Painkillers were a fucking blessing. Sure, he was woozy and perpetually tired, but at least his thoughts were somewhat coherent. If he was gonna go, he wanted to at least have a chance to get his thoughts in order. Cancer was a sneaky thing, coming out of nowhere and quickly corrupting his body. By the time his cancer was detected, it had already become untreatable. So, he had no choice but to make peace with his own passing.

'They'll be okay,' he thought to himself. It should have been a heavy thought, but it was somehow serene. His students had learned so much, and they would be okay without him. Hurt, devastated even, but okay. Sure, he still had far grander dreams of systemic change, but someone else would pick up the torch. He was by no means a professional lone wolf.

The last piece of solace he felt was that of his family, or lack thereof. Sure, his friends would take this hard, but nobody was quite close enough to him to be irreparably damaged by his death. And with that thought, darkness embraced the young man of thirty.

What happened next, you ask?

Shenanigans.

After he 'went to sleep' for the last time in his hospital bed, he wasn't greeted by the nothingness that he had expected. Death was supposed to be the end; there was no empirical proof of anything like an afterlife. It was all well and good that people chose to have faith in various forms of life after death, and take spirituality as a form of comfort and empowerment, but the man wasn't one to believe in anything he could verify with reproducible evidence.

He was so sure that he would close his eyes and just simply cease to exist. But no, he opened his eyes and saw... a glowing outline of a humanoid form? His mind was working again, back at full capacity. No medication to ease his pain at the cost of slowing his mind. His first hypothesis was that this could be the last flare of his own brain activity causing a powerful hallucination. But they never lifted his meds, his brain wouldn't have had the fuel for a last hurrah. Fuck.

"So am I anywhere near justified in quoting the line 'Magic is just science we don't understand yet'?" The now-dead soul called out to this luminous apparition. There was no point in pure skepticism anyway. If his mind was just making all of this up, what did he have to lose?

~A pretty fair call, but let's not go into the details. Let's just say that there is a tiny shred of truth in some of the varying human theistic beliefs, but by sheer chance alone. Any more questions, or can we get down to business?~ The soul didn't so much hear the response as become aware of it, which made sense due to the lack of, you know, ears, but was still rather creepy. Even so, the confirmation made him laugh, the absurdity of it all reaching him quickly.

"Well, I'm going to assume that if you don't want to go into details, there's not much point in asking. So, now that cancer kicked my ass and crushed my dreams, what's next for me?"

~You're no fun.~

"To be fair, cancer did just kick my ass and crush my dreams. My trauma is pretty justified, even if I have had time and a deathbed with which to process it."

~Yes, very well then, I shan't beat around the bush - you're going to live another life.~

"On the one hand, I do like living. On the other hand, I'm talking to a glowing being that I know absolutely nothing about, in a situation that all my prior knowledge says is unlikely enough to be called impossible. Do I get to ask what this other life will be, and do I get to choose whether to live it or just kick the bucket properly here?"

~I mean, you have a choice. You can kick the bucket whenever you like in your new life if you dislike it so much, but you're definitely going to get reborn. Remember the world of Naruto?~

If it was possible for a glowing human outline to grin evilly, it just did. The soul stopped for a moment, baffled.

"You're telling me that somehow a fictional world written about by some guy in Japan is actually real, and that I'm going to be reborn there, of all places, after already dealing with how ridiculously impossible life after death is?" Whilst expressing his outrage, the soul began to run through any tests he could come up with to confirm that this was all in his head. Usually he'd want to prove the opposite, but this was a bit too ridiculous.

Alas, all he could think of without eventually rejecting was the line "I think, therefore I am", alongside some circular meta-physics about how there really isn't any way to prove that one's observations are or aren't reality, and so you might as well just go with it.

~Alright, I'll give you a freebie. Sometimes, visions of other worlds leak across the boundaries of each reality. Some people just happen to end up more in tune with these visions. But rarely do they get their representations of these worlds entirely… accurate. Additionally, it's not only visions that creep across, sometimes people do. And the one who slipped through the cracks is… a wildcard, to say the least. And that's where you come in.~

"So you want me to go deal with this wildcard, is that it?" If a soul on some kind of metaphysical plane could raise its eyebrow quizzically, that is what he did.

~Each world requires balance, and this intruder would shatter that balance. You would restore it - perhaps not to its original way, but an acceptable one nonetheless. This, I know.~

"Alright, so what's the deal from here?"

~You are currently in the precipice, the boundary, between worlds. This boundary contains… a filter, of sorts. There are aspects of your self that your soul will retain, and aspects it will not. Your identity, your being, will survive. And, it will continue to grow in ways you had yet to discover in your prior life. Your memories, however, will be mostly fragmented, only vague impressions remaining. To a minor extent, I can influence this. I will grant you a select few pieces of knowledge to retain with clarity in your new life.

