I am sorry for disappear but for this fic, and I won't bore you about beta problem or what else happen behind the scene.
I think this chapter is readable enough, and- frankly anyone is welcome to copy paste and edit it.
Don't read if you're particular about grammar.
The Broken Tree
It was on the long walk back to Sealing Tower Itachi voice out the nagging question in his mind. "What's wrong with Kakashi-san's Sharingan?" Itachi asked.
Naruto glanced at his teammates warily, "It's just…"Naruto frowned deeper, "Hatake-san is the only survivor of his team so perhaps…"
That stopped both Itachi and Shisui on their track. "Is that possible when he isn't an Uchiha?"
"How skilled he is with Sharingan is already unusual, prodigy or not so… maybe?" Naruto shrugged. "Though… when he took his ANBU mask off I swear, for a moment I saw the tomoe of his Sharingan morphed to something unusual like yours did."
Itachi grimaced, "So Obito-nii's eyes already…"
He shook his head, "I only catch a glimpse of it so I am unsure, but from close inspection of his Sharingan, I am surprised he has three tomoe. That's enough proof to say his Sharingan can grow stronger even though he is not an Uchiha…"
"I see…" Itachi grunted. "Well, he is a formidable Shinobi… he even surpasses most of our clansmen in Sharingan mastery."
Naruto hummed, "Actually… my biggest concern is not how good he is at using Sharingan or possibility that he has Mangekyou."
"You're worried about how tasking Sharingan is for him?" Shisui guessed.
"He lives with that for ten years, so not really…" That doujutsu put a strain in his body, but he wasn't in peril if for years medic nin didn't find anything dangerous., "It's just… for a very brief moment, I think I feel he has similar air to that masked man."
Naruto groaned, "I know it's weird! I don't get it myself either! But for some reason, he reminds me of Hatake-san..." The blond look troubled as he said this.
Shisui paused, "Hey, Naruto… didn't you use Satori a bit too much lately?"
"I did not! I just forgot to tighten the seal filter after our mission… I am so used to you two." Namely with their thought and chakra. "I didn't notice it's still on!"
Itachi grimaced, "Then now…"
"Why do you think I am so blunt with him? My head hurts so much I can't even muster enough patience to sugarcoat my words!"
No wonder Naruto was strangely short tempered tonight, and they thought he was just unhappy and stressed with Sandaime's decision.
It was around eight so it was not so late but Naruto and his friends were confused about why there was a party in their backyard. Not to mention the participant of the party consist of Sealing Division plus officers of Konoha Military Police. They didn't seem to be drunk though, Naruto could smell what they had which consist of barbequed meat and vegetable, and… tea for drink.
"Erm…" Shisui trailed off, "What are you guys doing?" He asked.
Tekka who was toasting his tea with Mikumo answered. "We're celebrating comradeship! Too bad we're still on duty so we skip on alcohol!"
Itachi was unsure he should be happy or suspicious suddenly the Tower and his clan got along swimmingly, "Erm… where's my father?"
"And Hakurei?" Naruto added.
In unison, Mikumo and Tekka pointed at one corner of the yard where Uchiha Fugaku and Shiomitsu Hakurei were sitting across each other with a fire camp between them. They looked solemn as staring at the fire burning between them.
"Hakurei?" The two young Shinobi called them. "What's going on here?"
It was Hakurei who answered, "Celebrating friendship or something… I don't know, somehow this afternoon Iwafune and Houshou dragged Yashiro-san to my office, and they believe after overworked for a week we deserve a party. We get to veto the alcohol at least… so far we manage to get everything in check, with scheduling party and patrol shift."
"It's either this, or our subordinates will start a riot, and we already have enough headache from this mess…" Fugaku was cradling the cup of tea on his lap and he looked eerily frail in that pose.
"And Kaa-san is fine with this?" Itachi wondered.
Fugaku craned his neck at one direction where his wife was happily distributing food among their clansmen and members of Sealing Division. "Yuzu-chan! We don't have enough tea over here!"
"Yes, Mikoto-san!" Yuzuriha chimed in.
"Inabi! Houshou-san! Your team is on patrol shift next!"
Naruto, Itachi and Shisui had one same thought, 'What the heck happened here when we were gone?!'
Shisui grinned at his team, "How nice, KMPF and Sealing Division are getting along swimmingly!" He beamed. Itachi and Naruto, however, didn't smile, their jaws were set and eyes narrowed at the scene of comradeship. "Uhm, Naru-chan? Ita-chan?" They had been very quiet and it started to scare Shisui, and not even getting called with their unfavorite nick get a reaction out of them.
"You think so Shisui?" Itachi murmured softly. "This is nice?"
Shisui became even more confused, "Yeah… I mean, getting friendly with each other is good for them!"
Naruto inhaled deeply, "Yeah, but you forget the why they start to get along."
It took only a few seconds for Shisui to compute what his teammates were implying, he was, after all, a genius too even though unlike Itachi and Naruto were never overly concerned about the fine art of reading between the lines. "Oh shit."
Their clan and sealing division were getting along on the ground of alienation and dissatisfaction towards Konohagakure, either this would work well for their purpose of blow up in the most spectacular way.
"By the way Naruto-sama? Why do you look like a mummy?" Hakurei asked forlornly, too tired to care why the three prodigies were whispering amongst themselves.
Fugaku looked up from his drink, "Not that I'm not glad you're fine my son and nephew, but why Naruto-kun isn't at the hospital?"
"Eeh…" Where to start again?
The next day…
"So… we have to create a barrier that cut off space-time technique?" Hakurei drawled on with distressed voice.
"Just his…" Naruto corrected. "Frankly I don't know where to start…" Not without dissecting that rogue Uchiha to understand the mechanism of his space-time technique. "All we know about it are… it's superior to Hiraishin, it crosses to his personal dimension before teleporting somewhere else… and it makes him nigh invulnerable."
Hakurei frowned, "Fugaku-kun is holing up in their clan's achieve but looking at how shocked he was when Itachi-kun explained this rogue's technique, I am pretty sure there is no Uchiha recorded with that kind of ability…" Clan's secret be damned at this point so Fugaku went behind their elder's back to check their record.
"At least now the Uchiha clan is focusing that pent up frustration somewhere else instead of their coup." He was unsure how long that would last, especially since Naruto was, even more, worried his people were getting too sympathetic with Uchiha clan. It was good for them but Naruto was worried they would grow to hate Konoha even more.
Well, he diverted their attention to something else at least. They were so busy to the point they started to accept new recruits from a civilian background, only to help the office work but it was a start. Though he had to thank Ieyasu-jiji for those two civilian workers they got from the capital. Now… if only someone from Yamanaka clan responded to that recruitment poster he begged Inoichi-san to post in his clan's compound… or Nara or Aburame, even an Akamichi would be welcome.
Even at the state of compromised security they still had to worry about public image, or was it the other way around? They were worrying about public image and had to worry about the security breach on top of it?
The next day…
It was a good experiment all thing considered, and it didn't even blow up on the face was the cherry on the top. Using nature energy gathered by sentient plants he nurtured as replacement of battery -big and ugly thing it was- an energy source was revolutionary, and he was sure it would be a boost for Konoha and the tower in the future.
Though for now, he had no time to marvel on the revolutionary idea as hawk-like eyes of Tokugawa Ieyasu gazing back at him from television's screen. "So you survive the encounter with the 'maybe' Uchiha Madara."
Ieyasu inspected his nails as if it was the most interesting thing in the world, though in Naruto's opinion he looked more like a tiger inspecting his claws and calculating how to rip his enemies apart. "Though, whether or not he is Uchiha's missing ancestor doesn't matter in the grand scheme of things. Since one, he is still missing and occasionally pops up in Konoha for who knows why. Two, you can't catch him yet. Three, he is strong enough to match Yondaime and most likely will be able to defeat anyone Konoha could throw at him."
In short Madara or not, they were screwed.
Naruto nodded slowly, "That's more or less our current situation now."
Ieyasu grunted, "And you're forced to spill to Sandaime that you know about your jinchuuriki status?"
"Does that displease you, Ieyasu-jii? It's not like I can keep it a secret forever." It was good when it lasted though, he thought to himself wistfully. "I can't negotiate with Hokage-sama if he still thinks I am oblivious of my jinchuuriki status." He barely escaped full confinement.
The shadow ruler shrugged, "Maa… you're right you can't keep it a secret forever, considering the latest trouble you get yourself into." Naruto harrumphed, as Ieyasu made it as if he was doing it on purpose. "Or rather, more like you can't keep your Hokage in a bliss of ignorance. It's ironic really, you the one he wants to protect and yet."
"It's not my intention to play him a fool."
"True, but I can tell… deep down it soothes your wounded child's heart to return the pain he unknowingly inflicted on you in the name of greater good." Ieyasu returned in a saccharine tone.
