Disclaimer: See Chapter 1.
There was once a boy who was less than a person.
He flew to the stars, perhaps by luck, perhaps fate.
Among the stars, he became a god himself.
But to become one, he had to leave his family behind
For the gods are good and powerful. But they are also cold and aloof.
And most of all, the gods are alone.
Classes are a change in routine. Naruto wakes up at 6, goes to classes and now takes extra time to train his body. His voluminous robes are hot in the fire country weather, but he does not flinch from the heat. He works himself to the bone, knowing that excessive stress may actually restrict his growth.
But he also finds that he is healing faster than he had even during the most intense Jedi healing trance. He is not normal, and he will never be so.
Naruto trains because it passes the time. Naruto trains because there is no world where he will willingly be as defenseless as he was on Tatooine. Still, he tries not to overdo it, too much.
Naruto finds the arts of the Ninja fascinating. How does a society of people, cut off from the galactic civilization(if there is one) develop the kind of abilities he saw everyday? Walking on walls and water, breathing out fire, conjuring elemental dragons in the blink of an eye, it was like a fantasy holovid with magic.
He could sense some of it with chakra, and the force was not very helpful in this place. If his copious reading had been useful for anything, it is in that he has discovered "natural energy" which is like the force, but not. It was maddening, not knowing what was going on. He accepted his penance, but surely, why was he sent to this world to be reborn? Reincarnation was not unheard of with the Force, but that usually happened to be an engineered event, usually by Sith. He wanted answers, but he wasn't sure where to get them.
Time is strange here. The single greatest change that Naruto forces himself to get used to is time. Until he had to contort his sense of time, he never had cause to think about such a basic thing. Galactic standard times and dates are meaningless here. In some ways, it is simpler, in others more convoluted.
Having only one planet to worry about does make for a simpler basic concept he finds. Even if the system itself seems to be based on something far past recorded history, whose origins have been erased between then and now by generations of landscape changing murder machines. 365 days a year, 7 days a week, 24 hours a day, 60 minutes and hour, and 60 seconds a minute. This is simple. But then, somewhere along the way, someone had to introduce months, just like in Galactic Standard. And they had managed to make a Venator out of a Skyhopper. What do these names mean? January? Was that a fruit? A name? A god? What about February? What about the rest? Where did it all come from? Why does it not make sense? Why isn't it even in the same language?
And yet it is all somehow still simpler than Galactic Standard Calender, which somehow felt like you were trying to memorise an Eriaduan love song, only the words were in Trandoshian and a Wookie had translated it.
"Today, you kids are going to learn about what really makes ninja, ninja. Any of you want to guess what it is?"
Naruto filtered out the excited chatter of children with a practiced ease of having survived countless battlefields. Also, he remembered that one battle where the enemy commander ordered the droids to never shut up. It is incredibly annoying trying to fight while a thousand droids repeated "Roger Roger" on a continuous, unsynchronised loop.
It would not be the last time he went into battle with a clone helmet.
"No kids! It's the Will of Fire! But if you want to be true Konoha Shinobi and defend the Will of Fire, you need to learn about the one thing that really makes you different from the civilians. I'm not going to make you guess, because its CHAKRA!"
Naruto began to pay more attention when they got to the part where they were actually discussing Chakra. It sounded ridiculous compared to the Force. Mental energy and physical energy now meant warping reality? It was absurdity of the highest order. But, unfortunately, these people did have a system to turn ordinary people into landscape wrecking murder machines. So, if he wanted to survive, he needed to be Naruto Uzumaki, ninja, instead of Anakin Skywalker, former Jedi, now without a lightsaber.
He could already actually touch chakra, but that was not an issue. How did he wrest control of this massive thing inside him? How could he become a master of this new form of warfare, wilder and more insane than the wars of his past, at least at the tactical level?
He would have to meditate on this.
"Naruto, move your left foot six centimetres forward. Twist it to the left. Too much twist….perfect. Now try punching. Okay? Good. Now begin the first form."
Naruto moves his hands and feet slowly, keeping his motions smooth and consistent.
"Very good. Now repeat the whole set 12 times."
