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The Tale of the Nameless Ninja

Chapter Text

A vicious snarl ripped through clenched teeth. The Nanadaime... no, the man gripped the Hakkō Chakura Tō firmly and wrenched it from the corpse. Bones creaked and its lifeless form lost its battle with gravity and crashed through the tree branches, landing with a solemn thump. With a flick of his wrist, blood flew from the chakra-infused blade, a streak of white following its path.

The restored blade felt alien in his palm. He did not deserve to wield such a beloved weapon, not he. With a heavy heart, the man continued down his path. Nothing was left. Everything was obliterated by Tobi. He had nothing, no-one. Not even Ka... no he mustn't think of the man. He had failed him. He had failed everyone. They had all put their trust in him and yet he failed them. He shut his eyes and willed his heart to stop beating as it had once before, many years ago at the hand of his best friend.

Grotesque images danced before his eyes, mocking him, willing him towards death. Sakura's body was a sea of reds and blacks, scorched flesh and caked-on blood; eyes gazed blankly skyward, mouth open in a silent plea. Sai. Gaara. Shikamaru. Ino. Choji. Kiba. Shino. Hinata. They all met the same fate as his beloved teammate and once upon a time crush. The losses broke his heart; one loss in particular shattered it.

His adoring sensei, his companion, his comrade and maybe in another life, his lover. For years, the stirrings of a romantic attachment had grown in the youth's heart. Of course, he ignored them. This was his sensei, one of the people who had practically raised him.

Over time their relationship had been changing, evolving into one more like friendship than student and teacher. It changed more and more, teetering on the edge of something... new. But, then of course, Kakashi died.

Silver locks were a stark red, limbs bent at impossible angles. He raced towards his almost lover, reaching a speed he never knew possible. He skidded to a stop, falling to his hands and knees. Outward, he reached with trembling hands, tracing a gaunt cheekbone. The facemask so beloved by his ex-sensei was in tatters. Ever loss had ripped at his soul but... this was the end for him. Tears swam down his whiskered cheeks in rivulets. Slowly, he closed Kakashi's gray eyes.

Tears begged to escape from their imprisonment. His legs trembled, his body nearly throwing itself to his death. Curse his sense of self-preservation that he so wished would let him fall.

Suddenly, the world tilted and unconsciousness claimed him.

Cerulean eyes opened to see a fiery tailed beast glaring at him. He rolled his eyes, and walked towards his life-long companion.

“Why won't you let me die?” his voice was hoarse with emotions. Damn that Kyuubi interfering with his life again. This was his choice, not the furry beast's.

Self preservation, the nine-tails replied. Yeah right, he thought with a snort. There... is an alternative.

“Don't try to fool me. If there was really an alternative you would have mentioned it long before now,” he growled, not allowing his friend to comfort him with false words.

I had hoped it wouldn't come to this point, the Kyuubi whispered, uncharacteristic for him.

“Don't lie to me,” he snarled, furious that his friend would play games with him when he was in such a fragile state.

It requires a lot chakra, my child; it was not an option before. I have been storing chakra since the loss of your beloved and I think we can pull it off.

“Pull what off, Kurama?”

Going back in time of course.

He guffawed at the concept. “There's no such thing as time travel. You must have knocked your head there, old man.”

Father showed us once, the map of fates. When one door closes, the world continues on beyond it. There are multitudes of presents and pasts. He could move freely through them, seeing how each decision would play out. We can go back. Change those decisions, those instances that would effect the entire world. You must remember. One flap of a butterfly's wings and the universe shifts. Some things should not be toyed with.

Before he could respond, Kurama raised his paws into handsigns and channeled his chakra. Eyes closed, he murmured the incantation. Jikan idō.

The souls of the deceased whispered their thanks. They sounded much like screams, these whispers. So many voices rose in succession, forming a whirlwind. Suddenly, he was back in his body and he was flying up, up, up. He gazed down at the world below him, disturbingly unperturbed by his flight. The earth was scorched, patches where villages once stood were raised and ashy.

The voices screamed louder. Naruto. Naruto. Naruto. Never forget, Naruto.

 

Chapter Text

 

Chapter 2: The Beginning

 

When Naruto awoke, he felt a sharp wind whipping at his face. He opened his eyes to see the world below him; it was nothing like the world he had left behind. Gone were the black streaks and decimated villages. Everything was intact.

Green and blue stretched for as far as the eye could see. It was like a beautiful patchwork quilt, the ones he had always admired from a distance but never owned. His fingers instinctively reached for purchase on something, anything, but were met with no resistance.

Confident that his life-long companion would assist him at any time, he relaxed and decided to take in the view. From the tall vast green forests of Hi no Kuni to the endless yellow sand of Kaze no Kuni and the deep blue waters of Mizu no Kuni, this world was beautiful. A soft smile consumed his face as he got lost in pleasant memories of his and his friends' adventures.

Quickly, the lush forests became closer and closer. His eyes widened, Kurama had not yet said anything, had not moved to protect him. Now 10km from the earth, he was traveling far too fast to have any chance of survival. He had heard stories of miracles, villagers swept up in tornadoes and thrown hundreds of miles an hour into the ground that still survived. He was shit out of luck, though, having had plenty of miracles in his life up until this point.

Now panicked, he pulled on Kurama's chakra but found nothing. His hand scooped into the water but it all poured out of his open fingers. 'Kurama!' he screamed in his mind as he hurtled towards the ground. All he received in response was silence.

He closed his eyes and braced for an impact on the hard dewy ground. It never came. His body seemed to float, the screaming voices whirled around him, bringing him to rest gently on the earth's crust. “Shhhhh,” they whispered, then all at once like a murder of crows, they screamed, “Thank you, thank you, thank you,” and disappeared as quickly as they had appeared.

The 23 year-old broken man took in his surroundings. A quick pulse of chakra later and he determined that he was approximately 210 km due West from Konoha. Arching backwards, his bones cracked appreciatively, the fall had taken quite the toll on his body even though he was saved by the souls.

