Silvers D. Naruto: A Search for Belonging

AN: Ok, so, once upon a time (I believe in the latest chapter of Marionette Uzumaki) I said that I was going to make a One Piece/Anime X-over, but I wanted to read the manga of the members of the crew that I was making. That way I got a handle of the characters' powers and personalities

And I've done it! I have finished the manga (give or take ones that were extremely long). So, now I'm on this story, hope you like it!

Chapter 1: A Question in Need of an Answer

Cover: A young Naruto sitting in the woods, a fire in front of him, with dirt and grime all over his body as he stuffs his face with food, speaking with a full mouth to a shadowed figure leaning against a tree that had a large boar on a stick over the fire.

The man, the myth, the legend, Gold Roger had been captured by the marines. A pirate that had the skill and power to circumnavigate the dangerous stretch of sea that wound around the world known as the Grand Line. Reaching the final island there and attaining the title of "King of the Pirates. So, it came as a shock to the entire world that this man had been apprehended by the marines after evading them for so long with plenty of close calls along the way.

And now he was here, about to be executed in Loguetown, the place of his birth. A fitting and ironic end as far as the marines were concerned. This man was to be an example to all pirates, to dissuade any that would believe that they could act outside of the World Government's laws and disrupt public order.

The large man was walked to the top of the execution platform, flanked by the two men that would be his executioners. Despite being cuffed and with little to no chance of escape, the Pirate King had a smile on his face, his mere presence had a gravity that silenced the usually bustling square as the bystanders watched with bated breath and wide eyes.

The executioners made Roger kneel that way the grim affair could be done, all the while the smile on his face was still present. Before the deed could be carried out, one brave soul spoke up from the crowd with a question that would spark a new era on the sea.

The bystander asked Gold Roger, the King of the Pirates, where he kept his great treasure.

"My treasure? Well, anyone that wants it can have it, but to find it you'll have to search the world! I left it all in 'that' place!" the Pirate King's smile grew even wider from his declaration, watching the crowd go into an uproar at the world-shaking news before his execution went through…and the Pirate King officially died. But his words had kicked up a powerful storm in the world.

The Great Age of Pirates had begun!

(On a certain island in the Grand Line)

On this island of soap bubbles near the massive Red Line, the landmass that split the world into fourths in conjunction with the Grand line running perpendicular to it, in a certain bar were two people that had just heard the news of the Pirate King's passing.

A woman was standing behind the bar's counter, cleaning the glasses and looking at the man that sat in a stool in front of her. A single empty glass was in front of the man, slight wetness in his eyes from the news of his captain's death but ultimately decided not to dwell on it. Roger would be laughing his head off if he knew his right-hand man, 'The Dark King' Silvers Rayleigh, was crying over his death.

The woman took her cigarette out of her mouth, put the glass away with her free hand, and let out a puff of smoke. Looking to the man that had a solemn smile on his face, the woman leaned over the counter and addressed him.

"Wow, I never expected the great Ray-san to be a crier," she teased the man in an attempt to lighten the mood.

The man adjusted the glasses on his face and let out a wry laugh as he brought his head up to look the woman in the face, "Now, Shakky-chan, even I can read the occasion and act appropriately," he answered and pushed the glass to the now named Shakky, an unspoken request for a refill that she obliged.

"Does it hurt?" she asked, turning serious as she placed the alcoholic beverage onto the counter.

"I'd like to say it doesn't since Roger chose this, but it does," Rayleigh lifted his glasses to rub his eyes and smiled. "No use crying about it, though. Life goes on and he went out on his own terms, not many men on the sea with our profession can say that," Rayleigh chuckled and got up from the stool.

"Well, Ray-san…" Shakky put out her cigarette and looked to the man as he went to leave, "…What are you planning to do now? You are retired now, after all," she walked out from behind the counter and stood behind him, smirk still present on her face.

"I think I'm going to go traveling a little to get my mind off things. Roger's death will change the world as we know it and whether it's for the better will be seen. The new generation will have to take the helm now," Rayleigh answered the woman.

"Travelling? You'd think that you had your fill of that," Shakky quipped, "Don't you think you should lay low for a bit, Ray-san? No doubt the Marines and the World Government are still on the lookout for you," the woman pointed out to the man.

"Maybe they are, but I've still got fight in me."

"And how long do you plan on disappearing on me this time?" she giggled at the look the man gave.

"I won't be gone that long, Shakky-chan. Like I said, I'm just going for a 'walkabout' to get my mind off things," he defended himself.

"Your last one lasted for about a year, I believe," she teased the man harder and watched him sweatdrop at the fact she used that against him. "*sigh* I was hoping that with you being forced into retirement, you'd finally make an honest woman of me Ray-san," the woman closed one eye and looked at the man that was unamused with all her teasing.

"An honest woman? Last I looked, you rip people off with this bar of yours," Rayleigh deadpanned to the unapologetic woman.

"Gotta make a living somehow, Ray-san. It's hard out there for a young lady like me," she shrugged.

The former first mate of the Pirate King kept quiet, knowing that pointing out that the 'young lady' wasn't so young would only end in pain. "I'm sure you'll manage without me for a bit, Shakky-chan," Rayleigh smiled and walked with a pack slung over his shoulder.

"Try not to stay out too long this time, Ray-san," Shakky waved the man out.

"Come on, I'm not that bad."

(4 years later)

Today, October 10th, on an island in the South Blue triplets were born to Minato Namikaze and his wife Kushina Uzumaki. The first to be brought into the world was Naruto Uzumaki-Namikaze, an apparent carbon copy of his father complete with blond hair and ocean blue eyes and oddly enough whisker marks on his face. The next to come was named Menma Uzumaki-Namikaze who inherited the red hair of the Uzumaki's only his was more of a blood-crimson coloring that in the right lighting could appear black and he also had whisker marks on his face. And finally, the only girl of the triplets being Natsumi Uzumaki-Namikaze who, like her eldest brother was with their father, was the spitting image of her mother with similar hair color and violet eyes.

The three newborns were currently sleeping soundly after the ordeal that had befallen their island only a few hours prior, in fact, it had started mere minutes from their birth.

Not even 10 minutes of being in the world, the babes were stolen from their parents by a mysterious masked man that intended to steal the being known as the Nine-Tailed Fox from within the container, Kushina. The fox was a rampaging beast made of energy that was found on their tiny island with its true explanation and origins being lost to time but believed to predate the Rikudo Sennin. Somehow the masked man had located the expectant parents despite the great lengths they had gone through to hide the birth, knowing that Kushina would weaken during the process and her seal holding the beast along with her.

The man had shown his ruthlessness as he killed the nurses that were attending, one of them being the wife of Hiruzen Sarutobi, the Third Hokage of Konohagakure. He threatened the children's lives without hesitation, going as far as to plant explosive tags onto the crib containing them forcing the father to get the infants out of range of the man before he could detonate them.

Not too long after, through a series of events that allowed Minato to rescue Kushina and bring her to the children, he managed to use teleportation to move the great beast outside of the safehouse he left his family. It took convincing, but the man had managed to get his wife on board with resealing the fox into their newborns.

