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: 14th of April 2014
Chance for a Prophecy
Chapter 30. – Late bloomers
A battle of wills took place inside the Hokage's office, two fighters the only ones present. The defiant individuals had been trying to force submission on the other. They were completely uncompromising, which only made their situation worse.
Naruto stubbornly refused to let go, staring into Jiraiya's narrowed eyes, his azure pools hardened with obstinacy and another emotion the sage couldn't define. The soundless fight ended with the older's defeat, throwing his arms high into the air with a frustrated snort. "Why the hell are you protecting that guy?"
Naruto raised an eyebrow, repeating the verb with a hushed tone. "Protecting?" His face twisted into a scandalized grimace like the whole idea was turning his stomach upside down. "I'm not protecting him!"
"Yes, you are!" Jiraiya snapped, clenching his hands into fists, but he received no real answer, only narrowed eyes with a hard edge. The sage let out a sigh in the hope that it would ease away some of his frustration. Well, it didn't. So he tried another tactic. "Look, Naruto. We have to know every single detail about that night, and that includes his identity. You know who he is. Just tell me, and I promise I won't tell anyone else. "
"And what if I don't want you to know?" Naruto's voice was cold, but his pleading eyes told a different tale in Jiraiya's head.
Don't ask because I don't want to hurt you.
The sage shook off the echoing voice in his mind and sunk deep into the sofa beside the wall, burying his face into one of his his hands.
"I know you're trying to keep us safe, but it'll do no good. I don't care if a ghost or even Kakashi is lurking behind that mask, but we have to know. Your family's life is on the line, and you still don't understand the seriousness of this. It's as if you don't want to change it." Jiraiya glanced between his fingers at the tensed teen, his eyes widening for a fraction and visible dread rushing over his face.
"You—you don't want to save them," the sage breathed in horror, not really sure of the emotion that had flashed through Naruto's face a second ago.
"You think I'm just going to stand to the side after all of this shit and watch as he does it again?" Naruto whispered with total disbelief. Fury rose in his gut, nearly obliterating his rational mind before it miraculously settled down. With a snort, he released the tension, and he folded his arms in front of his chest, turning away from his godfather with an unreadable expression. "Don't try to manipulate my emotions for another slip, you pervert! It worked once, but it won't work again!"
Before the situation could escalate into another battle, this time with real weapons, another person flashed into the office and raised an eyebrow at the scene. His son was silently sulking, and his sensei looked disappointed beyond words.
Minato shook his head with an exasperated sigh. "Do I even want to know?"
Naruto let out another snort and squeezed his arms around himself. Minato shook his head once more, this time his voice serious without the previous cheeky tone. "Come, Naruto. She's waiting for us."
The blond boy slowly turned, and the previous strain was gone. Actually, he looked ready to faint like all of his bones had suddenly vanished. One tiny poke would be enough to make the suddenly pale boy drop to the ground.
With a gulp, Naruto nodded. He'll do it. Definitely. For sure... Somehow...
Uzumaki Kushina silently sat on the long couch with a very troubled Minato by her side, and a fidgeting younger blond in the armchair opposite her. Jiraiya silently occupied an empty corner, his eyes closed, disregarding everything around him. He was… sulking. Yeah. Kushina made an imaginary nod.
Her arms unconsciously traveled toward her round tummy to cup it up and down. She raised her eyebrow in suspicion, her gaze flickering between the two blonds until it settled down on the younger one.
"And once more, oh, why the hell should I go to meditate?"
Naruto glanced up at his father who gave him a reassuring nod. Bracing himself, his eyes hardened with a new light before exhaling. "Just trust in me, please."
Kushina didn't respond; only her brows furrowed, and her eyes narrowed slightly. A second later, she let out a defeated sigh and closed her eyes to drift away from reality as Naruto had told her. Unnoticed by her, the blond boy did the same.
The outside noises slowly faded, then disappeared entirely to be replaced by a disturbing tinkling. Chains. Even if she didn't have to, she still raised her head high and slowly opened her eyes to glance up at her captive and his restraints to verify it. The beast was still there, chained up and still glaring daggers at her. She narrowed her eyes when she noticed something odd. The fox was glaring behind her and not at her. The redhead followed her instincts and immediately swung around, raising her fist as soon she sensed someone else behind her.
But her attack couldn't reach its target. An iron grip stopped the motion midair. However, she also restrained its power as soon she identified the man in front of her. Kushina immediately relaxed, and the grip disappeared from her wrist. Her eyes intensely searched the other's. The intruder's piercing blue eyes were glued on the frowning Kyuubi behind her.
"Why did you want to speak with me here so much?" Kushina demanded impatiently as she took a step forward. Uncertain eyes drifted toward her, silently observing the soft features until she become weary. Naruto glanced up one last time at the fox and took a step to the side, his eyes staring unfocused at the yellowish void.
Kushina's brows moved into one coherent line. "What was that?"
Electric blue pools drifted back upwards to the fox. "You wanted to know which bijuu I had been hosting. His name is Kurama," he answered softly, his gaze still holding the fox's behind Kushina.
"So the time has come to reveal your true identity?" The Kyuubi's voice boomed over the place, his enormous crimson pools scanning Naruto's face with a puzzled glint. It actually looked somewhat amused. "Truth has a cost, little human."
A small, sincere smile formed on his lips. "Secrets have their own. Even greater."
The giant bijuu didn't answer, but he let his eyes drift on an empty spot behind the blond.
Kushina suddenly stilled, unaware of the fox's reaction. Her eyes widened, and her heart rate increasing as the air shimmered and shifted behind the blond. Orange fur took shape; giant paws and sharp fangs evolved until the whole tremendous form appeared gradually from the bits. With time, Kushina faced an identical version of her own captive.
