Chapter 2: Childhood

My knee is still shaking, like I was twelve,

Sneaking out of the classroom, by the back door.

A man railed at me twice though, but I didn't care.

Waiting is wasting for people like me.

Don't try to live so wise.

Don't cry 'cause you're so right.

Don't dry with fakes or fears,

'Cause you will hate yourself in the end.

Don't try to live so wise.

Don't cry 'cause you're so right.

Don't dry with fakes or fears,

'Cause you will hate yourself in the end.

In a futile effort to try and sneak in a few more minutes of sleep, I shifted over to my side and squeezed my eyes shut, trying to block out the sunlight that poured through the windows, past the thick curtains that he had just drawn open.

"Good morning Hikaru-sama, it's time to get up." A voice that held far too much cheer than should have been legally allowed this early in the morning called out to me. "And praise the sun, it's such wonderful weather we're having, isn't it? It's going to be another great day, I can tell."

The sheer joy he spoke with as he greeted the new day could not be denied. It brought to mind a baby's laughter, the sound of children playing. It was a voice filled with so much happiness, innocence and nigh endless optimism that it could've coaxed a smile from the even the bitterest of souls.

I had never wanted to stab anyone more in my life.

"You say the same thing every single morning," I grumbled out as I tossed my blanket over my head, trying to block out the light. "Even when it's raining."

"Why would a little bit of water prevent us from enjoying all the wonders that a new day would bring Hikaru-sama?" He questioned as he drew closer, his footsteps on the wooden floor giving him away. "Quite the opposite, the life-giving water that is blessed upon us by the rain would only make the day a better one. Oh, praise the rain."

My blanket was yanked out of my hands and with it my last layer of protection from the sunlight. I resisted the urge to flip myself over onto my stomach and try to get just a few more minutes of sleep, knowing from experience that it would only get worse for me if I tried. So I simply surrendered to the inevitable and forced myself to get up.

"Okay I'm up, I'm up." Grousing, I pushed myself up, rubbing the sleep from my eyes as I threw my legs over the side of my bed. When I could finally see clearly I looked up to find the all too familiar face of the perpetrator smiling happily down at me. I levelled my best glare back up at him in turn. "Why the hell do you have to be so damn cheerful all the damn time Neji?"

Neji's smile just grew wider. "What's there not to be cheerful about? I'm blessed with a great father and mother, a perfectly healthy body and was born into a powerful and noble family. When life is so wonderful, how can I not be cheerful?"

I narrowed my eyes at him, an idea dawning on me. "And what would you do if your life wasn't so wonderful anymore? What if something terrible happened to you, say, oh I don't know-" I pretended to think on it for a moment, "Your father happened to be murdered before your eyes, would you finally stop being so cheerful then?"

At the moment I was seriously contemplating murdering my uncle if only to put an end to the abomination that Neji has become and turn him back to his original self.

Neji frowned mournfully as he thought on the matter. "Death is truly a terrible thing but like most things, it is an unavoidable part of life, something that comes to us all. And while I would miss my father dearly, I know in my heart that he would not want me to suffer because of his passing. And that is why," Neji smiled at me with all the benevolence of a saint, "I would carry on as I am, being happy, because I know that is what he would have wanted."

And with that, all my hopes were dashed.

Jumping out of bed, I reached out and grabbed the clothing that Neji was holding out for me. One of the small but peculiar changes to my life was the change in my morning routine. For one thing, I no longer took showers but baths, and it happened at night instead. It took some getting used to taking a bath before bed rather than after, which was the norm here. Though I had to admit, it was nice not having to go through the hassle of cleaning myself up every morning. Just a quick change of clothing and a brush of my teeth then I was done.

"Hey Neji," I asked, pulling my shirt off and tossing it onto my bed, "was somebody singing just now?"

"Singing?" Neji took on a thoughtful look before shaking his head. "No, no one was singing as far as I could tell. Why?"

I halted halfway through putting a new shirt, and thought back to that half-forgotten melody that filled my dream - 'Cause you will hate yourself in the end – I gave away my head a quick shake and continued dressing. "Nothing. It was nothing Neji, just a dream. Don't worry about it."

"If you say so." Neji sounded a little dubious before shrugging and changing the subject. "So are you looking forward to your first day at the Academy?"

I couldn't stop myself from frowning as I pulled on my pants, "Well, it'll be interesting at the very least."

Truth be told, I didn't even know why I was being sent to the Academy. There wasn't anything for me to learn there, not at my level. Its coursework was designed to transform ordinary children with little or no formal training into competent Genin. And let's face it, I was the farthest thing possible from being either ordinary or untrained.

The few things that I could still be taught there I could have just as easily learned at home, from either the library or one of my private tutors. There was absolutely nothing for me to gain from going to the Academy yet I had no choice in the matter. My father had ordered me to attend and for the life of me, I had no idea why.

Over the years Hiashi has been forced to put up with a lot of shit from me, as I kept sticking my nose in all sorts of places a little child had no place being, and yet he has always given me a lot of leeway. Outside of training, where he was an absolutely brutal son of a bitch, he had always been a little soft when it came to me.

Maybe it was because I was a 'prodigy', but so long as I upheld my duties as the Clan Heir and continued to maintain my progress in training, he would more or less give in to any of my demands. Well, reasonable ones at least.

At one point I tried finding out how far I could push him and started asking for minor but unusual things in order to understand what my limits and bounds were. Turned out quite a bit. So long as what I asked wasn't too expensive or dangerous, I could get away with asking for the most outlandish things. He only put his foot down when I asked him for a signed copy of Itachi's autograph, mostly as a joke. He had even prohibited me from asking him myself for one should we ever meet, seeing as we had the whole clan rivalry thing going on between the Uchiha and Hyuuga.

Honestly, he didn't need to worry. It wasn't as if I had actually wanted Itachi's autograph...alright, it's not as if I wanted it now. Embarrassingly enough had I still been ten years old my preteen self would have been squealing for joy.

My preteen years were not my proudest moment.

Yet on this one matter, Hiashi was being unnaturally stubborn and wouldn't budge an inch. He had even forbidden me from fast-tracking and skipping any years. So no matter how well I did, I was stuck spending an entire six years at the Academy, which I got to tell you was going to suck.

Not that I was in any hurry to become a ninja or anything, not yet at least. I was still six and there was no way I was going to allow myself to be sent to the battlefield this early. Adult mind or not, I'd get killed out there faster than I could blink. I'd always intended to wait until I was at least 10 or so before deciding if I was ready to become a Genin or not, but by the looks of things, the choice was being taken out of my hands.

By the time I was done with my musing, I found that I had finally finished dressing, and turned to face a smiling Neji, who was already dressed up, having prepared long before he came to wake me. Damn him for being a morning person.

"The Academy is a wonderful place Hikaru-sama, I believe you may end up liking it more than you expect."

"It's not a matter of me liking it or not," I replied as I made my way through the side door and into my personal bathroom. "It's the level of training that I'm worried about. I didn't push myself for so long only to see my hard-earned skills deteriorate as I sit down in a classroom all day."

Neji shook his head while smiling indulgently as I began to wash my face, "Ah Hikaru-sama, now that there is where you are wrong. While you are correct that the level of training in the academy is not up to our standard, there is something they can teach us that we cannot learn anywhere else."

"And pray tell, what may that be?" I asked before I started brushing my teeth.

"Bonds," Neji answered. "Comrades, friends, people we can trust our backs and lives to. These are things we can never discover if we seclude ourselves in these walls. That is something you can only experience if you leave this place, and I believe that is precisely what Hiashi-sama intends for you to learn at the Academy."

"I doubt that's what my father intends for me to learn. That man is too practical to waste time on something like that." I muttered around my toothbrush before spitting out the toothpaste and quickly began rinsing my mouth clean. Really, Hiashi sending me to the Academy to learn about the 'power of friendship'? As if he'd do anything so asinine.

When I was done rinsing my mouth I turned an assessing eye on my cousin. "You know at times like this I find it hard to believe you're just seven Neji. The way you talk and act is far too mature for your age."

"I could say the same thing about you Hikaru-sama." He was quick to point out.

That's because I'm a forty-something year old man trapped in a six-year-old's body, what's your excuse?

Prodigy or nor, Neji spoke with a maturity that no seven-year-old should have. From the words he used to the topic he discussed, they should have been far above the level of comprehension for his current age. He actually sounded sophisticated at times. Sophisticated! I didn't even know seven-year-olds could pronounce the word let alone understand it but Neji was living proof to the contrary.

Had he been the only child like this I would have simply chalked it up to him being a genius and left it at that but it wasn't only him. Almost every child in the compound was like this. While not as advanced as Neji was, they all sounded far older than they should have and demonstrated more intelligence than I would have ever expected from children their age.

The only possible explanation that I could think of was Chakra. Having that much Chakra coursing through their bodies, and their brains, since birth must have altered how their minds functioned or matured in some way.

My bedroom door rattled slightly before sliding open, breaking my train of thought. I turned to find Neji bowing slightly towards the door, an indulgent smile sitting on his lips as he faced my morning visitor. "Good morning, Ojou-sama."

"Onii-sama?" A tiny voice called out, ignoring Neji completely, quickly followed by the pitter-patter of tiny feet crossing the wooden floor.

I walked out of the bathroom to greet my tiny guest, just in time to witness her tripping over the hem of her Kimono and falling face-first onto the ground.

We watched, stunned, as the little two year old skidded a full foot on the smooth hardwood floor before slowing to a halt.

For a long moment, no one in the room stirred, as Neji and I dumbly stared at the unmoving form of the little girl as she lay on the floor. Thankfully before anyone of us thought about panicking she began to stir.

Slowly the little girl placed both of her hands underneath her and pushed herself up to her knees, her arms shaking slightly from the effort, before raising her head up towards us, revealing an adorable little face with a red mark on her forehead.

Tear-filled eyes looked up at us, threatening to spill any minute, yet despite that she did not cry, even as her chin wobbled in her effort to hold her tears in check she refused to cry.

Neji was about to rush to the girl's aid but I beat him to it. Swiftly making my way to her, I knelt down and I slid my hands under her shoulders before standing. I observed the little girl as I lifted her up, holding her before me at arm's length.