His hand stretched out unbeknownst to him, and laid itself on the bark of a nearby oak. The pads of his fingers traced the lines appreciatively, lovingly, as if caressing a lover. Oh how he had missed trees that had no chance of being Zetsu. He gazed upwards into the green canopy above. Light spilled through the leaves above him, speckling the shaded ground with vivid color.

He wished for a moment of rest, a moment to enjoy the world around him, but there was no time to lose. He didn't know what time he had been placed in, what 'Paths', as Kurama called them, he must change. There were so many decisions, seemingly trivial, that had created his Path in time. So many things had to be changed, he needed to know where to start.

Taking to the trees, he began his approach to Konoha, determined to figure out what time he had ended up in. The wind whipped around his face, pleasantly this time. The cool breeze caressed his sun-kissed skin, coursing through his clothes, leaving the bedraggled articles light and airy.

'Kurama', he nudged his favorite travel companion. No response yet again. The lack of his constant co-pilot gave him pause. Stopping in his tracks, he settled into a tree and created several shadow clones to keep watch. Into his mindscape he went, searching for his friend.

Everything was a mess. Trees were uprooted and a storm roared above the meadow that he had created. “Kurama!” He screamed over the strong wind and rain. His eyes darted around the clearing, trying to locate the giant demon that had always resided here. Still, no luck. The air around him seemed to get colder by the second. He could not even consider wasting chakra on keeping warm or dry, so he decided to take the only alternative path; shelter.

Quickly, he searched for refuge. A large hollow tree stood stark in the distance and he moved to take sanctuary within it. Peering into the dark with chakra enhanced eyes, he spotted a very small chakra signature which seemed like Kurama's, but also not at all his.

He pushed onward towards the strange signature, pushing out a sense of calm. His enhanced vision revealed a small fox kit, the red fur around its shoulders pricked up in fear; a small growl erupted from its throat, though it seemed more a purr than anything threatening.

'Who are you, where is Father, where are my siblings?' it snarled.

“K-Kurama?” he intoned, shocked by the once almighty nine-tails that was reduced into this small kit. Just in case, he checked the number of tails. 1-2-3...9...9 tails. It was definitely Kurama. A small Kurama but Kurama nonetheless. This must be why he was so hesitant, he thought. Kurama was nothing if not straight-forward and his avoidance of the topic was telling.

'Who. Are.You? Why do you know my name, human?' the small creature seemed to glow with anger. Definitely Kurama, he chuckled inwardly. He stretched a hand outward in a calming manner. “I will not hurt you, I am a friend. I know your father, the Sage of Six Paths. I am a descendant of his. We were stuck in a bad Path. You placed us back in time so that we could make the correct decisions to end up on a better Path,” he reassured the small beast.

'I would not help a human,' Kurama scoffed.

“Aah but you did. How else would you be here, with me? You are sealed inside me, we are in my mindscape,” the man replied with a smirk.'Very well, you shall release me then. As the Kyuubi no Youko I demand it of you. Free me and I shall let you live,' the tiny being threatened his prison, completely ignoring anything related to the jutsu that he supposedly used.

“How about we come to an agreement? You help me and I'll help you,” he offered up for consideration.

'What sort of agreement?' The Kyuubi narrowed his blazing red eyes.

“You help me fix the Path and I'll set you free,'”he replied with an easy smile. All he had to do was win back his friend through sheer perseverance. “As a sign of good faith, I'll partially free you, allowing you to come and go from the seal as you please,” he added, not mentioning the fact that he could pull the Kyuubi back into the seal with ease if he were to get out of control. The nine-tails seemed to consider this proposal before nodding his blood-red head.

'I accept your proposition small human.'

He rolled his eyes, replying, “you're not so big yourself, short-stack. At least I'm fully grown.”

'Do not call me such insolent names. Bow before your master!' Kurama growled in fury.

A burst of laughter came out of his mouth, the first in several years. “Look at yourself, you're a kit,” he chuckled.

Slowly, the Kyuubi looked down at his tiny red paws. His red eyes flashed in anger. 'What have you done to me? I demand you turn me back.'

He snorted in laughter again. “You used some jutsu... the Jikan idō, and now you're little, there's nothing I can do to fix it.”

'It would appear you are telling the truth. Do you know the year?

“Not yet. I was just on my way to Konoha.”

'Well get a move on,' the beast retorted.

“Aye aye, captain,” he mockingly saluted with a wink. This was the best he had felt in years. The demon rolled his eyes in response before moving to the mouth of the tree, his feet unsteady on such short legs.

The storm appeared to have stopped. The clouds had dispersed, birds sang again. Flowers opened their delicate pink and purple petals towards the glowing sun. Fresh green leaves blew gently in the breeze, showering the cool earth below them with droplets of water.

He wouldn't fail this time. This was his new beginning.

 

Chapter Text

Racing through the beautiful growing trees was nostalgic. Everything was full of life. Kilometers passed with a breath as he drew nearer and nearer to his village. A sudden realization dawned upon him. He could not enter the village looking like a short-haired Minato; he had to change his appearance.

He was a shadow, invisible to the naked eye. It was fitting that he blend in with even villagers. He chose an austere look, black hair and brown-black eyes. The face he chose was genial, neither overly intimidating or friendly, simply a kind face that you quickly glance over while going about your business. He was nobody, nothing. He chose an average height for a shinobi at 175cm he was just under his previous height. Broad shoulders and a somewhat stocky build finished off his look.

Kneeling down on a limb, he unsealed some ink and a brush from a scroll located in an intricate design on his left forearm. Delicately, he dipped the brush into the well. The ink seeped into the light colored bristles. The brush weaved itself in a unique design, original to his appearance.

Outwardly, the seal behind his right ear appeared to be a small naruto, signifying his past. Raising a finger to his mouth, he bit, drawing blood. He carefully added the blood to the seal, making it so that he was the only one able to remove the henge.