There were only three differences. One: the new one was significantly smaller. But that didn't mean that it couldn't have eradicated complete districts with a swing of its tail if it wanted to.
Second, which was the most frightening aspect of the three yet still not the most disturbing, was that the fox was completely free. There were no chains, no stakes, nothing to hinder it from a bloody rampage. The enormous specimen was only steps from her, free from any restrains. She could hear its slow and calm breathing, the soft ruffling of its fur as it shifted with each inhale and exhale. And she could also hear its drumming heart. The beat was steady, calm. Maybe a little bit faster thanks to its excitement.
But the most disturbing thing, however, was the look in its eyes. The warm, nostalgic glint in the crimson orbs as they were scrutinizing her while she still couldn't even move a finger.
"Uzumaki Kushina," it suddenly boomed and opened its mouth to say more, but it didn't get an opportunity.
Her blond companion let out a sigh and shook his head slowly. "Nice and dramatic performance, Kurama. I almost got chills."
Kushina's eyes went even wider when he finally turned and took a step toward the smaller fox, which also shifted his weight. From Kushina's point of view, it definitely looked threatening. The way the fox slightly turned, slowly raising its paw with the acute claws to ready them to dash out and cut him into half.
Without thinking, golden chakra chains shot out from her, efficiently restraining the until now unfettered bijuu. The metallic links were twisting around his suddenly still form, his neck and limbs, one at his chest, dragging the enormous body to the ground until it smashed into the ground with a loud boom.
Naruto however had been stoically observing the scene and his only visible reaction was a raised amused eyebrow. But his composure soon faltered as his shoulders started to tremble by restraint laughter.
And his dam, what had been restraining his snicker, shattered into millions of pieces when Kurama tried to raise but failed. Miserably, because his mouth shut with a heavy snap when his body had smashed against the floor once more despite his best effort. Naruto's loud guffaws echoed in the empty void for long minutes.
"What the hell are you laughing at, brat?" It snarled, struggling against the bonds, but the voice held no malice. It sounded more embarrassed than vicious. Crimson eyes flared with annoyance instead of rage, and Kushina hesitated for a second. Not more than a fraction of a heartbeat, but the chains loosened and in the next moment the bijuu was free, links snapped one by one and the web disappeared from his body.
Kushina narrowed her eyes and tensed her muscles, ready to shoot another set of the golden technique, but a slow movement caught her eyes and made her stop. It was Naruto, slowly turning to step next to the creature.
She instinctively reached out, and this time it was her who grabbed his wrist and yanked him back. Naruto's eyes drifted from his secured arm up to Kushina's, and he smiled.
"Everything's going to be alright."
Her eyes suspiciously darted on his features, looking for any trace of a lie, but she found none. Her head bent down in a weak nod, her hold gradually loosening with the motion, and Naruto slipped out of her grip to confidently walk to the fox's side. Kurama's lips curled back, revealing a set of his fangs, each longer than Kushina. A low growl echoed in the nothingness for long seconds while the boy finally reached the Bijuu which only continued gnashing its teeth.
His hands brushed over the soft fur of a paw while he passed by it, but the Kyuubi didn't move or draw away from the touch, only his snarl lessened.
Kushina's every nerve screamed for escape, to bolt out of her mindscape and grab the blond on the way into safe reality and bed herself in Minato's arms. But her curiosity and her stubbornness were stronger than her instincts. So she waited.
"He's Kurama. I'm housing the almighty Nine Tailed Demon Fox." Naruto awkwardly motioned up. "Or a version of him." With time, he glanced up to seek verification which actually came in the form of a small nod.
And what happened next amused Kushina enough to let her mouth fall open. The giant entity raised a paw and flipped him on the head. The blond growled, desperately nursing his crown, but he still got the strength to punch the fox's feet, his features scrunching up with an annoyed grimace. They were… bickering. She mused silently.
"Hey! What was that for?!"
"For being an idiot," the Bijuu snapped, and shoot a pointed glare, but not toward Naruto but toward Kushina, who flinched a step backward.
"What kind of version?" Kushina demanded, her eyes narrowing at Naruto. But it wasn't he who answered the question.
"A version from the future."
"Yeah, or a bastard version, of him," he corrected playfully, punching once again the giant pow. Kurama's narrowed eyes drifted down to Naruto's crown disapprovingly and he could feel the stabbing glare clearly on himself. "Sorry," he mumbled and the skin smoothened as his composure became serious.
Kurama let the mood sink, before he had spoken. "We're here most likely thanks to a space-time ninjutsu." Orangish fur furrowed on his forehead, concentrating his attention entirely on the still woman. "When I said "we", do you know what I meant, Kushina? Do you know now who is this boy really is?"
The redhead didn't answer immediately, her eyes glued on the silent form of the blond as he restlessly shifted from foot to foot. With time, she took one hesitant step toward the fidgeting boy, her eyes drifting upward.
Kurama held her gaze for a fraction of a second before he made a small, encouraging motion with his head. Even Kushina surprised herself when she actually took another step after that motion, but her first feeling wasn't suspicion like any other time the Kyuubi had indicated anything. It was excitement.
Then she had made another, more steady step. The third and the fourth would have looked almost confident if her eyes hadn't drifted upward to make sure that the fox hadn't moved from its previous place, due to the remains of her still protesting instincts.
But on a whim, she tossed them to the side and bolted.
In the next blink, Naruto found himself inside a crushing hug. Strong arms held him steadily with the promise that if they released him, the word would shatter— just like his bones if he even twitched. Another squeeze and the air was out from his lungs. But he didn't protest, he didn't struggle. He enjoyed it. It was a masochistic act because, despite the fact that it did actually hurt, he welcomed the sensation with all of his heart.