Naruto grunts and begins to move again. Slow forms are always more strenuous than fast ones. He acknowledges that this is some form of patience building exercise, but it is vexing nonetheless. Taijutsu forms are similar to, but not the same as Lightsaber velocities. He has already learned about humanoid biomechanics back in the Jedi Temple, but these new forms are throwing him off. He will need to concentrate if he is to avoid slipping into a past life stance by accident.
He tries to move the chakra in his body with his motions. It is a repurposed force exercise, one that is among the prerequisites of enhancing oneself with the force. Both Jedi and Sith had done this for millennia. He didn't see any reason the exercise would not quite work with Chakra, even with the dissimilarities.
Unfortunately, it appeared that Chakra was not going to be an easy thing to master. In his Padawan days, he had to contend with a having greater amount of midiclorians in his blood than his age group. Here, he has so much more Chakra than the rest of his class that it is a cosmic joke.
While that might be an advantage in a different time, right now, that much power is sluggish and slow to manipulate. His Chakra is like a Hutt, idly letting itself do nothing until roused to action, with great effort. Since not even the force can move a deliberately idle Hutt, He is not too sure how he is going to get anything done
"The thing you have to remember when throwing a kunai is that you want to get it to sink point first every single time. That's why we don't teach or encourage spinning knife tricks. No, we don't care if it looks cool. Yes, cool is definitely a ninja thing, (its why I signed up anyway) but I would like to see competent before I see cool. Yes Kiba, that means you. And you Daisuke, and yes, Konoka, that definitely includes you. You won't survive to impress a boy if you're not competent."
Naruto feels the lecture burrow into his skull. It is soothing and mildly horrifying, but it makes his life tolerable. Teaching is not in his blood, as Ahsoka would testify. And yet, there are times he wishes he could settle down in his old age and simply watch the young ones grow. He wonders, if that was how Yoda felt all the time.
Ninja, he feels, are a very underrated class of people. They are the type of people his Jedi side was horrified by, and his Sith side would have been all too gleeful to utilize. They are tricksters and assassins. But they are also loyal, and loving, and a hundred things he dares not speak aloud, if only for the memories they might trigger.
Naruto enjoys learning about being a ninja too. It is not only a distraction from the emptiness of his thoughts sometimes, but it gives him a set of skills he did not have before either. He can already tell that it will be hard. Chakra is a different beast than the force. There was none of the "Open your mind to the force" or "Command it! Dominate it! Demolish it's chains upon you!" business.
Chakra was. Chakra is. Chakra will be.
Chakra is also too difficult to control. He has already tried the leaf exercise, only to watch with sheer disbelief as his leaf disintegrated. He tried with a rock, but that has become gravel as well. It will be a difficult task to accomplish, he knows. He might have the force, but unfortunately, most force powers were highly underrated when compared to the things Ninja did on a regular basis. And that wasn't to mention the fact that he needed non existent technology if he wanted to make a lightsaber. It will not happen. But, he has some ideas about things he can forge, after all, his scientific and mechanical knowledge hasn't quite disappeared.
Frankly, it was just the precognition aspect that was making him keep on doing his force exercises at all. But then, he couldn't give up the force either. It is the force that made him who he is today, with all its positives, and its negatives.
Still, Naruto is not a bad student. Endless years of training and battle, but more importantly, decades as a Sith slave, had made him a model student. His tests are perfect, his weapon use was excellent, and his taijutsu was sprinkled with things he had not touched since he was trapped in his black armor. Echani grappling, Mandalorian attack combinations, even Baran-Do footwork all found its use when he was fighting to kill and defend, without a lightsaber. He was actually enjoying life now, much to his guilty pleasure.
But that is all right. He is the living repository of Vader's sins. No amount of enjoyment would smother the sheer despair that swamped his soul.
"Uzumaki, you have to focus on your throws. Actually, you should be able to throw without focusing, but that'll take a while to pick up, maybe when your Chunin. For now focus on hitting the target. Unless you're not trying to hit the target. But we cover that next year. So for now, hit the target."
Naruto looked at his latest Chunin instructor a bit incredulously and sighed.
Jedi they were not.
Perhaps because of his distraction, his next throw finds itself in the targets groin. The Chunin looks at the target and sighs heavily, dragging an exasperated hand down his face.
