Disclaimer: I still don't own Naruto, in case anyone was wondering. Batteries not included.
Warnings: Spoilers for Naruto manga. Bet you weren't expecting that. Things get a little gritty and dark when the subject of Jinchuuriki and the Kyuubi attack come up, but the rating is M so I'm assuming you can handle that.
It looks like the footnotes kind of interrupt the flow of the story, so I'm going to try out not using them. I'll just give commentary of the chapter on the bottom and hopefully it'll be clear what I'm referring to.
My apologies for the lengthy wait since my last update. A combination of real life and this chapter being rather difficult to write is where I'm laying the blame. And for a while I could only seem to write worth a damn on a train listening to the Pacific Rim OST. Which was really weird. So if at any point I jump the shark with a Kaiju to the face, you'll know that Ramin Djawadi is to blame.
I've split the chapter into parts so I could post this sooner, and also so I wouldn't give into the temptation to write the whole thing over again. I'm not entirely satisfied with how forced some things in here feel, but at this point I'm trying to ignore that to move on.
Since this is mostly from Naruto's POV you're going to see some evidence of his crush on Sakura, because that's where he's at now. That doesn't mean they are going to get romantically involved. It's not impossible, but it's looking pretty unlikely at this point. But plans change, so who knows. Also, I'm not pleased with how one-dimensional Sakura and Sasuke came out in this chapter. Please keep in mind that the POV is a subjective lens, and just because Naruto (or whoever else the POV is) thinks something, or observes something, doesn't make it the objective truth.
A good example of what I mean is when Gaara first shows up in the manga and Sasuke thinks something along the lines of 'his stealth is on par with Kakashi's!' From that we can't say that Genin!Gaara really does have the same stealth skills as a former ANBU captain's, just that both Gaara and Kakashi's stealth are beyond Sasuke's ability to detect, which shouldn't be a particularly amazing achievement at that point.
I tried a version of this chapter that went through all the POVs of Team 7 to give more depth, but that really didn't work out for a lot of reasons.
~~~~~~~~~~~ Konoha's Maelstrom ~~~~~~~~~~~
~ Chapter 3: Team 7, Part I ~
"Naruto, what the hell are you doing here? Showing up and pretending you graduated is a stupid plan, ya know?"
Naruto glared balefully at Kiba, tapping his forehead protector meaningfully. "See this? It means I'm a ninja." He put his head back on his arms, clearly dismissing the Inuzuka, who huffed before walking away. Naruto was glad that it had been that easy, as he hadn't quite figured out what to say if anyone asked how he'd graduated. The Mizuki incident had been classified.
Shikamaru, sitting to the blonde's left, narrowed his eyes in contemplation for a moment as he noted the wear and tear on Naruto's 'new' protector before deciding it wasn't worth the effort to figure out what was going on. So what if he'd never seen Naruto looking even remotely tired, or deliberately sit in the back to try and catch some sleep? It wasn't his problem.
For his part, Naruto was just trying to get in a bit of recovery from his morning training before class. He'd been waking up at five in the morning every day for the past week in order to train with Gai and Lee, who'd extended the invitation to do so after running him into the ground the day they'd met. They'd clearly been surprised and delighted when he'd shown up the next morning. It could have been they hadn't expected him to recover enough to train any more for a few days, or it could be that no one they'd invited to train with them before had ever taken them up on it. With good reason. They were crazy.
They were also incredibly fit. The acrobatics inspired by Naruto's careless comment about throwing himself around like a shuriken was merely the tip of the iceberg. They'd had to handicap themselves to give him even a chance of keeping up with them when doing laps around Konoha. It turned out that Lee was still faster than Naruto even when he did his laps on his hands with a boulder twice his size tied to his feet, and Naruto had to take a few breaks over the course of their routine when the burn in his legs became too much to bear. It usually only took a few of Gai and Lee's sped up laps, as they went faster without him, for the burn to subside enough for him to rejoin them.
Lee's physical condition was leagues ahead of Naruto's in almost every way. Naruto sort of had the edge in stamina as his Kyuubi enhanced recovery was by definition inhuman. Given enough time, he could do thousands of pushups, but not on one finger with a boulder on his back like Lee could in a quarter of the time. Lee liked boulders a lot.
Naruto stood no chance in their spars. Lee completely dominated without expending any effort whatsoever. It was a bit depressing at first, but it quickly became apparent that unlike getting beat on by Sasuke or Kiba, Lee wasn't using his superiority to show off by going all out. He was actually helping Naruto, showing him where he was going wrong by pouncing on his worst openings, over extensions, and other flaws instead of just indiscriminately bulldozing through every defense like he was most certainly capable of. Given that Lee could knock him across a clearing with a lazy backhand Naruto had plenty of motivation to refine his Taijutsu really quickly. Between finally having a sparring partner who didn't delight in the chance to beat the crap out of him and Gai's more formal Taijutsu instruction his skills were growing in leaps in bounds, along with his physical fitness.
Naruto's eyes narrowed as he noticed Sakura sidling up to Sasuke several rows in front of him, shoving one of the graduates aside when he failed to automatically clear the way between her and the object of her affection.
"Sasuke-kun, can I sit next to you?" she asked, scooting up to him without giving him the chance to answer. Sasuke ignored her, as usual, and she ignored the fact that he was ignoring her in favor of gazing at him adoringly, as usual.
He's nothing special, Naruto thought grumpily. Lee could kick his ass blindfolded with both hands and a foot tied behind his back.A couple of clones and even I could take him out now.
While ganging up on Sasuke with his clones and beating the crap out of him would be rather satisfying, it probably wouldn't endear him to Sakura-chan very much. He'd managed a lucky kick that had knocked Sasuke out of the ring a couple months back, and she'd been extra scathing to him for weeks.
The problem was that he couldn't think of any other way to get her attention.
Asking her for dates annoyed her. Giving her flowers annoyed her. Trying to be her friend annoyed her. Asking her for help with homework annoyed her.
He'd been excited at the idea of making a jutsu for her. She'd have to find that amazing, wouldn't she? But the best he could come up with was to float sakura blossoms around instead of leaves, so that was a bit of a bust.
A week ago Naruto probably would have tried to force a confrontation with Sasuke at this point, but now his minor irritation wasn't nearly enough to motivate him. A large part of the tension between Naruto and Sasuke, at least on Naruto's part, was that Sasuke had been the best. He'd been Naruto's measuring stick. For as long as he'd been in the Academy, he'd thought that being better than Sasuke meant something important. Like it would prove his worth to himself, and everyone else. After meeting (and more importantly, getting beat up by) Lee it had been clear he had been setting his sights way too low.
Being the best in the class just didn't mean much to him anymore. Sasuke was just a big fish in a small pond. Naruto had always hated how everyone seemed to place the brooding bastard on a pedestal and it galled him to realize that he'd been guilty of the same all along. Sure, Sasuke was more skilled than Naruto in a lot of ways, and for the first time it didn't hurt to admit that even in his head. He'd just keep working on his jutsu, letting Gai and Lee run him ragged with their insane training, and rounding out his skills for his own sake. And if it helped Sakura-chan realize how much more awesome than Sasuke that he'd always been, that was just a bonus.
Unfortunately for Naruto's emotional maturity, while his epiphanies took the edge off his jealousy they didn't grant him complete indifference to Sasuke. He couldn't help giving the bastard the evil eye as Sakura scooted even closer.
Glaring at the back of Sasuke's head was interrupted by Iruka-sensei's arrival. The class quieted down as their conditioning to avoid the dreaded 'Demon Head no Jutsu' kicked in. The teacher's eyes scanned the students quickly, pausing as they landed on Naruto's position. The blond gave a thumbs up, resulting in a smile.
He got a new forehead protector, Naruto noticed as Iruka began taking roll. There were a few startled reactions when he got to Naruto's name.
