Brave New World
by May Wren
Namikaze Minato, the Fourth Hokage of Konohagakure no Sato, had been having a relatively good day. He'd managed to pawn off a good portion of his paperwork to unsuspecting Jounin, and had quickly fled before anyone could try to give him more. He was feeling far too restless to sit behind a desk and deal with paperwork today. So he found Jiraiya and yanked him out of bed to go have a spar.
It disturbed him greatly how much his former sensei had let himself go since Tsunade had left and Orochimaru had been killed. That wasn't to say he wasn't still a dangerous opponent—Jiraiya had probably forgotten more about being a shinobi than many would ever learn—but he was no longer nearly as sharp as he had once been. Minato tried to tell himself that he shouldn't worry over it, and that it was normal for shinobi who made it to retirement to lose that razor edge that kept them alive in the field. But it didn't help when he saw the emptiness in his sensei's eyes.
So here he was again, dragging him to one of his favorite training grounds for a spar.
"You ready for me to kick your ass, old man?" Minato teased.
"Hah! That'll be the day," Jiraiya retorted. "Kuchiyose no jutsu."
Three toads the size of horses appeared. Minato rolled his eyes.
"Hey, guys," he called.
"Minato-sama," they greeted. "Did you need our assistance?"
"He summoned you," Minato pointed to Jiraiya. "But I'll make you a deal. Go back home instead of helping him, and I'll give you each a treat."
"What!" Jiraiya squawked.
"Deal," the toads agreed. Minato tossed them each a chocolate bar, and they dispersed.
"Now I believe it's my turn," Minato grinned. Then he caught sight of something, just poking out of a nearby bush. It looked like a hand.
"Well, what are you waiting for?" Jiraiya asked. Minato pointed in the direction and began to walk over to it. Sure enough, it was a hand. Which was connected to a body, he saw. Minato gave the area a brief survey to ensure this wasn't a trap as he ran through hand seals in a blur to summon his ANBU detail. They were there in moments.
"I found a body," he said, pointing to the boy. "Konoha headband, but the body's too damaged for me to make a visual id."
"Minato, the kid's breathing," Jiraiya interrupted, inspecting the body more closely than Minato had.
"How is that possible?" Minato asked, having seen a great deal of the injuries on the boy's body. "Cat, Hawk, get him to the hospital. We'll follow shortly."
"Hai," the two designated ANBU saluted and took the body and disappeared in a body flicker, leaving only puffs of smoke behind.
"Dog, Snake, figure out how he got here and how he got to be in this condition. I'll expect a report in two hours."
"Hai, Hokage-sama," they saluted.
"Jiraiya, with me," Yondaime said.
"Aw, you're not gonna put an old man to work, are you?" Jiraiya complained. Minato just gave him an even eyed look.
"Fine," Minato said, eyes flat. "Leave. Get out of here. Go drink yourself to death in a whorehouse."
"That's exactly what you've been doing," Minato said viciously. "And that's exactly what you were planning on going back to from here. Don't try to sugarcoat it."
Jiraiya looked off into the distance, avoiding his student's hard gaze.
"Kakashi and Anko aren't going to find any signs of who left him here," Jiraiya said. "There weren't any."
Minato breathed a sigh of relief that, for today anyway, he had his mentor back.
"They'll look anyway," Minato said as they began to walk to the hospital. "Sometimes the lack of evidence is just as telling as its presence."
"Hmm," Jiraiya made a sound of agreement. "Minato… did you get a good look at him?"
"Only enough to see the Konoha hitai-ate and see the wounds were fatal."
"He may live yet. He was breathing when he left," Jiraiya continued. "But, Minato, I got a closer look at him."
"Did you recognize him?"
"For a moment, I thought it was you, twenty years ago."
Minato paused and looked at him.
"He's a miniature replica of you," Jiraiya said.
"But… why? What does this mean?"
"I have no idea, Minato. None at all."
The chains holding him clanked as he pulled at them, trying to escape. Of course, they didn't give. That would just have been far too easy. Naruto looked around, trying to figure out some other way out of this mess, but nothing was coming to mind. He had to take consolation in the fact that, though he was captured, he had managed to take down three of the bastards permanently.
Yes, he thought, a small, vicious grin glancing his features, killing three S-ranked missing nin in one go was no small feat.
Now, all he had to do was get out of here. Someone walked in, and he recognized it was Madara.
