Birth of Menma Arc.
Chapter 1: The Break.
Nature vs Nurture.
Naruto didn't quite know what that was, but he was sure it kind of pertained to his life. He was only seven, yet he didn't really have many happy memories.
He didn't really know much about emotions, other than what he observed. True, he had emotions, but his confidence in them always wavered.
Jiji had said emotions were what made one human, and that he should always hold on to them. But from the emotions he felt... he wasn't sure they made him very human.
Rage, hate, envy, sorrow, grief, and occasionally happiness or as close to it as he could get – and he was pretty sure some of those emotions were considered the same thing, like sorrow and grief, but to him they seemed different enough.
There was one emotions he'd always wanted to feel. Love and acceptance from everyone.
He never really got it though, the only one who truly accepted him was Jiji, and one person who was running – or trying to run – a shinobi village didn't truly have enough time to spend on him.
For so long he had wanted nothing more than to prove o the villagers he wasn't the demon they claimed he was, and so he acted out. What better way to make a point than to be the opposite of what demons were said to be.
His answer. Flamboyantly happy, loud, and hyper even. He'd turned to pranks. If they were going to glare and hate his existence than they were going to hate him for a something he had done.
One day he would prove himself and gain their acknowledgment by becoming Hokage – even if he was aware his reasons for doing so weren't exactly noble.
Hokage's were supposed to love their village and people and protect it with their life.
He could pull off most of that, even if it wasn't love for the people in the village driving him but love for the place he was born and called home.
Maybe one day, he would tell himself, that would change and he could grow to love the people of Konoha.
That was then.
Now... he just didn't care.
The week around his birthday every years was particularly bad. He had learned early not to aggravate anyone, to stay to himself, to not even attempt to play a prank less he have to try to outrun a villager, sometimes even a shinobi – which was ten times harder.
The night before and of October 10th was always the worse.
Usually it was because of some villager or shinobi who was shit faced – and in this case that meant drunk, in case someone didn't know. He sure as hell didn't before he'd asked Jiji and that had been awkward in itself.
This time things had been worse, so much worse. He'd made a mistake, he'd gone out.
If you asked him why he decided too make a run after getting home from the Academy on his birthday, after dark, he'd have a hard time answering. Mostly because he couldn't remember, too many hits to the head apparently.
He wasn't sure if he'd been going somewhere else or on his way back but somewhere he'd stumbled upon a party of drunks. Drowning their sorrow in booze.
He'd tried to run, but seeing him had sparked a fire, and it was a fire he himself couldn't put out. Why? He hadn't known until that night. The revelation after so much pain... well everyone had a breaking point.
They say one choice can change the course of time. Something like the Butterfly effect, or whatever it had been Iruka-sensei had been talking about during one of their classes.
Why something like a Butterfly effect came up in class, well he had most likely slept through it so he didn't know.
But he digressed.
The point was, they had crossed a line and no one had even noticed or cared to help him until it was far too late. The average man wouldn't know what it felt like to have members of a village that was supposed to be kind to you beat you into a inch of your life.
Nor would they understand what it was like for said people to attempt to finish the Yondaime's work by purging the demon's evil with fire.
His memories of that night were sparse, mostly if he thought about it he knew he'd been hurt... a lot. He knew he'd been inches from death.
Anyone else would have died, as it was he'd lost nearly all his skin and hair from the fire which had been put out by some of the Anbu more fond of him. Along with those who weren't at the Kyuubi festival just outside of town or drinking, or already drunk.
He supposed even Shinobi weren't perfect.
It had surprised him just how many had come to help him, or at least so Jiji had told him once he woke up.
While he was recovering in the Hospital, and after he'd woken up, Jiji had come and asked him what had happened.
He'd already gotten the story from those who had attacked him, and they had been publicly executed for their acts – a warning that attacking a child, drunk or not (or in this case, Jinchuuriki or not) would not be tolerated.
That this was first and foremost a military village, and a dictatorship, not a democracy.
He'd had a hard time wrapping his head around that one, Jiji had always seemed so kind, much to kind for such a decision.
Execution yeah, he could see that. Jiji was a shinobi after all, but a public one... that had shocked him for a few moments.
Unfortunately, Naruto could not tell him exactly what had happened.
All he remembered was that he had been out for some reason and had somewhere in between going and returning run into the drunks who had recognized him as the 'demon brat' and attacked.
He recalled pain, and some sparse moments in the beating and being set on fire but it all blanked after that besides the pain.
