AN: This chapter is more of a filler. A canon divergence. I want you guys to understand that this was a bit necessary in order for me to keep the story intact….well, as intact as it is now? Anyway, I actually had a different plan for Naruto after the recon mission, but it occurred to me rather late that with Team 7 being on the platoons, they won't be allowed to take any missions. Therefore, I had to rewrite the entire chapter. It was such a drag that it put me off writing for a small while.
Please don't hate me for this.
Also, in hindsight, I realize that I hadn't entirely thought it out, the decision of who gets to keep the Kusanagi. I'll be remedying that in this chapter.
P.S: It has been a trying month. My grandfather is in the hospital and grandma on the bed. So I would appreciate it if anyone didn't mention how long it has been since I updated.
That could have gone better.
Naruto was sullen as he walked home, hands in his pockets. Truthfully, he should have foreseen the reaction from his fellow blonde. Many people were sold on the information that Kyuubi was the physical form of hate and rage, and years of no one correcting them had taken its toll.
After Kurama's attack all those years ago, the fox's reputation had taken such a hit that it still hadn't recovered, and it seemingly won't until they see the fox doing something for them. Humanity was like that, greedy and arrogant. Wanting to take, but never give.
Naruto blinked in surprise as his red-haired cousin fell into place with him, a cheerful grin on his place. "Haruto?"
"Who else would I be?"
Naruto frowned at his cousin's unusual behavior. It wasn't that Haruto wasn't cheerful at times, but this time it almost felt like-
Oh. Naruto smirked. I see now.
"So how was your day?"
Naruto grinned as he put an arm around his shoulders. "Oh, it was fine. Spent some quality time with my wife, beat up my friends, gave them some tips on how to be better shinobi and overall improve their perspective on life!"
Haruto simply stared at him. "…you sound like Jiraiya on one of his sadistic trips."
Naruto shrugged. "The guy's an excellent teacher. Hard not to pick something up from him."
Haruto gained a sly look in his eyes. "Are you sure that's the only thing you picked up from Jiraiya?"
Naruto's eyes flickered to him. "You really aren't the one who should be talking about who picked up what from Jiraiya, you perv."
"How dare you?!"
Naruto allowed himself a smirk. "Did I hit a nerve?"
Haruto huffed and crossed his arms. "Of course not."
"Really? How was your date with Sakura?"
The answering glower made him snicker all the way till home.
Temari looked up from where she was sitting on the couch reading a book. "Hey! So, did she tell you?"
Naruto nodded. "Yep. As of today, Team 7 is officially on the Twenty Platoons. Also, I got us a five day holiday."
Temari blinked. "Uh, what?"
Naruto grinned and spread his arms. "You and I are going on a holiday!"
Temari was still just staring at him blankly. Then slowly, with careful movements, she put down her book on the table. "Why?"
"Because now is the only time we can," Naruto answered immediately. "Tsunade created the Nijuu Shoutai for the sole purpose of going to war with Akatsuki, which has already begun. We don't know how long this war will last, or even if one of us would be alive in the aftermath."
Temari snapped. "Don't say that!"
Naruto straightened up, a grim look on his face. "It's the harsh possibility, Temari. One that we have to consider."
She was now standing up. "You said it yourself that it was highly unlikely that anyone can take Kurama away from you!"
"My father was thought to be unbeatable by many, yet he died younger than the average mortality age for shinobi," Naruto promptly answered. "I said that the probability was slim, but it's still there."
Temari gave a heavy sigh and folded her arms. She seemed to be deliberating something, and in the end, she only looked unsure. "I don't know Naruto….what if the Akatsuki find us?"
If Temari wasn't so somber right now, he would have laughed. But he only looked amused. "Alright. Let's consider the possibility that they do find us…..how will they catch me?"
Temari opened her mouth to answer, but nothing came out. It was impressive just how she went from looking concerned to having the look on her face when someone feels completely stupid.
"Oh, how could I forget?" she groaned.
"Yeah, how could you?" Naruto continued in a mock offensive voice.
She gave him a small smile. "I guess, I'm still not over how Gaara was just taken from his village."
