First off, I would like to thank my new and first Beta: WolftheForsaken!
Yes yes, sorry for the delay. It's a hectic time of year...but...I hope you had a wonderful new year!
I apologize for the inconsistency of Ayame and Teuchi being alive/dead. It had slipped my mind that I had decided that they were dead. (This is why I need a Beta)
The most prominent question I got was "Will Sasuke be redeemed?" Now I'm glad you all liked the ending of the last chapter, but to address the question, I honestly do not know. The story will take me where it take me, but this story is NOT meant to bash anyone...Not even Sakura (although it may seem like it).
Now, I can't just jump back into the action, a.k.a the Finals/Invasion, so I have to write this peaceful-ish interlude. Many people wanted to see some Naruto/Kakashi bonding, so I wrote that!
Enough of my blabber!
Just sit back and enjoy the tenth installment of A Wrinkle in Time...
The blade glinted in the harsh sunlight, blood dripping off of it, creating a crimson pool that seeped into the ground.
A woman, lying on the ground, her throat slit. Warm blood still gushing from the wound.
Hysterical laughter coming from above her. A man, with raven hair and crimson eyes, holding the wicked blade to have done the deed.
A flash of gold, pounding feet, cries of disbelief.
Hot tears mingling with the blood below.
"You see Naruto!" Uchiha Sasuke screamed. "The woman who claimed to have loved me is DEAD! By my own hand! Did you know that she even wanted to leave Konoha with me when I first left!"
Blue eyes, icier than the coldest parts of Snow Country, glared at the Uchiha, hot tears coming down his face. "She was our teammate! She LOVED you! You bastard! How could you have done this!"
More laughter. "I know she loved me. And look how I repaid her." The bloody sword pointed to the flower-shaped pattern of blood on the woman's chest. The place where her heart was.
"She wanted me to take her heart, right?" Red eyes burned with madness. "So I did!"
A blue sphere of pure rage.
Red eyes widening as the sphere crashed into their owner's chest.
More blood spattering.
"This isn't over, Dobe!" A cough, followed by a puff of smoke.
"No it isn't, Teme. No it isn't." Knees hitting the ground, fists pounding into the dirt.
Dead green eyes. Accusing him. Saying, "Why didn't you save me, Naruto? Why couldn't you save me?"
"I'm sorry, Sakura-chan! I'm so sorry!"
Gentle hands pulling him back, soothing his pain. "Naruto-kun. There's nothing more that can be done."
"I'm so sorry."
Naruto jolted awake, cold sweat pouring down his shuddering body. Icy and hot flashes ran through him, which caused him to shiver even more.
This was the first time he had had a nightmare of the war since arriving to the past. But that particular one...of Sakura's death...that was one of his recurring night terrors since she had died.
He had wounded Sasuke grievously with his patented attack, but couldn't find the strength to end it all right there, not with Sakura's dead body lying on the ground, so pale, so...still.
Swinging his legs over the bed, he stood shakily using the wall as support. Judging by the lightening sky that he could see through the window, it was close to dawn.
Naruto sat on the floor with a soft thud. The cold, wooden floor that was unique to the Nara Clan comforted him and cooled his body down. He still couldn't believe that he had his own room in the Clan.
Yoshino-san had all but forced him and Lee to choose the two conveniently empty rooms next to Shikamaru's. And for that, he was eternally grateful.
His own apartment, the one that he visited about once a week, could probably fit within this room. With the Nara's, he and Lee were treated just like Shikamaru was. They weren't guests anymore, they were just permanent fixtures who made the lazy household a bit more exciting.
Naruto closed his eyes, evening out his breathing.
He could feel the natural energy around him, thrumming with life, vibrant, beautiful. The feel of the pure chakra threatened to overwhelm him. How long had it been since he had entered Sage Mode? He had only tried it once since arriving back to the past.
Naruto could hear Shikamaru's heartbeat pounding steadily in the next room. The rhythm flowed with Naruto's breathing, and brought a small smile to the blond's face.
Abruptly, he stopped gathering chakra. It wasn't that he couldn't, but now was not the right time. Now was the time to think ahead, to anticipate the enemy's attack, and create a counter.
Naruto sighed and ruffled his already disheveled hair. Plans and strategy were more Shikamaru's area of expertise. Over the years he himself had become quite good at creating them, but no one could beat Shikamaru when he was in his element.
Standing up, he stretched all the kinks out of his body. Ah, that felt quite good. His body felt nimble and supple, the way a shinobi's body should feel like.
Hm. The sky was changing hues quickly. Maybe he would take a quick jog around the village before coming back home for breakfast.
A sardonic and surprised laugh escaped Naruto. he thought of this place as home, not just some residence where he slept, ate, and did his business. This was home.
With that thought in mind, Naruto gleefully vanished in a puff of smoke, his body shaking with energy.
Yakushi Kabuto was annoyed. Ever since he had left the Chunin Exams prematurely, he had become slightly paranoid. It was bad enough that Uchiha Sasuke had escaped their grasp courtesy of those three pesky genin, but now he felt as though he was being watched.
Of course, perhaps this feeling stemmed from the fact that in one month, Konoha was going to be turned upside down thanks to them. Perhaps a little paranoia was a good thing. However, it honestly did seem as though someone was watching him.
He walked to the hospital in relative silence, the steady pounding of his sandal-clad feet on the ground below steadying his heart-rate. It was only six in the morning so barely anyone was on the streets at this hour. He smiled politely at a buxom middle-aged lady who managed a fruit stall who, to his revulsion, sent him a sultry smile.
Entering the hospital, he signed in and went about carrying his duties as if he wasn't planning an attack on Konoha.
All the while, he didn't notice a masked face silently recording all of his actions down to the minutest of details.
Naruto's jog ended at the memorial stone. He didn't know why he was so drawn to this particular place, but his feet had dragged him here.
The stone was...a reminder.
The boy clenched his fists. Yes. This stone was one hell of a reminder of what was to come, and what could not come. After the war had started, there had been too many names to carve, so they had stuck with tallies instead. But after a while, there had just been too many of those tallies as well.
