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Disclaimer: I don't own Naruto
Arc 01 Childhood. Chapter 04: Interludes.
Minato Namikaze felt a grim look crawl onto his face as he saw half of Team 2 walk into his office, supposedly back early from their first mission out of the village. He couldn't remember their names yet since they were both of civilian stock and were part of the last graduating class. As Hokage he had several thousand of Shinobi under his command, he could hardly be expected to remember all of them, especially when they hadn't done anything noteworthy.
Before him stood a boy and a girl in their early teens. The boy had short brown hair, a standard Konoha Shinobi outfit, a relatively well conditioned body, and a deep scowl on his face. The girl had shoulder length black hair held in a pony tail, an outfit consisting of black and purple clothes that, sadly, just screamed fan-girl. Her body seemed to be passably conditioned however, and her faced had a forlorn look to it.
Their third tem mate and their Jounin sensei were notably absent.
Minato instantly knew what that meant and, despite not knowing any of the team members particularly well, it hurt just as much as any of the other times it had happened.
He looked at the boy. "What happened?"
The question was simple and the reactions of the two rookie Genin made the answer more than obvious.
"Things went wrong Hokage-sama!" The boy's voice was cracked emotion. "We were attacked by missing-nin, Sensei and Ichigo are… they're… we tried to help but… he told us to run… there were so many of them… we just…"
Minato sighed. He doubted that he would be getting a decent report out of them today, and it wasn't as if the mission was a vital one, just a C-Rank gone wrong.
He looked at his young subordinates with a sympathetic expression as they seemed to slip further and further into their depression. "Alright, why don't you both go home at rest up. You've obviously had a bad time and I don't want to put you through that again, but you will have to give your report."
The two Genin nodded in a mixture of understanding, regret, and relief.
"Alright. Come back at the end of the week to give your report. Until then take the time to recover, try talking to your parents or friends."
With another nod and a mumbled thanks they left the office.
Minato leaned back in his chair and closed his eyes tiredly. He would have to find out if the dead members of Team Two had any family, and if so send someone to tell them of the death. He should be used to it by now. He was used to it. He had been Hokage for over a decade after all. But learning that one of his ninja had died on a mission never got easier. Like his predecessor he believed that Konoha was one big family, one big tree, and it was the Hokage's job to protect everyone, every single leaf. So when a ninja died on a mission he had assigned, even if it was necessary, he always felt sadness and guilt.
A soft smile grew across his face. 'Hopefully the Toads' prophecy will come true and Kasumi-chan will lead the world into an era of peace. Then all these deaths wont be necessary.'
He chuckled at the horribly idealistic thoughts.
Look at him! He, Konoha's Yellow Flash, the man who killed over three hundred Stone ninja in a matter of seconds, preaching about an era of peace. It was so ridiculous that it wasn't even funny.
'Still…' He mused as he thought back to his Sage training a couple years ago and the prediction the Great Toad Sage had given while he was at Mount Myoboku. 'A great revolution is coming. But through the chaos and the darkness I see that the Child of the Prophecy and the Fox of Nine Tails shall guide the world into a new era of stability.'
'…With a prediction like that even I can't help but hope for a brighter future.'
The interpretation was obvious. Kasumi would use the power of the Nine Tailed Fox to bring about the Prophecy. The only question he asked himself was whether it would be by using the Controlled Jinchuuriki Form as he had planned, or whether she would come to some sort of agreement with the fox, as the Sage's words seemed to imply.
He knew better than most that the Kyuubi's power was still somewhat intelligent, despite being separated from the Demon's soul. That was proven by the fox like shroud that appeared when Kasumi tapped into the Youki, as well as the bloodlust that proved that it was capable of some sort of… thought process. What he hadn't managed to find out was just how intelligent it was and how Kasumi would be able to negotiate with it.
She had only entered the mindscape of her seal once, several years ago. In retrospect he often cursed himself for pushing her too hard too soon in trying to control the Kyuubi's youki. The encounter with the Demon had scared and scarred his daughter so badly that she now categorically refused to return there under any circumstances whatsoever.
He sighed and half heartedly went back to his paperwork.
