In the dawning light of a frigid fall morning, fog decided to cling to buildings and the vendors that prepared for the coming day. Naruto watched from the top of an upscale condominium. Obscured by taller buildings; no one detected him.
He was waiting patiently, for that right moment. If that moment didn't appear, he'd simply have to make one. Not that he needed to, because minutes later an opportunity presented itself.
Naruto's muscles tensed up for a moment, before moving him toward the ground. Using the shadows and the fog to cover his tracks, he grabbed all the food he could carry. It wasn't like he had the money to actually buy any of it though. That was the reason he decided stealing was the best way to go. Probably the only way. His arms trembled before he decided to go back.
His apartment was where he spent his childhood and teenage years in the last life and now. The paint and wallpaper were peeling, and the boards were so shoddy that even walking on them was too much. They broke often, and he just didn't have the means to replace them. He'd burn the place down if he had a chance. Unfortunately, that was the only place he was allowed to live in. His old orphanage didn't even allow him to live there anymore. Naruto couldn't even believe he used to act so cheerful all the time. He wondered if it was all the ramen he used to eat. His horrible nutrition must have affected his brain.
He sighed in relief as he put down the pile of food on his cracked counter. Even if his mind held twenty years of experience, his body was still weak and only seven years old. He put all the food away as he tried to remember what he had to do today. His schedule popped into his head.
Oh. That's right. That snaggletooth witch from the orphanage was coming to give him his money. He supposed he'd have to stay at his house. He swallowed the instinct to punch the already sagging wall. Even a little punch would probably leave a gaping hole in his wake.
Even if those dreams happen again he wasn't going to stare at the puke colored wallpaper all day. He carefully walked over to his bed and stretched out onto it. Even though he'd woken up only three hours before, a nap wouldn't hurt. Maybe he wouldn't have a dream. Before he knew it, sleep claimed him.
If Sasuke could have just one wish, he'd go back in time.
He missed Naruto. The image of his blood-soaked body wouldn't leave his mind. Nine years later—So many years has passed!—his best friend still haunted him. His last dying breath still ghosted over his skin. He knew he couldn't go into the village without remembering Naruto's bright smile; he was glad he couldn't, just in case if he was tempted to. There was not even a return to his "I love you." He'd scream it from the rooftop, if it meant he'd hear it. He wished he could just say it back. Looking back now, he couldn't remember why he didn't.
Sasuke was still in a jail cell. Fortunately, he didn't have to talk to the traitors. He wouldn't have to pretend he didn't want to rip their skins from their bodies and choke them with it.
"Sasuke Uchiha." The scary-looking one was here. He didn't want another day of torture. No more torture, he wanted to scream out, only to remain silent. He merely stared at the wall as if something interesting was carved into it: Dried blood, the words 'I love you' in it. Maybe his wishful thinking, but perhaps Naruto would see it? Sasuke wondered if the afterlife was truly that far away. And he hoped not. Then, he wouldn't get to see Naruto soon.
"Sasuke Uchiha! I know you hear me. Stand up, or I'll make you." The threat seeped with venom. Could someone poison themselves with words? Such a fancy made the Uchiha chuckle. "I'm warning you." The man snarled through clenched teeth, whose name he never committed to memory.
Sasuke guessed those venomous words couldn't kill him. Sasuke laughed hysterically as the man pulled him up by his hair and…
Naruto awoke with a gasp. An insistent tapping was coming from his front door. His body was drenched in a cold sweat. His hands shook, eyes wide and unseeing. He blinked, trying to focus.
It was probably the orphanage lady.
Naruto took a deep breath before he said, "Coming!" He rubbed his face before getting up.
"How many times do I have to knock before you get your lazy ass up?!" Her screech grated his nerves. If only he could give her one good punch to her putrid face. Naruto opened the door and just glared. Though he never liked to dwell on those dreams, they got to him anyway. He cleared his throat to shake it off. But that strong man's fist of his hair, and the craziness that engulfed Sasuke's mind, they were blatant.
She sneered at him. "Ungrateful brat. I walk all the way over here—!"
"Can I have my money now?" He waved his hand nonchalantly, then held it out. He did it just to piss her off. Which he did.
She fumed as he deadpanned. "Fucking brat! You should be grateful I even give you your money! Terrible monster—!"
"Do you like to keep repeating yourself? 'I should be grateful, blah blah blah!' Now, where's my money?"
She stood silent as shock flitted over her features. That was the first time he actually treated her so rudely. It was her own fault, really.