Shoulder length brown hair, just a shade too bright to be called black, framed an oval face. Her skin was a rich healthy hue, the kind born from playing under the sun, and she was clothed in a silk kimono of a blue and white design while her Hyuuga pale eyes peered at me with bewilderment. She cocked her head to the side at me like a dog, her pain forgotten in her confusion.

"Neji?" My voice was deadly serious as I turned to look at my cousin, still holding the girl at arm's length before me.

"Yes, Hikaru-sama?" The amusement in his voice was painfully clear to hear, but I pretended not to notice.

"With this, there can be no more doubt," I turned back to the tiny girl in my hands, before cuddling to my chest and rubbing my cheeks against hers. I all but squealed out the rest of my words, "My little sister is the most adorable thing ever!"

"If you say so Hikaru-sama." Neji, the disbeliever that he was, sounded as if he were only humouring me. Blasphemy!

Little Hanabi giggled in delight as she threw her arms around my neck. "Onii-sama, stop that! It tickles." She laughed out but didn't even try to push me away as she nuzzled in the crook of my neck.

It's official, girls are so much better than boys. I knew, just knew I should have had daughters instead of sons, they were simply so much better. If I ever had the chance of having children again then I only wanted girls like Hanabi.

"I'm sorry to disturb you two," Neji, not sounding the least bit sorry but rather amused, butted into our brother-sister time, "but it's time to leave. If we delay any longer you're going to be late for your first day at the Academy."

That was actually enough to drag me away from playing around with Hanabi as a thought occurred to me. "No, we wouldn't want to be late, now would we?" I felt my lips curve into an all so wicked smile. "Not when I have some long-overdue business to attend to."

There were promises that needed to be kept. And I never broke any of my promises.

Especially to myself.

Neji, perhaps the closest thing I had to a friend and confidant, well other than my bodyguard Kou, instantly understood what I meant and paled. With a strained smile, he pleaded with me, "Please try not to punch anyone Hikaru-sama. At least not someone too important. I don't want you to start a Clan feud on your very day."

Hanabi, seeing the smile I was sporting decided to mimic me. The smile she made was every bit as wicked as my own, proof that I had raised her well. We both turned as one to Neji. "Neji, Neji," I cooed at the boy while he sighed with resignation and muttered 'at least I tried' under his breath, "You know me all too well."

The boy was sent tumbling backwards, falling to the ground and landing on his back-side. His eyes were wide with shock and confusion, still unable to process what had just happened.

He hesitantly raised a hand to touch his nose, gently prodding it with his fingers only to flinch, quickly pulling it away.

Uchiha Sasuke's eyes widened when he caught sight of the streaks of red staining the tips of his fingers and he stared in disbelief at his own blood, before finally looking back up at me from where I loomed over him.

I unclenched my fist, ignoring the slightly tender but oh so satisfying stinging on my knuckles, and pointed straight at the downed Uchiha.

"You deserved that." I intoned.

"…Huh?" Was Sasuke's eloquent reply.

It was clear that he had no idea what was going on, the kid just blankly stared up at me with his mouth hanging open as if he was watching a mad man, but I didn't care. I had waited years for this moment and was going to relish every second of it.

"You have no idea how much you deserved that," I repeated, and dear god did it feel good to get off my chest.

I had been trapped in a child's body for years, almost an entire decade, and I might have gone a little crazy over time – and let's be honest here, I probably wasn't the most mentally sound person in the first place – I needed this.

It was childish, it was stupid, it was petty but I needed this in a way that I couldn't articulate so the moment I had laid my eyes on a six-year-old Sasuke, I had punched him in the face.

I regretted nothing.

Mentally ticking a box off the mental list I had promised myself to do ever since I had arrived in this world, that stretched from petty things like punching Sasuke and ended in acquiring the Rinnegan, I nodded in satisfaction. The sound of murmuring coming from all around me pierced through my mental haze and I finally became aware of all the people watching us.

We were standing within the Academy grounds, in the large courtyard located in front of the main building. The courtyard was filled with several of my fellow freshmen, numbering over three hundred in all, who were mingling with one another in an attempt to make new friends or were chatting with old ones, though every one of them that stood nearby had stopped to stare.

It had only been a couple of minutes ago when Kou, my bodyguard, had dropped Neji and me off at the Academy. I had barely taken a single step onto the Academy's ground when my eyes locked on to a familiar haircut and, without hesitation, I charged straight ahead and ploughed a fist into Sasuke's face.

Yeah, I was probably going to get into a lot of trouble for this but the sheer satisfaction I felt made whatever punishment I'd receive worth it. It was a good thing that I was still technically a six-year-old kid so the consequences wouldn't actually be too serious compared to what it would have been had I been older, but it certainly didn't help make things any better between our clans.

Not that it mattered. If things followed the original timeline then the Uchiha Clan was about to get wiped up soon so there wasn't any point in playing nice with them.

Ignoring Sasuke for a moment, who still kept staring at me as if I were a raging lunatic, I turned to the gates and spotted Kou from where he stood along with the other parents, with Neji still by his side.

Kou lifted his hand away from his face, a red palm print marking his cheek from how hard he had facepalmed, before he spared a quick and wistful glance at the flask on his belt. I was told that he had only begun drinking after he was assigned to me, and now refused to go anywhere without taking a flask of the stuff along.

Neji just let out a sigh and shook his head. Yeah, out of everyone I knew Neji has always been the least fazed by my antics. I guess getting a lot of first-hand experience over the years would do that to you.

I then looked past them towards the rest of the parents, or should I say one particular pair of parents. Fugaku, the patriarch of the Uchiha, and with his normally soft natured wife were both levelling their best glares at me. But for all of their efforts to turn me to ash with their eyes alone, neither one of them held a candle to look of smouldering rage that the teenage boy who stood beside them was giving me.

And oh my god it was Itachi!

The young and newly minted ANBU Captain was standing there along with his parents, no doubt taking time away from work to see his brother off at his first day at the Academy. He was dressed up in his usual grey pants and black shirt, his clan symbol no doubt sewed on its back, and, if the look that he was sending my way was anything to go by, he was furious.

Over the years I had gotten into my share of fights. Most of them were not even my fault. Children tended to react badly when someone much younger surpasses them, and many tried to take their frustration out on me by attempting to 'teach me my place'. Though I admit that the responsibility for some fights rested solely on my own feet, usually when I got bored and did something exceedingly stupid. Case in point.

After a time I had begun to notice a kind of unwritten rule that the adults all seemed to follow when it came to dealing with children fighting, at least those training to be ninjas. Stay out of it until it was over or someone was about to get hurt.

Children tended to fight. Children gathered in large groups tended to fight a lot. Children training to be fighters and killers gathered in a large group tended to fight a lot more. Stopping it was impossible. Splitting the kids up only meant they'd end up fighting even harder the next time they saw each other, having had time for their anger to stew and grow, and next time there may not be a conveniently placed adult nearby to stop them. And when said kids had training on how to kill each other, that was a receipt for disaster.

So a kind of unwritten rule had formed – let them sort it out among themselves.

A child's quarrel was just that, children quarrelling, it happens all the time and there was no need to make a bigger deal out of it than what it was. So long as it doesn't get out of hand and no one gets seriously hurt, we were expected to deal with it ourselves, with no direct interference or help from adults until after the fight was over.

I suppose when training children to become killers, fights breaking out were unavoidable. At times I had even wondered if they actually encouraged fights to break out, perhaps even seeing it as a type of training.

That didn't mean the kids would get away unpunished for fighting. They did, but it was only after they had sorted it all out.

So the elder two Uchiha hesitated, unsure if they should intervene in what should have rightfully been their youngest son's fight or keep out of it. What was most likely stopping them from acting was their concern over both their Clan and their son's reputation.

To protect Sasuke from me was tantamount to publicly admitting that he needed protection from me, that he was inferior to the Hyuuga child. And I'm pretty sure both of our clans' would rather lick the dirt off a beggar's feet than admit that they were ever inferior in any way to the other.

However, the youngest of the three did not share their hesitation.

Whether it was his age that gave him some leeway or, more likely, that he simply didn't give a damn about reputation when it came to protecting his brother, he swiftly made his way to me, and before I knew it Uchiha Itachi was standing before me, placing himself between his brother and me. All the while he stared down at me with those crimson orbs of his as they lazily spun in their sockets.

Say what you would about the Uchiha Scion, but Itachi was one scary son of a bitch when he wanted to be as I was beginning to learn first hand. I wasn't ashamed to admit I was about to shit my pants when I found myself on the other end of those cold eyes.

I...did not think this through, did I?

So in a fit of fear and self-preservation, I threw away whatever pride I had left in me and reached for the only weapon I had-


Itachi opened his mouth, probably to reprimand me or even to warn me off about ever hitting his brother again, but before he could get so much as a word in, I acted.

I dropped down onto both of my knees before him and held my arms wide open "My lord!" I yelled out with honest joy as I tapped into the memories of embarrassing preteen years and channelled my old self. "I cannot begin to tell you how happy and honoured I am to finally meet you. I am your biggest fan!"

The Sharingan, one of the most powerful ocular bloodlines in existence, grants it's user a clarity of perception that allows you to notice even the most minute of details, among many other of its unique abilities.

But there was no such thing as a perfect technique. Every move, every jutsu, no matter how sublime, had a flaw that could be exploited. And one of the Sharingan's flaws was that it always showed the truth. Those eyes did not lie, with their ability to see through any deception, genjutsu or otherwise, they could not be lied to, so everything it showed you was the truth, no matter how much you wished it wasn't.

Itachi's skill with the Sharingan was legendary, his mastery over the eyes granted him the ability to spot any lie, even one told by the most talented and well-trained of liars. So simply by looking at me, he knew, beyond any doubt that in spite of how far-fetched I was behaving, I was being completely serious with him. The look of worship I was giving him was not an act, but rather the genuine article.

I have to tell you, the look of pure shock on his usually stoic face was priceless.

His loss of composure only lasted for a brief second before he quickly regained control of himself and his expression returned back to normal. "What are you doing?"

