Disclaimer: I do not own Naruto. It's a beautiful sunshiny day… at least where I am. So go ahead and waste a chunk of it by sitting here and reading this story. Go on! You know you want to!
To anyone with a copy of this to read,
I have a lot of trouble with this whole 'memoir' thing. And it's not just the writing part that gets me, though I'm not really a fan of that either. Definitely not enough to write a whole gigantic book by choice.
But here's the thing. People tell me that it's important to leave some kind of firsthand record of the things that happened in my life and my friends' lives, so that later on when we're all dead people don't backtrack and make the same mistakes we did or the people before us did to put us in our situations. But here's the thing I'm having trouble with.
How in the hell can you tell people generations from now a story to take seriously and learn from if they don't think big parts of it are real?
I don't know, but that's what happened once already. I think a lot of what the Sage of Six Paths' original message or whatever it was that he put out there got lost in translation over the centuries, especially if nobody ever wrote it down. You never see any physical record of anyone talking about it. Every legend about him is spread through word of mouth, and that just isn't going to do.
The stuff he did was so outrageous in hindsight that people who didn't live through it themselves back then couldn't take it as the 100% truth. Anything that went with his message, along with the things he actually did got diluted by the times. People thought that the storytellers were just overselling him. And it didn't help that nobody had any idea where he came from, how he discovered chakra, or any of that. No background. No one ever talked about the kind of guy he was, or what he was like as a person. He was like some ideal more than a man.
Nobody could relate and put themselves and their own feelings into it somehow, so they didn't believe in things all the way and started twisting the stories to the way they liked it. So I guess that's why people keep telling me that I've got to write this myself, and I totally get it. I wouldn't want that to happen to this.
Because I still honestly can't believe most of the stuff that actually happened to me, and I lived it! So I know full well that no one else two hundred years from now or whatever is going to take this bullshit seriously unless I write it myself.
I'd rather Ero-sennin do it since he's an actual author, but that's not going to happen, so here's what I've got. Believe it or not I'll do my best, and if you weren't there you just can't imagine.
Uzumaki Naruto – Foreword to 'End of the Clan War Era Memoirs'
Chapter 2: No Place Like Home
Kushina was panicking in her mind. She'd had Naruto strip to his boxers in the forest and had him generate chakra so that she could look for the anomaly that she'd expected to find on his body, and lo and behold she found it situated perfectly around his navel.
A seal that glowed from black to red every few seconds as if it were throbbing. It was so sloppy. Clearly intended to be used for the short-term in how it was set up. A Shishou Fuuin (Four Symbols Seal). The pulsing color let her know that whatever the seal was holding back wouldn't be held back for long.
What a sloppy job. Whatever was sealed inside of Naruto now was far too strong for a Four Symbols Seal.
Luckily for Naruto, his mother was there to come to the rescue.
Diligently working on the spot, Kushina managed to improve and fortify the seal, at least doubling it in strength by merely doubling up on it. It was a simple fix, but that was the secret to what made Kushina's sealing style so effective compared to others. She was able to innovate using simple methods instead of trying to get needlessly complicated.
After a bit of field work that caused her to roll back her sleeves to get the job done, Kushina had managed to innovate a new seal on the spot. A mother's love was a powerful thing indeed.
"Your mom is the most awesome seal artist in Uzu no Kuni." Kushina said, temporarily pleased with her work as she wiped some sweat from her brow and stood back to observe her work. The seal was no longer throbbing in colors and was now a solid, calm black, now taking the form of a swirl mark right on his belly with two array arches above and below that had four branches each, "Hakke no Fuuin Shiki (Eight Trigrams Sealing Style). This is a really special seal Naruto."
"You know how it works?" Naruto asked, looking down at the new artwork on his stomach as he stood up off of the ceremonial throne that Kushina had somehow summoned so that she could properly perform the jutsu she needed to alter his seal.
"Of course I do, I created it after all!" Kushina declared before pointing at the top array arch and then the bottom, "It's a combination of a Shishou Fuuin, meant to seal any target into something else."
"I know what the Shishou Fuuin does mom." And now maybe he could begin trying to learn it himself since he'd seen it up close and personal on himself. Maybe replicate it if he was good enough? Poking at the seal got his hand swatted, "Ow!"
"Shh! Listen." Kushina ordered to stop Naruto from messing around, "Now this one is different. Stronger. There's still something sealed away in you, but do you see this?"
The little yellow-haired boy nodded as he watched her point out the slight little space between two arcing arrays around the swirl mark over his navel, "What is it?"
"That allows whatever's chakra is inside of you to mix more evenly with yours, that way it won't hurt you as much and isn't as unstable." Kushina said, trying to keep things simplified, "You were getting an overloaded rush of chakra from it before, but now it's more balanced."
His body wouldn't have been able to handle the sheer raw chakra he was getting. By her estimation it would have taken under a week for everything to go up in flames. Naruto's body would give out, the seal would fail and release the beast, and nothing that was around when it did would have survived more than likely. Now at least, that wasn't going to happen.
Kushina really was great at what she did. Now more than ever, Naruto could be told that Kushina had been perhaps the most exceptional Uzumaki Clan kunoichi there had been and he would have believed it.
The look on her face was one of complete seriousness, focused on something more important than herself as she continued to explain things to him.
"Whatever happened, someone did a horrible job of sealing whatever's in you." The older Uzumaki thought that it had to be on purpose. Honestly, a Four Symbols Seal to hold back as much power as was in Naruto? Not a chance, "Listen Naruto, don't tell anyone how my seal works. I told you because you deserve to know. You need to know. What just happened to you is bad."
"What happened to me?"
"…I think you're a jinchuuriki." Cue blank stare from Naruto, "…Power of Human Sacrifice. You contain a biju." Confused tilt of head that finally pulled an annoyed eye-twitch from Kushina, "You've got a big-ass chakra monster in your stomach and if it comes out you'll explode and everybody around when it comes out is going to die."
Naruto understood that. The times when Kushina was blunt with him were the moments when he got things the easiest, "What?"
"Yeah, that's why we don't let kids mess with fuuinjutsu." Kushina said with a haughty sniff as she stood back up, "Oh sure, back in the day you could go around all willy-nilly, sealing stuff into other stuff, because nobody knew how that crap worked. People still don't know how it really works. All people know is that it's an unwritten rule that everyone's followed since the Uchiha and Senju laid it down almost one hundred years ago. No sealing chakra monsters into people. It's weird that that's the only thing we can't do when other people-."
"Mom you're talking a lot about nothing again."
"Oh. Sorry baby."
Still, if one knew the current political climate, it was amazing enough that those two clans ever managed to stop killing each other long enough to come to an agreement on this and impose their will over every other clan in whatever way they could by declaring that you couldn't create a jinchuuriki.
Don't seal a goddamn biju in a human. That was taboo. Everyone accepted this except for those that were very power-hungry, but most clans were absolute garbage at sealing techniques
That was kind of why the Senju Clan chose to make a tie with the Uzumaki Clan back then as well. Senju Hashirama wed Uzumaki Mito and the union between the clans was formed.
In actuality it was like the Uzumaki Clan was supposed to be the fuuinjutsu police and were meant to deal with anything suspicious seal-wise that the Senju came across elsewhere. In exchange, they weren't attacked outside of missions by other clans due to the threat of pissing off the Senju and the Uzumaki Clan hadn't fought a tooth-and-nail war that they'd been at the center of in almost a century.
But now if Kushina was reading things right, and she knew she was because it was fuuinjutsu for crying out loud, Naruto was a jinchuuriki. That was almost worst-case scenario. If this got out, a lot of bad things were going to happen. But there was almost no way to hide it. The damn Mind's Eye of the Kagura users would tell there was something wrong with her son with just one routine security sweep of the village.
Naruto told her everything on the spot. He told her about what he'd been travelling that far outside of the village to do every so often. He told her about Kurama, what Kurama was, and he watched her face pale as he kept talking about him. He told her about the masked man that he'd come across, and he saw his mother bare her teeth in hatred.
In the end, all Kushina could do was grab Naruto and pull him against her in the tightest hug Naruto figured she'd ever given him in his life. He didn't know what to do other than to return it, but before he could realize what happened she had picked him up and taken off running through the trees to get back to the village.