"Whatever, brat." She glared daggers at him with the condescending word. But he kept rolling his eyes and holding out his hand. The snaggletooth crone handed him the roll of cash before teetering away.
"Thank you," he said, feeling anything but.
She turned around at the corner, sneered, then took her leave.
Naruto had his money now, so he had no reason to stay in his apartment. Slamming the door on his way out, he didn't even bother to lock it. No one dared to actually go in. They just threw things at it. Or even worse, break the door or the front exterior. He'd dread the thought of fixing either, or even both. The blond shook his hair around, a pace away from strolling outside. He didn't want to think about it longer than he had to. The Villagers wouldn't change. So what was the point of dwelling? He settled for taking in the outside.
It was around noon. The sky was bright. The air was cool. His trash cans were haphazardly thrown to the old, cracked cement. Trash was strewn all over. The smell was rank, and the sun certainly did not help it any. It wafted through the air, but somehow never managed to get inside, much to his surprise. After a second, Naruto dragged himself over to clean up the mess. What did the Villagers expect to accomplish with their actions? It wasn't like he'd leave just because a few trash cans were tipped over.
After the fact, he wondered what he was going to do today. As good as training sounded, he couldn't let them see how advanced he'd gotten just yet. Naruto had to hide his abilities. He was a great ninja, and when the time came he wouldn't be able to hide it any longer. For now, he was just weak Naruto—nothing more, nothing less.
Besides, he kind of liked when his enemies underestimated him. They handed him every chance to prove them wrong.
Naruto treaded carefully to the Uchiha district. The Uchiha hadn't like him any more than the rest of the Village. They'd even gone out of their way to keep him from "soiling their precious clan." In retrospect, he was sort of glad Itachi Uchiha killed them off. They were arrogant in a holier-than-thou sort of way. And knowing the clan, he bet that Sasuke wouldn't have been half as strong as he was in the past. Most of them relied on their family's name instead of skill. Not to say they weren't skillful. It's just the clansmen put faith into their birthright instead of what they could actually do.
But now, Naruto found himself at the gate. He didn't go in but looked the inside over. Hopefully, he'd get a glimpse of Sasuke. Not the best plan, but what better things did he have to do? He couldn't train—he had to wait until a lackadaisical guard slipped up to study some forbidden scrolls, and sleeping was out of the question. So what if he felt like a stalker? He missed Sasuke. The Sasuke Naruto dreams of each night was, in fact, the previous Sasuke. There was not a doubt in his mind.
Scanning the bustle and hustle of the Uchiha commune, Naruto didn't see any sign of Sasuke. He stood there for a good ten minutes. And yet, there was nothing. Maybe the main family didn't come this way? Maybe they didn't socialize with the other lower members of the Uchiha clan? That, in a way, didn't surprise him.
"Kyūbi…" came, like underhand kunai from a shadow, several harsh whispers. Everyone stopped what they were doing. Just to turn and glower at him. Soon, he knew that was his cue to leave. He shouldn't have stared for so long anyways. But it couldn't be helped, now. The Jinchūriki cleared his throat, casting his eyes downward as if something interesting were plastered across the ground.
Naruto strode toward the Ninja Academy. He supposed that was where he was supposed to be. It wasn't where he was going to attend, but he was going to make it look like he was going. He vaguely wondered why they haven't forced him to go. Probably because they didn't really care, but that still didn't explain the Third Hokage: That old man always stuck up for him and genuinely cared about his wellbeing. Maybe it was just his cynicism, but Naruto wondered if he was only doing if out of moral obligation, not because he actually cared because of the promise he made to his father.
Those possibilities. They swirled like a storm. He continued to stare down until a hard body bumped into him.
"Watch where ya going!" Well, that was new. An accent of some sort? Naruto found a strange looking man's face. He had translucent white hair and tribal tattoos going down the side of his face. His forehead held a script completely unknown to him—and that was rare. Considering his knowledge about it, trying to figure it out was useless. Was he from the west? Rumors told of people from the west having strange accents. Well, it surely wasn't a rumor anymore.
"Sorry, I wasn't looking where I was going…" Naruto's gaze traveled to the other man's eyes. Which clashed. What a strange color they were: Silver, with intricate black swirls...or was that writing?
"Keep yer head up kid. Maybe I wouldn't've done it if ya had." The man patted his shoulder. Sharp? Friendly? He marched on by and soon disappeared into the crowd.
What a strange man.
Blond spikes shook before he continued toward the school again. He doubted he'd ever see that man again. Why ponder over things that didn't concern himself?