"What am I doing?" I parroted, cocking my head to the side before glancing down at myself. I smacked myself on my forehead when I understood. "Oh, you're right! What am I thinking?"

I quickly rose up to my feet and, while he tried to hide it, I could clearly see the relief on his face. For Itachi, the Uchiha Heir, having me, the Hyuuga Heir, kneel down before him, in public no less, must have been surreal. This was probably as far out from his comfort zone he could get and his relief that the situation was finally approaching something normal again was almost palatable.

That was at least until I spun in place to face the opposite direction before dropping to my knees again.

"…What are you doing?" he repeated again, no longer even trying to hide his bewilderment. Though I could no longer see him I had no doubt that his mask slipped off again.

"I'm unworthy to even look in your general direction my lord," I explained and lowered my head in respect.

I was going to wear a paper bag over my head when this was all over.

Now you had to understand while part of the reason I'm behaving this way was because I genuinely enjoyed messing with people, a hobby I began to develop in an effort to fight off the boredom that came in a world without an internet connection or television and only handful of decent fictional novels being published a year, but part of the reason was that this was the Itachi damn it! I think the only ninja that surpassed him was the first Hokage 'sit your ass back down I'll deal with you later Madara' Hashirama himself.

Well, that, and a scary Itachi was scary. Go figure. Given the choice between facing an angry Itachi after pressing his little brother button or channelling my inner preteen-fanboy in public and risk dying from embarrassment later I knew which one I 'd chose.

From the edge of my eyes, I caught sight of Kou, who just stared at me wide-eyed before finally reaching for his flask and taking a long swallow from it. Poor bastard was going to have a hell of a time explaining this to Hiashi. A shell-shocked Neji just stood beside him, his face turning to a shade of white so pale it looked like snow.

Now that I think about it, a lot of people were looking at me weirdly at the moment.

No wait, I was wrong. Not everyone was staring at me.

Off to one side, a large group of anxious parents were huddled together. They were trying to catch sight of something in the distance, some of them standing on their toes to peer over the heads of the crowd. A worried mother muttered silent prayers while casting anxious glances ahead, not relaxing even as her husband placed a comforting arm around them, though he too could not hide the fear in his eyes. And the couple weren't the only one. I could see the same anxiety mirrored in other parents in the crowd.

Even from here, I could almost taste their terror.

What were they doing?

Tracing their line of sight, I tried to figure out what it was they were looking at. It was then that I caught sight of it.

It shimmered in the air like threads of sunlight.

It was there just for a second, a flash of yellow hair, and then it was gone, hidden behind the thick milling crowds of the students.

Something in me turned cold as I caught sight of it, as if a bucket of water was thrown over my head, and suddenly the world wasn't funny anymore. It was only a single glimpse, but everything changed because of it.

Don't try to live so wise.

That haunting melody, drifting in and out of my thoughts, echoing like a half-forgotten memory.

Ah, I remember now.

"Excuse me." I rose to my feet and walked in the direction of where I last caught sight of it. Voices called out from behind me but I couldn't bring myself to care enough to listen.

My footsteps were slow and unhurried as I made my way through the crowds, easily weaving between the milling bodies. And the closer I grew, the more glimpses I would catch. A flash of orange clothing, whisker marked cheeks, a smile stretched so wide it looked like it hurt. Never more for a moment, nothing more than a glimpse before I lost sight of it, hidden from my view once again.

Soon the words reached my ears.

Go away – Mum told me to keep away – What are you doing here, nobody wants you here – Don't get closer, you'll get eaten – No I don't want to be your friend.

But two words were repeated over and over again.



That's right, the Kyuubi was never kept secret in this world was it?

And at last, I was past the densest part of the crowd and I could finally see what was happening.

A line of children formed a semi-circle near one edge of the courtyard, all of them facing in. And in the middle of the children, there was one who stood alone.

That was the very first time that I caught sight of him.

His hair was a little bit longer than he would wear it later in life but it was still in that unmistakable mess of yellow spikes. Ocean-Blue eyes peered out of a whiskered face and a blue shirt peaked out beneath his orange jacket.

Through it all, he just smiled.

Taunts, jeers, insults, they fell on him like the rain and he met them all with a smile. Clowning around as if the words didn't hurt, as if their actions didn't pain him.

Don't dry with fakes or fears

When I watched that scene, I felt overcome by…


Irritating, it was so fucking irritating. What the hell did you think you were doing?

Instantly the cold that had taken hold of me disappeared, replaced by a fire, burning away all traces of the chill left behind.

My footsteps grew faster, steadily increasing until I all but sprinted towards them

What the Hell! Seriously? What the bloody Hell!

My hand clenched into a fist as I neared the ring of children.

One of the kids, a brown-haired boy of six, must have heard me coming because he turned around, his eyes widening in shock when he saw me charging straight at him. When I was but a pace away I cocked my arm back, putting all my weight behind the punch. The boy, too late to do anything, stumbled back in fear-

Grit your teeth brat!

-Only to blink in surprise as I ran straight past him.

Naruto barely had enough time to catch sight of me before my fist ploughed into his face. The blow was so strong that it knocked him straight off his feet, sending him tumbling onto the ground.

Unlike with Sasuke, I felt no satisfaction in punching him, no joy, just a sense of frustration so strong that it bordered on rage. As I glared down at his fallen form I was so overwhelmed with emotion that I was panting and barely held myself back from hitting him again.

"What are you doing? What the hell do you think you're doing?!" I screamed out at Naruto from where he lay on the ground, his confusion was so evident on his face that it might as well have been painted on.

"Wha-huh?" He stammered out as he tried to push himself back up, but I didn't let him. When it looked like he was about to get to his feet I leapt, barreling into his waist, knocking him back onto the ground and quickly straddling his waist.

Gripping the front of his shirt I dragged his face up to my own and glared down into his confused eyes. "Why are you smiling? Why the hell are you even laughing? You're not supposed to do that!" Pulling my head back, I quickly brought it back down.

My forehead smashed painfully onto his, it hurt so much that I saw stars and had to grit my teeth to stop myself from yelling out. Naruto, however, didn't try to restrain himself and let out a scream of pain.

"Yes, that's how you're supposed to react." I smiled down at the teary-eyed boy, ignoring the way my blood dripped off of my forehead and dripped down onto his cheeks. When I finally saw him looking back up at me and was certain that I had his attention, I continued speaking. "It hurts, doesn't it? Getting hit? When someone hits you it hurts, it's supposed to hurt. It's so painful that you want to break out into tears and cry. That's what you're supposed to do when you're in pain kid. You're not supposed to smile, damn it!"

I raised my fist and was about to bring it smashing down onto his face again when I felt something shift beneath me. The next thing I knew the entire world was flipped upside down as I was sent flying through the air, only to feel pain erupt from my back an instant later as I came crashing back down to the ground so hard that it knocked the air out of my lungs.

Stunned for a few seconds as my body fought for air, I laid on my back and took a couple of deep breaths before flipping myself over and pushing myself onto my feet, though I needed to keep my hands on my knees to steady myself. When I finally bothered to look up I quickly discovered that Naruto too had risen back onto his feet.

And he was no longer smiling.

He looked angry.

I felt the edge of my lip quirk up in satisfaction. "That's better, much better. That's how you're supposed to look when you're fighting, not that pasted-on smile that you keep wearing."

"What do you know!" Naruto yelled out and pointed straight at me. "What do you know about me? About anything?"

"You're right kid, I'd don't know you. And truth be told I don't give enough of a damn to bother finding out." Standing up to my full height I took a step towards the boy.

"But what I do know is that you're not supposed to laugh when you're in pain. That's something that every snot nosed-brat could tell you. It's okay to be angry, to be upset – you're just a kid, aren't you? You're supposed to be stupid, to wail and cry over every god damn little thing like the brat that you are. So why the hell won't you just act your bloody age instead of trying to be so wise and smile away your pain. Because if keep doing that-"

'Cause you will hate yourself in the end.

"-all you'll be doing is hurting yourself in the end." Before he could as much as blink, I closed the distance between us and socked him in the face. Then again on his side. I didn't use the Gentle Fist, no chakra or any of my training in this fight, I just wailed my blows at him. "So get angry. Yell, cry, fight back, do something! Don't just sit there and smile."

I didn't even realize he had begun fighting back until I found myself folding over in two as a fist buried itself into my belly. The force behind the punch was insane. In all of my training, I had never felt anything like it from someone my age. Not even close. No child, shinobi or not, should have had that much power.

I see, so this was a Jinchuuriki.

"I'm the Kyuubi!" He screamed out as he threw another punch which I weaved around. For all of the force behind the blow, the kid telegraphed his punches so badly that I had no trouble dodging them now that I knew they were coming.

"So the fuck what!?" Ducking under a second blow I stepped closer to his body and punched him again in his side, only now realizing how little damage I was actually doing. "Demon-container or not, you're still just a snot-nosed brat. What the hell is wrong with crying when you're sad? Laughing only when you're happy?"

"Because then I'll never laugh at all." He yelled out in anger as he threw yet another punch. "I'll never smile. If I'm only supposed to laugh when I'm happy, then…then…" His blows began to slow until they halted to a stop. When I looked at his face to figure out why I found myself looking at an expression so fragile that it looked like it would shatter like glass. He sniffled and looked down at his feet and whispered so quietly that I barely heard him. "…Then I'll do nothing but cry all the time."

"And what's wrong with that?" I lowered my guard, suddenly feeling inexplicably exhausted. "If you don't cry, then how is anyone supposed to know that you're in pain?"

"NO ONE CARES!" I was knocked off my feet as Naruto rammed himself into my stomach. We were both knocked onto the floor before he straddled my waist. In a complete reversal of our earlier position, he reached out and grabbed my shirt before dragging my face up to his. Ocean-blue eyes that were wet with unshed tears stared resolutely into mine. "I'm not like you. I don't have a mum or a dad. I don't even have a family."

With one hand still gripping my shirt, he raised the other into the air and brought it down onto my face. "It doesn't matter if I cry or not because no one will care. There is no one that will even notice. I'm sick of crying and crying when nothing changes. If there is no one there to wipe away the tears then what's the point?"