"I thought it was a dream," Kushina mumbled, "But it was real then. You… You're Naruto…" Her grip tightened, then softened a fraction. Naruto utilized the slip to raise and fold his own arms around her back to gave her a small squeeze.
"You knew? How?" he whispered with equal softness, inhaling her faint, but still sweet, vanilla smell.
She stilled in his arms but almost immediately relaxed. "I eavesdropped," she paused before continuing. "Once, when... when you had visited the Kyuubi. I had remembered a dream when you were sitting on its head. You know, the one when the Sandaime appeared in green spandex at the end. And days later during one of my dreams…" She stopped once more, before a small awkward giggle escaped her lips. "You know, I was swimming in a bowl of ramen and next I found myself inside my seal," she mumbled and stopped, her eyes squeezing shut. "And I spotted you again; you were talking about your past… and your Kyuubi addressed you and…"
"Sorry about the secrecy," he exhaled slowly, placing a small kiss on her temple.
"It's okay." She finally took a step backward, but her hands still cupped his face. She brushed a tuft aside to look straight into his pools. "I'm glad you finally decided to open up."
"It actually wasn't intentional." He half heartedly shrugged, glancing upward to send a set of imaginary daggers toward Kurama. "But now, I'm actually glad it happened, ya know?"
She suddenly stilled when a new realization hit her. "The fox… Why he is free?"
"His name's Kurama. And he isn't that bad of a guy, if you know him. He's my partner, ya know?"
Her eyes widened and immediately drifted upward, then behind her back, where the bigger version silently observed the scene. But his lips were still twisted into a disapproving snarl.
Slowly, she made her decision and nodded in understanding. "If you say so, then I'll also trust in him."
"It went better than with your father, I guess," Kurama boomed with an obvious, amused edge in his voice.
"Why? What happened with Minato?" Kushina curiously glanced upward also, but she had to take some steps backward to actually catch a glimpse of the searching crimson pools.
Her only answer was a wide, maybe a bit sadistic smirk from Kurama. And she definitely didn't like that. She couldn't shake off the feeling that this comment was the start of his payback for her chakra chained attack.
Naruto sat atop his father's stone head on the monument, staring out at the sleeping village. The sky had been steadily brightening for about thirty minutes, though the sun was still behind the distant mountains. Nature was stirring but not yet fully awake as a bird chirped, and a few bushes rustled. His bed had tossed him out when the night was still dark, and the dim gray of the early morning was still far. He retreated to his well known place where he could do whatever he wanted— mostly just sitting, staring at his beloved village, silently watching over her like a guardian of fire.
It was peaceful break in the crisp early morning, a nice change from the chaos that had been plaguing his life in the last days. He sat there, eyes closed, letting his thoughts fade away as time drifted on, and nature began to wake. It felt good to just sit, doing absolutely nothing, no thinking or worrying over anything.
The sun suddenly appeared over the horizon, bombarding him with warm glowing rays. He leaned back, allowing the golden shafts to gently warm his body, ease his weariness and soothe his soul.
Naruto inhaled slowly, then exhaled, releasing the tension that had been building in his muscles over the last several weeks, inviting the calm serenity of his surroundings to seep into the very fiber of his being.
He remained like that for an unknown amount of time before a familiar chakra signature appeared in the peripheral of his senses. The blond let out a small, noncommittal sigh. A few minutes later, Hiruzen materialized from the shadows, making a polite amount of noise, though it wasn't necessary, and meandered his way over to the edge of the monument to take in the elegant beauty of the village below.
A companionable silence rested between them as both stared out at their beloved home. A invincible sense of curiosity began to prickle Naruto's mind, threatening his serenity, but he pushed it back. There was no way he was giving up this wonderful peace. He'd wait for the old man to make the first step, and this time, it wouldn't be him to rush head first into any situation. And his intuition was right. The old leader made the first step with his next exhale.
"Peaceful, isn't it?" the once kage said slowly, chewing on the words and on the end of his pipe. It was more of a statement than a question, but Naruto nodded and answered anyway, a smile forming on his face as he gazed fondly across the village.
Silence reigned once again, and several long minutes passed with no response from Hiruzen. Naruto began to wonder if their conversation would even continue as he let his eyes wander from building to building.
The air around them was losing its frosty bite in the sunlight, a woodpecker starting to rap on a tree in the distance, giving a faint and rhythmical background music. Soon, more species joined to nature's bass; the "drumbeat" was augmented with the chorus of birds. A lonely crickett joined as a solo violin player, and the rustling leaves' harp made the symphony perfect.
"Toroku-kun, you have given me a fine jigsaw," Sarutobi finally began some time later. Naruto blinked, then inclined his head, inviting his companion to continue with a slight tension in his shoulders. It was more out of curiosity than anxiety. He had nothing to lose anymore. And it felt good. He was finally at complete ease. He didn't even bother trying to get a word in as Hiruzen paused; he decided to just listen. Actually, he was curious to see where this conversation would end up.
"When I exhausted every possible trail I could think of, I returned to the beginning when you were first brought to the hospital, hoping I could remember something that might shed some light on your existence. When you first appeared in Konoha, you seemed to recognize me," the Sandaime said, choosing his words with care. "And not only me, but Minato as well. At first, I thought our reputations had preceded us. But your reactions told a different story."
"Let's start with Minato. According to him, when he threatened you in that hospital hallway, you didn't pause or even blink. Instead you retorted immediately, brushing him off with no regard for your own safety. But that wasn't what really had me wondering. It was the fact that there was no fear in your eyes: absolutely none.
