needed."

"What?" he whispered with confusion and disbelief.

"You are not an obstacle like I first thought. Things will always happen, good or bad, that will strengthen or weaken Naruto. But that's what makes him human. This is what forms his personality. He'll always have a good side, but he will always have a little devil on his shoulder whispering in his ears. The key is balance. Without you, he wouldn't be the one he is now. I owe you a thank you for it."

The entity opened his mouth, then closed it, the edge of his midnight black eyes becoming grey. The until then restrained whiteness returned and slowly overwhelmed the grey area. In a minute, the red irises turned into piercing blue. "Kurama…"

"What, brat?"

"Thanks," he murmured softly.

A small, invisible smile tugged the copy's lips upward, and that was the only recognizable expression before his form shattered into millions of fragments. They floated in the soft wind like millions of petals until the breeze carried away the last one together with his last words.

Another presence faded back to reality with a satisfied, soft smile on his face. Uzumaki Naruto silently retreated from his mindscape like he was never even there.

Author's Note:

One important thing: I'm living in Europe, so when I put up a deadline, that means in Central European Time. ;) This means I still got eleven hours till the 15th of March ends. ;) :P So I'm no liar. :P

Sorry, for the tons of flashback, but I didn't know which to skip. I love all of them. I've tried to stick with only the most important ones or else this chapter was nothing more than a big flashback from canon.

So yeah. Hope you're happy. :) Angst is over, so cheer up. ;)

And one more thing:

Stop SOPA. SOPA stands for Stop Online Piracy Acts. In this case, all fanart will be deleted, all fan-pages, fanfics, fan made videos, etc. Please help stop SOPA

:/ petitions. whitehouse. gov/petition/stop-sopa-2014/q0Vkk0Zr

Story recommendations:

Not Sick by Ser Serendipity

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Guardian by Minatochan2

The war takes a turn for the worst when Naruto is forced to protect a group of rebels hail bent on destroying Konoha. Suspicious and strict, everything is more convenient when the leader happens to be an alternate version your father. What could have been had Minato not become the Fourth Hokage but someone very different... A.U-travel.