"Tsunade agrees too. The elders thought that it would be safer to keep me in the village, but she threw it right back at them how the Akatsuki picked Gaara up right from the center of his village."
"If we're really doing this, where are we going to go?"
Naruto hummed. "There's this resort in Hot water country that I and Jiraiya came across in our training trip. He wanted to scout the onsen over there, but I dragged him away. But not before I put a mark near the area so that I could return if I wanted to."
Temari raised an eyebrow. "Put a mark? Can you even sense it from here?"
"I could if I tried really hard. My dad theorized that at the utmost limit, with his technique, he could sense across two nations."
That was impressive. "Okay, so when do we leave?"
"Tomorrow, at noon. I have some business to attend in the morning. Ino found out about Kurama."
Temari's head whipped up in shock. "What?!"
Naruto grimaced. "Yeah. Guess her father or Asuma never warned her to use her family jutsu on me."
Temari covered her mouth with her hands. "Oh kami, is she alright?"
Naruto sat down with a sigh. "I wouldn't say that. She looked at me as if me and Kurama were one and the same."
Temari couldn't help but feel disappointed, even if her fellow blonde was traumatized by the being living in Naruto's gut. Naruto had proved time and time again why he was different from the Kyuubi, but she could understand that revelations like what Ino had tonight were cemented by years of the elders telling the children the lies they themselves didn't understand fully.
Once again, she couldn't help but draw parallels between Naruto's and her brother's situation. Both had a tailed beast sealed inside of them, unwillingly. Both were scorned by the village for something that wasn't their fault.
Only Gaara had given any reason for the villagers of Suna to think that he was no different from the monster that resided within him. Naruto had done no such thing. In fact, he went the opposite way, trying to do anything and everything to prove the villagers wrong. That he was not the monster they told their children about in the night. And even then he only succeeded when he revealed who his father was.
Temari doubted whether the villagers would have believed him or not if Minato Namikaze hadn't been brought into the mix. 'The son of our hero couldn't do any wrong! He can't be the monster!'
It made her sneer just at the thought.
"So how are you going to fix this?"
Despite having nearly endless stores of energy almost all the time, Naruto looked tired. "I guess I'll just…..lay it out for them. Plain and simple. What they think of me is entirely up to them."
And wasn't that the harsh truth?
She searched for a way to divert the topic. "So what else is new? Something fortunate happen on your mission?"
Naruto answered after a moment of thinking. "I stole Orochimaru's sword."
Temari blinked. "Say what?"
"I stole his sword," Naruto repeated, "the sword of Kusanagi."
Temari gasped. "Kusanagi no tsurugi? The legendary grasscutter? That sword?"
Naruto grinned. "You know about it?"
"Of course! I may not be as enthusiastic about weapons as Tenten, but I did extensive research on what kind of weapon I wanted to use when I finally started training."
"So how do you know about Kusanagi?"
Temari shrugged. "I was fascinated by its history. It's said to be created by the Rikudo Sennin himself." She paused, but then broke out in an excited smile. "So where is it?"
Naruto chuckled at her. "It's in my vest."
"Well? Whip it out!"
Naruto chose not to comment on the double meaning of that and unsealed the sword, slowly handing it to her. "Don't touch the edge. It's got a poison that has no antidote. Yet."
"I know," Temari muttered distractedly as she waved it around a few times. "It's quite well balanced."
She balanced the blade on her index finger, watching it tip from side to side before settling. "What are you planning to do with it?"
Naruto rubbed the back of his neck. "I'm actually planning it to give it to Tenten, given her fascination with weapons."
That actually caused her to gape. "Seriously?!"
Maybe it was the incredulity mixed with annoyance in her voice because Naruto had his hands up in an instant. "Whoa! What's wrong?"
It took her a moment to calm down. "Naruto, why are you giving to Tenten? This is a weapon of the legends and you don't just give away objects like these simply because you don't wield them!"
Naruto watched her stunned. "How did you know that was my reason?"
Temari snorted. "I'm your wife, aren't I?"
Naruto tried to speak, but apparently this was the time the universe decided he shouldn't have anything to counter his wife.
"So what do you think I should do?"
Temari raised her eyebrows as if to say 'duh'. "Of course. Think of it as the….spoils of the battle of the Uzumaki clan against the evil snake summoner?"