"I'd never seen an enemy shinobi able to hide their fear at the sight of Minato. But you, not only did you not show any fear, you showed sadness and caring, the exact opposite of what a complete stranger would be showing. So, I figured that Minato must have a doppelganger out there, but then I realized that I would have heard of such a person. A highly skilled shinobi with blond hair." Sarutobi gave a pointed look. "That includes you. With the strength you possess and your likeness to Minato, I'm sure I would have learned of your existence well before you crash-landed in that training field. But I hadn't. Nor had Jiraiya, even with his extensive spy network. I thought to myself, 'how is it possible for this boy to exist for so long without our knowledge?'"
" I remembered the shock you'd shown upon seeing me. But you weren't just shocked, you were dumbfounded. It was as if you were staring at a dead man walking. And, since I had exhausted every other possible trail I could think of, I considered that maybe you were seeing a dead man walking."
"I mulled over what that could mean, but could find no logical explanation for it. Eventually, I decided to simply watch and wait for you to reveal more of yourself, but the more you became a part of the village, the less sense my theories made, at least, until yesterday."
"It wasn't a very logical line of thinking, but I had exhausted all other options, so I decided to entertain the thought. I assumed you'd known me where you came from, and if I assumed the same for Minato, then your reaction to the both of us made sense. Expanding on that reasoning, I wondered what situation would have to occur for this to be true. Do you know what I concluded?" Hiruzen didn't actually wait for an answer, pinning the blond with a serious gaze.
"Nothing. Until finding one more puzzle piece, thanks to Nohara Rin and Orochimaru." A sour grimace spread across the old leader's face, but he brushed his wandering thoughts aside. "My late student made a blood test we hadn't conducted back then. Why would we have? It would have been so illogical. But it revealed that you had one more relative here in Konoha. And with that missing piece, it finally clicked." Hiruzen's face gradually softened, and a smile tugged his lips upward, deepening the starting wrinkles at the edge of his mouth.
"Your whisker marks." Sarutobi pointed toward his cheeks. "I'd heard about Kinkaku and Ginkaku when I was only a teenager. The tales said they'd gotten the same markings. It's because of the Kyuubi's influence. I've always known that if Minato and Kushina had a child, he or she would be a genius, but never in my wildest dreams I would have thought about what you, my child, have achieved. A rip in the space-time continuum. Time travel."
Naruto stared, wide eyed, unable to say anything. What could he say? So instead of saying anything, he started laughing. Hard. Loudly. And for a long time. Loosely, without any control. And it felt so good that it was hard to stop. But it slowly died down anyway.
"Jiji. You're really 'The Professor', aren't you?"
Hiruzen shrugged with a small smile and gracefully settled down next to the blond boy. With decades of experience, his fingers fluidly flipped his small tobacco box open, and in seconds, faint bluish smoke enveloped their sitting forms.
"What about a proper introduction this time, jiji?" the blond turned toward his companion with a wide and foxy grin. Hiruzen only let out a soft chuckle and shook his head.
"You've turned into a real fine man, Uzumaki Naruto."
Naruto's eyes widened and his mouth dropped open. "How… How the hell do you know my real name?"
The hokage let out another chuckle and lowered his pipe. "I know that Minato had chosen that name. And since Kushina is the last of her clan, you should have had her surname instead of Minato. Even if he had became the Fourth Hokage, the subsistence of the Uzumaki clan is more important than to carry on the surname of a small Konoha family."
Naruto hesitantly nodded at the explanation, but in the end shook his head, his eyes darting back to the rooftops of the village.
"It must be hard. Being near them, but they not knowing who you are."
"It was," Naruto admitted, his eyes trailing back to Sarutobi. But the serious answer faltered as a cheeky smile appeared on Naruto's face. "But you know, Jiji, you're late with your revelation."
"Oh?" Hiruzen inhaled out, together with a lungful of smoke. "So you've already told them."
"Well, let's say that they figured it out." The blond scratched the back of his head, but his grin never faltered.
"I guess it is better this way." Sarutobi stated, his gaze lingering on the blond beside him. The once leader let out a long sigh. "Who raised you, Naruto?"
The teen didn't answer, his fingers trailing a small crack next to him to gain some time. "Mostly myself. My birth went wrong."
There was an uncomfortable silence before the Sandaime cleared his throat.
"And Jiraiya? Where was he during your childhood?" His only answer was a shrug. Another long sigh escaped Sarutobi. "I'm sorry."
"For what?" Naruto looked up, his eyes and fingers still scanning the crack.
"For prohibiting him from raising you." Naruto's brow furrowed, but he still avoiding eye contact, so the once Hokage continued. "Around a month ago, he and I had a talk about the worst case scenario. About what would happen if Kushina's seal broke, and Minato was gone. It seems for once Jiraiya really followed my orders despite what his heart had said to him. He argued like a maniac."
Naruto didn't make any comment, but he did store this information. And it finally settled down some of his thoughts about where the hell his godfather was during his childhood. He had thought Jiraiya was just like that. The sometimes unreasonable perv and Sarutobi had thought it would be better if he avoided him until he could take care of his own sanity. But it seems it was the ninja system that ruined his childhood. It wasn't Jiraiya. It was the fact that Jiraiya followed orders. Orders, that left him alone. Orders that prohibited Jiraiya to seek him out before he was ready to defend himself.
It was because of the circle of hatred that he had no one to turn to during a sleepless night. It was because of that that he had nobody at home he could turn to. And for the first time in his life, he hated this corrupted system that could make a child lonely. That could shatter families. That could make a child kill an entire clan. His own family.
His father was right. The current shinobi system only fueled the circle, and he vowed to break that problem at its roots. Hiruzen's voice kicked him out from his internal musing before he could dive deeper.
"What about Kakashi? Do you want to tell him the truth?"
Naruto hesitated for a fraction before he shook his head. "No.I respect the man who he will become, but he is not the same now. I would break him, and he's already broken enough after losing Rin." He shook his head once more. "I don't want to shatter him. Right now he's a confused enough."