Unfortunately, the man's sacrifice didn't come to light as his predecessor, knowing what Minato would most likely be planning, had knocked him unconscious and decided to lay his own life on the line to protect his village and avenge his wife, hoping that he'd be able to see her again. The aged man used a powerful forbidden technique to seal the beast reluctantly into the infants, but the demon wasn't going to take being imprisoned lying down and resisted the man who was struggling because of his age.

When it seemed that the Sarutobi would fail in his endeavor, slowly dying from the strain that the technique placed on his old body and brought to a knee on the verge of losing consciousness, Naruto opened his eyes with a fussed expression and with no real way of knowing the situation and never having seen either of the two in front of him before the blond babe was clearly perturbed and let out a cry. The cry, while loud enough to draw the attention of the old monkey, had the odd effect of stilling the beast for a split almost imperceptible second which Sarutobi capitalized on as he finished his technique.

The man used this ability to split the fox into three pieces, the yin half of its chakra, the yang half, and the soul (AN: Yeah, I know but it's for reasons! Reasons I tell you!). The man hoped that the extraction of the soul from the chakra would protect the children from the influence that the fox could attempt to exert from within in them. The caveat to this was the fact that the soul would still need to be contained or it would simply join with one or both halves of the chakra effectively making the split a moot point.

With the last of his strength, the former Hokage placed the yang half of the fox's chakra into Menma and the yin half into Natsumi as the younger two had less developed coils that would allow them to grow accustomed to it over time. This left Naruto to receive the fox's soul since his coils at this point would've been too far along to handle the chakra, but the soul had its own power.

It could overwhelm the babe and end his life, it could subjugate his soul and take over…or, the most unlikely event, Naruto could survive the soul of the fox and suppress it within his body but that would take an extremely powerful force of will and that is something that would be unheard of in an infant.

Though the Third had, for some reason, faith that this baby was far more than he seemed and would be able to survive.

"I'm sorry, young one. This burden being thrust upon you and your siblings is unfair, but I'm sure you'll all be fine," the former Hokage looked into the blond boy's curious eyes, a sense of guilt burgeoning in the pit of his stomach when the small human gave him an innocent smile before he was forced to place the demon's soul into him tears coming from his eyes when the baby started to cry in, what he assumed, was pain. But when the Third steeled himself and calmed, the baby had too…an odd reaction as the baby seemed homed in on the old man rather than himself. Before the man could contemplate this, he was met with his successor and his still weak wife standing before him.

"Hiruzen! What did you do?!" Minato asked, running to the old man and laying him on the ground.

"Konoha needs you, Minato an old man like me can't keep up with everything happening. I was able to seal the Kyuubi into the children. They'll need you to teach them control, Kushina, and mini-Minato here contains the soul of the beast," the man coughed before continuing, "I've no idea what that could do to him…but he is special. These three will need you both to protect them from the mastermind of this attack and get them ready to face the world," and with that Hiruzen Sarutobi died not knowing the future that awaited the young blond with his family and the grand adventure he'd set out on.

(A few days later)

"Come again, Tsunade?" Minato asked in a hospital room where his wife was laying in a bed beside him, Menma and Natsumi in her arms as they watched the renowned medical ninja (who had been called back thanks to the catastrophe that had occurred) run her hands over the baby Naruto.

"It's like I said. This kid has the chakra necessary to live, but nothing else," Tsunade looked to the parents who seemed flabbergasted at this news.

"You can't be serious," Kushina was in disbelief.

"I am. He isn't going to be anything special in the ninja corp. he most likely wouldn't make it through the academy without a special curriculum for the civilian-level ninja. The only thing he's got going is the soul of Kyuubi in him, and even I can't understand how it was possible for a baby to overcome that, but it doesn't have any bearing on his skill," Tsunade explained turning to the family.

"How is he going to be the heir of the clan, then?" Kushina looked to her husband, seemingly disappointed at this revelation.

"He won't, he can't," Minato frowned, looking to his other children, "With what is going to be happening in the future we need the next generation of ninja to be the strongest yet, and with Menma and Natsumi becoming Jinchuriki they have arguably the most potential of the future genin. That masked man will no doubt be coming back for the Kyuubi since he failed, not to mention staving off the bolder pirates that come through as well. Everyone needs to be able to step up, and having the eldest son of a well-known clan be unable to uphold and symbolize the Will of Fire and the strength that Konoha has won't be a morale booster," Minato sighed and looked at the sleeping baby by Tsunade.

"So, what are you going to do?" Tsunade asked. "You plan on naming Menma the heir of the Uzumaki and Namikaze and what'll you do with Naruto," Tsunade crossed her arms with a raised eyebrow.

"He can join the academy and try and make something of himself, but in the end, he'll hopefully throw in the towel rather than be an embarrassment," Minato stated resolute in his choice, looking to his wife he saw her give a solemn nod in agreement.

"If you think that's for the best," Tsunade handed the baby back to the mother. "And how do you plan on explaining the situation to the populace? They still want answers on what happened."

"We decided to say that someone from Iwa was the culprit behind the attack. It would be understandable that they'd want some form of revenge on us for the war and it's better than saying an unknown party had infiltrated the village and had managed to cause such destruction on his own," Kushina answered the question.

Using the propaganda to sway the general public would cover up the real culprit and get them riled up to avenge their lost Third Hokage and the myriad of lives lost because of the fox's rampage. A tad underhanded, but it would ultimately get people in the proper mindset to improve themselves and fire them up to protect their village and way of life.

"Very well then. Quite a task lays ahead of us, and I feel like I'll need more sake to get through it," Tsunade groaned while rubbing her temple.

Later that day, the Fourth Hokage, Minato Namikaze, finally addressed the Konoha shinobi and citizens on the crisis that had unexpectedly befallen them. To say that the populace was outraged by the attack from 'Iwa' that made them lose their previous leader was an understatement, but they were calmed in knowing that he had given his life to ensure that the attack would be a failure in the end. If not for the two infants housing the halves of the demonic beast's chakra they would have been doomed. On the other hand, knowing that the beast essentially lived on within the Hokage's eldest didn't sit well with them, having the demon possibly living among them as if its sins could be absolved by inhabiting the boy…it was wrong…and it would have to suffer for those transgressions.

(8 years later [AN: Yeah, a lot of time jumping but it's establishing. BTW Luffy is 7 right now])

A young blond was sent flying out of a ring by a punch from a now 8-year-old Menma. The younger brother sighed in disappointment at the heir of the Uzumaki clan and didn't regard his older brother in any meaningful way as the bruised blond picked his up off the ground.

"Great job again, Menma," Iruka wrote down the prodigy's score on the clipboard in his hand before moving down the list and giving the untalented sibling a zero as was the norm in the academy.

"I don't even know why that loser keeps trying," Natsumi shook her head on the sidelines, her hair now in a ponytail as she watched through half-lidded eyes the blond failure dusting himself off yet still had a goofy smile on his face.

"Aw man, I almost got you this time," Naruto walked up to his siblings seemingly not hearing the insult that his sister threw his way but was stopped by a wall of people.

"Step off! You get any closer, dead last, and that stench will rub off on Natsumi-chan!" a wild-looking boy snarled at the blond, ready to get rough.

"You're so dirty, Naruto-baka! Menma-kun can't be near you!" a pink-haired girl stood haughtily in front of the indifferent crimson-haired boy that made his way into the academy building with his sister and the rest of the entourage.

"Yeah, I guess you're right," Naruto rubbed the back of his head, trailing behind the large group of classmates since there was no opening to walk with his family.