Naruto definitely looked amused. "Are you asking me or telling me?"
He couldn't deny that she had a point. He hadn't thought this out completely, and he felt part guilty and part ashamed that he hadn't talked it out with Temari. She had just as much a hand in the decision of the Uzumaki clan as him.
Then I suppose it's a good thing that Tenten doesn't know that I have this sword. She would have either have broken down crying or bugged me or Temari until one of us said yes.
"So it just stays with us until…?"
Temari looked up in thought. "Maybe one of our children can learn kenjutsu when they grow up. You can pass it onto them."
Temari flushed. "I-uh I meant- meant to- I mean-"
Naruto passed by her, chuckling. "It's alright dear. I love you too."
Before he knew it, Naruto found himself in Team 7's training grounds, sitting on a stump before all of his friends. Every rookie was present, and Naruto was thankful for the fact that the sensei didn't decide to come.
Team 10 was standing, but it almost looked like Ino was trying to hide behind Shikamaru and Chouji. Also, they were covered in bruises, no doubt from last night.
Team 9 was looking plain curious. Neji looked neutral like he usually did. Tenten looked a bit impatient if the tapping of her foot was anything to go by, and Lee was surprisingly quiet and serious looking.
Team 8 was the same as Team 9.
The less said about Team 7 the better.
It wasn't in his nature to be nervous. He liked to think of himself as a guy who adapted according to the situation. If the the situation required him to keep quiet, he would do it. If it required him to tear through his enemies, he would gladly do so with a smile. He had become intimately familiar with his bloodlust when training with Kurama.
It was a side that best remained inside.
The last time he was nervous was when he was about to be married to Temari. That was when he was truly terrified, because dealing with emotions meant sailing in a storm and not knowing where the wind is blowing. He couldn't control the boat.
Now though, it was a different matter. This time, he was going to share his deepest, darkest secret with his comrades. He didn't need Tsunade's permission for this; he was one of the two people in the village who could decide without a second opinion who needs to know the secret. The other was the hokage.
Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Ino standing close to her teammates, looking at him nervously. No doubt, she had talked to her father last night. Speaking of which…
She was almost startled, but didn't sound afraid when she spoke to him. "Yeah?"
"Are you alright?"
She pursed her lips and nodded. No verbal answer, which meant she was waiting for his explanation, and only then would she come to a conclusion. Also-
"Did your father get called back to T&I?"
That gathered stares of confusion from almost everyone. Ino was confused as well as cautious. "Why would he get called back?"
"Classified." She didn't know, which meant that Inoichi hadn't been called in yet and it was Ibiki who was currently in charge of Kabuto's interrogation. He had no doubt that Kabuto was a tough man to break, but Ibiki had been at this game for a long time. Still, the ability to go into someone's head and fish around for information was damn useful.
Ino frowned. "What's classified?"
"The information that I'm about to share with you."
Naruto glanced towards Hinata, who was nervously twiddling her fingers. "If it's classified, won't you need the Hokage's permission to share it?"
"…no, I won't. It's something that I can choose to divulge without needing the Hokage's permission. But I do have a request for all of you," he looked everyone in the eye to ensure the gravity of his next sentence, "do not tell anyone else."
By now, the rookies were more curious than confused. Never had Naruto acted like this before, but then again, no one could ever predict what he did. There was a reason he was called 'Konoha's number one unpredictable ninja'.
He pondered on how to say it and after a moment, decided to go with history. "Alright, you guys know what happened sixteen years ago, October 10th?"
"That's correct, Tenten. Sixteen years ago, Konoha was suddenly attacked by Kyuubi. My father, the Yondaime Hokage, was the one who fought it and won, killing it in the end but sacrificing himself along the way. Anyone having been told differently?"
He looked around to see if anyone knew beyond what they had been told, but received shakes of the head. Good, he hadn't expected anything else. But he did catch Shikamaru and Neji narrowing their eyes.
"Well, that's only the half-truth. See, Kyuubi is a being that cannot be killed."
"So why did our parents tell us that it was killed?" That was Kiba.
