Disclaimer: see 1st chapter
There are many gods among the stars.
Some are ancient and some are not.
Yet all the gods had one thing in common.
They were all mortals once.
And perhaps that was why they were flawed.
And why their corpses littered the fields, come the war in heaven.
The ninja academy will not be the Jedi Temple.
Naruto is not sure what he expects, but this much he can be sure of. It is a good thing, he decides, that he will not be pushed against memories of the past, of his almost forgotten Padawan days, or his far more troublesome time as a Jedi. Mostly however, he hopes that being surrounded by children would not make him relive the last time he was surrounded by children like that. After all, slaughtering them with a lightsaber is not a happy memory.
The orphanage doesn't count of course. He has made his peace with the orphans. He even enjoys their chatter. But the younglings, these academy students, all bright and hopeful and full of dreams…
Naruto lets out a gasp as the memory plays out unwillingly; the young boy he chose to kill when he spoke to him afraid, but with undeserved trust; the girl, a Togurata he left alive but slowly dying, in memory of his former Padawan; that one Wookie child, with the stench of burnt fur in his nostrils, as he tried to stay alive while growling so painfully, so pitifully. He remembers them all, and he hates himself a little more, because he knows he will not forget, because he cannot forget. He would torment himself a thousand times because he deserved it and everything more. For his angel that he had hurt and killed he would suffer gladly in silence.
If anyone noticed the young boy who sat in the hallway, shivering to an unknown coldness as he looked at things only he could see, they did not mention or gossip about it.
Naruto sits in his assigned classroom with a slight hint of wonder. This is not the Jedi temple, he reminds himself. These are not younglings, and the teacher is no Jedi. There is no enforced calm and quiet. There is just raw chaos, pure and innocent, as anathema to the Sith as it was to the Jedi themselves.
For a second he allows himself to dream of a life without the force or slavery, of being born in a normal family, with his mother (never a father), going to school like all the other children, making friends and having little adventures. It shatters in his mind gleefully. But it is only replaced by a vision of his children attending a normal Naboo school, sitting in their classes, bored but attentive while Padme and he watch on proudly.
It too disappears, like the morning mist chased away by the dawning sun.
Yet even that terrible longing cannot stop him from feeling the joy of this. For once in both lives, Naruto was truly normal. Clan kids, normal kids, orphans and everyone in between, they all sat in the same room, taught by the same stern looking teacher. It was magical.
It is a sad fact of life that children, wherever they exist, shall be irredeemable little rascals when put in a classroom. Naruto is vaguely discomforted at the behaviour of the children around him. It is neither the hopeless existence of slaves he grew up with, nor the restrained enthusiasm of the younglings of the Jedi Temple. It is, he reflects, extremely disorienting.
Naruto sits in the very back of the class, an island of calm in an ocean of chaos. He is not a child, and he has no intention of being drawn into the childish social politics that had made his early days in the Temple a source of great discomfort to him. He does not crave their company, and he is loath to initiate contact with them. He reminisces on the past instead, of night time trysts in a moonlit Coruscanti Apartment, of small interludes of love and passion amidst the birthing pains of an empire. He thinks about quiet peaceful moments, of curling up on a couch and feeling the kicks within Padmes belly.
He dreams of a life that was and could have been and smiles bitterly.
The first day of class is a very simple affair. There are introductions and courses and other important things plainly spoken of, to civilians who do not understand, and clan children who think that they do. Ninja are "cool" and no amount of warnings will sway the naïve and ignorant from this path. The teachers speak of service and glory, of power and pain, and most of all, of life and death. They laugh off the solemn teachers in their excitement. They dream of pulling off ninjutsu, of being master swordsmen, of rescuing princesses and defeating bandits.
They do not see the endless fields of carnage. They do not see the rivers of blood and dead bodies that battle leave behind. They do not hear the screams of enemy fighters strafing the world around them as the tides of battle shudder and turn against them. And they do not feel, have not felt the mounting despair as the world turns against you as the endless armies march against you, unstoppable and unkillable. Naruto blinks ad mentally shakes himself. Reminiscing was becoming too much of a habit these days.
