Steal My Thunder God

Chapter I - To Seal a God


Naruto was unsure of where he was, and in terrible pain. He felt like he had landed into water in the midst of a spin, and it was already burning at his lungs - and then, he realized it was no water, and he did not have the slightest idea which way is up. It hurt, though, and Naruto was desperately trying to get out of wherever he was, to right himself, but he had lost sight of the seal, of everything. He felt lost, gone in the nothingness surrounding him, utterly alone. Pain and desperation were his old friends, but it was one thing to be in pain, and an entirely different experience to exist in a world where there was nothing but the agony itself, crashing through him like tidal waves.

Nothing else mattered, nothing else existed. Naruto was starting to lose any semblance of conscious thought, and almost slipped away, but then he suddenly found it. A connection. Something that was both near and far from him, yet resonated inside of him, familiar. There was a seal there - one he had lost before and had found again.

He latched onto that chance, and in his desperation he held tight, dragging himself to his target. The world washed into being around him as he slammed into something big and hairy, and there was a thunderous rumble. The pain in his body intensified even more, and he let out a scream. It felt like an unstoppable force was trying to tear him apart, to wrest something out of him. It took him only moments to connect the dots. Kurama.

Naruto saw a swimming mess of colours before his eyes, heard a loud, angry roaring that was deafening him, and his sense of smell was overwhelmed by the ferrous arome of drying blood and wet fur. The world was there, but it was veiled by the agony of his arrival - something had gone terribly wrong.

The force tearing the Kyuubi out of him was too strong to fight. It was an impossible struggle; even while trying to preserve a hair's breadth of chakra, he couldn't help but lose more and more of it, rushing across his feeble resistance. It was like trying to stop a landslide with his bare hands.

He could feel the distinct hum of strange fuuinjutsu; that could not have been anything good. With his senses still in disarray, he could only guess at their intended function, or even their user. The chakra that was released pulsed powerfully at the edge of his senses, eerily familiar. Could it be some sort of barrier, to prevent his escape, perhaps?

For an irrational moment, Naruto's thoughts wandered to the Akatsuki - to their attempt at stealing all the Tailed Beasts, and use them as weapons of war. Had someone taken over their mantle at last, when peace was finally within reach? Had he been ensnared for the same terrible purpose as Gaara had been?

Kurama bellowed something incoherent inside his mind, and even as Naruto tried to hold his companion inside with the best he could muster, the chakra was slipping away. His attempts to respond failed quickly; there was no talking with the bundle of confusion and pain that scratched at the bars of it one-time prison.

The energies of Kyuubi no Youko enveloped him with a yellow glow, sending the chakra into him in a waterfall of power. Kurama was scared, Naruto realised, scared of something so much that it couldn't help but frighten the jinchuuriki too.

Just where had he ended up? Naruto ground his teeth and tried to move, but he seemed to be stuck, tied to a growling gigantic creature with some kind of chakra bonds - the Kyuubi. But not the same Bijuu that he felt leaking away - glowing silver chains held him and the other Kyuubi locked in place. How could it be that he still felt Kurama inside him, yet it was out here, almost free? Was this how much of the nine tailed beast he had already lost?

Naruto shifted as he brought all the power he could muster to bear, snapping the silver bonds with a surge of fury, sending a thousand ripples down the chains. The links were snapping everywhere around him, washing the field with a cascading sound of thousands of tinkling bells. The silver chakra shattered and fell apart in the heavy rain.

Freed of his bonds, Naruto started falling, and at that very moment he felt the incredible draining sensation increase tenfold - Kurama's chakra layer was peeled off suddenly, leaving only singed skin beneath. His face and stomach had taken the worst from the vicious chakra, charred skin tearing with the smallest movement, blood pouring from the wounds. Naruto howled from the pain, but he refused to give in. He tried to twist mid air, but he could not manage it, and fell heavily onto his side. There was a snap as one or more bones in his left arm broke. With all the pain his body was going through anyway, it seemed more like a minor inconvenience than a true injury.

"Kurama?!" Naruto called then, desperate. "What is going on? Where are we?"

The huge Bijuu shook itself, throwing off all the bits and pieces of the chain away like a dog shakes away the rain. Then, still growling, it gave Naruto a questioning glance, jaws wide open, showing a display of sharp teeth as it drew in a heavy breath of air.

