He looked like mirage in the distance - the setting sun obfuscating his glowing orange form. The shadows danced under his eyes, wild blonde hair heavy on his sweaty face. He wore a tightly-knit orange gi, wound left over right on his breast, a sweat-drenched black belt wrapped tight around his narrow waist. Open-toed sandals covered his feet, loose socks climbing to his shins, looser orange wind pants cinching at his ankles, billowing as he walked along the twinkling road.

And at a distance, he was certainly a man.

At a distance, his form was rigid, balanced, swaying from left to right with a confident, if exhausted swagger.

But as he approached, it was clear to any passerby, the stranger was almost a boy. An adolescent perhaps, he could have been fifteen or more, but his rounded cheeks made him seem like a child. And when he was met with strange looks by other passing travellers, he would smile carefree like a child. It was a good act.

He was walking down an old road, once popular for travel... until the war erupted. Now, it was desolate. In disrepair, there were blockages of abandoned carts, deep gash-like pits, and steep hills made from land-slides. His destination? Kumo. There wasn't a particular reason for it - he was just trying to move. For all his outward smiles, he could never settle down. An anxious twist in his belly. Thoughts would shift towards home... a home he no longer had. Then, his thoughts would shift to the looming danger. It was like he was marked by a wrathful god - cursed to misery forever. But he knew better - it was his tenant. The Kyuubi no Kitsune. That was the source of all his suffering. The reason why Konoha was overrun. The reason why he was hunted.

It was a blessing then, that he felt something. Disrupting his already homeward thoughts, his blue eyes snapped into focus, the blurry distance becoming clear. All around were stiff, barren trees. Wild brown grasses drooped from exhaustion like him.

A woman said, "Surrender your belongings."

She was tall and fit, her once-pretty, oval face decorated with nasty gashes and clefts. Her wide green eyes bore into the traveller's, who actually laughed, a wide smile gracing his dry, cracked lips. He stopped in the middle of the road, making a relaxed stance - feet shoulder-width apart.

"You see this thing over my shoulder?" he said hefting a tiny sack, the cords between his fingers, "I have four mouth-fulls of rice, a half-eaten rabbit carcass, a rusty dull kunai, some thread and needle, and a grass-stained blanket." He stuck out his tongue, petulantly smiling as he chimed, "Just let me pass."

Oh, he had a little more than that. An old foul-smelling canister of black ink and a brush made from fine horse hairs as well as several important scrolls he could not afford to give up. One that would probably secure his entry into Cloud without shackles.

Flanking the woman were two nuke-nin. The left was a scrawny man from Kusa, hands in his pockets, a wide hat tipped forward, hiding his face. He could tell by the way his baggy leather pants drooped on his bony hips, that he was weighed down to the ankles in weapons. Probably an expert on throwing pointy things. On her right was a much heftier man, his wide shoulders supporting a blade as long and nearly as thick as his right arm. The blade was dull and well-worn, a wooden handle clenched tight in his hand, but he no doubted it could still cleave things through. Around his unarmed hand, tightly fastened like a pair of brass knuckles, was a well-dented Kiri forehead protector.

His tone was friendly enough. Smiles graced the highwaymen. But they weren't the kind he wanted to see.

"If you would leave that pack on the ground there. Right where you're standing, you can walk right past us." The woman said confidently.

When the blonde didn't move an inch, instead standing, keeping his gaze with the woman, studying her matted, stringy brown hair, her two entourages took more offensive stances. The lanky kid pulled his hands from his pockets, throwing stars stuffed in between his knuckles. The other swung his foot back and hefted his blade about like it was a toy, licking his lips.

She began to threaten, "There are more of us-"

"Yes, I know." The traveller said, "Two in the tree eighty degrees from my left-" he pointed perfectly into the towering mass of rotten bark, "Three behind a rock, over there." He said pointing directly to his right, "You hid well. Not that I would have stopped going down this road." He cleared his throat, "Your arrival is no surprise to me." He sighed, "I am in no mood to fight... I... am exhausted. But... I could kill you all if you made me."

The way they moved, he considered that some were high to low-genin, perhaps a few low chuunin, in skill. Dangerous enough to reconsider plowing through them and let them give chase. He could kill them, he did know that much at least. Still, he was exhausted and hurting. And even if he weren't, he never liked chancing fights if he could afford to talk them through.

The Kusa nin scoffed impatiently, throwing one of his stars with a flick of his wrist.

The orange-gi-clad teen didn't move even slightly. The star buzzed right past his ear, not even nicking him.

The woman's lips sagged deep at his stance. She hesitated for a moment, studying him more closely before deciding, "Kill him- Yori, Zunke. We'll roast him tonight for supper."

Her charges moved with alacrity on each side of him, but the stranger's blue eyes followed them carefully, unmoving. The Kusa-nin known as Yori hurled a sea of twinkling blades against him while his ally prepared to leap forward.

With no way to deflect the whirling blades, he swiped twice at the air with his free hand, splayed like a claw, he created an x-shaped gust of wind and then twisted to the right - a vortex of wind flowing from the gestures; streaming half of the shuriken into the sword-bearing brute. Zunke let out a startled yelp and flicked his heavy cleaver with surprising speed, parrying most of the tiny blades, a few still managing to nick him on his bared arms and shoulders, leaving shallow cuts, tears of blood weeping from them.

"Yori!" Zunke shouted in annoyance, his voice more full of surprise than anger. Yori bore a shocked expression. Seeing all this, the five reinforcements came out from hiding, dropping from trees and running from the dead fields.

He could have counter-attacked there, ending the battle, but fatigue shown clearly on his face, sweat dripping like Zunke's blood. Moving from his entrenched spot would escalate the fight. He had the upper hand defending, even if action was faster than reaction. Shrewdly, he deduced that attacking would leave him open to even the most careless attack from a lowly genin.

The woman narrowed her eyes. "That was impressive." She said after a tense stillness, "Join us then. We do not steal from our brothers."

Surprising as it was to hear an olive branch offered, it was not the one he liked to hear, grating out roughly, swallowing a pant, "I am no nuke nin." He paused for a moment, "Nor would I trust your offer anyway, even if I was. You're like wolves."

Zunken patted his scarlet-dyed arms, looking at Yori, both taking wide steps, keeping their distance away from the orange-clad ninja, looking toward their leader for guidance.

"I'm afraid we're too desperate to let even the scrawniest of prey scamper off." She said slowly, spitting a thick wad of saliva on the ground, hands smoothing her dark oily, tattered body armor. He noticed a hitai-ate winded backwards around her arm, as she lifted a hand to pull at her matted bangs. She was from Kumo. That didn't give him much to go on. What could he do here to end this quickly?

The five other nin, dressed in what he recognized to be the dyed remains of once-gray Oto-nin uniforms, formed a loose circle.

He had to think of a way to get out of this. But there really wasn't any other way. He would have to fight. Slumping in defeat, the traveler hefted the sack off his shoulder and opened it. This relaxed most of the ninja surrounding him, as he hoped it would. And before they could react, he pulled a scroll from inside and snapped it open, biting his thumb faster than they could register, smearing a blob of blood across the inked, water-color-like kanji.