Naruto understands far too much about these than he wishes. He knows that none here will understand either. Children are simply too…lacking in experience. They have not seen life, not yet, and a part of him wishes he could dissuade them from the depths suffering that this path will bring them. But he cannot. He was once a child too. And he had not let anything stop him from being a Jedi. He remembered all too well, how that turned out.
But Naruto does not do anything. He knows just how appealing the life of a warrior is when you are a child. He too had once been given hope and sent to the stars he so often dreamed of. His son, Luke had also gone from outer rim simpleton to the vanquisher of Sith. Power, even with a child's limited understanding of it, is not a path that is denied. In the end, Naruto only reserves his pity for them. It is he decides, best not to think too much about what the future may bring.
Still, Naruto himself is not unaffected. He was a Jedi. He was a Sith. He was born to be an unparalleled weapon of a Force Wielder. Even now, he feels the power, whispering in the back of the head, teasing glimpses of the future that could be, if only he loosed it upon this world. But he has always ignored that voice, and he ignores it now. Yet, there is a part of him that he cannot suppress, the part that once said "I will be the greatest Jedi" and also "I will be the most feared Sith." And now it says "I will be the greatest Ninja"
But Naruto knows it is a trap. It is the same thinking that turned him into a failure of a human being. It led to knighthood, power and Padme. It also led to fear, despair and her death. He did not want to repeat past mistakes. He did not want to know what a war in this world, where men could become gods, would be like. He would not want to lose anyone else, even if he had nobody left to lose.
"Uzumaki, are you alright?"
Naruto blinks. He rubs his face and feels wet tear tracks. Why was he crying?
Naruto shakes his head.
"I am sorry Sensei. I don't know…I don't know what happened."
The concerned Chunin looks at him sceptically. Naruto suddenly notices everyone looking at him and whispering. He shakes his head slightly. He does not understand them, and he never will.
Chunin Hirako knew before he got this class that he was going to be in trouble. There is too much riding on it, and too many important Clan Heirs. He is not happy about it. Unfortunately, saying "no" to the Hokage is never an option, so he didn't do anything but shrug and go on.
But now, he wonders if he should have just said no anyway.
It's the Uzumaki kid of course, that one weird kid in an entire class full of wierd kids. He had studied the classified files for the Bijuu Container and wasn't really sure what to think. How is anyone supposed to deal with this child, he remembers thinking. And now he was experiencing that oddness first hand.
Uzumaki is a quiet child, he admits. In a class full of troublemakers and future rabble rousers, this one is a gem of a student. He is attentive, serious and most of all, learning. He cannot remember the last time he saw a kid actually thinking through the warnings and disclaimers the kids get on the first day. Sure, it's a little manipulative to dump everything on their heads even in a simplified way. Four to six year olds simply cannot process the things they mention. They are blinded by Ninja life, and they will remain so until they kill or have somebody die on them.
But Uzumaki? He actually listens and ponders. It is surprisingly creepy to observe. But he continues normally, because this might actuall be a good thing. Hirako briefly falters when Uzumaki smiles in that unusually intense way amidst his introductory lecture.
He actually stops when Naruto starts weeping silently on top of his ridiculously sad smile. It was making him feel teary eyed just watching him. He tries to wake him up, and seems to succeed.
When the kid manages to make things more confusing, he just gives up.
"Get to the medic kid. Get her to check you for any issues. You…are not alright."
When the kid calmly walks out of the room looking morbidly introspective again, he knows that this will not be the end of it. Considering that the average Jinchuuriki is an insane, angry nutjob, having a weepy one is not something he is quite ready to process.
There is something not quite right with that kid.
Thankfully, he just has this one year with this bunch, then he can wash his hands of the "special" kids and just focus on being a normal teacher. He couldn't wait.
A/N: simple update, just to start off the ninja business. Bit of vague flashbacks, lots of thinking, and perspective of random npc.