Roll was followed by a boring lecture on what it meant now that they were all Genin, but fortunately for Naruto five massage clones popping had mellowed him out. His squeamishness at the idea of giving himself massages had quickly been thrown aside after the second day of insane training with Gai and Lee. While it was most effective to also have the real him massaged right before the clones popped, even just the transferred experience physically relaxed his muscles. The memories of fifteen clones having gotten massaged after a day of hard training was a heavenly way to send himself to sleep.
Represent the village with professionalism, teams of three, learn vital skills, blah blah blah... mmmmh, this table is comfortable. Maybe five relaxation clones was a bit too much.
Iruka eventually got past all the boring stuff and to the team assignments.
"Team 7 is Uzumaki Naruto, Haruno Sakura–"
Naruto gave voice to his joy at this development. He was still riding the mellow from his massages, so it didn't quite convey his enthusiasm properly. He lazily raised his arm, sporting a thumbs up (he was spending too much time with Gai and Lee), and his 'yay' came out rather casual and barely audible over the sound of Sakura's dismayed groan.
She doesn't have to sound quite so disappointed, Naruto pouted mentally as he waited for Iruka to announce their third teammate. The third wheel, so to speak. Anybody but Sasuke, he prayed fervently.
After a few seconds it became clear that Iruka wasn't continuing, so Naruto lifted his head off of his seemingly comfortable desk to see what the hold up was. Iruka and the rest of the class were looking at him with unnerving intensity, clearly baffled by something.
"Is there something on my face?" Naruto asked nervously, self-consciously wiping a hand across his mouth. It would be embarrassing if there was a ramen noodle hanging off his mouth or nose.
"No," Iruka-sensei said carefully. "You're just... more quiet than usual."
"Ah," Naruto said in comprehension. They didn't know what to make of his newfound zen, and clearly the class just wasn't the same without his liveliness. He'd reassure them that he could still be counted on to be the life of the party when his zen wore off. "I'm trying out silent exclamation marks to see if they taste any better."
What the hell did I just say? Naruto asked himself, as the looks he was receiving got even more incredulous.
A clone that had shirked its duties to go and experiment with mixing instant ramen with random stuff had popped at the same time as another clone in the library had been killed by that blonde girl with glasses he couldn't stop messing with, resulting in an odd influx of memories that shorted out his brain mouth filter. Maybe sneakily swapping all her cryptography references with Icha Icha when she'd dropped her pen had been going a little too far. Bashing his clone's head in with an encyclopedia was a bit of an excessive response though.
"I have no idea what to say to that," Iruka-sensei admitted after an awkward pause. "Moving on, your third teammate is Uchiha Sasuke."
Naruto groaned, letting his head fall back down with a painful thud as Sakura squealed happily.
"You still can't do the leaf concentration exercise?" Sakura asked incredulously.
Naruto sighed exasperatedly as his concentration shattered and the leaf fell off his forehead. It had taken an hour for her to get bored enough of trying to talk with an unresponsive Sasuke to turn her attention to him, and then only to mock him.
"I can," he protested. "Just not very well. That's why I'm working on it."
"How could they even let you graduate?" Sakura continued bitingly. "In fact, didn't you fail? Did you bribe Iruka-sensei or something?"
Sasuke "hn'd" in a way that sounded suspiciously like a fraction of a laugh.
"I passed," Naruto said sharply, not happy with the way the conversation was going. "There were just some... issues with the clone technique."
Sakura giggled as she remembered Naruto's previous attempts at the least difficult of the academy jutsu. "Issues? Is that what you call it?"
He resisted the urge to growl. Sakura apparently deemed the conversation over and went back to bugging Sasuke.
This team was a nightmare for him, the worst possible combination imaginable. To have Sakura-chan so close, yet so far away was pure torture. She barely even noticed he was there unless Sasuke was doing something less interesting than breathing.
He'd tried in vain to talk to her when everyone else had left the three of them in the room, but an annoyed Sakura had made it clear that interrupting her very one-sided conversation with Sasuke wasn't going to be tolerated.
After it became clear that their sensei was running late, Naruto had given up on conversation (he'd even tried to talk to Sasuke, but no luck there either) in favor of working on the chakra control exercise. Sitting still and doing nothing just wasn't something he was capable of.
Whoever their sensei was had better have a damn good reason for not showing up on time. Naruto was missing out on valuable training time. He'd refreshed the fifty or so clones he had working on Taijutsu over lunch, but his training options were irritatingly limited when his real body wasn't involved.
Without the ability to continually replace clones he had to diversify his training so as not to have a bunch of inefficient overlap. Technically having each clone working on something different seemed the most efficient use of them in theory, but being able to focus on one or two things felt better. The slight differences of each clone's experience combined to give a fuller understanding of each aspect of whatever he was working on, and the sheer speed of progress was exhilarating. It was like he could feel himself getting stronger by the minute.
The training method he was using now was actually something Gai-sensei had helped him come up with when he found out that Naruto's idea of hard work was using hundreds of clones at a time.
A quarter of the clones were practicing exactly one part of a kata, a specific strike or movement with no two clones doing the same thing, and another quarter was observing to point out any mistakes in form. The last half was paired off doing partnered attack and defense exercises. This way Naruto could cram hundreds of hours of muscle memory training into each day. After they had all dispelled and shared their experience, the next step would be to have a group going the whole kata a bunch of times to smooth over the transitions.
That was supposed to be paired with physical training in order to condition his body, but he was stuck here waiting.
Or was he?
Naruto had been resisting the urge to leave a shadow clone in his place since about twenty minutes after Iruka had taken off, leaving the three of them as the only people in the room. The thought that their sensei was only running a little late and would be there any minute had restrained him at first, but his excitement at meeting his new sensei and the desire to do so in person had all but disappeared.
"You three are pretty boring."
Kakashi didn't have to antagonize his new students within seconds of them first laying eyes on him, but the looks of indignation on their faces were even more rewarding than he could've hoped for. In his defense, it was kind of the truth. They could've used the hours preceding his arrival to socialize, getting used to the idea that they'd be on a team together.
The brief glimpse of their body language before they'd noticed him entering the classroom had made it abundantly clear they hadn't made productive use of their time together, although Naruto had at least been trying to train his chakra control, however ineffectively. The boy's massive reserves meant that he'd need to start out with far more chakra intensive exercises to get anywhere.
In an ideal world Naruto would have been receiving training since he was old enough to walk. Kakashi had been eagerly anticipating training his sensei's son, but despite having the support of the Hokage's advisors, some major clan heads, and even Shimura Danzo, the Sandaime had told him that Naruto wasn't to be trained yet and that was the end of it.
It had made no sense to Kakashi. Uzumaki Naruto was the worst kept S-Rank secret in the history of the elemental nations. The citizens of Konoha had found out within hours of the sealing, and the other countries within days. His blond hair and blue eyes had to scream 'Namikaze!' when coupled with the sealing, and the Sandaime was going to let him grow up like just another orphan, dangling him in sight of anybody who might want to kidnap a jinchuuriki or kill Namikaze Minato's child?
But the deluge of kidnappers and assassins that Kakashi knew had to be coming never arrived. The other countries seemed even more confused by the Sandaime leaving Naruto out in the open than Kakashi was. There had been token attempts, but nothing that could be termed serious was attempted by any of the major hidden villages. They'd mostly been content to test the security around Naruto every once and a while, and even that had dropped off by the time Naruto had turned about six or seven.
Although relieved, Kakashi had been utterly baffled by the intelligence reports he'd managed sneak looks into during those early years. Within a week of the sealing Iwa had decided that Naruto was a tongue in cheek red herring.
They'd been certain from day one that there was no way he could be a real Uzumaki, not with blond hair. Initially there had been some uncertainty as to whether or not he could be the son of the Yondaime, his hair and eye color being too conspicuous to ignore, but the Sandaime leaving him in the open had made them think that rather unlikely. When Naruto entered the academy years later his cringe worthy academic performance reduced unlikelihood to impossibility in the Tsuchikage's opinion. Iwa became convinced that the real Jinchuuriki was hidden away somewhere and Naruto was just a red herring or a trap, that Sarutobi was thumbing his nose at Onoki, just daring him to try something.