"So is that it then? They hurt you and you take it? Why don't you fight back? When someone hurts you, just hurt them back harder. That's how you make them stop and go away."

"But that's just it; I don't want to hurt anyone. I just don't want to be left alone anymore."

I laughed up at him after another blow to my face, a familiar warmth spilling from my bloodied nose and down the side of my cheek. "Well, I hate to break it you kid. But if you don't want to hurt anybody you're doing a terrible job at it."

"That's because you keep pissing me off so much." He dragged me up again before slamming me back onto the ground. "If it's some rich jerk like you, then I don't think I'll really mind bashing your face in."

For all the bluster of his words, his face told a different story. Though he tried to scowl in rage, all I could see was a crying child. Tears now fell freely down his face even as he rained more blows down at me, though they were so weak now that I barely felt them.

I could now see it clearly on his face, a pain so deep and old that it hurt just looking at it.

Yes, that's it. This is what I wanted to see.

Kids aren't supposed to hide their pain, you're supposed to cry when you're sad. Laugh at adversity, smile during hard times? Leave hard stuff like that for old geezers like me, they're not things a child should be doing. Not one as young as you. You shouldn't be pretending to be so old Naruto.

Did you know Naruto, there was a time I admired you?

It's true. When I was a child I honestly looked up to you. From the bottom of my heart, I adored you. I wanted you to succeed, to show the world that they were wrong about you. Back then when I kept watching you try so hard, no matter how hard things got, no matter how painful it was to just simply keep on living, you never gave up and still kept on fighting.

How could I not cheer for you?

So what happened to you?

The fool that you kept showing to the world was once but a mask, make-believe, something you wore to keep living because it was too painful to carry on otherwise. But when did the mask stop being just a mask? When did the mask become real?

When did you start becoming a genuine fool?

I remember now, that was why I hated you so much. When the mask became the real you, I wanted to know, where did the person I admire go? Why was there nothing but a shallow fool in his place instead?

There was something I always wanted to say to you – you weren't wrong.

You weren't the bad one, so why the hell were you punishing yourself? Why did you have to become the fool to please them? Those that hurt you? You weren't wrong so why did you have to be the one to suffer?

If you wanted to forgive those who had hurt you, then that was fine, do so, but why did you have to pretend that they never did anything wrong? They hurt you, wronged you, and they never once apologized, they never regretted it, yet you became the fool that you once just pretended to be in order to forgive them.

Don't try to live so wise.

Don't cry 'cause you're so right.

Don't dry with fakes or fears,

'Cause you will hate yourself in the end

Why do you keep trying to pretend to be so wise? When did you become such a shallow person? When did you become the mask you wore?

When the mask became you, I felt as if you took away my hero. I felt as if you killed him.

I never forgave you for that.

That is why I'm so happy right now.

This pain, this rage, everything that you were showing me right now, it wasn't a mask. This was the real you.

This was Uzumaki Naruto.

It's been a while, hasn't it?

Just as I thought Naruto, you are-

"-Interesting." I smiled through bloodied lips, "It appears I was right about you Uzumaki Naruto all those years ago. You really are interesting."

I blocked his next punch, snatching his wrist out of the air as it streaked towards my face. "Hey, Naruto." I looked up at him from where he still straddled me. "I have an offer for you."

He tried scowling down at me through his tears, his weariness and distrust clear.

I ignored his reaction, and gave him a genuine smile, ignoring the sting as my lips split open. "Let's be friends."


"So," Setting my backpack down, I turned around to face my gathered family and geez did a lot of them turn up. I placed my hand on Naruto's shoulder, "I'll be spending the next couple of days at this guy's place."

Naruto, who had been gawking around at the Hyuuga estate like some kind of country bumpkin seeing the city for the first time, which now that I think about it may have not been too far off the mark, jumped at my touch. He stopped looking around and finally paid attention to what was happening around him, cheeks quickly colouring when he noticed the eyes of my entire clan on us.

And I wasn't exaggerating by much either. It felt as if every Hyuuga on the entire estate had come to see us off. We were standing before the main gates, in what I would have ordinarily called the front yard to the compound if it wasn't for the fact that it was bigger than most soccer fields.

Standing on the stairway leading up to the main building was a blank-faced Hiashi, who gazed impassively down at me with his hands tucked into the sleeves of his kimono. His brother Hizashi was standing to his left and just a step behind, while my grandfather stood to his right. Surrounding them on either side were the Clan Elders, every single last one of them, all of whom were wearing faces of grim disapproval.

Several other Clan members were there as well, most of whom probably turned up to watch the free show more than anything. All of them were either behind the Elders or far off to the side, none of them stupid or brave enough to stand between us. A handful of my younger cousins, those too short to see through the crowd and have yet to master the Byakugan well enough to watch from a distance, have climbed up to the second floor of the compound and opened up the windows to peer down at us.

I actually spotted my little sister Hanabi, up by one of the windows, carried in our mother's arm. She was leaning forward as far as she could go, enthusiastically waving goodbye with both of her hands, and I could faintly hear calls of ittrerashhai coming from her.

Let me tell you, for a stoic bunch, the Hyuuga simply loved to gossip, especially the non-ninjas among them. And a scandal like this one must have been too much for them to resist, so it came as no surprise to see so many of my relatives turning up. There must have been a hundred of them out here, and that was just what I could see. No telling how many were sneaking a peek from afar with the Byakugan.

Kou was standing a little bit off to the left, right next to the group of Elders, where he was downing his flask of whiskey as if it was water. A couple of the less self-disciplined Elders kept shooting him envious looks rather than ones of disapproval like they normally would have.

Well, after he gave his report of what happened today, me punching the son of the Uchiha clan head, then bowing down in public before his other son, the Uchiha Heir, before going to immediately start a fight with the village Jinchuuriki, only to befriend said Jinchuuriki, bring him home like a lost puppy and request to sleepover at his place.

That alone was enough to tempt any man to drink. That the Clan Head had immediately approved my request without so much as a word of complaint probably was the final nail on the coffin.

I just realized….this was only my first day at the Academy. These poor bastards are going to have to put up with another six years of this shit.

"Hikaru." My eyes turned back to my father, who was coolly looking down at me from his place up the stairs. Hiashi, as he usually did when in public, showed nothing of what he was feeling, hiding his thoughts behind an expressionless mask. "Do you really intend to go through with this?"

His tone was neutral, hinting at neither approval nor disapproval. Normally I would have had some idea of what he was thinking about, reincarnated or not I was still this man's son after all, and I had seen sides of him that he would have never revealed to anyone else. Yet for the life of me, I had no idea what he was thinking at this moment.

Hiashi has been acting strangely this whole time. He had always been a logical person, practical and conservative in his approach, the type to only rock the boat when the benefits greatly outweighed the risk. Something that I had always understood and approved about him. But when I decided to ditch the first day of the Academy and barged into his office dragging a confused Naruto in tow, he didn't raise so much as a single word of complaint.

Even when I told him that I wanted to crash at Naruto's for the next couple of days he said nothing, just calmly watching me as I spoke, the only sign of his surprise was the slight quirking of an eyebrow. He simply called a clan meeting with the Elders, had me repeat my request after Kou had given his report, before quickly granting me his approval.

I had come expecting a yelling war to get what I wanted, but he didn't raise so much as a single complaint. He even went as far as siding with me when the Elders had naturally protested my request, shutting down all of their objections.

What was Hiashi thinking, and when had he changed so much?

"You do understand what this means?" He turned his calm eyes on Naruto before setting them back on me, "Your actions will have repercussions, many of which I will not be able to protect you from. Knowing this, will you still continue?"

"Of course." I answered resolutely, "In my entire life, had I ever regretted my decision once I made up my mind on something?"

"No," There was something in his voice, a flicker of emotion that I could not quite decipher. "No, you haven't." Hiashi searched my face, looking for something, before slowly nodding. "Very well, you have my blessing. You may leave, but you are to return in two days at the latest. And I expect you to attend the Academy from now on, any more unapproved absences will no longer be tolerated. Understood?"

One of the Elders, unable to restrain himself any longer, had stepped forward to voice his disapproval, "Hiashi-sama you can't seriously be planning to allow-" only to immediately stop when Hiashi raised a hand.

"Now, go Hikaru," Hiashi commanded. "Leave before I end up changing my mind."

I didn't need to be told twice. Quickly lifting my backpack and throwing it over my shoulder, I grabbed a confused looking Naruto by the scruff of his jacket, who yelped in indignation at my manhandling him, and began dragging him away.

Yet even as I quickly made my way to the gate, I couldn't shake off the feeling that I had missed something important in our conversation. But no matter how hard I tried I couldn't figure it out and I had no intention of staying long enough to find out, not when there was the real chance of Hiashi regaining his senses and changing his mind.

The last thing I heard as I walked out of the gate was little Hanabi yelling out an adorable 'Bye-bye'.

The courtyard was silent as everyone watched the young Heir walk out of the compound, dragging the loudly protesting Jinchuriki behind him. No one was willing to speak and break the silence for the next several minutes, not until both children were well and truly out of sight and hearing.

Hizashi was the first to speak.

Stepping forward he turned to face his older brother. "Is this truly wise Hiashi-sama? To let Hikaru-sama spend so much time alone with the Kyuubi child?

"This time I'm in full agreement with your brother Hiashi." The Elder that stood immediately to Hiashi's right spoke up. Like most of the Elders, he was an aged man, well past his prime, but that did not mean he was frail by any means. Though his face was wrinkled and his faded brown hair was thinning, it was clear that the body beneath his robes was still solid and strong. He carried himself with a grace that belied his age, his footsteps light and silent.

As their father, Takehiko bore a great resemblance to both of his twin sons, something that would no doubt only continue to grow as his children aged.

Now turning to his eldest, he bestowed on him a disappointed frown. "I fear you may end up regretting this decision Hiashi. Hikaru is no ordinary boy, in the entirety of our Clan's history, there had never been one that had shown as much promise and raw potential as he does. Not even you could compare when you were a child. For you to risk him in such an endeavour," Takehiko slowly shook his head in clear disapproval, "What could have possessed you to do such a thing?"