He groaned when he saw another complaint from the Civilian Council about his estranged son. He knew that he had done wrong by the boy but even now, especially since the Toad Sage's prediction, he couldn't find it in himself to feel regret. Remorse yes, but not regret. As much as it hurt, he firmly believed that he had done the right thing.
Unlike most, he knew that Naruto was a very skilled young man. He didn't know how skilled exactly, and he couldn't look into it too overtly because, for one, he simply didn't have the time and, for two, the risk of others finding out and trying to capitalise on it for their own purposes was something he wanted to avoid. Nonetheless he had seen more than just a few indications of Naruto being a young genius.
At first, the reasons he had given for basically ignoring his son were true. Naruto really hadn't needed to start training at the age of three, whereas Kasumi had already had the reserves of a graduating Academy student and thus needed an early start if she wanted any hope of having an acceptable level of control. On top of that, raising Kasumi was a delicate balance that he simply couldn't afford to mess up. He had insured that the villagers didn't resent her, but he also had to make sure that she didn't let their praise go to her head. He didn't want Kasumi to live a life of hatred like so many other Jinchuuriki, but he also didn't want her to be a spoilt brat. Most important of all, he wanted to make sure that she would use the immense power she had at her disposal for the right reasons.
With all that in play he fully believed that it was unavoidable that Naruto would end up being a bit neglected. Kushina, of course, had been helping with Kasumi, so she hadn't had much time for him either, and they hadn't wanted to give him a tutor because they had felt that it would undermine their relationship with him.
It had been hypocritical of them, they had both known that, but they had also known just how strong the bond between student and sensei could be. They had been afraid that their son would end up being closer to some random Jounin that he was to them.
Then it had become a non-issue. By the time the kids had started the Academy, Naruto had stopped asking for the training he had previously been so eager for. In fact, he had stopped asking for anything. Because of that it had taken a while for Minato to even remember, and when he had his observations had shown him that Naruto had already progressed very well on his own. He had been overjoyed at his son's skill, although he had also been a little worried about the fact that Naruto went through pains to hide it, but that had unfortunately presented him with another problem.
If he had offered Naruto help, and Naruto had started to surpass his sister, Kasumi might have became jealous. It would have been understandable, children will be children after all, and if they had been normal children he would have gone ahead with it and let things resolve over time. Kasumi, however, wasn't normal. Her jealousy could have lead her to make bad decisions that could affect the entire village.
The sad truth was that, while he did love them equally, Naruto just wasn't as important as Kasumi.
Minato winced at the horrible thought. A thought that no parent should rightfully have. He knew that in many ways he didn't deserved to call himself Naruto's father, but he still believed that he was doing the best he could.
Sadly, things had only gotten worse after the Uchiha Massacre.
Minato had been doing his Sage training at the time and, since it couldn't be interrupted until he completed it, he hadn't found out about the massacre until he came back to Konoha. To say that he had been surprised was an understatement. Itachi had been one of his most trusted ANBU. It was only when Sarutobi had explained the truth behind the Uchiha Clan's actions that he had fully understood.
They had intended to use his prolonged absence not only to launch a coup and take over Konoha, but also to kidnap his wife and daughter and take them hostage.
Itachi, who had only known about the first part of the plot, had reported it to the Sandaime and the Council Elders. They, with varying amounts of regret, had ordered the mass assassination of the Uchiha Clan. Only Itachi's younger brother, Uchiha Sasuke, had been spared.
Minato flipped the complaint in to the bin with an angry sneer.
He had always known that there was a certain degree of intolerance towards Naruto, but with the boy's 'stay at home' attitude it hadn't gone any further than that. He knew that he could have tried to do something about it, but it just wasn't that easy.
Kyuubi's attack had taken many lives, even if it had been a whole lot less than anyone had had any right to hope for. Of course… considering that even he had half expected Konoha to be wiped of the map, that wasn't saying much. The problem was that half of those lives had been civilian ones. The attack had been sudden and unexpected, which had given the giant Fox time to breach the village walls. By the time the Shinobi force had managed to repel it, just before he had been able to seal it into his children, the damage had been done.