And then the stone itself had been destroyed by Uchiha Obito himself. Right after he had tortured Kakashi to death.
Tears rose to Naruto's eyes as he thought of Kakashi's death, of his mutilated body. But they never fell. They wouldn't fall.
All of a sudden, Naruto stiffened before relaxing imperceptibly.
"Now I see why you get lost on the road of life, Sensei."
From behind him, Kakashi chuckled and walked forward so that he stood right next to Naruto. One hand lazily found its place on top of the teen's head.
"Fancy seeing you here, Naruto." In all honesty, Kakashi was surprised. He had been doing this little morning ritual for nearly twelve years now, and so far, Naruto had been the first to intercept that routine.
Naruto shrugged, but Kakashi could see the look in the boy's eyes. It was one that he knew himself.
Regret. Wistfulness. Want. Sadness. Guilt.
A twelve year-old child should not have the eyes of a seasoned soldier like himself.
The cyclops blinked. "I'm sorry?"
Naruto let out a long suffering sigh. "Who is it that you mourn? This person must have been incredibly close to your heart for you to take the time to just stare at this stone for hours on end before coming to training ground seven, or whatever else you do on your off days."
Kakashi idly ruffled Naruto's hair, thinking what his response to that would be. Naruto on the other hand, was inwardly cursing Uchiha Obito with every fiber of his being.
"His name was Obito, and he was an Uchiha, and my teammate." Kakashi finally said, closing his eyes in pain of the memory of his greatest rival. "And for a while, you reminded me of him."
Naruto flinched. Perhaps before Obito had turned evil, he and the Uchiha did have things in common, but Naruto never equated the younger version of Obito to the Obito that he knew and despised.
Kakashi, who was oblivious to the turmoil he was causing Naruto, continued. "He wasn't stuck up like the other Uchiha's, you know? He was...loud. And for the longest time, I hated him."
The blond boy sat down, and his Sensei copied him. Kakashi gave Naruto a wan smile. "Before, I compared him to you, but now, I think you're a bit too much like me."
Naruto pulled at the grass beneath him, taken aback by Kakashi's comment. "What do you mean?" It was the first time that he had been compared to Kakashi. Usually, it was his dad, his mom. or Jiraiya, or even the Shodaime, but this was a first. If anything, Naruto could draw the similarities between Sasuke and Kakashi.
The cyclops pulled at his mask. "We hide our true natures. Me, behind this mask and my books, and you beneath the orange jumpsuit you wore, the pranks, the hyperactivity." He chanced a glance at Naruto. His Sensei's son looked stoic, but Kakashi could tell he was affected by his words. "Your dad was so open, so unguarded, well, until we were on the battlefield of course."
Now that got a reaction out of Naruto who looked up. "Really?"
Kakashi's visible eye glimmered with warmth. "Really. To tell you the truth, when you...sealed...the Ichibi, I think everyone watching was reminded of Minato-sensei. The commanding tone of your voice, your confidence, the way that Shikamaru and Lee followed your orders, it was as if you had become Hokage for a bit."
Naruto chortled uncomfortably. Wasn't that the truth...
"But your laugh, your ramen addiction, the energy that you have, the pranks, now that's all Kushina nee-san."
Naruto smiled a true smile, one that reminded Kakashi of his sensei.
"You called her nee-san?"
Kakashi ran a hand through his hair. "She didn't give me much of a choice!" He closed his eyes, remembering how the red-head had pretty much threatened him to call her nee-san with a kunai in one hand, and a large whisk in the other. She was making omelets for the entire team, if he recalled correctly.
In his mind, Naruto could picture that scene happening. He had heard how scary his mother could be with her flaming red hair. His mother had told him that she had been nicknamed "Tomato" in the Academy due to that red hair, and how her temper had eventually earned her the moniker "The Red Hot-Blooded Habanero."
It was ironic really.
Yellow and red made orange.
"So Kaa-san was violent?" Naruto asked innocently, noticing Kakashi's shiver.
"To say the least." Kakashi grinned. "She had a temper, that's for sure, but she was also probably the strongest and scariest woman I had the privilege of meeting. Actually, she and Tsunade-sama had many things in common now that I think about it."
"It runs in the blood." Naruto snorted.
"Isn't that the truth." Kakashi lay back on the ground, enjoying the silence that his companion provided him with.
If someone would have told him when he had first taken Team Seven, that Uzumaki Naruto would one day be sitting with him by the memorial stone, quiet as a...shinobi, he would have shown them his face. However, observing the young man besides him, Kakashi realized that perhaps this quiet nature of Naruto's, it might actually be his real one.
Yes. The soft smile on his face, the understanding in his eyes, it was as if Naruto was a completely new person.
"You won't be training me." It wasn't a question, it was a statement.
The grey haired man shook his head ruefully. "Jiraiya-sama has already claimed you." He snorted. "But, seeing as to what you did in the Forest, and during the Preliminaries, I highly doubt that you need much training."
"Sasuke is lucky to have you teaching him." Naruto murmured softly, noting that Kakashi didn't so much as blink when he said that.
A stray leaf landed on Naruto's blond hair, yellow and green clashing. He deftly snatched it in his fingers, and twirled it, marveling in the subtle patterns that the veins made. Nature was truly beautiful.
"Naruto, why don't you come with me?" Kakashi declared suddenly, holding out his hand to the genin.
The boy looked at his Sensei's extended hand with some reluctance. He was rather hungry, and the Nara Clan truly had excellent food.
"Come on! I'll even throw in breakfast!" Kakashi coaxed him with his signature eye-smile.
Naruto shook his head in exasperation but said nothing as the older man took hold of him.
Without another word, they vanished in a poof of smoke.
Only to reappear in Kakashi's apartment.
