Since I'm sick, and too fuzzy-brained to continue writing my next chapter, I decided to do a very half assed revision of this chapter. I've just corrected some mistakes, and added in some little details. For my current state of brain of the floor sickness I feel that I've done an okay'ish job.
Note to any new readers: The writing quality improves considerably after this chapter.
Naruto: The Destined Sage
There it was again, a burning stinging sensation, different to the types of pain the blue-eyed blonde boy had received in the previous years of his life.
His eyes flickered open, and he glanced down his body again, struggling to see anything through the blood that was dribbling into his eyes from the jagged cut on his forehead.
Then he saw it, glistening a sickening crimson in the evening light, the kitchen knife drove forward again, driven by a large hand of one of the men standing above him kicking and punching the defenceless six year old boy.
He snapped his eyes shut quickly, trying to convince his young mind that if he couldn't see it happen then he wouldn't feel the pain of the cold steel once again piercing his skin and cutting into his body.
He bit back a whimper of pain as the knife drove under his ribcage and punctured his lung, he could practically envision the blade slicing through his precious organ and retreat.
This happened much to the amusement of the men around him as they laughed and kicked him a final few times before turning and walking away, shouting triumphantly about finally slaying the horrible demon that haunted their village.
Naruto felt hot tears mingle with the cooling blood on his cheeks as he cried his pain silently whilst his body began to cease it's ability to support his life, even his miracle like ability to heal from the severe beatings he received was not enough to patch up the severed tissue in his broken body.
"You creatures are pathetically weak!"
Naruto coughed up blood and in fear opened his eyes again, afraid that someone else had come back to finish him up then and there.
"Why have you continued with this life? When you are alone and cannot defend yourself, when these pathetic people just keep coming back and causing you more harm?"
"I won't be anymore… This seems like the end," Naruto mentally answered despondently to the voice that he assumed to be a part of his subconscious depression.
"No, I respect you now. At least slightly."
Naruto drew in a sharp and painful inhalation of air in part due to his failing lung and in part due to the realisation that the voice he could hear in his head was certainly not his.
"Close your eyes, brat."
Naruto followed the order. He didn't care if it was a delusion or not at this point.
The blonde felt a sudden rush of cold wetness, his eyes snapped open to find himself lying in ankle deep water, his pain seemingly washed away by the icy liquid.
A warm, damp breeze blew over him, enticing him to sit up and investigate its source. His eyes immediately registered the massive hall he was in, its floor submerged in icy cold water and the massive gate that seemed to be the centrepiece of the room.
Suddenly realising his wounds his eyes shot downwards to inspect his body, his gasp caught in his throat at his spotless attire and undamaged form.
"The wounds on your body mean nothing in here, brat."
Again his spiky blonde mane bounced, and his head snapped up, his cerulean blue orbs locking onto the towering gate, knowing the source of the voice was beyond.
Naruto drew in a deep breath, steeling his resolve, he took a quick and shaky step towards the gate only to be caught in another gentle gust of warm damp air which he immediately likened the smell to that of an animals breath.
His eyes widened in shock and fear as he reached the bars of the gate only to see a pair of massive red feral eyes opening beyond cold bars.
"W-What are you?" Naruto asked in a small voice.
"I am what this village fears you may be!"
Naruto shuddered at the anger in the creatures' tone, staying quiet until it continued.
"I am the Kyuubi no kistune!"
Naruto drew in a sharp breath again, before ushering the courage to his heart to speak. "But the fourth Hokage killed you!"
As though on cue the entire hall brightened, revealing the full body of the Kyuubi crouched behind the bars. It's chest rose and fell quickly as it let out a menacing chuckle, and its warm damp breath washed over him again. "A Human, no matter how powerful, cannot kill a Biju."
It's large red orbs registered the shock on the young boys face before continuing. "I am the reason the whole village hates you."
The boy cast his eyes downward at the depressing information, not knowing how to counter the creatures words.
"At first, it was amusing to see you tortured so, and then after time you just kept coming back, shouting your dream at them that you'd become Hokage and stronger than any before."
Naruto's eyes gingerly looked up, expecting an onslaught of negative words to push him away from his dream. Just as all the others in the village would do.
"The first dozen times I just thought you were an idiot, but you never gave up, and as hard as I find it to say, I respect you greatly for your conviction."
A childish prideful smile spread across his face at the praise from the immortal creature. A lone tear slid down his face and followed the curve of his smile, he recognised this as one of the few times in his short life where anyone had shown him any respect and care.
"Truthfully you have made me curious; I have only felt the heart of one like you once before, long ago, so I wish to see your potential."
"Thank you, kyuubi, I-" he hiccupped as he tried to force his small voice to overcome his dwindling fear and heightening joyful tears.
The beast shifted behind the cold bars, it's lips pulling back to reveal a tempting smile as it's feral eyes narrowed with its question.
"Your father sealed me into you knowing you would one day need my power to overcome a greater threat, maybe one day you will have that power, you will have to prove to me you are worthy of it, you will have to fight me to use it."
Naruto wasn't sure which part of that hit him more, the fact that the most powerful Biju was openly offering him power, despite the conditions of it, or the fact that it had eluded to his father being the fourth Hokage.
"You'll give me your power?" He managed to gasp in awe, and decided it would be best to ask about the fourth Hokage when he was in a more clear state of mind.
"I might, but not yet, you cannot harness my power until you have power within yourself. I will guide you, boy. I will be the sensei to the child of my captor!"
Naruto shivered at the sheer presence of the creature, then the sudden realisation hit him; this godly immortal creature was extending him an offer of potential friendship, or at least genuine respect.
Despite his history of behaviour of always going back to the places where people had repeatedly harmed him he was far from unintelligent. He was merely dedicated to his hopeful idea of being noticed, even if it were to be insulted.