First, you shall not lose your innate understanding of your world's scientific method. This tool will serve you indispensably. Second, your cursory understanding of the workings of chakra, to give you a head start. Third, the knowledge of a chakra beast named Kurama, sealed in the body of one named Naruto. And finally, knowledge that you were sent to this world to deal with the intruder and maintain balance shall be kept. With this, hopefully you shall succeed in protecting the balance of this world.

Then there was darkness.

And then there was light.

And then there was the sound of screaming.


Minato had hardly been getting enough sleep lately. His duties aside, he was wracked with nervousness and excitement over the ever-nearing birth of his twin children. Exciting because he couldn't wait to be a doting father to his two children, but nervous and terrified because of how dangerous this whole operation was. He wasn't sure he would be able to keep up his duties without the help of Hiruzen and Biwako, who had been supporting him and Kushina through all of this.

Kushina could go into labour any day now. Everything was set up in the cave - the seals had been set up a week ago and were being regularly maintained by Hiruzen. Even Jiraiya-sensei had been around a couple times to make sure the barrier was as strong as was needed. Despite all of the measures put in place to keep Kushina safe, to keep the twins safe and to keep Konoha safe, something just felt off to Minato.

Minato ran through possible complications in his head, carefully thinking through what was set up to avert each potential crisis, just to remind himself that it would be fine, and soon he would be father to two healthy children. But a niggling anxiety stuck in the back of his mind. As Hokage, Minato had learned not to ignore that anxiety, because sometimes the unexpected did occur, and he had to be prepared to deal with what occurred.

Minato barely registered the mechanical action of gathering his kunai, sorting the Hiraishin ones from the ordinary. He did notice the rising of the morning sun, as well as Kushina calling to him from behind.

"Minato, relax!" Kushina called out, practically reading his mind.

Minato turned to face her, and she gave him a look. 'If something does go wrong, you need your strength, so stop being an idiot and get some rest', communicated in just a glance.

"Thanks." Minato responded. "So you're sure that's what you want to name our firstborn? I wonder how Mikoto will react..."

"I'm sure. It just feels right, to honour him. He was really special." Kushina looked down, the slightest of frown lines appearing on her face, reliving a sour memory.

And so Minato took the day off - in a sense. Nobody could know that Kushina was pregnant, or the whole village could be put in danger. The act of childbirth would weaken Kushina's jinchuuriki seals, and risk letting the Kyubi free. So, as far as anyone was aware, Minato had another day at the office. Quietly, though, Genma and Raido, two of his three official guards, manipulated his schedule so that most of the major appointments could be handled by the Jonin commander instead. Minato was there, doing his job, as though nothing was different.

Day turned into night, as Minato used simple work to rest his mind, and regain his energy. And night turned into screaming worry. Something was happening to Kushina right now, he just knew. Minato arrived at the cave just in time to see the first of two children, Obito, being delivered. Smiling at the small body with tufts of Kushina's red hair, Minato pushed his worries to the side and prepared to get to work - he would need to begin repairing Kushina's seal.

As the second child, Naruto, was delivered, Minato allowed himself a scarce moment to enjoy a first look at his two sons. Obito with Kushina's magnificent red hair, and Naruto with Minato's gentle blonde.

And then, he got to work. And then, he heard bodies drop. Minato turned quickly, seeing the midwives hit the floor, and a cloaked, masked figure holding Naruto.

"Move, and I kill the kid. If you want your kid back, you'll let the Kyuubi's seal break." The masked figure ordered, and it was clear that this was no empty threat.

The masked figure threw Naruto into the air, and immediately Minato recognised the bait. He knew this was a diversion but he had to take it, had to save his son. Gently grabbing the boy out of the air and landing as lightly as possible, Minato barely noticed the explosive tags on Naruto's blanket.

Barely thinking, he used Hiraishin to teleport to an unused safehouse, tossed the blanket and shielded his son as he was blown away by the shockwave of the explosion. Quickly, he moved to another safehouse, where some ANBU were stationed.

"Take my son, guard him with your life. No matter what, you keep him safe!" Minato ordered, his usual gentle demeanor fractured by the current situation.

Laying Naruto gently in a cot - Minato had insisted they have multiple backup safehouses prepared for the twins, just in case, Minato left in a yellow flash.

By the time he returned to the cave, Kushina was gone. Obito lay silently on the ground, blood slowly pooling towards his body. Grabbing the child, he once again returned to the safehouse where Naruto was, laying Obito gently next to him.

And then, he felt it. That burning, corrosive sensation that was the Kyuubi's chakra. Following it as fast as he could, Minato arrived to see the Kyuubi free, and Kushina laying weakened on the ground of an open plain. And the Kyuubi, slashing down towards Kushina.

No, No, NO!