They still kept an eye on the boy, but it was more that they didn't know what to make of him than any definitive interest, and far more resources were spent trying to find the nonexistent 'real' Jinchuuriki of the Kyuubi.
Kumo had been the next greatest threat to Naruto in Kakashi's mind, but they too had decided that making an attempt on the boy wasn't worth the risk, which had come as a surprise considering how aggressively they pursued assets as a matter of policy. Their conclusions about Naruto had been more dangerous and unsettling than Iwa's.
They'd rejected the Uzumaki heritage for the same reason that Iwa had, but they hadn't written it off as a transparent ploy. They'd managed to sneak a sensor nin in to evaluate Naruto when he was only a few years old, an event that Konoha hadn't found out about until several years after the fact. Even as a toddler Naruto's chakra was far too developed to go unnoticed.
Sealing a demon was never a simple task, and never before had it been done with so little as a few hours preparation. Such a venture was usually planned months if not years in advance, so Kumo was of the opinion that Naruto was quite likely a Jinchuuriki––but a defective one, the demon sealed too tightly to be of any use. Even being a Jinchuuriki didn't come close to explaining Naruto's ridiculous reserves, especially as even the most experienced sensor couldn't detect a hint of non-human chakra coming from the boy, and being a demon container didn't usually give more than a twenty to thirty percent boost in natural reserves with even the most permissive of seals. Any more than that meant the seal was too permeable, and the container wasn't going to survive without debilitating side effects.
So Kumo's conclusion was that Konoha had been experimenting on the child, the result of which giving him massive reserves at the cost of any sort of control. Pretending that he was an Uzumaki was just a way of deflecting suspicion if anybody noticed anything unusual about his chakra. All the major ninja villages and a few of the minor ones had experimented with artificially increasing chakra reserves with various degrees of success, but the result was always a failure in the sense that those increased reserves always came at the cost of warped chakra coils that left the subject incapable of being useful except for utilizing their new reserves to overpower suicide jutsu. Anybody with reserves significant enough to bother with the expensive operations involved had to have had enough training to make them a hundred times more useful as a ninja than a sentient exploding tag.
Kakashi wasn't a sensor nin, but he had enough skill in the art to sense for himself that Naruto had a good deal more chakra than he did. The classified reports he'd seen estimated that the boy had just above twice Kakashi's own reserves. That was nothing short of incredible, given that he had trained his reserves to be abnormally high even for his specialization as a Ninjutsu Master in order to compensate for his implanted sharingan. The number of Konoha shinobi with more chakra than Kakashi could probably be counted on one hand with fingers left over, and of those only Jiraiya likely had more chakra than Naruto. Although that was a bit of a guess, as the illusive spymaster kept the true extent of his reserves hidden at all times.
By the standards of such experiments, Naruto would have been considered a resounding success if only for the fact that he had broken records with the sheer degree to which his chakra would have been enhanced and the fact that he could perform jutsu, even if only in an apparently limited fashion. The idea of trading a Jinchuuriki's ability to use jutsu in order to turn them into a bomb was a ridiculous waste a Jinchuuriki, so the Raikage could be forgiven for making erroneous conclusion that the hasty sealing had already stripped Naruto's potential as a ninja away to the point where turning him into a suicide bomber wasn't a waste of a potentially S-class ninja anymore.
Strangely enough this left Kumo far more likely to be a danger to Naruto than Iwa, as they actually viewed him as a potential threat. They wouldn't try to kidnap him while they thought he was just a bomb, and given how inefficient suicide jutsu were there wouldn't be much point assassinating him either even taking his reserves into account.
Very few people were aware of all the important facts when it came to Naruto's heritage and the sealing. If Kakashi didn't know better he'd have thought it was impossible for things to work out the way they did on accident. Almost everything had come together far too perfectly to be a coincidence.
Naruto had been born with an unbelievable advantage. As an Uzumaki, his chakra coils and life force were already extremely strong, and the fact that his mother had been a pureblood Uzumaki meant that he'd been absorbing her potent chakra for ten months before his birth had boosted that advantage. And then he'd had the Kyuubi sealed in him right after being born, before his system had adjusted to not being able to siphon chakra from Kushina, leaving it in the perfect position to adapt to the Kyuubi. The only thing that could have possibly made Naruto more suited to being a Jinchuuriki was if his father had been an Uzumaki as well.
The integration of a Bijuu's chakra with its host's system one was generally considered the most important factor when to how useful a Jinchuuriki could be as a weapon, and getting the highest possible compatibility between the two was usually the highest priority in any sealing. The chakra system was strong enough to handle the sealing without getting damaged but still malleable enough to adapt between ten to thirteen years of age, the specifics depending on the individual.
The three best 'weaponized' Jinchuuriki had been sealed below that range, but it was considered a rather stupid risk. Any child that had coils developed strongly to even attempt such a sealing would be a powerhouse later in life given proper training, not something a village was likely to throw away on the off chance that they might survive. Not to mention the consequences of a failed sealing would result in the death of countless more ninja.
Kumo's Kirābī was considered the most successful weaponized Jinchuuriki. He'd had the Hachibi sealed within him at the age of five. Why he'd been selected was a secret that they'd managed to keep from the rest of the hidden villages, but it was obvious they'd known what they were doing. Kumo had resealed the Nibi a few years back in an eleven year old girl, which suggested that whatever it was that made them confident that the Hachibi wasn't going to blow up in their faces had something to do with the container and not their sealing method. That was a relief to the rest of the hidden villages and probably saved the girl from excessive assassination attempts. The idea of Kumo having two Jinchuuriki of Kirābī's caliber was a rather scary one.
Kirigakure's current Mizukage had the Sanbi sealed within him at the age of seven. Kiri's Niidaime hadn't hid his methods, but no other village was likely to follow in his footsteps. He'd taken five years to set up a complex sealing array that could handle multiple failures and proceeded to attempt to seal the demon into child after child, his youngest and most promising candidates first. Each failure meant the death of the child, and it had taken eighteen attempts before a successful sealing.
And it didn't end there.
The Mizukage hadn't been satisfied with the level of integration, and rather than waiting to see if it improved as the seal settled he summarily had the demon ripped out and the process restarted. Twelve more attempts had resulted in Yagura. The death toll didn't end with the thirty children either. The sealing array had been designed for the sole purpose of facilitating multiple attempts at the sealing with little regards to anything else, like the safety of the operators. Every single ninja powering the massive sealing array had been contaminated by prolonged exposure to the Bijuu's chakra, over half dying painfully within weeks.
While he was nowhere near Kirābī or Yagura's level, Suna's Jinchuuriki was the one all the hidden villages were keeping a close eye on.
Sabaku no Gaara was one of a kind. Like Naruto, he was genetically predisposed to being a Jinchuuriki, although Suna kept a tight lid on the specifics of why that was. Unlike Naruto, that fact was completely intentional. The Yondaime Kazekage had selected a wife for the sole purpose of creating Gaara. His first two children hadn't met the criteria he'd been aiming for, but his second son had, allowing him to take the concept of integration to a whole new level.
The Ichibi had been sealed into Gaara in utero, before his own chakra system had even formed properly. Suna certainly hadn't let any outsiders examine the boy so all the other nations had was educated guesswork and speculation, but the general consensus was that his system had been developed by the demon's chakra, and that he very likely didn't produce his own chakra at all.
On the one hand, that meant that he could use his demon's chakra 24/7. On the other hand, that meant he was using the demon's chakra 24/7, and it showed. Sabaku no Gaara was a special kind of crazy. Considering that he'd been under the mental influence of the Ichibi's chakra his entire life it was a bit surprising that he wasn't running around foaming at the mouth and trying to kill everything that moved, but his tendency to indiscriminately squish people in his general vicinity showed that he definitely wasn't shrugging off the Ichibi's mental contamination.
All in all this made Gaara a very limited shinobi despite his frightening potential. He was exceptionally good at killing things but his utility didn't really extend beyond that. He wasn't picky about who he killed either, so he didn't do well in delicate situations or team operations either.
