The Fourth Shinobi War ended in disaster. They won, but at a price too great to bear. Given a second chance, what exactly can Konoha's three most powerful men do?
Crimson flames licked away at Konoha, leaving ashes in their wake. The twenty-two year old Rokudaime Hokage, and Commander and Chief of the Joint Alliance, Namikaze Naruto stared at his beloved village in agony. It was gone, everyone was gone. There was nothing left. His Konoha had been destroyed, all of the Five Nations lay in ruins.
To his right stood Nara Shikamaru, Jonin, Captain of Tactical Operations, resident genius of the Leaf, and possibly the laziest ninja alive. Calculating eyes dispassionately watched the burning carnage. He lit a cigarette and took a long drag. Not even his customary troublesome came out of Shikamaru's mouth. This was how terrible the situation was.
To the Rokudaime's left, stood Rock Lee, Jonin, and Captain of the Ground Forces, in all of his spandex-clad glory. His onyx eyes shifted from one emotion to the next, before he slowly sank to his knees, tears streaming down his face that had matured over the years giving him a rugged look.
They were the last three left. The war...it had...destroyed everything.
The civilians were gone. There was no reason to have a Hokage, hell there was no reason to have Shinobi anymore. And what could they do against such an army anyway? The war which had started six years prior had never ended. Sasuke had destroyed everything and everyone that stood in his way...including Sakura. Madara had tried to unleash the Juubi with Obito, and partially succeeded. Naruto shuddered just thinking about what Madara and Obito had done...who they had killed, and what it had taken to restrain them.
It had only been some time back that the village had been weary, but intact.
Yesterday they had lost 80% of the remaining force to control the rampaging beast. So many had died within seconds, too many more had followed. It had taken Bee's death, and the outpouring of Chakra from the Hachibi to cause a ceasefire. Madara had believed that he would be able to control the Hachibi's chakra, but he had been foolish. Gyuuki's will to protect was far greater than Madara's, which was to destroy. Madara, and Obito to an extent, had been severely wounded, and those wounds destroyed the sustenance of the almost-Juubi.
No one had seen hide or hair of Madara or Obito, not that many were alive to see it. Most likely, they were resting, planning, getting ready to strike again. But strike at what?
Damn the Uchiha Clan!
Hope was gone. There was no way out. They would die, and the masked fiend would win, even if he himself was gone.
Naruto had realized early on in the war that simply barging into war headfirst without an actual plan was not a good idea. It had a taken time, but Naruto had grown out of his childish habits. With Kurama under his control, Naruto was a force to be reckoned with.
Yet everything, everything that they had done was in vain.
Too many people had been sacrificed, and for what; a lost battle? Jiraiya, Itachi, Pein, Konan, Iruka, Kakashi, Sakura, Asuma, Anko, Shizune, Temari, Killer Bee, A, Mei, Darui, Samui, Komui, Karin, Jugo, Suigestu, Konohamaru, Gaara, Kankuro, Baki, Tsunade, Ino, Tenten, Neji, Gai, Kurenai, Shino, Kiba, Hinata, Chouji, everyone.
No one had survived. Everyone they had loved was gone. Anko and Yamato were MIA, only to be found KIA after Kabuto was taken care of. What had been done to them...was brutal. It made Naruto want to vomit.
In the midst of Naruto's turbulent mind, one being that transcended heaven and hell raised its regal head. He watched the destruction of the village he himself had once been forced to destroy by the very same man. He sensed his jailor's rage and anguish, and for the first time, the Kyuubi felt compassion. Compassion for Naruto, the people he had lost, and the future.
For more than half of Naruto's life, he had been the pariah of the Leaf Village, all because of him. But then his charge had gained the respect of everyone in the village and become a hero all on his own. And now the hero was on the brink of collapsing. Kyuubi knew that Naruto was going to die either way, and if Naruto died, then so did he. His jailor, possibly the bravest man of his age, would not die such an inglorious death, nor would he die this young. Dying was not something that was in his interest, nor the world's interest. It was not his time, not Naruto's time.
There was only one option left that would insure the survival of not only Naruto and himself, but all the people who had fallen, all the people that Naruto had mourned for.
This was what he could give back to the man who had given him his name again.
Kit. Kurama's deep rumble startled Naruto.
What do you want fox? The man's mind was too fatigued for his companion's inevitable ranting.
Don't give me that tone. Listen carefully, my boy. To you, the future is bleak, a dark void in which you do not want to step foot into. But for me, I can tell that this path that the heavens have laid out for you, this path is not the only path there is to take. You, child, will take the road less traveled by.The fox said cryptically.
This made Naruto curious. He stood slightly straighter. Alright my friend. What is it that you're talking about?