Naruto opened his mouth, rebuke on the tip of his tongue before he swallowed everything. "Perhaps… deep down I am still a child, after all, it feels good really. It scares me it does…"
It was not a lie he didn't want to hate people who made him suffer back, however it didn't stop him from wishing they could taste even a drop of his pain sometimes. Well, he never claimed he was a saint and it was perfectly human to wish for other people to understand his pain. Misery loves company and all.
"You're just being human, Naruto-kun." Ieyasu mused, "If anything it's relieving to know you're capable of negative emotion."
Naruto frowned, "Of course I am…"
"Haa-ah, you don't get it." Ieyashi shakes his head with an expression that was a mix of worry and exasperation. "Satori, you're using it extensively in your last mission."
He nodded guiltily, "My apologies… everyone warms me not to but in last mission, I just can't help it."
Those hawk-like eyes narrowed at him and Naruto flinched, "Just can't help it, you said?" He echoed. "As if you have no choice but to rely on Satori, don't think you can fool me, Naruto-kun."
It came back again, the feeling of oppression he felt around this person. It had nothing to do with presence, as Ieyasu was not even here in person. "I…"
"You want to understand right?"
"Heh?" What did Ieyasu just said?
The hawk-eyed man smirked, "You want to understand why that man unleashed Kyuubi at the night of your birth, and turn your life upside down. Was it vengeance? Or a whim of a mad man?" He shrugged his shoulders in an exaggerated manner, "That must be your lifelong question, so when you come face to face with that masked man you can't help yourself."
His face burned in shame because he knew Ieyasu was right.
"Seriously… that side of yours must be from Muramasa, too curious from your own good. You just can't hate people on principle like normal people, always want to get on the 'why' before making a fair judgement." Ieyasu mused, talking more to himself than to Naruto. "Maa, that's why I admire Muramasa…
Naruto recalled what Hakurei had told him about Muramasa and came up with blank on what similarity he and his grandfather shared. After all his grandfather was like that, in which Hakurei described Muramasa as an airhead with the attention span of a puppy even though he was a brilliant shinobi.
"And that's why he fell to Satori's curse."
"Huh?" Curse? "What do you mean by curse?"
Ieyasu sighed, "Well, curse is just how I prefer to call it… but it's more like the perfect match made in hell. As you have been informed Satori is a bloodline Senju clan bred specifically to make up the weakened body of the sage they inherited from their ancestor. So they bring shaman blood to their clan."
"Shaman is… spiritualist right? Unlike Shinobi they augmented their spiritual energy but not their physical, so they could converse with spirit. Shinobi who start using summon animal, originally descend from Shaman line…" Naruto recounted of what he knew of Shaman. "There are so few of them now though." And before the era of Shinobi, Sage of Six Paths was considered a Shaman.
Ieyasu sighed, "Obviously Senju clansmen who were dabbling in their little project to create Satori didn't really know what they were doing. So they didn't watch out for one little mishap that cost them Satori."
His eyes narrowed, silently demanding an explanation.
"The person who was born with Satori tend to be too sympathetic." At the confused look on his face, Ieyasu sighed. "That's not a bad thing on itself, but Satori they possessed made it catastrophic for them. They want to understand and sympathize with people, even with their enemies… and worst criminal out there, and Satori gave them means to know but not to understand. Then those thoughts… slowly become poison to them, it tore their mind apart."
"Which is why, when Muramasa was betrayed not just by his fellow Fire Guardian who became traitor, and my father who misused his trust. It broke him apart… even his seal can't protect him, it's no wonder really… in the end, after he returned to Konoha he didn't live long."
His grandfather died because of Satori? Why Haku-
"Hakurei most likely didn't know, and I know because I saw Muramasa when he was at his lowest after my father killed my brother using Hokurakushimon. I thought Muramasa was going to die, his health deteriorated and he resigned from his position." He inhaled sharply. "I don't want to see that again, Naruto-kun so I will tell you this…"
Naruto swallowed heavily, "I…"
"Turn your eyes away from Satori, it's tempting… especially for someone in your position." Who for most of his life couldn't understand the misplaced hatred aimed to him, "I know you're using Satori mostly to augment innate ability Kyuubi shared with you, that's fine… but not even once you should rely on Satori to understand people. In the end… Satori is a result of human misadventure in search of power."
He lowered his head in shame. "I under-"
"No, you don't…" Naruto shrunk on his seat. "This recklessness of your's merit some scolding this time, and don't tell me Hiruzen or Hakurei already did it. Because I know you will just guilt-trip Hiruzen into giving leeway to you and Hakurei wouldn't dare to raise his voice at you."
"No, I am not!" He rose from his seat abruptly, knocking several objects from his desk.
Naruto's eyes widened when he saw his chakra ink well was all over the seal formula and battery. "Oh, shi-
Three Hours Later…
"Uwaah, he looks depressed."
"Naruto, I thought you're just talking through television to Ieyasu-sama. So why you're so…" Shisui trailed off, "It exploded? What did you do?"
Naruto turned his face towards them, lips trembled and eyes wide in shock. "I… I am never… in my life I got scolded, lectured… for hours… for a legitimate reason, I couldn't argue with at all and…" The exploding TV aside, most of his shock was from the scolding.
Shisui was torn between laughing and taking pity on Naruto. HIs friend was in shock because he just got scolded by Tokugawa Ieyasu, his crazy uncle and future father in law. "I see…" He covered his smiling lips.
Itachi was looking at anything but Naruto, his shoulders were shaking with mirth.
They couldn't help it, this was their first time to see Naruto looking like a kicked puppy. A very adorable and sad puppy.
Naruto was shaking now, he didn't seem like he was about to cry -which was a relief- but it was obvious he was not fine. Shisui sighed with fond expression in his face, 'Well, whatever Ieyasu-sama scolded him for Naruto obviously take it to his heart and understand what he has done wrong.'
Shisui cleared his throat and opened his arms. "Hai Hai… come over here, little brother." Naruto still looking at nowhere, spacing out. So Shisui approached him and drew him to a hug. "There, there… you're a good boy. Naruto is a good boy." He patted Naruto's back comfortingly.
Somehow the gesture snapped Naruto back to his sense. "What the heck you're doing? Good boy, your-"
The Uchiha beamed, "Ah… Obito-nii used to do it to me whenever I got scolded by adults in the clan for misbehaviour, he would give me a big hug and pat my back."
"He also poked Itachi's forehead whenever he played with us, Itachi's bang is like that so he said it feels like an invitation to poke Itachi there," Shisui added.
He closed his eyes, "Hm… he seems to be someone who influences you two greatly, Hatake too…" Recalling dark-haired boy who can't leave people in trouble alone. "Tou-san had always wanted Obito to be his successor."
"!" That surprised Shisui and Itachi. "He did?"
Naruto gave them a melancholic smile, "He is my parents' favourite… and I am always jealous of him." Because for all imperfectness, Uchiha Obito was the boy who became the origin of their wish for a son. They wished to have a child just like Obito.
And yet... Naruto was nothing like Obito, too jaded because of his past.
The seals were Tiger, Ram, Monkey, Boar, Horse, Tiger. Inhale deeply while drawing chakra from chakra pool on the abdomen and then exhale the air and chakra in one go. The expelled air and chakra then formed a roaring flame that will leave devastation in its wake.
Or so Sasuke hoped, since the flame was impressive for a bonfire as an attack it was barely adequate. Certainly not going to impress his father, as Itachi did at six years old. He was pretty confident with his larger than average chakra pool, but for some reason, he couldn't expel as much as he wanted in one go.
Maybe he needed a larger reserve, or he missed something to master Goukakyuu no Jutsu?
He jumped in shock before whirling around to see Uzumaki Naruto with an apologetic look, "Naruto-sa… sensei?" He just started learning in Sealing Tower for a few days, so he had to address all certified seal master as sensei.
The seal master blinked, it was the first time they met since Sasuke started learning Fuuinjutsu so it took a while for him to compute the sudden change of address. "Ah, did I surprise you? I apologize."
"It's fine! I was the one spacing out." Sasuke assured the blond quickly. "Are you looking for Nii-san? Sensei? He is not around though." Had not been for days, even though he was already home since two days ago. It was nothing strange, Itachi tried to hide it but Sasuke knew sometimes his brother avoided coming home after his mission and Shisui would cover for him.
Naruto narrowed his eyes at that, "Ah, yes… Itachi is in my place now. He and Shisui are helping me with some project."
So now Naruto also helped to cover his brother, "I see, then why you're here Sensei?"
"Actually… I am just running an errand for seal masters on duty with KMPF when I saw you, and when I finished you're still here so I decided to say hi."
Sasuke blinked, then realized it was getting dark. "Uhm…" It was unusual for Uchiha for dropping by just for casual greeting -Shisui-san was an exception- so it sounded strange for Sasuke the seal master just came over to say hi to him of all people.