'There's nothing I can do for him here.' Kushina thought to herself, eyes straight ahead in determination as she rushed through the forest, red hair trailing through the air behind her, 'This is bad. This is really bad. There's no way this is going to end with Naruto staying alive. Jinchuuriki are taboo.'
When it slipped that there was something so potentially powerful within the grasp of the Uzumaki Clan, the landscape would begin to change. There would be too many angry and hostile clans, fearful and quick to act.
Status quo was king, and the creation of a jinchuuriki was the blade being held to that king's throat.
This was all happening so fast, Kushina had been running for almost twenty minutes before Naruto's brain caught up with the actions of his mother, "Hey, put me down. I can run by myself."
"You're slower than me and we don't have any time to waste." Kushina said sharply, admonishing that course of action, "A lot of things are about to happen, but no matter what I want you to promise me you'll do what I say to the letter."
This personality of Kushina was scaring Naruto, and the look in her eye showed that his usual spirited, fun mother was taking a backseat to the severity of what was going on, "A-Alright. I promise. I'll do whatever you say."
There are times in one's life when they can point out the moment where everything changed. The moment where you were set upon a path that you had no way of turning back from. For Naruto, it seemed like he'd been asleep during his, because now it seemed like nothing was ever going to be the same again.
(Uzumaki Clan Village)
Naruto had to wonder if Kushina had been preparing for some kind of contingency plan in the instance of something like this happening.
The moment they got back within the village limits she took them to the riverside that led out into the ocean, taking them over to a merchant that was about to ship out on a trip to the mainland for business.
It was a brown haired man who kept it up in a spiky ponytail and had a scar across the bridge of his nose. The man was just lazing in a chair on the docks until he noticed them coming. She didn't say anything to Naruto about what was going on, she just handed the man a scroll, gave him some short instruction, thanked him for accepting her request, and took him on.
"Naruto?" Kushina said, getting his attention as they started walking back into the Uzumaki Clan side of the village, "You know what I said about the Bunshin, and how I wasn't going to teach you anything until you showed me you could do it?"
"I was doing that for a reason, but that reason doesn't matter anymore." Kushina told him as she walked with him at a brisk pace, "Bunshin is a low-chakra jutsu and it's hard for our clan to master because most of us have strong chakra. I'm gonna show you a replacement for that, and I know you can do it, but I wanted your chakra control to be better. I just don't have the luxury of waiting anymore. This jutsu might save your life and I want to give you something just in case."
Just in case what? Were things really about to get that bad?
The rest of the trip was of Kushina telling Naruto about ifs and ors and what to do if this or that occurred. He'd never seen her so flustered before. Both of them were freaked out by the time that they got home.
But straight to the backyard they went, with Kushina wasting no time in teaching him a ninjutsu, and one with only one hand-seal to memorize much to Naruto's delight. He would have been more excited, but the time had to be dedicated solely to making sure he'd learned it to her satisfaction.
Eventually, Naruto found himself sweating on his hands and his knees, Kushina standing nearby keeping a watchful eye on him, "Hah… hah… I think… I think I've got it."
Kushina was pleasantly surprised at how Naruto had handled himself. She didn't let him know just how difficult the jutsu she taught him was supposed to be to learn, she just taught him how and let him practice. An hour into it he threw a tantrum and she thought that he would stop, but Naruto must have realized that something was wrong with his chakra control because the very next thing he did was work on the tree-climbing exercise to find his sweet spot again.
Then he returned to practicing the jutsu, with much better results as he was making leaps and bounds in progressing with it.
They'd started training before noon and didn't stop until near late afternoon.
It was probably because he felt much better when he was putting his mind and body to use doing something else other than worrying about what was going to happen now that he was a jinchuuriki.
'That was the highest-level jutsu I could teach you in the short amount of time we have left.' Kushina thought to herself as she watched Naruto down on the grass trying to rest, 'It was tailor-made for you, especially now that you're a jinchuuriki.' She smiled down at Naruto warmly, "Good job. I knew you could get it. Rest out here for a bit and I'll start dinner."
Naruto was too tired to give anything other than a thumbs up to her, still down in the grass as he tried to recuperate enough to get up under his own power and walk back inside. His mother had never been that much of a taskmaster when teaching him a jutsu, and he could see why. He learned it in one day, but damn…
He didn't know, but she knew that he could take the fatigue. Getting tired was probably not going to be a problem for him for a long, long time.
Maybe he could just take a nap outside for a minute or two though. Just for a little while.
After walking inside of their house, it wasn't very surprising for Kushina to find someone there waiting. She'd expected as much. There wasn't any way they'd go for very long without attention somehow being drawn to Naruto's condition.
"I didn't expect that you'd send yourself for this." Kushina said, moving to the kitchen to begin preparing a meal for herself and her son, "Were you thinking that you being a friend would soften the blow or something?"
As she did so she moved past Nagato who had been leaning against a nearby wall the whole time, "He's tough. Naruto I mean. He gets it from you." Kushina didn't say anything as he followed her and watched her begin her cooking process, "I watched for a while. Did you really teach him-?"
"Yes." Kushina cut him off, placing some vegetables on a cutting board that she began to chop. Each time the knife hit the board, the sound cut through the silence and caused Nagato to visibly wince, not that Kushina could see him, "I did."
"You know what we have to do." Nagato said, "If he's got a biju in him, we've got to see what's sealing it and find a way to get it out." He didn't want to sound so severe about it, but there wasn't any way around it, "If we don't, it's going to get around outside of the country what's in him and then all hell will break loose."
"That's why I taught him the jutsu that I did today." Kushina replied cryptically.
Believing that Kushina understood the brevity of the situation, Nagato figured that she'd taught Naruto such a chakra-intrinsic jutsu that would have been fatal for anyone else to practice to the degree that they did in one day to tucker him out. Just in case he resisted.
What Kushina actually meant was that she already knew that all hell was going to break loose the moment that it became clear that a biju was missing and that a jinchuuriki had been created. That was why she taught Naruto a jutsu that could protect him in the near future.
But right now…
"How long will it take to… extract it from him?" She asked.
Nagato shook his head, "I don't know. I've never seen a seal as strong as his before. It looks like a Four Symbols Seal, but it isn't." Using the counter to that seal to extract the biju from Naruto wouldn't work because it wasn't a Four Symbols Seal no matter how much like one it looked like, "We have ten days until we're to host the Senju Clan Leader, or everything's going to go to pot."
There would be too many questions that they wouldn't be able to answer to the more powerful clan, and even if they could, they wouldn't be able to excuse the fact that Naruto was a jinchuuriki. Nothing would.
Kushina stabbed the knife down into the cutting board deep enough to pin it to the counter, "This is bullshit Nagato! Taking the biju out is going to kill him!" There wasn't any real information on jinchuuriki, but this much was certain. Separating something that intricately woven into a human being's vital system would more than likely kill whoever it was, even an Uzumaki, "Even if it doesn't kill him it'll ruin him!"
The thought of some sick bastard putting a biju into Naruto for whatever reason he felt inclined to do so made her blood boil. She wanted to take it out on something, on someone.
"I know that!" Nagato snapped back, "You think I don't? That thing is bonded to his chakra network already! The Mind's Eye of the Kagura can barely tell Naruto's chakra apart from the biju's from what we've gotten so far! The last time this was recorded as happening anywhere in the world the last clan leader had to-…" He stopped himself from getting riled. Kushina was Naruto's mother and she was smart when it came to fuuinjutsu.
She already knew what this meant without him having to say anything about it to her.
And so lay the burden of leadership. The clan itself had to come before Nagato's own feelings for Kushina and how his decisions would harm her. He didn't want to end a child's life, but if he didn't Naruto would be the catalyst that would tear apart the mostly peaceful foundation that the clan rested on.
It would be like the bad old days, back before Uzumaki Mito married into the Senju Clan. They'd be alone on an island with enemies all around them again.
"I can't protect my own son." Kushina said with a bitter laugh and a sniffle, "I couldn't protect him from being lonely, I couldn't protect him from being treated like a black sheep, I couldn't protect him from some freak in a mask, and I can't protect him now." She turned around with a look of killing intent in her eye, "I could fight you… but I wouldn't win, and you wouldn't even kill me for trying."
"I can't kill you."
"But you can kill my ten year-old son."