"You have caused quite a bit of trouble, Naruto," Madara said. "You've decreased our ranks by three more. My little band is down to almost half its size."
And that was something Naruto was immensely proud of.
"You have thrown off my plans quite enough, you know. But I won't have to worry about that for much longer. Once I have the Jyuubi, no one will be able to challenge me."
"Personally, I'm hoping for this whole thing to backfire and wipe you fuckers out," Naruto said.
"Hmm, I imagine you are," Madara said. "But you know, I don't think it will. With you trapped here, that eliminates the last of the obstacles to my goals. But you know, that gives me an idea. I think I'll make sure I'm close enough to Konoha so that even if it does backfire, it'll still take out your precious village. What do you say to that? At best, I think it'll work, and my first act will be to destroy the entire village. At worst, it won't, and the escaped bijuu will still destroy your entire village. Either way, I believe it will be marvelous. We'll test it just after the extraction of the Nine Tails. But, oh, wait, you won't survive to see it, will you? How sad."
Naruto glared, but didn't say anything as Madara walked out. He never understood a villain's need to boast before the job was done, but he was sure as hell not going to do the same. Because all that Madara's words had done was make Naruto redouble his efforts to get out. And he promised himself that, if he couldn't escape, he'd die before he let them extract the Kyuubi.
When the boy was cleaned up, it was only more obvious how similar they looked. The kid was like a younger clone. And Minato had never seen him before. He had no idea what to think. If this were some sort of infiltration, why would they (whoever they may be) send someone who would so obviously draw attention and rouse suspicion?
But what else could it be, when the boy was a ninja, and definitely not one of Konoha's?
"His ninja registration number was right where it should be," Jiraiya said.
"That's not exactly an A-ranked Secret," Minato responded, eyes never moving from the boy's bed.
"Hmm, true," Jiraiya said. "The number he's using comes back unregistered."
"What else did he have on him?" Minato asked.
"Nothing but the clothes on his back," Jiraiya said. Minato looked up at that and frowned.
"Maybe we're looking at this the wrong way," he said consideringly. "Are we sure this kid's a ninja?"
"The wounds are shinobi inflicted," Jiraiya said, picking up one of the kid's hand. "But no calluses. Doesn't look like there's evidence of any scarring from previous battles. And whoever dumped him here certainly didn't care whether or not he lived, with these sorts of wounds."
"Maybe he's not a spy," Minato said. "Maybe he's not a shinobi at all."
"No evidence of repetitive labor," Jiraiya agreed. "Doesn't matter if it's throwing a kunai or using a hoe, it would leave a callus on his hands. And if a kid doesn't work, it means he's from a well-off family. Only problem is he's far too toned. Look at the muscle definition."
Minato sighed his agreement. "But it seems he was picked because of his resemblance to me. Maybe he was planted here for me to find as… what, a warning of some sort? But why? And who would have done it? We're on relatively good terms with the other hidden villages."
"Well," Jiraiya scratched his chin. "There's Rock, which will never forgive you for the war. And Cloud is still pretty honked off over that Hyuuga nonsense ten years back. And Sand is in pretty dire straits, since their Daimyo is giving Konoha a lot of his business. And Mist certainly isn't too fond of us, since they're so anti-bloodline and we embrace and honor ours." Minato slumped.
"Alright, when you put it like that," he said. "But still, diplomatic relations are relatively stable."
"True," Jiraiya agreed. "But that doesn't mean that any one of them wouldn't be happy to take a pot shot at you if given the chance."
Minato sighed. "That still doesn't give us any information on our little nin."
"We could always try the mundane method of asking him," Jiraiya suggested.
"Iryounin estimate one to two months until he's well and aware enough to talk," Minato said. "I don't want to wait that long."
"You always were my impatient one," Jiraiya said with a grin.
"Hn," Minato rolled his eyes. "Nothing more to be done here. Let's go back to my office and wait for the ANBU's reports."
He took one more glance at the boy on the bed, hooked up to a number of IVs and other machines.
"Hawk, Cat, stay on him," Minato ordered as they left the room.
When Naruto woke up, he was quite surprised. Mostly because he had never expected to wake up at all. His last act—or so he'd thought—had been a kamikaze jutsu that was meant to vaporize everything and everyone for a mile in every direction, himself included. He opened his eyes, wondering if he was in hell. Then he recognized the Konoha hospital and knew it must be.