He just never truly expected the villagers to go further than their usual beatings and aim to end his life with a weapon.
Naruto let a small content smile cross his lips. "But how can you be my sensei? You're in my head…"
Kyuubi grinned a confident grin, it's vicious teeth bared before him proudly, happy with the boys astute answer, almost confirming in the Biju's mind that this boy could very well be the child of prophecy that he had heard hopeful talk about whilst in Kushina's seal. "You are correct that I cannot tutor you in anything physical, but I can train you extensively with chakra and anything intellectual. All my accumulated knowledge from my existence about ninjutsu will be yours, you remind me of a child I was told of by my creator, above all else I respect his wishes." 'Rikudo Sennin, I feel truly strong within this boy, I still struggle against my hate and often lose, but this boy, gives off a warmth I've not felt since you were with us, but the boy must be tested.'
Naruto's bright blue eyes glanced up, his face contorted momentarily as he struggled to banish his fear, his voice faltered as he began. "I- I'm n-not j-j-just gonna be Hokage…"
The fox narrowed his eyes at the boy in curiosity, noting a sudden change in his strengthened resolve; he held his tongue awaiting the boy to continue his speech.
"I'm going to bring peace to the world!"
Kyuubi's natural reaction was to scoff at the juveniles words. Again he held back what would be his normal response in an attempt to place a little faith in the boy in front of him, "You won't be able to harness my power without losing control until you can handle my hatred."
Again Naruto spoke without the fear that was previously present. "Then I'll resolve your hate!"
'That's exactly what you told me once Rikudo sennin, and it's what you told me our future guide would say… I'm placing my faith in you, Uzumaki Naruto.'
"You're not going to die today, brat, next time you want to talk, meditate and envision being here."
Naruto gulped in nervousness, hearing the finality of the fox's words before he felt a sensation of being wrenched from his mind.
His eyes flickered open, and his mind registering the pain spread throughout his body. The smell of blood was thick in the air as it soaked through his clothing. The stinging searing sensation of pain from his various lacerations was quickly overridden by an intense burning feeling.
Vaguely he became aware of the red mist forming around him, his young mind deduced groggily that the red mist surrounding him must be the Kyuubi's chakra. As though mortality were under the command of the Kyuubi, Naruto's various knife wounds sealed shut as all the muscle fiber and organ tissue beneath the skin twined back together leaving the skin unmarred beneath to slick layer of still drying blood on his body.
The weasel masked ANBU cursed uncharacteristically beneath his mask; today he had been assigned the mission of watching over the young and boisterous Uzumaki Naruto.
whilst many in ANBU hated being assigned to watch over the boy for both the fact that it was almost always a boring repetitive task, as well as the fact that the boy contained the most powerful of the Biju, and thus in their minds being the rightful object of their distaste and often hate.
Itachi held no such hate or ill thoughts of the boy. On many occasions Itachi had simply tagged along behind the ANBU assigned to attempt to stop the boy from running amuck and had been disgusted with the severity of how the ANBU treated him.
Prompting him to sign his name up to the roster of being one of the ANBU to watch over him, on many occasions he would simply sit back and watch as the blonde manned youngster creatively graffitied impossible places and would congratulate the boy on the precision he had used to do his work.
Today though his guardianship of the boy had not gone to plan. On one of the child's many random wanderings around the village to fill in his friend and family void life he had stopped in front of a clothing stand gawking at an orange and blue jumpsuit.
At the time Itachi couldn't hold back a small smile at the boys idea of glamour, though things had gone sour extremely quickly, the owner of the store had noticed the blondes identity and had promptly kicked him in the chest to propel him out of the store and harshly onto the dusty path outside.
Silent tears had slid from the boy's eyes as he yelled how he hated everyone in the village. Itachi's small smile quickly dropped into a frown, hate was the last word he had ever wanted to hear Naruto use.
Upon Naruto's outburst a short overweight black haired boy had emerged from the crowd and slammed a small fist into Naruto's jaw. As the boy cheered in assumed victory Naruto stumbled back, his small fist had curled around a rock which he proceeded to hurl.
True to his aim the rock had collided with the overweight child's forehead, producing a small scratch and a few drops of blood.
Pathetically the boy began to cry shamelessly, prompting the surrounding crowd to call for the blondes blood. The situation quickly spiralled out of control after that, and Itachi couldn't even spot the young Uzumaki between the bodies of the crowd, having to resort to simply following the crowd and attempt to spot the boy to extract him.
Thirty minutes later the mob seemed to split into different groups. Either chasing an imagined trail or attempting to mislead any pursuers. Itachi didn't know which, but acted accordingly and pursued the closest one and quickly proceeded to use a simple genjutsu to knock the civilians out to search for the blonde.
This had repeated five times until he had located the final remaining group. His blood chilled, fearing the worse as he approached the sound of gruff shouts and cheers.
He paused as he heard what seemed like a final chorus of laughter, and watched silently as a group of five men rounded the corner below him, three of them wiping their bloody knives on their jackets whilst complaining of having the demons blood on their clothing.
His mind scrolled through a quick series of options about the men, soon settling on letting them go so he could hasten to the no doubt severely wounded child.
He crouched low then pounced from his position to the opposing rooftop like a coiled spring, landing with hardly a sound before proceeding quickly along the edge of the roof, looking down the side of the building to the alley below.
His body froze suddenly, he tried to let out the breath he held as he identified the feeling being that of the Kyuubi's chakra. He'd found it impossible to forget how it felt all those years earlier.
'Those fools!' He cursed internally, fearing that the Kyuubi was in the process of breaking free. With a silent thud, he dropped from the roof to the alley below, already spotting the faint glow of the Kyuubi's chakra ahead.