The giant Fox hesitated ever so slightly before answering. However, seeing the spark in his jailor's eyes brought out his resolve. There's a jutsu, not known to humans, but known to all Biju. It can only be performed once, and at great risk to the being doing it. But for you, and for me, it's our last chance to set things right. No one has ever been so stupid or desperate to try it, but like I said, it's our last chance.
Naruto was almost scared to ask. What is it? What could it possibly be?
He heard the Fox inhale and exhale deeply.
Time Travel. I'll be doing it, but you'll be my conduit. It'll take you back to where this mess began in the first place. Kurama lazily blinked as Naruto's expression changed from sullen resignation to curiosity, to finally a triumphant visage of desire.
For the first time in what seemed like years, just a sliver of hope surged through Naruto's veins. He had a chance, a chance to change everything, a chance to stop the people he loved from dying! But wait, the fox was proposing this, there had to be some catch. Why are you doing this? Why do you want to help me? What's in it for you?
Kurama sighed at Naruto's questions. Of course the kid had the right to be wary of him, he had tried to trick the kid into releasing the seal on a couple occasions. Even if they had made their peace, the kit would not completely trust him, and he shouldn't. Fox's were sly after all. Naruto had aged over time, dropping the naivety that Kurama had said that he had all those years ago. The kit now knew that for every action, there was an equal and opposite reaction. Konoha's destruction was a fine example of such a law.
Listen kit, you know that you're going to die, or rather, you want to die. But there is still something to live for. The fact is, if you die, then I die, and I don't want that. If you die, then my spirit will reform again, and it will be filled with hatred once more. Now before you say that I'm being selfish or something hear me out. It's not our time. Fate dictates as such. You should have lived to a ripe old age, older than most because of me. You should have had a beautiful wife and many little kits running around the place. This was not your future, not ours. And then when you died, I would have gone on to the next realm, with my brothers and sisters, to the only human that I would call father - your ancestor Naruto, the Rikudo Sennin.
Naruto frowned. He had never heard such a soft and caring tone from the fox...ever. How do you know this?
Kurama was silent for some moments before he spoke again, his tone oddly soft for an angry sentient being. Naruto, I am millions of years old, older than your Rikudo Sennin. There are some things that cannot be explained...and this is one of them. I have this sense, well actually all the Biju have it but because I am the Nine Tails, and the strongest of the nine, my sense is much stronger than the others. This sense allows me to know things that no one should know, such as the future. Of course, I can't literally see into the future, but i can predict it to an extent. It's one of my gifts as a Biju.
Naruto wanted to scream at the Kitsune for not telling him this sooner, but he did not have the energy to do so. He didn't know how potent this sense was, and if he could have used it to prevent the future. But judging from what Kurama had said before, it seemed as though the fox thought that all wrongs would have righted and Naruto would live the life he was supposed to. Obviously, the future had changed. Naruto exhaled deeply. What is it that you want me to do? He asked resignedly.
Kurama grinned slightly, revealing pointed canines. The seal for the Hiraishin is a Time-Space seal. The people who think that it is simply a seal for moving at high speeds are fools. Your father was a damn genius, and so is that seal. You are jumping through time for a split second while using it. The design is from an old Uzumaki fuinjutsu technique that your mother gave Namikaze way back when. Your father modified it to fit his needs with your mother's help.
Naruto nodded. He knew this information already. In fact, he had perfected his father's famed jutsu and become a fuinjutsu master just like his father and godfather.
But this seal can be modified even further, and if it is modified correctly, it becomes something completely different, it becomes, when activated, a portal. This portal, depending on how much chakra you use has the ability to go back in time, it's a black hole if you will. If I use all of my chakra, and you use maybe half of yours, that should be plenty to go back ten years or so, to the time when you were a genin. The fox paused and reached a giant claw out to Naruto. The cage was unnecessary now. He drew himself to his full height and looked his jailor in the eye. So tell me Naruto, are you willing to take this risk?
Saying no wasn't even an option. If he could do it again, then he would. Icy blue eyes glinted with sheer resolve. I'll do it.
Kurama laughed at the man, his crimson eyes glinting with masked pride. Naruto certainly had come a long way. Very well then. This is the seal...
The fox projected the image of a seal that looked very much like the Hiraishin, but with two deviations. Naruto had to admit that this seal was ingenious, yet very very dangerous. There was a seven pronged seal that rested over a thirteen pronged one. Seven and thirteen were the two most difficult numbers to work with in the sealing business. So much could go wrong, and so much could go right. But desperate times called for desperate measures. He had to do this.