He also remembered meeting Kyuubi, the demon who was the reason everyone disliked, even hate him. Surprising;y he could say he hated the Kyuubi, he'd not asked to be sealed inside him, just as Naruto hadn't asked to be used to seal him.
Once Jiji had finished explaining his injuries he'd felt as if everything had been pulled from beneath him. How could he possibly be a shinobi with such scars which covered ninety percent of his body and no hair. He'd bet he even looked like a demon.
But his first thoughts hadn't been how it would inconvenience him in making the village acknowledge him as a human being.
Naruto just no longer cared. They could rot for all he cared.
But it was as he thought this, and stared down at his lap where his hands rest he noticed that while he had some bandages, he was not horridly scared nor skinless.
Raising a slow, hesitant hand to his head he felt hair, not exactly soft or silky seeing as he'd been in the hospital for nearly three weeks. A week of that being in a semi-coma like state.
What had surprised him was that when a spike of his shaggy, spiky hair had fallen into his face it wasn't sunshine blonde that met him, but raven black.
'What happened to me?' he asked.
Sarutobi sighed, removing his pipe from his mouth for once.
'The doctors didn't think you would even wake up, much less that you would heal to this extent. Usually, when a human is burned to this extent they end up horribly scarred and if the hair is lost, it doesn't grow back.'
'Then how do I... and why is it black?' he asked, his eyes dark with a lack of emotion and confusion.
'You're... mothers blood might be part of it, but the rest is the fact you aren't exactly like the other children...' Hokage-jiji began and he realized what he meant.
'You're talking about the Kyuubi.'
Jiji's eyes widened.
'You... you know?'
'He talked to me when I was out, said I was so close to death I was automatically pulled into the seal. We didn't exactly talk much.' he admitted. 'You believe it's because of the Kyuubi my skin regenerated and my hair grew back?'
The Hokage nodded.
'That is exactly what I believe. Jinchuuriki's already have an inhuman healing rate, and your mother's clan had a healing factor higher then most others, along with others.'
'My mother, you know who my parents are don't you?' he asked, for once realizing that all those times he'd asked, Jiji had been lying to him.
He heard a sigh, but refused to look up to meet the Hokage's gaze.
'I'm sorry Naruto... but you're right. I do know. You're mother was the heir of the Uzumaki clan in Uzu no Kuni. She came to Konoha as a child, just before her village, Uzushiogakure no Sato was destroyed in the Third Shinobi war. Your father was Namikaze Minato, the Yondaime Hokage.'
Naruto would have loved to say he had smiled widely after the shock had worn off, and forgiven his father for making him a Jinchuuriki. But the truth was... he couldn't find it in himself to feel much of anything.
He felt more for his mother than he did his father, yet at the same time it was so faint he was confused on his feelings for his parents.
Eventually he decided it didn't mater. They were dead, he'd never get to meet them anyways. But he did know he couldn't exactly forgive his father either.
As for his hair... well Sarutobi Jiji had explained that they believed that when Kyuubi had healed him, his hair had grown back as if he were a baby getting hair for the first time.
He suspected Kyuubi had to mess with the genetics in anyway he could to force the hair to grow back, hence a recessive gene was triggered giving him black hair.
From what Jiji had said, his father's parents were killed when his father was still a toddler, but his grandmother, Namikaze Minako, had the same black hair.
He was sort of relieved it was black and not his mother red – not that he had anything against his mothers hair.
From the picture Jiji had given him she was beautiful in her own right, and her hair made her one of the most unique in Konoha. But it just wouldn't suit him, in his opinion.
He much preferred his new black hair, it was also easier to hide with than his once blonde hair had been.
A month after the incident that had changed everything for him, he hadn't really left his apartment much. If he did he wore a heavy hooded hoodie, which was a size or two bigger than he needed so it hide his face very well.
The only thing ruining the image was the fact it was orange, bright orange. A color which he had chosen to be noticed, though he also was fond of the color.
Now it just made him grimace in pain and any negative emotion you could think of to be honest.
Actually, besides his doctors, those Anbu who guarded him, and Jiji, he didn't think anyone had actually seen him since the week before his birthday. He hadn't even gone back to the academy yet.
"Naruto," a familiar voice said as they entered into his room where he sat actually reading a book.
Looking up his passive blue eyes seemed to pierce right through the tired old Sandaime Hokage. Sarutobi Hiruzen had tried his hardest to given Naruto the life he deserved, the one Minato and Kushina would have wanted.