He didn't have an answer to that. He couldn't even deny that he would. Lying wasn't really a trait of their clan members. Honesty and resolute devotion to something that they saw as personally worthy of such attention from them was though.
When one of them believed in something they tended to be unwavering about it until the bitter end. For better or worse.
"I'll try to come up with a counter. I'll try to find some way to do it that won't kill Naruto or keep him from being a ninja again, but if I can't find one in five days I'll have to begin the extraction process." Nagato assured her as best he could.
He needed the five days before the Senju Clan arrival to get the biju out of Naruto and away from there. That was how long the ritual would take. The ritual was necessary because the seal was new, and if Naruto died so soon after its placement he could release whatever was in him dead center in the village.
Killing Naruto quick wasn't an option for just that reason, and sending him away wasn't an option either because he would be tied back to them. It wouldn't solve the problem and would be an absolute nightmare for them when it came to clan relations from that day forward.
Kushina just pulled her knife out of the cutting board and the counter and continued cutting up the ingredients for her to-be dinner, "…Get out of my house Nagato."
She said nothing else, keeping her back turned to him and refusing to look his way or tear her attention away from what she was doing for a moment. This was not how Nagato wanted his conversation with her to end, but he hadn't expected anything else.
For all of his power as the clan head, the most powerful ninja in the village, and the possessor of the Rinnegan, there were some things that he still could not do. Eventually he excused himself and left to begin getting to work on trying to decipher what he could of Naruto's seal that no one had ever seen before. He wanted to do it right to keep from releasing whatever it was upon them all.
"Five days." Nagato said just before departing, "That's all I can give you. I have to think about the wellbeing of the clan also."
Where she'd been standing, Kushina's grip on the knife was tight enough for her to cut into the palm of her hand with just the handle. Silent tears rolled down her cheeks as she stared straight down at the counter.
So in five days Nagato was going to begin the agonizing process of safely disposing of Naruto's biju. He wasn't going to even come close to cracking the seal. Kushina hadn't even finished it yet. She knew what she'd be spending the bulk of her time doing for that duration though. If nothing else, she could work down the mechanics of her own creation better for Naruto's sake.
Just because she didn't know just how to work the seal now didn't mean that she couldn't find out how to somehow for Naruto's sake. It was her design after all.
(Four Days Later)
If things felt off for Naruto to be in his own village before, he felt like he had the damn plague or something now.
His routine wasn't exactly routine anymore. He couldn't even sit off to the side and watch other kids play or train any longer. When he tried to do even that they would eventually notice him and proceed to instantly move away from him.
"My parents say he's seriously dangerous."
"There's supposed to be something really wrong with him."
"You can tell now. Just look at those marks on his face."
He could hear them whisper to each other as they scuttled away from him. It happened all over the Uzumaki Clan side of the village.
And he couldn't go back out into the forest. Doing that was what got him screwed over to begin with, and going back the second day didn't help him much… except that his mother kept him from probably exploding in a burst of city-smashing chakra in his sleep.
Naruto ran his hand across his belly, thinking to himself about Kurama somehow being in there.
Why did that man do that to him? To the both of them? It didn't make any sense to him. To seal Kurama inside of him and then just bolt? What was the point of it all? What did it accomplish other than mess up his life?
As he walked through the streets passing the homes of other clan members just going on with their day, he could feel their attention on him until the moment he looked up at them in return. This was the second reason he was unable to leave and do his usual thing. He could tell when people were watching him. Well everyone was watching him.
Aside from that, after what he'd been putting Kushina through the last few days with his running off being the catalyst that set all of this in motion to happen to him, he couldn't just do the same thing she told him not to afterwards.
Naruto clenched his eyes shut as he practiced taijutsu, punching at a tree in his yard, 'Why did this happen? Was it just me? Would it have happened to somebody else if it wasn't me?' Just thinking of the times at night where Kushina would just hug him for whole minutes at a time as if she were going to lose him if she let go of him. This was all his fault, 'If I'd never gone out there!'
One of his punches happened to be errant in its performance, veering his fist off enough to scrape the skin clean off his hand down to the white meat. Naruto hissed to himself in pain and shook the hand out frantically before running inside to run some water over it to make it feel better.
Five minutes later he pulled his hand out of the flow to check over his stinging knuckles only to find that it had already stopped bleeding and had even started to scab over in some places. He stared at his healing injury in awe, even as he pulled out something to wrap it with.
Even after he'd finished and hid the ugly wound behind the medical wrapping, he stared at his right hand until his mother's voice roused him from his contemplation of his strange healing, "Naruto." She said to him, waiting at his room with a smile on her face and his backpack in hand, "I need you to run an errand for me."
"People are watching me mom." Naruto said with a frown on his newly whisker-marked face.
Kushina rolled her eyes and placed the bag on his back before tugging on his cheek, "No one's going to do anything unless you try to leave the village. They're trying to keep an eye on you because we've never had a jinchuuriki here before."
"Don't give me that frown baby." Kushina gave Naruto a wide smile and kissed him on the forehead, "Everything's gonna be okay. I promise." She stroked his cheek for what seemed like an eternity before her eyes seemed to refocus and she turned him around with a handful of money and a list, "Alright, go over and put in a new order at the blacksmith and pick up my last request from him."
It seemed mundane enough as she gently coaxed him out the front door, "Some of that is for me right?"
"All of the pickup is for you Mr. Cuts-trees-a-lot. The next order is for me." Kushina informed him, grinning while flexing a delicate bicep, "Mama trains too you know." She kept a strong face until Naruto had hustled off and vanished down the street. At that point she leaned on the doorframe and ran a hand up her forehead to smooth her crimson locks back, "…Okay, you've got twenty minutes to get him before the sensor shift change. Any later than that and you'll have every ninja in this village on your heels."
From inside of the house a shadowy figure came into the main room from the kitchen, "I won't have you to dampen my chakra signature after I leave so I guess I'll have to be quick." A somewhat casual male voice said, "The ship leaves in ten anyway, so I need to grab him and be on it before then."
"Just… take care of him, okay?"
"I won't let your son die Kushina-sama. I wouldn't be able to face Minato-sama if I did."
"Wait." Kushina reached up and plucked out a few of her own hairs to give to her 'guest', who took them, but was confused to do so, "Show him that when you give him my letter. Otherwise he'll just try to escape the moment he sees a chance."
Walking into a better light for the shaded living room, a tall lanky man came into sight. The young ninja-looking person had gravity-defying white hair, a headband with a plain metal plate over it that was slanted enough to cover his left eye, and a facemask covering his face from his nose down to where it was attached to his black long-sleeved top that had grey stripes running up the length of the arms and pants. Metal bracers sat around his forearms connected to his fingerless gloves, and leather straps crossed over his chest, holding up a special tanto on his back.
"Aw come on, do I look that suspicious?" The man said, apparently smiling from the way his sole visible eye crinkled.
"Yes." Kushina deadpanned, "Maybe if you took that mask off you'd be more trustworthy." She wasn't really particularly fond of people with masks nowadays after what had happened to Naruto, even people she'd known from years back.
"That hurts coming from you."
"I can see it all over your face."
"Still with the bad jokes I see."
With a sigh, Kushina moved into the house and shut the door, "One thing left I guess. Just make it look legit."
"It's going to hurt." Kakashi said, making a few hand-seals before pausing as a focused blue surge of electricity formed in his hand that lit up the room, "The Raikiri (Lightning Cutter) isn't really a gentle technique."
"I really don't care." Kushina said, turning her back to him, "Your little bug-zapper jutsu better put me out on the first try or-. AAAAHHH!" Kushina dropped to the floor unconscious after nearly fifteen seconds of being electrocuted, "Take my son somewhere safe…" She said, twitching on the floor before she went out entirely.
Kakashi just stared down at her with his hand still outstretched from using the Raikiri, "…You really are a tough lady Kushina-sama. And I swear on my life, I won't let your son die. He's a comrade after all. Or he will be anyway, once he meets his father."
He left the house entirely unseen, heading out to get to Naruto and leave with him as quickly as he could. This was the will of Kushina. The request she had sent out days before out of desperation when she'd seen the writing on the wall.
And if it was something that would save the life of Namikaze Minato's only son, Kakashi would get it done in a heartbeat. Jinchuuriki or not, it didn't matter.
