Disclaimer: I don't own Naruto, anything related to the story, its characters, etc.
In the dim lighting of evening, a slouched figure sat cross legged on the wooden floor of a small cabin. Solid oaken walls were reinforced with heavy steel, and the door had been expertly bolted with a triple padlock. Not that any shinobi worth his salt and a few high ranking jutsu under their belt would have any trouble getting in, but resulting noise and debris would act as a cover up should anyone try to execute anything big enough to rack up an explosion.
The air was heavy and solemn. A thin blanket of dust particles hovering in the atmosphere did little to help the mood.
Naruto, sixteen years old and in the middle of the fourth shinobi war raging outside the cabin walls sat in a lonely little hut somewhere in the forests on Hi no Kuni after being threatened to take a break off the war by Sakura.
Personally, he wanted to rush out into the middle of the battle field again. Except Sakura had practically threatened him with both castration and broken bones for possibly the rest of his life had he continued on overextending himself. The others could hold down the fort for a while. Obito wouldn't be able to sweep through all the Kages, past and present. And Naruto would be up and running by tomorrow morning.
To make good use of the time, Tsunade had ordered him to scrounge through Jiraiya's projects. He had been the sennin's last apprentice, so it made sense to make Naruto do it; the boy knew enough about Jiraiya's odd habits and sensible paranoia. They needed all the edge they could afford to receive against this tryst against a madman.
The teen sitting in the center of the room shuffled a bit and ran a hand through his hair in frustration. His neck cramped, and his head was bent over the jumble of spread scrolls and masterful calligraphy, all of which made up dozens of intricate seals. And all of which looked like a long string of anti-understandable math.
Naruto was certainly not an idiot (though many would choose to disagree), but he wasn't exactly what one would call the brightest crayon in the box either. It was a half on how his brain worked, the other half concerning the questionable education he received in his early childhood years. Naruto was what we would call a complete and utter "hands on" kind of person. If you wanted him to learn something, you had to throw him into it head first, whether it was learning a new technique by water balloon or activating an unknown source of power by hurling him down a cliff.
Textbook, or theory work, as Sakura liked to call it, sandwiched information into his brain about as well as an ant trying to stand up against the great Kyuubi.
It just didn't work.
So it was unfortunate that sealing was around ninety percent theory work, five percent testing and failures, while the remainders went to explosions of any and all degrees. Out of the ninety percent, half of it went to learning kanji, figuring out how you could manipulate the kanji in a dozen ways and fitting different words in like a jigsaw puzzle. The other half went to physics, and which physics could be tuned to do what. Made even harder by the fact that a score of carefully thought out ninjutsu could make the laws of physics go bye-bye. It was a headache for even experienced seal masters, requiring an infinite amount of patience and more than your average quantity of brain-power.
His head pounded mercilessly from simply glancing at the spiral of words. How did Ero-sennin do this all the time?
The whiskered boy choked out a strangled noise in frustration. It was a sound somewhere between a drowning cat and the Saidaime on the days where he was seriously contemplating on strangling his paperwork—not the paperwork could be strangled, or maybe setting it on fire and burning down the entirety of his office along the way. His chakra fluctuated as his eyes zeroed onto yet another horrendous piece of writing. This was worse than being on that one time ramen ban when he was ten!
He fumbled open a scroll, cursing languidly as the crisp edge sliced against his fingers, and a drop of blood dripped slowly on the seal. Chakra still bursting in unaltered irritation, Naruto paused.
Then he blinked slowly, because there was no way in hell he had just did that.
The blood stain remained on the page. In fact, it stood out quite brilliantly too, contrasting the creamy white background, as if it were taunting him.
The great majority of advanced seals required blood to function, or to be more specific, blood from the person it was designed for. Naruto sorely hoped that Ero-sennin hadn't been randomly creating dangerous seals relating to his DNA. That would be very, very troublesome.
For a second, panic assulted him. Then logic graciously took over and reasoned that the chances of that happening was very slim, and seals needed a concentrated burst of chakra to actually work.
Then again, Naruto was unconventional, and his actions reflected solely of this. Logic should have ventured off to find a career in alcoholic long ago. It had never really done him any good.
