I do not own Naruto, simple as.
Naruto was running, and while this simple fact alone wasn't all that strange or uncommon, it was the reason for his running that was interesting. He ran a lot, whether it was because of training or because he was running from people annoyed by one of his frequent pranks, he was well known for his ability to run. Except today that didn't seem to be helping him at all. He had once outran a team of trained ANBU black ops specialists after he had placed itching powder on their ever-present masks but for some reason he couldn't shake the large mob of civilians on his trail.
Maybe it was the fact that he was tired, it had been going on all day and even for somebody like him, with near inexhaustible stamina, that was difficult. Maybe it was because even when he rounded a corner there would just be a whole new mob waiting for him as if the entire population conspired against him to lead him into a trap. He wouldn't actually put this past them, years and years of his own life had taught him as much.
Naruto hadn't exactly led an easy life in the Village Hidden in the Leaves; far, far from it. From the earliest memories in his time at the orphanage adults were treating him as if mere thoughts of him were distasteful. If he wasn't ignored he was insulted, if he wasn't insulted he was shouted at, and if he wasn't shouted at he was beaten. Storekeepers threw him out of their shops, vendors refused to serve him their food, and people would kick him or throw things at him on a daily basis as if he were at best some kind of unwanted blight on their village.
Today was October tenth, his birthday.
Far from what many would believe a seven year old child like himself should be thinking, he wasn't happy about it. In fact, he feared the day of his birth more than any other day on the calendar. It was strange that, except for on his birthday, he wouldn't even know what the date was; it was the villagers who were considerate enough to remind him. Everything would become worse for him; instead of the occasional beatings when people came across him or the general ignoring from his fellow villagers, the people would actively seek him out, hunting him down like a cornered fox.
How ironic that very thought was, though he didn't know it.
Apart from his birthday October tenth was known throughout the village as a joyous occasion, the day when their beloved Yondaime Hokage destroyed the nine-tailed fox that would have razed the village to the ground otherwise. It sent the village into an uproar of partying, drinking, and of course the annual game of hunt down Naruto and beat him to within an inch of his life and hope he died before the Hokage found out.
This was why Naruto was running.
It was far harder than anything he had ever done in his life before, and for a shinobi-in-training that was saying something. He had thought that all his troubles would be over when he entered the academy last year; that everyone would start to see that he was a member of their village too and would protect it and them. It only made things worse; parents abhorred the idea that a wretch like him would be in close proximity to their children on a daily basis; that he would actually learn with them as the village actively tried to make him stronger.
How wrong they were about that.
The Senseis of the academy were no different than the rest of the village, always ignoring his questions, piling on the work load and marking him down for no reason. He even got terrible grades for attendence despite the fact he never missed a day. He tried to rise to the challenge, to overcome every hardship they threw at him by learning and training in every free second that he had. This was difficult, especially when he was barred from even entering the library for fear that he may actually become more intelligent. He tried anyway, throwing every last ounce of himself into his studies and training.
It wasn't like he had friends to take up his time with anyway.
The cold and hateful aura the adults always seemed to wear around him seemed to practically rub off on their children. They couldn't help but be influenced as they saw their parents and their teachers, the people they looked up to, shy away from the 'demon brat'. They told them that he was trouble and to be stayed away from, some were actively punished when they tried to befriend him, and some were rewarded when they were mean to him.
Eventually he got the message and isolated himself from the rest of his peers; he would never want anybody to be punished for him. He didn't show this though, he would always wear that horrid mask of his ever-present smile and cheerful demeanour. He was Naruto, the boy who never frowned, always happy, always smiling. He stopped trying to make friends, pretending that he didn't need them and was happy.
It was a lie.
In fact the only glimmer of light in his entire life was the Hokage, the old man would come and visit him in his old, run-down apartment and just talk to him. Naruto didn't really care if it was an act, or out of guilt for the way Naruto was treated. For one hour every month the Hokage would come over and treat him like an actual human being. They would talk about anything from his school life, to his favourite foods to his hobbies. Naruto had to make up a lot of what he said in order to give the old man a little hope; he was sure that if he told him that he had no hobbies, no friends, and the only food he could even afford was the instant Ramen cups he would only feel sad.
He hadn't come this month.
Naruto knew the Hokage was busy a lot, he did run an entire ninja village after all but it was so unlike him to miss out on their monthly meeting. Naruto had tried to go over and see him instead but the cruel receptionist had kicked him out the second he tried to step foot in the Hokage tower. It was becoming more and more difficult, he had to remind himself more and more often why he was trying so hard; why he trained day and night until his bones ached and his muscles tired.