He threw the scroll ahead of him, the parchment combusting and expanding into a small billowing cloud of lumpy smoke. It was enough for the ninja surrounding him to react, since it hadn't killed them yet - they let out panicked screams and charged forth with wide strides.

Being caught in a melee like this was always bad, but he knew how to handle himself. Calling up the wind in his heart, he made a fast strike with his fist, taking a leaping step forward, knocking Zunke backwards with a shrieking sudden gale-force gust that kicked up handfuls of dust. It caused the mad swordsman to skid back, his feet arching into the dusty road. The stranger elegantly twirled on his heel and delivered a sweeping kick to two men approaching from behind, shattering one's ankle, pulling the other's out from under him. They fell atop each other - the blond's world blurring as he attacked a third man, delivering a series of punches quickly to his chest, his palms making dull thuds against his thin armor. The man wheezed, feeling winded; reaching for chest. The blonde, swiping up at his Kusa forehead protector, peeled it from his neck, drawing the ugly man's face down right into his fist - the fragile thing clutched in his hand breaking free as the man stumbled backwards, leaving the hitai-ate clasped tight in his fist. The blond grinned as he turned again - but stopped suddenly, shock chilling his high. One assailant had punctured him deep with a kunai. It went in at an awful angle, making a horrible wet sound. But thankfully, by then, the smoke had cleared from his scroll. A terrifying roar startled the men, distracting them - they all turned and craned their heads over their shoulders behind them.

Their leader looked on in horror as a three-tailed fox stood with its back arched, leaping into the air - it tackled two men and bit into each of their necks, turning horrified screams into gurgling gasps, its tails lashing at the dry air.

This set the entire group into a tizzy, scattering as the summon stepped off the downed men, turning its scarlet eyes upon the rest. It was about to give furious pursuit, until the summoner let out a weak shout, "S-S-Sosuku. D-down!" The blonde teen fell on his knees, panting, realizing gravely that a lung was punctured and probably collapsing on him, the blade lodged in his back, "I need you to- p-pull it out." He wheezed, trying to collect and focus youkai-chakra in his torso, but he was not skilled in such manipulation.

The fox summon was quick to return, scampering around his back, a deep frown setting in. The three-tailed fox was about twice the teen's height, its long snout reaching forward, teeth clenching around the brittle blade. Two pairs of eyes widened as it snapped, leaving the meat of the blade still buried in him.

The fox spit the handle out of its mouth, whining in concern. The blond fell forward onto his hands, rasping for breath. He struggled to speak. The fox's warm fuzzy jaw came close to his back, trying to get a grip on the fractured edge, but it was thoroughly coated in his blood, which darkened the back of his orange gi.

A small part of teen's mind came to the conclusion that this was the end, the thump of his heart dull and erratic. But he wondered how true that was. Hadn't his life ended with Konoha? Or maybe, maybe it had never even began? He wondered, what kind of life was it to lead, where a person could be exiled; a pariah in his own home? For a crime he'd never even committed.

Well, whatever. No use in complaining. The world was black now, the ground soft. Something fuzzy prickled on his skin, almost like a loving flame. The searing agony in his chest became just a dull ache. He hadn't wanted to die - not yet. Not when there was still so much to do, so much to make right...

Still... had he not earned his rest?

Hizashi had not had an assignment since his lovely wife had proclaimed she were pregnant, several months ago. The Sandaime was wise not to separate shinobi during such times, but even with the third great war almost behind them... there were still many gaps to be filled. Still, it was a simple enough mission, one which did not send him too far from Konoha's borders. He had been tasked to deliver a scroll to a Kumo dignitary staying in the Land of Hot Water. The small town was an opulent get-a-way for many elite socialites, so Hizashi was no stranger seated before exquisite cups of tea, speaking in fancied riddles. Hopefully, relations between Kumo and Konoha would prosper. Neither seemed to wish for war again...so soon.

Hizashi was accompanied home by familiar face. He smiled to her as they took a breather on the top of a tall spine-shaped tree. Her curly black hair was frazzled from running, a sheen of fatigue on her rosy cheeks. She smiled, taking a deep breath, the swells of her breasts choked by a tight chuunin vest. It was unbecoming of him to look, but...

The raven-haired teen pushed her hands up, pulling her frazzled bangs behind her ears, donning a charming smile, "How is Sachiko? Sorry for asking earlier, I suppose I was a little... standoffish at the start of this mission."

"It is fine Yuuhi-san." The man said with a cool expression, "No worries. Sachiko is... tired. But that doesn't stop her from worrying me. Last night I caught her on the roof, of all places." He sighs, shaking his head, "She is having nightmares. No doubt about her seal. But she will be fine. She is... strong." He cast his eyes downward, leaving an awkward silence.

Kurenai's cheeks darkened in embarrassment as she tried to break the silence, her empty eyes peering into the distance, perched gracefully on a narrow limb, almost like a young sparrow, "This was a relaxing mission. Almost a vacation." She murmured, "Perhaps a waste of our time though."

"Indeed." Hizashi said easily enough, fighting a loose smile, "Unusually uneventful for for me..."

And then there was an explosion - a gust of wind so unnaturally strong, that it shook the tree they stood upon. Kurenai and Hizashi let out a combined cry, quickly hopping off it as the tree bowed with the gust. They each found sturdier trees that stood defiantly in the wake of the chakra-laden gale, skidding down them, bark flying from where their sandals chipped into the wood.

When they reached the forest floor, littered with freshly fallen leaves, their met eyes. Hizashi nodded to the chuunin, "I will lead. Follow at the same distance as before."

Kurenai offered, "I can sense something... large." She licked her lips, "But it seems to be fading fast."

Hizashi raced ahead, Kurenai not far behind. They stopped at an incredible sight - ancient twisted trees fallen up on their sides, uprooted in the wake in a great, almost spontaneous hurricane. The ground lay almost completely bare, stripped of grass and shrubs, leaves and fine brown dust scattered in air, chromatic leaves raining down with an eerily gentle sway under the bleeding evening light. In the middle of a shallow crater lay a bloody boy dressed in orange surrounded by several unrecognizable human carcasses - their bodies little but bones and pieces of shredded flesh. Hizahi's nose wrinkled as the air tasted of copper.

Kurenai leapt ahead, even as Hizashi called out to her. He came after as she ran into the center of the silent impact, falling on her knees, placing one of her soft hands upon his face, "He's breathing. But he seems injured, Hizashi. You can perform basic medical techniques, right?"

She opened up his gi and began to check his pulse with one hand, the other reaching into her chuunin vest, pulling out a small medical kit. as Hizashi came around behind her, falling on his knees, noticing something clutched in his hand.

A slashed Kusa hitai-ate.

Kurenai performed CPR when the blood-smeared blond's breathing grew slow, her wet lips pressed to his, puffing harsh breaths inside as her hands worked. Hizashi saw blood trickling onto forest floor and demanded sharply, "Roll him over onto his back. Immediately."

"But Hizashi- if I do that- he'll definitely-"

"Just do it!"