Kurama growled inside, either at being referred to as "it" or at the reminder of his defeat at the hands of his late father. "To put you at ease, but mostly to make sure that you ate your green veggies or it will come again."
"Naruto, what are you trying to tell us?"
Naruto looked over to Neji, who looked more focused on Naruto rather than what he was trying to tell. "What I'm saying is, the Kyuubi is alive and still in Konoha."
He could see Ino struggling to remain quiet, but he shook his head at her. This was his secret to tell.
She silently growled but stayed quiet. The rest, however, shifted uneasily. It wasn't a pleasing notion that the mightiest of the bijuu, the monster of everyone's nightmares was still alive and that too inside the village.
"Naruto-kun, if Kyuubi wasn't killed, then where is it? What did Yondaime-sama do to it?"
Naruto appreciated that Lee knew he was no worker when it came to fuinjutsu, and as such didn't make any assumptions. "He sealed it away into a newborn baby."
He figured that this information should be enough for everyone to arrive where he wanted them to alive, but he failed to count the fact that not everyone was a genius and as such, needed more information to connect all the dots.
"Oh kami that's horrible!"
"How could the Yondaime do this?!"
These were the general reactions. Hinata looked down, no doubt feeling sad for the poor child who got stuck with the monster. Kiba growled to himself, while Shino continued staring at him. No doubt, he was on the way to figure out what Naruto had been trying to tell them.
Ino was stoic, an expression that surprisingly didn't suit her, and Chouji still looked clueless. Lee was still spouting off something about un-youthfulness and Tenten was trying to get him to calm down.
Shikamaru was looking at his with cautious eyes. Naruto recalled that he had been in that meeting all those years ago, and therefore already knew his secret. He wondered just what he had thought the evening before, having no doubt figured out what Ino saw in his head.
Neji had reached the conclusion moments later. He may not be as smart as Shikamaru, but he was still a genius. He didn't need all the pieces to see the picture of the puzzle. Naruto would have laughed at his wide eyes if this wasn't a serious situation.
When the rookies had somewhat calmed down, Naruto gave them the next clue. "Also, do some of you guys remember your parents telling you to stay away from me?"
Still, some people needed a bit more. Kiba for instance. "What are you trying to tell us Naruto?!"
Naruto sighed. Time to drop the bomb. "Why do you think my birthday coincides with the day my father sealed the Kyuubi into a newborn baby?"
Naruto just rested his chin on his hands. The rookies looked exactly like he had imagined yesterday, trying to decide the best way to tell them. Hinata and Tenten had covered their mouths at the horrifying realization as they stared at him. Lee was, for once in his life, looking absolutely stupefied. He had nothing to say that would relate youth to this situation.
Shino's only indication that he was shocked was that his eyebrows had reached his hairlines.
Kiba was simply gaping at him.
Chouji had dropped his bag of chips, joining his friend in the shock department.
"So now what, you're the Kyuubi?" Ino spat out.
Just for a moment, Naruto felt an old, snuffed out flame coming back to life. The flame that represented his anger at the village, at the villagers, sometimes even at the Hokage. He was tired of people hating him because no one bothered to correct them that he and Kurama were separate entities.
But then he ruthlessly squashed it. Anger wasn't going to help him right now. Patience would. Therefore, with as much patience as he could muster at the moment, he answered her.
"When water is poured into a glass, does the glass become the water?"
That was the simplest analogy he could think of, without going into seals. He knew that everyone knew what a storage seal was, but it would probably be easier to relate to a glass of water.
Surprisingly, everyone else glared at Ino for her question. But then again, they hadn't seen what she had seen.
Ino herself straightened back at the question, looking indignant as if his answer offended her. But then, Hinata of all people fell out of the line, arms crossed and a minute scowl on her face. Naruto never thought he would ever see the shy, sweet Hinata upset at someone.
"I don't think so. Won't you agree Ino?"
From what little he knew of psychology, Naruto knew that you don't force an answer out of a traumatized person who's looking right at the source of their trauma. Hinata had even crossed her arms, practically daring Ino to disagree with her.
Ino floundered for an answer other than the logical one, but couldn't come up with anything. "True," she mumbled out, looking at the ground.
"Why did he do it?"