The Uzumaki waved his hand, "And also to warn you that your chakra reserve already run low, and around two Goukakyuu later you will exhaust your reserve."
"Oh." He knew he was exhausted but since he was not experienced in using his chakra yet he couldn't tell his reserve's level. And before he could stop himself Sasuke added. "Did you see my Goukakyuu?" He asked in embarrassment.
The blond blinked, "Ah yes, I did." At the disheartened look Sasuke wore he hastily added. "You have been training for two weeks I heard, in that short time for an elemental technique you did admirably in my opinion."
"…I need to train harder…" Sasuke concluded. "You don't need to hold back the critiques, Naruto-sensei." In comparison to prodigies in Itachi's or Naruto's calibre his attempt at elemental technique would look pretty pathetic. It was a surprise to Sasuke for Naruto to be kind, he didn't seem to be the type to sugarcoat his opinion.
At the retort the seal master frowned, "Hm… Sasuke-kun, you…" He trailed off with a cocked eyebrow, "See no one else but Itachi as a standard to measure yourself, don't you?"
Sasuke flushed, and now he was being so blunt and saw through the young Uchiha. It was a surreal experience for Sasuke to be seen through by someone he was not familiar with. Naruto might be Itachi's best friend other than Shisui, but Sasuke didn't know him personally that well.
"Well, aiming high is good I think…" Sasuke stuttered. "And Nii-san is the most per-"
Naruto sighed, cutting off Sasuke's line. "I didn't say it's wrong to aim high, it's just that…" Naruto's eyes softened, "Looking at his back all the time isn't the only path for you."
"As your brother, Itachi consider himself as a wall you have to surpass… but if you only look at his back, you might lose sight of everything else." The blonde said in a forlorn voice.
Sasuke became confused, he sounded like he was talking about personal experience. "But you're a prodigy, Naruto-sensei…" Sasuke gritted out. "We're the same age and yet." He was shocked when he found out that his brother's best friend was actually his age, graduated at seven like Itachi and even beat Itachi's record to Chuunin rank. He couldn't help but be envious, that someone his age could be Itachi's equal.
"You won't understand…" He finished, ashamed how petty he was but unable to hide it well.
The Uzumaki returned his gaze unwaveringly then said with an amused voice. "Well, if everyone in the world can easily understand one another so easily, War would never exist…"
"Huh?" Why suddenly he was talking about war?
He smiled at the young Uchiha, "Could you try one more time?"
Sasuke swallowed, there was something in that smile that made him feel obliged to do as ordered. Was Uzumaki Naruto really the same age as him? He certainly didn't act like it.
"Hai." Sasuke went through the set of seals he had become very familiar with, inhaling and then exhale. "Goukakyuu no Jutsu!" Then a tanned hand moved from the corner of his eyes and then the small ball of fire he emitted burst forward and grew larger, even larger than one his father demonstrated to him.
He looked at the Uzumaki with awe and shock, "Just now, you…"
"I am just lending you a hand, a breeze of wind for your fire… because the only thing that can keep a fire from dying and give it more power, is wind."
"…Wind…" An element of movement that grows, expand, free of restriction. It gives power and speed to fire to burn everything in their path. "So… your element compliment my brother's fire?"
He sounded sheepish, "My elemental affinity that made Shisui christen me his best friend on record time aside." Sasuke could imagine his cousin did that, he was a pyromaniac even by Uchiha standard. "Could you see it now? The image of Goukakyuu no Jutsu you want to breathe out?"
"When you started on learning elemental techniques, an image is very important so your chakra can respond better to your intention. You're not used to using your chakra extensively so your chakra is not kneaded thoroughly inside your body before converting it to fire element… a strong image of your desired effect will help."
He was giving Sasuke tips? "Oh…" Sasuke felt embarrassed he didn't get such a simple intention to help him. Then again sometimes he didn't get his own brother's train of thought. "I will try again then." He wanted to tell the Uzumaki to not help this time but he felt silly to say such a thing when he saw Naruto crossed his arms with a knowing look.
The fire he saw just now; it was released through his mouth as a thin torrent that slowly expanded to a bigger orb of fire as he continued to out more chakra to it. So it was like filling a vessel with more fire.
"Goukakyuu no Jutsu!"
This time the fire was bigger than he usually achieved, not as big as one assisted by Naruto's wind but bigger than his father's and undoubtedly a respectable Goukakyuu worthy of an Uchiha.
"I did it!" He exclaimed.
The Uzumaki laughed softly, "Congratulation… Sasuke."
"Huh." Sasuke fell on his knees. "My legs…" They felt wobbly and he couldn't muster any strength to get them to move.
The Uzumaki sighed at him, with an understanding look mixed with amusement. "You're running low on chakra, not serious enough to require medical attention but I think you need a good rest and a lift back to your home."
Sasuke nodded stiffly before he computed what the last part of Naruto's sentence was implying. "Naruto-sensei I don- Whoaa!"
"There we go." And the next thing Sasuke knew he was already on the blond's back, just like how his brother carried him when he got hurt. Sasuke grumbled some protest but the Uzumaki pointedly ignore him. "It's fine, I knew you're running low and make you try again so the least I could do is carrying you back home."
Sasuke quieted down at that, he hated troubling people especially someone he didn't know well like Naruto. He sighed and decided to roll with it, his mother would be happy he got along with Itachi's best friend. Speaking of his brother…
"Is there something troubling you, Nii-san and Shisui-san?" He asked hesitantly.
There was no tensing or any outward reaction but the short pause was enough to Sasuke to tell there was something wrong indeed. "Why did you ask me?" He asked back instead.
Sasuke had a lot of people dodging his question and the biggest offender was his own brother, Shisui was almost as bad with trying to distract him all the time. He was not going to have another person ignore him, Naruto-san who didn't even have age as an excuse -his rank be damned- to ignore him.
"I want to know because I am worried… and I ask you because Nii-san will make me wait for next time who knows when." Sasuke grumbled, recalling his brother's excuse. "Shisui-san will try to distract me with something else and ditch me when I didn't buy his excuse so that leaves you."
The Uzumaki sighed, "Aah, really those two."
He sounded resigned as if he was used to cleaning up after Itachi and Shisui. "Naruto-sensei?" Sasuke's grip on his shoulder tightened. "You will not ignore me, right? If you keep quiet just because you're already a Shinobi or some lame reason you're a scaredy cat! A ninja shouldn't run away from a difficult question!" That taunt earned him an eye twitch, "You're not even older than I am so grown up excuse doesn't work for you!" The twitch was getting bigger.
For the first time since Naruto carried him, the seal master inclined his head to look at him. "Seriously Sasuke-kun, and here I thought you're still unfamiliar with me and the next thing I know you're blackmailing me… if you're not the brother Itachi love to death…" He grumbled to himself. "Listen, when you're a Shinobi you deal with many things you can't share with civilians or anyone who isn't shinobi yet."
He snorted, "Classified information, that's a lame standard excuse… Naruto-sensei."
"It's not an excuse, it's a fact…you knew we're all part of ANBU right?" Sasuke quieted down at that, "Secrecy is the core of our profession you will understand once you get to that level, so don't ask Itachi and Shisui anymore… even though we're Shinobi we would like to avoid lying to our family when it's possible."
It hurts them when they were forced to lie to him. Sasuke frowned, "But I want to help." Then he waited for the blond to say something along the like 'he can't' and growled.
"I said, you may help us… for now just continue what you do best for Itachi." He finished.
Sasuke swallowed, "What is it?"
"Being there for him, Itachi is a complicated person but his happiness comes from simplest thing like eating sweets and doting on his little brother." Sasuke blushed a deep red at the last part.
The young Uchiha grunted, "But I want to be more help…"
"And what do you have in mind then?"
"…If nothing else come to mind…" The Uzumaki trailed off.
"It's unfair." Sasuke scowled before he could stop himself. "Why can't I be like you or Itachi at least a little?"
"We're the same age…" Sasuke grumbled, "But at the first sight no one can't tell, Naruto-sensei act like an old man… like Nii-san. Why is that both of you so… aged?"
He sweat-dropped, "I got that a lot but hearing that straight from a kid is kinda…" His left eye twitched violently.
"I am older than you by two months." Sasuke pointed out smugly.
"My psychology eval says… I am in my late twenties though." Before Sasuke could call him old, he added. "So is Itachi… Shisui is the only one in the team whose mental age match his real age." He sounded like he doubted the last part.
Sasuke frowned, "Why are you and Itachi so old?"
"Life and Kage Bunshin happens…"
"I don't get it."
The young Uchiha scowled, he knew this was one of those things Naruto and Itachi won't bother to explain to him. "So unfair."
"Life is unfair." The Uzumaki answered smoothly. "Say… Sasuke, if you really want to help us that badly." He nodded enthusiastically, "Do you have friends at the academy?"