The former Clan Head sighed, "I'm sorry my son, but I cannot support you in this. I had held my tongue, as you are now the Clan Head, but I must implore you to give us a reason for your decision. For I fear that neither I nor the others can restrain ourselves from interfering. The Clan cannot afford to risk a genius of Hikaru's calibre, not over something like this."

If their words had any effect on him, Hiashi did not show it. He simply continued to steadily stare straight ahead, looking at the direction his son had departed, before finally, he released a breath.

"A genius…huh?" Hiashi's eyes seemed to lose their focus, his voice turning oddly melancholic. "…Yes, perhaps there is no better word to describe my son."

Hiashi began to descend the stairs, his father and brother quickly tailing after him, leaving the rest of their clansmen along with any prying ears behind them. When he reached the bottom, Hiashi continued walking at the same steady pace towards the compound gates.

"I used to pray to the Gods to grant me a strong child. Before Hikaru's birth, when my wife was still pregnant, I would pray every day." His eyes turned forlorn before Hiashi raised his gaze up to the sky as they walked. "I had wished for a strong and powerful Heir. Only now that I had my wish granted, do I realize that perhaps I should have wished for a kind one instead."

"Hiashi?" Takehiko looked puzzled by his successor's words.

"My son," Hiashi paused in his steps to turn and face Takehiko, "he scares me, father. I love him but I'm frightened of my own son."

"Hiashi," Takehiko turned his confused eyes to Hizashi, who shrugged in return, just as perplexed as he was. "What are you talking about?"

"So you haven't noticed. I should not be surprised I suppose, he hides it well." Hiashi resumed his trek towards the open gates. "Hikaru, he is simply too talented, too skilled. Abnormally so. He learns so fast and understands so much, far too much to be normal. Not even when Hatake Kakashi was a child did he learn as fast as Hikaru does."

"And what's wrong with that?" Takehiko appeared perplexed by what Hiashi was saying. "You make it sound as if my grandson's progress is a bad thing. If anything you should be proud of yourself for raising such a talented son."

"Ah, but that's the thing father, I never taught him anything. Not a single thing." Hiashi flashed his father a ghost of a smile, "I played no hand in Hikaru's education, he has always taught himself everything he needed to know. Reading, writing, etiquette. Even the Byakugan, something that by all rights he should have needed help to awaken, he did it entirely on his own."

"As expected of my grandson," In contrast to Hiashi's grim mood, Takehiko nodded proudly at his grandson's accomplishments. "He truly is a genius. I look forward to see how he will mature. With an Heir like him, our Clan's future will surely be a bright one."

"A genius?... It would be good if that were the case."

Takehiko turned an angry glare at his son, finally reaching the limits of his patience. "Hiashi, what are you rattling on about? What is wrong with Hikaru exceeding his peers?"

"Prodigies are all like that." Hizashi, sensing a potential fight brewing between his father and brother, decided to step in. "What others need to be taught they figure out on their own. I have seen Neji do the same; he learns skills and technique simply by watching others train. Even I'm astounded by what he can do at times."

Hizashi gave his elder sibling a concerned look, "Brother, forgive me if I'm stepping out of bounds, but are you sure you're not worrying yourself over problems that are simply not there to begin with?"

"If only that were the case," Hiashi sighed and gave his head a slow shake, "but no, I fear that this is something more than my imagination."

He halted his steps as they finally reached the entrance to the gate, his father and brother standing on either side of him. They all stopped talking for a moment to take in the sight of the village of Konoha sprawling before them.

"Tell me, father, brother, have either of you ever seen Hikaru laugh? I mean really laugh, an open and care-free one like you would expect to hear from any child."

"Of cou-" Takehiko stopped in mid-reply, a surprised expression on his face as he tried and failed to think of such an occasion.

Hiashi gave his father a rueful smile. "Neither have I." Before looking away, "Perhaps he does in fact laugh but if so, is it not strange that I have never heard my own son laugh? I never realized it until after Hanabi was born and my wife pointed out to me how much she giggled and laughed compared to when Hikaru was a baby. It was only then that it became painfully clear to me just how abnormal my son really is."

Hiashi sighed, "It was then that I decided to keep a closer eye on him, and it did not take me long to grasp that there was something gravely wrong with my son. There is a part of him that is so cold, so very unforgiving. I catch glimpses of it from time to time when he thinks no one is watching, and it is something that I never wish to see in any child, let alone my own.

"The boy had no real friends to speak of. It is not that he is shy or even afraid, he simply does not care. Neji is the only child his age he is willing to talk to, and even then Neji had to follow him around for the better part of a year to make Hikaru open up to him.

"He has no wish to make any friends, no interests or hobbies. To him, there is only training, and the degree of passion he has for it is almost frightening. The way he keeps pushing himself to the brink of exhaustion time and again without any encouragement, it is as if he is driven by something. Sometimes when I watch my son train I think that there is a hunger burning inside him, driving him to train, and like a fire, it only grows the more he tries to feed."

Hiashi turned to face both his father and brother, "I had only heard about one person acting this way before, another child prodigy. One that was also hailed as an unprecedented genius, who went by the name of Orochimaru."

"HIASHI!" Takehiko yelled out furiously, insulted on behalf of his grandson. "Comparing Hikaru to that poisonous snake Orochimaru, that's taking things too far!" And he was not alone in this opinion, Hizashi quickly jumped in to support him.

"Brother, I have seen how he treats Hanabi. Hikaru adores the girl. You can't tell me you don't see it? And for all of their differences even Neji loves your boy. He himself has told me that he feels that Hikaru is the only one his age that can understand him. He would not feel that way if Hikaru truly did not care for him."

Hiashi nodded in agreement. "Yes, and that is precisely why I still believe that my son is not lost to us, not yet. That he can still bring himself to care about others gives me hope, that something could be done to cure him from whatever aliment plagues his mind and heart."

"That is why you sent him to the Academy." Hizashi breathed as he began putting the pieces together. "In all ways that matter Hikaru is already a Genin, everyone in the Clan knows this. Yet you still commanded him to spend the entire six years in the Academy even over his instructor's objections. You did it to help Hikaru."

"Yes," Hiashi nodded to his brother, "if my son were to carry on as he is, he will break. What Hikaru needs the most right now is not more training or even experience. No, what Hikaru truly needs is to learn how to be happy, to care. It is such a simple thing, but for all of their intellect it is often the simplest of things that geniuses often fail to comprehend."

"Let me get this straight Hiashi." The look on Takehiko's face was one of pure incredulous disbelief, "You sent Hikaru to the Academy…to make friends?"

The edge of Hiashi's lips quirked at his father's tone of voice. "While I wouldn't have put it quite like that myself, yes, essentially that is exactly what I did." Hiashi sighed and turned an imploring look on his father.

"You must remember father, that for all of his intelligence Hikaru is only a boy of six years, and as foolish as it makes me sound I believe above everything else what my son needs right now is a friend. I had hoped that by exposing him to a new environment with many children his own age, he may eventually end up making some, and perhaps learn how to behave like a child for once. I must admit, though it was my own plan I had little hope for it actually working, not this quickly at least."

Hiashi shook his head, a wry smile on his face, "That boy has always managed to surprise me. I had only sent him to the Academy this morning, only for him to come barging back in not an hour later, dragging a blond-haired child by the hand behind him. Then before I could get so much as a word in he asked permission to sleep over at his new friend's place.

"Ridiculous, utterly ridiculous. Had I possessed any less control over myself I was not sure if I would have either whooped for joy at my son finally finding a friend or bashed my head into the wall that he chose to befriend the Jinchuuriki of all things. And while I would rather he had chosen anyone else, that child is still better than leaving Hikaru as he is."

"There is also the matter of Hikaru-sama's…confrontation with the Uchiha children." Hizashi reminded.

"A minor incident," Hiashi waved his hand as if swatting a fly. "We will send a formal apology to the Uchiha and I will naturally reprimand him on his conduct upon his return but the boy is still but a child. No one will take the actions of a six-year-old seriously. This event will be remembered as nothing more than a child acting out because he was nervous on his first day at school, if it is remembered at all."

Takehiko examined his eldest son's face for a moment before sighing. "Very well." He looked into his successor's eyes, "I will support your decision in this, as the Clan Head and his father it is your right to decide how to best raise the boy. But make no mistake Hiashi, this does not mean I agree with your assessment about my grandson, I'm only siding with you on this because I believe it would be beneficial for Hikaru to make friends among his peers."

"Thank you, Father." Hiashi nodded to the man. "And for what it's worth, I hope I'm wrong about Hikaru too." Now that the more sensitive part of the conversation was over, Hiashi began leading them back into the compounds.

"The Hokage is going to want an explanation for all of this. You know how protective he is when it comes to the Jinchuuriki. He no doubt believes that we had ordered Hikaru-sama to befriend the child." Hizashi commented.

Hiashi nodded with a sigh, "I know, I'll go talk with-"

"No Hiashi, I'll be the one to talk to him." Takehiko cut his son off. "That old monkey owes me more than a few favours from over the years, and I believe the time has come to call him in on them. I foresee no trouble getting Sarutobi to agree to the arrangement; I just have to convince him that this would be a good thing for both of the children. No, it is not the Hokage that will be the problem; it's the other Clans that you have to concern yourself about. None of them are going to be happy about us getting close to the Jinchuuriki."

"Yes, that is true. And that is something I'm going to have to deal with myself. This is going to be a long day." As they walked past Kou, Hiashi snatched the flask out of his hand just as he was about to take another sip, before he took a long deep swallow from it himself. "Tell me Father, when we were children, did we ever cause you so much trouble that we drove you to drink?"

Takehiko let loose an uncharacteristic belly shaking laugh, "Boys, drop by my room tonight and I'll show the hidden stash that I started building when you two learned how to crawl."

Some things are always the same wherever you go. Whether in this universe or next, show me a city and I'll show you a bunch of people all packed closer together than sardines. And while Konoha was certainly called a village, in almost every way that mattered it was a city.