A nurse he didn't recognize was in the room, adjusting an IV bag. The tube down his throat kept him from talking, so he just shut his eyes and waited for her to leave. For some reason, the healers always got upset with him when he got rid of their equipment. He heard the door open and close, and immediately looked around to make sure he was alone. Then he took a deep breath, exhaled hard, and pulled out the tube. It hurt like a son of a bitch, but he swallowed a few times and felt his throat being healed over.
Then he sat up and took stock. There were a few electrodes hooked up to him and a number of IV bags. Shaking his head, he wondered why in the world he was on so many machines. He'd thought everyone at the hospital had known about his vastly increased healing factor. He shrugged and decided to just unhook himself. He carefully took the tape off that held the IV needles in place, then slid the needles out of his skin. He rubbed his head, remembering the last time he'd had electrodes attached and the panic he'd caused when he'd removed them. Tsunade had given him quite a lump for the scare he'd given her. So he was sure to shut the machines off before peeling the electrodes off of his skin. He'd just taken the last off when the nurse returned. She took one look at him and screamed, dropping the tray she'd brought in. A team of ANBU swarmed in immediately.
Naruto blinked in surprise. Well, that was certainly different, he thought. He cocked his head sideways at one in a dog mask, and wondered when Kakashi had rejoined ANBU, and just how long, exactly, he had been sleeping.
"Er, hi?" he said.
"Nurse, is everything alright?" Kakashi asked.
"Yes, Anbu-sama, I apologize for the trouble. The patient simply startled me. His chart said he was not expected to wake for another six weeks."
Naruto cocked his head to the side in question. He didn't think he'd ever been in the hospital for more than a week at a time, so why in the world would they expect him to be in there for six? He narrowed his eyes at everyone. Genjutsu, then? He wondered. It could explain why Kakashi was ANBU and all of the hospital equipment. But he couldn't figure out what the point would be.
Akatsuki were all dead. He'd made completely sure of that—feeling their bodies and souls torn and shredded and vaporized—before he'd let go of the jutsu and allowed it to consume him, as well. Orochimaru was long dead, and Sound was no longer any sort of threat. So who would they put him in a genjutsu? And why? And for that matter, how the hell had he survived the kamikaze jutsu he'd used?
"Please wait here," Kakashi said. "We were to inform the Hokage of any change in your condition."
"Er, alright?" Naruto said, scratching his head. Then he shrugged and sat back down on the bed for them to leave. The ANBU in the—was that a Snake mask?—and the one in the Hawk mask stayed in the room while the others all left. Naruto wasn't sure why he warranted an ANBU guard, but he figured he'd find out answers to all of it when Tsunade came. So he just shrugged again and headed for the bathroom.
Minato looked up as Kakashi entered his office.
"Did the kid bite the dust?" Minato asked, knowing Kakashi was on that detail again today.
"No, he's awake," he said with no preamble. Minato blinked at the news.
"I thought the iryounin estimated another six weeks?" he asked.
"The nurse was quite surprised to find him awake and removing all of his medical equipment," Kakashi said.
"Hmm, well, then I suppose we should go talk to the boy. Did he say anything?"
"I thought you would want to be present before any questions were asked," Kakashi said.
"True," Minato agreed. "Get Jiraiya and have him meet me there."
"I sent Cat after him," Kakashi said. "They should be at the hospital by the time we get there." And sure enough, they were. Jiraiya looked a bit worse for wear, and Minato raised a questioning eyebrow at Cat.
"He was involved in activities inappropriate for a shinobi of the Hidden Leaf of his stature," Cat responded icily to the unspoken question. "I remedied the situation."
Minato managed to suppress a chuckle, but his mouth twitched.
"Aa, for the good of the reputation of good Leaf Shinobi everywhere," he agreed solemnly, and Jiraiya's eye spasmed in annoyance. "Well, come on then. Let's question the brat."
"So he's awake?" Jiraiya asked. Minato nodded his head and headed in. They quickly made their way up to the hospital room. When Kakashi did a quick sidestep to enter the room in front of him, Minato rolled his eyes. Procedures were procedures, but really, it was a bit insulting for them to be protecting him from a kid who was on his death bed.