Satisfied with his work, he rose to stand. The black-haired man wore a jounin vest and blue battlesuit typical of your usual jounin. He did not tape the sleeves of his battlesuit, simply leaving them to blow in the breeze so that he had access to the seals hidden below the blue fabric. Upon his hands were fingerless gloves with non-reflective metal plates, on which were inlaid leaf symbols. Black ANBU pants joined the ensemble, taped at the ankles and leading down to blue shinobi sandals. His hitai-ate was on blue fabric and laid simply over his forehead.

All-in-all he looked like your stereotypical Konoha jounin. Nothing about him was spectacular or unique. He looked not at all like the number one unpredictable ninja and he was glad for it.

Channeling chakra to his feet to muffle the sound, the nameless shinobi stood and continued on his path. Hiding his chakra signature was second nature, but he put a certain twist on it. He decreased the amount of chakra escaping from his body to that of a regular jounin instead of his normal overwhelming amount. Now, he truly was just a typical jounin. Nothing about him screamed excellent or even above average.

He was a new person. An anonymous entity. Of course, the best way to remain anonymous is to hide in plain sight. He would integrate himself into Konoha life as if he had always been there, simply an average jounin who had been overlooked.

A familiar chakra signature caught his attention. It was one he had been around for nearly his whole life. It was the most important signature in his life. It was... Kakashi. The man sped up his pace. The signature was weak, flagging up and down, indicating injury. His heart nearly stopped.

He quickly caught up with the injured man, but hid in a tree, unwilling to confront the man he loved quite yet. His heart thumped uncontrollably in his chest. Kakashi's hair had a slight red tinge to it, the memory of the color hurdled him through time. He was too late. Always too late.

The grayish-red haired man took a stumbling step forward and fell, crumbling to the floor like a forgotten doll. He froze. Not again not again not again not again not again his mind raced, out of control. Without any consideration about Kakashi's potential team or enemy, he descended. His mind was numb, simultaneously in the present and future.

He fell to his knees next to his wounded comrade. His hand reached out on its own volition, caressing the stained locks. Numerous gashes had found their way across the copy nin's body. There was no time for the tears that threatened to fall.

The man carefully pulled Kakashi onto his back, the copy nin's head lolled gently on his shoulder. It was nostalgic. He took off in a full sprint, not caring about chakra conservation any longer. His hands were fully occupied keeping his comrade comfortably on his back, leaving him unable to defend himself, but he didn't care. His only goal was the hospital.

All he could think of everything he loved about the man. From his careless attitude to his inner-most feelings of adoration towards his comrades. He was always late not because of carelessness, but because of love. He not only was teaching patience, but giving those who had died for their country the attention they deserved.

Kakashi was careless when his loved ones were faced with danger. He cared not for himself, only for their safety. He was willing to die for those that he considered his precious people, just like the man himself.

Slight motion on his back rose the man from his thoughts. A masked nose inhaled the scent he was confronted with. Steel. Blood. Sunshine. A sweet concoction that smelled like home. The copy nin's gray eye opened to see black locks of hair tickling his face. His instincts screamed home, yet Kakashi was on high alert. He glanced up to see the ninja's forehead hoping to find affiliation. Seeing the Konoha leaf symbol, the rest of the energy in his body drained.

“Who are you,” Kakashi murmured into the hair that smelled of home.

“No one,” the man responded. Actually, he just hadn't thought to come up with a name. He thought he had plenty of time before interacting with anyone who would want a name.

“Ok Mumei, whatever you say,” he mumbled before losing the battle with consciousness.

Mumei it is, he thought. Mumei pushed himself harder, ran faster, refusing to let the man he loved die. The man was seen in the future, he wouldn't die at this point, but Mumei wasn't thinking in that way. All he could see was what was directly in front of him; a wounded and dying Kakashi.

I could use some help, Kurama, he spoke to his inner demon.

The Kyuubi hissed in response and removed himself from the seal, materializing in the form of a one-tailed fox. The wolf-sized beast sped alongside Mumei in the trees. A red chakra manifested itself in the air around the fox and was absorbed by the man next to him.

Mumei took in the glowing red chakra easily, as if breathing air. He pushed more into his feet and flew higher and further in the air than before. Kurama rolled his eyes in contempt, not understanding why humans were so peculiar in their affections.

Mumei's feet took on a red aura as he practically flew down his path towards home and safety. Red trailed behind the trio, emitted by the fox and shinobi's feet. Mumei was on high alert for any villagers or shinobi in the area. If they were to stumble upon this sight, it would definitely raise a few questions, questions that the man certainly did not want to answer.

Finally, Mumei, the fox and Kakashi neared the front gate.

“Kurama, disperse,” Mumei ordered the ornery fox. Quickly, the man absorbed the rest of Kurama's chakra, removing it from his feet and integrating it with the rest of his system. Glowing red feet would be hard to explain to a passer-by.

Whatever, he muttered, descending the branches and running off to the South in search of prey.

Don't harass any humans, he called after the disappearing fox.

You take all the fun out of hunting, Kurama grumbled from inside Mumei's head.

The ornate main gate appeared in Mumei's sight. Finally.

He sped by the gate guards, Izumo and Kotetsu, avoiding an uncomfortable conversation. The black-haired pair widened their collective three eyes in surprise, seeing the infamous Kakashi no Sharingan unconscious on the back of another shinobi. With the copy nin on Mumei's back, it was unlikely that the duo would report an intruder as it was obvious that he was part of the village.

It wasn't like he had to sign in; the gate guards typically knew every ninja and civilian that passed through and marked down who came and went. He probably could have talked his way out of being reported, but this was actually much more convenient.

The fact that the guardians were Izumo and Kotetsu narrowed down the time frame he was in. At the very least he was in a time before the Fourth Great Shinobi War and after he was the age of 5 when they first started their time as gate watchers. Time seemed trivial with his sensei hanging onto life on his back.