The streets were crammed with bodies, filled with all different kinds of people. Some were clerks rushing to work, others were the early morning shoppers off to the markets in search of a good deal and there was even the occasional ninja mixed in with the crowd, either patrolling the street or were simply out for a stroll. They crowded the street, so closely densely packed in together that all you had to do was swing your arm out and odds are you'd smack someone in the face.

Well, except for the area directly around us, which was conspicuously empty of people.

By all rights we should have had a hell of a time navigating through the crowds; one of the many disadvantages of being six years old again. Do you have any idea how hard it is to push through a group of fully grown adults when you were only three and a half feet tall? It was like walking through a herd of elephants, one mistake and you'd get stepped on.

Today however I did not face that problem, the crowd parted before us, like the Red Sea before Moses, leaving a bubble of space around us. While I had seen this happen quite often whenever my father would take me with him on a trip through the village, his status along with his intimidating appearance assured that, but he wasn't with me this time.

Naruto was.

There was no hatred in their eyes. No anger or loathing, not even a hint of disgust could be found anywhere in their stares.

There was just fear.

It radiated off them like heat from a fire, terror so strong that I saw more than a few people trembling as we passed them by. I could feel their wide anxious eyes on our backs, cautiously following us until we were out of their sight.

The Kyuubi was never kept a secret in this world.

Sarutobi, as the recently reinstated Hokage, had chosen a completely different approach to his counterpart. Instead of trying to keep the population of Konoha blind and ignorant about Naruto's status as Jinchuuriki, he tried to educate them instead.

No surprise that someone who was dubbed 'The Professor' by the Ninja community was the type of man who believed in the power of knowledge over ignorance. He educated Konoha not just on the fate of the Kyuubi that day, but on what it meant to be a Jinchuuriki.

He held nothing back. He explained about the sealing process, how the Tailed Beasts can never be killed only stopped for a time, and only by sealing them away in a jinchuuriki – a human sacrifice – and only through that sacrifice they could ever be safe from the Kyuubi's wrath.

Only the knowledge about Naruto's father was never revealed, but other than that nothing was kept secret. His mother, his heritage as the Uzumaki Heir, even that Senju Hashirama's wife, Uzumaki Mito, was the original Jinchuuriki of the Kyuubi was not kept hidden. He had been especially adamant in making sure that everyone understood that the Kyuubi and Naruto were not one and the same, that though they existed in one body they were two completely separate and distinct entities.

He honestly believed that if people understood that Naruto was not the Kyuubi, merely its jailer, they would see him not just for the burden he carried, but as the boy and hero that he was.

Sadly, he was right. Just not in the way he had hoped.

For all of the shocking information that they had just been told, the people of Konoha did not doubt their Hokage. Sarutobi had been their leader since before most of them had been born, and he was beloved and trusted by them like no other. So they believed him when he told them that Naruto was not the Kyuubi.

They had even acknowledged that for his sacrifice of caging the beast, Naruto was to be treated as a Hero and he had been afforded all the rewards his status deserved. That Naruto's apartment building was located in one of the top districts in the entire village was proof of that.

Yet for all of his wealth, he was still treated like a leper.

The villagers understood very well that Naruto was not the Kyuubi; it only lived in his belly. That only lines of ink drawn on skin were what kept at bay. That the Kyuubi can never be killed, only imprisoned, and only for a time. They knew that no seal was infallible, no prison inescapable, that there existed no chains that could hold the Nine-tailed fox at bay forever.

They knew that somewhere within him, the Kyuubi lived, ever patient, waiting for its chance to escape, just like it did with his mother before him.

And when that day comes, it would want revenge.

Konoha remembers all too well the last time the Kyuubi walked the earth, the scars and wounds it left behind were still fresh in their minds. No one wanted to be anywhere near him when that happened.

So yes, they had given him his due, rained on him both praise and glory, and granted him more money than he could spend in a single lifetime, yet they had also bestowed on him more loneliness and solitude than any child deserved.

Like I said before, Heroes were nothing but martyrs. Pain and misery were their only rewards.

And while Sarutobi's plan had failed I could not blame him for his logic. Keeping Naruto's status as a Jinchuuriki a secret was as stupid as it was impractical. Jinchuuriki had existed for centuries, and it was a well-known fact that Uzumaki Kushina was the previous Kyuubi's Jinchuuriki. And while she may not have been loved, neither was she feared.

Well, not for her status as a Jinchuuriki at least. Her temper, on the other hand, gave people more than their share of reasons to fear her. Had Sarutobi tried to hide Naruto's status, it would have only been a matter of time until the truth came out.

Even in the original timeline he hadn't bothered to keep it a secret, not really. He only tried to prevent people from talking about it so that their prejudice would not spread to the next generation. And we'll all know how well that worked out.

That was why, despite walking through a crowded street, neither one of us ever came within arm's reach to anyone else. Though I wanted to, I could not find it in me to hate them for their fear, not when I had seen more than a handful of people grasp at missing limbs or scars of badly healed wounds, no doubt mementoes from the Kyuubi.

It is easy to blame them, to call them cowards when the Kyuubi was just part of a children's fairy-tale, nothing but a cartoon. It became much harder when I had placed flowers every year on the graves of my relatives who died by its hands that day.

I spared a quick glance over my shoulder to check up on Naruto, worried how he was taking all of this and…and…and he wasn't even paying attention to them, was he?

I thought that it was weird that he was being so quiet. He'd been practically bipolar ever since our fight at the Academy. At first, he would give me looks of suspicion and distrust mixed in with carefully guarded hope.

Then when I dragged him home he wouldn't stand still, he kept jumping from place to place in excitement, talking a mile a minute, only to suddenly stop, turning oddly quiet the next second, looking almost shy and refusing to meet my eyes when I tried talking to him, before switching back over to excitement and repeating the whole thing all over again.

And by the looks of things the blond tyke was back to his quiet phase. He was silently trailing behind me, staring down at where I held his hand in mine, an odd almost disbelieving look on his face.

"Naruto," I called out to him, but he just ignored me and continued to stare down at our clasped hands. "Naruto, can you hear me?" Nope, still nothing. Sighing, I reached out and flicked him on the forehead, "Hey kid, wake up."

"Ow! What was that for?" Finally snapping out of his little trance, Naruto rubbed his forehead while glaring at me. Though I didn't fail to notice how he still wouldn't let go of my hand. "And why do you keep calling me a kid? You're not any bigger than me."

"That's because I was born with an old soul kid. Now," I stopped at a crossroad, "Which way did you say your apartment was again?"

"Oh! It's that one right over there. Come on, let's go." And I swear the kid must have been bipolar because his glare was instantly switched out with a bright smile, and the next thing I knew I was all but lifted off my feet as Naruto rushed ahead, pulling me along with him.

And geez was this kid strong, I swear I almost felt my shoulder dislocate from the strain, it was like being pulled by a runaway horse. It was at that moment I began to understand the downside of befriending someone this hyperactive.

Note to self; keep Naruto away from sugar.

"Tada~~~" Naruto threw the door wide open and proudly waved me into his apartment.

The human-rocket, affectionately known as Naruto, had run the entire three miles to his apartment building, tearing through the entryway doors, not even slowing down as he ran past elevators in favour of rushing up the stairs.

The little I had been able to see on my way up here, however, told me a lot about the place. The expensive wallpaper, impeccably clean corridors and most importantly the elevators, a luxury in Konoha, told me that the rent of the place must have been expensive. Something that reassured me, to say the least.

One of the primary reasons why I had so strongly insisted on this 'sleepover' was because I want to examine Naruto's living conditions. So very little is known about Naruto's life before the start of the manga. I knew he was isolated and lonely but that was about it. Everything else was guesswork.

While I had heard many theories from fans about how he was mistreated but I had doubts that was the case. It was never shown in the show, and I had trouble picturing Sarutobi ever allowing something like that to happen. He'd have to be unbelievably stupid to allow anyone to provoke a Jinchuuriki. But still, just because I couldn't believe it, doesn't mean it couldn't have happened. The Hyuuga Affair two years ago taught me a harsh lesson on making assumptions.

I had to make sure. Just to be safe. But to be honest, I didn't expect to find anything bad.

Which is why what I saw came as a total shock.

It felt as if someone had punched me in the gut when I got my first glimpse of Naruto's apartment.

"Oh…my…God," The words spilled unbidden from my mouth as I stared in horror at the living room. Stepping forward, being careful not to set my foot in the puddle of spoiled milk split on the ground, "What the hell happened?"

The entire place had been vandalized.

I couldn't even see the apartment's hardwood floor beneath the ocean of trash that flooded the ground along with almost every conceivable surface. Bits and pieces of half-eaten food were tossed around every corner of the room while graffiti covered the walls, ruining what once could have been beautifully coloured wallpapers.

Most of the furniture was wrecked. I spotted what may have once been an elegant green sofa piled up in one side of the room, its insides gutted and its white stuffing spilled onto the floor around it. In another corner was a stack of dirty clothing with a bucket of spilled paint dripping onto the floor next to it.

This…this was worse than I had ever imagined. What kind of people would allow a child to live in a dump like this? There is-

-Wait! Wait-wait, no, this isn't right. Something is wrong here, this is all wrong. Naruto wasn't supposed to be abused or mistreated. He was supposed to be filthy rich for god's sake, why would they allow him to live like this? Did I miss something, was…was I wrong about everything?

"Naruto," the horror I was feeling was clear in my voice as I kept staring in the room. Dear lord was that a broken unicycle on the kitchen counter? "What happened?"

"Huh?" Naruto crossed his arms and narrowed his eyes in confusion at me. "What's wrong with you?"

"Your apartment, who did this to it?"

"Ahh," The blonde's eyes widened with comprehension before he scratched the back of his head with an embarrassed smile. "Sorry about that. I kinda got a bit excited about the Academy last night and couldn't sleep, so I may have overdone it a bit. Ah, but don't worry, the cleaning lady will be here in a couple of days to fix it up."

"Cleaning lady?" I parroted stupidly at him as I felt a suspicion take root and grow in me. "…Naruto, who was the one who did all of…" I didn't have the words to describe the state of the apartment so I just waved a hand around the room, "this?"