It seemed that Kurama was pretty confused; it even showed some signs of inner struggle, and Naruto had no idea if that was going to work in his favour. At least the Bijuu wasn't actively trying to kill him. Yet.

"What did you do?!" A man's panicked voice shouted from a small distance away. "It's going to escape!"

Naruto turned on his heel to face the new arrival, and froze in his tracks. Impossible.

It was a like looking in a mirror, save for the lack of whiskers - the man before him had blond hair like his own, its length easily matching Naruto's, the bright strands standing out without any distinguishable pattern. Their builds were very similar too, and the way they had moved into a ready position had been synchronous to the smallest second. If their clothes had matched, he was sure that no one could tell the difference without careful examination.

Naruto was clad in his usual black and orange, chest shining through the handful of burns in his jumper, and the cloth was painted with red blood - his own blood. The man across from him wore something dark blue and green, and it could have been a modified Johnin uniform, but for one glaring difference. A distinctive white coat hung over everything else, billowing in the wind, making red flamelike highlights at the outer edge jump in and out of sight. Even though Naruto could not see it, he knew that on the back, there were Kanji claiming that the man in question was none other than the Fourth Hokage. His father.

Oh, crap.

The look they spared each other was short, but Naruto took that moment to take in his father's face, which he had doubted he would ever see again beyond the carving in the mountain. He looked young, yet already experienced, at the very prime of his life. His shock was matched by the surprise shining on his father's face. But there was something off about it; something dark shone in Namikaze Minato's eyes, too. Mistrust, anger, fear and desperation - they were filled with darkness.

"Edo Tensei," Naruto said to himself, struck by the horrified realization - what else could it be? He put his hands in a clone seal before he really thought about it further - his left arm still hurt, but was already mending; not all the Kyuubi's power had left him yet. He bit his lip in worry as he reasoned that trying to speak with Kurama and beating down a perversion of his father's image could prove nearly impossible in his rapidly weakening state. He had to act quickly, before he lost all the chakra he had left.

"Don't come any closer!" he exclaimed, hoping that Minato would listen to him - the impure resurrection allowed the victims a measure of will and control, after all. "Tajuu Kage Bunshin no Jutsu!" A tide of orange, black and red arose around him on the battlefield - many hundreds of clones, some perched on the Kyuubi itself, even. Kurama couldn't have looked more surprised, and neither could the Fourth.

"Such power - you must work for that man," Minato said, anger rising in his voice. "What are you? Some sort of doppelganger, using genjutsu?" The man did not wait for an answer, throwing a spread of kunai in a wide arc towards the vast army of clones, shouting his next words loudly, so they would carry further. "Kushina, take care of Naruto!"

Naruto faltered at the yell, and it felt like his blood froze. Kushina? They had resurrected her, too? No, that did not make sense - nor the reference to himself, at that. Suddenly, nothing made sense. At that moment, memories flooded into his mind; a clone's memories of an exhausted woman that was somewhere behind the Fourth. She was covering a small baby with her body, standing weakly on trembling feet, yet with an expression of unmatched determination. There were loose ends of chains hanging from her back, slowly decaying into nothingness; the very chakra chains he had snapped.

It was at that moment of complete shock, when his clones started to fall. Breaking free of whatever confusion had grasped it before, Kurama sprang into action - its gigantic jaws closed on a dozen clones, tearing them to pieces until they popped, and it howled in fury. Those that had climbed onto the fox's back were the first to die, and it took only moments before the other clones reacted, retaliating for the slaughter.

The Kyuubi's short hesitation at the coordinated response played to the clone army's favour, as their sheer numbers quickly overwhelmed it, darting between the legs, hiding behind the ears, and trying to cause as much confusion as possible. With Naruto, of course, the potential for chaos was enormous. Kurama screamed out of rage when one brave clone started pulling at its whiskers, as dozens tackled its legs and forced it down.

While the clones took care of keeping the fox busy, Naruto focused on possibly an even greater threat - the Fourth Hokage reaped through the field of Narutos like a god of war, with two of his three-pronged kunai flashing so quickly that there was barely enough time for a warning before he was gone again. He seemed to be anywhere and everywhere, slaughtering by the dozens. This was the man who had once killed most of an army by his lonesome, and it showed.