Another tiff of the smoke left Hiruzen's body, the soft mist dancing in the unmoving air around them. The light flickered on its surface from time to time, revealing the hidden beautiful dance.
"You like sitting here."
'Yeah,' he mused internally. And why does he actually do this? Because it's peaceful here? Because everything seems much clearer from here? His problems seemed as far away and as small as the small dots of the villagers from above. Or was it maybe because of the height? Was it because of the reassurance that Konoha was indeed still there every time he had looked down on the village?
Naruto's eyes drifted toward the center, a soft sincere smile lingering on his lips. "It gives me reassurance. Seeing Konoha safe and sound day by day."
No words were exchanged for another long moment. Both men let their gazes rest on the village under their feet, one still looking for reassurance that it won't be gone in the next second, slipping through his fingers if he dare to blink, and the other out of simple habit, or more likely, respecting the other's feelings.
A new presence stepped through the limits of their senses, and Naruto immediately flung his head toward the newcomer with a raised eyebrow. Jiraiya strolled into the scene, his cheeks flushed, and his steps faltered from time to time while he tiffed from a sake bottle. It was a long journey for the sage, wobbling from tree to tree, resting between every other one.
The toad summoner sloppily hopped between the two sitting men, pushing them toward the edge. Only the chakra that Naruto and the once leader tapped into restrained them from falling from Minato's stone head face down on the crowded square. But Jiraiya wasn't bothering with these kind of tiny things like their safety. He enthusiastically flung his arm around Naruto's head, and to the blond's biggest annoyance, he immediately imprisoned him in a headlock, ruffling his blond mess constantly. But Naruto wasn't giving himself up easily. He was finally able to struggle out from the iron grip with a well aimed punch at his godfather's gut, but Jiraiya only let out a bark of laughter, tossing his pain to the side.
"Hey! What the hell are you doing, Ero-Sennin!" Naruto grumbled while desperately trying to bring his lock back into proper shape. Well, he failed. Miserably.
He sent another set of imaginary daggers toward the still giggling, white haired man and shot a questioning glance at the stoically puffing Sandaime. But he got no help from him. He just shrugged and let out a puff of smoke.
Jiraiya finally steadied himself, but the goofy smile never left his face. "Hey, old man. Can I tell you a secret?" Even if he had asked, the sennin gave him no opportunity. "My godson will be so badass! Just like me!"
Hiruzen irked an amused eyebrow and cocked his head to the side. "Oh? And how would you know that?"
"I just know because I'm awesome. He'll be smart and strong, and he'll kick the bad guys' ass just like me!"
"Drop the act, pervert. He figured it out all on his own," Naruto muttered, his arms folding in front of his chest.
"What?! You've ruined my game! I wanted to tease you more! Why the hell are you so damn smart?!" Jiraiya's shouts died down to annoyed muttering. The familiar pout was soon on his lips, and the man eventually folded his arms in front of his chest.
Sarutobi shook his head at his obviously sulking "grown up" student. His gaze flickered toward Naruto, and his face softened.
"You know what? I think you are right, Jiraiya. Your godson will be a very fine man when he grows up. Don't you agree, Naruto-kun?"
But the named blond was too occupied to hide his embarrassment and his flaming cheeks to answer. Jiraiya hummed and swung his arms once more around the flushing teen with a wide grin on his face. But this time, Naruto didn't get the urge to free himself when his godfather viciously ruffled his untidy crown.
Sarutobi let out a loud chuckle, slowly straightening from the ground and brushing down some invisible dirt from his flawless attire. "I think that was more than enough excitement for me today." None of the others protested. Slowly shaking his head, the Sandaime disappeared in the same way that he had arrived.
The toad sage grinned widely while releasing his hold on Naruto, his fingers already searching inside his pouch.
"Well, this actually makes things easier. At least I won't have to explain this to the old geezer." With that, he raised his hand to reveal a small scroll in it. Naruto suspiciously eyed the storage scroll, and when his godfather indicated with his head, he carefully grabbed it and turned over several times.
"A gift. I thought you've been missing it."
The blond's brows moved into one coherent line as his eyes scanned through the closing seal. It wasn't a tricky one. With a flicker of his chakra, the seal had opened, and another scroll fell into his lap. However, it was significantly bigger, almost half his own size. And it was heavy. Naruto's eyes immediately widened when he recognized the chiselled ornament on both sides. He made one side glance at Jiraiya, and when he got one more encouraging nod, he enthusiastically rolled it open in front of him. The soft breeze ruffled the edge, but Naruto's hands held it steadily.
Azure eyes darted from names to names on the ancient old surface until he found Jiraiya's and his father's names at the end.
"Go on, Gaki. As long as I know, you've got every right to have your name on it."
A wide grin spread across Naruto's face, and with an enthusiastic nod, he immediately bit his thumb. Experienced fingers danced across the fine fabric, tidy, perfect lines forming from the finest ink, from his own blood.
Within seconds, the Toad Summoning Contract was blessed with one more name: Uzumaki Naruto.
Naruto immediately smeared his still leaking blood on his palm, and his hands were already forming the so-missed hand signs, when an iron grip on his wrist stopped him from moving further in the progres. The blond quirked an eyebrow at the frowning pervert and cocked his head.
"If you're going to summon anyone, you should do it where you've got space. I can easily imagine that you were about to summon Gamabunta on top of the Hokage Monument."
Naruto was silent, but his eyebrow twitched with irritation. "I'm not that big of an idiot." He tore his hand free and continued with his summon at a much slower pace. But a small trail of sweat slowly dripped down from his temple. He actually really wanted to show off.
When he finished the last hand sign, he slammed his palm onto the hard stone with ease, eagerly waiting for the soft, chakra enchained smoke to finally die down over the still visible, obsidian seal array.