Mumei took to the roofs, hoping to avoid the civilian traffic of the main road that cut through Konoha. The hospital was located off to the left side of the main road three quarters of the way into the village.

Being back in his village, alive, whole, almost gave him pause. Mumei had no time for reminiscing, his only desire was seeing his ex-sensei tended to by medics. Of course, that didn't mean that he couldn't look around and take in the sights while he was running.

His eyes narrowed upon the sight of the Hokage Mountain. There were only 4 figures. That meant that Tsunade was yet to become Hokage. Naruto was between the ages of 5 and 14. This wasn't a bad range of years to work with. Much could be changed in those 9 years.

Arriving on the roof of the hospital, he was met by several medics with a gurney. Izumo and Kotetsu must have radioed ahead, he determined. Mumei resolved to make sure that his younger self played less pranks on those two than he once had.

He gently laid his companion on the gurney, lightly holding Kakashi's hand as he was whisked away. They remained in contact for as long as possible before suddenly Kakashi was gone down the hallway.

Once the Hatake was gone, the medics seemed to suddenly realize that there was another shinobi there, as if they hadn't seen him carry the copy nin there. They scrambled towards him, assessing and determining that there was no harm done. It was a new sensation. He had never had hospital workers interested in his well-being.

Mumei had spent his youth ignored and abused by everyone he met other than his Jiji and Team 7. This was an odd feeling. He couldn't determine if he was upset by the fact that they treated others so utterly different than his young self or he was still rattled by the near loss of his beloved.

Shaking his head to clear his thoughts, Mumei followed down the hallway where they had taken Kakashi. He stopped at the nurse's station to quietly ask which room they had taken him to. The nurse happily replied, absolutely no contempt that he had once adjusted to present in her voice.

Medics were consumed with activity, fluttering around Kakashi's prone body checking vitals, healing gashes and chakra coils. Quietly, he assumed a spot in the corner where he was out of the way but still able to keep an eye on the goings-on.

Out of the corner of his eye, he noticed a cheeky nurse going for Kakashi's face mask. Consumed with anger, his hand shot out and grabbed the nurse by the wrist. “Don't,” he growled. The nurse was taken aback, she had not even noticed that Mumei was in the room.

She bowed at the waist, clearly apologetic. She ran from the room, tears starting to escape from the corners of her eyes. Mumei grunted and returned to his corner. Nobody would disrespect his Kakashi while he was unconscious and unable to defend himself.

Once again, he unsealed his fuuinjutsu materials from his forearm and drew another seal on the man's skin behind his right ear, just as he had done to himself earlier that day. The medics looked at him oddly when he took a swipe of Kakashi's blood as well as his own and placed them on the seal. Now, nobody could dispel the henge on Kakashi's face except the man himself and... well, he was feeling a bit possessive.

The seal appeared as a small naruto tattoo. Mumei apparently now had a signature for his seals; a naruto was ambiguous and wouldn't lead back to him, fortunately.

One by one, the staff left the room once Kakashi was in stable condition. Mumei left the corner he had claimed as his own and settled into a chair next to the copy nin's side. He estimated that Kakashi would not awaken for another few hours. This gave him enough time to watch his beloved for a while, taking in each breath as if it were a message from Kami-sama.

Slowly, his eyes closed. How long had it been since he last slept? A week at the least...and he was out.

 

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As Kakashi regained consciousness, he scented the air, determining his location. Antiseptic... hospital. Steel, blood, sunshine... home. He opened his eyes in shock, how was that scent home? Gray and red mismatched eyes quickly jotted around the room, taking in their surroundings. They were indeed in the Konoha hospital.

A very plain man who he had not seen before was seated next to his hospital bed. He reached for his hitai-ate which sat on the table next to the bed and placed it over his sharingan eye. Narrowing his gray eye, he took in the sight before him. The man was, well, average. His chakra seemed average, his face was average, his eyes were average, his black hair was average. Nothing about him stood out.

Not a single scar marred his average face, leaving nothing for a memory to attach to. His hair was similar to Minato-sensei's. It stuck out at odd angles on the top and two locks of hair lept smoothly over the standard headband and framed his face. Home man was cute. Wait, did I just think that? He startled. There was absolutely nothing extraordinary about him. How the hell could he find him attractive?

It was probably tied to his scent. Kakashi's sense of smell was very well-developed, better than that of an Inuzuka. It must have been the scent that drew Kakashi to this stranger.

Suddenly, he realized that he had no shirt on. His sleeveless shirt was attached to his mask, therefore he was maskless! His hands flew to his face, but found a mask there already. Kakashi felt like he was going crazy for not the first time that day.

His sharp movement seemed to awaken the stranger, as brown-black eyes snapped open. They blinked owlishly and the man stood quickly. It took all the strength in Kakashi's body to keep from reaching out and grabbing the man's hand to force him back into the chair. What is wrong with me today? I'm definitely going crazy or this is a dream.

“Who are you?” he decided was a good line of questioning.

“Uh... Mumei,” the stranger replied. Mumei? That was a dumb name.

“Ne, why are you in my hospital room, Mumei.

“I don't know, Hatake-san. I just wanted a place to take a nap. I'll be seeing you,” he replied, raising his hand in a salute before quickly performing a Shunshin and disappearing in smoke.

That was weird. Not so average after all. Now he just had to figure out the mystery of the appearing mask henge.

 

■■■■■■■■■■■■■■■■

 

Mumei panted against a wall near his old apartment, not from exhaustion but panic. Holy shit that was close. He couldn't bare to be around Kakashi like that. Not being able to touch him, to tell him everything was draining to say the least.

Now that he was inside the gates, he had some things to accomplish. First of all, he had to inform Jiji that he was from the future. It was something he had debated for a very long time, but in the end, three was no way to be a ninja in Konoha without the old man knowing him. He didn't want to burden the man with the truth of the future, but he had to do it for the sake of ever Konoha citizen.

