I Will Become the Wind
Chapter 0: Grains of Sand
Reign of the Godaime Hokage, year one
The gas lantern fizzled to life, and Kabuto snuffed the match on the metal tray below it. He turned around to examine the overburdened bookshelves lining the study. Despite his many years working for Orochimaru, he had yet to enter this room.
Technically, he shouldn't be in here. The seal on the door was designed to respond only to Orochimaru. Kabuto had gotten around that with a minor bit of treachery: stealing some of Orochimaru's blood.
Desperate times, as they say.
He had no idea if anything useful would be among these dusty books and scrolls. But the team sent to escort Sasuke was very late. Too late for him to become the vessel for this iteration. They both knew it.
Still. The failure made Kabuto restless. It chafed at his perfectionist nature. So to stop himself from circling how over and over in his mind, he went exploring.
His hand paused over a thin volume that looked hand bound—some kind of research log or journal. He slipped it from the shelf and leafed through it slowly.
It seemed less like a scientific record, and more like a series of musings. Kabuto's interest waned quickly when he realized it was all theoretical.
Then the words 'Edo Tensei' caught his eye, and he quickly backtracked to the beginning of the entry.
For all its mystery, the essence of living things can be understood as energy.
The only difference between a living soul and a dead one is how malleable they are. Dead souls can never change. Even if they are brought back to the living world, they must stay as they were at the moment of death. That is one of the few ways to defeat the Edo Tensei summoning technique.
On the other hand, no matter what happens to a living soul, it will keep going—growing, adapting —until the body dies. That tenacity is more powerful than anything the Edo Tensei can produce.
My existence, unbound by the limits of one physical form, has already proved that.
But there are even more possibilities, still untapped.
"Well, now. Snooping in sealed rooms while I am stuck in bed?"
Orochimaru leaned heavily on the door frame. His naturally pale face was clammy and taut with barely concealed pain. But he was smiling.
"No." Kabuto lowered the notebook and pushed the bridge of his glasses back. "I thought there might be something else to help improve your condition. That being said, you should rest more. Sasuke-kun will arrive soon."
"For all the good it will do now." Orochimaru chuckled darkly. "You won't find anything like that in here. These projects are all failures. Or to look at it optimistically, problems that don't have solutions yet."
"What is this? The Nidaime's resurrection jutsu?" Kabuto said, turning back to the book with interest.
"It's a prototype based on the Nidaime's theories. The natural conclusion of his research into space-time and energy transference. Or—that is what I would say, if it were possible. There is no vessel that can hold living souls from another plane. Not even a perfect genetic replica of the target. It isn't the same as splitting one's energy horizontally within the same plane, as in the Kage Bunshin jutsu."
"…Ah." No longer interested, Kabuto put the book back on the shelf along with the others. "Orochimaru-sama, please lay back down. I'll bring your medicine."
A strange expression settled on Orochimaru's face. Physically, he still looked pale and worn, stretched to the limit of his current vessel. But the fatigue in his eyes was gone, and he looked far more intrigued than the current situation could explain.
"It's in the wrong place."
"That book. It was not here. Did you move it to this room?"
Kabuto pushed up his glasses, looking harassed. "I assure you, I did not."
"…No. It would be the opposite, wouldn't it? Here isn't unusual. What is unusual is finding it somewhere else."
"Should I bring this along?" Kabuto reached back toward the shelf uncertainly. He had no idea what Orochimaru was getting at.
"No. Leave it there." The brief flicker of enthusiasm was gone, and Orochimaru turned to shuffle painfully back to his room.
Kabuto gave a last doubtful glance at the shelf, then extinguished the lamp.
Later, after Orochimaru found a new vessel and regained his strength, Kabuto asked if he wanted the book again. Orochimaru was too preoccupied with other things and ignored him.
Kabuto chalked the odd moment up to physical strain and exhaustion.
The day after Naruto woke in his own body and timeline, he was not allowed to have very many visitors, or even get out of bed. Only Sakura was there after he fell asleep again.
Naruto would be glad when his strength was back to normal. It was quiet and boring, having to stay in bed and see hardly anyone. He was grateful not to be entirely alone, but Sakura mostly just sat and read a book.