Fortunately for Gaara there were plenty of missions that were suited to unsubtle killing machines.
It was with all this in mind that Kakashi couldn't help but feel uncomfortable as he met Naruto's glare with a mask of disinterest. He was ashamed of the vague sense of disappointment in the boy that he felt, something that Naruto certainly hadn't done anything to deserve.
Kakashi hadn't had a concrete image of what Naruto should be like, but the boy in front of him just wasn't connecting to any expectations he'd had for Minato's son. There was some part of him that had always taken for granted that he'd get the opportunity to be for Naruto what Minato had been for him, a cross between a teacher, an older brother, and a father figure. He'd known that Naruto wasn't going to be a mini-Minato, but he was having a hard time seeing much of his teacher at all in the boy.
Sure, he had the same hair and eye color as his father, and his facial structure was even starting to resemble a young Minato's. However, it was hard to relate the two beyond the superficial.
Like Naruto, a young Minato had also expressed a desire to be the Hokage in order to be acknowledged, although his motivation wasn't the quite the same as his son's. Wanting to be a Kage wasn't an uncommon childhood aspiration. Who wouldn't dream of being the strongest and most respected ninja in their village?
It was a bit weird to characterize Minato's childhood desire to become the Hokage as nothing fundamentally special given that he did end up getting the position, but was how he'd started out. His reasons had changed and gained depth as he grew and matured, but they had never been as intrinsic to the core of his character as Naruto's motivations were to his.
The idea that he could one day become the Hokage and rid himself of the scorn of the village was perhaps the only thing keeping Naruto's self-worth and optimism intact over the years. It wasn't like he'd ever been physically mistreated and it was rare that anyone went out of their way to try and make his day any worse, but the social isolation he faced was far from insignificant.
The vast majority of the citizens of Konoha, civilian and shinobi alike, wanted as little contact with the boy as possible, and they especially didn't want him around their children. There'd been something of an outcry when he'd been admitted to the academy. Things had settled a bit when it became apparent that Naruto wasn't snapping and killing anybody who hurt him in a spar, but many parents still chose to hold their children back until the next class intake just in case.
It wasn't that they thought he was the Kyuubi (except in a few rare cases) but they were acutely aware that he was a Jinchuuriki. The villagers who had only a layman's knowledge of sealing and the notion of a Jinchuuriki didn't need to think about things very much before deciding to stay the hell away from Naruto, but learning more about the situation hadn't reassured anyone. Jinchuuriki as a group were more naturally dangerous than just about anyone else.
An unavoidable fact of life is that children don't always get along. In a ninja village that sometimes escalated a bit beyond bruises and tears, but even the children from clans weren't usually capable of doing anything particularly damaging before they'd been taught enough restraint, especially since the fall of the Uchiha clan. Pressuring six year olds' to learn how to breath fire in order to prove their worth hadn't been the most prudent tradition, but they'd managed to avoid anything more serious than some ugly scars.
No one wanted to risk having their kid be the one that hurt Naruto, pissed him off, or upset him in any way. It wasn't a secret that a Jinchuuriki drawing upon their demon's chakra could be triggered by strong negative emotions, and the idea that a little roughhousing gone wrong or name calling gone too far could involve Naruto was terrifying to parents. That was even assuming that he was a normal Jinchuuriki and ignoring the excessively potent nature of the Kyuubi's chakra.
Konoha was no less aware of the amount of time the Yondaime had to prepare for the sealing than Kumo, resulting in much the same kind of conclusion: A defective seal. Rather than thinking that the seal was too tight, the citizens were scared that it might not be tight enough. What if he were constantly radiating small amounts of the Kyuubi's chakra or was more likely to draw on it in a fit of anger? Or both?
The damage the Kyuubi had wrought on the village wasn't limited to what it had directly done. Its toxic chakra had hurt the village in unprecedented ways. A horrifying number of miscarriages could be linked to that night. There was a reason Naruto was one of the youngest in his class.
The adverse effects exposure to a Bijuu's were nothing new or surprising, but the extent to which the relatively brief attack had affected the village was concerning. It didn't seem like it could be explained just by the fact that the Kyuubi was the most powerful Bijuu, but that was the only viable explanation floating around.
Although Naruto had never exhibited any signs that he was giving off any damaging chakra or drawing on the Kyuubi's chakra at all, Konoha as a whole just didn't have confidence in his seal. The children picked up on the attitudes of the adults, and without knowing why playing with or hanging around Naruto was a bad thing had internalized the idea that he was somehow different in a bad way.
Without knowing about the Kyuubi it just wasn't possible to see Naruto as dangerous, so their focus landed on what they did know about him. His poor grades, social awkwardness, proclamations of one day becoming the Hokage, and constant striving for attention seemed to paint a picture of a clown with delusions of grandeur. So Naruto's efforts to make the village acknowledge his existence became just another reason to ignore and ostracize him.
The Sandaime leaving Naruto out in the open had turned out to be a brilliant move on many more levels than Kakashi had believed possible when it came to keeping Naruto safe with minimal effort, but the end result was anything but satisfying to Kakashi.
Naruto deserved better than this. He should have been brought up in secret and not subjected to the isolated life he'd been left adrift in. As it stood he was Minato's son in blood only. Kakashi wished that he could have been in a position to raise Naruto like Minato would have wanted, but he'd been far from fit to take care of an infant thirteen years ago. Looking back he thought even his no doubt fumbling attempts at raising a child would have been better than what Naruto had endured, but he knew for a fact that Sarutobi wouldn't have allowed it.
Kakashi had tried to take custody Naruto around the time the boy had entered the academy but had been firmly denied. It was obvious to him that the boy needed an adult in his life full time. Sarutobi was a kind and caring grandfather figure, and Ichiraku Teuchi and Ayame were also great influences in his life, but for all intents and purposes Naruto had been left to raise himself.
When this team had been officially assigned to him Kakashi had been firmly warned that he wasn't to treat Naruto any differently than if he were just another orphan. No teaching him about Minato's philosophies or passing on his personal techniques. Sarutobi had said they could revisit the issue when Naruto became a Chuunin, but it seemed absurd that he would ever be promoted under these handicaps.
Kakashi realized that he'd been staring at Naruto too long. He'd spent only a few moments visibly looking at Sasuke and Sakura, but he couldn't help but wander in his thoughts when he got to Naruto. He'd been maintaining eye contact with the boy for about eight seconds in silence, none of them having recovered sufficiently from Kakashi's odd opening line to brave saying anything.
Naruto had been visibly uncomfortable under Kakashi's scrutiny. He'd been understandably confused when it became obvious that he'd been singled out, his body betraying his discomfort almost immediately through nearly invisible fidgeting and shifting. Nothing his classmates would be able to detect, but ANBU Captains were trained be a bit more observant than recently graduated academy students. It was Naruto suddenly stilling that was the warning sign that had pulled Kakashi from his thoughts.
The nervousness in his body language had been replaced by signs of an aggressive fight or flight response and defiance. That didn't mean Naruto was about to attack or run away, but it did indicate that he thought himself as under attack or on the defensive from Kakashi in some way. Given his recent experience with Mizuki and revelation of why he was viewed in such a poor light by most of the village, Kakashi could make a guess as to the kind of conclusion Naruto had likely come to.
Not exactly my idea of a great first impression, Kakashi thought to himself, ignoring that even without the judgmental staring he'd still called his students boring to their face within moments of officially laying eyes on them. Pretending he hadn't been staring wouldn't undo the damage, so he'd have to improvise.
"You do realize wearing that much orange is weird, right?" Kakashi remarked, as though that had been the reason behind his extended observation.
"W-Weird?" Naruto spluttered indignantly, totally caught off guard, as Sakura giggled and Sasuke's face tightened to stifle a smile. "Orange isn't weird, it's awesome! You're weird, with your weird, um, hair! You have weird hair, and a weird mouth you weirdo!"