The trick to these types of seals was the use of blood. Though using Ketsueki Fuinjutsu, or blood sealing, was dangerous, it was infinitely more accurate and precise than simple ink. Using a kunai, Naruto let himself bleed into a vial that appeared from nowhere, waiting until it was full to start.
In his mindscape, the sewer where the Kyuubi resided, Naruto began to work, picturing the Hiraishin seal in front of him. He meticulously worked, tweaking the seal all under the watchful eye of the Kyuubi. On the hologram like image of the seal, he added his blood, using patterns of sevens and thirteens to stabilize and centralize the seal to his own liking. Using his blood didn't mean that if he failed in his goal, then his body would pay the price. For example, assuming that he traveled back in time, and he couldn't stop the wrong that would happen, the Shinigami wouldn't take his soul. However, if something went wrong in the actual creation of the seal, then he would die. There was no question about it.
After what felt like hours, he stopped. Sweat covered his handsome face. "It's done." He told Kurama Said fox took a look at the seal shimmering above the murky waters. Nice job kit, I guess you truly are your father's son.
"I thought you hated my father." Naruto deadpanned.
Kurama chuckled. I did kit, and I still do, but I'm respecting his sealing abilities, not the man he was, or what he did to me...to us.
Naruto shook his head. "So now what?"
Now, it begins. Brace yourself kit, this is going to hurt. Kurama closed his eyes and concentrated all of his will into Naruto. Namikaze Naruto, Kurama thought as all consciousness left his body, You will achieve even greater things in your new life, than you did in this one. Ganbatte, gaki. You're going to need it.
The giant fox closed his eyes. If anyone looked closely, one could see the barest hint of a smile on the being's face. He too had hope.
With that done, red volatile chakra that Naruto despised began to seep through the bars that kept Kurama sealed away and into the seal. The rikudo seal glowed red. Naruto was flung into the waters by the immense power that was building in his mind. It was too much. He was forcefully ejected from his mind. The last thing he saw in there was the Kyuubi expelling all of his chakra into Naruto's astral form.
He dropped to his knees much to the surprise of his two companions. They hurried to his side, trying to shake him out of the seemingly agonized state he was in. Had Naruto been injured somehow, and they didn't know about it?
"Naruto! Ruto! What's wrong?" Shikamaru tried to shake him, but his body was rigid. Instead his head snapped up and the two recoiled. Instead of his regular blue, red irises looked back at them. Kyuubi.
"Naruto-kun!" Lee's panicked voice seemingly echoed through his head.
Even through his pain-wracked condition, Naruto could see the two of them clearly. Emotion rushed through him. He couldn't be the only one to go back, he couldn't leave these two in this hell. What they started together would end together. Let them hate him, curse him, whatever. He needed them with him. His mind was set, and no one would deter him.
"I'm sorry. But I have to do this." His voice was harsh and gruff, a low growl. As quick as lightning, he grasped both of their elbows, taking chakra from them in the process.
Before anyone could comprehend what was going on, they vanished in a giant vortex of red and blue light, disappearing from this plane of existence and into the next.
Darkness, the North Wind, blowing. Insects, chirping, annoyed probably. The sweet smell of dewy grass. Faint rumblings from the forest around, wild animals looking for food.
And then, eyes opened, widened, and gasped. For what those eyes saw was...
The first thing that Naruto felt as he woke was pain.
The first thing Shikamaru felt as woke was lethargy.
The first thing Lee felt as he woke was bursts of unending energy.
"Ugh." Shikamaru groaned. He tried to sit up, but promptly fell on his back once again.
"My sentiments exactly." Naruto winced. He actually did manage to come to a sitting position, rubbing his eyes, trying to figure out if Kurama's plan had worked, or if he had screwed up royally and dragged his best friends into a new hell for nothing.
"Naruto..." Shikamaru's voice was low as he observed their surroundings. Then his eyes traveled to his friends and a low groan settled in his throat. Kami...or in this case...the Kyuubi, had a really odd way of setting things right, for this...this could only be the Kyuubi's doing. This had to be a joke!
"Naruto-kun!" Lee's voice rattled both Naruto and Shikamau who shot the spandex-clad man dirty looks before their eyes widened as they took in Lee's appearance. Lee had the decency to looks abashed. Yet his expression changed to one of bafflement as soon as he saw where they had...landed.
"Shika...Lee...are we where I think we are?" Naruto asked slowly. Painfully, the blond staggered to his feet, wobbling slightly, but holding his own. Beside him, he felt his two companions do the same.
"The Valley of the End." Shikamaru exhaled slowly, wishing that he had a cigarette. Wait...hadn't this place been destroyed? He stared at the figures of Senju Hashirama and Uchiha Madara with undisguised suspicion before looking back at Naruto with the same expression. "How ironically fitting."