As soon as Naruto realized that his father could appear before him at any moment, and would be as merciless as he was to the clones, he knew he had to try and defend himself. He was good, incredibly so - even Gai had praised Naruto's recent improvements in taijutsu training - but his father was bordering on ridiculous, sometimes called the best shinobi the Leaf had ever produced. He father easily evaded any of the hits that his clones attempted to deliver, and his kunai were dealing deadly blows, and he had not even used his Rasengan yet. The only things that could stop someone like that were the strongest jutsu that Naruto knew, but he was afraid to use some of those, knowing their destructive potential. A Rasenshuriken might have ended things - but would more than likely kill if it made contact.

"Stop!" A clone shouted in a panic as the Fourth appeared right next to him, and his eyes widened at the flashing kunai. "We don't need to-" He disappeared in a puff of smoke as the metal pierced his throat.

His father continued his relentless assault, deaf to the continued pleads of Naruto's clones, and Naruto tried to figure out a way to end this, to at least force a conversation. It seemed that the Fourth was convinced that he was caught in some sort of genjutsu targeted against him, or something similar. Well - he would have thought the same thing in reverse, Naruto realized. But - if his hypothesis was right, and it seemed ever more likely - even if it was still insane - then this was neither genjutsu nor Edo Tensei.

Kurama howled in rage as it headed towards the remnants of the barrier, shrugging off the chains and clones that kept it down. It was a slow process, since the creature seemed to be confused, and it took its time to eat stray clones along the way, biting at them with a fevered look in its eyes. Naruto summoned a few hundred more clones - to the astonishment of the Fourth - and sent them over to help out his failing hordes. He was getting awfully acquainted with how it felt to be eaten by a monstrous Bijuu, Naruto realized with a shudder. So far, the best result of calling the fox Kurama, had been it taking extra care to eat the clones in question. It was as if - it had no idea who he was.

Naruto's clones had found the barrier not far from their current battleground. It was something that the Fourth had to have prepared in advance - the very same fuuinjutsu he felt going up moments after his arrival. It was strong enough to hold the Kyuubi back for a couple of minutes, or even withstand an impact of a single Bijuu Bomb. It would not be enough for a prolonged assault, however, and the fox would break through.

Even more interesting than the barrier was the few clones reporting pillars of smoke rising from the distance, where he saw the contour of familiar mountains. Naruto was sure just where exactly he was - on one of the outer training grounds of Konoha - even though there were some differences with the one he remembered.

This was no Edo Tensei - it was something entirely different. Naruto shuddered in realization and he felt a pang of fear; could all this be the result of using Hiraishin with Kyuubi's chakra? His father was here, and his mother, and the unleashed Kyuubi - and Konoha was burning. This could not be a coincidence. His use of his father's signature skill had to have launched with him into the past - and that explained Kurama's silence. Kurama was chakra itself, and it already existed in this time and place - only one of the two would prevail, and his own came here weakened, drained of its chakra. Whatever struggle went on between his own fox and the free one - he feared that he knew who was winning.

Naruto grit his teeth as he focused on the battlefield, ready for his best attempt at dodging the very jutsu that had landed here. If he could not convince his father to stop attacking, or force the Kyuubi back, he would run out of chakra within minutes, both his own and that of the fox. That had never happened to him, and there was a pretty good chance that he would die. Out of desperation, he forced a couple of clones to jump to safer places, hide and remain still, gathering chakra in case he would desperately need it. Whether or not he would die here - he could not destroy history.

As he considered the vanishing of his own Kurama, Naruto's eyes widened. He turned to the only person inside the barrier that could help him, the one person who had experienced the very same only hours before. He appeared before his mother by himself, with his hands stretched to the sides, open palms towards her. It was a way to show he held no weapons, wilfully opening himself to attack.

Kushina looked so tired, so worn out, that Naruto's first instinct had been to close the short distance and hug her. But he couldn't do that, Naruto reminded himself, since she might well stab him in that moment, expecting him to be an enemy. So he held back, slowly sinking to the floor besides her.

"Mom," he muttered without giving it much thought.

Kushina faltered, and her hands dropped. She had been preparing some sort of jutsu when she saw his eyes, and heard his trembling voice. Her harsh expression wavered and she did a double take. "You -"

Naruto nodded slowly.

"Naruto? You look - so much like him. Like Minato." She glanced back at the little child she held in her arms, then stared back at the adult Naruto's face - and collapsed to her knees with a sob. "You're - How? How is this possible?"