"Uzumaki, please remember to aim for the crotch only if you're sure you'll kill them. If you don't, they tend to get murderously angry and start fighting back more. Pissed off ninja usually make more mistakes, but having to protect your groin the whole time from retaliation is a pretty terrible way to fight. It would be worse if you still get hit though. And yes girls, that applies to you too. "
Or Sith, he adds to himself; if that needed any more affirmation. It is, he despairs, an unwanted window into what being taught by Hondo Ohnaka would have been like.
It is a scary thought.
Milk is white here.
It's something that strikes him suddenly, as he is eating breakfast. Cereal is truly everywhere.
And Cows were actually not that unpleasant. Not like Bantha's or Nerfs. Here was a bovine creation that did not try to outdo the more "traditional" Wookies in hygiene.
Still, white milk is not something that goes off his mind when he has thought about it once.
It reminded him of Tatooine, a more pleasant memory to be sure. He could remember it, surprisingly, without the ghosts of darker things calling to him.
A polite knock interrupts his musings. The Matron has rapped her knuckles on the wooden table he is sitting at. He glances out a window to check the time. The inclination of the sun tells him it is about 10 in the morning.
"Naruto, the Hokage is here for you."
Naruto acknowledges the summons with great gravity and meets the elderly leader with a serious greeting.
The old man shakes his head ruefully and settles down beside him for yet another of their irregular, but nonetheless interesting meetings.
"How is the academy?"
Naruto nods slowly and thoughtfully.
"It is interesting, Hokage-Sama. I am learning many things."
The old man cracks a smile. He remembered his own academy days well, ever so long ago.
"That's good. We wouldn't want you to get bored now...And are the teachers giving you any issues?"
Naruto shakes his head gently. The teachers are obviously not comfortable with him, but are not behaving unprofessionally. It actually felt a little odd to not be facing utter revulsion for every breath. The younglings of his Jedi clan had been more than a little jealous of him. In his time as a Sith, he had found that the sheer fear of his presence on a Star Destroyer was enough to increase his connection to the dark side, like breathing in a cloud of death stick fumes. Here, he is faced with uncertainty. Each and every adult he has to interact with behaves constantly off kilter, like they were all riding speeders with oddly bent vanes.
The Hokage raises his head, looking at him with a piercing gaze before nodding to himself.
"And have you made any friends Naruto?"
Naruto shakes his head introspectively. He thinks, but does not say what is self evident to him. His friends are already dead, mostly at his own hand. The one friend he did not, had enslaved him and turned him into a mockery of humanity, a living dark side using droid. Uzumaki Naruto, much like Anakin Skywalker before him, is not an existence that leant itself to friendship.
Hiruzen Sarutobi sighs slowly and heavily. The boys academics were impeccable. But, it would have been nice to hear that his almost grandson was enjoying the joys of childhood. He knows that the academy is the only time that children in this wretched world could live a carefree life, free of politics, pain and death. Already, he is heavily reminded of another prodigy that has passed those walls a few years ago. Young Uchiha Itachi was another old soul trapped in a young body, and Hiruzen was unable to stop the tragedy even now unfolding around the Uchiha Clan and its heir.
But all of that does not change the fact that Naruto was setting himself for a long and lonely road that would only end in misery. Unfortunately, this is not something he could change with his power either. Not even a Hokage can command a friendship. And Naruto will need his friends, because Hiruzen has been Hokage for more than a generation, and he knows how his village thinks and feels, because they grew up under his watch. Naruto, as a Jinchuuriki, a human sacrifice will not fare well at all if he is isolated. The strongest Jinchuuriki seal relies on the strength of its wielders will power to keep its prisoner locked. Hiruzen can only imagine the devastation that can occur if that will power is found wanting. It is not comforting thought. He looks at the boy beside him and tries to frame the words he needs to tell, that he must communicate with the boy before he and everyone around him become merely a tragedy. Hiruzen silently acknowledges that his hands have done the most harm, but he can at least strive to ease some of that burden.
"Naruto…everyone needs friends. Please try, if not for yourself, try for my sake. The academy is the time when you can forge the treasured bonds that will last a lifetime. This is not a world that lends itself to happiness….It would ease my heart if you had a few friends that you could call your own."