So, he set out for the Hokage Tower on foot through the village. His approach would have to be very non-threatening. No window entrances as he was “average” and only extraordinary shinobi used the window as their means of approach. Door it was, then.

As he passed by many shops, stands and houses, he realized what it felt like to be normal. Not hated, not beloved, just... accepted. He didn't like it. It felt wrong. Having spent his whole life either one or the other, being somewhere in between felt like the world was just not quite right. A shiver sent itself through his spine. What a terrible feeling.

He approached the Hokage Tower practicing over and over in his head what he would say to the old man. How would he convince the Hokage of the future?

I can show him, Kurama butt into his thoughts yet again.

How? Mumei questioned the Kyuubi.

Must you ask so many questions? I'm already helping you out.

Fine, fine. You just do your thing when it comes time.

He could feel Kurama mocking him from where he stood.

Opening the doors to the ground floor, he felt like he was coming home. So many times had he opened these doors, barely able to reach the knob, and came to see his loving Jiji. He pushed forward, winding up the incline of the spiral ramp. He imagined a younger version of himself, fresh from his trip with Ero-sennin, walking up this ramp with the rest of Team Kakashi. Oh how he missed them.

He nodded to the chuunin at the desk in front of the Hokage's office. Mumei passed through the doors with ease, no confrontation to be had. He braced himself for what he would find behind the door. It had been over a decade since he had seen the Third. His death had been his first ever loss of someone that he loved; the first time he had failed someone.

The door slowly opened. Mumei stepped through the opening, prepared for what he would see.

The sight of the old man's face, liver spots and all, froze him in place. His small beard gave the Hokage a monkey-like quality, fitting because of his summons. Suddenly, he wasn't so sure he could do it anymore. How could he tell the man that raised him that both his son and grandson were dead in the future and it was all his fault?

No. He must be brave. For his precious people, he could fix this. He could change the Path. He could save Asuma, save Konohamaru, save everyone.

Mumei walked into the room. The Hokage looked up from his paperwork, a puzzled look on his face. “Wh-,” he began, but Mumei quickly spoke.

“It was like certain dinners I remember from the war. There was much wine, an ignored tension, a feeling of things coming that you could not prevent happening,” Mumei whispered, barely audible.

“Leave us,” the Hokage quickly demanded of his ANBU guards.

Several masked shinobi and kunoichi appeared and then quickly vanished.

Mumei knelt, removing a pre-made barrier seal. It would shield the room from chakra and sound from both entering and exiting.

The Third narrowed his eyes and looked at the stranger expectantly. “How do you know that phrase?”

“I'm the Nanadaime Hokage,” he replied gently, biting a finger and placing it on the seal behind his right ear. The henge dispersed. “My name is Uzumaki Naruto and I'm from the future.”

 

Chapter Text

Suffice to say, the current Hokage was shocked. “The technology for time travel does not currently exist, what proof do you have?”

The Sandaime Hokage was not completely unbelieving, as he was the Shinobi no Kami, he understood that time and space travel was theoretically possible; they just had yet to achieve it.

Mumei stepped forward, reaching out his hand to the Hokage. Sarutobi narrowed his eyes in response, but took the outstretched hand in his own.

Blood. All he could see was red, oozing blood. The entire village was covered in it. Copper saturated the air, invading every sense. As used to blood as he was, this was too much; he gagged on the taste. It dripped down over the walls, flowed down through the streets, bubbled and oozed out of houses and stores.

As soon as Hiruzen had adjusted, the flashes began. Bodies removed from the wreckage of villages were piled high in the bloody streets in one flash. Shinobi battered and bloody in a field in the next. And on it went. Death. Destruction. Agony. Screams. And blood. So much blood. Never before had he seen so much blood. The Great Shinobi Wars 1 through 3 all combined hadn't created so much death.

He saw it all, up until time was rewound; he saw everything. It was an awful sight.

The Hokage grasped the hand in his tighter, rounding the desk quickly and enveloping the young man in a hug. Mumei flinched at the contact; it had been ages since had been hugged by one of his precious people.“I'm sorry,” the aged man whispered.

Mumei looked at the wall behind his Jiji in disbelief. This was not the reaction that he had anticipated. He had pictured some yelling, a lot of disappointment, maybe even a lecture, but this? This was worse.

He had killed them all and Jiji was sorry? No. It was his fault. Always his fault. He destroyed everything he touched. Everyone who even considered him someone to love died. Every. Time. Mom. Dad. Jiji. Iruka. Konohamaru. Sasuke. Sakura. Kakashi. Everyone. He couldn't bear this compassion.

“I did it. I killed them, but I'll fix it, Jiji. I'll fix it,” he replied with a cracked tone. The old Hokage was heartbroken. This was not the future that he wanted for his pseudo-grandson. He had dreamt of happiness, the Hokage hat, but not like this; not because everyone was dead.

“You did nothing wrong, my boy. None of it is your fault,” the Hokage replied, knowing that Naruto was beating himself up for everything that happened in the future.

Mumei disagreed but he was not interested in arguing with his Jiji, it had been a decade since he had last seen him. Instead, he hugged him tighter. In his head, however, he played his new mantra, I'm sorry, I'll do better. I'm sorry, I'll do better. I'm sorry, I'll do better.

Finally, the old man released the future Nanadaime.

“How old am I, Jiji?” Mumei finally pushed to one of the main points of his visit.

“6, Naruto. You are 6,” the Third replied.

Mumei shut his eyes tightly, six years of loneliness, six years of hatred. He had hoped that he would have gone back earlier, somehow taken care of his younger self. Still, there was plenty that could be changed.

The Hokage released Mumei from his grasp. “How old are you?” questioned the Third.

“23,” he replied simply.

“You’ve seen far too much, my boy,” Sarutobi lamented.

“That’s why I’m back. To keep younger generations from facing such horrors,” he answered.