(With Naruto – Civilian Side of Uzumaki Clan Village)
"Thanks a lot!" Naruto called out as he left the blacksmith's smithy and shop with a full supply of ninja tools and some extra in his backpack. There wasn't anything like feeling the weight of a loaded down pouch on his backside and knowing that you were well-armed, "Everything seems better when you've got some shiny black kunai in your pocket."
Running down the street as he usually did to get to wherever he was going, Naruto's mood dimmed when he realized that he was just going to be running back to the clan side of the village. The place where it always felt like he had hundreds of eyes on him at all times. Where no one would even smile hello to him or address him with a 'good morning'.
What was the point of running back to that? All of that crap would still be there whenever he got back, there was no rush.
And it was all getting even worse, because of the fact that he had Kurama sealed inside him. At least he still got some smiles and some nods sent his way when he was on the side of the village not populated by ninja. His lineage wasn't common knowledge there, and even people that knew didn't care since they weren't Uzumaki. They definitely didn't know about the whole jinchuuriki thing yet, and even if they did, ninjas barely knew what to make of the anomaly so how much would they really know about it?
That could be worse though, because ninjas who barely understood reacted negatively. The unknown was scary, and would be even more so for those that couldn't defend themselves in the slightest.
He wasn't thinking about that in the slightest however. It didn't cross Naruto's mind. It was just nice to relax and sit down somewhere where he didn't have to worry about how people saw him, or saw his mother for having him as her child.
'I've got to keep going though.' Naruto thought to himself, 'For mom's sake. I'll turn this around. I'll show everybody that I'm a great ninja one day, and it won't matter who my dad is, or what I've got sealed inside of me.'
And he'd have to find something to do about Kurama as well. That big old grumpy fox didn't do anything to him to warrant being stuck inside of him, but he didn't know enough about his predicament. Nor did he know anyone that would actually know how to help him, especially not in the village if anyone even would help him here to begin with.
If any of the adults knew what to do for him, they would have done it already. That was how he felt. So by that train of thought there wasn't anyone in his clan that could do anything, except Kushina. The seal was hers, so if anyone could find out what to do it would be his mother.
Hands in his pockets, Naruto felt that he still had some leftover money from the blacksmith, "…I guess I'll go get something to eat and go back. Gotta keep working on that jutsu mom taught me."
It wasn't hard to follow Naruto, even if none of the Uzumaki Clan members keeping tabs on him were sensors. With bright yellow hair he stuck out like a sore thumb, so even travelling to the civilian side of the village didn't do much to throw them off while letting them keep a great distance away from him.
Their place on the rooftops of the bustling little town allowed them to keep a great view of him while allowing them to hide themselves. The little ten year-old was technically a ninja, but he wasn't used to eyeing his surroundings enough to know when he was being watched by people that had experience doing so for years and years.
Still though, it was kind of scary to imagine the power of a biju in such a little body. If he lost it, everyone was going to pay the price, and Kushina's son never seemed to be the most level-headed. Everyone had seen him throw a fit and all of the clansmen knew what his voice sounded like due to its usual exuberant volume.
It didn't exactly instill confidence that he wasn't a bomb with a fuse of unknown length. Hell, sealing something that powerful wasn't supposed to be done for a reason. There was a purpose behind it being one of the top taboos, and it was probably because it couldn't be safely done and the risks of it failing were too monumentally high and abundant in number to attempt.
"Hey, don't you guys have something better to do than watch a kid?"
They didn't even feel the added presence amongst them until it had spoken. Turning around to face the man that had snuck up on them, they all got a quick eyeful of a red eye with rapidly spinning features and fell dead asleep on the spot.
A good look at his face wasn't even an option due to how quickly the genjutsu had set in on them.
Kakashi looked over his handiwork and nodded to himself. Killing them was the absolute worst thing he could do right now, so that was a last resort in this case, "Either way that should buy me a good window until they wake up, but if I don't have Naruto on that ship in a few minutes this isn't going to end well."
If everything was blown he could probably take on his fair share of the ninjas that would come for him, but the numbers would wear on him, as would the fact that no ship would be leaving Uzu no Kuni until he was captured. And then if he managed to attract the attention of Nagato himself to venture forth to stop him… well he didn't really want to think about a morbid outcome such as that.
With that nasty little thought in mind he took off to go meet the new jinchuuriki before such a fate would befall him.
Naruto wasn't that hard to find. If nothing else, Kakashi had to admit that the people posted to watch Naruto had to have been patting themselves on the back for getting such an easy detail. While a member of the Uzumaki Clan would stick out anywhere else in the world, someone that had such prominent features of another type would stick out amongst their ilk.
When he caught up to Naruto he saw him standing off to the side outside of a sweet shop seemingly trying to decide on what to get. The pensive look on his face was a bit amusing to Kakashi, who figured that it would be the same look someone would have when deciding a matter of grave importance.
Instead, Naruto was just trying to pick between getting a little cake or buying a gigantic bag of sweetened almonds.
"I wish there was a place around here that sold ramen…" Naruto thought to himself grumpily before shaking his head, "Nah, it wouldn't be as good as mom's."
Kakashi just rolled his eyes and took his place in line that Naruto was setting aside for when he made a decision and bought both things that he saw Naruto had an eye for. Noticing he had Naruto's attention, he handed him the bag of almonds, "There."
Naruto took the bag from the stranger since he'd seen him buy the food on the spot, but raised an eyebrow at the odd man in the face mask with his eye covered, "Who are you?" Naruto asked, following him once the man started walking away. He wasn't from around there, otherwise he probably wouldn't have done that, "Why'd you do that for me?"
"Oh, I'm just a traveler." Kakashi said, smiling down at the boy from behind his mask as he walked along, "And you looked like you needed help making the decision."
"You couldn't choose one over the other. In cases like that when your choices are so hard you can't make it, it's best when you can have both isn't it?"
Naruto looked down into his other hand and grinned when he saw that Kakashi had given him the other small cake as well, "You're pretty weird, you know that?" Naruto said, though the expression on his face showed that there was no malice or accusation behind it, "Why's your eye covered like that?"
"Hmm…" Kakashi said, as if considering whether to tell him or not, "Well I'm kind of hurt that you called me weird. If I tell you what's behind my headband you'll probably just think I'm even weirder, so I probably shouldn't say."
"No, no! I didn't mean weird as in 'weird-bad', I meant it as in 'weird-cool'!" And he did. Kakashi was cool as far as Naruto was concerned. He looked cool, he carried himself aloofly which was awesome, and that mask was mysterious and badass.
"Like 'crazy-awesome' instead of just 'crazy'." Kakashi said, in comparative understanding.
Kakashi just chuckled before stopping, "Okay, you really want to see?" He asked, getting a frantic nod from Naruto, "You'll have to keep it secret for me. Can I trust you with that?" Another nod, and now Naruto was bouncing on the balls of his sandaled feet in anticipation, "Alright." Kakashi said as he reached for the headband.
Was it wrong that he felt bad about how well that worked?
(Five Minutes Later – Docks of Uzumaki Clan Village/Civilian Side)
Umino Iruka wasn't really much for the ninja life.
He'd been a member of his own small clan that had been whittled down over the years to his father and his mother, the latter of whom had married into the family. Being complete small-fry when it came to pecking order, his family did ninja work for subsistence pay and never really stepped on the toes of the infinitely bigger clans even back when they had more size to them population-wise.
His clan was so small that even when dropping his family name of Umino around Uzu no Kuni parts, no one had any idea that it was a clan name. This was due to the fact that they only operated around a single village that hired them in Hi no Kuni.
It wasn't that glamorous or honorable an existence, and Iruka found this out after his parents had died and he tried to go it alone for a little while. He had some savings and was still young enough and smart enough to go into business for himself somehow. He was able to make way more money with around the same level of danger or less simply traveling at sea and trading. That way at least he was his own boss.
It damn sure bumped his life expectancy to up past 30 to be a travelling merchant, which was the age where most ninja and even civilians caught in areas of constant conflict were expected to die before reaching. He was only 21, he didn't need to be thinking about that. He couldn't even freely let his surname fly lest some ancient enemy of his clan run across him. That was the way that things were.
He still practiced the ninja arts, but he had never been much of a talent to be on the lookout for back before he'd gone into maritime trading, so it never really stood out. His clan never really had anything that set them apart, other than one thing he could do which helped him at sea quite a bit. For one thing, he never really had to hire any ninja from clans to protect his cargo. He could typically do that himself.