"I have a weird mouth?" Kakashi questioned amusedly, satisfied with his deflection. Naruto's body language had immediately opened up as his fear that he was being judged for the Kyuubi was dealt with. "Is it orange?"
"No, or it would be awesome!" Naruto winced as his brain apparently caught up with his mouth. "Ok, maybe that wouldn't be awesome. But you wouldn't need to wear a mask if you had a normal mouth. It's probably all fat and fuzzy. With warts!"
"Huh? Did you say something?" Kakashi asked, utilizing his favorite tactic for dealing with things he couldn't be bothered with: pretending they never happened or didn't exist.
"Freaking weirdo," Naruto muttered.
"How about we take this to the roof," Kakashi said over Naruto's grumbling. "It's too nice a day to waste cooped up inside."
The truth was that the strong smell of Sakura's perfume was irritating his sensitive sense of smell in the confined space of the classroom. He was sure all the other girls had prettied themselves up similarly for their first official day as ninja, but given how long ago they'd left she was the only one committing assault on his senses with teenage vanity.
"Then why did you make us wait in here for three hours," Naruto growled tersely.
Kakashi strolled out of the room, followed quickly by Sakura and Sasuke. He heard Naruto faintly as he talked to himself, followed by the sound of displaced air and his chakra signature abruptly vanishing.
"This is so not my problem. He's all yours, Boss."
Neither Sakura nor Sasuke's hearing was as acute as Kakashi's, but they'd heard him say something and realized that he'd remained in the classroom. Sakura growled as she went back to the classroom entrance from where they'd gotten to in the hallway. She hadn't expressed any displeasure with Kakashi for making them wait, but she had no such restraint when it came to her blond teammate holding them up.
"This is not the time for your stupid games, Naru…to?" She stopped abruptly in confusion as she looked into the classroom, discovering that he'd disappeared. Well, he'd actually dispelled, but the girl didn't know he'd been a Shadow Clone. "Na-ru-to!" she bit out each syllable like a curse as she stomped into the classroom, intent on finding out where he was hiding. "Get your butt out here!"
After a few minutes of increasingly disturbing threats, the clattering of chairs being thrown around, and then finally a frustrated scream that actually sent a shiver down Kakashi's spine, Sakura reappeared from the classroom.
"Naruto's not in the classroom, sensei," she informed him demurely, speaking to him directly for the first time with a sweet smile on her face, not a hair out of place.
"Let's just head to the roof and take things from there." Acting like nothing out of the ordinary had just happen was definitely the way to deal with that.
Wasn't she supposed to be the normal one? Kakashi wondered, not very hopefully.
Sakura definitely wasn't happy having to wait for Naruto before they could begin when they got to the roof, but thankfully the fact that Sasuke was remaining completely calm and unbothered was keeping her in check.
Personally, Kakashi was more impressed than annoyed. Sure, leaving a clone to meet your sensei for the first time was a bit rude, but he was familiar with just how difficult it was to get a clone to do something you yourself didn't feel like doing. They did have the exact same mindset as their creators, and with the exception of dying or being maimed, had pretty much the same kinds of dislikes. They also had a clear advantage in that they could escape any semblance of responsibility by dispelling. For a personality type like Naruto's, that last part was probably very significant.
Kakashi had once spent an hour and a half trying to convince his clone to deal with a clogged toilet, arguing that it was a necessity because he didn't want any lingering smells attached to him when he went on a date. The clone had wanted to read cover to cover the real copy of the Platinum Plus Edition Icha Icha Beach Wars specially printed (with Jiraiya's permission) that had Kakashi's name replacing the original protagonist's. The one that he never let leave his person.
Of course that was unacceptable. He'd never let another man (not even himself) handle his most beloved possession, so he'd tried to convince clone Kakashi to read the shadow copy it had come equipped with. Yurika had not been impressed the next day when he'd explained to her that he'd been morally obligated to finish a debate about the nature of reality and value of frailty with himself. He didn't think she had the right to complain, given that she'd only waited thirty minutes before deciding that he'd stood her up. Everyone knew his attitude towards punctuality, so she should have taken his showing up only one hour and forty-five minutes late for the compliment that it was. She hadn't appreciated it when he tried to explain that either.
Naruto, Sakura, and Sasuke had all reacted differently to his lack of punctuality. Naruto had been predictably straightforward in expressing his anger at having to wait for him, Sakura had redirected her anger at the blameless classroom, and Sasuke seemed to brush off his annoyance.
On the surface, Sasuke appeared to be the most mature of the three. In fact, many of his teachers had been praising him in their reports since he was seven years old as 'the most mature and self-possessed academy student I've ever known' and similar sentiments. The smarter ones had known better than to assume that he'd gotten marvelous therapy after the destruction of his clan and come out six months later the most well-adjusted kid in the village.
Sasuke had gotten (and continued to get) top-notch therapy and it had been effective, but he was a long way off from mentally healthy. The reason he appeared so mature was that he didn't care for the validation of his peers or pretty much anyone else. That meant he never felt the normal pressures to adapt himself to a group of friends, or put any effort into forming or maintaining relationships.
While immunity to peer pressure might seem like a desirable personality trait it was extremely troubling to see in a child. It removed any incentive to learn how interact socially. Sasuke's complete disregard for the opinions of his classmates would have resulted his being ignored right back if it weren't for his 'coolness factor'. His obvious skills, status as the 'prince' of an elite clan, and tragic backstory had prompted the social hierarchy of his class elevate him to a position of prestige instead of pushing him to the fringe like it would have if he were less noteworthy.
Naruto showed up a few minutes after his clone had dispelled, flipping over the fence surrounding the roof. Judging by the speed by which Kakashi had sensed him come up the building, he had to have been using chakra to run up the side.
That was both a pleasant and unpleasant surprise to the Jounin. It meant that Naruto hadn't been pointlessly wasting his time trying the leaf concentration exercise, but had worked 'up' to it by first completing the tree climbing exercise. It also meant that someone had trained him. There were a lot of good reasons not to teach any advanced chakra exercises to academy students, and while many of them didn't apply to Naruto's unique situation the fact that he'd initially been failed for not being able to perform the basic clone technique meant that the academy teachers hadn't cared about or been aware of his need for such training.
Kakashi hadn't been allowed to train Naruto, but clearly someone had. Maybe it had only been to address the obvious issue of his chakra control, but that should have been his job.
"Did you have fun making us wait?" Sakura began in a normal tone of voice, before beginning to emit a passable imitation of killing intent partway through her sentence.
"Eh he he," Naruto laughed weakly, his customary smile faltering as the girl stared him down. His eyes darted around nervously, refusing to meet hers. "There was… um… what happened was… I… got lost on the road of life?"
"What?" Sakura's eyebrow was twitching. She clearly wasn't impressed. "You know what? I don't care. We've wasted enough time with your nonsense."
Naruto wilted at her harsh dismissal. He moved to sit down beside her, but her accusing stare made him change his mind half to the ground and he moved to the other side of Sasuke.
Kakashi was puzzled and suspicious. Naruto being late wasn't suspicious. He had a fair idea of how that had happened. Naruto being late and then throwing out that particular excuse could hardly be a coincidence, but he gave no indication that he knew anything about Kakashi.
Could it be that he was just casting around for an excuse that didn't admit he'd ditched his teammates, and it really was a coincidence?
"Now that we're all here, let's begin with you three introducing yourselves," Kakashi said, putting his suspicions aside for the moment.
"What do you want to know?" Sakura asked, her demeanor changing the instant she focused on him.
"How about your likes, dislikes, and dreams for the future," Kakashi threw out casually. "Things like that."
"Why don't you show us how it's done?" Naruto challenged.
"Yeah, we don't know anything about you either," Sakura agreed. "Not even your name."
"Fair enough," Kakashi agreed facetiously. He knew plenty about them. "My name is Hatake Kakashi. I have no desire to tell you my likes and dislikes. Dreams for the future? I've got some of those. And some nice hobbies as well."
"What the hell was that?" Naruto complained. "All you told us was your name."