Naruto bit back the feelings of nostalgia. He had been here a couple times, discussing missions and the like. It hadn't changed at all. There was still the picture of the previous Team Seven in the foyer. His gaze lingered on his father the longest. They really did look alike. He astutely ignored Obito's smiling face, and disregarded the similarities between this picture, and the one of the current Team Seven that was gathering dust in Naruto's barely used apartment. That picture had been taken after the mission to Wave, when the members of that team had built an unstable friendship.
"You're not some type of pedophile, are you Sensei?" Naruto deadpanned, enjoying when Kakashi stumbled and sputtered.
"What are you talking about?!"
Naruto just shrugged, having a bit too much fun torturing the poor man. "I mean, what Sensei brings a kid to his apartment this early in the morning with absolutely no warning, without having some kind of ulterior motive. Heck, you even lured me here with food. It's not candy, but it's close enough. Not to mention the time when you poked me in the butt with that ridiculous and somewhat disturbing move when we first fought."
If Kakashi hadn't caught the amusement in Naruto's eyes, he would have believed him. Instead, he let out a breath and fastened the boy with a glare. "You really had me going there for a second, brat. But you're right, I do have an ulterior motive."
The man disappeared into his bedroom for a second, only to come back with a package in his hand.
He gave it to Naruto, who was staring at it with open curiosity. "What is it?"
"Open it." Kakashi said, standing back.
Naruto did as he was told, and furiously stamped down the emotions that were threatening to rise to the surface when he saw what his present was.
A photo album.
Kakashi watched as the emotions that Naruto was desperately trying to cover escaped. With a sad sigh, the Jonin confirmed to himself that Naruto was more like him than he had thought.
"Now that you know your parentage, it's only right that I gave this to you." Kakashi said softly, leading the teen into the kitchen where they both slumped into chairs.
Shaky fingers opened the first page.
Naruto's breath caught in his throat as he gazed at the first picture with longing. It was of his mother with Tsunade baa-chan who looked the same as she did now. This picture must have been twenty years old.
A teenage Kushina had her arms wrapped around Tsunade's waist, while the older woman had her arm draped over Kushina's shoulder. Naruto traced his mother's smile, memorizing it, copying it, committing it to memory. Kushina really was beautiful. Both of them were. He didn't realize just how close his mother and Tsunade were.
The second picture was of his father and Jiraiya. Naruto stifled a snort at the picture. His father looked distressed at the fact that Jiraiya had Minato in a headlock.
"Both of these pictures were taken before the War began. Minato-sensei and nee-san were nineteen." Kakashi murmured quietly.
Nineteen. I became Hokage at that age. Naruto thought dispassionately.
I never thought I would say this brat, but you matured quicker than anyone in the previous generation, or even your own. It's amazing when you think about it. You started off as a naive, stubborn, pathetic shinobi, and look what you turned into. Kurama added his own two cents in, licking his paw lazily.
Yeah well. A bitter smile crossed Naruto's face. Desperate times called for desperate measures.
The blond teen turned the page, a delighted expression lighting up his face. The next picture was one of Minato and Kushina together. Both of them had small blushes on their faces, and they were holding hands. Naruto looked to Kakashi expectantly who chuckled.
"Ah, I remember that picture. I took it. Minato-sensei had pretty much confessed to the world that he loved nee-san, and that he would die if she said no to him." Kakashi smirked. "Actually, that's something I can picture you doing."
Naruto ignored the blush that was rising to his own cheeks, and focused on the warm sensation in his stomach that had nothing to do with Kurama. His dad had been a romantic, eh?
"Kushina nee-san had been dead embarrassed because Sensei had decided that the best time to confess his undying love was in the middle of the market, during the busiest time of day. Me and Jiraiya-sama had been following the two of them that day, and there was a bet going on among the Jonins as to who would confess first. I distinctly recall nee-san freezing in the street, and everyone staring at her. Then, her face turned the most interesting shade of red that I have ever seen before she promptly walked over to your dad, bopped him over the head, and pulled him into a kiss which had the entire street jumping for joy." Kakashi snickered gleefully. "I also won a thousand yen that day."
Naruto couldn't help but bursting into uncontrollable laughter as he pictured that scene. "I assume he was teased mercilessly."
The evil glint in Kakashi's eyes had Naruto doubled over.
"Oh you have no idea. There was just so much blackmail material..."
A pleasant silence descended over the kitchen table as Naruto flicked through more photos. There were some of Jiraiya and Tsunade, but most of them were of Team Seven, Minato, and Kushina. That is, until Naruto got near the end.
"Why are there pictures of me?"
And indeed, there were several pictures of baby Naruto with the Sandaime, with the ANBU squad that looked over him. Naruto distinctly recognized the hair of Uchiha Itachi and Uzuki Yugao in the ANBU Squad along with Kakashi and two were more pictures with Kakashi, and with some select Jonin like Genma, Asuma, and Gai. And then there were the random photos of him that looked like they had been taken from a distance as Naruto was pulling a prank, as he was eating ramen, as he was being punished for something at the academy.
Naruto's eyes narrowed as they met Kakashi's who cringed slightly. The older man sheepishly grinned at the teen who looked thoroughly unimpressed.
"Were you stalking me?"
"I wouldn't call it stalking per-say...I was just...looking after you."
"By taking pictures of me when I wasn't looking?" Naruto asked, incredulous. He knew Kakashi cared for him, but seriously? This was creepy.
When Kakashi didn't answer, Naruto sighed and turned the page.
"WHAT THE HELL IS THAT?"
"What is wh- oh." Kakashi concealed a snicker.
Naruto pointed a trembling finger at Kakashi in accusation. "HOW COULD YOU ALLOW THIS...THIS MONSTROSITY TO BE TAKEN?"
Kakashi could no longer hide his sheer amusement at Naruto's outraged face. "Maa, maa, it's not so bad." Yeah right.
"NOT SO BAD MY ASS!" The blond stood up. "LOOK AT THIS!" He shook the album violently. "I'M GREEN!" He sat back down, pouting and very angry.
The older man clutched at his stomach as he broke out into a fit of giggles and chuckles which caused Naruto to look at him fondly, despite his annoyance with everything in the world at the moment. When was the last time he had heard Kakashi's laughter? Not for a long time. Still, the source of the man's amusement was not very funny to him.