But that was neither here nor there.
What mattered right now was that he'd been given a request letter from Kushina a few days ago to sail to the mainland and bring someone back to get Naruto out before things went wrong, someone he would recognize on sight from her description. He did, and he returned with him. Let it be known that Kushina had great instincts.
And at the moment, Iruka sat off to the side and raised an eyebrow at the sight of Kakashi just casually strolling back onto his vessel with a little boy in tow, obviously Henged enough so that an untrained eye wouldn't think it was Naruto.
"…Now how in Kami's name did you get him to do that willingly?" The young captain asked. He knew quite a bit about Naruto. From what he would have surmised, if he knew what was happening he would have fought it kicking and biting the whole way, "I figured he would have raised so much of a fuss himself that you would have either been late or had the whole clan breathing down your neck by now."
"It wasn't willingly." Kakashi answered with a shrug, "Apparently Sharingan isn't something that's well known since the Uchiha are so far away." They'd work on that though. Both the general world knowledge thing and the illusion-spotting thing.
"Sucker for a genjutsu?" The former ninja Iruka asked rhetorically with a chuckle as he watched the lucid boy be steered up the gangplank onto his ship, "I heard his mother used to be terrible at them too. She still says she's bad at using them."
"I almost felt bad until I remembered that it was for his own good." Kakashi said, patting an almost nonresponsive Naruto on the head, "Kushina-sama said that he's going to be beyond pissed when he snaps out of it, but for now he thinks that I'm walking with him to the clan limits."
"Setting sail then." Iruka said with a shrug as he quickly pulled the gangplank up, reeled the anchor up, and went to get things started, "I can't come back here again to trade after this, but if Kushina's son is safe I guess I can live with having one less friendly port to stop in. I owe Namikaze-san anyway."
With the nimbleness of a trained ninja, Iruka swiftly made his way up the mast of his small ship and let the sails fly free to get them going.
Kakashi nodded and sat Naruto somewhere safe on deck, sighing as he placed his hands on his shoulders, "You won't be able to come back here for a long time. I'm not very good with children, but I'll do my best. I promised your mother that I would." He said quietly as he could feel the ship begin to pull away from port.
"Yeah?" The man in question responded. Iruka sounded quite alarmed at something that he could see from high up and then he noticed what it was. The men he'd rendered unconscious from before had woken up in time to chase the ship down the docks, "Man, these people are a bunch of diehards." He commented as he lifted his headband back up.
That wasn't the only thing though, as Iruka could see multiple ninjas crossing the bridge from the clan side of town into the civilian portion. It was only a matter of time, but luckily no one would be able to give chase in any kind of suitable ship until they were well down the river and on their way out to open sea. Full canvas it was then.
As Iruka opened the sails all the way and the ship started climbing to its top speed, Kakashi breathed a sigh of relief as they had finally run out of dock to give chase from. Good, because he didn't want to fight on a ship and risk damaging it. Especially when it belonged to someone else.
Wait, why were they making hand-seals?
Why were they jumping onto the surface of the water?
Why was the water ahead of the ship doing that weird thing?
Crap. A water-based jutsu.
Behind the ship a whirlpool started to take form and Iruka's ship was already feeling the pull backwards into it. In a panic, Kakashi started making a large number of hand-seals as fast as he could before water began to rush out and up dozens of feet into the air before crashing down at the whirlpool with as much force as Kakashi could remotely muster, "Suiton: Daibakufu no Jutsu (Water Release: Great Waterfall Jutsu)!"
The violent collision of water on water disrupted the whirlpool, and the push of Kakashi's jutsu ebbing on the surface of the water forced a wave that gave Iruka's ship a little push farther ahead. Now that was what one would call taking a bad situation and turning it upside down.
By now having dropped down to the deck to steer his ship, Iruka just shook his head and kept his eyes straight ahead. People wondered whenever the topic rarely came up as to why he quit. It was a no-brainer when one had to think about dealing with things like that, 'I can't beat people that can do any of that.'
Seriously, it made Iruka feel like the smartest man in the room right now when it came to ninja life. He had been in a clan that was too small-time to be worth the attention of anyone that would pit them against the bigger clans and he got out when he was presented with an alternative way to make ends meet.
"And that leaves us with-." Kakashi trailed off as he could hear a loud warning bell ringing from the village that they were leaving behind them, "-No time to spare. Good work everybody."
"I'm the only other person here Kakashi-san." Iruka said.
"I know. Good work steering… I guess. I don't really know too much about ships to know if you were doing a good job or not."
And this man was going to be responsible for a brand new jinchuuriki that was also a manic ten year-old boy with little respect for authority? And let it not be forgotten that he had more or less been abducted to begin with.
That was going to be one miffed kid when he woke up.
"To Hi no Kuni it is then." Iruka said, already with his compass at the ready for when they exited the mouth of the river, "Nobody's going to catch this ship in the open water."
Kakashi just sat down by Naruto and lowered his headband back over his Sharingan eye, "Still a drain on my chakra, even for just that long." Kakashi reached over and used his hand to close Naruto's eyes before breaking the genjutsu he'd placed on him earlier, "Being around you is going to suck when you wake up."
(Uzumaki Clan Village – Kushina's House)
Kushina was being looked over by a pair of medic-nin that had come to her place after it became known that the watchers had lost track of Naruto. She just sat silently in a chair, back exposed with a miserable look on her face while they worked to heal her.
The door was open and outside she could see Nagato issuing orders to several teams of ninja who took off to search as far and as wide as the word that Naruto was missing was spreading all over the village.
Now that that had been attended to, Nagato turned around and walked back inside where Kushina still looked to be in extremely rough shape from whatever had happened to her, "Oh Kushina…"
"You ever have one of those weeks?" Kushina said, voice sounding dry from the attack that had dealt her damage, "One of those weeks where everything that seems like it can go wrong does, and you're not even around for most of it to happen?"
"Nagato-sama." One of the dutiful medics said as the other ran her hands over Kushina's body with a green glow to them, "Kushina was attacked from behind and suffered rather serious injuries from the ambush."
Nagato nodded and checked outside to see several more shinobi being relayed his orders through another before heading off to find the lost jinchuuriki. Speaking of which, "Whoever attacked you took Naruto."
"Now do you see?" Kushina asked a bit bitterly, "But I would be lying if I didn't say that I'm kind of glad this happened. Of all the terrible things that could happen, at least I don't get to watch my child die. You haven't figured out the seal yet… have you?"
He hadn't. He didn't understand how something as rudimentary as doubling up on a Four Symbols Seal could be so effective. It was so crude and seemingly basic, but there was something to it he just couldn't get. It wasn't as plain or as simple as it seemed somehow.
"I had one more day before something drastic needed to be done." Nagato said with a frown before dismissing the medics, allowing Kushina to cover herself back up, "But now it doesn't matter. How someone got far enough into the village to disable you, three of our shinobi, and take Naruto, I'll never know."
"Someone got onto the island and sealed something inside of Naruto without anyone knowing it already. I'm not surprised someone could get here too." She replied, covering her own tracks when it came to responsibility as to how Kakashi had gotten so far in without being detected, "It's not like there aren't plenty of places to hide, and you didn't really put out anyone to sweep the countryside in case they were still here."
It tied in with Kushina talking about how Naruto had been assailed by a man in a mask, but for some reason the three ninjas that had been defeated by him couldn't identify him by sight. All they knew was that he had on a mask. That was too vague. Sharingan hypnotism was just too much of a boon for some users, especially some that could get as creative as Kakashi.
Still, Nagato couldn't help but hold some suspicion towards Kushina. She was being surprisingly quiet. This was the way she had been for the last few days, a marked difference from the usual spirited, cheerful, somewhat arrogant temperament that she possessed on a daily basis. Hell, being attacked the way she did should have had her all wound up wanting to get the bastard who did it back at all costs.
Even if she didn't believe in the chances of him finding out a safe way to get the biju out of Naruto within the next day, he figured that she'd want to get Naruto back if only to have a little bit more time with him.
"You're right." Nagato said, walking forward and putting a hand on her shoulder only for her to turn away from him, "But you have to be honest with me right now Kushina. I don't know what it is, but I don't like the smell of this. If you know anything at all about what's happening past what you've already told me, I need you to share it. You have no idea what can happen if you don't."