The blond was used to this, he was normally ignored in class and left behind in every subject. The nickname 'Dead Last' stemmed from the fact that he was consistently at the bottom of the class without ever moving up in status. His parents had tried to dissuade the blond from joining the academy in order to save face, knowing that their eldest would be far from extraordinary but even they were slightly shocked at the level of inept he was. Naruto couldn't pass any of the Konoha history tests, missed all targets in weapons practice, and hadn't won a single spar, though he was normally pitted against his brother or sister which didn't do him any favors.

Naruto truly was a failure as a ninja, yet the blond still attended every class diligently and kept a smile on his face through the ridicule he endured. His classmates honestly wondered if the blond was crazy with how optimistic he seemed despite the bleak future that would most likely meet him once the academy was finished.

A lot had changed in Konoha during the siblings formative years, for one the academy now had the children train until the age of 18 to ensure they would be in their prime once they became genin with the clan children practically guaranteed to rise quickly up the ranks, not to mention that the academy was much more rigorous now so the children would need to try all the harder to stay in the academy. Those that couldn't handle it had dropped out of their own volition, our blond had stayed even with his poor performance in the vain hope of improving.

The reason for these changes?

Officially, the Hokage told his forces that the execution of the Pirate King had caused an influx of rookie pirates who were trying to make a name for themselves even though the Elemental Nations had a reputation in South Blue, being known for being unaffiliated with the World Government and therefore had no marine presence, these pirates bit the bullet for a chance at fame.

Unofficially, he was preparing Konoha for whatever the masked man could be planning and when the time came for Konoha to become the dominant village on the island. Deflecting the nefarious plan of the masked man seemed to fade further into the background as there hadn't been hide nor hair of him since the attack 8 years ago.

"That's it for today, class dismissed," Iruka released the students, watching as they all gravitated around the two Uzumaki-Namikaze siblings with the only exception being Menma's self-proclaimed rival Sasuke Uchiha.

The sole survivor of the Uchiha clan massacre and well-known brooder didn't fraternize with any of his class, which was fine by him. The boy was consistently third place in the academy, infuriating him as he devoted himself wholly to training but couldn't surpass the Hokage's children.

Outside the academy, the children were showering praise on the two top students. An impenetrable mob hung off every word they spoke, offering their two cents as little as it mattered to the two.

"Man, Menma, you're amazing! Perfect scores again!"

"This stuff is too easy. Mom and dad's training is way harder than what we'd ever do here," Natsumi casually rebuffed the compliment. Academy training was basic as hell to them, but even their powerful father couldn't keep them from going through the proper channels to become genin.

"Figures, you troublesome redheads have the hero of the 3rd Shinobi War and the Red-hot Habanero training you. It's no wonder you'd think this stuff is easy," a pineapple-haired boy sighed.

"Maybe if you applied yourself a little more, Shikamaru, you could be as good as Menma-kun or at least close to it," a platinum blonde girl rolled her eyes.

"Ano, Menma-kun…maybe you could help me…with my taijutsu," a timid girl prodded her index fingers together, "I'm having trouble."

"Sure, Hinata-chan. Anything for you," Menma answered the girl to the ire of the other girls.

While this mob was chatting with the two siblings, the blond brother was making his way out the door and took notice of the gathering. Seeing that he had no chance to make his way to see his family, the blond settled for the only light in the village that cared for him and it came in the form of a small wolf pup that ran up to him in greeting.

"Inu-chan!" Naruto smiled, crouching to catch the small dog as it licked his face and making the blond laugh. While an unoriginal name, seeing as the boy was young, the blond cherished the small puppy as his only friend in the village.

The blond had been exploring the village late at night, seeing as his parents were so focused on his brother and sister, they rarely noticed that Naruto wouldn't come home for days on end unless he needed a new set of clothing. On one particular night, the blond came across the lost pup as it collapsed from exhaustion and wounds most likely being attacked and losing its parents in the process. Naruto took the struggling pup in and had nursed him back to health, eventually letting it go when he could take care of himself.

Unfortunately, the blond met with some of the ornerier citizens of Konoha that would assault him occasionally, led by Iruka's assistant Mizuki a lot of the time. Being used to the harm the blond, curled into a ball and took the abuse never understanding the hatred or the words spewed from their mouths about him being the reincarnation of the Kyuubi. From Naruto's perspective, his siblings were the containers of the Kyuubi. So why was he targeted by the angry and bitter ninja and citizens of his home?

Once they had their fill of beating the poor boy, he laid there waiting until the pain subsided enough so he could drag himself home. He never looked forward to those conversations with his parents, not after the first time.

'Mommy! Some *sob* people beat me up on the way home,' the young Naruto cried to his mother.

'*sigh* Naruto, crying isn't going to solve your problems,' Kushina dressed the boy's wounds. 'It just shows your weakness, and means that they'll just come back and do it again,'

'*sob*So, what do I do?'

'Fight back…or grit your teeth and bear it,' Kushina finished patching up the boy, got up and looked indifferently to the boy, 'And to make sure you learn…I won't be dressing any wounds from now on unless they're life-threatening.'

Since then the blond had tried to heed his mother's words, but after failing to fight back he had come to fleeing whenever this happened or enduring the pain.

And that night was one where he had to take the abuse, luckily for him, the small puppy had sniffed him out and with surprising strength dragged him to its home which, of course, was the well-known Training Ground 44 aka The Forest of Death. And that had become his camping spot whenever he didn't return home, which had become more frequent as the years went on. Since the rescue, the two couldn't be seen without the other being close by as the pup would wait for the blond outside of the academy every day.

"Nah, I still failed today Inu-chan, but I lasted a lot longer than normal in the spar!" the boy spoke to the small animal as if it had asked him a question. "I think we should celebrate!" the blond boy cheered.

The students all looked at the pitiful display with raised eyebrows or outright disgust, watching the blond talk to himself to offset his loneliness.

"What do you think we should have tonight?" Naruto asked the puppy as it tilted its head in mock thought and yipped. "No way, Inu-chan! I can't get ahold of that without money," Naruto ruffled the pup's head.

"How sad can you get?" Natsumi groaned in embarrassment, raking her hand down her face and watched between her fingers as Menma pushed his way through the crowd to his brother.

When the blond managed to get Inu off him, he took notice of his brother approaching and shot up straight. Naruto didn't really get to interact with his siblings outside of the occasional spar since his parents would monopolize their time by teaching them to control the Kyuubi's chakra.

"Menma-kun! H-hey, what's up?" Naruto was ecstatic but his companion was less welcoming as Inu growled at the boy.

The boy simply tsked at his sibling and looked down at the puppy with a dead stare, scaring the pup behind the blond but it didn't stop it from growling from behind Naruto.

"You know, you really got me again that time," Naruto ignored the stare that his brother gave him as he rubbed the back of his head, "I don't think I'll ever be able to get ya, but at least I lasted longer. Right?" Naruto rambled on as he talked about how challenging the academy was for him, the blood red-haired Uzumaki grit his teeth as his anger rose before reaching its boiling point.

"Why are you still here!" Menma gripped the blond's collar and got into his face. "All you've been doing is failing since getting here! You're dragging mom and dad's names through mud each time you show up!" Menma pushed the blond onto the dirt. "You'd do everyone a favor if you just disappeared, Naruto!"