Naruto ponders the older mans words. His thoughts swirl around him, caught between reminiscing and the here and now. The words are clear enough, referring, as all philosophy in Konoha eventually does, to the Will of Fire. The Will of Fire is not a simple subject. It was not the Jedi or Sith code, which were both personal things, but instead something far more and far less. To an extent, it was closer to Mandalorian philosophy, the Resol'nare, a way of life dedicated to defending your community. The Will of Fire was a thinly disguised call to arms, a siren song to war in the fleeting hope of peace. Abruptly, and humorously, he muses that if he thought of Konoha Ninja forces in terms of Space Wizard Mando Commandos, then everything would make more sense. They had a Mandalore, they had the Clans, they had organized warfare and they were extremely eager to kill and be killed for their home. Rinse and repeat for the other villages. Really, even the naming convention hinted at it, for having the family or clan name before the personal name merely reinforced the idea that the individual was less important than the clan.
But all of that doesn't tell him how to respond to the one human being who treats him with unreserved affection in this life.
But then, this is not the supreme autocrat of Konohagakure sitting beside him. This is perhaps the closest person to Qui Gon Jinn he had found in this lifetime. And yet even that comparison is somewhat lacking. After all, what is a grandfather anyway?
Still, Naruto nods his head slightly, as much as he will let himself. Friends? He can do friends….right?
Classes continue as normal. There is no end to the information put in front of them, or the drills, or the more esoteric knowledge. Naruto absorbs everything like a sponge. To some extent, he feels like he is in one of those holodramas about an explorer who has crash landed on a primitive-yet-not societies. That particular plot had been popular right before the clone wars. It helped that there were plenty of planets and species that had been discovered in this manner. So there was no shortage of inspiration for the numerous productions that ended up plastered on every holoscreen on Coruscant.
The culture of this world is alien to him. Even with a suitable point of reference to rationalize it, the way the world works just does not make sense. How does the economy not collapse when everything can be traced to "A ninja did it"? A house burns down? A ninja did it. The Land of Tea and Land of Birds are at war? A ninja did it. Random mountain got flattened? You guessed it, a ninja did it. The mercenaries were intertwined with the entirety of life in a fashion that from his perspective was nothing but howling madness. From his admittedly biased perspective, it was hard to see how civilization was running at all.
And yet, run it somehow does. He reads through his textbook, now at the chapter describing the treaty between Fire and Bird country and simply shrugs at the insanity of it all. They had so much "History" when the oldest known surviving records of history were about six or seven hundred years old. Whatever the good that Chakra can do now, its previous wielders had definitely left no stone unturned in their efforts to wipe the slate clean. Clan histories are useless in their own way. How useful is it to know that such and such man was the clan head 700 years ago, when they had no idea what the borders were like at the time? It was not helped by the fact that even what histories existed acknowledged the fact that clans were secretive and very good at selectively presenting history. The Senju and Uchiha clan records disagreed on what happened on the few events the historians had tentatively agreed were referencing the same thing. Compared to the Galaxy he knew, the history he was learning was more like current affairs...or news really.
Still, he pays attention to everything the teachers say, trying to find what is unsaid, like the fact that Suna is not as friendly as the treaty says it is, or that Konoha is not a very well liked village among the other Ninja Villages. The subtleties are enormous. Yet, Naruto reflects, politics is always that way, whether its the Galactic Empire, or a tiny village on some unknown planet. The scale is different, but people and motivations are the same, across time and space. Greed, that loathsome character, is an ever-present thing, whether it is a Trade Federation Viceroy, or an Earth Country Daimyo. Wars, treaties, agreements, conflicts, they all followed the same things, people and their greed.
Naruto shuts his text book gently and sighs. Perhaps something to take his mind off human nature?
The Naka river flowed through the middle of Konoha. In some ways, it was the center of Konoha, being the area where Senju Hashirama and Uchiha Madara had hatched their plan to stop their clans from suiciding against each other. Naruto had recently taken to meditating by the banks of the river. It is not quite The Room of a Thousand Fountains, but it is a relaxing place nonetheless. Here, he can reflect upon his life and his choice and torture himself in peace. It helps that this is not coruscant, the ossified cesspit of the dark side of a trillion miserable souls. This is a planet without total industrialization, where nature hummed pleasantly behind the vale. The Force is strong here.