What frightened him to the core were the days that he couldn't think of an answer.
He turned another corner blindly only to be met by the intimidating sight of four large men blocking the end of the narrow street, each armed with a vicious-looking implement. Desperately Naruto climbed the side of the building, using his recently gained strength and flexibility to scale the building using seemingly imperceptible handholds. It took him a few seconds but by that time a few people had caught up and were throwing rocks at him from below.
One clipped his shoulder, drawing out a deep gash of blood and nearly causing him to lose his grip. He grabbed the ledge of the roof hurriedly and pulled himself up to lie on his back panting as he caught his breath momentarily. It would only take a few minutes for his full energy to return to him but he wasn't given such a respite as he heard the sounds of people shouting out, far too close to him. The chase was on again as he jumped from rooftop to rooftop, dodging the hail of rocks the villagers continued to throw.
Unconsciously he was making his way towards the north city gate, he realised this and diverted his path away. Last year he had attempted to escape the village and by extent its angry inhabitants only to be stopped by the two chuunin that guarded it and held down as the villagers finally caught up. He wouldn't be making that mistake again. This year he had tried to leave the day before and wait out the horrid day of the year but only adults were allowed out of the village without permission.
He couldn't sneak out either, the walls were patrolled and whilst he was a self-proclaimed master of stealth that did not make him a match for any chuunin. It didn't help that he had a tendency towards gaudy, bright clothing. Most of the time he stuck to his oversized white shirt with the village insignia printed on the front and white didn't help him blend into any shadows. It wasn't his fault that any other clothes were impossible to buy due to the shopkeepers charging him ridiculous amounts for even the clothes thought unfit for normal wear.
So he knew how this day would end, the same way they always did. He would run away, eventually tire and the villagers would find him before taking their turn kicking him and beating him until he had no tears left to cry and there was no part of his skin left unbloodied or unbruised. Then he would drag himself back to his cold, dark apartment and lie awake until exhaustion and pain threw him viciously into unconsciousness.
Each year he would last a little longer as he grew faster and stronger but in the end it was only putting off the inevitable. Nobody could run forever, not even him; eventually he would trip or collapse from the strain and the beating would begin. He only hoped that this year the people would show some restraint. It was a hope he had every year and every year it was proved false as they would come at him like he were the most unholy of evils.
This year was no different.
Anko strolled across the rooftops; it was her preferred means of getting across the village, away from the festivities below. It wasn't that she didn't enjoy the rowdiness and general happiness of the rest of her people; she merely had some place to be and didn't want to get held up. She would always make it her priority when her Sensei called her and he was always so kind when she showed up a few minutes after he had sent for her.
She was especially excited today, he had said something about an important mission for a while now and now he was finally going to take her to the Land of the Sea. It was the farthest she would have ever gone on a mission before. She of course knew that Orochimaru-sensei had been all across the elemental nations and wanted to be just like him, exploring and adventuring until there was no place left that she hadn't seen.
She stopped her almost skipping-like pace when she heard something different to the rest of the festivities around her. She looked down from the rooftop she had landed on only to see a fairly large group of people all gathered around in a loose circle. Their combined gazes seemed to be towards the centre of the group where the young girl saw a boy of maybe six or seven get kicked repeatedly as he lay on the ground quietly crying and just taking the beating as if it were a daily occurrence. She looked on in horror at the sight as large men took it in turns to tread on, kick and beat the shivering child. There were bruises all across his small body and blood covered his white shirt, staining it a rusty brown until you wouldn't know it had even been white at all.
She looked on in shock at this until she recognised the mop of spiky blond hair and the distinctive whisker-like marks on the child's cheeks. Anko may have only been thirteen and a genin but her Sensei had seen fit to tell her about the attack by the Kyuubi, and not the edited version fed to the rest of her generation and the ones below it. She knew full well about the Fourth's sacrifice and his use of this child as a vessel to contain and imprison the beast that had threatened their home.
He was a baby; he had no choice in the matter and had to actually bear the burden of a demon within his very soul. He should have been a hero, hailed as a saviour like the Yondaime so often was. Instead he was hunted down, called a monster and a demon, all without ever knowing why, by people who apparently hated the Kyuubi more then they loved their Hokages. Anko had actually run into him before in better circumstances; she had been looking for a place to train while her sensei was out on a mission far too difficult for her. She understood this of course, he was a Sannin and the things he could do would ever cease to amaze and inspire her.