Naruto was surprised when Jiraiya came to visit him that evening, after just that morning, when he had acted too busy to hang around.
"How is it going? I see Tsunade hasn't had to put the restraints on you yet!" Jiraiya's jovial voice came from the door, and Naruto and Sakura looked up at him. Sakura stood from her chair.
"Not so loud, Jiraiya-sama," she said with the slightest tinge of disapproval. "We're supposed to maintain a calm environment."
Naruto gave Jiraiya a pleading look.
Jiraiya laughed. "I see. You get the second Tsunade instead. I was going to sing, but I guess I'll spare you. Tada!" He revealed the hand he held behind his back. In it was a small cardboard box, opened up to reveal a cake.
"Tsunade-sama said no solid foods yet," Sakura said; yet, there was an undeniable gleam in her eyes as she took the box and placed it on Naruto's bedside table.
"What's this for, Ero-sennin?" Naruto said, staring at the box.
"I figured you might not know, since you have been out cold all this time. It was your birthday yesterday! Happy lucky thirteen, kid!"
"Ehhhhhh?" Naruto scooted as close to the edge of the bed as he could in to examine his cake. It had completely slipped his mind. Did that mean he'd spent part of his birthday in the future? Or were the days completely different?
"You came close to missing your own birthday. I tried to negotiate for getting you out for a little while, but it was a no go. You'll have to make do with this."
"Man, this is the worst," Naruto complained, but the grin gave away his insincerity. True, being stuck in the hospital was a letdown. But time was moving forward with him in it again.
"Sakura, why don't you go ask Tsunade if we can let Naruto have some of this cake?" Jiraiya said, waving a cake server he produced out of nowhere. "I don't think my puppy-dog look would be as effective as yours. I've overused it."
"Hmmm, I can try." Sakura crossed her arms behind her back and rocked on her heels. "If not, it'll just have to be confiscated."
Sakura gave an impish grin and walked to the door. "I'll be right back!"
Naruto muttered something incoherent, and Jiraiya put the cake server down next to the box. Then he walked around and sat in the vacant chair.
"You should take the time to recover well, because we'll be leaving pretty quickly after that. I have things to do in the meantime, but I'll be keeping in touch."
Naruto looked up. This was the news he most wanted to hear. "We're gonna be training, right? What sort of things are we going to do?"
"I was originally thinking we could work on harnessing the Kyuubi's energy." Jiraiya leaned back in his chair, scratching his chin. "But from what you told me about the seal, it sounds like we need to be especially careful there. It's still an option. The main thing, though, is to start off working with your strengths. You said you can use Sage Mode now?"
"Yeah! I haven't tried it with my real body, though."
"In that case, don't try it until you've regained some of your physical strength. Physical energy is an important part of the balance. While you're stuck here, you can practice meditating. But don't try to push yourself into the Mode."
"Okay," Naruto said, disappointed.
"We'll see how far we can stretch your abilities, then move to finding unique ways you can incorporate it into your style. I have no doubt you'll discover a few."
"My older self could use bunshin to gather energy for him." Naruto leaned forward excitedly. "I want to learn how to do that!"
Jiraiya gave an understanding hum. "That sounds good. But you can't limit yourself to what that other you came up with. Aim to do even better than him, okay? Use your recovery time to think up some good ideas."
Third Shinobi World War
"Detecting enemies is a vital skill for any shinobi," Namikaze Minato began to the Academy students sitting around him.
Their eager faces were rapt with attention on Konoha's great hero. Most of them had started attending Academy after the war started, so they rarely got a chance to see the Yellow Flash in person.
"Fortunately, our brains are good at this, even before we receive shinobi training. Have you ever been out at night and mistook a pole or trash can as a person standing there? The potential for danger makes it noticeable to us. On the other hand, you've probably never seen a person and thought they were a trash can."
The students giggled. Obito turned his head to stare pointedly at Kakashi. The latter gave a rude misuse of his hand-signing talents in response.
"But that is also why shinobi spend so much time developing techniques to twist enemies' perceptions. The mind is quick to accept what it sees as reality. That's why we have to be careful. Always assume your senses might be lying to you."
Minato's clear blue eyes slid toward his team in the back, resting on them for the barest second before returning to the children. Rin leaned forward and raised a brow at Obito, who immediately dropped his scowl and looked down at the ground.