The Uchiha ANBU slid to a halt as he ceased his sprint, seeing the blonde boy in question convulsing on the ground, his eyes flickering open briefly as the red chakra seeped from his skin and seared his wounds closed. The sheer quantity of blood that soaked the blonde and pooled on the ground around him informed Itachi of the extent of the injuries that the Kyuubi obviously felt it prompt to heal.
He let out a breath he hardly knew he was holding as he deduced that the Kyuubi wouldn't bother healing the boy if it was trying to escape.
Ten minutes of waiting later and the red chakra receded into the blondes still bloody body, Itachi quickly scrambled forward and propped his head on his lap and he retrieved a cloth from one of his many pockets and set about wiping the blood from Naruto's awakening features.
Naruto flashed open his vibrant blue eyes only to quickly shut them again; the waning light of the day still bright enough to overwhelm is visual senses.
He tentatively peeked through his eyelids in an attempt to adjust his eye sight to the level of light, revealing a figure above him, his first flight instinct kicked in upon merely identifying that the figure was human as he made an attempt to spring to his feet, only to feel a strong hand resting on his forehead and another holding his shoulder down, he winced in anticipation of the expected beating.
Upon no such thing happening he peeked his eyes open again and peered closer towards the persons face. Quickly he noted the person was ANBU as he registered the pattern on the mask. "Weasel-sama!" His features broke into a grin as he identified one of the two people in the village who showed him any kindness.
Naruto had never seen 'Weasels' face, but he could feel the small smile that the ANBU was giving him from behind his mask as he looked down on his bloody visage. "Hold still for a moment, I want to check you over."
Naruto did as told from the caring command and lay still as the ANBU shifted his head back to the cold path below and shifted his weight, his hands searching Naruto's body, stopping at every blood soaked gash in his clothing to wipe away the blood to confirm that he had in fact healed.
In total Itachi had counted what must have formerly been twenty-three fatal wounds that left nothing but the sliced up and blood soaked clothing as evidence due to the Kyuubi's involvement.
He glanced back up to Naruto's face to see him looking down at his actions expectantly. Itachi held back a sigh behind his mask, he truly felt sorry for the blonde, whenever they spoke he heard untapped genius within him, instincts that weren't being honed, and pain that he tried to desperately cover with a cheery and often fake demeanour.
Itachi briefly thought of what Naruto would be like now had his father and mother survived the Kyuubi attack to raise him.
A sudden idea struck him as he sent chakra to his hand to do a basic scan for injuries; Naruto had said earlier that he hated the villagers. Itachi wasn't sure if he really meant it, but the seeds of hate were planted none the less, as well as the boy having the dream of being Hokage on top of him being the Jinchuuriki to the Kyuubi.
If he ended up on a negative path, then he would likely someday give the village hidden in the leaves a true reason to call him demon. 'Sensei,' he mused to himself, suddenly wondering what it would be like to called that on a daily basis, the seeds of his positivity already laid as he ceased his scan of Naruto and stood, offering him a hand to pull him to his feet. Naruto gladly accepted the hand with a broad smile, clearly not fully aware of his state of appearance.
"Naruto-kun, I have an offer for you, but first we should get you home and cleaned up?"
Naruto's grin grew broader at Weasels offer, quickly asking the same question he always did to the ANBU, the same question that was always rejected in a genuinely apologetic manner, "Weasel-sama, can I ride on your back!?"
This time Itachi couldn't find it in his heart to reject the boys enthusiastic request, he answered by simply turning and kneeling in a position that'd make it easy for the young Uzumaki to climb into position, the boy in question wasted no time, scrambling onto his back as though his life depended on it, and wrapping his arms around his neck as Itachi looped his own arms under Naruto's legs to secure his position. The pair rose as Itachi set out for Naruto's apartment.
Itachi couldn't help but notice the myriad of eyes watching with disgust and disapproval and he strode confidently through the crowds with Naruto clinging to his back. Absently he felt Naruto's chin connect with his shoulder and felt his breathing slow, the boy obviously exhausted from the days events as he rested his eyes.
Itachi's resolve suddenly set in stone as he felt the need for both acknowledgment and affection from the boy clinging desperately to his back as he walked closer and closer to his home.
He could imagine that the boy was holding on so desperately under the impression that once they reached his home he'd never again be able to feel such positive closeness to another individual again.
As he walked Itachi couldn't help but compare how Naruto felt to how Sasuke felt. Just through the pressure of the boys grip on his back and the depth and speed of his breathing he could see such a difference between the two.
However much Itachi hated to admit it, he could see something dormant in Sasuke, that he hoped would never awaken, but above that Sasuke loved him as any younger brother would love an older brother who always cared for them.
Suddenly his depth of understanding for Naruto changed, he could feel that despite the boy having never even seen his face, and only seen his eyes through the shadowed holes of his mask, he loved him to the bottom of his heart more than anything else.
Though Naruto obviously held the verbal tendencies of his mother, and his facial features vaguely resembled hers, everything else about him screamed that he was the last of the Namikaze, the spikey blonde hair, vibrant blue eyes, broad smile, and genius that spoke without arrogance.
Itachi pondered the many times he had seen Naruto simply sitting somewhere and staring at the face of the fourth Hokage carved into the mountain face. He knew that there was no way that Naruto knew of his connection to the fourth Hokage.
He also knew of Naruto's infatuation with the deceased man, it seemed as though fate had spoken to him. 'yes, Naruto, you will surpass him, it will be my honour to help.'
Itachi soon found himself at the door to Naruto's apartment, gently he slipped his hand into a pocket and withdrew a key, with a soft click he had unlocked the door and made his way in.