Dazed blue eyes opened slow, blinding white consuming his vision. And then an annoying, soft beeping sound reached his ears - and he realized he wasn't dead. There was an alarming urge to sit up, to move - to flee. But his chest ached. He felt like he was being weighed down by a ship's anchor. Which was almost true, trying to move his arms sent electric worry coursing through him - at his wrists, tight fabric bound him. His eyes bulged and the room around him became clear.

Speckled grey walls and spotless white mottled tile. An obnoxious white light in the ceiling. A sink to his left. A sealed door to his right. At first, it looked and smelled (nauseatingly) like a generic hospital room. Breathing was decidedly difficult, and moving his head made him realize there was a tube down his throat, inserted through his nostrils. It was hard to think at first, but there wasn't much time to think, as when he had awoken, it must have tripped some alarm - perhaps a more active heart rate indicated he was about? Or maybe someone was watching unseen, as quickly, a familiar man entered the room, followed by a not-so-familiar one.

"Hiashi?" the blond teen murmured, unable to help himself. His voice was cracked, his throat like a desert.

The man was... almost his spitting image. He could have mistaken him for Neji, but Neji was taller, and... not quite the same. Hiashi had harder features, thinner lips, lighter eyes. But the man before him was without a blemish - his face crystal clear. He looked like a younger Hiashi, not quite like the one he had met not so long ago.

The not-so-quite-Hiashi wore a jounin's flak jacket, his long dark hair pulled back, forehead protector acting like a tiara, keeping his hair in perfect arrangement. A muscular neck came down to a pair of narrow, but muscular shoulders. He was dressed in a black mesh top underneath the well-worn flak jacket, navy blue mesh pants tightly tied around his firm lower half. The hospitalized blond could tell he was quick on his feet, his thighs and shins well-shaped; bulging. Tense, like a bow string.

The man's expression was not so kind, but a confused gaze met with the injured teen. He paused for a moment after stopping in the room to the right of the bed, "No. That would be my brother."

Brother? Naruto's teeth dug into his cheek to keep him from crying that out. Hiashi's brother was Neji's father. And he had died. He knew that much. So long ago, that he'd never had the chance to meet him.

Something here was dreadfully wrong. He couldn't afford any more outbursts. Nothing was making much sense yet. Could he be dreaming? In an illusion? Or was this what death was like? He couldn't help a wry smile from forming on his lips.

"I'm not dead. Am I?" he asked.

The man behind the not-Hiashi strode in next, chuckling, "No boy, no you're not. Though it was not a certain thing until recently. I am actually impressed you are already awake. I expected at least a week or more before you might have the strength."

Naruto recognized the man, vaguely. He was a pediatrician and a surgeon for Konoha General - he had been Naruto's doctor until age seven, when he stopped getting check ups. He resisted the urge to say the man's name, who did not immediately greet him.

There was a terse moment of silence, before the dark-skinned doctor, his hair as black as his flesh, lab coat and pleated pants pristine and prim, parted his lips. "Call me Doctor Isshu, if you would." He cleared his throat, looking towards the Hyuuga, "Hyuuga-san here tells me he located you on a return from his mission in Yu no Kuni. You... were severally injured, with a kunai piercing your left lung, nearly missing your heart. There was a tremendous amount of blood loss, but you survived. Thanks to his immediate actions on the field, it is likely you would not have made it here alive."

The blond looked toward the man, who stood rigidly, his expression almost unreadable. Those blasted white eyes were... almost as enchanting as Hinata's, but far more terrifying.

The way he was being addressed, it was clear to him they did not trust him.

For some reason, he smiled, "I... see. Then, I owe you... my life, Hyuuga-san." Naruto said quietly, "Thank you."

He nodded, hesistating for a moment, before looking Doctor Isshu in the eye, "Are there any specifics on the the young man's condition you need to discuss?"

The Doctor nodded, looking stern, "You will make a full recovery, in time. There appear to be no concerns. We drained your lung of any residual blood, but tell me if you cough up any more. There is also, of course, a chance for infection... that grows the longer you linger here. It would be in your best interest to cooperate and get back on your feet." He tapped his chin, before turning to the Hyuuga, "I believe that's all for now. He's all yours."

Naruto watched the man leave, the door shutting with a quiet click.

The Hyuuga took a gracious seat in front of the bed, "If you owe me your life, then you will tell me your name."

Naruto swallowed, "Tell me where I am, first."

"A fair request." He replied calmly, his voice melodious, almost soothing. For a moment, he thought he was in a genjutsu, "You are in Konohagakure no Sato. In a very secure ward in a hospital."

Naruto nodded, wondering if he should lie and give a false name, but he had a feeling this man was here for a good reason - he - like Ibiki - like Neji - would probably see right through him.

"Naruto." He said quietly.

When there was no response, he met Hiashi's brother's eyes. He seemed to be studying him with a curious glow, his lips pressed into a tight frown.

"You are not lying." He said easily, glancing at Naruto's heart rate monitor, "One-hundred over fifty six." He remarked casaully, "That's a little low for someone who should be... anxious." He murmured.

Naruto huffed, trying hard to pretend like he didn't know this man, which wasn't that hard at all, "Yeah... well, why should I be an-anxious? You have me... strung up here... but..." Where was he really? "I suppose I'm disoriented. Maybe I should be a little more agitated. But - I've been a little crazy these last few weeks, so it's not like I have a habit of being this calm." It was all true, he realized he could get through whatever this was - an interrogation - if he just told only the truth. Better to play dumb though. Good thing he was kind of good at that.

"I see. So you have been stressed lately."

"Oh, you better believe it."

He laughed jovially, "The life of a missing-nin is hard, then?"

Naruto nearly snapped his vertebrae trying to sit up straight. Nuke-nin? What was he trying to pull?

Naruto's bright blonde brows raised high in incredulity, keeping still, "Missing-nin?" he laughed bitterly, glancing at the bright ceiling, "So I guess not having a village to fight for just automatically makes you one of those then?"Why would he assume he was a missing-nin?

Hizashi looked calm, though Naruto couldn't help but see a tick of confusion on his face... somewhere. Call it a good hunch, but he could somehow tell the man was trying hard to mask his emotions. Good thing he'd been a quick study on Neji... well, okay not so much quick. He was familiar with that expression though - Hizashi was doing the same thing Neji used to do whenever he would talk about ramen. His face apparently calmed, subtle muscles twitching.

"How about we make this a game?" Naruto said slowly, "No life-debts here. Besides, a few questions hardly could negate a thing like that. I'll ask you a question. Then you."

Hizashi nodded, "That is fair."

"What is today's date?"

Hizashi answered without thinking, "It is the seventh of October, one hundred and seventy-eight."

"Ah, that's what I thought." It was a miracle his voice didn't shake, saying that.

Naruto was smart. Well, he liked to think of himself as pretty fuckin' smart. But he knew he wasn't - he knew he wasn't. He'd made so many fucking stupid mistakes in his life; never studied even when he knew he had to. And... he could never figure out how people added vectors together, let alone how to find the point on a line using a the radius of a circle. But that was besides the point, right? He was crazy, not smart. And he was crazy enough to just go with things. He didn't understand explicitly, but there was an acceptance somewhere inside him. Like, things made sense whether he understood them or not. Go with the flow. And if this man - nay Hyuuga - was telling him straight-faced it was three days before he was supposed to have even been born, then that's exactly the day it was.