He could help? But how having a friend at the academy had anything to do it? "Erm… not really, they're annoying especially Kiba and the girls."
He heaved a sigh. "Ah good, at least you have a kid-like-opinion about your classmates."
"Do you really have no one you don't mind being around with in class, Sasuke?" He asked again.
"I don't mind Shino or his bug so I usually sit beside him, the girls won't get near because they're scared of his bug…" In short, Shino was his fangirl repellent and he didn't mind joining Shino for group related activity in class, it was some sort of symbiosis or so Shino said. "Shikamaru, a Nara is so lazy it's so sad to look at him but he and Chouji at least know how to be quiet and they're not too annoying in comparison to the rest of my classmates."
"Hm… oh, Shikamaru-kun and Shino-kun huh… you're also in the same class with them for Sealing Foundation course, ne?"
"Yeah… there's a girl from my class named Sakura." An odd girl, in a good way, because she had her nose stuck on her book all the time to the point she didn't care about him at all. If anything Sasuke had a feeling she looked down on him because he was ranked first in class and yet struggle in sealing class to keep up. To be fair Fuuinjutsu class require more complicated mathematics and difficult kanji than one taught in class.
"And another girl a year above me in Academy, she is very interested in Uchiha's fuuma shuuriken jutsu." If Sasuke recalled correctly her name was Tenten, an orphan without a surname. She thought he was cute but she was more interested in the sharp pointy weapon than in him so she was okay too.
"Hm… well, I guess you can start helping with talking to them." Naruto told him.
"Huh? How is that helping you and Nii-san?" Sasuke wondered. "This is not a ploy to get me to make friends, right?" His mother had chided him for being a loner, and unlike Itachi, he didn't have an excuse of graduating early.
The Uzumaki snorted, "Ha ha ha no… while I did hear your mother complaining about your not so wonderful social life at the academy." Sasuke flushed at that, "I am not a shining example at being social myself, and making friends can't be forced. I mean you can start being more approachable… considering the current policy with early graduation you will graduate with your classmates and put in a three-man cell with them. You have to trust two of them with your life throughout your career as Genin. I am not sure how to explain this will help us in the long run but… it's catching two birds with one stone, ne?"
Sasuke frowned, he was used with Itachi being cryptic so he didn't protest. "I will do my best to graduate early too… isn't that how you choose your teammates?"
"I am already a certified seal master not long after I become genin, a perk of being a seal master is that there is so few of us… it's considered a waste of resource to send us to normal mission… which is also why I am placed on reserve while working in Konoha." The Uzumaki explained.
The young Uchiha hummed, so there were a lot of benefit for a Seal Master considering they were scarce. Still, Sasuke didn't expect Naruto to be more open about himself. He wouldn't let this chance slip. "Then how you get teamed up with Nii-san and Shisui-san?"
"The detail is classified but let's just say, I was their mission for a while because of my unusual circumstances."
For being the last Uzumaki perhaps?
"Their captain thought it's a good idea to arrange a playdate like we have the same wavelength or something. At first, it was just Itachi and then he brought Shisui along and the next thing we knew we get stuck together."
Sasuke had to admit when he first met Naruto he also thought someone who was not Shisui and knew Itachi so well must have shared the same wavelength with Aniki.
"I am sorry to say, I don't share Itachi's wavelength… as I don't get his taste for dango, and those overly sweets snacks. His dropping IQ when you're concerned and many more…" He listed on, and Sasuke had to appreciate the Uzumaki politely ignoring his gaping.
"You can read mind?"
There was a long pause that made Sasuke wandered if Uzumaki clan had secretly developed mind reading technique like Yamanaka. "I not reading your mind, I'm just guessing."
Sasuke frowned at that, "Wait, what do you mean Nii-san's IQ drop? Nii-san is the smartest, the best! I can't drop his IQ or whatever!"
"Sure you can… you just never see…" The blond grumbled discernibly about cats and harassment. "We're here." Naruto announced and Sasuke looked up to see his house was in sight, and his mother was just returned from shopping for dinner when she spotted them.
"Naruto-kun! Sasuke-kun! Maa maa!" Did his mother just squeal? "Sorry for the trouble! Did you carry Sasuke home? Thank you, my sons didn't know their limit sometimes."
Naruto on the other hand as always looked very awkward in responding to his mother's enthusiasm for the blond. "Ah, it's fine…" He assured Sasuke's mother as he put Sasuke down, the young Uchiha was strong enough to stand on his own now.
"Let's have dinner with us tonight, Naruto-kun! We're having Sukiyaki tonight!"
As usual, before the Uzumaki could say anything his mother dragged the poor Shinobi to their house, or specifically to their kitchen to cook. If there was one thing Sasuke won't envy Naruto for, it would be cooking time with his mother. He loved his mother, but he was not going to get dragged to cooking lesson ever.
That Night, after dinner with the Uchiha
It was pretty late but he had to send messages to the tower that he was with Uchiha family, and if Itachi and Shisui had a problem with it they had to face their family themselves. Tasogare, Itachi's and Shisui's crow summon looked unhappy with the order but he didn't protest.
"I am so sorry for Itachi but well…" It was a very strange situation to apologize to Itachi's parent, in regards to Itachi himself. He already had a feeling the almost forceful dinner invitation had hidden intention behind it, namely aunt Mikoto wanted to know why his son didn't come home for two days already.
Mikoto looked sad and worried, "You shouldn't apologize on behalf of my son, Naruto-kun. It's just… for a while." More like years but no one wanted to pry. "We noticed whenever something happens on our missions that Itachi would clamp up and look for all sort of excuse to stay away from home, Shisui-kun isn't any better… so…"
Mikoto and her husband had the decency to look sheepish, though as they were Uchiha their sheepish look only changed slightly than their permanent solemn look. "Maa… Sasuke-kun said as much." Like son like parents? "Itachi won't explain a thing, Shisui will try to distract you with his chatter and then disappear before you can get anything out of him…"
Which was why it left him they had never tried to ask before.
"I am so sorry Naruto-kun, it's pretty embarrassing, really. I am his mother and yet I am so bad at dealing with him."
Naruto shook his head, "If I may be so bold… I have to say it's Itachi's fault for keeping things to himself all the time. I am also the same…" He admitted with a blush. "So more often than not people around us unknowingly makes us upset, and it's hard to admit that so we deal with it on our own discretion…" His voice getting tinier in the end, eyes shifted to the side, as it was hard to look at Mikoto and Fugaku in the eye.
Mikoto sighed, cupping her cheek. "Really, you kids… and I thought Itachi is getting better at trusting us but I suppose it's not that easy to recover our broken trust. Still, he should tell us if not we wouldn't know what to fix, don't you think so too? Naruto-kun? We're not mind-readers,"
Mother was scary, Naruto thought as he resolutely trying and failing to not avert his eyes. "That's… true." He stuttered, "But telling things is… hard, I know it's… wrong but-"
"So you too… Naruto-kun?" He tensed at that. "To Hokage-sama, I guessed."
"Aaa…" He nodded hesitantly. "I… we don't know where to start, and I guess we also don't want to change our image you have. It's just…" Scary to face rejection from people who acknowledge your image as the perfect prodigy.
Fugaku frowned, "Well… I suppose it's my fault to think my son has no vulnerable side."
"If it's any consolation, Fugaku-jiisan. Itachi doesn't like to show anything less than a perfect son and heir."
"Is that so?" Fugaku chuckled but there was no mirth in his voice. "So why don't you explain to us? Because we know Itachi won't."
He contemplated his choice if he refused it would upset Itachi's parents but they would understand but in the other hand, Itachi needed all help he could get to break down the wall between him and his parents. Besides, it wasn't like Itachi ever asked or implied he wanted to keep his reasons secret.
"Alright." He decided. "But first I want Fugaku-jiisan and Mikoto-baasan to not get angry at Itachi, and even after I tell you… please talk to him, be honest and forget about clan just be his parents." Then he added. "Please."
It was very rude of him to lecture them, but he knew Itachi needed them to be open and see Itachi as a son rather than their heir.
"I understand…" Fugaku answered for both of them. "I will give you my words."
Naruto nodded, relieved they didn't seem to be upset because of his forwardness. "Thank you… Fugaku-jiisan." He took a deep breath. "I need you to promise that because if not, there is no point telling you. It's something I'm aware of just recently too… his distant behaviour towards you appears at first have nothing to do with putting clan before village first."
Fugaku and Mikoto looked surprised.
Naruto just smiled sadly, "Itachi is an awkward child, at least that's the impression I get from what Shisui told me. He is still like that, he is getting better though. Do you know… when he was five, he said he was wondering about the meaning of life and death. What's the point of living if human will die anyway."
Mikoto cupped her cheek, "Should I be worried my son thinking about such a thing when he was five years old?"