So he didn't. Curious sky-blue eyes peeked around the corner of the entry fence. All sorts of little kids were playing on the playground, boisterous and energetic. His lips twitched into a small smile before it disappeared. He remembered when he was innocent like them. As innocent as an orphan who had to take care of himself could be. Naruto missed the uncomplicated things. If it wasn't for his selfish desires, he'd be dead right now. If he were a better man, he would've died when he did. He would've accepted it. What real reason did he have to live other than Sasuke and revenge? He'd be a hypocrite if that was what fueled him now: He had warned Sasuke plenty of times that revenge was a stupid reason to live for. Yet it was a reason why he, himself, was alive? But Sasuke was his precious person, and he'd sworn to protect him no matter what. And if getting revenge was a way to do it, he would.
"Naruto Uzumaki, how nice of you to show."
The blond had been spotted. Putting on a smile as fake as gold lead, Naruto craned his face around. "Hey…" he trailed off. He had nothing else to say. Naruto was, for a lack of a better word, tongue-tied.
The woman's face was familiar, but he couldn't pull it from memory. She was relatively young, perhaps around Kakashi's age? Her brunet tresses were pulled back into a high pony tail, and several strands were sticking out. She would've been attractive if not for the perpetual scowl etched into her features. Her whole aura screamed "bad woman." Though probably just another teacher who works at the Academy.
"Didn't anyone ever tell you going to school is mandatory?" Of course, they did. But usually, most ninja clans don't let their children attend school until they're ten. He knew everything in the curriculum, so why waste time?
"I didn't know you cared…!" Naruto flashed her another "gold lead" smile.
"Quite frankly, I don't, Uzumaki-kun. But it is the law. Not even you can escape it." Where the hell did this inane lecture come from? Did she think the other Village children not attending were breaking the law?
Despite the inanity, Naruto decided to humor her. "Well then…enroll me." Naruto quirked an eyebrow, as if to make a bet. He was totally egging her on. She looked quite surprised.
Maybe he shouldn't have acted so…mature? It did seem strange for an eight-year-old to be acting in such a way that he was acting now. He decided to start acting like a child.
"Show up tomorrow, and it'll be taken care of," she sneered. The lady looked pained as if someone was twisting her arm. Naruto didn't understand. She obviously didn't want him going, could've ignored him, walked away with no regrets. Why was she even making an effort?
"Sure? Miss...?" Naruto drawled in the most sugary voice he could come up with. He needed to act like a little kid, and he was pretty sure they acted like this.
"Masako," She mimicked him.
Awkward silence washed over them until Naruto decided it was time to leave. "Well, I'm gonna go, then. See ya later!" Naruto tagged on with his new childlike enthusiasm. He could start school now. There was always the option to make a shadow clone to go in his place.
"Bye…" the lady said curtly before leaving.
He wandered from the school and into the forest, with the last battle suddenly on his mind. If only he wasn't so weak. After Sasuke killed Orochimaru and returned to Konoha, there was no reason for Naruto to train as hard as before. He only started training hard again when politics in the Village started to sink into corruption by "S." Naruto didn't know who "S" was, but the signature was showing up more and more frequently on documents that Sasuke and he'd dug up. The Sixth Hokage, whom was elected after Lady Tsunade's strange death, was a man most of the village had never heard of before. And if that wasn't strange enough, Danzo, thought most likely to receive the position, suddenly had a heart attack. This "S" character was behind his death, that much was certain. Yet what he didn't know was the motive. Why target such a well-connected man? It wasn't due to the Kyūbi being inside of him. There was too much effort put into his death for it to be because of the Nine Tails.
As much as he racked his brain for an answer, the more frustrated he became. His thoughts circled the only plausible reason being the Nine Tails. Naruto didn't have many well-connected enemies that could pull all of that off. He doubted anyone in the council could do it, either.
Who was S? And how was Naruto going to stop him?
The shinobi teen took a seat on the ground, scowl chiseled into his features. At first, when his memories came back, he thought there were records of names that might lead to who S was. It was around the time files were going missing when whole sections started to become obsolete. Naruto thought that it would be simple: Find the names that might link to S's identity, find them, and take revenge. He never would've believed there'd be no traces, no leads, absolutely nothing.
Maybe it was naïve to believe this would all be a walk in the park. Naruto realized it now, how difficult this task was really going to be.
Author's note: Sorry for the late update! I'll try to be faster next time.
Sakura will not be bashed. I'm still deciding if they should have a more deeper friendship or not. I can leave up to everyone or just decide myself; your choice. Leave a review or PM if you have some sort of opinion on the matter.
Thank you all for all of your support! It always puts me in an amazing mood. :3