The threat passed but fear had been instilled in the hearts of those who had thought themselves safe behind the massive walls, and, as is human nature, they had dealt with that fear by turning it into anger. Anger that they had aimed at the best possible target. For a few scant seconds that target had been Kasumi, but he had quickly put his foot down and explained that his daughter was a hero.
At that time it simply hadn't occurred to him to do the same for his son.
When it came to his attention that the villagers were redirecting their hostility towards Naruto he didn't feel that there was much he could do. He understood their feelings and, since he couldn't bring himself to be too harsh on them, he had just had to hope that they would come around and leave their bad feelings behind.
After the massacre however, things had started to escalate. Civilians, and even some of the Ninja, had become wary of Naruto because he had ended up in the hospital for unknown reasons. The attack on the Namikaze Mansion hadn't been revealed to the public because of the awkward questions it would bring, so they were 'understandably' suspicious of him. Only Kushina, Jiraiya, Sarutobi, the Elders and Minato knew the full story of what had happened that night. Although Kushina hadn't been told that Itachi was ordered to kill his Clan because of her longstanding friendship with Mikoto.
Kasumi had been placed under a Genjutsu by her kidnapper, whom Jiraiya had killed before returning her to her bed as soon as it was safe. She had slept through the whole ordeal. Naruto's memory of the night had been foggy due to the blast of the explosion and he still though that it was Minato that he saw trying to get into the study.
Minato pursed his lips in a sour expression.
The mission may have been a failure for the Uchiha, but it had come at a high price for Konoha. Minato had tried to come up with a way to recover the contents of the charred Sealing Scrolls that held the entire contents of his private study, but he had had no luck whatsoever. The Forbidden Scroll of Sealing that had been started by the First Hokage and added to by all of his successors as well as some of the more prominent Ninja of Konoha; Minato's own notes on his personal techniques; countless secret files and mission reports, all lost.
What really irked him was that he had no idea how the thief had gotten so far. The security seals on his study door weren't the best he could make because the better ones took twice as long to unlock and thus weren't practical for a room he used so frequently. Nonetheless, when combined with the seals on the walls that surrounded the Namikaze Mansion Grounds, as well as the seals on the mansion itself, his study was supposed to be… no. It was one of the most secure places in all of Konoha. And yet the thief, who was later identified as Uchiha Yashiro, had not only made it all the way in completely undetected, but he would also have made it out if Naruto hadn't gone for a late night glass of water.
Minato groaned and made a few Shadow Clones to take care of the rest of the paperwork for him before plopping himself down on the small couch that was placed to one side of his office. There were times like this when his mind seemed to be stuck on memory lane. He would second guess all the choices he had made, preventing himself from concentrating on the 'here and now', before eventually deciding that there was nothing he could have done differently. This wasn't the first time that he had thought back on his choices concerning his son, and he was quite sure that it wouldn't be the last.
Since the Uchiha massacre Naruto had been hospitalised five times. Each time he had suffered multiple stab wounds and broken bones before a passing ANBU patrol stepped in and gotten him to the hospital. Fortunately, so to speak, the 'mobs' were made mostly of civilians with the occasional 'Kyuubi orphaned' Genin or Chunin, so none of the damage was at a level that Medical Ninjutsu couldn't fix up.
It was a nasty situation for Minato to deal with. The offenders had been arrested and charged with a hefty fine and some time in prison, but that had only made the resentment for Naruto grow. He didn't want to order executions to make an example, because that to be far too harsh a punishment. The people of Konoha viewed the Kyuubi in much the same way as the people of Iwa viewed him. He had no doubt that if he, or anyone remotely related to him, took a walk down an Iwagakure street they would be mobbed by everyone from nine to ninety. The fact that Konoha showed a good deal more restraint was something he was eternally glad for.
One of the clones came over with some of the more sensitive documents, documents that it felt the original should deal with himself. Minato looked over the first and heaved a mighty sigh. It was a petition for the early release of the last group that his ANBU had caught. The second was a release form, already completed and awaiting his signature.
