Nagato had been released one week later with strict orders to take it easy, even though the Kyuubi's power had long since taken care of his injury.
A crow masked ANBU was already waiting for him when he left the hospital. "Uzumaki Naruto?"
"Yes?" Nagato inquired, his voice just as impassive as the man's in front of him.
"I am under orders to take you to your new living quarters," Crow informed him. "The Uyemura complex has been deemed uninhabitable. "
"Okay. ", Nagato answered, only just stopping himself from adding "Please lead on." It was hard for him to simplify his speech. He did not know how a six-year-old child should speak or behave. He had already taken care of the behavior problem, but it still left his increased vocabulary unexplained.
He would have to make sure to be seen reading in public.
"I will transport us there," the ANBU announced, putting his hand on the child's shoulder.
The neighborhood his new apartment was located in was close to the Academy and at the heart of the village. The complex was rather new, three-stories high, and even had a small garden for recreational purposes.
Nagato's living quarters were at the first floor and overlooked the garden. Both the kitchen and his bedroom were bigger than the ones in his last apartment, and there was not even a single crack on the wall.
"We attempted to salvage some of your belongings, but the fire has consumed your entire flat," Crow reported. "You will need to acquire replacements. To compensate you for your loss and your injury, your attacker's assets have been seized and been signed over to your name."
The ANBU handed him a file. "This is the current listing of your assets. Feel free to peruse it at your leisure."
Nagato accepted the file with a calm "Thank you."
This was certainly an unexpected, but pleasing development.
"Your apartment keys are on the table. Unless you have questions, I shall take my leave now."
"Only one," Nagato immediately seized the chance to reform his image. "Can you please tell me the fastest way to the library?"
For a moment, the ANBU simply stared at him, before he finally answered the child's question. "Walk down the street past the Hokage tower and take the third alley to the right."
Crow nodded shortly. "I will take my leave now."
The ANBU disappeared without saying another word, but Nagato knew that he had not vanished just yet. He could still feel the man's chakra signature outside the window. There was no doubt that the Hokage would keep a close eye on him for the next weeks.
But this suited him just well.
Satisfied with the way things were going, he brewed himself a fresh cup of tea and opened the folder.
Akame Iwana had by no means been a rich man. But he had been a freshly promoted chunin and had made an average living. It was far more than this body's former owner used to have at his disposal.
Nagato was pleased. He could get himself a new wardrobe now and buy some higher quality school supplies.
Wandering through the streets, he took sharp note of everyone he found looking at him, mentally categorizing them in unfriendly, neutral, and friendly. The first category got the most entries.
Any normal child would have been dejected by this kind of discovery. But Nagato was neither normal nor a child.
He had transcended. He was Pain, and thus a god.
The Akatsuki leader ignored the cold gazes with a self-confidence unique only to him and entered the grocery store.
It was strange only to use one body. He was used to separating himself, being able to do multiple things at once, but now he was limited to his own body and his range of perception had shrunk significantly.
He did not like it.
His clones might be useful for getting errands done, but beyond this they were rather useless.
He needed to find another way to surveil his surroundings.
Nagato was really missing his Rinnegan.
The Akatsuki leader quickly finished his shopping trip and returned home, intent on getting his plans started.
"He inquired after the library?" the Third asked, focusing his attention on the ANBU in front of him.
"Yes, Hokage-sama," Crow confirmed. "I gave him the directions he desired and assumed my post. After I had left, Uzumaki inspected the file. He spent at least an hour reading through it."
The Hokage raised an eyebrow. "He actually read it? Interesting," he waved his hand, signaling the ANBU to continue.
"After he was done, Uzumaki referred to the Academy guidelines, made some notes and went shopping," Crow paused, before adding. "He bought lots of fruit and vegetables."
The Sandaime nearly dropped his pipe. Naruto? Referring to the guidelines? Buying vegetables? Willingly?