"Would you have preferred it if I didn't tell you my name? It's your turn, starting on the right."
"Uh, our right or your right?" Naruto asked.
"My right, of course. Why would I care about your rights?" Kakashi quipped.
"Ok!" Naruto said, taking his clarification at face value. Sasuke caught the double meaning, and narrowed his eyes as he tried to figure out if Kakashi had meant it.
"Yosh! My name is Uzumaki Naruto. I like ramen! Cup ramen is nice, but Ichiraku's ramen is the best! Especially for breakfast. I like it even more when Iruka-sensei pays for my ramen, or when Ichiraku-ji lets me eat all I can on my birthday. I also like training and awesome jutsu! And friendly people, and Ukki-kun, he's my pet plant by the way, and I like other plants too, but Ukki-kun is—"
"You don't need to tell us everything you like," Kakashi interrupted, as it was clear that Naruto was perfectly happy continuing indefinitely. "And plants don't count as pets."
"Plants do too count as pets," Naruto pouted. "If you can have a pet rock, a pet plant is way more awesome. And I wasn't saying everything, just the important stuff."
"If you say so." A pet rock?
"My dream? Wait, dislikes first. Well, number one would have to be the three minutes that I have to wait for ramen to cook, especially when I steal my ramen before I can eat it. And my dream…"
Does this kid listen to what comes out of his mouth? Kakashi wondered. Sure, he could sort of figure out what that had meant, knowing what he did about Kage Bunshin. But Sasuke and Sakura were probably thinking that Naruto had lost his marbles judging by how they were looking at him. To be fair, it was obvious that Naruto had gotten a bit distracted when he mentioned his dream, so he probably wasn't paying much attention to his backtracking. It wasn't hard to guess why either.
How had Naruto ambition to become Hokage been affected by the knowledge of the Kyuubi? Kakashi hadn't heard any reports or seen any evidence that Naruto had been hit too hard by the knowledge. In a way, Mizuki might have done them a favor with the clumsy reveal. Sure, the idea that the villagers actually thought he was the Kyuubi was patently absurd. Of the rare few that did, most actually belonged to a weird cult that actually worshipped him as the Kyuubi's incarnation of mercy or something wacky like that. They were generally harmless, and some the gifts they tried to give Naruto were deemed ok enough of that the Sandaime actually let them get to him.
If Naruto believed that the problem was that they thought he was the Kyuubi, then he could just show he wasn't and the situation could only improve from there. That hopefully meant he could deal with part of the revelation now, and the harsh reality that even if people thought he was the nicest guy they'd ever met, they might still fear him, want to use him as a weapon, or both.
Naruto had trailed off as he thought about what to say, but his expression cleared as he reached some kind of conclusion.
"My dream is to surpass every Hokage, every ninja that ever lived," Naruto said, his determination showing so firmly that even Sasuke and Sakura were taken aback. And as quickly as the moment had come, it was gone as Naruto's serious face shifted into a pensive frown. "Although once I had a dream that I took over all the villages and ended all the fighting so that everybody could focus on important stuff." Naruto nodded sagely, a smile on his face as he thought about it. "Like making ramen. Yeah, that would be the next step."
Well, that was interesting, Kakashi thought, repressing the urge to facepalm. And weird, and maybe a bit disturbing.
"Oh, and I have hobbies!" Naruto continued excitedly, his serious and mature demeanor having completely evaporated. "Pranks, trying new kinds of ramen, training, gardening, inventing awesome jutsu—"
"That perverted jutsu is not awesome!" Sakura interrupted hotly.
"Not that one. There's… other ones," he protested unconvincingly, unwilling to provide details.
"Even more perverted?" Sakura asked dangerously.
"Of course not! Not that there's anything wrong with Oiroke no Jutsu," he grumbled.
Sakura's eye twitched menacingly.
"I mean, um, it's Sasuke's turn!" Naruto threw out, panicking.
"That sounds right to me," Kakashi cut in. Not that he didn't want to hear more about this 'Oiroke no Jutsu' but as amusing as the two bickering were, there was a point to this meeting.
Sasuke rolled his eyes, but otherwise didn't move from the position he'd maintained since the moment he'd sat down. Elbows on his knees, fingers interlaced in front his face.
"My name is Uchiha Sasuke. There are a lots of things I dislike and I don't really like anything. I wouldn't say that I have a dream, but I have an ambition." His voice, which had been level and uncaring to that point tightened along with his fingers. "The resurrection of my clan, and to kill a certain man."
Something about the way he subtly emphasized the word kill made everything else he said revolve around it chillingly. Much like how everything else in his life revolved around the desire to kill his brother.
The trauma of the Uchiha clan being massacred followed by mental torture, all at the hands of his brother, had shattered him. The recovery that he made had been built upon the strongest parts of his identity that had been left, resulting in an understandably single-minded obsession on his part. For Sasuke, everything came back to his what he considered his duty to the clan, and anything that even hinted at getting in the way of that was treated with disdain at best, explosive fury at worst.
Kakashi could relate, on some level. His own situation with his father's suicide didn't measure up to the tragedy of the Uchiha clan, but few in the village could claim anything on that level. What was similar between them was that the loss of their respective fathers had left them unable to fulfill their expectations. Kakashi had come to terms with his father's suicide, but Sasuke was still in a horrible mental position.
Uchiha Fugaku had been a stoic man, but the pride he felt in his eldest son had always been obvious. Sasuke had always held his brother in the highest regard, but had always hungered for his father's pride. He'd always wanted his father to look at him like he did Itachi, but despite his natural talent it was clear he wasn't the same kind of prodigy as his elder brother.
Itachi had been a proxy father figure, his acknowledgement of Sasuke a very important support for his self-esteem. Fugaku dying at Itachi's hand had destroyed any chance for Sasuke to gain his father's pride and respect, but the psychological reports that Kakashi had read actually suggested that the loss of Itachi had been more traumatic than the rest of the clan put together.
Sasuke wanted Itachi's respect and he hated himself for it. He wanted his father's respect, which was essentially impossible. There were two goals that he had that were keeping him (relatively) sane. The first and most important was to utterly destroy Itachi, as proving himself superior to his brother would be the closest he could get to gaining acknowledgment from his father and the best way to punish Itachi for abandoning him. The second was to rebuild the Uchiha clan as the greatest clan in the Elemental Nations, also to please the memory of his father.
Killing Itachi was a problematic goal, especially given Sasuke's need to prove himself unquestionably superior. It wasn't something he realized consciously, but simply killing Itachi very likely wouldn't satisfy him. That wouldn't be enough to prove his worth to himself. He'd need to beat down Itachi in direct combat.
At thirteen, Sasuke had graduated the academy at the top of his class. At thirteen, Itachi had succeeded Kakashi as an ANBU Captain. Itachi had gained his Sharingan at the age of eight, whereas Sasuke didn't even know if he was one of the few Uchiha actually capable of unlocking his bloodline. What he wanted was more or less suicidal.
Naruto had no trouble breaking the tension caused by Sasuke's introduction.
"It's not me, right? Because that's complete overkill if this is about the pheromones and Inuzuka kennel. That was just supposed involve Akamaru."
"That was you?" Sasuke hissed, his composure broken.
"Um, did you somehow get that impression?" Naruto hedged nervously. "Because that was just speculation. It sounds like something Kiba would do, doesn't it? That guy, he's always messing things up."
"Of course it was you," Sasuke sneered. "And if I wanted you dead, that's not something that would be difficult enough to be an ambition. It would just be a chore."
"Hey!" Naruto said, before reconsidering. "Actually, if that means you don't want to kill me, that's completely fine."
"Oh, I wouldn't go that far," Sasuke said, smirking darkly.
"You can be really scary sometimes."
Sasuke just shrugged, maybe conceding the point.
I have no idea what's going on, Kakashi admitted to himself. Was it banter, or was Naruto's obliviousness volunteering him for a place on Sasuke's hit list? The Uchiha seemed genuinely amused, at least in small intervals, which was incredibly rare for him. But he seemed just as genuinely hostile.