She had come across the child in a clearing just outside of the village where he was reading through scrolls and exercising his small body to the point of exhaustion. She had merely watched for a while, captivated by the sight, wondering why somebody so tormented and hated would try so very hard to become a ninja. To actually want to protect the people that so desperately wanted him gone or dead, Anko just couldn't understand it.
She had never approached him or talked with him; she didn't have the time with her training, but she had watched. It was almost hypnotic; he was so young, barely five years old. At that age Anko didn't even understand what the word 'shinobi' meant yet here this boy was, adamant to be the best and train harder than anybody else. She had to run off and continue her own training before too long but that image would stay with her a long time, as a symbol of dedication and strength.
Now here that same boy was, being beaten to within an inch of his life by the very same people he had unwittingly sacrificed so much to protect. It was enough to get the young genin's blood boiling as her fists clenched. She was about to intervene, despite her earlier thoughts about getting to her sensei as soon as possible, when a squad of ANBU landed on the roof across the street from her. She sighed with relief; the recognizable troops were her to protect the village from threats both internal and external.
That made it all the more unbelievable when the four masked men and women merely stood on the roof, apathetically watching the kid get beaten. Finally when it seemed he really couldn't take any more and might actually die they stepped in, jumping into the middle of the fray and dispersing the now large group of civilians. They may have hated Naruto but they weren't going to mess with the stoic and powerful ANBU, they were in such a position for a reason.
Anko waited a few more moments to make sure Naruto was safe but was once again appalled when the civilians were gone and the ANBU merely left, leaving a battered and obviously broken Naruto lying in the middle of the street. As if their sole responsibility had been merely to make sure he hadn't died, as long as he lived they were under no obligation to lift a finger further. She jumped down when they were gone and ran over, for once her Sensei could be damned, she wasn't going to leave somebody in this condition, demon container or not. The small pool of blood around the young boy was sickening and the state of his torn up body made her fear he actually was in fact dead.
It was only when he released a pitiful and cringe-worthy moan that she sighed, he was severely injured but he would survive. She picked him up very carefully, not really caring about the blood that got on her clothing and walked off at a steady and even pace that wouldn't upset the boy's injuries any more. She didn't really know where he lived but when she placed him down a moment to ask she was gladly told by a very excited young man who believed she was going over to trash his apartment.
She was disgusted by the encounter but understood why he had been that way when she reached the address she had been told about. The boy's home, if you could call it that, was a hovel; barely livable for rats. Rubbish and litter was strewn everywhere, when she tried the light switch nothing happened and all the windows were smashed in, the rocks strewn across the floor telling her by what. It was the kind of place someone would over live in if the only alternative was a cardboard box.
She gently laid the boy on his bed which was dirty and had numerous holes where dangerous-looking springs jutted out at odd angles. The whole place revolted her and she looked sadly at the young kid who had to live with it. She hoped that he would see his dream fulfilled to become a shinobi, if only to start receiving some money to improve his living conditions. She looked at him one last time before heading out the window and sprinting off, determined to make up the lost time to get to her Sensei.
Naruto awoke, as he always did this time of year, with a loud and painful groan. He looked down across his body at the dried blood and ripped clothing, he already knew what he would find but had to make sure anyway. Sure enough there wasn't a scratch or mark on his person, his unusually fast healing had saved him from the inevitable scars that would appear from beatings such as his. He sighed deeply before begrudgingly getting out of bed.
He didn't know why everybody hated him but the fact that he would heal from all their beatings practically overnight never seemed to help. In fact they would only get angrier, whilst he still was in the dark as to why. He had recently read about something called a Kekkei Genkai and wondered if this was his. He sighed even more deeply as he would never find out. He was an orphan so he couldn't ask his parents and the Hokage was especially tight-lipped when he asked questions about them or his strange ability.
He wearily dragged his feet across his floor, knocking aside the occasional discarded cup of instant Ramen as he did so. He may have the ability to heal his wounds quickly but that didn't get rid of the pain, or the memories and he winced as he looked down at his stomach where he knew there should be a long, nasty gash from a sharpened pipe. He dragged himself into the shower and stood under the freezing water until the last of the dried blood was washed away into the drain. If it wasn't for the water streaming across his body somebody might have seen that he was crying; the tears flowing seamlessly with the frigid water.
He got out of the shower and dried himself, not bothering to even attempt combing his unruly hair down. He threw on the last white shirt he still owned and a pair of olive shorts before moving tiredly out into the main area of his home. He was too tired and in pain to really notice before so he decided to check on the damage this year.