She could feel his chakra as if it were touching her soul. That wasn't good. This was a Rinnegan power he was using to interrogate her. With it he could just remove her soul to find out what he wanted to know, but he was giving her a chance to tell the truth before taking that final course of action.
Kushina partially turned her face to him with a look of displeasure, "Don't you think I'd like to know where he is? Where he's going? You want the truth Nagato? I have no idea what's going to happen to Naruto. I wish I did. I wish I could go to him and get him right now, and I wish I could kill the people that did this to my family. Is that what you want to hear?"
"It's not what I want to hear." Nagato said, removing his hand from Kushina without removing her soul and ending her life, "…But you're not lying." He backed away closer to the door before speaking again, "I don't think you should stay here by yourself. Come and stay at the mansion. You can help find Naruto, and it's best until you heal from your wounds."
"Is that an offer or an order?"
"I can make it an order if need be."
"Well then I guess I have no choice… Nagato-sama."
That brought a flinch from the clan leader. Kushina hadn't ever referred to him with a noble honorific the way that all of the others did, and now it was done clearly as a method of expressing her ire for the current circumstances.
Still though, "I'll have someone assist you with moving in." He needed to keep an eye on her as he knew that there was something up. And maybe he could get her to see him in a more personal light, "You're still my friend Kushina." And he wished she could be more than that, "But you know the survival of the clan has to come first."
Kushina just nodded and Nagato took that as his moment to leave, which he did in a Shunshin. Wrapping her arms around herself, she looked over on the wall at a picture of Naruto and herself.
"Kakashi, you'd better get Naruto to Minato."
...Wherever Minato was in the world.
'Okay, where the hell am I now?' Naruto asked, walking through a flooded corridor that seemed to be like some kind of utility tunnel. There were pipes on the walls and it was wet and dank all over.
He had no clue where he was and he was so confused out of his mind that all he could consciously do was follow the indescribable pull he felt, navigating him through the labyrinth of pathways.
"Damn those eyes. It happened to me again."
He heard echoing off of the walls. Was that Kurama?
"Stuck inside of the weak, defenseless body of an adolescent human brat."
Well that wasn't a nice thing to say. Did he even know Naruto was listening? "I'm not weak you big, stupid fox! And I can hear you by the way!" Running with his footsteps splashing up water, Naruto charged his way to a gigantic gate, behind which Kurama was lying down, "Are you pissed?"
"No. I love having my freedom barred with me stuck inside of this goddamn cage." Kurama lunged forward and slammed his body futilely off of the bars, scaring Naruto back, "Of course I'm pissed! Your bitch mother made the seal stronger!"
"Well don't yell at me! It's not my fault!" And the rest of Kurama's statement then caught up with Naruto, "Don't call my mom a bitch you big red douche! If she didn't fix the seal-!"
"-If she hadn't fixed I would have broken out BY TOMORROW!" Kurama bellowed, tails waving wildly in anger, "Your body, and the strength of the seal that bound me, both were too weak to keep me here! I would have busted out by sunrise tomorrow! Five days, and I would have been on my way!"
"But…" Remembering what Kushina told him, Naruto paled, "But that would have killed me. That would have killed everybody around me when you broke out."
"That wouldn't have been my problem… but this is my problem." The gigantic fox began to calm down after finally getting a chance to vent to someone that would listen, "You wouldn't be a sport and tear that tag off of the bars for your old friend Kurama would you?"
Well, doing it would kill him. That tag with the word 'seal' on it was obviously the mental representation of the seal as well as Naruto's will to maintain it, and pulling it off meant that Naruto would be straight up breaking it. Breaking it in such a crude manner would outright kill him. You couldn't undo seals with force and expect nothing terrible to happen in return.
Uzumaki Clan members and seals. Naruto was at least that knowledgeable about them.
Naruto just stared up at the face of the fox and tilted his head to the side, "I'm not taking that stupid tag off without a really good reason."
The intelligent creature of mass destruction took a second to think about it before his red eyes looked down at Naruto's, "I'll be your best friend."
The thought was tempting, and Naruto had to admit that the idea of being real friends with something so awesome was seriously tempting. That was something that he wanted for a year after he stopped being afraid. There was one big problem with that though, "I'll be dead."
"I'll remember your sacrifice for about two weeks." Kurama said solemnly, "…Also I won't eat whatever's left of your corpse after I get out. Common courtesy you know." He concluded with a toothy smile only for Naruto to turn a direct about face and march his way back from whence he came, "Hey! I'm all-powerful you little shit!"
"You're all-stuck behind that gate right now from what I can see motherfucker." Naruto quipped, hands up behind the back of his head as he walked away, "There's a lot of stuff I've got to figure out and do before going suicidal to free you comes up."
"It's definitely on the table though, right? Come on, what do you really have to look forward to? You're probably going to die before you're 30 like everyone else anyway."
"Stop trying to make me kill myself already!" Naruto bellowed one last time before turning the corner to leave, "I'll figure it out just… chill out or something! I'm a peacock Kurama! You've gotta let me fly on this one!"
"Right, you'll figure it out, I'm sure." Kurama snarked sarcastically, "I'm not sitting here waiting for you to kick the bucket so I can die with you and respawn five years later!" Kurama's claws crashed through the bars but didn't get very far due to the seal as Naruto walked out of sight and literally out of mind, "And peacocks don't fly like regular birds you little dumbass!"
(Somewhere in Hi no Kuni)
Naruto's eyes slowly opened and he started moving around on the ground underneath a tree in a forest somewhere. It wasn't his neck of the woods though. He only needed to be there for a few moments to know that he felt absolutely nothing familiar about his surroundings.
"Ugh. Where am I now?" He asked aloud, sitting up on the ground while rubbing his head. The smell of food cooking filled his nostrils and Naruto looked around the trunk of the tree he was under to find the white-haired guy from before tending a small fire with his back turned to him.
Naruto pressed himself to the trunk of the tree and felt around on his person to find that he was still fully armed. By now his brain had fully caught up to what was happening and realized that he wasn't home, and this guy had something to do with it.
So should he try to attack him before the guy realized he was awake, or make a break for it? Decisions, decisions.
If he could beat the guy and do so without killing him, he could try to interrogate him and figure out just what was going on and why. If he ran without trying to fight he had a better chance of getting away if he was outmatched… not that he would ever admit to being outmatched.
Also, running away was such an ugly way of putting it. Uzumaki Clan ninja didn't run away. They deliberately withdrew and assessed their situations before finding better ways to continue a fight on their terms.
Naruto flipped open the kunai pouch at his thigh to arm himself, but before he could even reach for a weapon a voice cut through the tranquility of the forest and stopped him cold, "Oh, you're finally awake. You slept for quite a while you know."
So the choice was now either run when the guy would definitely know you'd tried to take off, or fight him when he definitely knew you were coming.
Meanwhile, Kakashi remained with his back to Naruto while he tended the fire and watched how the fish he'd caught from a nearby river were cooking. There wasn't any need to face him right now. There were only three things he'd do. He'd either sit down and talk like a reasonable adult would do, he'd try to escape, or he'd try to fight.
One of those things were off the table because Naruto wasn't a reasonable adult. He was a ten year-old ninja far away from home with plenty of reason to be paranoid and scared out of his mind, even if Kakashi hadn't basically abducted him from his village.
So he'd either fight or run, and Kakashi was prepared for both, so why not make sure that he didn't overcook the fish?
"Do you want something to eat?" Kakashi asked amicably, "The fish are almost ready."
"Sneak attack!" Jumping from the branch of an overhanging tree down onto Kakashi with a kunai in hand, Naruto felt like he was going to get him, until he wound up hitting absolutely nothing but a random log, 'I didn't even see him move! That Kawarimi was so smooth!'
"You know, it's not really a sneak attack if you call out that you're doing it beforehand." Kakashi chided from ten feet behind Naruto, getting him to nearly jump out of his skin, "Good morning~! Now that you're awake and got that out of your system-."
He was cut off by a quick lunge from Naruto with the kunai to stab him in the stomach, but he easily stopped that by grabbing Naruto's wrist and stopping the stabbing motion before the point of the blade ever came close to touching him.