His chakra, it was parting, almost as if it were slowly being sucked away. Under normal conditions, this would have passed under his radar, but his reserves were still being restocked after fighting against Obito, and the panic that had melted away a second ago bounced back. The blond dropped the scroll as if Danzo's scowling remains had been sealed inside, and scrambled back, missing the sight of kanji snaking away from the page and onto the floor.
Quickly, Naruto tried to reign in his chakra, grasping with feeble control. The pull retaliated expanding the pace from a small stream into a river of energy. He grasped one end, switching tactics to repress it instead. Undetered, whatever strange force continued on leisurely, sucking in chakra like an Akimichi at an all you can eat buffet.
"Kurama!" he thought pointedly.
"What is it brat?" the bijuu in question had been enjoying his beauty sleep somewhere in the depths of Naruto's mind.
Naruto made a face. Just because Kurama was cooperating didn't mean he was nice. And the fox was particularly grouchy after being woken up. "My chakra's being… leeched or something."
Kurama scanned the surroundings. "… There is blood on a seal you have no knowledge," the fox deadpanned.
"… Eh hehehehhe…yes?"
"… Some seals are blood activated," he implored further, seemingly nonplussed by the current situation.
"… Brat… sometimes I regret ever having you as my jailer. And I wonder how you gained my respect in the very first place. Your intelligence certainly isn't the justification."
"OI!" Naruto squawked, indignant.
Kurama sighed. "Brat. Run."
"What?" Uzumaki Naruto never ran away from anything, living or inanimate. It was one trait practically engraved in his genetics.
"Run like the wind—or better yet, your father."
Naruto scrunched up his brow, unaware of the near completed ring of symbols veiled by the floorboards. "Can't we just destroy the scroll?" he wondered. The pull intensified tenfold...
And the Kyuubi jinchuuriki disappeared in a flash of white light.
His body ached terribly. His head felt as if Sakura had just punched him all the way to Iwa, a combination of beestinnging and a killer headache.
There was a burning sensation tingling down his spine the blond haired teen hadn't felt apart from that one time when he was five. After accidentally scampering into the Saindaime's special paperwork incinerator after mistaking the label on the door for the boy's bathroom.
Naruto twitched a little, half delirious and wondering if he had accidentally wandered into a hot-spring while looking for Ero-sennin. No, no, Ero-sennin was dead. He was in Konoha now, or was he on the hunt for the Akatsuki? They must've got me, he thought, realization dawning as certain thought processes kicked in. Although... weren't the Akatsuki also dead? So what in hell had happened? You know what? Worry 'bout later. Oxygen now.
Attempting to breathe, he sucked in a breath of air.
"BLAH, kehk, ackh, keck." Only to choke unceremoniously on a mouth full of dust and grime.
The blond twitched again, carefully orienting his body so that he was now facing up instead of down. Naruto slowly peeled away crusty eyelids, blinking up at a sky nearly as blue as his eyes. A canopy of concrete buildings rose upwards imposingly. He craned his neck, ignoring the sudden ache in his temple and noted the slight indentations of slopes all around him. He was in a ditch. More accurately, it seemed that somebody tried to bury him alive and wandered off before covering the body.
…Ugh… what in Ramen happened?
Slowly, the gears in his mind began to churn. Eh… The old hag, ramen festival in Suna he recounted… Stealing the hat from Gaara… nope. Granny Tsunade, Obito uh… think it was Kakashi-sensei's dead teammate or something. Teme… dad, the Hokages…Kurama…the cabin, stupid baa-chan, I didn't need a break. And seals. Gah. Too many words. Naruto frowned, wincing at the mere thought of calligraphy.
That's right. He had been going through his late mentor's belongings when a drop of blood had made everything go haywire.
Cautiously, he rose from his position on the ground. Bit by bit, one hand plastered against the floor for support, until finally, the Uzumaki boy was shakily standing in his ditch. It was odd how the walls seemed so high.
And his chakra, Naruto checked his reserves. They were tiny, for him, who had the average reserves of several Kage-level shinobi on bad days. Almost as if the core had shrunk to an Uzumaki child-safe version…
The boy stalled for a moment.