When he laid eyes on the kid, though, he had to reevaluate the death bed part. He looked the boy up and down, looking for evidence of wounds, and found none. He was debating what to say when the boy broke the silence.
"What the fuck is going on here?" he demanded.
"Er, well," Minato said, scratching the back of his head. "That is rather what we wanted to know."
The boy's eyes narrowed, and in the blink of an eye he'd drawn up a monstrous amount of chakra.
"Kai," the boy said softly, dispersing the chakra in the largest burst Minato had ever seen used in genjutsu dispellation. He imagined it would have dispelled any genjutsu possible. Except, of course, that there wasn't one being used at present. The four ANBU in the room had almost instantaneously tackled him, but they weren't quite quick enough to stop the kid. Which answered the question of whether or not the boy was a ninja. He certainly was. And obviously a good one if he could get a jutsu off before the ANBU could tackle him.
Then the boy did the strangest thing yet—he went limp, falling into either another coma or one of the deepest meditative trances Minato had ever seen. He wasn't sure which he hoped it would turn out to be.
When the dispelling technique didn't make the scene in front of him dissolve into a genjutsu, Naruto was shocked. Because when the Yondaime was alive and well, what else could it be but genjutsu? Of course, with the amount of chakra he used for it, Naruto had never yet run into a genjutsu that he couldn't break with his chakra burst dispelling technique.
So he decided to ask the fox, who was usually quite a bit better at detecting illusions than he was.
"Kyuubi?" he called mentally. "Fox? Hey, furface, what's going on?" When he still received no answer, he really began to panic. He closed his eyes, ignoring the ANBU who were piled on top of him and restraining him, and dropped into the trance that allowed him to visit the Nine Tails.
He fell, as always, into the sewer that led to the cage and began walking towards the Kyuubi's current domain. When he got there, he was even more surprised to find the giant fox sleeping. Here he was in the middle of a crisis, and the fox was sleeping. Naruto hadn't even known that the fox did sleep. And that, he decided, was something he would think about another day. But for now, he needed the fox awake.
"Oi, Kyuubi," he yelled. The fox only rumbled. "Hey, fox breath, come on."
One of the fox's giant tails swished back towards Naruto, and only the bars stopped it from sweeping Naruto off his feet. Instead, he grabbed two fistfuls of the fur that slipped through the bars and yanked. Hard. Kyuubi hissed in annoyance and let out an angry growl.
"Kit, if you don't leave me alone, we're going to test how well the seal holds here."
Naruto rolled his eyes, then froze as he realized what the fox had said.
"Wait, what do you mean 'here,' where are we?" Naruto demanded.
"What?" Naruto yelled. "What's going on? I thought it was genjutsu, but I couldn't dispel it."
"No genjutsu," Kyuubi yawned.
"Then what the fuck is it?" Naruto demanded. "The Fourth Hokage just walked into my hospital room alive and well, so something is sure as fuck going on."
Kyuubi sighed and resettled himself, turning to look at Naruto.
"You sacrificed yourself to save the world," Kyuubi explained. Naruto blinked.
"You have me sealed in you, which means you're close enough to a kitsune for Inari-sama to view you as one. Inari-sama rewards such selfless feats as sacrificing yourself to save the world with a tail of power."
"Hunh?" Naruto repeated.
"But because I'm a Nine-tail already, he instead granted us a boon. I asked for a chance to continue living, and Inari-sama was generous enough to grant it."
"But then why is the Fourth alive?" Naruto asked, confused.
"Inari-sama said that if we were to return to our world, it would undo that which you sacrificed yourself for," Kyuubi said.
"So the Akatsuki would have come back, and they would have had everything they needed," Naruto said, beginning to understand. Kyuubi nodded.
"So he brought us back to life in another world, one where we had already died long ago, so we wouldn't interfere with our selves which were native to this world. Now do you understand?"
"Er, sure?" Naruto asked. Kyuubi sighed and began his explanation all over again. A good hour later, Naruto felt he understood.
"So… foxes get tails when they're really good, but can only get nine," Naruto reiterated. "Since you have nine, Inari-sama gave us a wish, and you wished us alive, but to keep Akatsuki from destroying the world after our wish, Inari-sama brought us to a new world?"
"Which means that the Yondaime I saw probably really is the Yondaime?" Naruto asked.
"Probably," the Kyuubi gave an impression of a shrug. "Now I'm exhausted—Inari-sama used most of my energy to bring us here and reform our body. So shoo, kit."