The picture in question was one of Naruto and Gai. Naruto must have been no older than two, and dressed in green spandex. His thumb was outstretched like Gai's was, and both toddler and adult were smiling, displaying all the teeth that they had. In Naruto's case, it was a total of about five.
Who in their right minds had let him be dressed in spandex?
Underneath the picture was a caption that read Baby Naruto and Gai. Taken by Kakashi.
"Just because I was too young to know what was going on did not mean that you had the right to torture me!" Naruto grumbled, crossing his arms rather petulantly.
"So I guess I shouldn't mention when we dressed you up in fishnets and paraded you around ANBU headquarters as Anko's apprentice?"
If looks could kill, Kakashi would be dead ten times over.
The older man simply giggled again as he dodged a kunai and went to go put rice in the cooker.
"CHOJURO-KUN!" An exuberant woman sang cheerfully as she pranced her way through the office of the Mizukage.
The short swordsman gulped slightly as he walked into the Mizukage's private room, ready to take on whatever Mei-sama threw at him.
Terumi Mei, the most powerful woman in Kiri, was gleeful when she had read the message from Ao that had arrived yesterday afternoon. It had taken three times of re-reading it to get over the shock of Ao's message, but once the shock was gone, pure happiness remained.
"M...Mei-sama." The man bowed low, hoping that she wasn't going to dump paperwork on him...again.
"Guess what?" She nearly glomped him, but decided against it at the last minute.
Chojuro honestly had no idea what she was so happy about. "Um did one of our genin make it to the finals of the Chunin Exams?"
The woman shook her head, the smile still firmly planted on her face. "Nope! They all lost! Guess again!"
The man resisted the urge to plant his face in his palms. "A...Ao-san found a wife?"
The cheerful atmosphere vanished instantly, replaced by something menacing enough to make anyone want to wet themselves. Chojuro cringed, fully expecting to be melted by lava.
"I...I don't know, Mei-sama."
Once again, there was a smile on Mei's face. "I found that I have another cousin! And he's Kushina nee-san's son!"
That threw Chojuro for a loop. He was one of the few who knew that Mei was part of the Uzumaki Clan, and her relation to Uzumaki Kushina. But to think that Kushina-sama had a son?
"His name is Uzumaki Naruto! He's twelve, a genin, and absolutely adorable! Look!" Mei picked up a picture off of the desk and thrust it in Chojuro's face. It was of Ao and a blond boy who Chojuro assumed was this Uzumaki Naruto. With spiky blond hair, a warm smile, and brilliant blue eyes, the Chunin was reminded of pictures of the Yondaime Hokage.
Those two had been the same age.
There were rumors that she had been romantically involved with him.
That scary resemblance.
This kid was the son of the Yondaime!
Well...there was a 99.99% chance that he was right about that.
"We're going to Konoha to see my baby cousin kick some butt for the Finals!" Mei pranced around the room, carrying the picture around.
Chojuro just nodded numbly and walked out of the room.
Life had just gotten a bit more interesting.
Jiraiya observed his godson as he sat lazily on the water, waiting for further instruction. They were at training ground 18 right now, the one whihc was closest to the river that ran through Konoha. Jiraiya had promised to show him "super-cool" and "totally awesome" jutsus if he displayed impressive chakra control.
Which Naruto had just done.
Though Jiraiya loathed to do it, he couldn't help but compare Naruto to Minato. They were both his students after all. Minato had been a genius, but from what he had heard of what Naruto had done at the exams, Naruto was well on his way of surpassing his father, even at this tender age.
"Tch." Naruto frowned. "Ero-jiji, this is boring."
Now that brought a tick to Jiraiya's jaw.
"Call me Ero-jiji one more time gaki, and I'll make you sit here the entire day." The Sennin growled without any heat.
Naruto just smirked at him, practically oozing confidence. "E-r-o j-i-j-i."
"Brat." Jiraiya's voice held the smallest amount of ire.
After a minute of just staring at each other, the Sage just sighed and copied his godson by sitting on the water.
"Can you teach me to summon?" Naruto asked quietly, startling the older man slightly. "I want to carry on tou-san's legacy, and that mean's that I will learn summoning and the rasengan." The future Hokage's tone gave no room for dissent.
Jiraiya stared at the boy before smirking. That fire in his eye, that was all Minato right there.
"I don't see why not!" In one swift motion, the scroll off of Jiraiya's back unsealed itself and plopped onto dry ground, unfurling as it came to rest.
Now, Naruto had fully expected to see his name on the scroll, knowing that summoning was not constricted by time and space, and therefore was slightly taken aback when the last name to have been signed was Namikaze Minato. Bounding over to the scroll, he knelt by it, tracing over his father's name in reverence, something that Jiraiya didn't miss.
"The scroll must be signed in blood, so-"
Naruto had already sliced his hand open and was currently making a big show of once again becoming a Toad Summoner. When his signature was complete, it felt as though a missing part of him had been restored.
Jiraiya looked slightly bemused, but beamed proudly at Naruto's wide grin. "Do you know the seals for the Jutsu?"
Naruto shook his head, deciding to dumb himself down a bit.
"Alright, watch carefully then. Since our Toad summons are made through a blood contract, in order to summon them, blood must be present. So prick one of your fingers or something. The first seal is the boar seal which goes to dog, to bird, to monkey, to ram. Then, slam your palm onto the ground, and shout Kuchiyose no Jutsu!, and depending on your control and output of chakra, the toad of your choosing will appear."
"So you mean the more chakra I put in, the larger the toad?" Naruto placed a finger on his chin, tapping it thoughtfully. It was fun to see his Sensei in "Sensei-mode" instead of "Pervert-mode."
"Not necessarily larger," Jiraiya corrected, "But more powerful." He clapped his hands together, a smile on his face. "So, give it a try!"
Eagerly, Naruto ran through the seals with ease, not noticing the narrowing of Jiraiya's eyes, and slammed his bloody palm on the ground, inwardly praying that he didn't summon Gamakichi...or Gamabunta for that matter.