Naruto stirred from his soft slumber on the Uchiha's back at the familiar scents of his kitchen. He peeked up from Itachi's shoulder, seeing his small kitchen table below him, his eye brows rose at the sight of an unexpected item sitting on it, it took a moment to realise that it was the Weasel mask of the ANBU whose back he was currently occupying.
"Naruto-kun, I've got an offer for you."
Naruto followed the unspoken request of slipping off the ANBU's back and shuffling around in front of him to see his face. At the sight of Itachi's face he grinned, and quickly leapt forward, hugging the Uchiha heir.
Surprised by the gesture Itachi softly hugged the boy back before setting his hands on his shoulders and forcing some distance between them, "Naruto…" Itachi drew in a deep breath, he steeled himself, not just for the responsibility he was about to take, but the law the third Hokage had made that he was setting himself up to break.
"I owe it to your father to offer to become your sensei?"
Naruto froze, he'd so often watched children with their parents and longed for that sort of contact, contact that he'd never had, "My father?"
Itachi gave him a soft smile at his small voice. "Who in the entire world do you admire most? Do you see any resemblance between you and him?"
Naruto's previous state of stillness seemed to deepen to that of a rock, a silent tear rolled from his right eye down to his chin at the hopeful thought. "The fourth?"
Itachi's smile and gentle nod confirmed it; tears started rolling from Naruto's eyes as he felt both over joyed and confused. "Did he put the kyuubi in me? That's why everyone hates me?"
The smile Itachi wore quickly corroded to a small frown. "He had no choice but to seal it into you, but yes, that's why, but it's wrong of them, they just don't understand, someday they'll accept you."
Naruto nodded softly, his tears clearing at the revelation. "Why do you want to be my sensei? Won't everyone start to hate you?"
Itachi's usually impassive face once again displayed a small smile. "I'm one of the best ANBU, I'm sure I can train you secretly. Can it be our secret?"
Naruto's grin made all his fake ones pale in comparison as he again wrapped his arms around the Uchiha heir. "But why do you want to do this?" He mumbled into the ANBU's vest. Doubt again creeping into his mind that this would all be some twisted joke.
"Because," Itachi began as he decided he'd have to get used to Naruto's affectionate side and settled a hand in the blonde mop of hair. "Both of your parents saved the village with me in it, as well as a prophecy that I can see in you that the third has somehow not noticed."
There was a short silence as Naruto raised his head to look up into Itachi's eyes, his expression soft and accepting, realising that none of this was a cruel joke as he had feared.
"My name is Uchiha Itachi, and from now on, Itachi-sensei."
Naruto rubbed his bleary eyes halfheartedly as he sat up groggily from his bed. He turned his head slowly to his left, looked out his window to the sun lit hokage monument. 'Father.' He thought with a gentle smile before fully remembering the previous evening.
He pounced from his bed and hastily stripped from his sleeping clothes and yanked on his daily wear of white shorts and a black t-shirt with the Uzumaki swirl adorning the front. As he began to dash from the small room to his equally small kitchen he paused. Itachi-sensei had said that they would see each other the next day. 'What if he comes into my room and disapproves of how I keep the place!?'
With a total change of pace, Naruto spun on his heal and sprung towards his bed, gripping the sheets and tugging them into an orderly position over his bed. He stuck his tongue out between his lips in concentration as he carefully tucked the sheets in, leaving the bed in a crisp hospital looking state.
Again he spun towards the door and made a charge for the kitchen, on his way scooping up clothing off the floor and depositing it in his washing basket.
He skidded to a halt in front of his usual stopping spot and ripped open his top cupboard, "RAMEN!"
His breath caught in his throat at the sight before him, he stood higher on the tips of his toes and poked his head into the cupboard, scanning the now empty space. "Ramen?"
A previously unnoticed slip of paper hooked around the handle of the cupboard door caught his attention. He retrieved it and closed the previous home of his Ramen before sitting and unfolding it.
"Good morning Naruto, I took the liberty when you fell asleep to remove all the unhealthy food from your apartment, if you want to surpass the fourth then you need healthy food. I have left you a bowl of mixed oats, flax, dried fruit and nuts in the fridge, as well as a fresh bottle of milk, food like this will become the average breakfast for you, please enjoy it."
Naruto felt disappointed for a moment before he steeled his resolve, 'sensei is right! I will be acknowledged, and I will be strong!'
He quickly proceeded to the fridge and retrieved the bowl of dried ingredients and bottle of milk which he placed on his tabletop before pulling his chair out and sitting. He hastily poured milk into the bowl to coax out the hidden flavors of the dried ingredients.
Naruto withdrew a spoon from a draw and tentatively filled it with the foreign breakfast. He sniffed it carefully before putting it in his mouth.
The blonde Uzumaki narrowed his eyes in thought as he tried to analyze what it was that he was eating, it certainly wasn't the same as cup Ramen, but on the other hand, he couldn't say it was bad, and he would definitely trust in his new sensei's advice that it was healthy.
Deciding that it was time to gain a new sort of life, he pushed away his immaturity and proceeded to devouring the bowl of porridge like mix.
As he finished he found himself feeling surprisingly full and content, something that he had to admit Ramen never really did for him. He jumped in his seat as an unexpected knock sounded on his door, quickly he figured it wasn't the old man, he didn't come until the end of the month.
In a rush of excitement he sprinted the short distance to his door and flung it open, rather than being met with the sight of his sensei, as he had hoped, he was met with thin air, his gaze dropped in disappointment, where his eyes widened in surprise at seeing a brown paper wrapped parcel with a note sitting atop.
In his usual manner he retrieved it, slammed his door and happily trotted back to his kitchen table where he set about going over the note.