"Ye- I mean…" Naruto caught himself before he could spill about Itachi attempting suicide to test his survival instinct. "It's just-"
The Uchiha matriarch narrowed her eyes, "You're hiding something, Naruto-kun."
"Maa, it's not something you should be worried about now Mikoto-baasan! Itachi already talked to me about it anyway!"
She sighed, "It's one of those promises between boys, isn't it?"
Not quite, but Naruto wouldn't want to be the one to inform Mikoto that his mature child jumped off of a cliff to test a theory. Though maybe one of these days he had to get Hakurei to ask some favor from Yamanaka Inoichi-san to get Itachi a therapy session just in case.
"Aah, kinda." He lied through his teeth, "So Itachi is used to think about this kind of things, so immersed in thinking he forget about understanding. He is pretty slow about understanding his own feeling."
Mikoto smiled at that, "Strange… now you said it, it's not hard to see how my son can be slow when it comes to his feeling."
"That's also why he confused me so much when he just met, he kept coming to visit me bringing sweets and talking about daily life. It's not until weeks later I realized he is actually attempting to befriend me… I am not any better than he is at social cues doesn't help either."
Fugaku and Mikoto sweatdropped, 'I never imagine Kushina's and Minato's son will be as awkward as my son.'
"In short Itachi didn't get that something can be as simple as saying it outloud, and save us both from the pain of awkward two weeks of eating sweets as talking about how our days went." Like two old men in retirement.
'Our son can't be that bad, could he?'
"According to Shisui, he was even worse when he was in his genin team… he thought they're his coworkers rather than comrades even though he already went out his way to help his teammates for a personal reason."
'Yes, he is that bad.'
"And spending a better part of his first year as genin thinking about what's being comrades is about." Naruto finished. "Itachi sometimes over thinks things like comradeship most people take for granted and keep them to himself that's why… when his teammate was killed..."
The simple fact is that he didn't have to understand or think because what mattered was his teammate died trying to protect him.
"That's when he awakened his Sharingan, doujutsu he desired so much in exchange for his teammate's death. And yet… you…"
Fugaku was shocked at the anger aimed towards him.
"You overlooked that… to get those eyes he lost something dear and because of your expectations, he can't even show his discontent. All you see is a perfect heir that accomplish something great but to Itachi… he is a failure who his teammate died for." Naruto inhaled sharply. "You didn't mean it to hurt Itachi, I know but… it didn't make it better for Itachi. That's why he didn't want to be home, and Shisui didn't stop him."
Mikoto looked at his husband whose face coloured with guilt, 'Good, at least Fugaku know he is at fault.' Then she turned to Naruto. "I see… but why now-"
Naruto looked stricken before he regained his composure. "You have heard about the masked man, but we omitted about the part he told us about the next level of Sharingan."
Mikoto's and Fugaku gasped, "Nani?"
"He was the one who killed Tenma, Itachi's first teammate… in a sense, he gave Itachi his Sharingan, and recently he tried the same thing."
Mikoto covered her mouth, eyes wide in horror. "That man… how dare he-"
Naruto smiled sadly, "Don't worry, I survived… but for a while, Itachi and Shisui were fooled so they thought I was…"
Mikoto paled, imagining how crushed her son and nephew when they thought Naruto was dead.
"Is it any wonder Itachi doesn't want to be home now?"
Because the close call that was too close to what happened five years ago to Itachi's teammate and her son didn't want to be reminded. Naruto was more than just a comrade to Itachi, they were brothers in all but blood and if… what happened with Tenma repeated again…
The Sealing Tower
Shikamaru wondered what possessed him to sign up for this, sure the lessons were fun and stimulating his brain more than what he got at the academy but… coming to Sealing Tower on weekends was troublesome. The classroom was different from the academy; it was barely half the size of the academy classroom with a low table so they sat on the floor instead of a chair. A simple and quaint Japanese style room with tatami mat, and shoji door.
As a member of Nara clan with a taste for board games, he could recognize the wood of the table they used as Kaya. It was a very expensive wood for goban (board for go game) and the wood was old if the rich dark colour was any indication. In short, sealing division was filthy rich. The tatami of this classroom was also of high quality. According to his father sealing division's wealth was old money like most old clan like Hyuuga, their clients were mostly nobles who invested in their security.
Well, if his mother's indignant expression when they received the bill on renewing the seal of their clan's compound was any indication… a seal was damn expensive. Though according to his father the cost was actually quite cheap and sealing division was giving them the best deal they could get. At first, Shikamaru didn't understand how work made of paper and ink could be so crazily expensive, but now he got why.
Becoming a seal master was hard work and hard work and some more…
Seal masters were scarce, so everything was limited including mass-produced seals.
And last but not the least… This career also needs a lot of money invested in research and experiment.
It was no wonder when the opportunity arise Konoha wanted to milk it for her future generation. Opening this class so they could get fresh blood in this field, and Shikamaru could tell this was also some sort of troublesome political campaign. His father didn't say it out loud but Shikamaru could catch the hint.
Shikamaru groaned, "Ino… while it's allowed for you to come in this class just to observe." They were selected to join the class permanently though. "Your motivation to come is a bit…"
Ino pouted, "I want to see Sasuke-kun cooly holding calligraphy brush again, and I heard that cool seal master is teaching you today!"
"Where did you get that information anyway?" Shikamaru wondered. "And I thought you only like Sasuke?"
Ino giggled, "So? I am not dating anyone yet so it's fine for me to look around."
Sakura who was sitting beside Ino sighed, "All sensei in this class are strict Ino-chan, stricter than Iruka-sensei… you can't ogle at Sasuke-kun even if you want to or at Waka-sensei."
Ino blinked owlishly, "Waka-sensei? His name is Waka?"
Sakura shrugged, "I don't think so, but all seal master I've seen around including Yuzuriha-sensei calls him young master (waka-sama) and he is the youngest sensei we have here."
Ino hummed, "And that's why you call him Waka-sensei."
They had Yuzuriha-sensei and Houshou-sensei most of the time, and on occasion kind and friendly Mikumo-sensei helping them with their basic, but the young blond was the rarest. They started this class for a month and a half and they only had him once before, and even then he was just observing the class and giving input here and there.
"So he still didn't introduce himself at all? How mysterious of him!" Ino gushed, "But why so secretive with his name? He is not undercover, is he?"
Suddenly a familiar voice interjected. "His name is Uzumaki Naruto… he is a 4Dan seal master, in our regular force he is ranked Chuunin."
Ino squeaked, "Sasuke-kun! You know him?"
Sasuke was starting to regret speaking up but when he asked Shisui-san, his cousin assured him this talking and getting familiar with people outside of his clan was helping them. "Of course, he is in the same team as my brother and cousin."
Shikamaru raised an eyebrow, "Uzumaki Naruto?"
Sasuke shrugged, "That's his name, according to my cousin he didn't tell us his name just to get our attention back then well… you're wide awake in his presentation."
The Nara's left eye twitched, "Oh."
Shino who was mostly forgotten and sitting a row behind him spoke suddenly. "Hm… being an unknown sometimes draw attention better, why? Because it's in human nature to be drawn to mystery."
Ino rolled his eyes, "Well… Kiba of all people was also enthusiastic in listening in a sense, then again even Shikamaru was wide awake."
"Oi." Shikamaru protested weakly, before turning his attention to Sasuke. "Your brother's team? So he is around your brother's age?" He does look older than their year at least.
Sasuke paused, wondering if it was alright to tell the Nara the truth. It was not like Naruto was hiding his age, it was simply because the Uzumaki was taller than average, mature and already a Chuunin people assumed he was at least in his early teen. "Well…"
"Look what we have here!" Sasuke almost jumped at the familiar voice. "Hello there, I am so happy to see Sasuke-kun had lots of friends!"A certain Uchiha beamed to them with a sunny grin.
"Shi…" Sasuke stuttered, wondering since when his cousin was behind him. "Shisui-san?! What are you doing here?"
The curly haired Uchiha raised an eyebrow, as if the younger Uchiha had asked a dumb question. "Funny you ask that. I have been hanging around the tower longer than you, squirt. I drop by this class to see how you're doing!"
Sasuke frowned, "Are you allowed to come in as you please?" They had been briefed on their first day that no one but certified seal masters were allowed to wander around the tower without supervision. "Without Naruto-sensei I mean…"
"Of course, this is like my second or third home!" Shisui beamed.
"No, it isn't." Someone denied, "But you never listen, and one of these days you might get yourself killed if you walk into one of our dangerous experiment Shisui."
Sasuke's eyes widened in surprise when he saw Naruto by the door with his brother beside him. "Nii-san, Naruto-sensei."
Itachi sighed, "We takes our eyes off of you for one second and you wander all the way to Sasuke's class, can't you be more patient? Naruto didn't take that long to prepare his class you know?"
"One of these days we really have to put a leash on you." The blond added before clearing his throat. "Class is about to start, we're going to change room so follow me, make sure to bring your belonging with you."