Naruto didn't have to worry though, because the second he shouted out Kuchiyose no Jutsu, he promptly vanished in a poof of smoke, leaving behind a dumbfounded Jiraiya.
The Sennin stared at the spot where his godson had vanished from in disbelief. The Toads had reverse-summoned Naruto!
Well, that wasn't supposed to happen.
The first thing that Naruto saw was the smiling faces of Fukasaku and Shima, or better known as Ma and Pa, which caused him to scramble backwards.
He had been reverse-summoned? But why?
"It's good to see you, Naruto-chan." Fukasaku aimed a kick at his head which Naruto deftly sidestepped.
"You too." The blond muttered, politely turning down a bowl of worms that Shima had thrust in his face.
Naruto breathed in the fresh air of Mt. Myoboku, reveling in the energy that it was engulfed in. He closed his eyes, enhancing his senses as he did so.
Kami! He could be lost in admiring this haven for the rest of his life.
His admiration was cut short as he hit the ground rather hard and massaged his sore jaw.
The elder toad looked quite proud of himself for landing a slap on the daydreaming man/boy.
"What was that for?" Naruto grumbled, picking himself off the ground.
"Pay attention, Naruto-chan!" Pa pointed to straight ahead. "The Ogama Sennin* has called for you."
Naruto immediately schooled his features into those of utter and complete respect. "Ojiji-sama, eh?"
"He has seen new visions of the future that you and your comrades altered, and Ojiji-sama would like you to be the first one to hear them."
The time traveler was on high alert. New visions? The last time he had been summoned to hear new visions was very close to when the trio had gone back in time. Ojiji-sama had seen flames and death, and Naruto had all but lost hope by that point.
If the Elder Toad Sage indeed had seen something other than death, there in itself was the proof that the future had been changed.
As the trio walked to the Ogama Sennin's throne room, Naruto let a soft smile overtake his features. This place had been where he had changed, become stronger, taken on the mantle of a Sennin after his Sensei had passed on to the other world. It was a reminder of everything he had striven to be.
It was comfort.
It was pain.
It was sadness.
It was joy.
It was his paradise.
Fukasaku took a look at the man turned boy's peaceful face. A soft yet heavy sigh escaped the sage. The toads had all felt the shift when Naruto had performed the jutsu that had brought him and his companions back in time.
The bond between summon and summoner was born of blood. Naruto's blood tied him to them. Of course, it was the first time in history had performed time travel, therefore the effects of such a jutsu on summons had not been documented.
Nothing had changed.
Well, almost nothing.
The toads still remembered what had happened as if it was yesterday, which in the beginning, it was. Their bodies hadn't changed. Of course, it was the younger generation, Gamakichi and Gamatatsu, who had grown immensely since Naruto had first summoned them.
Those who had died, had come back.
Gerotora, who had perished two years after the war had started, had awakened all of them will a large cry, followed by several croaks as he burst into the Ogama-Sennin's chambers, shocking all those present.
When they finally realized what had happened, tears were shed, mothers embraced lost children, husbands and wives reunited, families were complete once again.
And it was all thanks to the man who walked besides Fukasaku.
Naruto stopped in front of the large area which housed the Great Toad Sage, a feeling of nostalgia and anxiousness running through him.
The guards greeted him as if he was an old friend, and they entered the throne room.
This reminds me of Rikudo-jiji's place. Kurama remarked lazily, licking a paw.
His jailor nearly tripped over his feet at the sound of the fox's voice.
I'm really feeling the love, brat. He said with dry amusement.
Shut up. Naruto shot back with no real ire. Wait, what do you mean?
Kurama sighed loudly. Rikudo-jiji had a giant house where all of us used to stay. Before you say anything, we were pretty small back then, so we fit. This room reminds me of where the old man used to practice his fuuinjutsu and what not.
Naruto had nothing more to say, so he simply nodded, and trained his eyes on the elderly toad sitting on the giant throne.
"It had been too long, Ojiji-sama. I thank you for summoning me." The Hokage bowed low, with Ma and Pa following him.
The toad peered down at Naruto, a smile on his weathered and wart-filled face.
"It was indeed I who summoned you." A look of confusion overtook his face. "Who are you again?"
There was a moment of silence before Naruto laughed softly. So much had changed, but some things just stayed the same.
"It's me, Namikaze Naruto, Rokudaime Hokage, and Jinchuuriki of the Kyuubi, Ojiji-sama."
A great rumble was heard from the elderly toad as he locked eyes with the teen. "Ah yes. Now I remember. The Child of the Prophecy."
Unwittingly, a small smile made its way onto Naruto's face. It had been quite some time since someone had called him by that particular moniker. But that smile quickly faded down into a controlled grimace.
Some savior I was.
Kurama sighed in exasperation. The brat did this all the time. Self-loathing.
It was a gift that Mito and Kushina had perfected as well, although all three of them had hid it quite well.
Naruto had the most guilt on his shoulders. Some part of his jailor...his partner...housed the burden of the Fourth World War. They died protecting me was the prevalent thought that the brat had had, especially when Hyuuga Neji had passed on. That had been the first death from the kid's friend circle, and predictably, the hardest.
Snap out of it. Kurama grumbled, a bit harsher than intended.
Naruto stood in silence for a second before nodding ever so slightly and diverting his full attention to the old toad.
"I have had many visions, my boy. Please listen to them carefully." The wizened toad stated, coughing slightly.
"The Child of the Prophecy has changed reality, and in doing so, hope has been restored."
The blond sage nodded, ignoring the lump in his throat.
"However, obstacles will be thrown his way, sooner than he expects."
The lump grew smaller as Naruto steeled his nerves. Yes. He had expected this. Ever since Gaara had been miraculously given back his memories, he had expected this. The ripples had been made, and now, all they could do was prepare for the tsunami that was coming.
"The sly fox will be joined by the wise deer, and firm turtle."