"Dear Naruto, I suspect you've barely read my previous note about your diet by now, however I have duties that I must attend to for the duration of the day, expect a visitor at lunch time, she will help you with some things. I will arrive in the afternoon and we will begin training."
His natural instinct was to hang his head in annoyance that he'd have to wait an entire eight hours until he got to begin his training, though the curious distraction of the still wrapped parcel lead his mind onward as his fingers gripped along it's folded edges and tugged, unraveling the neatly folded paper.
Naruto was no stranger to Shinobi gear and clothing, practically no one in any ninja village was, but at the sight of the three sets of folded Shinobi intended clothing in front of him his grin grew exponentially and tears of joy rolled from his eyes, 'I love Itachi-Sensei!'
He quickly stripped down to his underwear and unfolded the top item of clothing; black Shinobi pants. Stepping into them quickly he tugged them up his legs and struck a pose, imagining himself standing like that in a battlefield with himself being the only one standing.
A chilly breeze of air from under his door bought him back to his senses and as reached for a standard mesh undershirt, designed to blunt blows, though rarely effective enough to call it truly useful, then his black jacket which was adorned with a pattern of orange colored tomeo around the neck and flame like patterns at its hem.
He had seen a jacket of similar cut and shape before in a shop window and had instantly wanted it along with its matching pants, he had first noted that A: it was far too big for him, obviously intended for someone in their mid to late teens and B: despite his adoration of the color orange, it would stick out like a sore thumb and no doubt cause him trouble if he were to wear it in a Shinobi application.
But as his gaze flickered down his now mostly dressed body he much more suitably agreed with the garb that his new sensei had chosen for him.
Next he picked up the black Shinobi sandals and quickly tugged them over his feet, not wondering in the slightest how Itachi had gauged his foot size so exactly, and then atop his second set of the clothing that Itachi had the foresight to purchase was a collection of different pouches and straps. Naruto quickly recognized them at storage pouches along with the straps to keep them in place over his body. As he had done with his other items of clothing he quickly raised them into the air to examine how to best don them.
His eyebrow quirked curiously and he settled for placing the pouches back atop the second set of clothing and waiting for Itachi to show him how to correctly wear it, so as to avoid any unneeded humiliation.
At that note he quickly set about punching and kicking into the air with reckless abandon, imagining disguised foes jumping at him from the corner of the room as he lay into his imagined attackers with gusto to pass the time.
He then paused in his imaginings and bought his hands together thoughtfully, realizing that his tender six year old mind would likely struggle to at least remember all the hand signs for different jutsu. 'NO!' He mentally berated himself for his glimpsing moment of self-doubt, 'I am Uzumaki Naruto! I will become the greatest Shinobi in the world and make the former Hokage proud of me!'
With his short lived mental rant of confidence over he pumped his fists into the air after his minor victory over his doubts and opted to make his way to his ragged, messy couch that had definitely seen better days.
Anyone else used to a comfortable standard of living, as most people were in Konoha, would see the couch and compare it to something that must have been made in Konoha's earliest years and had been left to rot out in the weather. However Naruto didn't know the difference nor did he have the choice to be picky. He sat in it expectantly and glanced toward his door, then through a window, attempting to gauge the time of day.
He figured it was about ten thirty or eleven, which left not long to wait until his still unknown guest arrived.
Uchiha Mikoto sat back against the outdoor bench and let out a long winded sigh. Before her, her son was being taught very basic Taijutsu lessons by an Uchiha clan member whose name always seemed to escape her.
She allowed her previously lost soft smile to return to her lips as she watched her son practice the stances that he was directed to, she almost found it unnerving how similar Sasuke looked to the Uchiha's previous antagonist, Madara, as well as how she sometimes found it unnerving how Sasuke reminded her of his father, her husband.
She was sure that the only thing keeping Sasuke from developing along the paths that Fugaku surely wanted him to go in, although that led her to be again happy that Itachi was the prodigy of the Uchiha clan. His skills and battle foresight had earned him the attention of the entire clan, and the almost undivided attention of Fugaku.
At first it was apparent that Sasuke felt betrayed by his father, but after his older brother continually reigning love and recognition on him for even the smallest achievements, Sasuke had stopped fawning after his father's attention and merely trained for his brother's respect.
Again her small smile faded as she recalled the previous evening when Itachi had returned home and she had bid him into her private study to give him one of her routine motherly talks that confirmed for him that he could tell her anything that weighed on his shoulders.
She was at the time astounded as he began to speak more than a few sentences. Normally he would only list some minor issues he had with other ANBU or voice some slight annoyances at some orders that he had received, but this time he had begun by telling her that her former best friends son was alive and living in a rundown apartment in one of the most crime ridden areas of Konoha.
Not that Konoha ever really experienced crime; more just that bars tended to become over full and a vast majority of the patrons fell to the effects of their alcoholic beverages.
When he said his name she had felt horrible inside. She of course had heard it, virtually the entire village had, he was "the demon brat," but he went by many other offensive names. She had always felt sympathetic to his plight, but after the Kyuubi's attack all those years ago and the loss of Kushina, her best friend, and Minato, her best friends husband, lover, hokage and her secret love she had wanted basically nothing to do with the village and the memories it would bring and restricted herself to the Uchiha compound.
But then Itachi had gone on to explain that he had watched over Naruto for some time and had finally snapped at the various times the boy was beaten within an inch of his life, he told her that he was going to become the Uzumaki boys Sensei, and that he wanted her help.
Just thinking about it brought tears to her eyes again; two beautiful things were happening at once. Her eldest son was finally asking her for help, and the help was to aid the child of her two most cherished people. She had unquestionably agreed to help and Itachi had outlined that it would be much appreciated if she were to meet the boy at lunch time.