Sarutobi rested a hand on Mumei’s shoulder. “What is your first course of action?”

“The Uchiha no Jiken,” Mumei confided, “Under the orders of Shimura Danzo, Uchiha Itachi kills his entire clan.”

The current Hokage stilled. “How will we prevent this from happening?” he wondered.

“Killing Danzo and freeing Root. We cannot help the older members, but the younger still have a chance.”

“Root is still active?”

“They were never inactive, Jiji,” Mumei shook his head solemnly, thinking of Sai and the challenges that he had faced. The brutality and brainwashing that each Root soldier went through was truly horrific. There was no way to combat the brainwashing, really. No documented ways, of course. If their memories could be sealed, however, the anguish that they had suffered could be taken away.

“Then killing Danzo is the only option.”

“His death means that not every Uchiha has to die.”

“In my name, Uzumaki Naruto-” before the Hokage could finish, Mumei interrupted.

“It's Mumei now.”

“Just Mumei, no sir name?”

“No.”

“You will be a Namikaze then. Minato's brother.”

“But Jiji-” the Hokage returned the favor, cutting the younger man off.

“No. You won't be in the shadows, my boy. You are meant to bask in the sunlight. I refuse to allow you to slip into the shadows of yourself and let the darkness consume you. You will by my emissary, my bringer of light.”

“Jiji, I deserve the darkness, I failed everyone. I failed you.”

“You've never failed me and you never will. You are my precious Hi no Ishi. Mumei in name, you will not remain anonymous, not in my Konoha.”

Mumei sighed. He had forgotten how stubborn Sarutobi was; the man refused to give up once he had decided on something.

“Hn,” he acquiesced. Kami-sama he really was turning into a broody, older, cooler version of Sasuke. He had spent way too much time around that teme; up until his death of course. “Since I'm a Namikaze, can I tell Naruto of his heritage?”

Sarutobi sighed but agreed, “I suppose that would be best.”

Mumei took a moment to determine his new appearance. He would have to have sunny yellow hair like his father and younger self. He decided on spiky locks with two smooth bangs coming down over his hitai-ate. Bright blue eyes completed the combo. He covered the whisker marks he had his whole life with smooth, soft skin.

His blue body suit and flak jacket remained the same as well as his black ANBU pants. On his arms he carefully chose forearm protectors made of non-reflective metal that resembled those that the young copy nin once wore. Completing the ensemble were black shinobi sandals and black fingerless gloves with the Konoha symbol engraved on the metal.

Biting his finger and placing it on the naruto behind his ear brought his pictured henge to reality. He looked quite similar to his father without being a complete replica. His facial structure still appeared to be Uzumaki-esque. Mumei decided that he and Minato had the same father but different mothers, his being an Uzumaki. That would help explain his sealing abilities better than saying 'I read a few books.'

“Better?” he asked.

“Much,” the old man replied. “Now then, lets get you settled in Konoha. I will give you your father and mother's inheritance; I know you will share it with your younger self. Your blood should allow you into your parents' compound. It's up to you if you would like to live with Naruto; I won't stop you.”

Emotions welled up inside of Mumei. He wanted to know why his Jiji didn't allow him to live with anyone. The number of people who would have taken him in were limited but there were still a few. Jiji could have taken care of him. Mikoto, Sasuke's mom was Kushina's best friend. There was Kakashi. Jiraiya. There were several places he could have lived besides the orphanage where they abused him. It was unfair; that's how a shinobi's life was, unfair. At least he could make little Naruto happy, safe.

“Thank you, Jiji.”

“Alright, let's get you set up with a picture so I can complete your shinobi paperwork,” the Third said happily. “Aaah I almost forgot,” he continued before rummaging around in his desk. He pulled out a Konoha hitai-ate. “Now you can have a real one, not just a henge.”

Mumei reached out his hand, apprehensively taking the protector as if it might bite him. It had been a long time since he had worn the Konoha band; the one engraved with Shinobi had taken its place for a very long time. He released his henge and removed the Shinobi hitai-ate from his forehead and tied it around his waist. He then put on his new hitai-ate. He reminisced about his first hitai-ate, how Iruka had literally and metaphorically saved his life and given him that hitai-ate; he missed it.

Biting the same finger as before that had healed thanks to Kurama, he placed his finger back on his seal and became Namikaze Mumei once again. This time, his forehead protector was real and his Shinobi band was concealed. He could feel it on his person, reminding him of what happened in the future, grounding him, but it could not actually be seen.

“Let's get your shinobi photograph taken so I can finish up your paperwork,” the Hokage cut in after giving Mumei sufficient time to settle himself.

Mumei removed the barriers that had kept them protected while they had their discussion. The ANBU quietly appeared back in the room, taking their previous positions. They seemed suspicious of the blond-haired man that had replaced the brunette. Their hair was the same, just a different color but the face was completely different. Something odd was going on here but it was not their place to speak of it.

The Hokage raised his hand and an ANBU in a Rabbit mask appeared next to him. “Call for the photographer, we have a new shinobi,” he requested.

Without a word, Rabbit disappeared. The Hokage went about some paperwork while Mumei stood there in silence. There was an uncomfortable tension in the air between the blond-haired man and the ANBU guards. The Third seemed none the wiser, going about his paperwork with practiced ease.

About ten minutes later, a lithe man appeared at the door to the Hokage's chambers panting quite heavily. In his hands he had the camera and its stand. Obviously the ANBU had said it was urgent because the man had arrived quite quickly for being a civilian stationed 15 minutes walk away.

On unsteady legs, the cameraman staggered into the room.”Where *huff* should I *huff* set *huff* up, *huff* Hokage-sama?”

“By the window is fine,” the Hokage replied with a wave of his hand.

Mumei moved over in front of the window and waited patiently while the exhausted cameraman set up his equipment.