"I-I can't. I gotta become a ninja so mom and dad can be proud of me! I still have a chance to be a ninja, same as you guys!" Naruto argued.

"You've got no chance, Naruto. Mom and dad have already told us that you aren't gonna be the clan heir," Natsumi said nonchalantly, revealing the news but didn't seem to care since she was leaning against the wall with a side glance to her eldest brother.

Naruto didn't seem shocked though, continuing to smile, if a tad more strained. With his head down and hair shadowing his eyes, the blond boy thumbed his nose and looked back up.

"I know, it isn't that hard to figure out…I can't do anything right. But I thought if I did better, than they'd care about me and what I did, like with you guys."

"You'll never be like us," Natsumi leaned her head against her fist and with no emotion in her voice, uncaring of the emotional pain she inflicted on her sibling.

Naruto's eyes widened and rather than say anything he ran out of the academy's clearing and into the village proper. Inu quickly followed him, hoping to comfort the boy. The assorted students weren't all that affected by the harsh words, the blond was the Dead Last of the class and had shown time and again that he wasn't cut out for the harsh life of a shinobi, so it was for the best that he was made to give up.

(In the village)

Naruto ran through the village with his head down, fighting back the tears that were threatening to come out as his mother's voice rang in his head. He rubbed at his eyes constantly to keep the wetness from spilling over, causing him to bump into someone.

"Hm, well, well, seems the demon's gone and assaulted me," the citizen, clearly drunk, gripped the blond by the shoulder and kicked the pup away when it attempted to bite him.

"I-I'm sorry!" Naruto muttered, clenching his eyes shut in preparation for whatever was in store.

"You'll be sorry all right, you little brat! Hokage-sama'll probably be happy that I got rid of a stain like you!" the man made to bring a fist down, but it never came as he suddenly passed out. Landing on the ground like a sack of dirt and foaming at the mouth.

"I don't think I've ever been to an island where a grown man would beat a child," a mysterious man with strawberry-blond hair and wearing small, round glasses in a cloak helped the young blond up off the ground. "Are you alright?"

Naruto could hardly believe his eyes…someone had helped him…no one helped him. The boy looked at his savior in awe, believing him to be stronger than his dad, but that couldn't be possible. Looking to the unconscious man, Naruto was hard-pressed to disprove that idea seeing as even his father had to hit someone to defeat them.

The blond was snapped out of his headspace by the waving hand of the mysterious traveler. Giving a smile the blond boy was waved the man's concern off and put his hands behind his head.

"I'm fine! Thanks for the save though, gramps!" Naruto beamed at the man.

'Gramps?' Rayleigh sweatdropped. He wasn't that old, and here was this kid calling him gramps. Shakky would have a field day if she were to find out about this…come to think of it he'd been on his walkabout for quite a long time…he was going to catch hell when he got back to Sabaody.

"Hey, earth to gramps," Naruto called, him and Inu watching the tall man stare into space.

"Oh? Yes, what is it?" Rayleigh asked the boy.

"I was asking you where you came from. I've haven't seen you before and normally people…Well, I haven't seen you before."

Rayleigh caught the blond's slip but chose not to pry seeing as it wasn't his business. "I'm just passing through. I won't be here for too long, and with the trouble I've caused, it'd be best if I left sooner rather than later," Rayleigh answered the curious boy and continued to walk down the main road with the blond and puppy following him while running in circles around him excitedly.

"I can help you out gramps!" Naruto said with a finger pointed to himself and a smirk on his face.

"Really?" he asked skeptically with a raised eyebrow and a smirk.

"Don't doubt the great Uzumaki Naruto! Me and Inu-chan can take you to a safe place where you don't have to worry about anyone coming to look for you as thanks for helping me out," Naruto then ran off without waiting for an answer, stopped a good distance away and looked back, bouncing on his feet, "Come on, gramps!"

The man chuckled good-naturedly and decided there was nothing to lose in humoring the boy, after all, it was either follow the young blond to whatever haven he made for himself or shadily find a place to stay and pay off any hotel owner to keep his identity a secret. With that thought, the former pirate followed the young blond, watching as the sunset rolled over to give way to the night.

After a few minutes of walking the duo and pup were met with the encompassing fence of the Forest of Death. Naruto ran to the fence and peeled the corner of it back, showing a makeshift entrance that the boy must have used extensively due to the quickness he displayed in finding the close to invisible secret entrance.

"Won't your parents be curious where you are?" Rayleigh asked the excited blond who hesitated and rubbed the back of his head.

"No, it's fine. They won't worry about me…I stay out here all the time. I only go home when I need something," Naruto answered without looking back at the curious man.

"And they wouldn't want to know about you being attacked?"

"No way! I'm tough so, they have nothing to worry about. Naruto Uzumaki is the toughest around-" the boy then tripped midsentence, stubbing his toe on a root of one of the giant trees. "Ahh! My toe!" he bawled.

"What was that about being tough?" Rayleigh sweatdropped.

"I am, I just got surprised is all," Naruto defended himself, instantly drying up as if the accident hadn't happened and the only evidence being the boy wiping his eyes. The former pirate raised his eyebrow at the unnatural speed at which the young boy had gotten over his fit and continued to follow him to a small camp.

It was nothing special as it had some smaller branches from the tree propped up on each other for a tent with leaves on top to keep the moisture out in the event it rained. There was also a makeshift firepit with sticks of varying sizes around it, most likely to cook any food the blond managed to catch.

Honestly, it made the retired pirate wonder why this boy was apparently living in a forest rife with hidden dangers and didn't simply return to his home, to his family, to live. And why weren't his parents around when he was about to be beaten by some drunk stranger?

"Lucky for you, I've still got some meat I managed to get from the butcher and it's still good," Naruto started a fire while Inu dragged the meat to his side and the blond proceeded to stab each slab onto a cooking stick.

"Well, that's very kind of you," Rayleigh took a seat across from the blond, noticing the giddiness the child had while he waited for the food to cook, Inu leaning against his side.

"You said that you're a traveler, gramps?" Naruto couldn't contain himself and asked his burning question.

"That's right. I doubt there's an ocean I haven't sailed on."

"That means you've been to the other Blues? You must be a pretty strong guy, gramps!" Naruto's jaw dropped.

"I'm no one special. Just trying to get in some sightseeing before settling down and retiring for good," Rayleigh held his tongue on his pirate status. If the boy found out about him being a pirate, he'd most likely shout to the heavens, and that would bring unnecessary danger to the island. Looking at the boy, Rayleigh did wonder something that he voiced, "Why the interest?"

"Well, the Elemental Nations are self-succulent, or something, so we don't interact with any other islands. There aren't even any of those seagull guys on the island cuz we aren't part of that big team thing. So, I'd always been curious what it's like out there…I've even thought about traveling, too," Naruto looked into the fire, its flames reflecting in his eyes.

'Maybe they'd care then.'

Rayleigh was in his own thoughts at the same time, a hand on his chin and eyes closed. 'I think I remember hearing about this island before during the voyage. An island filled with people with abilities that could give Devil Fruit Users and honest fight. Powerful enough to resist the World Government's hold, as well…What a nice island I've found myself on,' Rayleigh raked his hand through his hair with a wry smile. "You meant to say self-sufficient."