In the end it came down to one decision. Favour his son by putting his foot down and stomping out any and all forms of prejudice against him. Or favour the people of his village and trust that they would eventually work past their hatred.
As a father it was an impossible choice.
As the Fourth Hokage of Konoha…
He took his pen, signed the form, then stamped it with the Hokage seal to make it official.
…the choice was obvious.
Kasumi Namikaze gazed at Iruka-sensei with a bored expression as he droned on and on about some boring dead guy that did some boring history thing well before she was even born. If boredom were a weapon she was sure that her Academy instructor would be the deadliest ninja to have ever existed. What use was the history of the Elemental Nations going to be to her anyway? It wasn't as if it would help her defend the village better. Sure… she knew about some stuff, like her idols the Hokages, even if it was a bit vague.
She frowned in concentration. 'The First could pull trees out of his butt. The Second could pull water out of his butt. The Third could pull every technique in Konoha out of his butt. And Tou-san can flash from one place to the other in the blink of an eye.'
She nodded in satisfaction. 'What more do I need to know? I'm going to be a powerful kunoichi, not a not a boring historian.'
Thoughts of such boringness made her turn slightly in her seat to look at her twin brother who was sitting on the opposite side of the classroom. She rolled her eyes when she saw that he actually seemed to be paying attention to the lesson. It didn't really surprise her but she couldn't see why he bothered, with all the time he spent reading he probably knew just as much of this boring stuff as Iruka-sensei did.
Kasumi considered Naruto to be a bit of a snob. Ever since she could remember he would stay cooped up in his room, completely ignoring the family, and only ever leaving to eat or get more books from the library. With all the time he spent being a nerd she was surprised that he could even throw a half decent punch.
Kasumi knew that she wasn't book smart, the whole theoretical stuff just bored her to no end, but that didn't mean that she was lacking in discernment. She knew that most of the villagers, a good number of her classmates included, disliked him for rather stupid reasons. She also knew that it was just a twist of fate that their father hadn't switched their roles, in which case she would be the one that the village hated. Despite that, she couldn't bring herself to feel any sorrow, or even pity, for her brother because he made no effort to improve his standing. Many people in the class disliked him not because of the Kyuubi, but because he simply wasn't likable.
If he just put a bit of effort into it she was sure that he could make at least a few good friends.
'At least he isn't as bad as Sasuke.' She thought with a smirk.
She turned to the boy in question and had to force down a giggle. He was staring out of the classroom window with his chin resting on his fist and his hair blowing in a slight breeze. Not for the first time she wondered how long the last Uchiha spent practicing his brooding poses.
Fifteen minutes later she sighed in relief as the class came to an end and people started filtering out. She vaguely noticed that her brother somehow managed to slip out before everyone else.
She rolled her eyes at his disappearing back. 'Probably off to read… again.'
Thoughts of her brother were erased from her mind when her best friends, Hinata and Ami, suggested that they go for some ramen at Ichiraku's. joking and laughing they made their way to one of their favourite spots in the village, taking their usual seats after placing their order with the waitress, Ayame.
Kasumi grinned. "So, Hinata-chan… Have you managed to beat your baby sister yet?"
While the question was asked teasingly, there was also a hint of worry in it. When they first met, Hinata had been incredibly shy. It had taken months, if not years of friendship to get her to open up and gain some self-confidence. Unfortunately, even with her increased opinion of herself, Hinata wasn't really a fighter, preferring the creation of medical creams to the study of her family's fighting style. As a result her farther still had a poor image of her.
Hinata smiled sadly and shook her head. "No I still haven't. in fact Hanabi-chan has only been getting better. At least now Otou-sama has stopped calling me worthless and just says that she is much better."
She smiled in a mixture of pride and sadness. "Hanabi-chan really is a prodigy. She can even hold her ground against Neji-niisan, even if she isn't strong enough to actually beat him yet."
Ami chuckled and slapped the other girl on the shoulder. "Don't go getting depressed on us! We all know that you don't like hurting people. You'll just have to become the greatest Medic Ninja ever and your stuck up father will be begging for you to forgive him!"
Kasumi laughed and expressed her agreement before starting in on the recently delivered ramen.