She was just as curious towards her own reaction as to his as she awaited the time that she would have to depart to see him. The sound of a loud grunt bought her attention back to her son's session, it seemed in her phased out state the Uchiha responsible for his guidance had decided that his stance was acceptable enough for him to advance to a physical test of skills against himself.
Suffice to say, the young Uchiha had a long way to go, as was evident by his state of being face down on the ground; Mikoto couldn't help but let out a chortle of laughter at his predicament as his instructor pushed some pressure through his knee that was held firmly against the boys back.
"Kaasan!" Sasuke called pleading.
"Don't you try that tone with me, young man," Mikoto began as she stood up and stretched her arms above her head, deciding now was as good a time as any to go visit Naruto. "Teach him the clan katas for another hour, then take him back to the house and take him through the history of Fire country." she said to the Uchiha man holding her son to the ground.
"Of course, Mikoto-sama," he replied respectfully as he removed his weight from the child and pulled him back to his feet.
She sometimes wished that when she was spoken to with the suffix sama on her name that she had power to make some changes in her clan, but she knew it was given to her merely out of respect for her husband, the clan leader.
The very thought often disgusted her, her family had been the head family, but due to the Uchiha being a patriarchal clan she had been forced to marry Fugaku, and give clan leadership to him. She merely hoped that she could influence Itachi positively enough for the day when he took the mantle that the Uchiha arrogance would be replaced with a new sense of Uchiha kindness.
She banished the thoughts from her mind as she gave her son a short wave and turned on her heel, steadying into a fast paced walk, her satchel bag swinging lazily at her side. She had made sure to bring anything that the situation may possibly call for, namely money to take the boy shopping if he needed, as she suspected he would, as well as her intention to break the Third's law about the boy knowing his parentage in the form of a photo of them.
Her mind swirled with thoughts of the boy, Itachi hadn't given her any form of description of him, merely a cryptic "you'll know him when you see him.' She assumed that was in reference to him holding either a stunning resemblance to either Kushina or Minato.
Whichever it was she was sure her heart would melt at the sight of him; her mind came back to reality as a part of her registered that she had arrived at the gate of the Uchiha compound.
She squeezed her eyes shut and wrinkled up her face, steeling her resolve to step beyond and re-assume her position in the village, her bust rose as she sucked in a deep breath and stepped past the gates, letting out the exhalation and sighing in the process, completely resolving to never let down the child of her two most precious people.
She found herself immersed in the village as she walked, she couldn't truly be sure if it had changed so much since she had secluded herself or if she had merely forgotten what the village was like beyond the walls of the Uchiha compound.
She knew every street and path of the village and had herself walking on autopilot toward the blonde Jinchuuriki's home. Mikoto wasn't blind to the gasps of surprise around her as odd people recognized her as the Uchiha matriarch.
She feared that her absence from the village may have damaged the Uchiha's name, and she was well aware of the Uchiha's already arrogant reputation, and before her seclusion it had been declining, but her presence had often mellowed the negative views as her kindness would often influence those around her.
Her mind wandered briefly to the former wife of Hyuuga Hiashi, she had always been such a kind woman, and much like with the Uchiha clans reputation of arrogance, the Hyuga had one similar, and just as she had done the Hyuga matriarch had spread kindness and positivity from her clan throughout the village.
Her mind came back to her current walk as she caught vigorous movement to her right in the form of an arm waving erratically at her, she turned her head slightly and smiled in recognition of the man; Teuchi, of Ichiraku ramen.
She and her childhood friends had spent many afternoons seated at the stand enjoying the glorious food that the man produced under the tutelage of his own father. She could see now that he had inherited the store and had taken up the reigns, and even passed on his father's tradition as his young brunette daughter followed his movements, learning the trade secrets of how to make the perfect Ramen.
She complimented her smile with a wave back to the man, silently promising that she would return and bring back a hungry child to fill out for his current lack of customers before continuing on.
She noticed now that the boys apartment was conveniently close to the Ramen stand, she deduced simply that the third must have foreseen the old man's kind nature and knew Naruto would get a normal price for his food there.
Mikito sighed again in thought as she rounded the next set of buildings and laid her eyes upon the apartment block that she knew Naruto resided in. Suddenly she felt her heart seize up in fear and pain; this was the boy she had practically abandoned, she was best friends with Kushina and Minato, and yet she had so easily forgotten their child after their deaths.
She forced aside the ill thoughts of her previous failure as a friend and continued onward, finding herself cringing as she climbed the stairs to a terrace the led along the building to the various apartment doors. Mikoto couldn't help but notice the array of filth dumped along the pathway or the blatant graffiti, many referring to the building as the home of the demon scum.
The Uchiha woman strode past the disrespectful writing hatefully, the only things her eyes paid heed to were the numbers on the doors she passed before the abruptly stopped, reading the number that Itachi had told her to be Naruto's.
She paused for a moment, straightening her black kimono, knowing it was just her attempt at stalling herself due to her nervous heart. With a final resolve she raised her fist and wracked her knuckles against the door in two sharp knocks.
She jumped in fright and bought her hand to her chest quickly as the door opened just as she placed her hand back by her side, she had at least been expecting to hear the scuffling of movement to get the door first, or a call asking her to wait a moment.
Mikoto remembered her situation and looked down, her onyx eyes immediately locking onto the bright blue orbs of the boy, then over his facial structure and yellowy hair, 'so, so much like a little Minato!' She couldn't help but notice him giving her a once over as she had done to him, although his stance was far more defensive than hers, she could only imagine the pain and horrors of his childhood so far, tears began welling up in her eyes and she followed her instincts. In a moment she was down at his level, her slender arms wrapped around his smaller frame in a tight embrace as she sobbed softly into his head of golden hair.