"Hmm? Me, of course." Naruto looked at me as if I was asking the obvious, "Who else could it be?"

"You mean the graffiti on the walls, the trash on the floor, the ruined sofa," I looked up as something caught my eye, "and the tomato sauce on the ceiling, all of it was you? Why do you even have tomato sauce in the ceiling, how did it get up there?"

"Tomato sauce?" Naruto glanced up at the large splatter of red on the ceiling, "Oh, that's not sauce. That's just my blood."

I gaped at the madman in the shape of a six-year-old boy as he crossed his arms proudly before him. "I'm going to regret asking, but why do you have your blood splattered all over the ceiling?"

Naruto puffed out his chest. "Ninja training."

"Ninja training." I echoed, feeling my confusion only grow the more he talked.

"Yup," He nodded, "You know how ninjas can jump high, really high. Like, from the ground to over a building high. Well, I was practising my jumping."

"And what, you jumped so high that you bashed your head on the ceiling?"

"Nah, turns out I couldn't jump anywhere near that high." Naruto looked embarrassed as he rubbed the back of his head, though over what I wasn't sure. "That's why I had to use the springs from the sofa to help me." He pointed to the gutted sofa in one corner, where an assortment of springs lay spilled on the floor around it.

I raised a finger, a retort on my lips, before I stopped and just face-palmed. It was quickly beginning to dawn at me, that this boy… was an idiot. I was so used to dealing with Neji that I had forgotten that not every child our age was as smart as him. That even all the Chakra in the world flowing through your brain could stop someone from being stark raving mad.

"Alright, then what about the rest of this. Why do you have graffiti on the wall?"

"Graffiti?" He looked confused. "What are you talking about? What's wrong with my drawings?"

"Drawings?" I turned to look back at the wall and realized that, yes, what I first took for graffiti were in fact drawings. A child's drawings to be more precise, made with crayons and paint. "The unicycle?"

He shrugged. "It looked like fun. Turned out it wasn't."

Frustrated, I pointed at the floor, "The huge ocean of trash?"

"Ah…aha…ahahaha," He awkwardly laughed and scratched the back of his head. "About that. Well, like I said the cleaning lady hasn't been over today so no one had the chance to clean it up."

"And when exactly was that last time this cleaning lady came over? Last year?"

"No, she comes over twice a week." He tilted his head and frowned, "in fact, she was here yesterday morning."

"Yesterday?" I looked around the room that had more in common with a trash heap than a living room. "And what? Did she see this mess and run?"

"Of course she didn't. She may not be very friendly but she works really hard. I swear it's almost like magic watching her clean, by the time she finishes the place always looks brand new."

It took me a few moments to process what he was saying, and I had to ask him to clarify because there is no way he said why I thought he was saying. "Naruto," I made sure to speak slowly, pronouncing each word carefully so that there was no possibility of a misunderstanding, "are you trying to tell me, that you made all of this," I threw my hands out to indicated what I meant by 'this', "in a single day. After the lady had just finished fixing the place up?"

"Yup." The madman nodded proudly, before frowning. "I don't think the cleaning lady minds. She cleans it every time and never complains. Though I don't think she likes me very much."

Of course she doesn't like you, you lunatic! How she resisted the urge not to bash your skull in with a broom if she had to clean this place up twice a week I do not know, but she must have had the patience of a saint.

Oh my God, now I get it! Naruto, he's basically a rich spoiled kid, isn't he? One that was never taught to make his bed or tidy up his room because the maid will clean it up for him the next day.

No one ever tried to discipline him for making a mess, have they? I mean who will? No one wants to piss off the kid with the killer demon fox in his belly, well other than the Hokage. But seeing as he is probably the only person who is even remotely nice to Naruto, he probably couldn't bring himself to be strict with the kid and risk alienating him more than he already is.

For most of my past life I had to raise both of my sons alone. Which meant not only was I responsible for raising them properly but cleaning after their messes as well. And it didn't take me long after becoming a single father to twin boys to learn to hate, no utterly loathe it when they made a mess. And looking at the pigsty that Naruto called home, I felt something snap in me.

Without thinking, both my hands clamped down onto Naruto's shoulders. "Naruto," I tried smiling at the boy but it must have come out wrong because I saw his eyes widen before he tried to lean as far back away from me in my grip as he could. "We are going to clean this place up, alright? And I don't care if we're here until sunrise, neither you nor I are going to stop cleaning until this place is spotless, understand?"

"What, why?" He whined out and pouted at me, "Why can't we just leave it for the cleaning lady to-"


"Sir, Yes Sir!" The blond shot straight up and saluted, before flying off to the supply closet.

Nodding in satisfaction, I turned around to face the garbage-filled room. "Hello my old enemy," I said to the messy room, "so we meet again."

"Hey, Naruto." Pausing halfway through my sweeping, I leaned on my broom as a thought occurred to me.

"What?" He grumbled from where he stood by the wall. He had a wet rag in his hands that he was using to clean the paint off the walls, a bucket of water by his feet. To my surprise, it was actually working.

I had at first feared that the wallpaper was unsalvageable and had to be replaced, but it seems that the stuff was waterproof or something because it remained undamaged even when scrubbed with soap and water. I guess they must have swapped out the regular wallpaper for this kind after they realized that Naruto would just keep ruining them.

I ignored his tone. He's been in a sour mood for the last hour or so since we had begun cleaning, at least he wasn't giving me the silent treatment anymore. "I've just realized, this place is a shinobi-only complex isn't it?"

I hadn't noticed at first, seeing as I was all but dragged up here at the speed of sound, but I don't recall seeing anyone in the apartment complex other than ninjas.

"Yeah, and what about it?" He frowned at a particularly stubborn spot of paint that refused to be scrubbed off.

"Nothing, it's just the first time I've ever been in one," I remember Kou pointing out places like this to me before. They were actually rather common in Konoha. Shinobi tended to have trouble mixing in with civilians, in particular those who fought in wars, and many found it simpler to live among their own kind. Or at least that's what Kou tells me- Oh Shit, Kou!

Where the hell is Kou!?

In my panic, I quickly glanced around me in hopes of spotting my errant bodyguard, as if he would magically appear in the apartment. Naturally, there was no one in here but Naruto and me. I had forgotten Kou at the compound! Oh shit, I was in so much trouble.

One of the few ironclad rules that I had to obey was to never leave the compound without an escort. Ever! As one of the few Hyuuga without the Caged Seal, I was a prime target for kidnapping, and my father would rip me in two if he found out I was running around without a guard of some kind.

Wait- wait a second, calm down. Wasn't Hiashi there when he sent us off? He knew that it was only Naruto and me when we left, so why didn't he stop us? Surely he must have realized that Kou wasn't with us by now and must have sent him after us.

So where was he? Was Kou simply staying out of sight? With the Byakugan it's not like he needed to be in the same room to keep a close eye on me.

Quickly I turned on my Byakugan and a previously unseen world revealed itself to my eyes. Over a hundred unfamiliar shinobi-class Chakra signatures popped out from every direction, no doubt the other residents of the building. I immediately ignored Naruto's, which shone far brighter than any untrained child should have, and quickly began searching for Kou's.

Were it anyone else, I would have had trouble spotting his Chakra signature in a place filled so many others for him to blend in with, but Kou was an exception. There was a reason why he was chosen to become my guard at such a young age and even among so many other signatures, Kou's would have stood out like a grown man in a children's playground.

Kou's Chakra supply was exceptionally large, even by Shinobi standards. His would blaze like a campfire surrounded by candles in my eyes, even with the other Shinobi nearby.

It didn't take me more than a heartbeat to spot it, the unusually high Chakra signature coming from above and behind us. He was on the rooftop of one of the neighbouring buildings, directly across the street from Naruto's. Crouching down on the railing like a bird of prey, he silently watched us even through the walls- Wait a minute, that wasn't Kou!

While this man's Chakra supply was large, easily matching Kou's in size and more, his signature was completely different. To my eyes, Kou's Chakra always appeared like smooth flowing water, a common hereditary trait among the Hyuuga, while this man's Chakra crackled and sparkled like bottled lightning.

There was no way that this was Kou or any other Hyuuga, I would have remembered a Chakra signature as unusual as this. But there was no doubt that he was watching us, even through his mask I could clearly see the way his single eye tracked our forms.

I admit I would have been a bit more terrified that an unknown, and potentially powerful, ninja was watching us had it not been for the Anbu mask he wore. That his mask was carved in the shape of a dog only further relieved me.

Kakashi lazily waved down at me, letting me know he knew I had spotted him. That there was a wall blocking his line of sight to us and that I wasn't looking anywhere his general direction only served to confirm what I had already heard about his skill as a Jounin, and his reputation as a showoff.

"Hey, Naruto, did you know that-" I paused when Kakashi raised a finger to his lips in a 'shushing' gesture while raising the thumb of his other hand to one side of his neck before slowly dragging it across his throat.

"Do I know what?" Naruto paused scrubbing to glance over his shoulder.

"Nothing," I quickly replied and resumed sweeping, hoping that he didn't notice how pale my face was, "Nothing at all. Don't worry about it."

Naruto gave me a perplexed look before shrugging and going back to cleaning the wall, grumbling under his breath all the while about stupid walls and stupid bug-eyed boys.

Now I knew Kakashi was bluffing, or at least I hoped he was. Kakashi would never kill me, not over something like this at least. But if history repeated itself, then there was the very real possibility that Kakashi could end up as my Sensei in the near future. And there was no way I wanted to get on his bad side.

This was the guy who allowed Genin, fresh out of the Academy wet behind the ear Genin, to help him fight the Momochi Zabuza, a A-rank missing-ninja, after only teaching them the tree walking exercise… and nothing else. And that was when he liked them. God knows what he did to kids that he hated, but I sure as hell didn't want to find out.

So I continued my cleaning, all while pretending that I wasn't under the watchful eye of a highly trained killer who had been murdering people since he was five years old.

"You know," Looking down at the half-filled garbage bag that I was holding open, "I'm actually quite surprised. I haven't seen so much as a single instant ramen cup anywhere, and here I thought this place will be filled with the stuff."