Behind them, a clone managed to catch the Fourth by emerging from the ground, and he was followed by a dozen others; some managed to catch the Hokage by the hem of his cloak, trying to restrict the movements as much as possible, hoping that one could live long enough to deliver a message. However, the Yellow Flash proved far too fast, and too merciless. He swerved, evading the piling Naruto's clones, drew out another kunai and-

He saw Naruto crouched right next to Kushina. This time, the Hiraishin was even faster than before, leaving only the white cloak under a huge pile of Naruto clones. The Kyuubi stepped on them all, popping them like a large balloon, and it snarled in anger as hundreds more still clung to it, preventing its escape.

The Fourth Hokage appeared at Kushina's side soundlessly and with his three-pronged kunai already slashing at Naruto's throat with the speed of lightning.

"No, Minato!" Kushina shouted, and her arm flashed out to catch her husband's.

The blade glanced Naruto's neck, freezing but a briefest moment before tearing it apart, and it drew but a trickle of blood. Naruto was afraid to breathe - he felt the edge very clearly, the cold steel staying perfectly still.

"This is the real you," Minato said, rage shining in his eyes. "Why should I spare-"

"Minato!" Kushina cried out, clasping her hand around his wrist. "Look. Look. This is Naruto!"

The rage which had held a firm hold on Minato since this strange new arrival had torn the Kyuubi out of the Kushina's bonds finally receded. He looked again at Naruto, his eyes narrowing as he took in the similarities and differences, glancing down at the little child in Kushina's arms. "Prove it, he said. He drew back the kunai, doubt and concern ringing in his voice.

Kurama's monstrous laughter broke through the momentary silence, tearing up hordes of Naruto clones as it broke free of the last few chains of chakra that still remained, and Kushina slumped. It would be mere minutes before he broke through Minato's barrier as well.

Naruto glanced at the battle, realizing the short time he had, and raised a hand up, forming a perfect sphere of the Rasengan, a swirling whirlpool of blue chakra.

Minato blinked, jaws slackening, and he nodded in recognition. Then he stepped forward, and enveloped Naruto in a desperate hug.

"Hey! Watch the Rasengan!" Naruto managed to dismiss the attack at the very last second, and sagged into the hug, relieved. It took him only a moment to realize that Minato was laughing under his breath, and he reared back to stare at his son, now an adult.

"How?" Minato asked then, as Kushina took her own turn in hugging Naruto, the tinier version of him clinging to her side, crying. The hug was considerably weaker than his father's, since Kushina was moving only due to her iron will.

"I've used Hiraishin," Naruto explained quickly. "I... think I might have used a bit too much chakra."

"You look like you're my age - how on earth did you get that much-" Minato clicked his tongue once, eyes lighting up in recognition. "I sealed Kyuubi into you, didn't I? You used its chakra for the jutsu. That would do it."

Naruto nodded in confirmation. "But... something went wrong, obviously. Whatever happened, it did something to my seal. Kurama - it's like he's being torn from me." As if on cue, Kyuubi roared, growing a little, and Naruto almost fell down, his legs wobbling. "See?" he muttered weakly.

"That's how it's been getting stronger!" Minato said, grimacing. "I can't seal him if he's moving around like that, and can you imagine what Kyuubi could do with twice its usual chakra?"

"Do we even need to seal him?" Naruto asked urgently. "Kurama and I have - had an understanding, if you will. If he would just listen to me..." He took a heavy breath and summoned nearly a hundred more clones to rush back towards the Kyuubi. The jutsu took a heavy toll this time, and Naruto almost collapsed from the strain, taking a few painful breaths before he worked himself back up. "He just isn't listening. It's like he's gone mad!"

"You want to talk to that thing?" Kushina asked. "Are you sure it is possible for you to reason with him? When I spoke to it..." Kushina shuddered. "I can't imagine you made a deal with a creature like this, did you?"

"No," Naruto admitted finally, just as the memories of a clone being bitten in half returned. "Kurama... he was hateful, but it was getting better. I - we were a jinchuuriki and a Biju, sharing a body. It was - not bad."