The windows were all smashed in, letting the chilly morning air into the small apartment. Graffiti covered the walls, some of it new but the majority of it old. The carpet and wallpaper was even more ripped up than usual with what even appeared to be a kunai driven into the wall. He was going to get hell from his landlord for this, despite other people actually destroying the apartment he always got the blame, usually in the form of raised rent, above the already extortionate price.
He sank into his lumpy and old couch, the new tears already streaming down his face. He had pulled the kunai out of the wall and was now sat looking at it intently, some of his own tears slashing across the dulled metal. He considered the weapon a moment, how easy it would be to simply take the sharpened piece of steel and slide it across his own throat. It would end his suffering; end his pain once and for all and he may even see his parents.
Experimentally he raised the knife to his neck, the gleaming blade nicking his skin and drawing a small trickle of bright crimson blood from the tiny cut that had already begun to heal. Tears continued to stream down his face as he slowly pulled the blade across his flesh. However before he could make contact he dropped the knife and clutched his temples in pain as a loud voice echoed out seemingly from inside his own head.
"I can't let you do that Kit, I think it's time we talked" before Naruto even fully understood what was going on he felt himself falling. He felt through his slightly dulled senses that his body had hit the floor of his apartment but his mind was already far away from that, tumbling through his own subconscious.
It was indescribably strange to wake up, knowing that moments ago you already had been wide awake. He rolled over, his mind still buzzing from trying to puzzle out that particular piece of information. What surprised him was that he didn't see the usual faded and peeling wallpaper of his apartment ceiling. He slowly got to his knees, then to his feet and unsteadily looked around himself. He seemed to be in what could only be described as a sewer. Corridors led off in every direction like a maze and the ever present sound of dripping water could be heard all around him.
It wasn't the Konoha sewers, Naruto knew that because he had spent his fair share of time hiding in them. This place was new, yet at the same time he felt a rush of familiarity with the dank, place. Finally Naruto got why it was so strange here; he couldn't smell anything. He was in a sewer, or so he thought, yet he couldn't smell a single thing, nothing, not even himself when he bent down to smell his own arm.
It was the strangest thing and he fixated on that for a few moments as he feared he had somehow lost his sense of smell. As he frantically looked around, worried about this missing sense and his strange surroundings something caught his eye in the periphery of his vision. He turned, slowly this time, to look at the corridor that had captured his attention. It was unremarkable, like the rest of the passages leading off in every direction yet Naruto felt a tug when he looked at it.
He was drawn to it and wondered if he was under the influence of a genjutsu. He had only read about the mind-altering chakra techniques so had nothing to compare it to. In the end he figured that if somebody was actually doing that they would have hurt him already so he simply went with his instincts and walked down the passageway. This continued for a few minutes, reaffirming his earlier thoughts on this strange place being some kind of maze.
It was positively labyrinthine and Naruto found himself weaving through corridor after corridor, still following this strange urge to walk down specific pathways. Finally when he was beginning to get agitated and somewhat annoyed he reached an opening to a room, not just another corridor and cautiously walked inside. Once again he wondered just where he was as he saw the massive steel gate that acted as the fourth wall of the otherwise plain room.
There didn't seem to be anything behind it, the darkness stretching off in every direction despite the light in the room. He looked around; finally realising there was light here, despite there being no source. He shrugged it off, the place was strange enough as it was, one more peculiarity didn't make much of a difference. He was cut off from his ponderings as the previously dark space behind the gate was filled with bright orange flames that seemingly filled every inch of the darkness.
He watched, entranced, as a large set of eyes and a grinning mouth appeared in the flames, looking down at him. He knew he should have been afraid by such a sight; it was straight out of the depictions of demons he had heard. Instead he was only curious; what was a demon doing here? Why was it behind bars? Why was he drawn to it in the first place? And of course the same one that had plagued him since waking up; what is this place?
"Impressive Kit. Not many can stand before me without trembling in terror yet you stand unfazed." The loud, androgynous voice boomed around the room and somehow inside Naruto's head as well.
"Wh-Who are you?" the large face that lacked any distinguishing features except the eyes and grinning mouth lowered itself until the mouth was practically on the floor, if the strange space behind the gate even had a floor.
"I am the Kyuubi no Yoko or in your tongue, the Nine-Tailed Fox" Naruto stared back at him blankly and the massive creature sighed. "One of the Biju?" Naruto only continued to stare at it, uncomprehending. Once again it sighed, the wind it generated whipping around the room. "You know of what you humans called the Yondaime Hokage?" Naruto nodded slowly; everybody in the leaf village knew of him. He was a hero and supposedly the most powerful ninja ever to be born in Konoha.