Everyone turned to look at Neji, who in turn was staring intensely at Naruto. The blonde coughed a little before giving them the answer.
"My father didn't have a choice that night. I'm not privy as to how Kyuubi got out of its seal-"
"Whoa, hold on! The Kyuubi was in a seal?!"
Naruto glared at Kiba for interrupting him, but answered anyways. "Yes. The Kyuubi has been in Konoha ever since the village was formed." Not technically true, but that was a story for another day. "After Hashirama defeated Uchiha Madara, Uzumaki Mito, who was his wife, sealed the Kyuubi within herself to protect the others. She became the first-ever jinchuriki of the Kyuubi."
Kiba once again interrupted him, but his question was deemed valid by Naruto. "Jinchu-what now?"
"Jinchuriki means the power of human sacrifice. They are people who have a tailed beast sealed inside of them."
The silence following his statement managed to convey what they felt about that.
Everyone was listening with rapt attention, so Naruto continued with the history lesson. "Fast forward to Sandaime's reign, she got old, and therefore began the search for a new container for the Kyuubi. The Dai-ni jin Ninkai Taisen broke out, and three of the five great villages converged on Uzushiogakure, the home of the Uzumaki clan. It was destroyed, but few survived and got scattered across the nations. Right before it was destroyed, a little girl was brought to Konoha, chosen as the next container of the Kyuubi. Her name was Uzumaki Kushina."
"I'm seeing a pattern here," Neji muttered, crossing his arms. "You're saying that so far, there have been only three containers for the Kyuubi, and all of them are Uzumaki?"
Thank kami for Neji, for Naruto thought he would have to spell everything out for them. "Yes."
That question came from Shikamaru, wasn't really surprising. He had this thirst for information, this urge to solve any mystery that caught his interest.
"Because the Uzumaki clan was the only one capable of sealing its power. There is no one in the world who can match their sealing techniques. My father himself was partially taught by my mother, who was an accomplished fuinjutsu mistress herself. Not only that, but their chakra potency and life force are unparalleled, making them the only people who would survive having the Kyuubi sealed into them. Anyone else would die."
Shino spoke for the first time since the meeting started. "Is that why you were chosen?"
Naruto remained silent because he didn't want to answer that question. He didn't know what happened that night, all those years ago to force Kurama to attack the village. Kurama wasn't willing to share the details, saying it wasn't his place to do so. Naruto found it a little frustrating, seeing as Kurama was perhaps the only one who truly knew what happened.
The only one who lived, that is.
As for Shino's question, Naruto had to give it to him. The guy rarely spoke and whenever he did, he shut the people around him up.
As for the question….he did know the answer. He had figured it out himself, and Jiraiya had elaborated upon it. As much as he loved and admired his father, his moral compass was something that he couldn't help but hate. It was what led to him becoming an outcast.
It was perhaps the only thing that made him question, albeit very rarely, whether it was worth becoming the Hokage or not if he had to sacrifice his family for the village.
But it was something he wasn't ready to disclose, not yet. So half-truth it was.
"It was one of the reasons," he revealed. "But for now, I think this much will suffice."
He got up, dusting himself off. "Take some time to think about what I've told you all today." He bit his lip, suddenly hesitant. "If you decide to….change your stance towards me I'll….I'll understand."
He looked towards the direction of his house, facing away from them. "But you'll always remain my comrades. I will always have your back….." even if you won't have mine.
He nodded and flashed away. He had to calm down before he could start packing up for his vacation.
The rookies were still standing where they were before, dumbfounded at his sudden departure. Neji was the first to speak among the group.
"This was…unexpected." That was probably an understatement, but he needed time to come to terms with what he learned about his friend just now.
That broke the others out of their shock. Hinata stared at the ground in pain. "I never knew Naruto-kun was carrying such a burden."
Kiba huffed angrily, fists tightly clenched. "I can't believe that our elders," he practically spat out the word like it was poison, "would do that to a child. Naruto was never at fault!"
"Indeed. It wasn't Naruto's choice to have the bijuu sealed in him. Even then, hating him for what he held inside seems highly illogical and nonsensical," Shino added in, brows furrowed together.
Shino's words clicked something in Shikamaru's head.
It wasn't his choice….