At Naruto's amused snort, Shima and Fukasaku looked at him quizzically, to which he simply shook his head.
Deer and turtle eh? Shika and Lee would be pleased, no doubt.
"Together the three of them will fight as one, as brothers, as kin. The octopus and raccoon will be their greatest allies, but they will fall if the crimson eyed fiends are not stopped. If the moon vanishes, the sun cannot do its job. The tides will not be controlled. Darkness will reign, and snakes will plague the land."
Cerulean eyes narrowed. Ojiji-sama's vision left no ambiguity as to what was going to happen.
But what was it that the toad had said? Snakes will plague the land? Could that be referring to Orochimaru, Kabuto, or Sasuke...or all three?
Madara's Eye of the Moon Plan would become a reality if they didn't stop it.
Infinite Tsukiyomi. The world's most powerful Genjutsu.
That was what Madara and Obito wanted to shroud the world with to create a perfect society.
However, a Utopia is, in itself, a Dystopia. They are two sides of the same coin.
"Enemies will become friends. And friends will become enemies. Beware the cursed eyes. They shall be the harbinger of Pain."
Naruto closed his eyes. He had an inkling as to who was going to become an enemy. Most of what the toad had said were things that he had already known.
The last sentence though...They shall be the harbinger of Pain. Pain? Or Pein? Nagato. His distant clansmen, the one who carried the Rinnegan.
The Great Toad Sage blinked twice, before a wan smile covered his face. "Naruto-chan, for now, that is it. I sense that more visions will come in the future. Keep in mind, your enemies can become stronger than before, in a quicker time. For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction."
It made sense too. The three of them, himself, Shikamaru, and Lee, had come back with the knowledge of the future, as well as their powers. If all three of them had been above Kage level, then, to keep the balance, their enemies would also have to become stronger. The fact that Naruto had seen one of Itachi's ravens the other day proved to him that Akatsuki would be making a move sooner. That raven had no doubt been a warning for the Sandaime.
If Nagato had dispatched Itachi, and most likely Kisame as well, then it meant that Obito was already pulling the strings, and it meant that they were getting suspicious.
It was foreboding.
"Arigato, Ojiji-sama." Naruto bowed low, a frown on his face. "I shall keep what you have just told me in mind."
"Naruto-chan..." Fukasaku sighed at the boy. "Did you understand that?"
The Rokudaime Hokage nodded tersely, slumping his shoulders as he did so. "Yes."
"What will you tell Jiraiya-chan?" Shima inquired, changing the subject, eager to see that child again after six long years.
At that, Naruto groaned. "I can't tell him that I made a mistake! He was right there! I'm pretty sure he would correct me if I had done something wrong." The teen ran a weary hand over his face. "I hate lying to him of all people, but I suppose half-truths are the way to go."
"Should we come with you?" Fukasaku asked in concern.
Naruto smiled ever so slightly. "I'll let you all have your reunion in private. For now, I think I should go back. Ero-jiji seems lazy, but I do know that he goes a bit frantic if I go missing for a long period of time." He thought back to the three glorious years he had spent with that man. It was true. Naruto had once strayed away from the man in a forest near Waterfall Country to pee in private, and Jiraiya had knocked down half the trees in the area just to find his godson.
"You'll think of something, Naruto-chan." The sage said wisely with a rueful shake of his head. "You always did have the uncanny ability to improvise on the spot. What did they call you? The most unpredictable ninja or something like that?"
Said unpredictable ninja snorted with amusement. Warmth coated his eyes as he stared at the bright sky, a nostalgic expression on his face. "Something like that."
And then, just as he had arrived, the Toad Sage vanished in a puff of smoke.
Jiraiya had been tempted to summon a toad, just to see what the hell his godson was doing in the realm of the summons. That summoning hadn't been accidental. He knew accidental summoning!
That was how he had discovered the toads in the first place.
The toads had called Naruto there for a specific purpose.
So lost was he in his frantic thoughts, that he didn't hear the quiet popping noise behind him.
Jiraiya whirled around, relief displayed clearly on his face. "Naruto!" He watched as the boy walked up to him, an exasperated look plastered all over his face.
"So the toads are really nice." Naruto stated plainly, taking in the dumbstruck look that Jiraiya was wearing. It looked rather good on him, in Naruto's humble opinion.
"Huh?" Was the older man's eloquent reply.
"The toads, you know, the warty ones, the ones that I signed a contract with?" The kid smirked. "They're pretty cool."
"What did...what did they say?" Jiraiya questioned, fishing for information. Reverse summoning wasn't common amongst any summons.
"They just wanted to say hi." Naruto replied jauntily, grinning. "Probably wanted to meet the person they would be bound to. I wonder if they did that with tou-chan too." He paused, honestly wondering if they had.
Jiraiya stared a the kid for a minute before shaking his head. "No, they didn't. In fact, I don't remember if any of us were reverse-summoned."
"Hey!" Naruto pretended to ponder something. "Did dad ever become a Sage? Like you? Because the toads said that they were going to start training me to become one!"
At that statement, Jiraiya gaped at the boy. Senjutsu? Already? Naruto hadn't even been a summoner for more than an hour? Hell, he hadn't even summoned a toad yet!
Of course, Naruto had been a summoner for ten years, and he was already a sage, but Jiraiya didn't need to know that. This was just a way to explain how he went into Sage Mode in the near future.
I hate lying to Ero-jiji, but he can't know the truth, not yet. Naruto thought bitterly, hating the fact that he was deceiving the closest thing he had to a grandfather. All this cloak-and-dagger business was for their own safety.
"No kid." Jiraiya snapped out of his stupor, running a hand through his spiky hair. "Minato never became a sage. He was going to...but..." The man faltered slightly. "He...ran out of time."
Naruto kicked at the grass beneath his feet, keeping his head down. If he looked up, he would see the grief on Jiraiya's face, and he couldn't bear to see such a downtrodden expression.
"But..." Jiraiya continued in a softer tone, placing a hand on Naruto's head, causing the boy to look up. "I'm sure that if he had lived, then he would have wanted nothing more than to see his son become a Sage." A sly smirk overtook the man's face. "Just like his godfather."