"Then... What time-"

The Hyuuga raised his straight hand, "I have a question." He interrupted, "You say you do not have a home to fight for. Then what of Kusa?"

Grass? What did Grass...? Did they think he was a Grass missing-nin? How'd they get that?

Naruto's lips parted, about to say as much, until he realized, okay, so how crazy was he? Crazy enough to go along with that too?

Naruto laughed, spasming suddenly as a jolt of pain made him quake, "F-fuck." He shivered - okay, no more laughing until he was better.

Hizashi waited quietly.

"I... was... I mean... my home." Naruto explained quietly, clutching his chest. It was hard to breathe - he had to hope the fox would hurry up repairing his lung, soon, "I have one... no more."

"Perhaps you were conscripted," Hizashi pondered aloud, "I suppose the details are not that important, you are not important enough to be listed by picture in any of our bingo books." He hummed, stroking his chin, looking a bit like a king, with his eyes raised toward the ceiling.

"What would it take for you to let me go?" Naruto asked in a murmur.

Hizashi looked him in the eye, "Currently? It is doubtful we will let you go alive. We cannot confirm who you work for. It is likely that you are a spy, a scout? Perhaps an opportunist. At best, you are one of the many bandits who terrorize our merchant caravans. You might be lucky enough to be sold to Kusa, but I highly doubt it. It is more likely you will be executed - though I do not know for sure, our new Hokage is a sympathetic man."

Naruto grimaced, tensing his hands. Okay, so he wasn't sure if that was a bait or a bluff, but he really didn't want this to get worse. It would be better to try and talk his way out of this now, fiery alarm racing through him as the Hyuuga got up and looked like has going to leave.

"Wait." Naruto croaked, "Wait. I'm... I'm not working for anyone, but I think I have some information that... might persuade K-Konoha to let me go." He said, the word of his old home so foreign sounding to his ears.

Hizashi turned expectantly, "Yes?"

"I am... a practitioner of Fuuinjutsu." He said roughly, letting out a cough, "Could... could I have some water? I don't know last when I had a drink..."

Hizashi nodded calmly, wakling over to the sink and filling a paper cup with water. He tilted it up against his parched lips. Naruto's throat bobbed as he swallowed eagerly.

"My... clan," Naruto said after a gasp, "-I was raised, I mean... I have studied seals for a long time." He could recall when the Sandaime had given him a scroll of his father's at the tender age of six. Although he had never expected Naruto to study it seriously, it had been meant as a momento to hang on the wall of his space in the orphange, "The Five Elements Seal..." he began, trying to prove his knowledge, "It is a five point seal, each point representing the physical elements. Fire, Metal, Wood, Water, and Earth. It can be constructed in several ways-"

Hizashi raised his hand, "Sorry... Naruto-san. But I am only knowledgable in a few... esoteric seals. I will have to have your knowledge verified by... a more skilled person."


"If it is true that you do know the art of sealing... well. It is a rare talent." Hizashi said slowly, "What would you propose?"

"I would be willing to... teach anyone my skills in Fuuinjutsu... to anyone in Konoha. I mean, I would be willing to try." He laughed nervously.

Hizashi nodded, "That is a fair offer, but not one we would likely let a nuke-nin do. How can we not be sure you will corrupt, poison, curse or kill one of our own?"

Naruto nodded, "I guess it's rare for Konoha to accept missing-nin into their ranks, huh?"

"It is not a common practice, no." He looked around the room, sighing. "We might be persuaded to take you to the border." Hizashi offered, "Though, make no mistakes, I cannot promise such a thing. But possibly speaking, if you could offer your services as a user of Fuuinjutsu, we might be willing to let you walk away, if the service you performed were great enough."

Naruto nodded, not liking the sound of that. Sure, he wanted to get out of this bed, but out of Konoha? If Konoha had somehow... come back into existence... or something, the best way to figure out what the hell was going on... and where to go from there? It was to stay.

"I am not so sure I am looking to... be a wanderer again, Hyuuga-san."

"Oh?" Hizashi arched his brow, almost feigning surprise.

Naruto swallowed, "You ah- you saw me. Almost dead." The Hyuuga nodded and took a seat, "Why would I want to go back to a life like that?"

"I did see you, yes. An incredible explosion of wind. And there were dead all about you. Could you explain why you were attacked, if you are indeed whom you say you are, surely no one would be hunting you? Or were those the bodies of Kusa hunter-nin? Not much was left of them."

"Common thieves." Naruto admitted easily, challenging the Hyuuga to call him on a lie, "Missing-nin - one was from Kumo, the rest... I'm not sure, but they wanted my things- did you happen to recover anything, by chance? I had a sack, with ah... scrolls in it. They had seals I was working on written on them."

The Hyuuga shook his head, causing Naruto to curse, "Well... there goes a whole two months of work." He blinked for then, craning his head painfully in the stiff hospital bed, "Ne, you said there was an explosion of wind?" Could it have been... his seals activating?

"Yes. It was... incredibly destructive. It's why we even..." the Hyuuga frowned, "It is curious we did not notice your battle with these alleged missing-nin, until we were almost right upon them."

Naruto shrugged, "Well it happened. And there is a reason I try to use fuuinjutsu - they are extremely hard to detect at a distance. But- I think I can explain the explosion- that was... probably one of my wind-scrolls detonating. I'm surprised it did, honestly. It wasn't anywhere near completion."

Hizashi nodded, his eyes darkening, his tone jovial. Did he have a sense of humor? "You are constructing a weapon of mass destruction, then?"

"W-Wha... well..." Shit. Shit. Shit. Shit. Shit. Shit. What would he do? What would he say?

Well, he wasn't much of a liar. Fuck it if they kill him now. He was already dead anyway. This was just borrowed time, anyhow.

"Yes." Naruto breathed, "I have been- maybe overzealously working on something like that-" the blonde teen gushed, feeling almost proud that it seemed to have worked at least a little, with the way Hizashi described and feared the eviscerating twister of gust, "A seventy two part seal- dual centered- nobody has tried that before as far as I know- with eight resistors- and a very- well- a field of chakra flux so dense that it would cause wind chakra to build up into almost an instant hurricane, if I perfected it. Probably enough to send buildings toppling. And if I put a dozen of them within close proximity and-"

Those white eyes narrowed, "Is... there a particular reason you are developing such a dangerous thing?"

Naruto laughed weakly, "Yes... actually." Naruto met him squarely, "I admit it's crazy- so crazy- but I just... had to think of something. Desperate, you know?" he paused, wondering if he should keep going, "S-suppose I had a vision, Hyuuga-san. Or maybe it was... that I met a certain man... That... And he... A man who was... closer to a half-god than a man. As much as I'd rather not stroke his ego..." he shook his head, "But listen, I know you won't believe me on that. So, how about we come to a compromise, all that work I've done on that weapon is gone- I could... show Konoha how I was going to make it- but I doubt you guys would want such an imprecise thing anyway. I-instead, I think I know what I can offer in return for... well, I don't want to be dumped on the side of the road in Taki no Kuni or something- I want an apartment. Here. Somewhere. It can be in the gutter. I don't care- you can surround it with ANBU too, if you want. But the thing I'm willing to trade is..." Naruto swallowed, "This man. The one I'm talking about - I have strong reasons to conclude that... umm..." he swallowed, "Orochimaru of the Sannin, is p-planning an attack on Konoha in three day's time."