"So, what are all the places you've been to, gramps!?" Naruto brightened up again, practically demanding for stories of the man's travels with Inu barking in agreement.

"Hm, why don't we hold off on that for now? Seems the food is done," Rayleigh laughed heartily as the blond boy deflated, not knowing that the man was sparing him from knowing the truth for his safety.

The two ate in silence, that is until the boy finished his food and started to talk about himself and what he liked to do with the former pirate politely listening. Rayleigh would chime in with little jabs at the blond's expense now and then to the indignation of the young blond, but the boy couldn't keep the smile from his face. He finally had someone to talk to, and he wasn't even from his island…Naruto was on cloud nine. If he could help it, he'd want the man to stay for as long as possible so he wouldn't be left alone again. Eventually, due to being young, the blond turned in rather quickly, passing out unceremoniously on the forest floor from trying to stay awake to speak with the man.

Rayleigh sighed with a smile, feeling worn out from the blond's exuberance, watching the boy and puppy snoring on the ground for a small bit before he put them inside the shoddy tent. Once the two were comfortably sleeping inside the abode, Rayleigh took his flask out and stared into the sky contemplatively before glancing back to the blond boy.

'It's their world now. Right, Roger?' Rayleigh saw that the boy was tossing in turning in his sleep, appearing to be in distress until Inu sidled up to him and got hugged tightly which managed to calm the boy. Again, the former pirate was curious about what has happened to this boy on this island to make him this way but didn't think too hard on it, deciding to sleep for the night.

(The next day)

"AH! I'm late, I stayed up way past my bedtime!" Naruto panicked as he shot up, jolting the pup awake and only getting an opened eye from the man.

"Should you really be yelling this early?"

"I gotta go, gramps! But I'll be back later…!" the blond ignored the man and went to rush back to the exit but stopped himself, turned back to Rayleigh and jutted his hands out in the man's direction, "don't go anywhere!"

Rayleigh rose an eyebrow at the request, hearing the desperation he ultimately conceded with a sigh and a nod. "I can't head out into the village anyway, so I might as well stay here."

The smirked when blond looked shocked and smiled brightly. Naruto then turned around and ran waving back to Rayleigh. "I'll be back around late noon, gramps. With a surprise for you!" he charged out with Inu.

That was how Naruto's morning started, and the boy was kind of surprised that for the first time ever he was going to be late to the academy. Since the blond's goal was to be recognized by his parents and siblings, he made it a point to be on time every day, boasting the only perfect record in attendance in his class. He always either went home or to the forest after the academy, though the forest would always be where he ended up by night, trained to the point of exhaustion, and normally fell into his tent to sleep, repeating the process the next day. As hard a worker the boy was, he hadn't improved much if at all, but he threw himself into it all wholeheartedly.

So why was he slowing down?

Why did the bright smile he had, vanish once he got far enough away from the Forest of Death?

His steps slowed down to a stop, looking down to the ground, hurt in his eyes. He remembered the words that were hurled at him by his brother. How he was told that he'd never reach their level, never be the same as them, and his parents would never acknowledge him.

Naruto shook his head, trying to dispel those dark thoughts. Menma and Natsumi couldn't have meant all those things…they were just giving him tough love probably because his parents told them to encourage their older brother.

That was it!

Of course his family cared about him!

How could he ever question that?!

Sure, he may not be the clan heir, but that doesn't mean he couldn't be useful in other ways. If he couldn't be a genin, then he could get some other job to support his family.

The blond finally made it to the academy's entrance and felt his heart pound in his chest. That awkward feeling of being the late student to class made the boy feel like a frog was in his throat as he opened the door and was met with Mizuki.

"Oh, Mizuki-sensei! Sorry, I'm late I overslept," the boy got nervous, knowing the man's stance on him and standing out here on his own made him uncomfortable. Inu also growled at the man's smug smirk as he lorded over the boy like some kind of deity.

"Naruto, I can't believe you'd blot you perfect attendance like this," the man played up disappointment.

"It happens! I didn't mean to oversleep, I just happened to stay up a bit later than normal," Naruto pleaded with the teacher, watching the cruel smile spread on the man's face.

"I couldn't possibly ignore such a blatant disregard for your learning! You need the most improvement of the entire class, but you'd play hooky rather than try and better yourself!" Mizuki crouched down to look the boy in his eyes, a cruel glint shining within his own. "I'm sorry, Naruto…but you'll have to stay out here for the day."

The boy was dumbfounded at this punishment and before he could vocally announce his objection, Mizuki stopped him dead in his tracks.

"I don't want to do this to you, Naruto, but it's the only way you'll learn just how important education is…it keeps you from becoming the dreg that the village thinks you are," Mizuki even sold the pity by tearing up as if it hurt him to do this to the boy. "Trust me, Naruto. This is for your own good."

The door was then slammed into the boy's face, unable to process what had just happened. He was shut out of school…and forced to miss a day because he was late. It was his fault for staying out late welcoming gramps and having that feast, by his standards, so he technically couldn't fault his sensei.

Dejected, the boy went to the lone swing in the academy's courtyard and sat on it, thinking about the failure on his part. He'd have to try even harder to make sure this mistake never happened again, he owed it to his family to make them proud of him.

The day went by relatively quickly for the boy as he forced himself to sit on the swing for the entire school day for punishment. He may have the freedom to leave, but he wouldn't learn from the mistake if he used this as a free day. Inu tried to get him up to play so the boy could take his mind off things, but the boy refused.

Once the flood of students made their way out of the building the boy just rose his head and watched them filter out, smiles on their faces as they discussed the goings-on of the day. Praise being showered on his siblings as they all laughed together, blinding smiles on their face with boys congratulating Menma and girls fawning over his ability. Natsumi stayed to the side, the more introverted of the two, and politely accepted the attention that was sent her way with exasperated sighs as if she was above it all.

It seemed that they were livelier than ever without him there, so Naruto thought it best to sneak out of the courtyard lest he spoils the fun. The blond quietly removed himself from the crowd, his siblings easily noticing the boy but kept silent as they believed he had finally decided to quit to save their clan's face.

Naruto walked through the main road of the village again, berating himself continually for allowing himself to be late like that. Naruto slapped his cheeks to snap himself out of his funk and yelled to the heavens, causing Inu to shoot up from the abrupt yell.

"I can't let this get me down! I'll just try 20-no 200 times harder!" Naruto energized himself. "Now, what am I gonna get for that surprise for gramps?" Naruto wondered. He noticed that last night that the man seemed to be hungry even after they had eaten, so the boy decided that today he'd get something really good for them to share.

Luckily for the dirt-poor blond, the overstocked butcher that he normally 'acquired' his food from had gotten rid of a large roast made from a specially ordered pig but hadn't sold it in the timeframe he'd wanted leading to it being chucked in its wrapping. Sure, it wasn't glamorous or anything, but it's how the blond kept himself alive. Now, though, he was happy to snag a find like this since it would be the perfect thing to share with Rayleigh tonight.

"Gramps is sure gonna enjoy this. Right, Inu-chan?" Naruto asked the pup…then his eyes bulged out and his teeth sharpened when he saw the pup attempting to chew through the wrapping. "Inu, ya little monster! Stop trying to eat ahead of us!"

