Betas: Black Angel of the Underworld, Jun Yabriel
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 before he moved towards the ground. Using the shadows and the fog to cover his tracks, he grabbed all the food he could carry. This was the only way he could survive on something other than ramen.
His arms trembled before he decided to go back to his apartment. It was the place where he spent his childhood and teenage years in the last life and now. The paint on the wall along with the wallpaper were peeling off, 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, it was the only place he was allowed to live in. His old orphanage didn't allow him to live there.
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 placed the pile of food on his cracked counter. Even if his mind held twenty years of experience from the other world, 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 came to the forefront of his mind.
Oh. That's right. That snaggletooth bitch 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 light 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 his arms. 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. Eight years later and 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 he was tempted to. He didn't even get to return his "I love you." 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.
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. 'I love you' was written in dried blood. He blinked and it vanished, as if it were never there. His chest started to ache.
Nothing never stayed, did it? he thought hopelessly.
He wondered if the afterlife was that far away. He hoped not. If so, he wouldn't get to see Naruto soon. And the thought of not seeing Naruto was a bitter pill to swallow, and he would know. The pills they gave him at the beginning of his stay were terrible.
"Sasuke Uchiha, stand up or I'll rip off your backside skin so you can't sit down! Don't think I won't do it."
The threat seeped with venom. Could someone poison themselves with words? Such a fancy made the Uchiha chuckle.
"I'm warning you."
He shifted from foot to foot almost nervously while his eyes darted back and forth between his torturer and the ceiling. Sasuke guessed those venomous words couldn't kill him. He laughed hysterically as the man pulled him up by his hair and…
Naruto awoke with a gasp. His body was drenched in cold sweat and his hands trembled almost violently. His eyes were wide, unseeing, and he blinked, trying to focus. An insistent tapping was coming from his front door.
It was probably the orphanage lady.
Naruto took a deep breath before he said, "Coming!"
He rubbed his face as he got up.
"How many times do I have to knock? It's not like I have all day."
Naruto opened the door and just glared. He hated her tone, he hated the way she patronized him, and her putrid face made it all the more infuriating. If only he could punch her in that disgusting face.
Though he never liked to dwell on those dreams, they got to him anyway. He cleared his throat to try and shake it off; but that man's strong fist in his hair and the craziness that engulfed Sasuke's mind was still a ghost that lingered in his head.
The lady gave him a cold look. "I could just not give you this money, you ungrateful brat."
"But you're going to." He waved his hand nonchalantly, then held it out. It clearly pissed her off and he had to restrain the urge to smirk at his accomplishment.
Her face morphed into silent fury and then settled back into its frigid state. "I don't have to give you this money. You can always come back to the orphanage and I'm sure you don't want that."
"Of course not. But I'm sure your partner would disagree with you."
He smiled at her and she stood there silently, trying to reign her emotions in check and, he guessed, her violent urges.
She glared daggers at him with the condescending word, but he rolled his eyes and held 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. Even worse, break the door or the front exterior. He dreaded the thought of fixing either or even both. The blond smoothed his hair down before going 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 losing himself in the crisp, fresh air.
It was around noon. The sky was bright and the wind was cool. His trash cans were haphazardly thrown to the old, cracked cement. Trash was strewn all over the ground. 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. 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.
He wondered what he was going to do today. As good as training sounded, he couldn't let them see how advanced he was just yet. 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 it when his enemies underestimated him. They handed him every chance to prove them wrong.
Naruto treaded carefully to the Uchiha district. The Uchiha Clan didn't like him any more than the rest of the village. They ignored him, made it seem as if he didn't exist. It hurt more than the villagers showing their contempt.
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 in their birthright instead of what they could actually do.
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; and that hurt because Sasuke was in that predicament because of him. He should've left him and died by himself. He was very selfish and what he did was unforgivable, but he would make everything up with this new Sasuke. Even so, he was still selfish. He didn't deserve the old Sasuke and he certainly didn't deserve the new one, but he hoped one day he would.
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.
"Kyuubi…" came, like an underhand kunai from a shadow as several harsh whispers erupted in the air.
The Uchiha carried on like the crescendo of whispers wasn't even there, and the others gaped as if he himself murdered their entire family.
Everyone but the Uchihas stopped what they were doing, just to turn and glower at him. 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 was plastered on the ground.
Naruto strode towards 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 making 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 acted like he 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 but because of the promise he made to his father.
Those possibilities swirled like a storm. He continued to stare at the ground until a hard body bumped into him.
"Watch where ya going!" Well, that was new. An accent of some sort?
Naruto looked up to see a strange-looking man. 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 seals and script, it surprised him that he couldn't recognize it at all. 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 and they 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.
He shook his head before he continued towards 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 an orphan could be to take care of himself anyways.
Naruto missed the uncomplicated things. If it weren'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 warned Sasuke plenty of times that revenge was a stupid reason to live for. Yet it was a reason why he was alive. But Sasuke was his precious person, and he'd sworn to protect him no matter what. 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 fake, golden smile, Naruto turned 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 "bitch", 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 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.
"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 him 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 him though? 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, a scowl chiseled onto 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 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 how difficult this task was really going to be.