"Whether or not it can be reasoned with, it's clearly not in any state for it now," Minato observed. "Sealing this - Kurama is our only chance, right now. We're too exhausted to even look for any other solutions. Since you managed to learn to get along with him, what is it to say that it cannot happen again, given enough time? If that ever happens, the seal could be opened." Minato sighed. "Although, I need Kyuubi to be still for a few seconds to seal him, and that's getting harder. I won't have a second chance. Kushina - can you call the chains again?"

Kushina shook her head weakly. "No - not even if I used all I have left. I am not sure I even could make the chakra chains stick anymore - I'm out of juice." She shook. "Maybe you should just risk it with a moving Kyuubi? It's better than nothing...?"

The Kyuubi slammed three clones to the ground right then, before they even finished the first phase of the Rasenshuriken. Another three had to flee to the different sides before getting crushed too. It was looking increasingly hopeless, now that reinforcements were no longer coming.

"There's no need. There is one thing that has worked for me in the past," Naruto said as he stood up straighter. "It might give you a good chance to use the Shiki Fuujin - but, please, let me be the one to use it. I know all the hand seals I need to, and with you two alive..."

"No," Minato echoed together with Kushina. He reached out and grasped Naruto's shoulder, staring into his son's eyes. "I always knew that you would be meant for great things - Jiraiya-sensei was convinced of it, too - and the sacrifice you are offering is a proof of how fantastic you are. But you won't die today, Naruto. I would not be worth anything if I allowed you to take my place in this. It is a father's duty to care for their children, isn't it?"

"I... I understand," Naruto nodded, looking down at the ground. "A Hokage has to care for their village and their family first, right, not his own life. I wish there was another way. I wish I could get to know you..."

"As you say, it is my duty. We can't have the Kyuubi wreaking havoc everywhere. You probably know what happened to Konoha. That could happen anywhere." He paused, narrowing his eyes. "Do you know of the masked man?"

Naruto nodded glumly.

"Then you know why I do this. We can't kill the Kyuubi, so the only way is to hide him, seal him once again - because we will need that power in the future. The village will need it again. I can tell from your expression that you realize this too."

Naruto sighed, and focused - the clones he had sent out before had enough time to gathering the necessary amount of natural energy for his last strategy. Minato smiled at his son when he saw the distinct Sage eyes forming; toadlike, they shone strangely in the night, the skin darkening around them with dark pigmentation.

"You're a Toad Sage," Minato said with visible pride and astonishment. "Like Jiraiya. You're his student too?"

"Yup. And it's not quite like the Pervert Sage's. It's better," Naruto croaked an answer, and he smiled weakly. "Be ready when I leave an opening! I'm going to tear that fox a new one! Believe it!" He dashed forward, calling up a few clones as he went.

All the remaining clones gathered between the barrier and Kurama, each and every one of them raising a hand in the air, pouring the last remnants of Kyuubi's chakra and mixing it up with natural energy. Multiple Rasengans flickered to life. And they were rapidly growing bigger and brighter. The horde leaped forward, shouting - "Senpou: Choodama Rasen Tarengan."

The Kyuubi jumped back from the attack, seemingly realizing its enormous power, but it was not fast enough to evade the storm. The seemingly endless barrage of Rasengans enchanted with Sage chakra was devastating in its effectiveness as a gigantic explosion of chakra blew in all directions, the shock wave rippling through the air. Kurama was thrown back, its huge bulk rolling over a few times and smashing against the mountainside. The unstoppable force of the explosions leveled trees and shredded deep trenches in the ground, sending wood and earth in every direction. It even managed to wound the fox - patches of fur went flying towards the sky, deep wounds were visible for a few moments before they closed over again. The Kyuubi lay there for a few moments, utterly dazed.

Minato rushed through his seal array - the fox was confused, but in no way subdued for long. As the dust settled, he finally completed his jutsu. "Shiki Fujin,"he said as a final note, summoning the spectre of the death god to hover just above him in its shadowy presence; he alone could see the monstrous creature. Pale and grotesque, the Shinigami looked over everything with the calmness of death, patiently awaiting an order.

"I will seal our chakra in little Naruto - so we will see him again, someday. It is worth it." Minato said as he looked down on his wife. "He is our true son. And you saw what he can do now!"

Kushina nodded weakly, smiling slightly.

"Seal!" Minato demanded sharply, pointing at the Kyuubi amidst the dust clouds. The ghostly hand of the death god soared forward from his stomach, catching the fox and slowly dragging in its soul out of the great body.