Ami had been a bit of a class bully at first. As an orphan without much guidance she had struggled to keep up with the rest of the class and had compensated by lashing out at those weaker than her. Her mistake had been to pick on Hinata shortly after the young Hyuuga and the young Namikaze had befriended each other.
After a strange series of events involving a tearful Hyuuga, a vengeful Namikaze, a one-sided catfight of epic proportions, and a solid week's worth of detention, the three girls had somehow become fast friends.
From then on, Hinata and Kasumi had helped Ami catch up to an appropriate level, teaching her the tricks and habits that their parents taught them to get the most out of training. She was now the second best kunoichi-in-training in the class. Still a good ways behind Kasumi, but also a fair margin ahead of Hinata. It was quite the accomplishment.
When they finished their snack they went up to the counter to pay before heading back out.
Kasumi's eyebrows shot up when she saw her brother walking up ahead, surprised that he wasn't back in his room already. 'Bah! Probably went to the library to get more books or something.'
She turned to her friends. "Hey, do you girls want to come over to my place? We can watch a movie or something…"
She trailed of and blinked when she saw a slight frown on Hinata's face, as if she were about to activate her Byakugan.
She smirked. "Hinata-chaaan…" She teased playfully, loud enough for her voice to carry in the rather empty street. "You're not about to perv on my brother are you?"
Kasumi and Ami barely managed to restrain their mirth as their friend turned beet red in embarrassment. They reached their limit and doubled over in uncontrolled fits of laughter when Naruto stiffened and turned to look at them fearfully before dashing off in a dead sprint.
Ami rested a hand on the mortified Hyuuga heiress' shoulder to steady herself, speaking in chuckle filled gasps. "Sorry Hinata-chan, I think you scarred him away!"
Kasumi rested her hands on her knees as she tried to catch her breath. She looked up with a sly grin. "You know… if you're really that interested you should tell him that you've got a rare book hidden in your knickers! He'll be all over you then!"
If possible Hinata turned an even deeper shade of red before stomping off, her two cackling friends stumbling along behind her.
Namikaze Kushina sat in the living room of the Namikaze Mansion, humming to herself as she reread a passage of her favorite book, 'Tale of the Utterly Gutsy Ninja'. She had loved Jiraya's first book, going so far as to name her son after the main character, and had been sorely disappointed when it wasn't a success.
It was amusing, in a sense, that she and Minato had named their son after the main character of the book in hopes that he would turn out like him, when in the end it was Kasumi who would put an end to the curse, the vicious cycles of hatred and war.
She was already showing a lot of potential and was stronger than either of her parents had been at her age. She also had a limited amount of control over the Fox's youki, and could use it to increase her strength speed and regeneration. Kushina had been an ANBU captain before she retired and she had kept her skills up to scratch despite no longer being on active duty. But she had no doubt that her daughter would surpass her well within the next five years, and probably even surpass her husband less than five years after that.
All in all, within the next decade Kasumi would probably be the most powerful Ninja alive.
The thought made Kushina swell in pride, but also gave her a small shiver of fear. Teaching Kasumi to draw on the Kyuubi's chakra hadn't been an easy task. Well… drawing on it wasn't the problem. It was keeping it from making her go on a bloodthirsty rampage that was the problem.
Kushina had been in childbirth at the time of the Kyuubi's assault, so she hadn't participated in the defence, but that hadn't prevented her from feeling the heavy and oppressive weight of the Bijuu's malicious youki. Seeing her precious little girl become a miniature Kyuubi with her One Tailed Fox Shroud had been one of the worst days of her life. It was only thanks to Minato's preparation of Youki Suppressor Tags, and her own use of her Tamashiiken that Kasumi had been subdued. The strain that the overload of youki had done to her body had left her bedridden for almost three days. That wasn't much by normal standards but, considering Kasumi's usual rapid regeneration, it had worried them quite a bit.
Fortunately the experience had given Minato enough information that he had been able to adjust the Eight Trigrams Seal. The training from then on had gone much better.
A frown marred Kushina's beautiful features. 'Except for the time when she tried to access the seal's mindscape. That was horrible. She still has the occasional nightmare about it.'