It had been several hours since we started cleaning up the place and we were nearing the end, and I have to say, the place was completely unrecognizable. Underneath all of the trash, this place really was a first-class apartment, far better than any of the apartments I had ever lived in my previous life.

Though it only had a single bedroom, it was huge, probably designed for a couple to share. It had a full kitchen with all the 'modern' equipment along with a well-stocked pantry – the so-called cleaning lady apparently doubled as a cook, and would leave several meals for Naruto to eat throughout the week – and it came with a living and dining area.

The place's bathroom also came with a bathtub, and I don't mean one of these cramped ones you'd find in one of those Japanese apartments but one with a bathtub so large that several fully grown people could slip in with room to spare.

"Ramen?" Naruto sounded confused as he dumped one of the last remaining pieces of trash into the garbage bag. "What's that?"

I stared at him in disbelief, so shocked that I barely noticed the bag slipping through my nerveless fingers. "You…You don't know what Ramen is?" Even to own my ears my voice sounded off. I walked up to Naruto and held him by his shoulders. "You're not lying, are you? You really don't know what Ramen is?"

"N-No." Naruto answered, sounding a bit nervous, "I'm…I'm sorry, I guess?"

"No, no my boy. You have nothing to be sorry about. This is a wonderful, wonderful thing." And it really was too. I can't believe I'm going to have the chance to cut this addiction in the bud. "Now listen carefully to me." I brought my head closer to him as if I was about to part with a secret. "Ramen is a horrible food. It's fatty, unhealthy, basically pure junk food that would only weaken your potential as a ninja. But it also has a curse on it. There are some people who only need to take a single sip of the stuff, become instantly addicted, and will never stop eating it. Ever."

"Really?" He asked wide-eyed.

"Really." I nodded solemnly. God, I loved gullible five-year-olds. They made it so much easier for me to manipulate them. Plus it's not as if I was lying. Ramen may actually be an addictive drug as far as the Uzumaki were concerned. "Which is why, for your own good, I want you to promise me that you will never, ever eat ramen. Please Naruto, you have to promise me this, this is important."

"Okay, I promise." Naruto nodded once, his face as earnest as I had ever seen it. And I had no doubt he meant it.

It took everything to keep my face straight and not ruin the serious mood of the moment by breaking out in cheers. YES! Yes, I can't believe I did it! Mentally I dropped down to my knees and raised my hands to the sky. Yes! No more ramen, no more meals consisting of only instant cup ramen! I had too much of that crap in college and now I never have to eat those disgusting things ever again. Thank you oh merciful god!

Oh, this is fantastic. Wait, does this mean if I act early enough, I can stop Naruto from developing some of his more annoying bad habits. Like the horrible orange jumpsuits that he insists on wearing? Oh Dear Lord, does this mean I can stop him from saying that Dattebayo crap at the end of every other sentence. That's fantastic! I better get on it right away before-

"I will never ever eat ramen for the rest of my life Hikaru, Dattebayo."

…Oh fate you vindictive son of a bitch! Or was it irony I should be cursing? Ah well, I guess I shouldn't be greedy. One miracle is more than I had ever hoped for. You know what, yeah, I'll look at the bright side and count this as a win. I think this calls for a celebration.

"Hey Naruto," I shot a quick glance towards the pantry, I was pretty sure he had all the ingredients in stock. "How about I cook us dinner as a reward for all of our hard work?"

"You can cook?" he asked, giving me a dubious look.

"Of course I can cook. Not only can I cook, I know the secret recipe for the greatest food in existence. It is the food of the Gods my friend. The food of the Gods."

"Really?" Naruto was actually hopping on his toes in excitement, "What's it called?"

I shot the hyperactive blond a smile, "It's called pizza."

"That-" Naruto had to stop and release a large belch, "…That was really good."

"Yup," I smirked as the blond leaned back on his seat with a satisfied groan and patted his stomach. "And that is why pizza is the real food of the gods."

It was amazing how little variety of food they had in this world. I mean I could understand it if they didn't have the ingredients to make it but that simply wasn't the case. They simply never thought of so many of the different recipes I took for granted back home, in particular western-style food.

Pizza being the prime example. They had cheese, bread and tomatoes but no one ever thought to combine the three together. I tried making it back home a couple of times in the past but it didn't end up as big of a hit as I had expected, unlike with Naruto who managed to pack away three full-sized pizzas.

"*Burp* Amen." The miniature black hole leaned back into his chair, his face entirely covered with sauce and bits of cheese that he had spillt over himself in haste to eat.

Sighing in half exasperation and half amusement at the boy, I stood up from my seat and made my way around the kitchen table. Picking up a couple of napkins on the way, I walked up to Naruto and grabbed him by his chin.

"Hey-what?" he squawked as I began to wipe the tomato sauce that covered his mouth and most of his face.

"Hold still." I ordered, "I'm trying to clean you up, so stop moving."

Naruto instantly obeyed, shutting his eyes in displeasure as I wiped his face, though he couldn't stop squirming in his seat the entire time.

"There, finished." I gave his face a quick look over and nodded, satisfied that I had gotten everything. "See, that wasn't so bad now was it you big baby?"

"No but it was still annoying." He crossed his arms and pouted.

I rolled my eyes, "Alright, enough of that now." I pulled Naruto up to his feet and pushed him towards the bathroom. "Go and take a bath, you need it. And don't worry about the kitchen, I'll stay back and clean it."

"Alright, alright already." He yawned as he made his way to the bathroom, complying without putting up a fight. Either too tired from all the cleaning or simply too mellowed out after the meal.

"Now that we're alone again," I turned to face the mess I left in the kitchen after cooking, a demented grin on my lips, "are you ready for the second round my old enemy?"

With all the servants in the compound I never had to clean up after myself in my entire life, not in this one at least. I had forgotten how satisfying it was to see something dirty transform into something clean and organized.

Not ten minutes later I was done, nodding proudly to myself as I examined the kitchen. The place was spotless and not so much as a single item out of place. Perfect.

Sighing, I placed my hands on my back and stretched, before turning to join Naruto in the bath. That was something you'd never have seen me do in my past life. I was as body shy as they came but I had that habit long beaten out of me.

Nudity, at least towards the same gender, was not a big deal here, quite the opposite. I was forced to learn to let go of my body shyness pretty quickly when my dad kept taking me to the hot springs but in the end, the reward was worth it.

I have to tell you, hot springs were to die for. The first time I went to one after a hard workout, I honestly thought I had died and gone to heaven. It was that good. Though I could have done without the bunch of naked men that filled the place, after a while I no longer noticed them anymore.

Picking up a towel and a change of clothing on the way, I slid the bathroom door open and stepped in, quickly shutting the door behind me to stop the steam from escaping.

"Huh-Hikaru!?" Naruto called out from behind the screen that separated the changing area from the bath. "What are you doing here?"

"What does it look like I'm doing?" I pulled my shirt over my head and tossed it in one corner before I began to unbutton my pants. "I'm joining you."

"What!" He yelled. "But you can't do that! I'm not dressed!"

"Of course you're not dressed, who the hell would take a bath clothed?" I rolled my eyes at his behaviour as I finished undressing. Stepping up to the screen I slid it open and stepped inside before shutting it behind me.

Naruto let out a high pitched squeak upon seeing me before dropping deeper into the water so that everything but his head was submerged and hidden from view.

"Oh stop being so shy will you?" I snapped at the boy, exacerbated by his overreaction. I walked up to the bath, on the opposite side he was in and stepped in. The water was nice and really hot, just the way I liked it. I released a sigh as I dropped into the water, submerging myself to my shoulders, before leaning back and resting my head on the bathtub's ledge as I relaxed, shutting my eyes to fully enjoy the experience.

After a few minutes of relaxing, I noticed how awfully silent the place was and cracked open a single eye to check up on Naruto. I barely bit back a sigh when I saw how nervous and red-faced Naruto was, almost as if he was trying to hide himself in the water. "Oh for the love of -You're a man aren't you? Then man up!"

"No, no I'm not!" Naruto exclaimed while vigorously shaking his head.

"Semantics." I waved his concerns away. Boy, man, same difference. For a guy who will someday happily run around as a naked woman in public, he was awfully body-conscious as a child wasn't he? "Really, I never figured you as the shy type-"

I paused and stopped speaking as I caught sight of something unusual in the water. I looked down at it before blinking. Then I blinked again, and once more to make sure. But nope, nothing changed. Feeling completely bewildered and not understanding what I was seeing, I slowly raised my eyes to look at the utterly red-faced Naruto, who had by now submerged himself up to his nose in the water.

"Hey, Naruto," I asked, feeling more perplexed and confused than I could ever remember being. "What the hell happened to your dick?"

And that was how I learned that Naruto was, in fact, a girl.

*Chapter end*

AN: Haha! How many of you saw that coming? I admit I was laughing my ass of as I wrote it.

Oh and I only realized this after a reviewer pointed it out to me but if Hikaru and Naruto get together (and I'm not saying they will), then that means that this story will have a canon pairing since Hikaru is technically a male-Hinata.

I find it the greatest of ironies that Canon Hiashi wanted a strong and powerful Heir but got Hinata instead, while this one had his wish granted only for him to end up wishing for a kind one instead. Really Hiashi, maybe you'd finally be happy if Hanabi was your firstborn.

Too many parents in the reincarnated stories never notice anything weird about their kids. No matter how hard you try you cannot pretend to be a completely normal child. There would always be flashes of your true nature shading all your actions. And when the person in question is jaded or even broken, then it becomes all too apparent that there is something very wrong with your child. – Hiashi noticed, and it terrifies him. He doesn't love his son any less for it but he can no longer pretend that Hikaru is normal.

One more chapter till the end of the arc, and I'm REALLY looking forward to writing it because it will have one hell of a plot twist that I hope none of you will see coming (I'm pretty sure no one had done something like this before) and unlike this chapter which showcased Hikaru's nice side (yes, this was his nice side), that chapter will showcase his ruthless side that I promised you and will give you all a glimpse into the true nature of our main protagonist (I can't rightfully refer to him as our Hero)and should kick-start main part of the story.

Be sure to tell me what you thought of the chapter and thanks for reading.