"He sealed me inside of you on the day you were born in order to contain my power" Kyuubi conveniently left out the fact that it was on a rampage at the time but it figured it wasn't its fault so thought it wasn't worth mentioning.
"Are you the reason why I heal so quickly?" That surprised the Kyuubi; it expected the boy to be more curious about the sealing or the reasons behind it.
"Yes, that is a side effect of my power contained within your mortal body." Naruto looked wearily at the ground and gave a sigh of his own, although against one of the great demon before him it was barely a whisper in the wind.
"Could you stop it?" The question took the Kyuubi off guard, he had been held by human containers before this child yet none of them had ever rebuked the powers it gave them.
"Why? Why would you not want to heal away your injuries as fast as possible?" Kyuubi may have been a demon and as such as known for his age, wisdom and deceit but this lone human being, barely a speck on the tapestry of time, had managed to pique its curiosity. Naruto still had his head tilted down and with its superior sight the massive demon could easily see the small droplets falling from the boy's eyes. Suddenly that same tear-stained face shot up and looked at the creature and with a whisper spoke out.
"Because I just want to die." The Demon narrowed its eyes; it was so unlike its container to give up. Kyuubi may have despised the boy at first because it was forced to endure his pathetic human life but nobody could live as long as it had without coming to appreciate those who try and never give up, even against impossible odds. For it to see such a person finally reach the end of their tether was... not saddening, a demon would never admit to such a pitiful emotion, but disillusioning.
Suddenly the demon's great visage shrank down and its features grew more distinct, it's face actually taking shape. Soon it was a fox about the size of a Rottweiler with deep orange fur dappled with black in the appropriate places. Nine elegant and swishing tails flowed out behind its body. Flicking to and fro as if each had its own mind. Naruto watched curiously as the small fox slinked out from behind the bars, and as it did so glowing threads seem to wrap around its neck, pulsating with a calming blue light.
"Tell me why you wish to die human?" Its voice had lost its androgynous quality, becoming vastly more feminine and soft, yet not losing any of the power it held behind the words.
"You're a girl?" The Kyuubi rolled her eyes at the question, with everything going on this child was curious about her gender?
"What does that change?" Naruto shrugged, nodding slowly at the fox's logic. "Now tell me why you wish to die?" She was much more insistent with the question than before, still curious about the boy's motives. She gracefully walked over to him and sat just in front of him with her head cocked slightly to the side. Naruto also sat down, uncaring of the damp floor beneath him, and wrapped his knees up in his arms.
"I've had enough. I can't take it anymore, the hate, the pain, the loneliness" Kyuubi considered him for a moment, its head cocking in the other direction.
"And what makes you believe that taking your own life is the answer?" it wasn't said mockingly or tauntingly or even said as an accusation, it was merely a question bred from genuine curiosity. For a creature that is technically immortal, death was an even greater mystery to her than it was to humanity. Naruto was put off by the seemingly innocent question about such a topic, that it could be said so nonchalantly was strange.
"I don't know, but I won't have to feel pain anymore and I might get to see my parents." Kyuubi nodded slightly, satisfied by the honest answer; it took courage to admit that you didn't know why you were doing something. Of course she knew that even if there was an afterlife the boy would never see his father. Having used the Reaper death seal to bind her into his son cemented his fate as the Shinigami's plaything. She sighed, of all the humans she had known, Minato Namikaze had actually proved to be a worthy foe and having been sealed in his wife for a number of years, some of her love for him was bound to leak through.
"So to get away from what your village does to you, that is the reason you wish to be rid of your pain?" Naruto nodded. "Then why not simply leave?" Naruto looked at the large fox as if he were about to retort angrily but before he could, the words died on his lips and he hung his head in shame.
"I don't know" It was an honest answer and he genuinely didn't know, he had asked himself the same thing for many years now. However the thought of actually leaving the village never crossed his mind. "Wouldn't that make me a coward?" Kyuubi huffed, a sound that was almost comical from a demonic fox but it was filled with contempt, not aimed at him however.
"Leaving behind undeserved pain and suffering to find happiness and acceptance? That is cowardice? What a filthy and stupid concept." It was blunt and direct but it made Naruto consider the proposal even further.
"How would I even leave? Where would I go?" Kyuubi smiled conspiratorially, glad that the boy was actually considering her offer. For too long she had endured the second-hand pain from the villagers' beatings on her container. He was technically her mortal form and his experiences were her's by proxy.
"Don't worry Kit, that's the easy part."
A/N: Sorry about this but it seems this is causing some problems so I would like to get it out of the way early in the first chapter, this is ultimately a Tayuya pairing, nothing else.