Several minutes later, the contraption was set up and Mumei tried on a smile for the first time in several years. It was a strained looking thing, far too forced. In the end, he looked like he had bit a lemon and was trying to smile around the sour pucker. It was an odd picture but strangely fitting for the man who was not quite a man.

“I'll be taking my leave, Hokage-sama,” Mumei said respectfully with a bow of his head. Before the Hokage could say anything in response, Mumei had disappeared in a Shunshin, leaving leaves all over the floor where he once stood.

The blond-haired man appeared in a tree not far from the Hokage's office. He closed his eyes and determined his next move.

He could go see his younger self or he could go straight for the action and kill Danzo. He still had plenty of time before the Uchiha no Jiken. He truly wanted to see Naruto, but there was a feeling in his gut that he would never be good enough. So, the newly minted Namikaze took off in search of his parents' compound.

Mumei unsealed the scroll given to him by his grandfather figure and pulled out a map with a big red X marked on it. His Jiji could certainly be subtle when he wanted to, but this was definitely not one of those times. He raced to the outskirts of Konoha and found nothing but an empty lot. There was a tall gate in front of the surprisingly well-manicured property with a seal matrix on the side.

He bit his finger for the nth time that day and placed his hand on the matrix. In a flash of a barrier dispelling, a mansion appeared. Apparently his mother had managed to take quite a few riches with her when she left Uzushiogakure and his father had managed to accrue quite the fortune going on high-level missions.

The palm of his hand met the cold metal gate and it swung open easily. Stepping inside, he closed the gate and saw another matrix on the inside. He placed his hand on this one too and the outside world disappeared. Instead, there was a beautiful mountain view. His parents must have created a visual barrier on the very outside of the property. Inside of that barrier appeared to be a sound and chakra barrier.

Mumei turned from the intricate barrier work and looked at the mansion in front of him. It was three stories tall with a bottom story of stone and two upper stories of wood. It was a traditional Japanese house, but on steroids. On the top story there was a lovely balcony that stretched around the side of the house facing a body of water. The house bordered on a small lake where there was a dock leading out a quarter of the way to the center. It was a beautiful house.

Glancing to the right of the building, he saw a new installment – a small version of the house in front of him, presumably meant to be his playhouse. It was a sweet gesture that told him how much he was loved before his parents were ripped away from him. For a moment he thought tears would well in his eyes, but it seemed that he had cried too many tears and he had finally run dry.

He walked up the stone path through a brilliant garden that was surprisingly not overgrown in the least. He did not know of any sealwork that could create a self-preserving garden so he assumed that Kakashi had been by, taking care of his sensei's legacy until Naruto came of age. Luckily, he supposed, the copy nin was in the hospital still so he did not have to worry about being disturbed.

Mumei stepped up to the double doors that marked the front entry and opened one, holding his breath. Then he stepped in. The front entrance was marvelous with busts of what he assumed to be his ancestors lining the right wall. To the left was a magnificent staircase that led to the second and third story. There was so much to explore and see, he could barely stand it. All this had been hidden from him; he never had a chance to see it.

He ran from room to room like a kid in a candy store. There was an enormous library, an armory, a sealing room, a kitchen, a dining room and a lovely little breakfast nook and that was all on the first floor!

Mumei found another door leading to a basement and descended the stairs. At the bottom was a state of the art training facility and the walls appeared to be chakra and force resistant, ensuring their stability in the face of jutsu. Several training dummies lined one wall and seemed to also bear some seals. He would have to investigate them thoroughly later.

With haste, he ascended to the first floor and then to the second. He investigated each room, finding several guest bedrooms and what appeared to be the master. In the bedroom adjacent to his parents' he found a soft baby blue room with a cradle in the center; a nursery. He froze at the door. This was for him. The toys in a colorful toy box, for him. A changing table, for him. A spinning overhead mobile of kunai and shuriken, for him. He was so loved before he was even born, it brought him to his knees.

This was all stolen from him. Ripped away as he had barely had one breath. Tobi. He would make sure that he never rose to power. He would ensure the destruction of the tailed beast hunters, the Akutsuki. He would turn them back into a peaceful organization. There was so much to do and so little time. At least he had his shadow clones to help him out.

Backing away from that perfect room, he climbed to the third story and found a little apartment. He assumed that it was for Kakashi as it was completely barren of the knickknacks that his mother seemed to be fond of. On a bedside table, there was a small family photograph, Kakashi on his father's shoulders and his mother looking at them affectionately. Not for the first time, he wondered what happened to the gray-haired man's mother. It was none of his business, but he wanted to know every detail about Kakashi, know the man so thoroughly and completely that it felt like they were one. It seemed selfish but he needed to be a little selfish every once in a while.

Mumei set about creating a space for young Naruto to live in one of the guest rooms. He unsealed a decent amount of money as he didn't know how much he would be spending. Leaving the house briefly, he visited a linen store in order to pick out toad-themed sheets and comforter. He also visited a hardware store and picked out several shades of green paint as well as orange, brown, silver, and black. A furniture store was he next stop and he picked out several lights and a desk that fit the theme.

Returning to the Namikaze household, he laid down some tarps in the chosen room and got to work. On the walls he painted a mural of cattails and a pond. The dresser was painted a light green and given dark green spots. He painted several orange shinobi toads with kunai on the walls after the mural had dried, obviously in a battle, kicking butt for Konoha. He placed the toad-themed lamps on the bedside tables and one on the desk that he had picked out.

He stepped back to admire his work. It was an atrocious mix of green and orange with toads absolutely everywhere. Naruto would love it.

Now he just had to get the boy and explain what the hell was going on. He had plenty of world saving to do, but he felt it was most important to rescue the young boy from the loneliness that consumed his life.

Just then, he felt a signature enter the bubble that encircled the house. He knew that signature all too well. Kakashi.

Mumei slipped out the front door and sent out a wave of chakra to locate the copy nin. He was sitting cross-legged in front of some sort of shrine. The other shinobi did not seem to notice Mumei's presence. Silently, Mumei stepped behind the gray-haired man and prepared himself for violence. “You're off your game, Kakashi, you should still be in the hospital.”