"Not just a Sage." Naruto grinned cheekily. "An Ero-Sennin."
Jiraiya scowled without much ire. It was true after all. Perhaps he could corrupt Naruto as well...
Yes. Naruto could become his prodigy and excel in the art of seduction where Minato could not.
Unfortunately, both father and son, regardless of how powerful they were, were incapable of forming a coherent sentence when faced with talking with the object of their infatuation.
Of course, Minato had gotten over it in time. Otherwise, Naruto would never have been born.
"Okay brat!" The perverted hermit clapped his hands together in excitement. "You still haven't summoned a toad yet! We won't stop until I tell you to, or you summon the Toad Chief Gamabunta!"
Naruto inwardly crowed with excitement. It would be great to see ol' Bunta again.
"YOSH!" He roared. "Let's do this!" Nicking his thumb with a kunai again, Naruto made the appropriate handseals once more, and slammed his palm against the ground shouting, "Kuchiyose no Jutsu!"
Immediately, the training ground was covered with smoke. A couple Jonins from the next field stopped training to see what was going on. When they saw it was Uzumaki and Jiraiya-sama, they abandoned the pretense of training to watch what would emerge from the smoke.
They were highly disappointed to see two small toads, one that looked distinctly male, and the other which was female. The male toad, who had tufts of white hair, wore a dark gray cloak, and a large smirk on his face. The female, clad in a pitch black cloak, had the oddest violet hair, which looked a shade brighter than Uzuki Yugao's.
"Only you would summon the Nidaisengama!" They heard Jiraiya-sama say in exasperation as he shook his head. "It has been a while, Fukasaku-sama, Shima-sama."
The Jonins looked at each other. Nidaisengama? The Great Toad Sages? Those two little guys were that high up? Shrugging, they chalked it up to Uzumaki being Uzumaki and defying the norm no matter what he did.
Naruto sighed, taking in the smug expressions on the two toads' faces.
Fukasaku looked at Jiraiya, fondness and grief creeping onto his face. His wife had already attached herself to the man, much to Jiraiya's bemusement. Had it really been six years since he had carved those symbols onto his back? Those scars had been erased over time, but the scabbing from Jiraiya's chakra was still there.
"This feels like a dream." Fukasaku murmured just so Naruto could hear him as he hopped onto the boy's shoulder. Naruto just nodded, but the toad could see that he was controlling his emotions.
"Oi, Ero-jiji! Do you still want me to summon the Chief?" Naruto shouted with a smirk.
Jiraiya responded with a glare. "I think you've done enough for today."
"Are you jealous, Jiraiya-chan?" Shima poked him.
The hermit squirmed, but said nothing. In all honesty, he hadn't expected Naruto to summon them. Tadpoles? Gamabunta's kids? Yes.
But these two?
Heck, he hadn't even been aware that they allowed themselves to be summoned in non-war times.
What Jiraiya didn't know was that Naruto had indeed summoned tadpoles and Gamabunta's children before summoning Gamabunta himself...right after he had thrown the boy into a deep fissure, forcing him to use the Kyuubi's chakra in order to survive.
"So now what?" Naruto looked rather bored as he powered a small wind jutsu that sent ripples through the water nearby.
His godfather watched the casual display of controlled power with interest. He had been told that Naruto was a budding seal-master, as well as proficient in elemental jutsus, but so far, Naruto hadn't shown that power yet.
"How do you plan on beating the Hyuuga boy?"
"By crippling him with logic." Naruto replied immediately. He slipped into Lee's goken stance, and started doing basic katas. His taijutsu was good, but he wanted it to be even better.
"I...I don't understand." Jiraiya frowned at the metaphorical statement.
Without pausing, Naruto continued. "Hyuuga Neji will be a great shinobi. Of that, I have absolutely no doubt. However, the one thing that holds him back at the moment is not Hiashi-san, or the fact that he is in the Branch Family." The teen stopped to look Jiraiya straight in the eye, a serious expression on his face. "It's his pride."
"His pride?" Jiraiya repeated slightly doubtfully.
"His pride." Naruto affirmed. "One of my best friends, Rock Lee is on Neji-san's team. When Lee, the dead-last, the one who couldn't use chakra, beat him, his pride was damaged. From what I heard, he threw himself back into his training with a vengeance. For him, winning is more than just winning, it's a matter of honor, of integrity, of dominance, of pride."
"So how will you "cripple him with logic", as you said? It sounds as though you will defeat him by using his greatest weakness against him."
Naruto didn't respond. Instead, he smiled mysteriously. "You'll see, my perverted godfather, you'll see." His smile faded, and he looked remarkably like Shikamaru when he had his "serious" face on. "Neji-san has a good reason to act why he does. The Main Branch have taken advantage of the other half of the clan. Hiashi-san cannot control the Clan Elders and their ideologies, Hinata is considered too weak to take over the clan, and her sister, Hanabi, has adopted the classic I have a stick up my butt attitude that many of the other Hyuugas have."
Jiraiya couldn't help but snort at that. However, he wondered how Naruto knew the inner workings of the most secretive Clan in Konoha.
"When I become Hokage, things are going to change, Ero-Jiji. Right here, right now, I am going to promise Hyuuga Neji that things will change. I'll get rid of the Caged Bird Seal, and together, with the help of the future Clan Head, I'll change the Hyuuga."
The confidence, the unwavering gaze, the sheer resolve that Naruto had, it made Jiraiya want to believe him. For some reason, Jiraiya knew that Naruto's words would come to fruition. So he smiled a real smile and ruffled Naruto's hair.
"I'll be waiting for that day, kiddo."
Sasuke had thought long and hard about what Naruto had said to him.
The so called dead-last had disabled him in seconds, and Sasuke, regardless of the fact that he hadn't activated his Sharingan, had not even seen it coming.
He had heard the villagers whispering about Naruto, Lee, and Shikamaru's exploits for the past couple of days. Apparently, sealing that monster was not normal.