It wasn't even a matter of a test of strength as Naruto tried to push forward to drive the knife into his enemy. Kakashi was holding him back and making it look easy… because it was. He was ten. Kakashi had thirteen years of age on him and an uncountable number of years of experience.
"Who are you?" Naruto grunted out, not budging Kakashi's arm an inch.
"I'd be more inclined to answer if you put the kunai away Naruto."
"How do you know my name?"
"Fine!" Naruto replied, "If you won't tell me I'll just beat it out of you!" This was said while he was still completely unable to stab Kakashi or even remove his wrist from the one-eyed man's grasp, "Just as soon as I… get out of this!" Naruto emphasized by tugging fruitlessly to free himself.
It was probably wrong, but Kakashi was rather enjoying himself. This kid was odd, and it almost made him forget that Naruto was a jinchuuriki, 'This is actually fun.'
And then it stopped being fun.
From the trees, a small platoon of Narutos jumped down and set themselves upon Kakashi, having gotten themselves in position while the original had been dealing with the adult ninja. You don't know fear until you see twenty of the exact same person flying through the air at you with nothing but bad intentions.
'He can make that many with just the regular Kage Bunshin no Jutsu?' Kakashi thought with one wide eye.
Kushina told him that she'd taught Naruto a special clone jutsu to help him out back when she was warning Kakashi that he'd probably try to fight him after he realized what was happening. She had neglected to mention however that she'd made sure he knew the super steroid-enhanced version of a basic jutsu that a kid his age should have been using.
The Uzumaki Clan definitely didn't know how to do things half-assed. Thank God she didn't teach him the forbidden version because he knew for a fact that she knew it.
Shifting his grip on Naruto's wrist, Kakashi spun around and pulled Naruto off of the ground to throw him into the air and take out several clones on contact, forcing them to disperse in puffs of smoke. From there he had a side that he wasn't surrounded on that he could quickly move to when the rest landed and came after him.
Naruto and his clones on their end were getting frustrated. The guy was completely keeping out of their reach altogether and they couldn't even touch him. He was moving just fast enough that they could see him and keep up but couldn't land anything on him; not a punch, a kick, a shuriken toss, anything.
"I'm sorry. I know you're really trying here and I don't want to be 'that guy', but the speed you're moving at-." Kakashi said as his hand slowly crept up to the sword on his back before he suddenly streaked forward in a single rush straight through the wall of clones that had been pursuing him. All Naruto could be sure that he saw was a flash of white light from when the weapon had been swung, "-Against me you might as well be wading in mud."
The recipient of the sudden action was left wide-eyed and astonished. That was the speed of a high-level ninja that was able to survive out in the cold world that they called the Elemental Nations? The ability of a man that had the ability to live past the life expectancy for most people in the world?
And he was supposed to take missions to deal with people like that? So far the most he'd done had been some pitiful little deliveries across the island.
Kakashi's cut had come so quickly through most of Naruto's clones that there was a lag time between when the blow was struck and when they finally expired. Kakashi had made a concerted effort to get as close to Naruto as he could without harming a hair on his head, and letting Naruto know that if he wanted to kill him or strike a disabling blow he could have done so easily.
Letting out a sigh, the white-haired man resheathed his amazingly cool tanto and walked back over to Naruto, flat out ignoring the other three clones that he knew were clones due to how defensive they seemed to be over the one that he had kept track of as being the creator, "I don't want to hurt you. That's not why I took you away from your village. Now if you want to keep fighting we can do that if it will make you feel better, but at some point you have to move forward with this."
Having said his bit, Kakashi walked past Naruto and the rest of his six remaining clones to return to the fire, "That didn't take so terribly long. Come on, the fish aren't burned that bad yet."
Naruto just looked between his clones who all just shrugged at him. They were at a loss too. What else could he do? He didn't know where they were in proximity to Uzu no Kuni to begin with, and if this guy wanted something from him he really could have just taken it already. Hell, he put him in a situation where he could fight back.
Dispelling the rest of his clones, the displaced ten year-old slowly walked over to Kakashi and the fire only to see three fish bones on the ground already. Great, so he wouldn't even get to see what the guy looked like behind his mask while he was eating either.
"Now I know you probably have a lot of questions." Kakashi said, trying to break the ice with an amicable tone, "I'll answer whatever I can honestly. Just remember that I'm on your side first and foremost Naruto."
Suspiciously, Naruto sat down across from the fire at Kakashi, at least separating the two of them by that small obstacle if need be and just stared at his face until he felt the need to say something. Silence never really sat well with him. Time not running his mouth wasn't time well spent.
So he decided to start off with something simple, "Who are you anyway? What are you all about?"
"Ah, introductions. Of course. How could I ask you to trust me if you don't know the first thing about me?" Kakashi said, apparently giving Naruto a smile from how his eye closed in a seemingly pleasant expression, "I'm Hatake Kakashi of the Hatake Clan. I have no real desire to tell you my likes and dislikes. My dreams for the future…? Hmm, never really thought about it before. And as for my hobbies… well, I have lots of hobbies."
With each 'answer' that Kakashi gave Naruto past his name, the whisker-marked youth's face fell more and more, "Those are terrible answers! That was the worst introduction in history!" In the end, all Kakashi did was tell him his name and clan affiliation, "…Can I hit you?"
"No." Kakashi denied him bluntly before smiling behind his mask again, "Now it's your turn."
Naruto squinted his eyes at Kakashi and scratched his own cheek before talking about himself, "Alright, the name's Uzumaki Naruto of the Uzumaki Clan. I like my mom, the ramen my mom makes, and doing stuff."
"Yeah, stuff. It's better than what you said." Naruto pouted, getting defensive over his answers.
"Carry on then." The masked ninja was going to allow it lest he be accused of hypocrisy.
"I don't dislike much, except vegetables I guess." Naruto continued, trying to come up with some on the spot answers for things he never really thought about or had to explain to others. No one else ever really cared to know except Kushina, "I even hate when they're in ramen but at least they're a bit better then. And my dream, to kick some masked guy's ass straight to the moon."
'I hope he's not talking about me.' Kakashi thought to himself before bringing something up, "I notice that you didn't say that you hated your father." He knew for a fact from Kushina that Naruto didn't have any love for him.
At the topic of Minato, Naruto just gave Kakashi a wide grin that was a bit alarming when coupled with what he said next, "Well I can't hate somebody that I've never even met can I?" It was kind of disturbing just how little of that smile reached his face, "I don't really know how I feel about the guy. My mom loves him to death, talks about him all the time… but I don't get it."
Kakashi could only imagine. He didn't have the best relationship with his father when he was Naruto's age, but at least he had one. There were a lot of good times in there, and there were moments when his father happened to be his hero. If Naruto was earnestly bitter or not, Kakashi couldn't tell yet, but time would tell.
"I can tell you that your father is a good man." Kakashi said, hearing Naruto snort as he grabbed his own fish on a stick to eat, "It's because of him and your mother that I took you away from your village to protect you. If I hadn't, by tomorrow you'd have been forced to undergo the extraction process that your clan developed for removing a biju from a jinchuuriki."
"That doesn't sound so bad." Naruto admitted. So that meant that someone had come up with a way to do it safely right?
Kakashi just shook his head sadly, "It would either kill you or cripple your system of chakra. Even if you survived you would probably never be a ninja again."
Whoa. That was different, "What? Why? I'm not gonna do anything! I didn't put Kurama in me, it wasn't my choice! Why do they have to kill me?" It was a bone-chilling thought that he had been less than twenty-four hours away from having his very essence sucked out of his body.
All he wanted to do for them was be a ninja and show them that he wasn't the sum of what they thought he was because of his father. He wanted to prove he was a real Uzumaki Clan ninja. But that was never going to happen as long as he was a jinchuuriki, and the only way out of it would kill him.
"Just the fact that you exist as you are could flip the entire world on its head. You have no idea just how much of a shift that you can cause as a jinchuuriki do you?" The distraught look on Naruto's face clearly showed that he didn't, thus Kakashi continued, "Kushina-sama asked me for help. It won't take long for your clan to find out that she had a role in your escape, and she's willing to endure the consequences as long as I keep you safe."
"What? No!" Naruto shouted, spitting out a mouth full of fish, "We've gotta go back! We've gotta get my mom! Nagato isn't a dumb guy you know! He'll figure it out quick!" And no one could defeat him.