The students quickly scrambled to gather their belongings as ordered before following Naruto and his team outside. Some of them were excited since this was the first time they got to see another part of Sealing Tower. Sealing Division was very strict with their security so the students weren't allowed to go anywhere without supervision.
"Make sure no one is left behind." Naruto-sensei's voice was clear but not overly loud, Shikamaru noted it must be some sort of chakra-enhancement. "We're going to take a long way up with the stairs if any of you gets tired tell me or any of my teammates. Is that clear?"
"Hai!" They chorused.
It was an exhausting walk through spiral staircase made of stones with spiral carving, around a circular pillar Shikamaru suspected was a lift considering the mechanical noise. Why they didn't take the convenient lift? Either Uzumaki Naruto was a jerk who likes to torture his students or… there was some sort of hidden purpose in tiring them out.
"Sensei…" Someone above his year whined at last, "Can't we just take the lift?"
"That's our cargo lift." He answered smoothly, "And students like you, don't have clearance to access the room that connected to the lift."
"No more complaints, if you're tired one you will be excused from this class." That shut the boy up.
Shikamaru now was seriously considering Uzumaki Naruto was just being a harsh teacher, and there was no hidden intention in this long walk. "Heh…"
Sasuke who was walking beside him, which was odd because he was on the back of the group, was conversing with his brother. 'Oh, that's why he is all the way back here.' Sasuke's brother was on the back of the group most likely to make sure no students would wander or left behind.
Uchiha Itachi, who looked like an older version of Sasuke but prettier -according to Ino- smiled at his brother. Shikamaru recalled Sasuke's brother was four years older than them and graduated early from the academy, he was a Chuunin and… his black eyes wandered to the grey vest the Uchiha wore.
So most likely…
"Regulate your breathing brats! You will hurt yourself if you don't!" Uchiha Shisui who was in the middle of the group instructed them. "Like this! One-two-one-two-one-two!"
"Shisui, you don't have to be that loud. Tone it down." Uzumaki Naruto who was on the front warned his teammate.
Troublesome, these guys couldn't be older than fifteen and all of them were in ANBU already. A three-man cell team made of prodigies? That was unusual, Konoha in spite of what most wanted to believe didn't grow prodigies on trees. Sannin was a rare case, and Sandaime picked his students himself. So for these three to be teamed up, it must be under unusual circumstances.
"Ne, Nii-san… Naruto-sensei is tiring us out what's the point?" Sasuke asked his brother.
Uchiha Itachi smiled at his brother, "He is not trying to tire you guys out, the level we're going to visit is somewhere you have to be familiar with once you get your certification. And also the tower is a very old building, with a different architecture than the rest of Konoha… so it's easy to get lost. This spiral stair, for example, is meant to mess with your spatial perception…"
So it was about getting used to the unusual layout of this place? 'That's interesting and troublesome.' Thought Shikamaru.
Sealing Tower (8th Level)
The circular room was bare and like most of the Sealing Tower was made of polished white stone of unknown origin. It was also so large with a ceiling so high, Shikamaru felt uneasy here. Most Konoha's building had low ceiling even an important room like Hokage's office so to them this place felt so alien.
"Aah… of all time I decide to come along with you…" Ino panted heavily. "It's on the day we walk up countless of stairs, I lost count how many…"
From how wary she was looking at her surrounding, Shikamaru concluded the intimidating room got to her nerve too. It was not just them but other kids too, there was a strange air on this room that made them uneasy.
"This room is so BIG!" Someone shouted.
Shikamaru's eyes widened, 'This room… considering it's made of stone and so spacious, why there is no echo at all?!'
Sasuke frowned, "It's so empty." And he didn't mean the lack of furniture, it was a lifeless place or it had that kind of impression to him.
Aburame Shino could feel his kikaichuu buzzing in restlessness underneath his skin, 'Hm…'
Uzumaki Naruto cleared his throat, "Welcome students, to Yugen no Ma… if any of you notice this room feels unusual to you that means you have a talent to be a sensor-nin." That incited excited murmurs among the students. "As for why we're here today." He frowned at their empty hands. "Why your hands are empty? Notes out."
"But sensei! There are no tables here!" Someone protested hand raised.
"Table is a luxury as much as a flat surface is for seal master in a mission." Where did they get the idea Shinobi worked indoor all the time? "Get used to that, we don't care how you produce legible notes… it's part of our training." As seal master in studies, they weren't allowed to use notebooks with lines, because they had to practice writing without it. Or even using new paper because in their line of work paper was a precious resource, so their notes were made of used paper.
After some groaning and muffled protest the students made themselves comfortable with using the slightly bumpy floor or any hard surface they could use.
"Well then today I am teaching you Seal Master protocols and by the end of the day, we will give you more assignment you will do routinely, to develop a good habit as seal master. First I am going to teach you the drill when you start experimenting in designing seals. So to any of you who feel the difference between this room and outside, it's because this is a chakra sterile room, so ambient natural energy is very low here even when the barrier that will completely purify this room is not activated yet so now-"
"Sensei! What's nature energy?" Someone from the crowd asked, interrupting their instructor.
Shikamaru noted that a number of students including Sasuke and Sakura were staring wide-eyed at the idiot who dared to interrupt a seal master. When they were recruited on their first day, they had been given a set of rules which included no wandering around the tower without supervision. However, the first rule was never ever interrupting a lecture before they were given permission to speak up and idiots who tried had been harshly reprimanded.
Shikamaru had not figured why they had a big problem with student speaking out of turn, especially since his father said sealing division was a huge believer on 'screw the rules, the heart is right' or whatever that meant. He guessed it had something to do with the high risk of their art, so discipline and obedience to their teacher were practised religiously so no one got killed because they were not listening to lectures on foundation year.
"Don't speak out of turn, explanation on natural energy will be after this."
"Eeeh! But I want to know, aren't we supposed to be curious and all?" The boy insisted petulantly.
The idiot most likely though because their teacher was most likely just a few years older than they were thought he could get away with it. "So is being patient and respectful." Uzumaki returned smoothly. "Talk back to your instructor once again, and you're expelled."
"Understood?" He pressed on with a smile on his face but the students could feel the pressure and even though only one of them was a question, all of them nodded in unison to his query. "Well then, for today… we're going through drills of safety procedure when practising Fuuinjutsu."
Obviously no one in the room except perhaps Sakura looked enthusiastic to learn something that sounded so boring, most of the recruited students were nerds or in better sounding academically inclined students so giving them books and theory to bury their nose in but going through a safety drill would still be boring for 8-10 years old kids, especially after a long climb of thousands of stairs.
Of course clan affiliated children wisely shut their mouth, when those cerulean eyes swept over the group that consist around twenty or so students. "Well then, now we're all in the same page… I want all of you to scoot over a little to the left." After the student gave him a wide berth Naruto pulled out a ninja wire with a kunai attached in one end and a brush in another end.
Then with practised ease, he used the tool to draw a large circle with diameter around ten five feet. It was a simple seal even though it had eight layers, as the objective was just isolating ambient chakra out.
"Fast…" Shino murmured from beside Shikamaru. "He is faster than Mikumo-sensei." Or any sensei in sealing art they had so far.
Shikamaru inclined his head at Sasuke, "Uzumaki-sensei… he is a combat seal master, isn't he?"
He had noted from the way seal masters wrote their seal they could tell combat and support apart. Mikumo was support so his writing was precise and not hurried, combat seal master like Shiomitsu siblings was more hazarded in their movement, like a fast forward movement. Uzumaki was even faster than Shiomitsu sibling but somehow his movement was also more fluid.
Sasuke nodded, "A generalist to be exact." Seal master that excelled in both combat and support.
Shikamaru scoffed, "Go figures." He whispered back, "No wonder we haven't seen him in class, and most likely not again for the rest of our foundation year." Someone of that calibre won't be wasted on teaching brats.
The Uchiha shrugged, "Saa…"
Unknown for the Nara and Uchiha, the Uzumaki seal master who just finished writing his seal was torn between reprimanding them or leaving the two be because it was him who made Itachi's little brother start being sociable.
Itachi gave him an amused smile before using ANBU hand signs to him. 'Only you can hear them all the way from here.' Itachi himself only could tell his brother was conversing with the Nara boy because of Sasuke's body language. 'So let Sasuke and that Nara boy be for once, please?'
Naruto sighed, clapping his hands once to get their attention once again. "The seal I just draw is called Seal of Purification- Jorei no Fuuin, the purpose of this seal is isolating ambient nature chakra from inside the seal. I am sure you have learned about chakra inside your body that consists of spiritual and physical energy, but there is also chakra in environment hence… natural energy."
Then he activated the seal and the script glowed before the centre moved to the outer layer, leaving an empty centre layer and a dome-like barrier in pale green colour to form.