It was just another day in Team Minato. Technically, they were on leave after their latest mission—a mission Obito hadn't been part of, because he was too busy being dead.
But they were at the Academy today filling in for the Sandaime, who was supposed to be giving the kids his twice-yearly inspirational pep talk. Something important had come up suddenly, leaving Minato to fill in.
That sort of thing was happening a lot lately. But it wasn't until the past few days that Obito understood why. Minato himself seemed oblivious to it, always agreeing dutifully without questioning it.
"I worry for the village if those are supposed to be our next round of genin," Kakashi said after they were finally free for the day. He was walking with his arms crossed behind his head.
Obito wanted to kick him. Just in general, really.
"No one starts out knowing everything. That's what the Academy is for," Rin said. She tucked a lock of hair behind her ear and flashed a tolerant smile at Obito. It made his heart skip a beat. "You've gotten better at throwing skills. Try not to train on your own too much while you're still healing."
"I'm—I'm healed! I don't want to slow us down in our next mission."
"You all did a good job today," Minato said. "We'll still be on our break tomorrow, but I'd like us to run some team drills in the morning to make sure we're all in sync. Until then, be sure to rest."
They all went their separate ways. But Minato soon fell into step beside Obito.
"I'm going back this way, too. I was thinking about having lunch at this new ramen place called Ichiraku's. Have you been there yet?" His grin was like a quieter version of Naruto's.
"I was just going to go home. I'm kind of tired," Obito invented.
For now, he was keeping the time travel and his new skills a secret. So he had to use every available moment by himself to practice. Tonight he was going to try using kamuifor the first time since he got back.
"Alright. I understand," Minato said gently.
Obito could have smacked himself in the forehead. Of course Minato was worried about him. He and everyone else thought that Obito had spent the past few weeks as a captive in enemy territory.
It was true, yet very far from the truth.
"Actually, wait," he said. Minato turned back to him. "I'll go with you. I don't have anything good at home, anyway."
Minato visibly relaxed. For a high-level jounin, he could be easy to read sometimes. Obito didn't like having to deceive him, even for a little while. He planned to tell the whole story once he was sure it wouldn't change the timeline too much.
"You've really been working hard, even on days like today," Minato said as they walked. "You paid attention better than any of the students did."
"Yeah. I realized I need to try harder if I want to be Hokage someday."
"I see." Minato smiled.
Obito waited until the village was dark and quiet before he made his move. If he slipped into the kamui dimension and got stuck, like the very first time, at least he'd have enough time to recover before someone came looking for him.
He held his hands out in front of him. Unnecessary, but it helped him visualize what he was going for. Stepping through the barrier between dimensions could be easy or difficult, soft or unyielding. All it required was the right push.
Obito concentrated, moving his hands apart, pushing through as if he was simply stepping through a curtain.
There was no strain. Just a noticeable shift in the light and the feeling of the air. He opened his eyes.
The kamui dimension spread out in every direction, stretching so far it disappeared into a mysterious darkness.
Elation pulsed through his veins. Through his human veins. It still worked. His greatest weapon made it back home with him.
Grinning around at nothing, Obito ran and clambered up the highest block close to him. His mind was already buzzing with the different ways he would be able to use this. Training in secret would be a lot easier. He could keep extra weapons and supplies without even needing to carry storage scrolls. And, most importantly, it was the perfect place to flee in case of danger.
An irregularity in the angular landscape caught Obito's eye. From his vantage point, it looked like a strange black splotch on the uniform gray surface of one of the blocks.
He jumped down and walked over to it carefully, excitement giving way to caution.
It didn't take long to see that the black smudge wasn't the only thing. A thin, freestanding wall stood on the block, half crumbled. On the other side of it was a hole. There were smaller black smudges everywhere.
Obito crouched down in front of the large black mark, feeling his breath go shallow. He put his hand down on the cold stone, one finger drawing a line through the soot.
This was, without a doubt, the same place his older self and the older Kakashi had fought.
A/N: The re-upload is now complete. C:
Thanks very much to everyone who made it this far! I learned a lot working on this edit.
I have no plans to re-write the sequel at this time, so go forth and run free to I Will Become the Wind.
Until next time!