It happened when the breeze grabbed the soft dust and tossed it to the side to reveal a… tadpole? A confused grimace disfigured Naruto's face while Jiraiya's loud guffaws echoed over the village.
A nearby lurking ANBU perked up at the booming laughter, only to shake his head slowly in disapproval. He was pretty sure that sitting on the Yondaime's stone head was prohibited. But who was he to tell the very man's brother and one of the Sannin that they were breaking the rules? The masked soldier shook his head once more and continued on his way toward his destination.
Naruto leaned closer to the struggling, tiny little thing, and his brows furrowed, disregarding Jiraiya's snicker in the background. He surely used the necessary amount of chakra. He did find the faint chakra signature he was looking for. He leaned even closer until his nose was only centimeters from the trashing thing when his eyes widened in realization.
The tiny creature stilled, and Naruto would have sworn that it blinked up at him in surprise. Then the toddler toad puffed out from existence.
Naruto straightened, his nose scrunching up with annoyance as his godfather's laughter slowly became hysterical. "Oh, shut up. I did want to summon him, but I thought he would be bigger." But his words did no good.
The toad summoner, instead, bent over in his laughter and rolled to his side, slowly wheeling toward the edge of the enormous monument. Naruto perked up, and with a slight kick, he helped his godfather gather some momentum and cover the remaining distance to the edge in a second.
It took a full ten seconds for Jiraiya to stomp back to the top. His face was red, and his shoulders still trembled from the strain as he had found a hold on Minato's nose at the last second to stop him from falling off the Hokage monument.
If it had happened above a female bathhouse, he wouldn't had gotten any complains for splashing into the circle of nude women. But seeing Naruto's smug face, a vein started to bulge out of his forehead. A wide, cheeky grin spread across Naruto's face, his lips parting, and his tongue slipped out in a childish manner.
With a flicker of his chakra, Jiraiya bolted toward the already fleeing blond.
But at least the sannin still had enough composure to grab the Summoning Scroll as he rushed beside it in his hurry to chase down his godson.
The house went still after each of its tenants finally retreated back to their rooms. It was long hours ago. The next morning was closer than midnight. No sound could be heard besides the soft, rhythmical breathing of the sleeping family members.
Only one of them couldn't find any sleep. The oldest, Namikaze Minato, silently munched his late snack: a lukewarm cup of instant ramen. It was pretty hot half an hour ago, when he had actually made it, but his appetite was gone after the first bites. Minato unconsciously stirred the soup, making the soaked noodles slowly whirl inside the cup.
He thought about nothing; his mind was empty, which was actually surprising after the hellish previous week. It wasn't an everyday occasion when your brother turned out to be your almost grown up son. But actually, it hadn't been bothering him that much. Well, yeah, it did bother him in some ways, but he was glad because he knew now that his son would grow up to be a fine man. And his past? Or future. Or whatever. He was sure as hell that he wouldn't let it happen again. Not in the same way. Because he would save Kushina. He would save Naruto from his fate.
However, there was one tiny little flaw in his logic. Naruto refused to share more info about that night. And more particularly, about the masked man. He had told them his abilities, about his sharingan, his fighting style, but he had been refusing to tell them his identity.
With a sigh, Minato let the thought slip before he could dig deeper. All the theories he and Jiraiya had made up about the masked man and the billion consequences his son's time travel would do made his head spin and his mind dizzy.
With a groan, Minato pushed the almost untouched cup to the side and slumped on the table, resting his head on one straight arm. He eyed the ramen cup for some time, his head strangely empty. But he got tired of staring at the goofily grinning cartoon kid on the side of the plastic very soon.
With a frustrated snort, he pushed himself up and headed to his bedroom, determined to have at least an hour of sleep before he actually had to head off to work. The passage was dark, but thanks to the faint light, he could see where he was going. His eyes brushed over his brother's— no. He shook his head. Naruto's room, he corrected himself.
And the sight made him stop. A faint strip of light escaped under the closed door. His ears twitched, trying to strengthen his ears in the hope that he could pick up any noise. But he caught only Naruto's weak snoring. A small smile creaked his lips upward, and without any second thought, he carefully pushed the door open to sneak a peek at his son.
Only to be sure that he hadn't disappeared.
And indeed, his son was there, spread-eagled all over the bed, occupying every single available corner he could. And those that he could not reach physically... those parts were filled with his rumpled bedsheet, an unsteadily balancing ink bottle, and a scroll running through half of his room from his bed.
Minato couldn't help himself; muffled laughter escaped his lips. But he immediately shut his mouth when Naruto stilled, then slightly turned, stretching even more. But his worries wore away when Naruto continued to slumber with a slightly louder snore.
The Hokage inched closer to free the blanket under Naruto's leg and put it back in its proper place atop the still snoring teen. His eyes caught a glimpse of his abdomen between his boxer and T-shirt, and he froze mid-motion.
Morbid curiosity rose inside his veins. He tried to push it to the side, suppress it, but he failed. The feeling continued the nudge him more aggressively with each passing second while he couldn't tear his gaze from the unveiled tummy, still holding the blanket half over the teen.
With a gulp, he made his decision. His hand gradually lowered the blanket, careful to not disturb his son's sleep.
Shaky hands traveled toward the loose T-shirt, a finger slipping under the fabric to push it further. A flicker of chakra. The boy stilled. An ebony black swirl evolved slowly, ruling the pale skin in the faint light of the reading-lamp. Minato only stared, his eyes wide; his mouth had long fallen open.
Another shaky hand rose, his fingertips this time strolling over the pattern. It pulsed once, and it slowly started to fade. With a rush of adrenalin and desperation, Minato pushed another dose of his essence into the seal.
And something unexpected happened.