She still wasn't sure what she and Minato had been thinking. Sending a child to try and strike a deal with a Demon! The only justification that she could reach was that Kasumi had been doing so well that they just got carried away by her success and ended up going too fast.
She grumbled incoherently and flipped a page of her book.
Another thing she didn't know was how her Tamashiiken was able to restrain her Kyuubi enhanced daughter. She didn't know much about the peculiars of her lineage beyond her parents, who were both Uzumaki, so she supposed that it was possible that she had a little Senju blood in her. The Senju being the only Clan with a member known to have the ability to restrain a Bijuu. One of the Uzumaki Clan Laws had been that 'an Uzumaki never married out of the Clan'. If their spouse, be it husband or wife, wasn't an Uzumaki, then it was the spouse who took on the Uzumaki name and placed themselves under the authority of the Clan. That was how the Clan had kept the highly coveted Tamashiiken Bloodline Limit strictly within its own walls.
Kushina had been the first to break the law when she married Minato and adopted his family name.
Kushina's Tamashiiken took the shape of five very long chains that erupted in a pentagram formation from the upper half of her back. Each chain ended with a kunai-like blade and could be directed at will.
When her daughter had lost control to the youki, Kushina had acted on instinct, sending her chains out to wrap around her and pin her down long enough for Minato to apply the seal tag. She had been more than a little surprised when it actually worked, holding down the youki construct as if it were actually made of flesh and blood rather than chaotic energy. Since then she had experimented from time to time, but she hadn't made any real discoveries.
Hearing the door open, and someone enter the room, she looked up in pleasant surprised. 'Is Kasumi-chan back already? She normally hangs out with her friends when the academy day is over.'
Her eyes widen in shock when, rather than her ten year old daughter, she saw a beaten and bleeding Naruto. His left eye was bruised and swollen, the slowly darkening flesh contrasting with the blood that flowed over it from the large cut on his brow. His lower lip was split, a thin trail of blood trickling down his chin. His black vest and gray undershirt were torn showing battered flesh and open wounds. His left hand was also bleeding and, by the way they were held, two fingers were broken. His black cargo pants were also torn, showing a long deep gash on his right thigh and multiple bruises and scrapes on the other leg.
Naruto's one open eye barely spared her a glance as he walked to the stairs, disappearing from her view. Her shock didn't prevent her from noticing that, despite his wounds, he moved with only the slightest of limps. If he had been a war hardened Shinobi such a pain tolerance wouldn't have been an issue, but in an Academy student it was just… wrong.
She snapped out of her daze and dashed after him. "Naruto-kun!"
She screeched to a halt when he stopped climbing up the stairs and half turned to face her with a quirked eyebrow. She opened her mouth to ask what happened to him only to freeze when she took a second look.
He looked perfectly normal.
His clothes were fine, not even a spec of dust on them. His face and body were untouched, not a single blemish in sight let alone cuts and bruises.
She frowned. "What?…"
Naruto just looked at her blandly. "Is something wrong Okaa-sama?"
Kushina's frown deepened. "When you came through the door…"
Naruto frowned a little before his eyes lit up in recognition. "Ah! Sorry! Iruka-sensei was telling us about some of the uses of Genjutsu in battle and how they could be used to set up an ambush. I was just trying to come up with a 'wounded look'. I didn't realise you were looking… sorry."
Kushina blinked a few times, then nodded with a small sigh of relief. It certainly explained why he was looking fine now, and why he had been walking without any problems despite the apparently severe wounds.
"Okay! But, be careful from now on! That's not the sort of thing you should practice while walking down the street! Do you know how worried I was when I saw you like that? If you want to…"
Her tirade was interrupted when commotion at the front door caught her attention. A smile spread across her face as she heard Kasumi walk in with a group of friends. She gave a dismissive nod to her son and went down to greet the new arrivals and ask about their day.
A thought tingled in the back of her mind briefly as she remembered that, even if it was slight, Naruto had been limping.
She pushed the thought away. 'He probably just sprained his ankle.'
She never noticed the small splotch of blood on one of the steps.