And Naruto was thrown from his trance-state back to consciousness. He opened his eyes, but kept his body limp. He had no idea what he was going to do, but he figured it would be best all around to keep from making the ANBU any more angry.
"Er, sorry about that," Naruto said. "I thought this was genjutsu."
"Yeah, we'd gathered that," Jiraiya said. The Fourth gave him a look, and Jiraiya rolled his eyes.
"What was it about seeing me that made you think this was genjutsu?" Minato asked.
"I'd been told that you were dead, Hokage-sama," Naruto answered.
The ANBU tightened their grips on him, and Naruto forced himself not to flinch. Minato just cocked his head to the side and Naruto wondered what he was thinking.
"And now you know it's not an illusion?" Yondaime asked. Naruto shrugged, or tried to, given how restricted his movements were.
"I've never met a genjutsu that my chakra burst couldn't dispel," he hedged, trying to think of some way to get out of this situation. He needed a way for them to believe he wasn't some sort of spy or threat to the Hokage and Konoha.
"Mou, the sun is bright today, like a little ball of fire in the sky," Naruto said, trying to remember one of the thousands of pass codes Tsunade had made him memorize. The Yondaime froze.
"What was that?" he asked.
"Shit, er," he closed his eyes, trying to separate them. "The bud of the leaf can only begin… no, the leaf can only begin to bud when the sun shines brightly upon it."
"Out," Yondaime ordered. "All of you. Out."
"But Yondaime-sama," Kakashi protested.
"Now," Yondaime growled. The ANBU looked at each other, then slowly released Naruto's limbs. When they saw he wasn't going to move, they backed out of the room.
"You, too," Yondaime said to Jiraiya. Jiraiya just shrugged and followed.
Naruto breathed a sigh of relief.
"Is it alright if I sit up?" he asked. When the Yondaime didn't make any indication one way or another, Naruto decided that he could. Then they sat in silence for a few minutes, carefully studying each other.
Then Yondaime ran through a rapid series of hand seals, enclosing the room in what Naruto recognized to be a sound proof barrier. Sound could get in, but not out.
"How did you get those pass codes?" Yondaime finally asked him.
"I'm not sure you'd believe me," Naruto said. "I lived it, and I barely believe it."
"Try me," Yondaime said. It wasn't a suggestion. Naruto nodded.
"I guess the best way to start is with this, then," he said taking off the hospital gown. Yondaime raised an eyebrow.
"I don't know what you were told, but I'm not into little boys."
"What?" Naruto froze, comprehending his words. "Gah! No, pervert. Just come here and look." He pointed to his stomach as he channeled a small amount of chakra—just enough to bring up the seal. The Yondaime's eyes widened, and he crouched in front of Naruto to examine it. Naruto shivered as he poked at it with chakra filled hands.
"Jinchuuriki," Yondaime murmured. Naruto flinched—he'd always hated that term.
"I designed this seal," Yondaime said. "And I only ever taught it to two others. One of them is dead. And this looks like my seal script."
"It is," Naruto said. Yondaime drew back.
"I think I would remember that."
"It was another you. Just like it was another Godaime who gave me all of the pass codes. I'm from… somewhere else."
"Godaime?" Yondaime asked. Naruto nodded.
"You died sealing me," he said.
"Hn," Yondaime frowned. "And you lived?"
"Yeah," Naruto shrugged. "And I'm not apologizing for it. It wasn't like I was given any choice in any of this."
"No, that's not… here, you died," Yondaime said.
"So you chose me here, too, huh?" Naruto asked. "And Shinigami-sama let you live after summoning him?"
"No. I wasn't the one who summoned him. Sandaime knocked me out and sacrificed himself in my place."
Naruto smiled sadly.
"Yeah, that sounds like the old man," Naruto nodded. "So you believe me?"
The Yondaime gave him an evaluating look.
"I don't know," he finally replied. "I just don't know."
Naruto shut his eyes and began a breathing exercise to re-center himself. This would require he stay as calm and in control as he could.
"So what's your name?" Yondaime asked. Naruto felt inexplicably hurt that the Yondaime couldn't even be bothered to remember the name of the vessel he'd chosen to bear the burden of the Kyuubi. He shoved it down and continued his breathing exercise.
"Naruto. Uzumaki Naruto."