"Then he visited Tagawa's Equipment and replaced his entire school supplies. He spent quite a lot of time assessing the merchandise. It appears that Uzumaki has an eye for quality."
Something else the Third had not known about the child. But then, Naruto had never been in a position where he actually had the opportunity to choose. He almost flinched guiltily at that thought. "Go on."
"He made a last stop at the clothes store to buy himself a black robe and an assortment of red and white shirts."
The Third did drop his pipe this time, but managed to catch it, before he could set himself on fire.
The ANBU dutifully overlooked his superior's break in composure and finished his report. "After that he brought his purchases home, changed into his new clothes and went to the library. According to his file, he borrowed books on history, math, and strategy, as well as a thesaurus. Then he went home and practiced his throwing skills."
"I see," The Third answered slowly. The incident really seemed to have shaken the child. He sighed. "Continue your watch. We have to make sure this was an isolated incident."
"Yes, Hokage-sama," Crow affirmed.
Umino Iruka had heard about the attack on his student. It was a hot topic among Konoha's shinobi. Rumors said that the apartment complex Uzumaki had lived in had completely burned down and that the child himself had sustained serious injury.
Some even said that he had been close to death. Iruka had never been too fond of the young boy who imprisoned the demon, but he would never have wished this kind of incident on any child.
So, he was silently relieved when Uzumaki Naruto returned to class one week later. But the child was a changed person.
Iruka felt it the moment the boy stepped through the door. It was not the fact that he had exchanged his jumpsuit for a black robe and red shirt, things like this were trivial, but rather the way he held himself. The cheerfulness that drew you in was gone, and his place was a mysterious calmness that reminded him of a deep ocean.
"I am back, Iruka-sensei," the child informed him calmly. Iruka almost recoiled at the emptiness in the boy's blue eyes.
"Welcome back, Naruto," Iruka finally answered, avoiding the blank gaze. "Please take a seat."
Naruto nodded "Yes, sensei." and, much to Iruka's surprise, proceeded to take a seat in the front row, looking at him with an expression that could only be described as mild interest.
Feeling slightly unsettled, Iruka started the lesson.
Nagato kept only half his attention on the lecture while he contemplated which child he should get close to first. Uchiha Sasuke was out. If he started associating with him now, Itachi would only see him as his brother's friend. Someone on par with his little brother. But for his plan to work, Itachi needed to consider him his friend.
No, it would be best if he started with some inconspicuous, someone talented with no clan affiliation and background. His eyes zeroed in on a pink-haired girl. Haruno Sakura, the Godaime's future apprentice and the one who killed Sasori. She would be a perfect place to start, but she was not exactly what Nagato was looking for right now.
He did not want to admit it, but he was missing Konan. The woman had been by his side since they had both been children. She had been his confidant, his partner, the one he had trusted most.
But Konan belonged to his other self now. So, he needed someone else as his second. Someone who already knew a certain measure of pain.
Of course, it would be simple for him to show pain to any child of his choosing, but there was this small part in him that preferred to have at least one person at his side whose bond to him was untarnished.
His gaze fell on a young black-haired girl sitting next to the Hyuuga heiress. Her hand was moving rapidly as she wrote down the teacher's lecture, but there was something different about her. She looked almost resigned.
As if feeling his gaze on her, the girl raised her head and Nagato found himself looking into tired eyes, sparkling with a fierce, yet heavily chained defiance.
The girl mentioned in the last paragraph is technically not an OC, because she did appear in the anime. (Episode 1 ~5:50, between Iruka and his paper)
On another note: I suggest you keep a close eye on the tags.
Shieldtoad Thanks! :D Yes I guess it's something new. I just like to experiment and there are not enough Nagato-centric fics. :D
sayaka uzumaaki That would really be a fun conversation. Both of them going on about fate and being god and everyone being "WFT?" *xD*
PhillyFaze Thank you! I am glad you liked the first chapter. =)