Moving, moving, moving, faster than the Yellow Flash had ever moved before, Minato launched himself towards Kushina with hardly a concern for himself, sweeping her into his arms and launching up to the top of a nearby tree.

Registering and filing to the back of his mind the taunts of the assailant, Minato vanished, appearing again in the safehouse next to Naruto and Obito. He set Kushina down, next to their sons, and promised to return.


Less than an hour later, Kushina woke from her short, desperately needed rest to the feeling of Minato's chakra. Without wasting a moment, Minato explained the situation, and Kushina nodded to him. Just as she began to feel Kurama's chakra outside, Minato was holding her and the twins, and then they too were outside.

Several shinobi, including Hiruzen, were doing their best to restrain the fox, but the hold was not strong enough. With what chakra she had left, Kushina released her chakra chains to restrain it.

"Minato. We don't have time! I don't have much chakra left, but I have enough for you to seal the beast back into me. Yes, I will die, but it will die with me. Our sons are safe and healthy, and I want them to stay that way." Kushina pleaded, believing this to be the only option.

"No! We can seal the Kyuubi into our sons. If I split its chakra, we can give half to each boy and they will be able to withstand the sealing."

"But, the technique you'd need to use - we can't let our boys grow up without either of us to look after them!"

"It's horrible, I know, but we can. I believe in them, in their future. And with this, we can seal our chakra into them as well, and watch over them as they grow up. Kushina, please, it's the best option."

Kushina breathed, and nodded. It was. Though politics and strategy came less easily to her than to Minato, she did understand at least that Konoha was better off with jinchuuriki than without. And the twins had Uzumaki blood, so they were well suited to hosting a tailed beast. It was a hard life, but it would be ok. She and Minato both knew the boys would be ok. And so, again, she nodded.

Painful as it was to watch, she observed as Minato drew the seals to summon the Shinigami, and heard Hiruzen gasp as it came and drew chakra out of the Kyuubi. Kushina knew that Hiruzen recognised this technique, probably shocked that Minato knew of it. And Kushina knew of it too. She watched, as Minato drew up the Eight Trigrams seal, and funelled the Kyuubi's yang chakra into Naruto's prone body. And then, the Shinigami began to draw out the Kyuubi's yin chakra, but the Kyuubi began to a body with the fox for so long, Kushina knew that Kurama was no fool, and wouldn't want to be sealed yet again.

As though there weren't enough sudden threats for one night, Kushina saw the fox speeding towards the twins. Without thinking, she leapt off the ground and vaulted at the fox. So did Minato. To their last moments, they truly worked well together. The two of them barely fended off the fox long enough for the yin chakra to flow into Obito. And Kushina noticed as she fell to the ground, how Obito's eyes were open, and how he seemed to be watching events unfold. The last thing Kushina felt was Minato drawing out her chakra, and infusing it into the seals of each of the twins.

Darkness.


Minato almost broke when he felt Kushina's life end. It hurt more than the keen awareness that his soul was being pulled, slowly, from his body, and that he wouldn't even get to pass on when he died. But, there was work to be done.

Minato looked to Hiruzen, who stood, shocked by the events that had just passed. He was so wrapped up in desperately DESPERATELY protecting his children that he wasn't sure when Hiruzen caught up. It couldn't have been long ago.

"Hiruzen, I need to ask you for one last favour. I don't have time to tell you everything. But please, don't let the village hate Naruto and Obito for the Kyuubi sealed within them. They've been forced into this from birth, and if anything they're heroes to the village, protecting them every living moment. Please, look after them. Make sure they grow up safe and happy." Towards the end, Minato began to pause between words, catching his breath and building his energy just enough to speak. His time was near.

Two figures landed suddenly beside Hiruzen. At this point, Minato couldn't even keep his eyes open. He could sense that this was the chakra of Jiraiya and Kakashi. With the last of his strength, he spoke his final words.

"Kakashi, Jiraiya. I know you have a lot going on, but both of you please, visit my sons and help look after them when you can."

Darkness.


The newly reborn soul tried to see what was going on as best he could, but the eyesight of a baby fresh out of the womb certainly had its limits. For a while, there was relative peace. He felt warmth nearby, from a larger and smaller body. Someone spoke, but he couldn't understand the words. And then, a sound, a fusion of phonetic pieces that he was able to make sense of.

"Naruto!"

A moment later, there was a hand on his forehead, and another word spoken with equally vibrant excitement. "Obito!" He inferred that this was his new name. The hand rested on his forehead, and then withdrew. There was calm for a while, so he relaxed, and allowed his tiny body's impulsed their request; he cried, and then fell asleep.

He woke again later, in an entirely different place. There was open sky, and a giant mass of snarling, aggressive orange. Several minutes dragged out into what felt like an eternity of primal fear. When it stopped, the baby hoped it might be over. It wasn't. Something heavy and coarse surged into his body, and he blacked out.