The part of him that is Anakin Skywalker wants to retire from the Ninja business and just do something ordinary. That part of him is tired of it all, a weariness of having lived too long, like butter scraped over too much bread, as he had heard once in his past life.
The part that is all Vader however, is sorely tempted to unleash the dark side and just conquer the planet until they stumble into a civilization model that did not involve running on the whims of, what sometimes tracked in his mind as unsightly amalgamations of mercenary, Ubiqtorate and Sith Inquisitor.
But, both those sides are not the primary facet of Uzumaki Naruto. Naruto is an existence surpassing the past, a cenotaph of their sins, and yet eager to do some good in this life.
He blinks and opens his eyes.
Perhaps, he considers thoughtfully, it would be better if he did not think of himself in the third person. He pauses and makes a correction, maybe he should stop brooding alone like Anakin Skywalker. He gets up and walks away, passing a black haired kid sprawled over the river bank. Maybe he should give this friends thing a try?
"Hello I am Uzumaki Naruto. Would you like to be friends?"
The other kid looks at him with a vaguely constipated expression, sprinkled with an awkward exasperation. Truly, the force was the best power for social interaction.
"Depends, what do you think of shogi?"
"I do not play it yet"
They look at each other awkwardly, like children trying to be adults but not sure how. Nara Shikamaru shifts to an assessing look, bringing his hands into something not quite a handsign. Naruto is patient though. He waits and watches. The Nara clan are known for genius and eccentricity. Compared to Ziro the Hutt, this is nothing
"Troublesome. I'll teach you"
Naruto smiles. Shikamaru frowns. The other kid in the area, Akimichi Choji eats a chip, watching this interaction as if it is a Sushi platter.
For those unfamiliar with his clan, that meant he was very fascinated indeed.
"Agreed, we shall be friends, and I will learn the art of Shogi from you."
Naruto mostly succeeds in restraining his Vader side from commanding obedience. It Is only mostly successful.
Shikamaru mutters his catch phrase right as the bell rings.
"See you after class then?"
"Indeed we shall"
And so, Uzumaki Naruto manages to make a friend, he muses to himself. He hopes that it will last.
A/N: Greetings all! Hope everyone is safe and healthy. It's not a great time we're living in, but hopefully things will eventually get better. My sympathies for everyone who has lost loved ones due to this pandemic and my best wishes to all who are under the shadow of the virus and fighting to get better. Given my religious leanings, I wont lie and say I'll pray for you, but I direct my fervent hope that all will get better.
I know it's been years at this point, but ever since I got my current job, all I've written is the occasional poem and a lot of tries at writing fanfiction that never really got my full attention. I've got a lot of content that just is not in any way ready to be published and which I don't have the time I would need to be confident I could approach it well. It's just that case where real life interrupts art. I'm not complaining a lot either. I am getting paid a good wage, and the people who I work with are wonderful understanding human beings…though the same cannot be said of upper management. But, I have to prioritize, and so reading has always superseded writing, unfortunately.
I'm not getting much motivation to write honestly. I've been trying my hand at being self indulgent in writing SIs, but even that loses its appeal. Thanks to the wonders of COVID-19, I am "enjoying" the wonders of Home at Work, sorry, Work From Home, and its not making things easy. In case you don't know, I live in Mumbai, India and my apartment is smack dab in a Corona Virus Containment Zone. I haven't taken a proper walk in ages, the view outside my window looks like a ghost town and my diet is abysmal for my health. But hey, I'm still alive right? Got to count at least. Anyways, between the uncertainty of whether I'll still be alive or I'll be alive but unemployed or even whether I'll see my hometown any time soon, or at all, I'm not in a good place mentally. This entire chapter is more or less an attempt to get off my butt and actually do something. My current work is UA testing and it is ridiculously exhausting. It makes for a rather aggravating time overall.
To the people who sent PMs, thank you for your support, I shall endeavour to follow your advice. To my friends, I'm still alive and kicking. To my haters, I'm glad to see you are well too. To everyone who is reading this, thank you for your interest. Feel free to drop a review or not, but it's appreciated all the same.
Stay strong Gentlebeings, and may the Force be with you.