"Naruto-kun, I'm so, so, so sorry! Please forgive me!" she cried softly into his hair, now after finally seeing him she saw why he so badly needed the affection of a mother figure.
Finally Mikoto felt his smaller frame relax into the embrace as his short arms wrapped around her back and began rubbing up and down gently whilst making soothing sounds. "It's okay miss pretty lady, I forgive you for whatever you did."
The regretful Uchiha woman pulled out of the embrace and held the blond Uzumaki at arm's length, seeing him grin at her in a way that made him look like a near perfect copy of a young Minato. "Oh Kami," she said softly as another set of tears rolled from her eyes down over her reddened face. "You look just like your father!"
Naruto froze at her words, "Y-you knew my tousan? What was he like!?"
Mikoto couldn't suppress a smile from forming, now at closer inspection she could see the child's face more closely resembled the shape of Kushina's, and with such a perfect blend of both his parents looks she'd assumed that he'd have an equal blend of their personalities. "May I come in, Naruto-kun? I can tell you all about your tousan and kaasan."
At the temptation of learning about his parents Naruto quickly stepped aside and swung the door open, revealing his relatively sparse living space. Mikoto paid the lack of furniture no heed as she stepped through and proceeded to his kitchen table, taking note of the folded clothes that had no doubt been given by her eldest.
In her practiced elegant fashion she sat herself gently in one of his two seats, she had no doubt that the second was only there for the thirds visits and it would sit dormant until he entered once a month, a quick sound of metal on metal met her ears as Naruto proceeded to lock his door, as his fearful habit required, and scurried to the second chair at his table, perching on it and fixing his eyes on hers attentively. Another trait she immediately linked with his late father.
Seeing it as the question that the stare most likely was, Mikito cleared her throat, "Firstly, my name is Uchiha Mikoto, I'm Itachi-kun's kaasan."
Naruto nodded with a small smile, he'd obviously connected the dots between the similar appearance and her being a trusted individual to him. He simply sat silently waiting for her to go on.
"I was one of the closest people in the village to your parents. They were my two most precious people in the world…" Mikito began, steeling her resolve and keeping her tears back as she continued to gaze into his intense blue glare of curiosity. "I'm sure Itachi-kun must have told you some of this. But your tousan, Namikaze Minato, the absolute genius Shinobi of his time, was the Yondaime Hokage, the man who won the third ninja war single handedly and saved our village from the Kyubi no kitsune."
Mikoto paused, wondering what sort of details she should give to the child of her secret beloved, however her instinct spoke first. "Your tousan was a calm, smart and unwaveringly kind man, I loved him just as much as your mother ever did, he was brave and always prepared for any situation, the day he found out that his wife, and my best friend, Uzumaki Kushina was pregnant, he became happier than I had ever seen him, he wanted to leave his entire legacy to you."
This time as she paused tears had begun to gently roll down her cheeks, she paid them no heed as she wondered where to start on Kushina. "Then your kaasan, Kushina, above all else, she was loud and confident, never giving in whatever the odds. She was one of the last of her clan who were once one of the most powerful in the elemental nations, her dream was to become hokage until she married your tousan, she wanted him to live her dream so that she could pass everything on to you, she cried for hours in joy when she found out she had you growing inside her."
Mikoto's gaze grew steady as she focused back on the boy in front of her instead of her memories, seeing tears run down his face with his mouth set in a small content smile. She quickly stood and picked him up, wrapping her arms around him as he linked his hands behind her neck, in the same fashion that she used to hold Itachi and Sasuke in.
"Your parents loved you so much, and I'm sorry it took me so long to help you," her right hand soothingly began rubbing in circles on the small of his back.
"Do you know why tousan put Kyubi in me?" the boy asked in a small voice from her shoulder.
"I'm sorry Naruto-kun, I don't. But I know he wouldn't do it without a good reason, just don't fear the Kyuubi, that's probably what it wants."
The response was certainly not what she had expected as she felt his small head shake on her shoulder. "No, Kyuubi said he wants to help me, that I remind him of someone,"
Mikoto's brow furrowed in thought, not understanding who the Kyuubi could have known to be able to compare the blonde boy to, deciding to put the thought aside and focus on why she came she quickly unlatched Naruto from her neck and put him back on the floor, facing him with a smile.
"Now then, Naruto-kun, there's not much I can do about where you live, but we can make this place better for you, let's go shopping, on the way I can teach you a little about the art of fuinjutsu so you can store things more easily."
Naruto nodded his head at her request and instantly grabbed her hand with his, Mikoto couldn't help but smile again at the boys gesture, finding no wrong in it she led him back to the door and out his apartment, promising him as they went that no one would hurt him again.
Itachi seemed to materialize outside of Naruto's familiar apartment door as a result of his sudden halt in his extreme speed. He paused his hands movement as it proceeded to the door to knock, now noticing the sound of clattering and yelling.
He cursed his lack of attention prior to moving to knock and quickly drew a kunai from a pouch on his hip, his hand found purchase on the door handle and tested it slightly finding it unlocked. In a burst of speed he sprung through the door poised to strike, and again found himself pausing at the scene.
A couch and two cushioned chairs he wasn't familiar with had been set as a boundary of sorts with a slightly bruised Naruto throwing punch after kick after punch in his kaasan's direction, as the woman in question either dodged each attack or simply slapped it aside and dealt back either a soft jab or slap to the boy.
Itachi let out a sigh of relief at the sight, he had feared that Naruto's previous attackers had returned to finish the job, in a fluid action he had his mask removed and was suddenly standing by the table, which he noted was also a new addition to the apartment that he had noted as being messy merely the night before.
The Uchiha ANBU cleared his throat to announce his presence as he directed his typical calm gaze to his mother, not entirely sure of the protocol of greeting her whilst in front of Naruto, however his mother saved him from his slight dilemma. "Itachi-kun! How was your day?"