Hizashi blinked unbelievably at the whirlwind of words the blond let tumble from his weakened lips, his eyes narrowing at the end. He stood up suddenly and walked out, despite Naruto's muffled protests behind the closed hospital door.

When Ibiki came, he knew he was in deep shit. The man was missing some wrinkles on his face, but he was no less menacing-looking.

Still, he quirked his lips into a smile, "Ooooh great. I just had to say that, didn't I? Good job Naruto. Now they brought in the big guns."

"Can it." Ibiki said, two chuunin - one of them a young Anko - on his flanks, "We're moving you to T&I."

Then, they wheeled him out of his room. Naruto got a good view of Anko over him, who pushed at the back of his bed. She had the same violet hair, the same frayed pony tail. The same wicked grin. She wore a barely-translucent black gauzy mesh over her swollen torso, smooth tan flesh underneath; black spats over her wide hips.

She grinned, "Feel free to rough him up Ibiki-chan when we get there. He's staring at my boobs."

"I am not." Naruto croaked.

Ibiki rolled his eyes as they moved through the hospital, entering a glass hallway looking over the Hokage monument. He remembered this place. It was the connector between the hospital and T&I. The glass darkened, the floor a soft pink tile, the windows transparent only through the side he was looking through.

Then, his eyes caught at the moving sight. He twisted in his bed. Staring with bulging blue eyes. Beyond the buildings and rooftops of Konoha below, stood the great mountain. Four Hokage staring up into the thick, darkening sky, Tsunade's head clearly missing. But fuck that. Half that mountain had been destroyed the last time he had seen it. Who could have... could he have really...? Was it truly... three days? Did he... go back in time? Was that where he was?

He looked away from the monument, feeling dizzy. Like he wanted to throw up. But nothing came, probably because he hadn't eaten shit in days.

The room - cell. The cell they brought him to... existed to intimidate. Pristine ceiling, pristine walls - both painted a muted grey. No windows. Not even a door (they came through some kind of warp-seal he wished he'd time to study). A lone light hung overhead a... rusty yet sleek, bloodstained chair. Beside it there was a small podium with a locked canister full of dangerous pointy things that the blonde flinched at, keeping his eyes away, "I hate needles." He murmured to himself.

Anko and the other chuunin in front of her - holy fuck - he wished he'd been paying attention to him.

He was lanky, with long untamed white hair that curled at the ends. A long nose and pudgy red lips. He was Mizuki - his old sensei.

Oh, how tempted he was, to incriminate the man who would later betray Konoha. 'Hey Mizuki. Thanks for that delivery the other day.' It would have been funny to see the look on that ugly face. But... if he really was from the future... maybe he shouldn't? Well, he was already in enough hot water already. But suggesting Mizuki was in cahoots with him would be really, really dumb right now, right?

Actually, now that the thought occurred to him, if he really was from the future, then... telling them about the Kyuubi attack before hand... could fuck things up, right? Well, it would certainly send... ripples. But what did that mean for him?

They wheeled him over to the menacing chair. Anko leaned forward and held both his wrists, her breasts leaning suggestively over his eyes. She giggled playfully, Mizuki holding his ankles.

"Eh, that's not really necessary." Naruto said easily, "If you're really insistent on doing this, I'll cooperate."

Anko guffawed, "You hear that Ibiki-chan? This boy has no idea what he's getting into."

The man himself let out no amused sound, "It is a precaution, boy. For all of our sakes, it is best if you are properly restrained. I would hate... to injure you under the misunderstanding of a sudden convulsion from your injury."

Naruto blanched and nodded, watching as Ibuki carefully removed his restraints; Anko and Mizuki carrying his limp body to the seat, planting him in it and re-securing him there. Naruto sighed, moving his wrists and ankles in their new more solid restraints, sitting up in the cold metal chair, the faint smell of iron on his sensitive nostrils, just a thin hospital arpon wrapped around his otherwise naked form.

"Thank you both. You may leave."

"Aww... Ibiki-chaaaan..." Anko whined, but the man shooed her with a wave of his hand.

They disappeared through a spot on the floor - a seal flashed bright pink as they walked toward it, teleporting them in a swirl of leaves.

Naruto looked up and met Ibiki's dark brown eyes. Although he had not know the man well, he couldn't fight back a smile, remembering him on the night Konoha fell. He died, taking a katon jutsu meant for him - his entire body incinerated almost instantly. Even then, that man had not screamed.

"It is not rare, to meet a nuke-nin, who would smile before his interrogator. Are you perhaps proud of your accomplishments? Or have you simply accepted death...? Or are you a sadomasochist like Anko-san?"

Naruto studied the man, the way his long dark coat covered his pressed navy uniform, each button perfectly slotted.

He shrugged, "I make mistakes, Ibiki-san. But I am... proud of those, in a way. In spite of them... I'm still here." He laughed, wincing in pain, "And I was sure I was dead recently, so perhaps both? I'm surprised to be here, actually."

He nodded curtly, "I understand you made a rather harrowing accusation at one of our seasoned jounin."

Naruto nodded, lying with a bold, firm face, his secure, muscles unnervingly unflexed, eyes meeting Ibiki's.

"Orochimaru will bring ruin to Konoha in three days. It will cost this village its Kage... and more."

There was a reason for this lie - he wasn't gambling on it because he was stupid. One, it was better to make up a story like this than to say he was from the future - there was no way he could trust anyone but himself with what he knew, and that's if they didn't think him mad. Two, he had to get out of where he was at, and the best way to do that was to impress them with an impossible intelligence feat - that he knew something no one would otherwise be prepared for. Three, it might fucking fix everything. If the Yondaime Hokage could survive the night the Kyuubi attacked, that would be one more great Shinobi to stand in Madara's way. And finally, his fourth reason... was that it was close enough to the true story. Explaining Orochimaru would be a lot easier than explaining Madara or Tobi.

"You are lying." Ibiki said coldly.

Naruto shook his head defiantly, "No, I'm not. I know for a fact he is. I know exactly what he plans to do. And in exchange for telling you this, you will allow me to join the village as a citizen." He grinned, "With health benefits. You know, I haven't had a doctor's appointment since I was seven?"

A sound echoed through the room, making Naruto blink. It took half a second to register the pain exploding on his cheek. His skin was raw, buzzing, fiery - so alive.

Ibiki had just slapped him? Wow, he was fast. He hadn't even seen it coming.

"This is not a joke, boy." Ibiki ground out, "Do not waste my time. What were you doing when Hyuuga Hizashi found you seventeen kilometers from the border of Yu no Kuni?"

"I was fighting." Naruto said curtly, then correcting himself, "Actually, when he found me, I was dying."

Ibiki ignored the second part of his statement, "Whom?"