As the blond tried to pull the pup from the roast, the two missed a group to the side hidden in the shadows approaching them. When Inu was finally pulled off the food, that's when the group appeared in front of the blond with Inu getting in front and started to yip at the men in a vain attempt at intimidation.

(In the Forest of Death)

Rayleigh was still situated in the forest, though there was some blood from various brave animals that had sensed his presence. He managed to frighten a few, but some were foolish enough to attack out of desperation and fear, so he put them down and moved the bodies out of eyesight. It was a nice way to kill time while waiting for the boy, at least.

He looked up and noticed that it was getting late, raising an eyebrow the former first mate of the Pirate King got up from the ground. With furrowed brows, the man looked to the exit the boy used to get in and out of the dangerous territory and frowned to himself.

"Something isn't right," he muttered. He remembered the circumstances he found the boy in yesterday and a slight chill went down his spine at the possibility that appeared in his mind.

Rayleigh closed his eyes for a few mere seconds, before opening them and rushing out of the forest.

(Back in the village)

Rayleigh soon found the blond in the middle of the dirt path, bloodied and beaten in the fetal position. Not too far from the boy's body was Inu…and, unlike the boy the poor animal wasn't able to survive the brutal attack, most likely having taken the most damage while trying to protect Naruto. And with all this going on, bystanders were going about their day as if a child wasn't lying beaten in the middle of the road.

"Kid? Hey, kid, wake up!" Rayleigh shook his shoulder, doing his best not to disturb him too much in case his injuries were too serious.

"*cough* G-gramps?" Naruto woke up, struggling to lift his head to look at the man but felt a jolt a pain at the movement.

"Hold still. I'll take you to the hospital."

"No…they won't help me."

"…Then I'll take you home," Rayleigh went to grab the boy only to be stopped by a bloody hand gripping his arm.

"No," Naruto didn't even give a reason this time, but it was clear to the man that he didn't want to go home. "It's my fault…cuz I'm weak."

Hearing this, Rayleigh went silent.

"I always get attacked like this and mom told me I had to fight back…when I tried it just got worse," Naruto started to break down as he finally revealed this to Rayleigh. "She said that if I couldn't fight, then I-I had to take it…'cause I'm weak and can't defend myself.

Rayleigh's eyes sharpened, reigning in his anger and was stopped cold hearing what the blond said next.

"So, it's ok. I'm used to this, and as long as I don't cry, I'm still listening to my parents," Naruto smiled, trying to sit himself up.

Rayleigh remembered back to the time the blond had bawled from stubbing his toe on the tree root and realized, 'He used that as an excuse to cry.'

"I wanted to surprise you with this, gramps," Naruto brought his arms from behind him to show the roast. "Me and Inu-chan wanted to eat this with you cuz I could tell you were still hungry last night. Then those guys showed up and said I stole it…Inu-chan tried to protect me," Naruto looked down at the end, keeping his gaze from the pup's body.

"Naruto…how long has this been going on," Rayleigh asked seriously, calling the boy by his name.

"Since, I've been five…it's ok, seriously," Rayleigh then gripped the boy's shoulders lightly to get him to stop.

"No…it isn't. No one should treat a child like this, no matter the reason."

"But mom and dad said…"

"They're wrong, and they should be ashamed of themselves for telling you those things…" Rayleigh grit his teeth. "They have no right to be your parents!"

Naruto was left speechless, trying to find some way to defend his family's actions toward him…but found he couldn't. As an outcast, Naruto had a knack for being unseen and had witnessed many different people's interactions with those that they were close with and saw a warmth that he'd never experienced. His family treated him as a hindrance, one that stained the reputation that his parents had built for themselves because of his continued failings to the point they distanced his siblings from them. His weakness, to them, was a sin…an unforgivable one that reminded them of how worthless he was.

Thinking on this the blond wanted to cry, but the instilled 'lesson' of his mother kept him from doing so…that is, until Rayleigh embraced the boy.

"It isn't a weakness to cry. You're still young, so it's the way that you should cope when the world gets to be too much," Rayleigh looked ahead as he spoke. "And you aren't weak, Naruto. The strongest people that I've known and in the whole world are those that can smile when the world stomps on them," Rayleigh didn't hesitate in his words, no uncertainty as he spoke. "So, cry."

Naruto allowed himself to finally cry, clutching the man's shirt as he let the years of abuse and neglect crash down on him. The pain of the beatings he suffered that he squashed down to appear stronger so his parents would care, the loneliness he felt from being ostracized by his sibling and classmates that would stab his heart every day he was subjected to it, and the loss of one of his only friends, Inu, because he couldn't stand up for himself. That maelstrom of emotions was felt from the boy vicariously by Rayleigh who stood firm as the blond let it out until his body couldn't continue and passed out.

The man then took the boy back to his camp in the forest and used his cloak to bandage him to the best of his ability. When Naruto was comfortably in the tent, the roast he'd fought so hard for, cooking over a fire that Rayleigh made, and Inu was given a burial next to the tent; Rayleigh took his leave once more into the village proper, a stony expression on his face as he walked in the darkness towards a specific bar.

Approaching the entrance, he heard the sounds of sick joy as three men, one being Mizuki, and one being the man that Rayleigh dealt with when he'd first arrived, sitting at the bar's counter bragging about attacking the 'demon'. Rayleigh strode into the bar, all eyes going to the creaking door as he walked to the counter and stopped next to the three men.

"That'll teach that demon!" the third man laughed boisterously with a wide smile, alcohol sloshing in the glass he held and a drunk flush to his face.

"Going around and stealing from hardworking citizens, and the nerve to assault us!" the original assaulter roared in anger, his drink seen mostly around his lips.

"We did good work today, boys. That demon is finally getting the point! He's coming to terms with his existence!" Mizuki took a sip of his drink, letting out a satisfied sigh. "He was late to the academy today, and he didn't interact with any of the students after class let out. He knows he's alone in the world."

"You're the men that beat him?" Rayleigh turned to them with a disarming smile.

"Yeah…you new or something? Feel like I've seen you before," the original thug put a hand to his chin.

Rayleigh knocked his knuckles against the counter to call over the bartender, "I'd like to buy these men a drink."

The men were shocked that this man would buy them more drinks since he didn't know them. The bartender went to get the drinks at the former pirate's behest, especially because the man overpaid for them by a large margin, not knowing the real reason why the man had overpaid.

With the drinks in front of them, the men drank, all the while still eyeing the mysterious newcomer.

"Thanks for the drinks, but why do that?" Mizuki, as a shinobi, was suspicious.

"Just wanted to let you three have your last drink," Rayleigh smiled, finishing the drink he had gotten with his calm smile still present all while the men looked at him. "Before I kill you."

That statement made the three surround the calm Rayleigh, weapons at the ready and anger present in their eyes. The patrons all looked to the commotion but soon returned to their drinks, believing the older man to be outmatched by the three attackers.

"You're new here, so I'll give you a warning. That thing you're trying to defend is a monster!" Mizuki said to the man, who was still calmly sitting without a care.

Rayleigh then looked to the men and comfortably said, "I've been around for a while. I've sailed along most of the world…and I've seen real monsters, some friends and some enemies," suddenly and intense pressure was felt in the bar, making everyone inexplicably pass out except for the three men, who hit the floor on their knees.

"Th-this is…You're the one that stopped me the other day!" the first thug grits out, sweat pouring down his forehead.