What moron thought putting these two on the same team was a good idea?
"Ok, and lastly the girl."
"My name is Haruno Sakura, and the thing I like is…" she looked at Sasuke, blushing deeply. "Well, the person I like is… and, uhm, my dream for the future is…uhm?" She started giggling, still staring at Sasuke, whose eyes widened in alarm.
"What I dislike is Naruto." Her mood shifted instantly as she glared at the blond, who hung his head dejectedly. And just as suddenly she was blushing and gazing at Sasuke again. "My hobby is…"
Seriously, did someone think up the least cohesive team possible and say 'this'll be hilarious!'?
"That's it for the introductions then," Kakashi said, when it was clear that Sakura was finished. "Tomorrow you'll start your duties as shinobi."
"Duties? Duties!" Naruto perked up instantly. "Yeah! What kinds of duties?"
"First, we're going to do something with just the four of us," Kakashi said, chuckling ominously.
"Where the hell am I?" Naruto wondered out loud.
After having so much of his day wasted by waiting around for his new sensei, he'd gone a little overboard afterwards on the physical conditioning. He hadn't fallen asleep in a training ground again, as that was a mistake he wasn't likely to repeat, but the next thing he knew he was in a dark tunnel.
"Ew," he complained as his foot sloshed in the ankle deep water.
The rusty metal pipes lining the tunnel made the place look somewhat like a larger version of the sewer tunnels that ran underneath Konoha. He'd hidden down there after pranking the Hyuuga's once. Thankfully the smell wasn't the same. The air was a little stale and damp, but there wasn't even a hint of waste and chemicals.
Maybe it was a genjutsu? Sneaking into his room to do put him in an illusion sounded like the kind of thing Kakashi-sensei might do. He was way weird like that.
There was a section in Hiruzen's book about how ninjutsu and genjutsu could be used together. It was one of the many kinds of things that he wasn't even close to being able to do yet, as he hadn't even tried out regular genjutsu yet but he liked to read about them anyway. He'd always dismissed genjutsu as useless and wimpy, but reading about collaborative jutsu and hybrids involving illusions had clued him into just how dangerous and awesome the field could really be.
Since he didn't want to end up attacking a tree with his super awesome ninjutsu while his enemy just bashed his head in from behind, Naruto had been looking into genjutsu. Specifically how to defend himself from it, as very precise chakra control was needed for more than the most basic of illusions. Due to the vast array of unfamiliar words (like prosencephalon), mind-bending (in a mind-hurting kind of way) concepts, and the lack of immediate benefits when compared to training in ninjutsu or taijutsu, he hadn't spent too much time studying genjutsu yet. That was an oversight he was regretting rather keenly at the moment.
According to the most understandable reference he'd found on the subject, most genjutsu use relied on the target not noticing they were being affected. Sometimes subtle genjutsu could be used on even experienced shinobi for days, or an obvious one could achieve its purpose in the few seconds it took for the target to realize it was there and dispel it. The easier the genjutsu was to use, the easier it tended to be to deal with.
Genjutsu was about deception, so making them difficult to detect was generally much more useful than making them hard to break. Techniques that were designed to resist being dispelled rather than being detected was a much more difficult branch of the art, and much more rare to encounter.
If this was a genjutsu, it was far too obvious to be relying on its hiddenness to be effective, which supported Naruto's suspicion that it was some sort of test. Or that weirdo screwing with him. So either the basic techniques he knew had a decent chance of getting him out of this, or Kakashi was a crazy Genjutsu Master who messed with people for fun.
Oh shit,that sounds like Kakashi-sensei, Naruto realized as he thought about what he knew about the man. This experience was far too immersive and detailed to be have a simple solution. Regardless, what little he knew about dealing with genjutsu was all he had to work with.
Naruto relaxed and began focusing as best he could on his chakra flow. As soon as he started paying attention to it he realized that something was wrong. Normally his chakra raged against any attempt to control it, something he'd been making slow but steady improvements to, but now it eagerly responded to his whims. Under normal conditions that would have delighted him, but in the context of a genjutsu messing with his senses, it terrified him. How could he know that what he thought he was doing with his chakra was actually happening? This was on a completely different level than what he knew how to deal with.
There were three methods of affecting genjutsu that Naruto knew about and thought he could use. The three most basic chakra based methods were Pulse, Suppress, and Overwhelm. While Pulse was the stock method for dealing with common genjutsu, this seemed anything but, and the added problem of his perception of his chakra being wonky skewed things even further. Suppress felt like his best bet.
When he'd first tried to slow down the chakra flow in his body after reading about it, nothing really happened. Now though, he could feel it calming, and it was actually very relaxing. And it even seemed to be working. The light had faded away and he couldn't feel the water at his feet anymore. There was a definite limit though, and after holding it for half a minute without any sign of the illusion breaking he gave it up as a lost cause. As soon as he let go the dim light returned and water at his feet rose again.
Well shit. Naruto frowned. That had sort of seemed like it was doing something, but not enough apparently. So maybe going the other direction would work. He'd had more luck with Overwhelm in his training anyways. Generally speaking, anywhere Overwhelm worked Suppress worked better, more efficiently, and far more subtly; but he didn't have any better ideas.
As expected, ramping up his chakra flow was easy for him. Like with Suppress it worked far better than ever before. He pushed it far further than he ever had, until it felt like there was molten euphoria in his veins, making him lightheaded.
The tunnel had gotten almost painfully bright, the ground beneath him was vibrating, and the water at his feet was… flowing? Naruto suddenly became aware of an ominous rushing sound, and the water having risen to his knees did not bode well.
"Oh, not good," Naruto said weakly as he caught sight of the incoming wall of water. "Fu—"
The water smashed into him before he could do anything, first impacting him straight on and then bouncing him off the ground. Not that there was anything he could have done with more time. Dazed, he couldn't do anything but try and hold his breath as the water dragged him along. He couldn't even tell which way was which with the speed he was going.
Just when he thought he wouldn't last any longer, he was suddenly falling through the air. He had the presence of mind to take a deep breath and angle himself into a dive. It wasn't perfect, but he managed to avoid belly-flopping on the surface of the water a hundred feet below.
He swam up to the surface, gasping and coughing as he broke it. Every inch of his body ached, so he just lay on his back, floating and recovering for a few minutes.
"I'm going to get you for this Kakashi," he threatened when his breath came back to him. "I'm going to drown you in orange paint, you WEIRDO ASSWIPE!" Applying chakra to his palms, he hoisted himself onto the surface the water, shaking some of the cold water off when he was fully standing.
There was no obvious light source, but the area around him was dimly lit. There was darkness in every direction, and he couldn't see anything except a row of thick iron poles thirty feet away from him, spaced evenly about fifteen feet apart and stretching up into the dark. And hanging between two of them was a paper with a familiar looking inscription on it.
"A seal?" Naruto wondered. What exactly was going on here?
Naruto felt chills go down his spine at the deep, heavy voice that reverberated through him. The sound seeped into the air like it was a physical phenomenon. Slowly, and fearfully, he looked up.
On the other side of the bars two large, glowing red eyes stared down at him. The slit pupils were probably as tall as he was.
"This," Naruto began weakly, swallowing as he tried to get the words out. "This isn't a genjutsu, is it."
Naruto shivered at the sound. He had no idea how he stood there, waiting. It could have been seconds, or minutes, but the silence and those glowing eyes watching him became intolerable.
"So… hi?" His voice was a little higher pitched than he would have liked, but at least it wasn't the terrified screaming of a six year old girl that he could feel trying to work its way out of him. He couldn't see anything but the eyes and a general silhouette, but there was no doubt that the Kyuubi no Yoko was on the other side of those bars.
Five seconds passed.
"You're smaller than I would have expected."
Naruto may have been scared out of his mind, but he wasn't about to let that get in the way of his pride.