Naruto gestured to their surroundings and clasped his hands once again because their eyes started to wander. Kids, short attention span was a norm for them. "Now, the reason why we have to isolate this energy when experimenting is that it's an unexpected variable for seal design in an experimental state. It's not yours and if it's somehow affected your seal work, the result won't be pretty."
Their fearful gaze was silently asking what he meant by not pretty.
"If you're lucky the seal will just go bust." Cracking a little then emitted some chakra smoke, "If you're not… we will scrape you off of the floor." Naruto told them bluntly.
The jinchuuriki rolled his eyes at the horrified look he got in response, "Which is why… once you're allowed to draw seal with chakra ink if any of you forgot to put up this barrier first when experimenting…" He trailed off, cerulean eyes narrowed dangerously. "You're lucky if we catch you before a drop of ink even touch your paper, and we will have you expelled from this program. Because… we would like to avoid scraping your remains from our interior after all."
Harsh perhaps, but they didn't need accidents that would make them responsible for dead academy students. This was why Sealing Division was so reluctant to take students from the academy. They were allowed to make as many mistakes as they needed to reach mastery in sealing art, but not slacking on standard safety procedure.
That was one dumb way to go and Naruto wanted all of these kids to get to first Dan at least before they suffered their first Fuuinjutsu related accident or expelled from this program. Considering this was their first batch, he had set a very optimistic goal.
Well, his subordinates all expected one or two brats to get maimed a bit before their first year. No, they weren't pessimistic, that was a realistic expectation when Fuuinjutsu was concerned. He just hoped when that happened Akari, their medic-nin could fix whatever these kids got. The pink haired medic was no Senju Tsunade.
"Now all of you will split into groups of four, exercise time… first to activate Jorei no Fuuin. I will give each of you a sheet with seal ready, so if you have formed your group please send a representative to get the seal from me."
As the representative made a line to receive the seal he quickly added. "If you have difficulties please contact my clones, they will check on you and we'll make sure no one gets into an accident today." The seal was one of the most stable examples in history but you never know.
He noted with satisfaction Sasuke had quickly form a group with his classmates, plus that Tenten girl but minus Ino who was just observing. The exercise, fortunately, went without a hitch but some couldn't activate the seal because they didn't have enough chakra or just incapable to push enough chakra out of their body yet to activate the seal.
'Hm… most of us in the tower has a larger than average capacity so perhaps that's why gee… do we have to add exercise to increase their reserve too?' Naruto sighed, 'Oh well, next exercise.'
"As for why I have my teammates here." Other than to be his bodyguard, because they were still not over that incident. "It's to teach you the procedure of how to cooperate with other Shinobi when you're working on seals in the field." He continued as he gestured towards Itachi and Shisui. "Perhaps it's too early but I would like you to have some idea about scenarios in-field, especially since… most of you are interested to be a combat seal master."
Or so the questionnaire said after the first month of study, it was a nightmare most of them were thinking of combat instead of support as their first choice. It was not a bad thing, and Konoha needed combat seal master in the field. However, it didn't sit well with him these kids were so enamoured with the idea of jumping to a harder role so early in their study.
Then again kids, and their illusion of adventurous life of Shinobi. Damn Tokusa and Yuzuriha for advertising Fuuinjutsu with his father's name, not a bad approach but getting delusional about the career of seal master was going to bite them someday.
"Uchiha Itachi, pleased to meet you." He introduced himself formally.
"Hi! I am Uchiha Shisui… nice to meet you kids." Shisui waved at them cheerfully.
At Shisui's sun-like cheerfulness Shikamaru couldn't stop himself from asking, "Uhm… he is an Uchiha, right?" The Nara was not the only one who did double take at Shisui.
Sasuke inwardly wondered if the correct phrasing Shikamaru was looking was whether or not Shisui was adopted. "Yes, he is… and he is my cousin. Even though he acts like that, he can be serious sometimes." Though most of the time Shisui acted like an imbecile and if not for his talent the clan would wonder if he was really Uchiha Kagami's son.
"As seal master of your team, you have to develop a habit to keep your teammate in track, of what you're working on. And vice versa, you have to fit in your skill set with your team." Looking at the puzzled look he got Naruto knew there was a big misunderstanding of combat seal master role in the field. "For example…"
Itachi looked at his best friend sympathetically, wondering if the blond even realized he could just leave it to his subordinates to deal with the demonstration. Regardless that Naruto was the most experienced seal master who worked with a permanent team.
"As you can see here, I am labelling all my seal tags with colouring the edge." He passed them to Itachi and Shisui.
The Uchiha then recited. "Red for offensive seals, Blue for barriers, Purple for trap and so on… and of course, as teammates, we will be very familiar with your seals."
Shisui nodded, "You kids have to be this organized at least. It's a very common scenario for seal master to cater for multiple teams in battle so we can't always have a seal master nearby to explain how to use the seal… so you guys also have to learn how to teach your teammates how to use them. Sometimes I even have to rummage my teammate's belonging for seal tag, and blowing myself up is the last thing I want."
Itachi continued. "As said by Shisui, you're most likely will cater seal supplies for more than just your teammates. Not all seal can be recognized by amateurs at sight, and especially not in the heat of battle so this is for your own safety and your comrades… not to mention seals used in the field are designed in tag formula." The Uchiha heir pulled out a tag and another, both were unmarked and using the same pattern in the arrangement. "These seals are different since I am quite familiar with my teammate's work I can tell them apart just fine but in the hand of other comrades of ours this can be a problem."
"A big problem." Shisui added, grinning. "Especially since most Shinobi is under impression seal is activated by pasting it on nearest surface and just put some chakra in it. So when your seal is activated in a complicated manner, enlighten us regular shinobi… and don't let us just slap, put some chakra and wait for something to happen." It was hilarious when their vice-captain said the same thing word to word when Naruto handed him anchor formula for Haitei Raoyue no Fuuin.
"So starting from today… all notes and calligraphy work in class should be kept in an orderly manner, the method is up to you."
The students started to converse among themselves, though most didn't seem to mind to be more organized, some even boasted they kept their works in an orderly manner already.
"Then there's also the matter of team dynamic, by now you must be already aware of team arrangement you will get by the time of graduation would be geared to a certain purpose. Now, can anyone volunteer to give examples for us?"
"Hai!" Sakura raised her hand quickly and at the nod she received she quickly listed on. "Tracking team, Heavy Combat, ambush and capture, infiltration…"
Naruto nodded, the girl had a good head on her shoulder. "That's right, and so for combat seal master to support the team they had to fit in. For example, our team is set for ambush and capture." They had skill in other area but they were very good at capturing their opponent alive. "So the seals I designed for our team are geared mainly for traps like this seal." He held up a sample of Gomen Jimen no Fuuin. "And a number of seals that distract opponents to give an opening to my teammates, who are both genjutsu and ninjutsu specialist."
Then he went on explaining they were also expected to clean up the aftermath of a battle, and giving more example of how they should assist their teammates.
Sasuke raised his hand, almost timidly. "Didn't combat seal master also fight by themselves? Yuzuriha-sensei uses her seals to fight."
Naruto could almost see most of them had the same thing in mind, they didn't expect their role to also include support like medic nin. "Yes, we do… but like all specialist like medic-nin, trackers… we have a role to fulfil that will exempt us from battle. For example,… Aburame Shino." The bug user inclined his head. "When you're using your kikaichu to track down a target, an enemy appeared to stop your team, you're short on time and your target is quickly approaching Hi no Kuni's border. So who would be left behind to fight?"
Shino adjusted his glasses, "Of course, it would be one of my comrades… preferably the best fighter. Why? So I can track our target and complete the mission's objective."
The blond nodded in approval. "Well said, it's not that you're not allowed to fight or you're degraded to stay back while your comrades fight your battle. You have your own fight… however unlike medic nin, you're also allowed to fight in front line depending on the mission objective, and the seal you develop for a battle purpose."
Naruto raised his hand that was holding a familiar tri-pronged kunai. "This is Hiraishin no Fuuin… Yondaime's prized battle seal that allowed him to turn the tide of third shinobi war. The prime example of seal developed for battle."
"That kunai looks so cool!"
Naruto was starting to regret taking over the class if he had not after the endless complaints while walking up the stairs. "In this case, Yondaime-sama is augmenting a weapon as a medium. Hiraishin no Jutsu is both offensive and defensive technique that use Fuuinjutsu as its base."
Another hand was raised, this time a girl with her hair up in twin buns. "Sensei? Can you use Hiraishin no Jutsu?"