Yet, his first mistake was trusting the village – as he thought Minato would have done – with the fact the Kyuubi had been sealed into a orphan baby.
Maybe if he'd told them Naruto's heritage as the last Namikaze and Uzumaki heir, he might have been treated better. But somewhere in his mind he wasn't sure it would have made a difference.
People were known to hate that which they could not understand. And grief made a person mad, it was just a fact.
They didn't realize, though it was common sense to him, that by treating the boy as a monster, a demon, they were creating one.
A self fulfilling prophecy, in a way.
Every time he saw Naruto now, so unlike himself, his heart splintered and shattered all over again.
His skin a tad paler, his whisker marks seemed a bit more feral looking, not just three black birthmarks on each cheek, and his hair was so like his father had been mixed with a Uchiha.
Actually, if Naruto was paler, had a few sharper features, had black eyes he'd look like a typical Uchiha. He was even beginning have that common passive look some got, none more known than Uchiha Itachi himself.
But Naruto's was far more emotional at the same time, under the passive, cold exterior was the heard of loneliness, pain, and every other negative emotion known to man.
One just had to be able to see underneath the underneath to spot it.
"Hokage-jiji," Naruto said, nodding. But Hiruzen could tell he wasn't finished. "I...I don't feel like Naruto."
Raising an eyebrow he blinked.
"I'm sorry? What do you mean, Narut - "
Naruto's eyes hardened and snapped up to meet his almost glowing in rage as a snarl gripped the edges of the boys mouth. Pulling back and revealing sharper than normal canines, well unless you were an Inuzuka.
"Don't! Don't call me that!"
"But Na – child, it's your name," he argued, though he did stop himself from calling the boy by his name. Though he was confused on what to call him otherwise.
"I don't feel like him though. Naruto wanted to be seen as a human being, to be loved. I... I just don't. I don't feel anything anymore... not really. I feel everything he did, but I lack the drive I once did, I guess" Naruto glared down at the floor, his hands clinched into fist.
"I'm not him anymore. I can't be him... I don't care."
'They've finally done it haven't they, Naruto?' the Sandaime though to himself, grief in every thought. 'They've crossed a line, they've broken you.'
Sighing Hiruzen nodded.
The boy was in a fragile state of mind, in a way he knew he always had been. One wrong move and the boy would plummet into insanity.
He was already half-way there it seemed. Before... well, Hiruzen was fairly sure that while most the loud, happy, hyper grins had been faked to a great extent, that Naruto was sane.
As sane as any Jinchuuriki could be, the poster boy for a sane bijuu container.
Now, because of the village he and his predecessors, and former successor loved so much, he was only barely better than the others. He could only be thankful the boy wasn't so far gone as to start slaughtering everyone who looked at him wrong.
"Alright," he finally said. "If you want, you can find a new name. Sometimes, we have to find ourselves again. Sometimes we can never be who we were, and if being called Naruto upsets you than by all means change it."
It broke his heart a little more to say that. He knew why Minato and Kushina had decided on that name over the one they'd originally been planning to use. It was one of the reasons Jiraiya was he boys godfather.
Naruto looked at him and he was happy to see they had lightened some, back to their originally bright cerulean, but only just. They were still so passive.
But he was actually smiling, a small barely there smile, but a smile nonetheless.
"I don't know... my parents, why did they name me Naruto?" he asked after a moment.
Hiruzen smiled, placing his pipe back in his mouth.
"Your father's favorite book was where they got it. They had actually been planning to name you something else, a name you mother was really fond of for reasons I found rather amusing. The name, Naruto, came from the main character of this book, a hero."
"So, my father named me," Naruto muttered, and Hiruzen wasn't sure if the emotion in his voice was good or bad.
He was aware the boy had mixed feelings over his father.
"I supposed, but you mother did agree in the end. Said that it worked out, since Naruto was also a topping for Ramen. " Hiruzen laughed. "Your mother loved Ramen just as much as you, come to think of it."
Naruto smiled a little wider.
"The name, the one they were going to use. What was it?"
Hiruzen smiled again. Maybe, in a way it would be as if Naruto hadn't died that day, if he was considering a name chosen by his parents. While Kushina had picked the name first, Minato had been as fond of it as Kushina. And not because it was a condiment for Ramen.
The small smile on the boys face widened even more, his eyes gained more emotion, something akin to joy.
In that moment, Uzumaki Naruto no longer existed, all that remained was Uzumaki Menma.