And he was going to have to fight that monster for the finals.
Kakashi had told him that he was going to be training with him.
"You're a genius, Sasuke. But are you strong?"
That's what Naruto had asked him.
He closed his fingers into a fist, watching as his knuckles whitened. Was he strong?
In the eyes of most, he was infallible.
But in Naruto's eyes...
He had seen the emotion in his teammates eyes. There was pity. There was understanding. There was anger.
Three contradictory emotions had been present in the dobe's eyes.
Naruto had wore his thoughts on a sleeve. But now...Sasuke wasn't sure if he even knew which Naruto was the real one.
Was he the blithering fool that he portrayed himself to be? Or was he the calm and shrewd Shinobi who had been strong enough to survive whatever it was that he had sealed?
Or was he both?
Personally, Sasuke thought it was the latter.
If Naruto was strong, what did that make Sasuke? Weak?
No. He wasn't weak.
But...was he strong?
The Uchiha stared out the window, scowling at the bright sun overhead. It was almost mocking him.
Nii-san...have I become stronger?
"What?" Shikamaru placed his head in his hands as he listened to Naruto.
Him, Lee, Gaara, and Naruto were soaking in the warmth of the sun as they gazed at the clouds above. The Hokage had just finished telling them what he had heard from the toads, when a sudden idea had popped into his mind. Naturally, he couldn't keep it to himself, and therefore, in typical Naruto fashion, he had shouted his idea for the world t hear.
"I'm going to adopt Sai!" Naruto repeated merrily, oblivious to the incredulous faces of his comrades.
"You're going to adopt a kid the same age as you?" Gaara sighed, used to these outbursts. He willed his sand to whack Naruto in the back of the head, which in turn caused Naruto to send a gust of wind right back at his fellow Kage.
"Sai's younger by one month and fifteen days!" Naruto pouted, wondering why they couldn't see the absolute genius behind this plan.
"I think it's a great idea!" Lee exclaimed, earning him a grin from Naruto.
"We haven't even seen Sai yet." Shikamaru grimaced.
"He's still under Danzo's thumb." Naruto growled, remembering the one eyed man who had been the active Rokudaime while Tsunade had been out of commission. In a way, he truly appreciated that Sasuke had killed the man. If he hadn't, there was a very real possibility that a civil war would have broken out.
"Root." Lee sighed. "They are still active."
"Fu, Torune, They're good people. They've just been twisted by Danzo's extremist ideals." Shikamaru sighed.
"Could you develop a seal to counter the effects of Danzo's secrecy seal?" Gaara asked Naruto curiously.
The blond teen exhaled loudly. "I could, but it would mean studying it for a long time, which would mean staring at a Root member's tongue which is creepy."
"Hence why you want to adopt Sai." The Kazekage finished.
"NO!" Naruto yelled before taking a deep breath. "No." He watched as the clouds were gently pushed by the wind, creating patterns in the sky. "Sai...Sai deserves a family. Both of us are orphans, and he lost the closest thing he had to a brother very early on. He doesn't understand the world because of Danzo. He's emotionally repressed, probably even physically abused by Root, even if he doesn't see it that way. And he's been brainwashed by Danzo. When that man died, it was like Sai was free. He smiled a real smile, not the fake ones that he gave to every one else. I want him to have a chance for a normal life, before war. I want him to have a last name, because he deserves it."
Gaara and Lee exchanged looks. They knew what it felt like to be alone in this world before someone reached out a hand to them. In Gaara's case, it was Naruto. And in Lee's, it was Gai. If Naruto had already made his mind up, then there was no stopping him. All they could do was support him.
"If you're going to adopt Sai...why not every emotionally challenged operative in Root as well? Even better, why not the remaining Jinchuuriki too?" Shikamaru muttered, knowing that Naruto was going to go through with this crazy idea, that didn't sound so crazy the more and more he thought about it.
"Why didn't I think about that?! You're a genius, Shika!"
"Troublesome..." The Nara pinched the bridge of his nose. If Naruto was going to be responsible for their reintegration into society, then the entire Village was going to be treated to ramen-loving, orange wearing, hyperactive, and powerful shinobi.
May Kami have mercy upon their already burdened souls.
By principle, Iwa Shinobi hated Konoha.
Hated was too weak of a work.
Didn't mind if they all died.
Those were better.
So when the Tsuchikage was handed a picture of a twelve year child who bore a striking resemblance to one Namikaze Minato, who, though dead, was a name that was taboo to even whisper, he naturally had to delve into this child's background.
His last name was a bit of a surprise. He hadn't heard of that Clan for quite some time. He was aware that they had fled, presumably to Kiri or Ame, after the Second World War.
He was of course, aware of Uzumaki Kushina, a Konoha Kunoichi who had been known as the Red Hot-blooded Habanero, often shortened to the Bloody Habanero, who left a trail of carnage wherever she went.
It was entirely plausible that this child was her son, as well as the son of Namikaze Minato. The resemblance was too close to even consider the possibility that they weren't related.
He looked at the other two pictures besides the Uzumaki's.
Nara Shikamaru and Rock Lee.
Rumors that three Konoha genin had sealed the Ichibi back into its jailor had reached Iwa, though the Tsuchikage knew that it was the Uzumaki who had done the sealing, given the fact that he was an Uzumaki, and that Clan had been renowned for their sealing, as had the boy's father.
He read the reports that his spies had given him about these three children.
After much pondering, he knew how he could have his revenge on the Kiroi Senko. His fingers landed on another scroll that was sent to him by a man that hated Konoha almost as much as he did, and held a rather intriguing proposal within it. Perhaps he would take him up on the offer.
A malevolent chuckle escaped him as he called to his Jonins.
"Contact those in charge of updating the Bingo Book." He handed them the pictures of the three genins. "Listen carefully, and relay my exact words." Taking a deep breath, he leaned forward, his round face lighting up in anticipation. "Let's start with a boy named Uzumaki Naruto, shall we?"
Ogama Sennin- Great Toad Sage