One second, he was there, leaning above his son, examining his seal, his own masterpiece, and the next moment, he blinked and opened his eyes to find himself staring into a yellowish void.
The Yellow Flash took a step backward, his pools swinging from side to side to map his suddenly unfamiliar surroundings.
There was a twitch in his chakra, a kind of sparkle. Minato suddenly stilled.
Adrenalin rushed through his veins when something started to materialized in front of him.
And he had frozen completely when a man took shape in front of him. Identical azure eyes bore into his own, one with shock, the other with an understanding soft glint. A long white coat framed a body over a jounin vest and the familiar navy blue shinobi pants and shirt. Untameable golden locks swayed in the soft breeze that ruffled his own in the same way.
An exact copy of himself stood in front of him, doing nothing, only observing him with a small, understanding smile.
"What the—" Minato finally mouthed faintly.
"I think the question I would be looking for is: How?" the copy tried to joke, an awkward grin on his face. However, the grin faded into a serious expression that made Minato wince. "That's easy. Similar chakra resonates."
The copy paused, waiting for the other to react, but when nothing came in response, he continued his explanation. "I had used up every bit of my remaining chakra by reforging Naruto's seal during Pein's invasion. I thought I was gone, this time for ever. But it seems you had pushed enough of your own to reanimate me once more. Like a shock or something like that. You know, similar to CPR or something." The copy made a wandering face and shrugged.
A long, stretched staring contest had began that made even the copy start uneasily shifting from foot to foot.
Finally, the tension broke. A small chuckle bubbled out from the younger Minato's lips, and with one more minute, it advanced into full-hearted laughter, his form shaking while tears escaped behind his eyelashes. He raised his hand to wipe them away as his snicker died down completely, but one or two small chuckles managed to come by from time to time, to the copy's annoyance.
"Have you finished?" His only answer was another snicker, but this time, something tugged the replica's mouth upward into an identical, foxy grin. "He is… he is awesome, isn't he?"
Minato nodded between two laughters and finally gathered himself. Wiping the last remains of his previous laughing session from his face, he straightened and turned. "Traveling through time, saving people from fate, turning the Kyuubi into his friend." The Hokage shook his head, a wide grin plastered on his face. "Making me meet a version of me from the future..."
He exhaled and shook his head once more, the smile slowly fading to swap places with a sour grimace. "But he still withholds things from us. So I hope I'll have my answers from you. I assume you can sense what's happening outside." His gaze hardened as he raised it to tear into his counterpart. "Who is the masked man?"
His copy didn't answer, but Minato noticed his own motion when he was hesitating. Chewing his lower lip was his own custom habit. It went unnoticeable for almost everyone else, beside his closest friends, but now he could clearly see the annoying tick. Minato straightened and narrowed his now flaming eyes, his whole composure screaming authority. But it did no good with his mirror image. His eyes were calmly observing him, despite the familiar habit. "He wanted to protect you, you know," he whispered.
"Just tell me, damn it! I can bear it!" Minato snapped, taking a step toward his replica. "I'm sure it's someone I know! Hell, I even considered Kakashi for a moment! Tell me, or I'm going to go crazy!"
The copy still hadn't said a word, so Minato tried another tactic. He tossed his authority to the side, his face softening this time. "Please. If you're me, you know I have to know. I have to save them. And for that, I need information."
The copy, this time, did react by letting out a sigh and lowering his head slightly in defeat. Then in the next second, he collected his composure by running a hand through his hair. "Naruto still thinks he can save him."
"Save who?" Minato asked, his eyes narrowing.
"Why? Why does he care for him?" Minato asked, his eyes narrowing even more.
The copy paused for a second before his mouth turned up into a mischievous smile. "Do you know what an anagram is?"
"I—Yes, but what does that have to do with—"
"Just think about it." The copy sent another cheeky grin before his eyes suddenly drifted to the side, his ears pricking a little. His form looked shakier with each moment. His grin faded into a soft smile as his form turned foggier. "And tell Naruto that I'm proud of him beyond words. I'm proud of what he has achieved. Even if this peace is not as real as we think it is." With that final exhale, the echo of the person was gone just as fast as it came back to life.
And this time forever.
Kurama silently observed the exchange between the two blonds, giving them enough privacy but still keeping an eye, or more likely an ear on their conversation. The fox narrowed his crimson eyes, and his ears twitched before the echo faded back to where it came from. He had felt the faint, almost insensible chakra that lingered inside the seal. But he have never thought about this possibility. His mind drifted back to the conversation, his eyes narrowing once more before tossing the ghost Minato's strange remark to the side.
Minato shakily returned to reality. Blinking twice, he realized that he was still poking his son's bare belly. He immediately jerked his hand backward like it was hotter than the burning sun.
Minato took a shaky step backward, his eyes darting around the room until they landed on something that disturbed his racing thoughts. The end of a familiar scroll was jutting out from under Naruto's pillow. Minato almost averted his gaze to finally leave the room when something else caught his attention. The edge of the scroll was rolled down a centimeter, obviously open.
Minato's eyes immediately started to look over the room, his gaze suddenly filling with things he had until now disregarded. A bunch of photos were tidily placed under the bed lamp, secured with the shattered fabric of a second hitai ate whose metal plate still shined under the piles of photos. The Hokage tossed his drumming shame to the side, grabbed the photos and sank down next to the bed, turning the bed lamp just a little to have more light.
A small smile lurked on the edge of his mouth with the first photo. A team picture. Three children in front of an adult Kakashi. The next one was another team picture. Naruto on the side, a short black haired and almost unnaturally pale boy with a strangely forced empty smile, and Sakura in the middle. Flipping over the pile, there were more pictures like that. Pictures from shinobi all over the five nations. He spotted a girl from Iwa, a group photo from Suna, and even a guy from Kumo.