Minato growled as the technique tore out a part of the tailed beast for the Shinigami to devour. There was no hope of sealing the whole Kyuubi, especially not with the energy of the other Kyuubi strengthening it. The death god feasted upon that part of the Bijuu's energy, and Minato winced as the surge of chakra passed through him, knowing that he would soon follow it.

Naruto was trying to catch his breath, and failing; he had just used a very costly jutsu, and it left him on the very edge of his consciousness. At least the pain from losing Kurama had finally subsided - and all of it was gone now, as he couldn't feel a single sliver of the great Bijuu inside. He was no longer a jinchuuriki. He supposed he knew what Gaara felt like, now.

He was alone, leaning against the half-destroyed trunk of a huge tree, and he knew that he could not even make a single Shadow Clone now. Dust was everywhere, but he could hear shouting from behind the barrier.

Naruto paid that distraction no heed, since he could not let any second go to waste. Kyuubi was slowly getting up, and that meant bad news. Naruto tried to stand up as well, but his legs were wobbling too much, so he ended up falling onto his face. Surprisingly, instead of getting his face full of dirt, he ended up landing on top of something soft and - white?

Naruto wasted some precious seconds trying to remember just when his father had lost his cloak, and why he was on top of it. A clone had to have picked it up while fighting Kurama, but after that one had popped in the last attack, it was left unattended. With a shiver, Naruto realized that he was cold - and why. The Kyuubi's chakra had washed over him like a tide - he survived only because he had learned to cope with it for years. His clothes had not been lucky, and only scraps of them remained.

Naruto quickly threw the cloak over his back, and pulled on the sleeves, closing it on the front; it was that or running around half-naked. The Rasengan barrage had proven a drop more deadly outside the mindscape, since he had never really used it outside his fight with the Kyuubi when first taking its chakra. His surroundings were a wasteland.

Focusing once more on his fluctuating chakra levels and his tired muscles, Naruto forced himself to stand up, panting loudly at even that small action. He saw the Kyuubi lashing out at his father in the distance, but he was too far away to do anything about it, and did not have the chakra to pull it off anyway. He had maybe a single jutsu in him - if that.

Naruto felt anger rising inside, washing over the pain, as he realized that this was the moment that his father died - and he was not there to help him out. Focusing whatever remains of chakra he had, he roared together with Kurama, and he knew with complete certainty where he wanted to be right then. "Hiraishin no Jutsu!"

"Minato!" Someone shouted from just behind the barrier, but Naruto was gone before he even heard it.

He appeared right next to Minato, just in time to push him away from the sweep of the Kyuubi's claws. The Fourth twisted around, a Rasengan appearing in his hand without any preparation time, and he slammed it forward into the flesh of the creature's paw. It bit deep into Kurama's flesh and the Bijuu recoiled.

"I still need to do the Hakke Fuin!" Minato shouted desperately - he seemed to be in tremendous pain. "I can barely move!"

The Kyuubi was disoriented for only a second. But, Kushina stood up with a fierce expression, and she raised her arms - and chains sprang into being once again, lashing out at the vast creature, and she almost fell down from the strain. She looked twenty years older than before as she worked herself up to her knees with immense effort. Kurama's claws were suddenly tightly bound with silvery chains, fixed to the ground, and Kushina smiled in victory. Blood flowed from her mouth. "Hurry," she whispered, almost choking.

"I can do this!" Naruto jumped before Minato. His father was simply too slow now to work the difficult jutsu - for once, the Yellow Flash was out of power himself. Naruto slammed his right hand onto the ground, and summoned forth the ceremonial sealing pedestal. "Jiraiya taught me how it works - I never thought I'd need to use it!"

Minato, with heavy and slow movements leaned forward and picked up the little Naruto, placing him on top of the altar with very slow movements. "You have to seal a part of me and Kushina too, when you do it."

"Why both of you?" Naruto asked, tears running uncontrollably down his cheeks, knowing that he was watching history unfold in all its horrible glory. "Why mom, too? You used the Shiki Fujin, but she should be able to survive!"

"I'm sorry, Naruto," Kushina croaked softly. "This last attack... there is nothing left, after this. Unless you seal it away, my chakra will all be gone when it breaks - and my life with it."