Back before Naruto was born, when Nagato unlocked the Rinnegan as a little kid his age he was labeled as one of the most dangerous shinobi in the world. Back then he and Kushina were on a three-man team that were sent to reinforce the Senju Clan during one of their many large-scale operations. According to lore, on a team comprised of Senju ninjas at least ten years his senior not only were he and Kushina the only ones to survive, but they completed the mission and almost the entire kill count for the mission rested at his feet.
The details on it were sketchy, but no one ever doubted the amount of power Nagato had. When he left the village to go train, everyone knew it because they could oftentimes feel the results of his more destructive techniques being practiced. The guy didn't seem exceptionally dangerous. He actually seemed kind of apprehensive until there was a time for him to cowboy up, and then there was no mistake about exactly how perilous it was to tangle with him whatsoever.
"Your clan won't kill your mother no matter what." Kakashi assured Naruto, walking over to set a hand on his shoulder, "If they killed her word would get out somehow. And if that happened they can assume for a fact that they would definitely never see you again. So they need her in good condition. It would be in their best interest to find you, and that's why you're with me. Kushina-sama didn't come with us and allowed herself to be a hostage for a good reason. We can't go back."
Besides, what would they look like? One lone adult ninja and a kid taking on the stronghold to free the noble maiden being held prisoner? Not a chance. They wouldn't even be able to get any of the ships that routinely traveled to Uzu no Kuni to grant them passage lest they include themselves as enemies to the Uzumaki Clan as well.
The only reason Kakashi got as far into their village as he did the first time was because Kushina had planned every single move of his operation out in advance for him and worked her own village system beautifully. She was definitely good in a pinch. It had been the perfect storm, and it would never work again.
As proof to what he was saying, Kakashi showed Naruto strands of Kushina's long red hair and proceeded to hand him a scroll that Naruto unfurled and began to read, "She told me to show you her hair when I gave you this in case you didn't believe me. I didn't open it."
Naruto nodded and gulped heavily as his eyes scanned across the characters on the parchment.
I know things seem very strange and very scary right now, but you're going to have to be strong for me and for yourself. I would do anything in the world for you, and that's why I couldn't let you stay in the village. You didn't get a fair shake to begin with, and because of what you have sealed inside you wouldn't have lived to see the end of the week. I'm sorry to be the one to tell you this baby, but in matters of the single person against the group the group will always win out.
Nagato and the rest of the clan are afraid of what it will look like if there's a jinchuuriki in our forces. There's no way we can prove that we didn't seal away the biju inside of you. There's no proof and no trace of the masked man you that you talked about anywhere on our island or in our records.
I can't let them kill you with the extraction process, so I'm asking you to go with Kakashi here. He's a friend of your father and I knew him back when he was your age, before you were born. You can trust him with your life and he'll never let you down.
Don't worry about me and what might happen to me staying back here either. Nothing bad's going to happen to me, and even if it does your mother is tough. Even tougher than you for sure. You get it from me, and I'll be fine on my own in the village as long as I know you've got a fighting chance at having your own life.
Keep this scroll with you always Naruto. I already gave Kakashi a scroll with everything that you'll need. Sorry about deceiving you with the errand, but you'd probably have just acted like a little dumbass if I flat out told you about all of this in advance.
Remember that you're not just a jinchuuriki; some human with a biju inside of them. You're my son and I love you with all my heart, so go and make me proud. I'll see you soon. That's the promise of a lifetime baby. And what did I tell you about making promises?
"Don't break 'em." Naruto said under his breath to himself, wiping a few building tears away. He wasn't going to cry like a baby in front of the weird guy in the facemask. That wasn't cool at all, 'I'm gonna save you mom. Just you wait. No matter what I have to do, I swear.'
There was really nothing that Kakashi figured he could add to whatever had been written down in that scroll to ease his mind any more than Kushina already had.
Naruto stared at the other fish he had left to eat and didn't feel too hungry at the moment, "So we're just supposed to run away until someone catches up and takes us out or what?"
"No, actually I'm going to take you to your father. Just like Kushina-sama wanted me to do."
Blue eyes opened wide and the stick fell from Naruto's hand in shock. Kakashi not only knew his father, he was going to take him right to him. Nerves quickly set in and Naruto's hands started to shake.
What would Minato think of him? Did Minato really want to see him to begin with? Why didn't he ever show up, or send any word? What had he been doing for ten years to stay away from his wife and son?
"…We just have to find him first."
"W-What do you mean?"
"I mean we have to track Minato-sama down. I have no earthly idea where he is right now."
The only sound that could be heard was that of the crackling fire, the animal noises from farther out in the woods including one incredibly loud crow cawing, and the heavy silence between Naruto and his apparent to-be caretaker.
Every time Naruto started to be impressed with Kakashi or the things he said, Kakashi had a knack for saying something to bring Naruto's opinion of him back to earth. He had to be doing it on purpose, that was the only way it seemed logical for someone to shoot themselves in the foot that many times.
"Don't worry though!" Kakashi commented brightly, patting Naruto on the back, "Minato-sama is a world-famous ninja known for the major cause he's seeking to accomplish. He simply has to constantly move around because he has no clan and no home. All we have to do is pick up his trail."
His confidence was kind of inspiring though. The nonchalant way he approached the topic actually gave Naruto some hope, 'Yeah. Mom talks about dad like he's some kind of superhero or something.' The way people kept talking about him, it was like Namikaze Minato could handle any problem no sweat, 'If I can find him… and if what mom says about him is true, he can definitely help. I can tell him and he can save mom!'
It was an odd thing. Moments before Kakashi saw nothing but trepidation, confusion, and fear of the future in the eyes of the boy next to him, but in a matter of moments something changed.
Confidence, determination, and the formation of a purpose and a goal that was going to be achieved by his own two hands at all costs. It could be chalked up simply as a child making up his mind stubbornly on something, but it was more than that.
Kakashi already knew that no matter what he said, Naruto was always going to endeavor to save Kushina. To get back to her somehow, someway. That was something he'd made his mind up about. But he looked like he had a plan of action. A basic plan of action, but still a plan nonetheless.
And it seemed like it wouldn't be something that would make the task Kushina requested of him very difficult.
Naruto quickly polished off the rest of his food and followed Kakashi once he stood up, "So you'll come with me to find Minato-sama?" He asked Naruto, glancing down at him with his single visible eye to see Naruto nod spiritedly, "That's good to hear. It'll be good to have some constant company again for once. Just don't slow me down too much would you? We'll have to keep moving if we ever want to find him."
"Don't worry about me." Naruto replied with a grin, kicking dirt on the fire to put the rest of it out, "I'm not stopping until I'm face-to-face with my old man."
He needed some answers from the guy that he'd been waiting years to ask… and above all else he needed to save his mother.
With a shrug, Kakashi unsealed a bag and threw it over to Naruto who put it on his back. He wasn't going to carry that kid's stuff around when he was perfectly capable of walking and doing it himself, "Let's get going then. He could be anywhere in the Elemental Nations."
Taking a deep breath as he shifted the bag around securely, Naruto just looked around at his surroundings and trailed behind Kakashi as they left the area.
Just what was out there waiting on him in the world? As long as it led him back to Uzu no Kuni and the safety of Kushina, he'd be fine with everything. No matter what was to come he could endure it.
In the coming months and years he would look back on that mindset time and time again and later marvel at just what he'd originally expected out of his involuntary journey. How short he expected it to be, even at its longest. In his wildest dreams he couldn't have imagined just what he and the people around him would have to deal with or how long it would truly take to resolve it all.
The problems of one boy and one clan that were a regional issue at best winding up as a catalyst that led the world to change? Who could have anticipated that?
Major Clan Information
Leader: Uzumaki Nagato
Military Strength: 3/5
Notable Traits: Only clan inhabiting their relatively peaceful island nation. Extensive knowledge in fuuinjutsu. Versatile abilities displayed amongst the clan members, no particular specialization. Powerful life force and longevity. Incredible tenacity and dedication. Longstanding and close relationship with the Senju Clan. Most clan members possess bright red hair.
Area of Operation: Uzu no Kuni and islands to the east of the Elemental Nations mainland.
Nothing to say for this one. The story's just starting. Let's do this.