He slowly put the pictures back the shelves, his gaze darting over the untidy room until he found another interesting thing. A thick, worn notebook with vibrant orange cover. Sloppy handwriting shouted its owner's identity. Minato furrowed his brow as his azure pools traced over Naruto's name once more. His childish and untidy handwriting had changed as his calligraphy skills excelled.
He played with a shameful thought for a long minute; stealing someone's diary sounded utterly childish. But still.
Minato bit down on his lip, twisting the temptation once more over in his head. Yeah. Childish. He repeated in his mind. His eyes drifted once more toward the orange cover. Utterly childish. Minato shook his head and furrowed his brows. He'll tell me. He'll tell me once he thinks it is okay. His line of thoughts were disturbed by the bed sheet's soft ruffling.
Naruto stilled, his until now peaceful expression twisting as he muttered, "Sa—Sasuke. Don't..."
Minato peeked over his shoulder at his son, observing as his expression changed from time to time. From disappointment, to rage, to pain until it finally settled down into a deep, troubled frown. "Bastard…" he hissed this time.
The Hokage glanced back at the notebook beside him. His mind drifted back some days ago, to the night of Naruto's confession. When he fled from the room to get away from Naruto's pleading blue eyes. He was so afraid back then.
Afraid of himself, afraid of his own powerlessness. That he wouldn't be able to give the necessary reassurance to the son that he was pleading for. He was burying himself in the deep and dark pit of anxiety he himself dug.
He had even lied to Naruto. He had gone home for a short time to stand next to Kushina's sleeping body, silently watching over her dream. Only to reassure himself that at least she was still there for him, that she hadn't disappeared during that rollercoaster he suddenly found himself on.
Minato went over Naruto's every small slip, his every failure. The night when he had introduced him to Kushina. The time when he had called him "dad", awaking from his nightmare. The desperate way he clinged on his clothes like a child would do to their .
Minato drifted back to the memories he had witnessed and hour before. He must have been alone during his childhood. Because he was dead, because Kushina was dead. Kakashi? He played with the idea beforehand that if somethings happens to them, Kakashi would look over Naruto. But he was also a child, shattered in his soul. He was naïve. Utterly naïve.
And Sarutobi? He had a village to look after. Jiraiya? Where the hell had Jiraiya been all these years? Minato violently shook his head. His teacher was a good shinobi, a good friend. He would definitely not abandon his child without something building in the background.
At that time, his eyes drifted toward his wife's still form, wandering toward her round belly. He hesitantly reached out, resting his palm on the warm bulge, enjoying its rhythmical raise and fall until something poked his palm. Minato stiffened, not moving even a finger.
Then again. There was that faint poke once more. His lips turned up into a soft smile at the third time. It was his son, knocking on life's door.
His thoughts wandered back to the present and Minato made his decision. Was it right? Was it bad? He didn't care, because he still knew nearly nothing about his son. His past. His future. Our future. He needed to know who was lurking behind that mask.
With a fast motion, he snatched the book and strolled out of the room.
Minato settled down to an armchair in the living room, his wife and son peacefully sleeping upstairs. The first beams of the rising sun would soon paint everything into the mixture of vibrant orange and girlish pink, but the Hokage disregarded it. So, too, did he toss his rising remorse to the side.
He let out a calming exhale, defiantly glaring the still closed orange cover in his lap. On a whim, Minato suddenly flipped it, letting it open at a random page, somewhere near the middle. His eyes drifted over the words with a small smile. It was a mix about a day's training schedule and a to do list.
"Asking Kakashi-sensei about his stupid lighting jutsu; Ask Paa for more kunai; Taijutsu lesson with Hyuuga Hiashi at four." And the list went on with one or more stupid things included.
His gaze stopped at a sentence. The notebook soon turned into a real diary on the next page.
"Regret. It was so obvious in his eyes now that I think back. He did regret all those things he did to the whole ninja world. Tobi… He was ashamed of himself. Not like Madara. I could have save him. I know. If I had the opportunity, I would have been able to save him."
Tobi… he repeated the name in his mind continuously, rolling it over and over for long minutes until he almost went crazy over it. "Tobi," he whispered into the room and shook his head. An anagram. Tobi. Toib. Ibot. Oibt. Otib. Oitb. Obit.
Minato suddenly froze, and so did his body. His eyes widened, the air in his lungs coming to a halt, and his heart skipped a beat. "Obit," he whispered.
If you haven't noticed, the first chapter had been revised and uploaded. ;)
The awesome Blaizekit made an audito fic from my story! Link on my profile!
I would like to give a huge thanks to ImaginationJunkie1412. The first part of the monument scene was written by her. :)
This chapter was a bastard to write. I can't even remember when I had this much difficulty finishing a chapter. I think I wanted to reach for your standards this time so much. :) Hope it went well.
Until next time ;) For update information, check my profile page. I update frequently, so you can follow the progress.
Update on the 9th of November: This story is still not abandoned! But I became extremely busy with my work and with my private life.
The Spring of the Plague by Zenthisoror
When Konoha ninja return from investigating one of Orochimaru's laboratories, they bring back a devastating strain of chakra bacterium - Kimimaro's sickness developed into a bioweapon. As Naruto and his surviving friends struggle to live in Plague-stricken Konoha, Madara plots, an anti-ninja cult demands repentance, and, in the midst of it all, Sasuke seeks a perfect revenge. /A finished and definitely interesting story with a great writing style. Be warned! A dark story./
The Twist of Fate by Nisroc Chico
Obito kidnaps Naruto after Minato chose the village over his son's life. Now Obito is stuck with the newborn. He still strives for the 'Perfect' World, but will this twist of fate change Obito's views about the world? Or will it keep pushing him into the darkness