"No, no, you - can't die again!" Naruto sobbed. "This is the one chance I have to let you live! Let me give you some chakra! I don't care what happens to me - you have to live! For the other Naruto!"

Kyuubi roared once more, shattering some of Kushina's chains, and the backlash of his rage sent Kushina sprawling to the ground again - and she was not getting up.

Naruto was frozen in place in a moment of pure terror. He had most of Minato's chakra firmly grasped, prepared to place it into the seal together with the Kyuubi... But he couldn't seal his own mother away, could he? The sealing required to form a bond between someone's chakra and the seal - and when the seal was activated, it would drawn in every remaining bit of his parents' chakra. They would die at his hand.

"Naruto," Kushina pleaded weakly. "My life is over already. And don't you ever think that I would trade your life for a chance to save mine. You are my son."

The Kyuubi opened it jaws, snarling something unintelligible as it jumped to kill all of them in a final devastating bite.

"I'm proud of you," Minato whispered, his eyes darkening. Moving as fast as lightning, tearing through his limits in the face of death, he called a final Rasengan into his hand and leaped straight towards the Kyuubi, to meet the Bijuu head on in a final clash.

"Dad!" Naruto shouted, desperately gathering his chakra for the final push needed to seal away the Kyuubi. Its jaws closed around the Fourth Hokage, and there was a quiet explosion inside its mouth as the powerful Rasengan exploded inside its throat. Kurama hissed with pain, thrashing about blindly. Naruto momentarily hoped to see his father use the Hiraishin to come back to them, but there was but a sickening crunch that sent shivers down Naruto's spine, and his father's chakra was released, swirling around him like a haze, flowing with his own depleting reserves. His father was dying, or already dead.

"Kuchiyose no Jutsu!" Naruto exclaimed, managing to refocus his attention to summon Gamatora for the final part of the sealing process. For a brief moment he was lost to an incredible sense of panic, realizing that he was in the past - would the summoning contract even work? There was a loud puff of a smoke cloud as a Toad appeared before him, and he let out a sigh of relief.

"Quick!" He ordered to the confused toad, tears and sweat running down his face. "Gamatora - I need you to take the Key of the seal to Jiraiya!"

The toad obediently rolled the key scroll around himself, its eyes widening as it took in the massive form of the Kyuubi that towered over him. "Minato-sama, watch out!"

Naruto half-turned from the pedestal, and only barely realized that Kurama's claw was not heading his way, but towards the pedestal - towards his younger self, crying on the altar. Kushina tried to get in the way, raising up to a half crouch to roll over the baby. With dread, Naruto realised that it wasn't going to be enough, and he leapt between her and the approaching claw. The toad summon disappeared moments before the Kyuubi's nail pierced through Naruto and embedded itself into Kushina's back with a sickening thud.

Naruto laughed as he felt the chakra draining from around him, coughing up blood. It was over - the Hakke Fuin was complete. The gigantic fox cried out in protest as its chaka began to surge into its new vessel, and most of Minato's chakra followed. A last tendril remained with Naruto, and he smiled in recognition.

Kushina turned to Naruto and found his eyes. "Take care... of your little brother." There were many things that were left unsaid, but their eyes were locked with each other, frozen together in a moment before death - some words were not needed. "Do not blame yourself, ever," was her last whisper.

Then there was a great surge of power as the massive Bijuu was drawn into the seal on the little boy's abdomen, crashing into the infant like a storm. The older Naruto dropped as the claw that had run him through vanished, and he only barely managed to catch the falling body of Kushina, before losing his own footing and plummeting to the rough, harsh ground. The last of the natural energy that had kept him going was dissipating.

"So this is what chakra exhaustion feels like," he mouthed inaudibly to himself, feeling darkness creeping over his mind. "Is this how it all ends?"

There was a shape approaching quickly, and it came to a stop just beside him.

"Ojii-san," Naruto whispered as he recognised Sarutobi - the nin looked quite old, even here in the past. The surprised face of the Third Hokage made Naruto chuckle a little, and he coughed up blood. I'm Naruto from the future, was something he wanted to say, but all he managed was to hug Kushina closer and saying his name. "Na- ru... to..."

"Your son is safe," was the last thing he heard, coupled with a child's cry. The comforting softness of his father's cloak kept him warm as his consciousness slipped away from him.

He knew no more.


Next updates depend on the mood, weather, time of the year, and Morta's Priest nagging.