"I'm average for my age! You're just too big, so don't go picking fun at me, you… you furball!" Naruto shouted, his nervousness fading with each word he successfully managed not to choke on. "Um, not that I'm saying you're fat or anything. Just big? I'm sure you're the perfect size for a… giant…nine tailed… fox." There wasn't any reason not to be a bit polite, after all.
"What is your name, child?"
"Uzumaki Naruto." At least it didn't seem offended. "Um, do you have a name? Or something you'd like me to call you?"
"Uzumaki? Not unexpected. You did something."
"Um, what?" Naruto asked, nonplussed by the abrupt accusation.
"I don't know. You did something. I don't feel anything from the outside in this cage. Not even the passing of time," The Kyuubi said, its voice rising in timber and tempo. "But this, I felt. Uzumaki Naruto… What did you do?"
The last four words boomed out with such force that Naruto almost fell over. An almost tangible pressure bore down on him, emanating from those glowing eyes. It was hard to breathe.
"Could you be more specific?" Naruto suggested hopefully. Having the Kyuubi angry at him wasn't something he really wanted, even with the (hopefully) impregnable seal between. "I promise I won't do it again."
"You misunderstand, Uzumaki. Find out what you did. I will bring you back here when you do it again. It will be easier next time."
"You think I'm going to do something just because a demon tells me to?" Naruto retorted.
"Not because I have commanded it. Whatever you have done cannot be undone. Making you aware of this has only sped up the process, Uzumaki. Even if you do not replicate it, whatever you have done will manifest itself. And you will turn to me for help, because only I will be able to."
Naruto frowned. "Well, what did I do to myself that's so important? And why are you making such a big deal out my being an Uzumaki? You said it was 'not unexpected'. What does that even mean?"
"I don't know what you've done," the Kyuubi admitted, "but it was something of a nature I haven't felt for a very long time. And of course you'd be an Uzumaki. Even if that hair of yours is a bit misleading. Your chakra definitely fits."
"My… hair?" Naruto asked, baffled. "My chakra? What?"
"You don't know?"
Naruto shook his head numbly. The Kyuubi knew something about his family. The Kyuubi. What was going on?
"You don't know. How can you not…" The Kyuubi trailed off, before bursting out into booming laughter.
The sound startled Naruto so badly he lost his concentration and fell back into the water. He came up sputtering.
"Hey, shut up!" Naruto yelled as he got back on top of the water. "Tell me what you mean! STOP LAUGHING!" There was no way that he could be heard over the laughter.
"Your clan is," The Kyuubi forced out through its sniggering, which was disturbing, "Hehe, your clan, the Uzumaki are, or were, the—"
Glowing golden chains shot through the air, passing through the bars to snake around the demon, who tried to scramble back.
"No no NO—"
The chains whipped around its jaws, snapping them shut with a sound like a thunderclap. Naruto got his first actual look at the Kyuubi, illuminated by the light of the chains for a brief moment before it was dragged underwater, struggling violently. Naruto would never forget the look on its face, the eyes that had so terrified him wide and bulging in fear.
The Kyuubi was scared shitless.
The water in the cage frothed and whipped around, a tail or limb occasionally surfacing, but it was as if there was an invisible barrier between the bars of the cage stopping any of the waves from coming through. Glowing inscriptions had appeared on the bars, and the ink on the paper seal was writhing.
Naruto turned around as he tracked the many chains to the source on his side of the cage.
Standing there with an expression of intense concentration and strain on her face, gripping two of the chains and with many more coming out of the wide sleeves of her pure white Kimono, was the most beautiful woman Naruto had ever seen.
For a moment, he could do nothing but stare, arrested by her presence. She had long, flowing dark red hair down to her ankles. Her pale skin was flawless, marked only by a small diamond shaped mark on her forehead. Green-blue eyes pierced into his own as they met.
"You must leave!" She bit out tersely. Even her voice was exquisite, lilting and melodic. "It isn't safe for you here. The more contact you have with the beast, the more dangerous it will be."
"But I don't—"
"GO!" Her voice took on an odd dual tone, resonating in his head. He tried speak again, explain that he didn't know how to go anywhere from this place, but everything was fuzzing out like he was falling asleep.
As soon as Naruto faded away, the strain disappeared from the woman's face. She walked leisurely to the cage, passing through the bars without hesitation. Rather the soaking her, the water being flung around bent around her form as though in avoidance.
She stopped in the middle of the chaos, casually pulling on one of the chains. The Kyuubi's head was drawn out of the water not five feet from her, bring them eye to eye. Or eye to woman given the difference in sizes. The Kyuubi stilled with a final muffled growl, acknowledging the futility of its struggle.
"Why did you bring him here?" The woman asked coldly. Her face might as well have been carved from ice for all the emotion it showed. The Kyuubi ignored her question in favor of its own as the chains around its jaws loosened.
"How can you be here? You're not a part of the seal. I would have known. You can't be here. You can't be out there. But you are, aren't you?"
"I have no interest in rectifying your ignorance, beast. You knew better, but you brought him here anyways. Why?"
The Kyuubi stared at her for a few moments, but a slight tightening of the chains prompted an answer.
"Even Bijuu get bored. Meeting my newest prison, however distasteful, momentarily seemed like a suitable distraction. I was under the impression that you were dead, so what would have been the harm?"
"Don't think for a moment I believe that. Keep your secrets if you wish. You haven't said anything that would compromise him, and you won't if you don't want to spend the rest of your time here chained under water."
The chakra chains abruptly dissipated as she turned around and walked away casually, completely unconcerned about the demon in the cage with her. She paused, turning to face him when she was on the other side of the bars.
"Do not bring him here again. I didn't know this seal allowed you two to communicate before, but it won't take me so long to respond now that I'm aware of it. Although I suppose I should thank you for your creativity, as this link could prove useful to me in the future."
She faded away as if she were a mirage, just in time to avoid hearing the Kyuubi howl in anguished fury.
"Your arrogance will be your undoing!" The Kyuubi growled at the empty cell, it's anger tinged with triumph. "You missed it! You were here, you saw him, and you missed it Mito!"
As requested, I covered more than five minutes this time XD.
I hope you liked the little twist with Mito. Now you get to wonder where I'm going with all this. I was planning on hiding this until quite a bit later, but it just fit so well in this scene that I didn't have choice. And yeah, Naruto's more than a little dazzled.
There's a link in my profile to the picture that inspired her description.
So, lots of stuff going on in this chapter, despite the lack of awesome ninjutsu. You'll see some of what Naruto's been working on in the next chapter with the bell test. The plan was for this chapter to get through the test, but Kakashi's take on his students kind of mutated and took over the chapter. I didn't intend for it to get that detailed, but it happened. Again, POV is a subjective lens. Kakashi knows a lot, but no guarantees that he's correct about everything.
I'm not sure about whether or not he knew Kushina was a Jinchuuriki in canon, but in here he doesn't.
The usual depictions of the stupid villagers horribly mistreating what they think is a demon and Sarutobi being a moron about dealing with it, or purposely letting it go on because he's evil is rather off putting in my opinion. But if you want to keep with canon, you have to acknowledge some weirdness about the way he's treated, the lack of training, and the way he was raised. Or not raised. Canon doesn't support the idea of any physical abuse. Not even the clichéd malnourishment. He's six months younger than Sakura at the beginning of the series and three centimeters shorter. And she's pretty tall for their group. Mental abuse? To an extent. He's definitely socially isolated.
This take was something I developed after closing the what seemed like the thousandth 'five year old Naruto with surprisingly good vocabulary gets the crap beat out of him by a mob of villagers/chuunin/ANBU' in disgust. I'm hoping that it gives a more believable rationale for the situation. I've never seen anything quite like it, but nothing new under the sun and all that, so I'm betting someone thought of it before me.
Anyways, let me know what you thought of it? Liked it, hated it, needs more salt?
Все в комнате дружно повернули головы. Диаграмма чем-то напоминала бычий глаз. В центре находился красный кружок с надписью БАЗА, вокруг которого располагались пять концентрических окружностей разной толщины и разного цвета.
Внешняя окружность была затуманена и казалась почти прозрачной.