"Who? Ah... missing nin. Thugs. Bandits. Scavengers. I don't know much else. One- one was named Yori- and another Zunka? Zunko? Something like that. They were trash- low genin- maybe a little better than that, but I was exhausted."

Ibiki nodded for a moment, staring expectantly, "Do not leave out any details."

"Before the fight had started, I tried to pull out one of my sealing scrolls-" he fibbed easily enough, it was almost true, "-but I was interrupted. I'm not sure what happened, but during the fight, I was surrounded and had to fight five at once and- one of those bastards got me in the back. I not sure what happened after that- I just- I was desperate, so..." Naruto hesistated, ending dramatically, "I called on it."

The special jounin sighed, "Listen, brat. You're a kid. Just barely past that. I don't like torturing your kind. I don't like to make things messy. But I can. And I will. For the safety of Konoha. Make no mistake, I will beat you within an inch of your life if you don't start making sense. You fought some genin and barely lived. Yet you claim to know about the movements of an S-Ranked missing nin."

Naruto swallowed, whispering worriedly, "I-I would have told you to bring a Yamanaka to this. I am aware of what they can do-" the blonde shook his head, "But that won't work here. You have to trust me- argh- fuck-" he grit his teeth and stared angrily at Ibiki, "This seat- it has seals in it. Dangerous, powerful ones. I can feel it. Because I've worked with seals almost my whole life. I know what that chakra feels like. This seat is very well-engineered - you don't even need chakra cuffs- or anything- even the most seasoned genjutsu master would have hell doing a henge in this thing."

Ibiki paused, about to interrupt, but stopped, "That... is all true." He hummed, "Well, at least it is true, you seem to be knowledgeable in seals. Or in our torture equipment, at any rate."

"And with good reason." Naruto lied, "My clan is- it's- we- were-" he sighed, "I'm the last one, alright?"

Ibiki crossed his armed over his chest. Naruto wished he'd taken some of those lying classes at the academy.

"No, no, I'm not lying, listen to me Ibiki-san. This chair is perfect, right? If you put the Hokage in here right now, well... maybe he'd have enough brute force to rip himself out of this thing, but if you subdued him enough, even he would be trapped. At least for a little while. Maybe he could weaken the seal with enough time. I mean, this thing isn't perfect, but you're pretty confident that I can't get out of this, right?"

The man shook his head, letting out an exasperated sigh, his hands combing over the dark blue cap over the top of his bald head. He walked over to the podium and unlocked the container, pulling out a small knife. One that looked similar to those Naruto had used for skinning animals during academy survival weekends.

"Dammit, just listen to me. You don't need to flay me to get me to really talk. I'm already telling you the truth. What do you think I'm lying about?" And to prove it, Naruto closed his eyes, reaching deep inside.

Actually, this was not a solid plan. He hadn't tried to make contact with the Kyuubi since he'd woken up. He'd no idea what shape it was in - if he really was in the past - would it still be inside him? If there were only one Kyuubi, would there even be a horrific event in three days?

To his surprise, the Kyuubi was indeed there, slumbering in his great, lustrous jail. His massive eyes blinked open, a feral smile upon his lips.

"You must be blessed by Inari." His chuckled throatily, giving him a knowing look.

"Maybe." Naruto allowed hurriedly, "Listen, I have no idea what the fuck is going on, but at the moment-"

"Something is amiss. I can feel that much. Why did you almost die?" The beast said with a calm gravel in his trickling voice, "You will lend me... eyes and ears, when you can." It wasn't a suggestion.

"Sure, sure, Kurama-chan." Naruto rubbed the back of his head, feeling dizzy, "But ah, right now, I'm kind of trying to prove a point to somebody - prove that I have your strength backing me up - so... could you lend me your chakra?"

"Why even ask? It is yours." He murmured softly, putting his head down.

Okay, well, that was a weird reaction. But that was another issue for later. The blonde grinned and pulled out of his subconscious in an instant.

The knife clattered to the floor, Ibiki's fingers shaking, Naruto's left fist clenched, the veins on his arms surging, muscles building and contracting. The reinforced steel clamped around his wrist and elbow buckled.

"I need back up." Ibiki said calmly into a radio he retrieved quickly from inside his coat, "We have a situation in the-"

"It's fine. Don't be afraid Ibiki-san." Naruto ground out, the demonic chakra filling his voice, hyperventilating between a long groan flowing from his throat. He was still injured, still exhausted, still aching inside from a deep wound that wasn't entirely physical, but he could summon the strength. And he did. The restraint gave way with a crumpling sound under the force of his will.

Naruto kept his other arm secured, breathing heavily. And as quick as that horrible strange feeling entered Ibiki's gut, it faded. And even quicker, the room was filled with ANBU, the pink seal pulsing with light to allow their entrance. Nine of them surrounded Ibiki and Naruto, a tenth appearing. He wore a Dog mask and approached Ibiki.


The ANBU stared through their masks at the young teen who wore nothing but a hospital gown, his messy blonde hair matted against the headrest of the menacing chair. Three major restraints remained, but his other arm was free, tiny shards of metal on the ground below.

"That was to prove a point." Naruto said simply to Ibiki, "I am not lying. I-I'm the last of my clan. There aren't many people alive today who could do something like that, right? To casually rip themself- to use chakra inside a seat designed to completely prevent and suppress its use." Naruto swallowed, a dry lump in his throat, "The Yamanaka cannot look into my mind either, the reason for that is the same - because - that would kill them. Inside me - I am sealed with a great burden - the chakra of an ancient evil. A chakra which is neither of mind nor body. It is not something that is stopped by seals designed to restrain human chakra."

Naruto stared challenging into Ibiki's eyes, sweat dripping from his forehead.

His voice was terse and incredulous, "Will you believe me now? I may have gotten injured by some stupid genin - but this power of mine... well, it makes me light up like a firework in the sky, right?"

"There is little use interrogating you, I can see that much." Ibiki said stonily, "If you can free yourself from that chair, then nothing short of the threat of death could work, if that." Ibiki looked over his shoulder at Dog, "Have your men surround him." Naruto watched as they formed a tight ring that drew closer, slowly, "It is clear there is more to this gaki than I originally thought." He sighed, looking at Naruto, "You. You're on thin-ice. We will take you to see Yondaime-sama, who will confirm what you claim. If that much is true, then you will tell us about Orochimaru, how you met him, where you met him, and what he intends to do." Ibiki nodded at the ANBU, who moved to remove the rest of the restraints.

The Hokage Tower was the second tallest tower in all of Konoha, only the capital containing an even grander edifice. Containing the chambers for the Hokage as well as meeting places for the council, ANBU, and various other workers - it was a building of such crucial significance, and contained a man of no less significance, that it would seem insane to bring an unknown nuke-nin into it.

But there truly were no better alternatives in Ibiki's eyes. If any of this were a trap, luring the Yondaime out of his chambers could be a part of it. And taking the nuke-nin inside the tower was the least likely thing any suicide-agent would consider. The tower also contained numerous security protocols, so it truly was the safest place to bring the boy.

"Could - I at least be given something to wear?" Naruto frowned, looking over his shoulder as he walked into the great tower from an underground catwalk, seeing his the tips of his ass.