Upon hearing the 'kun' honorific tagged at the end of his name Itachi knew it best to act familiar around his mother in front his blonde apprentice. "Kaasan," he began with the slight rise of the corners of his mouth and a small bow of his head. "It was merely a mission to remove some missing nin, however they escaped into Grass country."
Itachi paused again and couldn't deny a smile in return to the grin that Naruto was giving him, no doubt it had been the most affectionate day in his short life. "I hope Naruto-kun hasn't given you too much trouble today, Kaasan?"
Itachi had already predicted her answer, but it was a small affectionate social game that he knew Naruto was deprived of and would take a moment to catch on. "Oh, you have no idea! He practically dragged me out and forced me to shop with him, and then when we got back and unpacked he attacked me, all I could do was defend against his onslaught!"
True to Itachi's prediction Naruto's jaw dropped as he heard the jokingly inaccurate report of his day with Mikoto. "Itachi-sensei! She's lying! I swear I was polite to Mikoto-sama!"
Mikoto chortled musically at his response, continuing the teasing game. "Oh but Naru-chan, that's the first time you've called me sama all day? I thought I politely asked you to call me that this morning?"
Naruto pounced on her leg desperately, somehow fearing that this all may get him left alone again, his arms wrapped around her limb, coming desperately close to her privates unknowingly, his head shot up and his bright blue orbs locked onto her onyx ones fearfully. "Please, Mikoto-hime, please tell Itachi-sensei the truth?"
As soon as Mikoto's eyes met his she couldn't continue the teasing game, his endearingly pleading expression had once again snuck into her heart. Acting on her motherly impulse she bent forward and kissed his forehead softly. "It's okay, Naruto-kun, we were just teasing you."
"Naruto-kun, would you please follow me, we'll begin training right now, you can join us if you'd like, Kaasan? I intend to train him into the night," Itachi clarified as he stepped back toward the door and waited. However much he enjoyed bonding with his mother he had more of an affinity to training and discipline.
"Of course I would, Itachi-kun, however I'll have to head back before you finish, your tousan will likely grow uncomfortable without me being home."
Itachi nodded at his mother's words before leading them out there door and waiting for the familiar click of Naruto locking it. Without waiting for him to begin asking more questions Itachi began a quick pace toward one of his favorite training grounds that was often empty.
He was silently happy that the second Hokage had utilized the training ground constantly, it left the air to it that only elites above elites could use it, so therefore, no one ever used it, much to his pleasure as he often spent many lip sealed hours training.
The walk didn't take long, with Mikoto insisting on holding the blondes hand whilst the blonde in questioned attempted to mimic Itachi's every movement, action and expression in silence, he'd already placed Itachi on a pedestal in his mind, although not at the height of his inspiration, his father, the fourth hokage.
Itachi was now a prominent figure in his life. Mikoto herself was comfortable with the silence, it almost made her feel excited as she thought back on the days when she herself had been an active Konoha shinobi, the waning light did nothing to slow her quickening heart.
She briefly wondered what sort of training Itachi would be intending to begin in the darkening light, but she'd never question her sons prowess or ability to teach the skills that he himself had mastered beyond what she could ever hope to do.
"Since you seem so intent on helping him train as well, I think I will include you in his training plan."
Mikoto glanced at Itachi as he spoke, she'd known that Itachi had only wanted her help in keeping Naruto stable, but after seeing him herself she felt it was a personal obligation to help him grow.
The words spoken above Naruto's head didn't escape his hearing however. "Itachi-sensei, what will you be teaching me today?"
Itachi sunk his right hand into his pocket and retrieved a slip of paper before quickly handing it to his mother to check over. "At first we'll begin by teaching you how to mold chakra, depending on how good you are at that I will either begin your taijutsu or teach you a powerful forbidden technique that the first hokage himself had listed as being forbidden."
Naruto's eyes went wide at the thought of being able to learn a technique that was so awesome that it had to be marked as forbidden. Mikoto's only reaction was to narrow her eyes, whilst she trusted her son implicitly, she did have doubts about teaching such a young boy any form of forbidden technique.
"Also," Itachi began as he drew a scroll seemingly from out of nowhere. "this is a gift for you; these are your fathers notes on two of his most well-known techniques, but you're not ready to attempt them," Itachi spoke calmly as he guardedly handed the scroll in question to Naruto's eager hands.
"Naruto, so you know; I'm putting a lot of faith in you, giving you that, be aware that if you try them before you are ready, they could kill you, but I believe that you can surpass your father, so please be wise, and commit yourself to protecting your precious people to become strong!" Itachi cautioned. His other main reason for his cautioning was that he had gone to considerable lengths to time everything to the degree of perfection required to be able to sneak into the hokage's vault and steal the scroll.
He didn't much understand the point of a hokage placing any type of jutsu scroll into the vault, unless the hokage was the one who had created the jutsu. Somewhere in the village Itachi knew Hatake Kakashi would be training, or reading his porno. But he possessed an original technique whose written details and instructions had been stored in the scroll under the hokage's will, and yet he himself could teach it to anyone he liked.
Naruto's bright blue eyes practically shone at Itachi's words. "Of course sensei! I will make you proud! I will get strong to protect you and Mikoto-san and make the entire village acknowledge me, believe it!"
Mikoto herself hid a smile, 'the perfect blend of both his mothers and fathers personalities and skills,' she thought happily as she heard his very Kushina'esque response.
Itachi's thoughts mirrored his mother's greatly as the three stepped onto the grassy field below the hokage monument with a gentle waterfall spilling from a crack in the rocks to their right, the peach light seemed to suit the tone in his mind, 'Yes, Naruto, there are great things ahead for you.'