"Nice to see you remember," Rayleigh stood above the men as they looked terrified since they were at his mercy. "You call that boy a monster, and yet I've only seen a child being dealt abuse and ostracization. Through all that hardship he's been dealt with, he still has the strength to smile and felt no malice towards anyone…he thought it was his fault," Rayleigh crouched down to meet their eyes and asked, "So tell me who the monster is again?"

The men were frightened on a level they thought couldn't be reached, staring into the eyes of Rayleigh and felt that they were gazing upon an entity that could challenge their Hokage…perhaps even above him.

"It's easy…for an outsider to talk about matters they know nothing about," Mizuki growled out, glaring at the man and grew surprised when Rayleigh outright laughed in his face.

"You're right. I was comfortable just passing through and not getting involved in the day-to-day of this island. But that little kid endeared himself to me, so I couldn't help but get attached…and I'd do anything for my friends," at end of that sentence the pressure let up on the three.

Picking themselves up the men backed away, unsure what to do as they stared down the man that said he'd be killing them. Rayleigh stood in front of them a lazy look on his face as he brought a hand up, waving it in a 'come on' motion.

"I'm not a cold-blooded murderer, so I'm going to give you a fighting chance. That way you won't have any regrets when it ends," Rayleigh smiled.

Once he finished his sentence, he quickly caught the large shuriken that Mizuki had thrown from his back using only his thumb and index finger before breaking it between them. The men were stunned, watching the pieces of the ninja weapon fall to the floor, the man responsible still smiling as if it was a simple feat for him. This act made the mean truly realize how outclassed they were, grasping at straws to survive as the two thugs begged to be spared when Mizuki shakily walked forward.

"I'm part of this village's military. You won't get away with killing me, and you'll have the entire village looking for you after this slight against an asset."

"And who exactly will be able to identify me?" Rayleigh countered, pointing a finger to the unconscious crowd that littered the floor. "Only cowards hide behind their faction; it shows they can't stand on their own. You have to live with the consequences that your actions have led to and fight for your right to have caused them," Rayleigh cracked his knuckles, ready to end these men.

(The next day)

Naruto shot up, a quick pain shot up his shoulder from the movement and a hand going over his bandaged eye. Remembering the events from last night, Naruto scrambled out of the tent and saw Rayleigh in front of the fire. The man looked up to see the boy and smiled, watching Naruto sit across from him.

"It's about time you woke up," he reached behind him, pulling a stick with a large piece of the roast stabbed on it and handed it to the boy. "You said that you wanted to eat together, and you make me wait a whole day? I'm getting on in years, I need nutrients at every chance I get," Rayleigh joked, grabbing his stick.

Naruto didn't know what to say.

What could he say?

What had happened yesterday, was an awakening for the boy. He realized his place in the village for the first time…and it hurt. He opened his mouth, wanting to talk about what had happened.

"Yes, it all happened," Rayleigh answered the question before it could be asked and stopped the boy again as he went to speak, "But you shouldn't dwell on it. It wasn't your fault it happened. If anyone is to blame, it's the people…and those people specifically."

"You mean…my family?"

"No, a family supports each other. Allowing that abuse to happen to you for years on end…they renounced any claim they could have to be your family," Rayleigh told the boy in all seriousness.

Naruto looked down, letting the truth sink in before raising his head, "What should I do now?" he seemed lost.

"You said you wanted to travel, right? Why not do that?" Rayleigh offered.

"I kinda wanted to do that so they'd care about me. I dunno what I'd do if I went out there…and I'm just a kid," Naruto then had a proverbial light bulb moment. "You could take me with you, gramps!" Naruto was ecstatic.

Rayleigh raised a hand to stop the celebration before it could truly start, "Sorry, but I'm gonna have to stop that. I have to tell you the truth," Rayleigh saw the boy look at him with hurt that he was lied to and with his track record in the village that didn't sit well with him. "I'm not just a traveler, kid…I'm a pirate, or at least I was."

"A pirate? I thought they were supposed to be liars, plunderers, and thieves…you aren't like that at all."

"And villagers are supposed to be close-knit and care about each other," Rayleigh shot back. "There are all types of people in the world. Some pirates are the textbook definition that the world has given them, and some are just people out for adventure," Rayleigh recalled the pirates he'd met on his journey.

"So, you can't take me with you cuz you're still being hunted?"

"Not really, but I wouldn't be surprised either. I was pretty notorious, so taking you with me is off the table."

"Then what if I go out on my own later!" Naruto was grasping at straws. "I-I don't wanna stay here anymore…I'd rather be anywhere but here."

"It will be dangerous out there. You may have the heart, but you do lack the physical strength…and you're still a little crybaby," Rayleigh laughed.

"Then I'll get stronger! If it means I can leave, then I'll do anything no matter how long it takes!"

"And what will you do when you leave?" Rayleigh asked.

"…What should I do, gramps?" Naruto was lost.

"I can't tell you," he laughed. "You could just leave this island and find a new one, one where no one would know who you are and get a fresh start; join the marines and fight injustice across the sea, if you want; or become a pirate and sail the sea for adventure, but no one will look favorably on that unless they know you," Rayleigh explained.

"But if I was a marine, I'd have to chase you, gramps!" Naruto was horrified at the idea. "Why would you want me to do that?"

"I'm not steering you in any direction. You should never regret a decision you make, so I wanted to give you all your options. As long as you're happy with your choice, then it doesn't matter what I think."

"If I was a marine, I'd have to follow orders and all that stuff. I've had enough of that here," Naruto didn't have any interest in that, having been under foot of superiors his entire life. "I'd rather be a pirate! Then no one could mess with me, and I'd get to see the world," Naruto sounded excited at the prospect.

"Remember, that'd make you a criminal. The world won't accept you, and you'll be on an island isolated from people simply because of that."

"I don't care! Cuz…pirates are supposed to have crews, right?"

Rayleigh smiled, "Yes, traversing the world on your own when the world itself will be your enemy necessitates allies. My crew was made up of people that could watch each other's backs and make up for weaknesses," Rayleigh pointed out.

"Then I'll get the best crew any ocean's ever seen!" Naruto affirmed.

"And what will you be looking for?" Rayleigh asked, seeing the dim look cross the blond's eyes he chuckled. "For a pirate, traveling island to island with no clear destination or goal is a good way to get stagnant or be captured. A goal would make you focused…you could be like a lot of pirates today and go after the title of Pirate King," Rayleigh offered, wondering what the blond would do.

"Pirate King? What's that?"

"Right, you don't really know much about the outside. Put simply, the Pirate King is the person that conquers the stretch of ocean known as the Grand Line, claiming everything the world has to offer in terms of power, wealth, and status," Rayleigh explained in layman's terms.

"I don't really care for stuff like that…but if I am gonna be a pirate, then I want my goal to be an answer," Naruto got deadly serious as he spoke.

"An answer?"

The blond nodded slowly, "Yeah, I want the answer to a question. I'll set out to sea to find out that answer…I need to know if it even exists," Naruto affirmed.

"What question do you need answered?" Rayleigh rubbed his chin in curiosity.

Naruto then told the former pirate what his question was, and the man laughed lightly at what he was told.

"Getting away from here is the best option if that's what you need answered. And it seems to me like you'll need all the help you can get," Rayleigh subtly offered the blond.