A beat, then…
Frantically, Naruto scrambled up the sides of the ditch. He glanced around the dark alley way for something—anything as a substitute for a mirror. The greasy pool of uncategorized liquid near the back would just have to do the job. The image was shaky and unclear, like the type one would receive when looking into rippling water. But it was enough. It was also diminutive, short, smudged and—
No fucking way.
Naruto stared back blankly at his reflection. Hands already in the correct handseals for a genjutsu release. "Kai!" he yelled desperately. "KAI KAI KAI!" Naruto growled. His hands jammed into the standard handseal. But… even if it were a genjutsu… Kurama would have already taken care of it… He pondered.
He plopped down onto the floor. He was already dirty and smudged, a little more won't hurt. Naruto forced his mind to be calm, settle down in a regular, meditating state of half dazedness. It took more time than preferred but finally he fell into his mind. The cage stood in the middle, a gigantic center piece in the city of sewer waters and pipes. Menacing, bars of steel with enough space in between to fit a horse held strong. A flimsy slice of paper was taped to the side.
It was also disturbingly, heart-stoppingly empty.
Now, Uzumaki Naruto had a love-hate relationship with luck and fate. The former had gotten him out of more impossible situations than he could count with large doses of sheer stupidity and coincidence. The latter had begrudged him to a life of an orphan (though that may have been luck, it's hard to keep track). Both in a well-stirred combination gave him the terrifying ability of therapy no jutsu (he had convinced a bitter man eating fox to work with him, that in itself is a miracle) and otherworldly battle skills. As it was, both fate and luck adored to play with their favourite hero. So Naruto really should've seen this coming.
But he did not, which was why when one Uzumaki Naruto, shrunken down to age six after being swept away from the middle of a warzone, popped back into reality. He was utterly devoid of the demon that had been sealed within him ever since the moment he was born. Instead saddled with terrible chakra control, minimal resources and the shock of having such a string of events happening continuously as compensation.
And when whirled around, it was to see the Hokage monument... adorned with only two heads.
Naruto blinked owlishly.
Kurama woke up with a splitting headache, something he didn't think bijuus could contract. There was the feeling of cold metal constraints on his wrists, and the distinct scent of ocean air on the wind. A wisp of a breeze gently ruffled his fur. The fox cracked open one eye, nine tails swishing behind him.
He was in a shrine. The walls lined with extravagant seals not unlike the ones he had seen moments before his blackout. Even without looking up, he knew that beyond the thick layer of mist surrounding the small temple was the sea. Or a projection of the sea. Jagged slices of pearly rock spiralled up from the endless bottom, and the sky burned a brilliant lilac. The Uzumaki symbol was branded halfway up the horizon in the place of the sun.
The mindscape of his very first jailer was, interestingly enough, Kurama's preferred of all three. He wasn't in an atrocious-smelling sewer, and anything was better than Kushina. The woman had the insane but loosely intact mindset that all of the Uzumaki seemed to hold. Mito and her son inherited it too, if only on a lesser scale. The salty air was actually soothing. And permitted him to sleep when there was nothing to do. Mito had always been one of the more level-headed kunoichi of her generation.
Except… Uzumaki Mito had been dead for almost fifty years.
The fox tugged at his constraints, flaring up his chakra. The chains tightened.
Genjutsu was out. Madara's moronic self was the only one capable hypnotising the world using the moon. Which in turn was the only genjutsu powerful enough to create an illusion of this degree. But one wouldn't think about being in an illusion while inside that genjutsu. The entire purpose would be defeated, and it made the chances of escaping shoot up. There was probably some mechanism in the genjutsu preventing that.
Unless... Apart from their expertise in sealing, the Uzumaki were an oddly paranoid clan. They had backup plans for quite literally every situation on earth. And some even beyond that, Kurama remembered an incident about a flaming chainsaw and gender blender jutsu gone wrong, courtesy of an Iwa nin. Of course, all of them were carefully devised to be activated by one with Uzumaki blood, safety precautions and all. The brat had been flipping through his godfather's seals…and if the white haired man had managed to get his hands on one…
The bijuu's lips curled almost gleefully. The chains rattled once more and the grating sound halted.
Perhaps it was time to pay Mito a little visit.
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