Ibiki rolled his eyes and said, "No."

"Oh come on!"

"Forget it kid."

Naruto was acting strangely calm for being in the company of almost a dozen ANBU entourage, perhaps another dozen following in the shadows surrounding them.

Ibiki opened a locked door by pressing his hand against it, a dim light filling the umbral passage. They climbed a few stairs before approaching a steel freight elevator, two Chuunin standing guard there. Their eyes bulged at the sight.

"The H-Hokage is expecting you Ibiki." One of them said, the elevator already on its way, slowly descending to the first floor. Generally, everyone used the stairs, but in cases where large groups of people needed to ascend in a secure homogenized, manner, the elevator was the safer, if slower alternative.

It arrived after a long, seemingly tense moment. The mood was awkward, with Naruto's eyes exploring the tower with faint interest. He recognized everything to be more or less the same as before, which put him at ease, a gentle smile forming. He was having a hard time not keeping it from bursting into a full-blown grin - he was going to meet the Yondaime Hokage. Even... if it got him killed as a result, it would be totally worth it right? He was practically his idol.

Naruto was the first to step onto the elevator, surrounded by ANBU, looking up the talk dark shaft, his heart pounding.

"You know, we could have just talked in the interrogation room." Naruto sighed, looking at Ibiki as he stood before him, boarding the elevator next, "I mean, you're not exactly restraining me here. Everyone's going to be all worried that I'll blow up something when I scratch my nose or something."

Ibiki almost ignored him. Almost, "No, a case as unusual as yours... should have gone to the Hokage anyway. I believe... he has some distaste for our usual treatment of young missing-nin - he probably believes they were never given a proper chance, or something." He said gruffly.

"Ah. So you don't want to get fired."

"Just shut up gaki. We're almost there."

The door to the Hokage's room was... richly detailed. The motif of a great tree. This was not something Naruto had remembered - maybe it had been lost at some point after his birth. The red-oak doors were decorated with the symbols of leaves falling from the great tree. And in the heart of the tree, a single symbol - Fire - was inscribed. Naruto stared at it in awe for a moment. Ibiki stepped forward from his side and knocked twice.

"Come on in." A voice said muffled through the doors.

They opened.

Minato Namikaze, the Yondaime Hokage, sat down behind his wide black desk, his elbows placed upon it, hands clasped, an expectant, quizzical look on his young features.

"So what's this about, Ibiki-san?"

Naruto stared at the Hokage. His mouth agape.

Handsome, lean, golden blonde hair long and wild. He recognized the flame-insignia cloak about his shoulders, the dark blue vest over his chest. His great blue eyes drifted over to the blonde teen standing oddly in a thin white gown and grimaced, "Eh? That's him?"

Ibiki nodded, "My missive explained-"

"Yes, yes, I did read it." Minato sighed, "Well, he looks harmless enough."

"I'm not going to do anything." Naruto said finally, walking into the room, pushing an ANBU out of his way. The guard seemed a little alarmed, until the Hokage raised his hand.

"I suppose you aren't? Huh. Well, everyone can wait out in the hall then. I'll be fine. Shoo - shoo." Minato closed his eyes, looking dismissive. The masked ANBU operatives hesitated, before dispersing in a show of lights, smoke, leaves... and one just walking through the door. Ibiki bowed curtly, grumbling under his breath as he was the last to leave, the great red doors shutting behind him.

"Well, take a seat then. Pull up a chair." The Hokage sat back in his seat, relaxing in, "This is a good diversion from paper work." He said nonchalantly as Naruto stepped forward cautiously, studying the Yondaime with his bulging eyes. He took a familiar plush seat.

There was another awkward moment of silence.

"So." The Hokage began, not sure where to begin, his eyes drifting towards the ceiling, "Are you one of my fan club? You've really got the hair style down."

Naruto rubbed the back of his head and laughed nervously. "I was thinking the same thing, actually. Are you sure I don't have a fan club?" Naruto hesitated, "I'm Naruto." He said finally.

"You are." He frowned, "That's a coincidence. You're the first person I've met with that name."

"How is that a coincidence?"

He sighed, "Nevermind, it's not... really important." He tapped his cheek thoughtfully, "Is it a good name?"

"...I guess?" Naruto shrugged, "I like it."

He nodded, "Well that puts me at ease."

Okay, Naruto decided then, the Yondaime was weird. Were his idealed dreams shattered? Not a bit. The Yondaime being weird... made him a little fuzzy inside. His dashed dreams hadn't been so unrealistic, though he knew he'd no longer any hope of becoming the Hokage now.

"And your clan name?"

"A-ah- Kurama." It was the only stupid thing he could think of in half a second that wasn't an already existing clan-name in Konoha, to his knowledge.

"Kurama Naruto then, huh? Well it's a pleasure to meet you." He smiled and reached out. The blonde blinked, before realizing he was supposed to reach out and shake his hand... so he did.

His grip was firm. With many slight bumps and callouses - but Naruto had more. Which surprised the leader. Naruto shook it firmly, gazing into his eyes in a way he hadn't expected a child... teenager... to be able to. The teen's grip was sweaty. Naruto was clearly more than a little nervous, despite his familiar tone.

Naruto sat back in his seat, taking a deep breath.

"I do like to chat, but it's getting late." He gestured behind him, the great window overlooking Konoha revealed a splendid, starry night sky, "I want to get going home soon. So, right to business - I understand you have a strange chakra."

The Yondaime watched the way Naruto got comfortable in his seat. For all the kid's nervousness, he seemed to be well suited for talking to the leader of a nation - capable of killing him faster than he would be able to realize.

Naruto's shoulders were dropped, his guard almost collapsed. He was oddly at ease; completely defenseless in what should be if grandiose, but assuredly imposing room. The Yondaime chewed on his cheek in thought.

Naruto nodded, "It is... complicated. I would offer to let you see, but it's ah- a bit embarrassing." He joked, "See, I've got nothing on underneath this stupid gown and- the seal is on my belly." He grumbled, "Is there any way you could throw me some pants to put on- or something?"

The Yondaime laughed hard, rocking in his seat, "Oh, is that all? Yeah, ah, sure, hold on a sec- I think- well, I have a spare pair of pants in here I change into for training - they'll be baggy and long on you, but good enough for now, right?" He produced them from a container scroll contained in a drawer from his desk.


Naruto took the long, dark navy mesh pants from the Hokage, slipping them on underneath his gown, before he removed it.

Naruto's body was covered in white and pink colored scars. He was well-defined, his shoulders and arms where he held the majority of his developed muscle. His abdomen and chest were firm, but didn't ripple with strength. They were flatter, with some youthful fat deposits.

The Yondaime studied Naruto carefully, before coming around from his desk, "So where's your- Oh!"

Naruto channeled the barest amount of the Kyuubi's chakra, causing the Eight Trigrams Seal to appear. Minato's eyes bulged, "That's... an Uzumaki seal." He stated calmly, falling to his knees in awe. Naruto thought for a moment he wasn't remembering to breathe as he gawked at it.

"Is it?" Naruto feigned a frown, "I am told my father performed it on me." He said slowly, something forboding dawning upon him. He swallowed thick, his throat growing tight. He pushed his critical mind away, determined to survive here, "It cost him his life."