My father didn't have a choice that night….
Uzumaki are the only ones capable…
Naruto refused to tell anyone why his father chose him, but it was clear that he knew the answer and if his tone was any indication, he didn't like it himself. From the stories he heard in his childhood from his parents, the Yondaime was a rarity among shinobi, a man with enough honor to rival the samurai, yet as deadly as any shinobi. A man who no doubt, loved his family. A man who loved his village.
A man who loved his village so much that he sacrificed his son to save it.
Which rose the question, why would he sacrifice his family if he loved them so much?
He shook his head, trying to get back on track. He was in no position to argue with the Yondaime's choice. Shikamaru had known Naruto longer than his own father had known him, but he had seen fit to trust Naruto with the Kyuubi.
Heh, if it was anyone else they would have cracked already. We should be thankful the Yondaime chose Naruto.
He didn't understand why he still got shocked, even when he already knew Naruto's secret. He was in the meeting all those years ago, after all.
"I'm with him."
The others stopped their conversation to look at him. Shikamaru looked up, eyes hard with determination. "He's my friend and comrade. I will always have his back, no matter what."
Neji stopped forward, eyes matching with his. "As will I."
The rest of them didn't give any verbal answer, but it was clear in their eyes that the sentiment was shared. Shikamaru turned to Ino, who was looking thoughtful. "Ino?"
The said blonde was jerked from her thoughts, looking up to find all the eyes trained on her. She mentally sighed; on one hand, she wanted to blame Naruto. She hadn't forgotten how the elders of the clan used to tell her not to associate with him, effectively marking him as an outcast of the village. She had questioned them, but was never given a satisfactory answer.
Now she did, and it brought up a rather big question: Would it change the way she acted towards Naruto?
Ino agreed with the fact that Naruto never asked to be chosen, never asked to be given such a responsibility. Yet, he admirably embraced it.
Her friends were fully supporting him, because he admitted he would do the same for them. But she came from a family who prided themselves on their knowledge of the mind, and she suspected that his last sentence was unfinished. She did not want to know how he finished it in his mind.
The village scorned him for years, but he still became a shinobi for the village. He was willing to lay down his life for his comrades, so there was no reason not to reciprocate.
"He is my comrade as well," she announced, looking into Shikamaru's eyes. The Nara gave her a small smile and a nod of approval.
The sound of someone sobbing caused everyone to turn towards Lee, whose shoulders were shaking. Tenten cringed, having an idea of what was to come, but still put a hand on Lee's shoulder. "Lee, are you alright?"
Lee exploded. "OH NARUTO-KUN! I HAVE NEVER BEEN WITNESS TO A MORE YOUTHFUL EVENT! HE PROTECTS THE VILLAGE JUST BY LIVING! HE IS THE PINNACLE OF YOUTH, ONE WHICH I WILL STRIVE TO ACHIEVE!"
If he hadn't been a Hyuga, Neji would like have slapped his own face.
Back home, Naruto arrived in an empty living room. "Temari?"
He walked into the room to see her finish sealing the last of the clothes into a storage scroll. She turned to him with a grin. "So I finished packing in our…."
She trailed off, her grin dropping upon seeing his sad smile. "You okay?"
Naruto gave a slow, shaky nod. "I will be."
The two stood in silence, with one lost in thought and the other looking on concerned. Then Naruto drew a sharp breath. "Let's go! We only have four and a half days left! Let's make the most of them!"
With that, he grabbed their scrolls and flashed away.
Tsunade stared at the group assembled in her office. She had received the message not long ago and immediately had Shizune assemble the first response team. This would be the first time the shinobi of Nijuu Shoutai would have a crack at their targets. Looking at the shinobi assembled, she wondered whether this team would succeed or not.
The fact that only yesterday Naruto had demolished one of them wasn't helping. Asuma was an A-rank, which was somewhat reassuring but not that much considering the S-rank heavyweights of Akatsuki, but Izumo and Kotetsu hadn't seen any action in a long time, so they might be rusty.
But they didn't have much time.
"Team Asuma, you have a mission."
AN: A bit short, but I didn't have much material for this chapter. The remainder of this arc will be covered in the next two chapters. Kamikaze132 out!