He perked up at the question the girl threw at him. "Good question, the answer is no… I can't. The answer lies on why technique based on Fuuinjutsu is so versatile. They're personal or limited on selected few people like Kuchiyose no Jutsu. Hiraishin no Jutsu is, of course, is keyed in for Yondaime's personal use… unless he passed the key no one can use it. In fact Hiraishin no Jutsu actually is not originally Yondaime Hokage's technique." That incited some fuss among the students. "The idea of Hiraishin at least… originally belong to Niidaime Hokage, Senju Tobirama-sama…"
He waved his hand again and this time a whiteboard appeared, followed with a marker with a brush tip. He quickly drew a jutsu shiki for Hiraishin on Yondaime's version large enough for everyone to see followed by Niidaime's. Yondaime's was a set of kanji drawn beautifully on vertical while the Niidaime's was circular formula using sankrit script.
"They look nothing alike, as you can see. In fact, the theory behind these two seals could be completely different but their function is the same, teleporting its user to wherever the anchor seal is." He cleared his throat, "Which is why whatever seal you have in mind to assist you in battle, it's yours alone."
Naruto paused, finding one hand raised which belonged to Nara Shikamaru. "How about yours, sensei?"
What's with Nara and their curiosity of him, he had met two Nara so far and both were looking at him as if he was a puzzle they couldn't leave alone. He sighed, before bend down to pull his knee-length jika-tabi down and his prized seal appeared as he activated it.
It was an odd looking seal with two centres and resembling vine that went from middle of Uzumaki's thigh to his calf. "This is Hikou no Fuuin, and the rest is self-explanatory."
"He could fly?!" Their wide-eyed look said.
As if to answer their silent question Naruto jumped slightly, tucking his legs and floated a few feet above the ground. Then continued his lecture with his feet not touching the ground.
"So now the next exercise is Presentation. One by one each of you will come forward and follow Itachi to next door. We will show you a video of an experiment on seals inside these" He held up two small scrolls, no larger than children's hand in high. "After that, you're expected to explain the function, and instructing how to use the seal in front of your class…"
"Unless of course, you want to try bumbling through your explanation when it's raining kunai out there without preparation whatsoever." Naruto didn't even look up from his absence list. "First, Aburame Shino… you're up." The joy of being Aburame, always guaranteed to be the first called.
The rest of the class was very interesting, Aburame was so mechanical at explaining the whole class got distracted and forgot whatever he was talking about or if he had finished or not. Sakura gave a good but complicated instruction, which clashed with her stuttering because of stage fright. Surprisingly Shikamaru was good at it even though he ended his explanation with troublesome and his voice was tiny and droning.
Itachi chuckled, "A good thing they start learning now." They could get their teammates accidentally blowing themselves up with their seal if this was how bad their presentation skill was. Especially…
"Uhm so this seal is to stop the fire with-" Sasuke paused, trying really hard to recall what he wanted to say. "You also have to keep your hand apart so the fire the seal inhale won't harm you, and- oh you also have to keep the flow of fire natured chakra steady if not… erm…"
Sasuke was so completely out of his element and looked ready to dig a hole as he went in circles when explaining the seal.
"Hai, Uchiha Sasuke… your three minutes is up. If you take that long to explain a seal as simple Fuuka Houin in the middle of battle someone will die first before you're done, cousin." Shisui said as he stopped his stopwatch. "And if I am your enemy I would have burned your butt first before you can seal my fire."
Itachi's little brother blushed as red as his favorite fruit. "Shisui-san!"
The good news was he got to spot a number of problems earlier before it became worse in their effort to nurture a large batch of seal masters at the same time, the bad news… he and Hakurei really had to redo the curriculum.
Damn it, they were already behind schedule.
Everyone was trying to distract him from boredom and stress, obviously. Then again perhaps because of Satori people around him stopped trying to be subtle, sealed or not. Shisui was the biggest offender with dragging him away from his workshop to hang out and train with the silliest reason such as his workplace was too dreary for a living. He didn't live in there, damn it. Just in the same building, but close enough.
Itachi looked hesitate with their choice of place today, and Naruto didn't blame him. For whatever reason, Shisui decided Itachi should catch up with his ex-teammate Shinko and introduce them to her. He also smoothly guilt-tripped Itachi to it, with reason that Itachi had one surviving teammate while Shisui had none he could talk about good ol' days with.
Plain depressing in Naruto's opinion a thirteen and sixteen years old talking about good ol' days which was when they were seven. Though he was not one to talk considering he had a skewed sense of time because of Kage Bunshin, experiencing his day ten times through memory transfer did that to you.
On a brighter note, Itachi and Shisui would get their promotion after the next mission with Ro team. Yay~ and that meant he would get his guards back -he had slight suspicion the promotion was partly because Sandaime-sama was worried about his safety- so that meant goodbye freedom! And hello again monitored daily life.
At least it would be a while until they got their other members for ANBU squad, and in the meantime Itachi and Shisui would hang around Team Ro. He couldn't wait to get out of that team, not that he hated being there but being around Hatake Kakashi was so awkward. The ANBU captain tried, but after that talk, Hatake seemed a bit… well, there was no point regretting spilled milk. He couldn't imagine if one day Hatake found out his real identity.
Speaking of his identity, Shisui seriously dragged him to a tea house with them? Not the teammate's house but shop.
"Maybe I shouldn"t." It was not crowded, the type of shop tucked in the corner and recommended by Shinobi to their peers as those quiet place with discreet staff. There was no civilian around of course but his reputation with Shinobi population was just slightly better, which was not comforting at all.
Shisui grunted, "As if I care about being seen with you, a teammate and my closest friend."
He glanced at Itachi meaningfully, and the Uchiha's heir just smiled. "If it's Shinko-san, you don't have to worry… at least what you have in mind."
Shisui paused at that, "Oh yeah, Shinko is that kind of girl after all?"
Huh? Shinko was Shin…ko?
It didn't take long for him to figure out what Shisui and Itachi meant, and he cursed them inwardly for not giving him a prior warning.
Inari Shinko was a former member of Itachi's Genin team, who quit Shinobi life to be a waitress in her family's tea house. She was slightly plumper in build, with grey hair with different shades than Hatake with eyes in a darker shade. She was also strong for a retired kunoichi considering how she greeted Itachi was with hitting him square on solar plexus and Itachi grunted, which mean it was painful, before lecturing the Uchiha for not coming often for her sweets and how hard it was just to swing by to say hi?
Then she turned her attention to the rest of the team, thanking Shisui for putting up with difficult kid Itachi was -much to Itachi's indignation- and high fived the other Uchiha. Then her dark grey eyes landed on him, and Naruto froze.
Her lips trembled, her cheeks flushed pink. "Kyaaa! Who is this cutie you bring with you?! Kouhai?!"
"Ah, he is my teammate..." Itachi who was still rubbing the sore spot Shinko hit said.
Shinko cupped her cheeks and stared at him unblinkingly, "My! You're so pretty…"
Shisui interrupted, "He is a boy by the way, like Itachi here he is one of those who is too pretty for his own good. It's so unfair for you girls."
"Your input is appreciated, but the rest is just plain annoying."
"Ow, and here I thought you have standard two boys and one girl. Maa…" Her hands twitched, "Anoo, can I hug you?"
His mind went blank, "Eh? Yes? I mean, why?" The next thing he knew Shinko had pulled him to a hug, thankfully she had given him a warning so he didn't perceive it as hostile but… this girl was really strong and she was suffocating him with her chest!
"Ha ha ha… marshmallow heaven." Shisui commented.
What heaven? He needed oxygen to breathe, and he was not a pervert!
"Huwaa… your hair is so soft, what shampoo did you use?"
"Uhm Shinko, I think you should let go of him. He needs to breathe."
Itachi, you should have said so faster.
Naruto took a deep breath of sweet oxygen to his lungs, patting his chest after Shinko at last let go of him reluctantly. He was no stranger to older girls wanting to hug him, he had his fair share of noble women cooing over him.
"Hm?" He blinked at the plate of dango on his table. "This is?" He hadn't ordered anything.
"It's on the house, thank you, sweets."
It took Naruto a moment to compute Shinko's pointed look at Itachi, and what her gratitude was for. "Ah… you're welcome, I am also grateful." He returned.
Shinko blinked owlishly at that before she patted Itachi's shoulder on her way back to the kitchen. "Good for you, Itachi."
Itachi, unfortunately, didn't understand the exchange. "Is that so?"
Shinko could only laugh at her former teammate. "Ha ha ha… as clueless as ever, your genius really can't help you in this sort of stuff."
Naruto's lips and Shisui quirked up at that and discreetly exchanged look with Shinko before they burst to laughter. Leaving Itachi out, and the genius for once sulked because his friends made fun of him. Naruto and Shisui spent the whole day pacifying sulking Itachi.
'I wish… this peaceful day could go on forever.' Naruto prayed in his heart.
At that moment, he had no idea that wish wouldn't be granted. The crack on the great tree of Konoha was already spreading and his tiny hands were powerless to mend the broken tree.
THere you go 14K worth, I will try to update more often but with smaller chapter like 5-7K worth.
Stay tuned and please leave a review.