"You'll help me out, gramps?!" Naruto grew excited.

"Well, I can't very well let you go off half-cocked in a few years just for you to die before you get what you want, so I'll train you until I have to leave. The village is probably going to be looking for me."

"Thanks, gramps. I'll be the best student you could ask for!"

"If that's so. Why not lay off the gramps stuff? Just call me 'sensei'," Rayleigh stroked his beard and his ego, then donned a contemplative look. "Maybe it'd be better to be 'Rayleigh-sensei'?"

"When do we start, gramps-sensei?!" Naruto asked, not paying attention to the deadpan look he received from the man.

"As soon as you're well enough to move…Could you at least try to call me 'sensei'?" Rayleigh slightly pleaded but it was drowned out by the cheerful shouts of the boy.

(In the village)

The bar that Rayleigh visited was a war zone, the floor was splintered and slightly caved in as if something of great weight had come through, all the bottles of alcohol were shattered with their contents being strewn all over the floor. The most horrific thing on the scene, though, were the three dead bodies inside. The original thug's face was put through a wall, his skull caved in upon impact with shards going into his brain. The other's chest had practically exploded out of his back, chest cavity completely on display with the insides not too far behind the fallen body, the man's face a rictus of terror as if he didn't realize the deed had been done before fading. Mizuki…he had the worst of it, for his blood was splashed all around the bar, and from the evidence, this was done with such brutal precision it was certain the man had been alive for every moment until finally being beheaded to end his torment.

"And you say you have no recollection of the person who did this?" Minato asked the bartender, a grim expression set on his face. He wasn't all that concerned with the dead patrons, more he was upset that some unknown had slipped its way into his village and caused a commotion while he was none the wiser.

It's almost like this intruder thought he was a fool!

"Nothing, Hokage-sama…there was one older gentleman that had come into the bar, but he could never have taken on those three by himself," the bartender started to sweat when the stare of his leader fell on him.

"He was most likely the culprit then! Looks can be deceiving, and that can be the perfect weapon on those that are prone to overlooking," Minato failed to realize the hypocrisy of that statement.

"Sensei, if this person had caused this much destruction, then there's no way he'd remain here. It would be foolish," Kakashi spoke up from behind.

"True…what a nuisance," Minato sighed and looked to the dead bodies. "Those two won't be missed, and Mizuki was never a true boon to the shinobi program so it's no heavy loss," Minato didn't regard the dead men as worth anything, turning to leave the bar. "Clean this mess up, and do not speak of what was talked about here. No need to rile the citizens when the danger has already passed, and we shall pay for your silence as well barkeep," with that Minato and his former student left the wrecked bar.

"So, sensei, how is Menma and Natsumi's training going?" Kakashi eye-smiled to the man.

"Very well. They remind me and Kushina of ourselves with each passing day. I've no doubt that they'll be able to lead this next generation into outperforming the previous," Minato smiled.

"*whistles* That is some great praise, sensei. I've overheard Iruka talking about them in class, according to him they're practically the leaders already."

"Of course, they come from great stock after all," Minato boasted, but the joy was killed at Kakashi's next words.

"What of the other one…Naruto?" Kakashi flinched at the shift in his sensei's demeanor at the mere mention of the firstborn.

"What of him? He has had every chance to prove that he's a prodigy like Menma and Natsumi, but he has constantly disappointed. They come home and talk about the mess he makes of himself in class, it's an embarrassment to our legacy," Minato pinches the bridge of his nose to reign in his anger. "I'm glad that he makes himself scarce around the village as I feel I'd strike him if given the chance. Menma told me that he'd even refrained from attending the academy the other day, so I hope he's come to his senses and given up," Minato smiled, a cruel glint in his eyes.

"I understand, sensei. Ridding yourself of a blot must come as such a relief," Kakashi thought to his failure of a father. He was much happier with Minato filling that role in his life.

"He isn't removed just yet," Minato stopped walking and turned to his former student, "As you know, Naruto isn't going to be the clan heir," he received a nod from the copy-nin, "Kushina and I have talked, and we've decided to go a step farther…to truly remove that stain from our person, we are going to disown him once he comes of age. This way we can make the official announcement of Menma becoming heir, and any dissent will be silenced because we 'gave' the boy all the time to 'improve' and keep his position as a family member," Minato reasoned, adamant with the decision he and his wife came to.

"It's for the best, sensei. He'll have a much more fulfilling life being at the bottom as that is where some are just destined to be," Kakashi bowed slightly to his sensei and took his leave.

This was the starting point for the story of a boy, a boy who was born under an unlucky star and deemed a failure by his family. A boy that survived on his own for much of his early life, before meeting the one man that could help him by complete chance.

In the future, that boy will make a name for himself in the world at large and his 'family' will come to regret the choices they had made towards him.

The story of Silvers D. Naruto has begun.

AN: There you have it, another new story started. Breaking promises left and right, but I haven't quit the others. I just need to feel inspired to go to them, and I do think of them often.

Right now, I'm just trying to write consistently so I don't fall into a procrastination rut for a year as I often do. So, that's why this is coming to you.

Now as trivia, this story was thought up after reading a "neglect" Naruto story. "Neglect" in quotations 'cause a lot of them that I've read on this site backtrack on the idea as soon as Naruto gains a power to be strong, leaves the village, or gets trained as after any of those things happens that's when his family suddenly wakes up and goes "Aw, we were so mean to him. We have to find him cuz we love him now." (Sorry, if I'm sounding elitist that isn't my intention) This is a trend I've found in a lot of them, and while I have read quite a few and enjoyed them, I couldn't help but feel that the authors of those stories wanted to get over that drama ASAP.

I thought to myself, I want them to be a shitty family that doesn't learn and pays for it later, and as a One Piece nerd (as you no doubt know by now) one of the best ways to give his family a comeuppance is becoming a renowned pirate which would make them upset as they know he's related to them, him not using their name as they disown him so they can't even bank off his notoriety, and have him be happy and grow powerful as a middle finger to them believing him weak.

In a way, I consider this a better version of "Galactic Pirates", which I haven't quit, as this story is going to be made up of arcs that I come up with. Since this is crossed over with different anime, some of those arcs will consist of Naruto and crew interrupting an anime's arc and making a similar outcome or slightly different (You'll see what I mean in the future, I think I might have explained that poorly). And some arcs will be made up entirely with influences from other anime.

I've put a lot of thought into this, so I hope it translates well in the writing.

P.S. I'd drop hints for the crew, but since I'm bad at being cryptic…I don't really wanna give hints…soooo, they're all pretty well-known characters…most are the main characters of their respective anime/manga…other than that wait 'n see…I guess :/

P.P.S. (I love ANs as they let me communicate with you guys, and I'm bad at answering to PMs) I don't want to come across as needy, especially since this is a leisure platform…and the world is currently imploding in on itself so you don't wanna put up with my bullshite and want some levity. But I want to shill the story that I posted before this one "ACU" as that's another story I worked hard on and it will be much harder as it goes on given he chapters are shaping up to be massive (for those that don't know the 1st chapter of it was 92 pages on Word). I'm promoting it cuz it is posted in a low traffic area of the site, Naruto/Cartoon X-overs, and I just wanted to at least let be known in this AN in case you missed it.

Alright, I'm done. See you next time.