Lee had an uncharacteristically morose expression. "Um..guys, I hate to break this to you but..."
"We look like we're twelve?" Naruto deadpanned, looking at the adolescent versions of his best friends. He winced as he took in the horrendous orange jumpsuit that he was so famous for. "I know."
"What the hell did you do?" Shikamaru asked. There was no hostility in his voice, just resigned acceptance.
"I didn't do anything besides modify a seal." Naruto pointed to his gut. "Kurama did it. He saved the future by saving us."
A moment of silence passed, broken only by the chirping of crickets and the hooting of owls off in the distant night. It was quite a peaceful atmosphere for such a violent present.
"Ten years." Naruto continued, trying to regulate his chakra with breathing. He could feel his nearly inexhaustible energy trying to cope with his teenage body. "We're ten years in the past. Shika and I are twelve, and Lee, you're thirteen."
Shikamaru circled around his friend, stumbling slightly. "So let me get this straight. The fox...Kurama, sent us and only us back in the past so that we could play Kami and save the world from imploding." His onyx eyes held Naruto's steady gaze, the gaze of his Hokage, his master.
"Yes." Naruto replied.
Lee watched with trepidation as his best friends engaged in a staring contest, neither blinking, neither moving. All he could do was hope that nobody acted rashly.
"So we can save everyody?" Shikamaru finally asked.
"Only those who are meant to be saved. Temari included." Naruto added the last part quietly, remembering the woman who was the closest thing he had to a sister.
Tears prickled Shikamaru's eyes as he thought of his Temari, his wife, the only woman troublesome enough for him, who had died in his arms along with his unborn child. Could this really be true? Could he have another chance?
"What's the catch?"
Naruto snorted. Of course. As a Nara, it was in Shikamaru's blood to look at all the angles. He didn't know whether to be delighted or concerned when Shikamaru asked the same question that he had asked the fox.
"I have no idea." He replied honestly. "All I know is the that we're back, ten years in the past. Kurama informed me before he performed that we're most likely genin, so this places us all before or after the Chunin exams. And since all of us have our headbands, I can safely say that we are already Ninja. This means that Lee is definitely with Gai, and that Shika and I are on our teams. " At least Naruto wouldn't have to redo the academy again.
"Damn it Ruto!" Shikamaru ground out in frustration. "A little heads up would have been nice! I mean, you grabbed our wrists and literally sucked the chakra from us. I can feel that I don't even have a tenth of what I did just before we left."
"You think it's bad for you?" Naruto scoffed. "Right now, Kurama is probably sleeping. That jutsu drained nearly all of his chakra. Our link is gone for now. I'll estimate that in a month or two, he'll be back and better than ever. But even without his chakra, this body can't handle my adult reserves. If we don't start training, then all of us, Lee, you too, will have mass chakra overloads that will short circuit our bodies and kill us." The seriousness in the Hokage's voice silenced Shikamaru and Lee.
"Naruto-kun." Lee said slowly. "Don't take this the wrong way but, it's very scary to hear you talk so...so..." Lee couldn't find the word he wanted to say.
"So intelligently." Shikamaru finished. "It's kind of hard to believe that Uzumaki...sorry...Namikaze Naruto, the boy who couldn't say chakra correctly, ended up fulfilling his dream and becoming the most powerful man since the Rikudo Sennin."
A bitter smile crossed Naruto's face. "If I was so powerful, why couldn't I save them? We won, but they lost." He shook his head, blue eyes looking much older than they should.
"And that's why we're back. You said it yourself, Naruto. We're here to save them." Shikamaru said forcefully, clapping his brother in arms on the shoulder.
"YOSH!" Lee shouted, his voice piercing the stillness of the night. This time, Naruto and Shikamaru just smiled at him. It was nice to hear this side of Lee after so many years. He hadn't been the same since Gai had died. "We will do it! I have faith in us, and Kurama-san!"
All three faces turned to the moon and the stars that twinkled around it. All shining brightly, all mocking them. There was no moon in the future, just a black sky. There was no hope in the future, just darkness.
But now, now they had been given a chance to change everything, a chance to keep that moon there, a chance to keep the world intact.
And no one would be able to stop them from doing so. Not even Kami himself.
My first time travel fic:) I know that I haven't updated the other three stories in over a year, but I realized just how immature my writing was. I feel kind of ashamed for them, especially A Maelstrom's Legacy. I might continue The Mistake of a Lifetime, but the other two are on official hiatus. That being said, if anyone would like to adopt those two stories, please be my guest:) And if you do choose to do so, then please notify me:)