It was interesting to hear that his seal was an Uzumaki one - just by a glance. Did that mean his father's family name really was Uzumaki? It wasn't some dumb thing the Sandaime had just come up with? That was pretty cool. He wanted to do some research on the name, as he'd known just tiny fragments about his family, but it really wasn't the time or place to dwell on such desires.

"That... is definitely sealing something away." Minato said, "Though I can't confirm exactly what it is..."

Naruto channeled some of the Kyuubi's youkai into his hand, hoping Minato would not be able to recognize it exactly. A sickly dread entered the Hokage's body as Naruto's fingers clenched tight into a fist, "It is the spirit of a demon that is sealed inside me." He murmured quietly, "Though I was never taught much more than that."

"You can... use its chakra?" Minato seemed floored, but he quickly accepted it as he continued to look, his hand reaching out, tracing the air atop his belly, "I see... yes that would make sense. That's definitely possible. Though worrisome - though the seal seems... solid enough." He backed away, thoughtful. Clearly he was missing something, but Naruto was determined not to let him dwell on it at the moment, "Anyway." He interrupted, "There are more important things, right? Orochimaru. I was trying to tell- Hyuuga-san and Ibiki-baka, but they wouldn't believe me."

The Yondaime frowned, "Yes, I suppose that is more important. He only went rogue just a little while ago- you claim he's already planning to strike at us? I wasn't anticipating it so soon."

"Yes." Naruto swallowed - he couldn't back out now, "I am. Okay, so..." Shit. He was so bad at making up believable stories on the fly, "I was in Kusa. That's where I met him. I was foraging for food - and - he must have recognized me, or known about me - or something - because he came after me, saying things like - he was going to extract the demon from inside me."

"Extract the demon huh?" Minato frowned, "That wouldn't be easy. How did he plan to do it?"

"I'm not... exactly sure. I never gave him the chance." Naruto swallowed, "I overpowered him with the demon's chakra. I think he wasn't expecting me to have such control over it - and I fled at the first opportunity." He swallowed, "He is a very... scary foe."

The Yondaime studied Naruto's expression the whole time. His face darkened, "Indeed."

"During our fight, he let it slip that he would... he was planning to do something on the tenth. For some reason, that day has some significance... he said... he was planning to do something with my demon, to use it to... I don't really know. But he mentioned one word which is of great importance to me. Kyuubi." Naruto swalloed, "My natural conclusions were that he was planning to... control it somehow." If only he knew what the fuck happened - how had Madara hypnotized the Kyuubi? Where had it been all that time? He realized now that this was not a good course of action, but due to his haste, he was stuck following through with it - making a bunch of veiled statements. "I know it's not much." Naruto said, "But you have to believe me."

Naruto noticed Minato looked extremely agitated all of a sudden.

"That is not an implausible tale you've woven." Minato said finally. He walked back and took his seat, taking a deep breath, "Shit." He cursed, "That's... there is something he's right about- I didn't even consider it, but the... she's expecting..."

"Who's expecting?"

"No, it's nothing." Minato shook his head, "I will think on what you have said. But, the Kyuubi, do you know what it is?"

Naruto nodded. Hesitating for a moment before adding, "I am familiar with many kinds of youkai. The Kyuubi is special to me, Y-Yondaime-sama." The words tumbled from his lips, "I have a contract with the foxes. They often speak of him, as a distant relative." He swallowed a rather big lie, "I've never met him though."

The Yondaime blinked at that, his hands working through his wild hair, "That's-" He grinned wide, "-you're a very peculiar missing-nin." Naruto was sure he was holding back a fit of excited giggles, like he was a puzzle to decipher, "I would love to talk more, but I don't have much time today. For now, you are in Konoha's custody. I will attempt take you at your word for now. And if you are right - then I'll owe you a great deal, I think." Minato flashed a dazzling smile, swiveling around in his seat, "I can definitely let you free if you're right on this. Preventing Orochimaru from... executing a nasty surprise attack... that's pretty big. I'd be in your debt, actually." He seemed to grow heavy at that, eyes drooping heavy in thought, "I've been too complacent..." he heard him murmur under his breath.

Naruto blushed, finally working up the courage to say to his idol, "W-well, it was nothing. But, I-I'm not exactly looking to get let go." He shook his head, trying to center himself. He was acting like an academy student for some reason.

Minato laughed, "So you want to go to prison then? It's not a nice place you know. Especially not for kids."

"I'm not a kid. How old do you think I am?" Naruto huffed petulantly, "And as for being a missing-nin... well, it wasn't really my choice, Yondaime-sama." Naruto swallowed, not used to the honorific, but not unable to veil his respect for the man that had somehow helped hold back the Kyuubi all those years ago.

"Ahh, I see. Well, perhaps we can work out a deal then? I have heard some interesting things from you so far, so you've piqued my interest. Generally," he beamed, "-that's a good thing. Oh, and, call me Minato, or, Namikaze-san if you prefer."

Narut nodded dumbly. His shoulders dropped deeper. He sagged into his seat.

"Heh. You were worried I was gonna chop your head off or something?" Minato reached over his desk and ruffled Naruto's greasy hair. He blanched, "You should probably take a bath."

He laughed to himself and looked down at his desk, "Well, if you don't have any questions for me... We'll definitely chat again. Maybe tomorrow. But until then, I can have Ibiki-san escort you to-"

"There is one more thing." Naruto said, worried that his little lie could do more harm than good, now that he thought about it. The worry and guilt nagged at him, so he had to let a back-up plan slip, "Orochimaru... may be working with someone. I'm sorry for not saying sooner, but I'm not sure at all. The fight with him is a blur in my mind. I don't know, but... I heard him say another man's name under his breath. I... can't be too sure on this, Minato-san, but..." the room went silent as Naruto waited, wondering if he really... well, it was almost too late now, "His name I think, was Madara."

"Madara? Are you sure?"

"I just said I'm not." Naruto grumbled. Given the way Tobi first acted when he encountered him and then as time went on, he suspected Tobi was really just some insane Uchiha who thought they were Madara. Tobi had to be crazy already, to do the things he was doing, or would do, without remorse, anyway.

Minato nodded, feigning a smile, "Sorry, sorry. Maa it's not anything I recognize, but it may be helpful. So... anyway, if that's really all, I can have Ibiki-san..."

Naruto nodded tiredly, "Thanks for your time... Minato-san. Sorry if what I'm saying doesn't make too much sense."

The doors opened and Ibiki trudged in, wearing a less-than-smug look. He was clearly grimacing in defeat and disappointment.

"No, it's alright Kurama-kun." He started cleaning off his desk, "You can keep the pants for now by the way." He said absently, looking up at Ibiki for just a moment, nodding flatly, "It's a shame I can't have a Yamanaka confirm your information, but I trust you when you say it might cause them great harm. I have a bit of understanding of youkai myself." He smiled pleasantly, "Make sure to give Kurama-san a decent lodging Ibiki."

The tokubetsu jounin just sighed, "As you wish, Yondaime-sama."

Special thanks to: Raynalia