As he said this, the copy nin spun around, kunai in hand. “Who are you?” he growled.

“Namikaze Mumei,” came the response.

“Let me rephrase. Who the hell are you?”

“Namikaze Minato's brother.”

“Minato-sensei didn't have a brother. He would have told me,” Kakashi snarled, teeth bared.

“Maa, I guess his half-breed baby brother was a secret.”

Finally, Kakashi scented the air. Steel. Blood. Sunshine. It was him; the man from his hospital room.

“Why were you in my hospital room? How did you get into Konoha?”

“I told you, napping. I walked through the main gates, well ran.”

“How did you get in here? I'm the only one alive that the gate is coded to,” Kakashi questioned suspiciously.

“I guess nii-san cared a little bit after all because he apparently coded my DNA to the gate.”

“I'm calling ANBU,” he retorted before moving towards the main gate.

“Hokage-sama already knows I'm here. I'm a shinobi of Konoha,” Mumei called after him. This gave Kakashi pause. “I have the hitai-ate, ne?” Mumei wiggled around the metal engraved with the Konoha symbol in Kakashi's direction. He missed teasing him.

“I don't trust you, I'm still calling them,” Kakashi retorted.

“Very well. Call Rabbit first. She can attest. Call Hokage-sama while you're at it.”

Kakashi decided to call Rabbit first after all, just in case this stranger was telling the truth. He didn't want to get on the Hokage's bad side if it turned out this man actually was Minato-sensei's brother.

Rabbit appeared almost instantaneously, like she was waiting for something to go wrong. Kakashi started his questioning and she answered to the best of her ability. No, he was not an intruder. Yes, he was a Konoha shinobi. Yes, the paperwork has been filed. Yes, he is a Namikaze. Somewhat satisfied that Mumei wasn't there to assassinate anyone, he dismissed Rabbit.

“Are you here to take Naruto?” Kakashi probed.

“I am here to ensure his happiness and safety, whatever that may entail. Hokage-sama has given me permission to do what needs to be done.”

“You will not take him away from me,” he bristled.

“I will do what needs to be done. You've done a shit job of protecting him so far. His only friends are his plants and his Jiji, you know that, right? He had no-one. Now he has me.”

“I... he looks so much like his parents.”

“He is their precious legacy; he deserves so much more than what you have given him, how the village has treated him. I will ensure his happiness. How you are in his life is up to you.”

Kakashi lowered his head, knowing that he had lost another of his precious people. Stupid. Everyone always leaves. Everyone always dies. He's a bad luck charm. He didn't want to say it, but that's why he never took on the child. He did not want to cause his sensei's precious child's death like he had all the others in his life.

“I'm going to pick up Naruto,” Mumei commented, “it's up to you if you are still here when we return.” The blond-haired man meandered over to the gate before unlocking it with another swift bite to his finger. He exited and locked it from the outside once more. Internally he hoped that Kakashi was still there, but he knew that he wouldn't be. The other shinobi was still too isolated. No matter, he would fix that too.

A Shunshin later and he was standing outside Naruto's door. Slurs were written all over the door, calling him a monster, telling him to die. Rage boiled up inside the man. On the other side of the door, Naruto sensed the anger and dove into his closet, hiding among the clothes and boxes out of fear.

Mumei knocked gently on the door and received no answer. He could feel the fear radiating from the other side and easily picked the lock. Jumping to his left, he avoided a bucket of water that was rigged to the top of the door jamb. He smirked. That would catch any rowdy civilian off-guard.

“Naruto,” he called softly, “it's okay, I'm not here to hurt you. Hokage-sama sent me.”

The closet door rustled and Naruto peeked through the slots. The man didn't seem threatening. In fact, he looked a lot like him. If Jiji sent him, he must be okay. Slowly, the six-year-old stood and opened the door. The child was only 35 inches tall, a whole 7 inches shorter than the average for his age group. He appeared to also be quite underweight.

Mumei beckoned to the boy and crouched down to his level to appear more non-threatening. I brought you a present, he murmured, reaching into the pouch on his right thigh. He pulled out a toad plushie and held it out to the child. “His name is Gamakichi-kun and he says he's pleased to meet you,” he relayed.

Naruto giggled. “He's just a toy, he can't talk, dattebayo.”

“Aah but that's where you're wrong, my dear. If you listen close enough, he talks.”

In reality, Mumei had rigged up a two-way radio seal so that Naruto could communicate with Gamakichi, the young son of the toad chief. Neither the toad nor the boy knew that they were talking to an actual being, they just thought it was a clever toy and their imagination.

“Who are you, ojisan?”

“That's the thing, Naruto, I'm your ojisan. Your father's brother,” Mumei informed him with a smile.

 

Chapter Text

Naruto's jaw dropped.

Never before had he had someone claim to be his family member, so he was understandably shocked. Nobody had ever taken a claim on him in general. Not even in friendship.

The child who had known nothing but strife lit up in glee, running forward and wrapping the stranger in a hug. The four foot tall sunshine-haired boy buried his head in the man's stomach, his arms encircling him and squeezing as tight as he possibly could. Naruto had never been hugged by family before. Mumei brought his large hands down on the boy's head and back, giving him as much of a hug as he could muster.

Naruto refused to let go. The hug lasted much longer than Mumei had expected. In fact, this was probably the longest hug of his life. As far as he knew this could be the first hug that Naruto remembered, so he allowed it. The boy nuzzled into his jounin flak jacket, inhaling the scent he would now call family, home. Of course, his sense of smell was not quite as developed as per say Kakashi or himself since Naruto was not in communication with Kurama.

"Why didn't you come for me sooner," the boy mumbled into the vest.

"I didn't know about you, Naru-chan. My brother and I were not particularly close," he replied, running his hand through those blond locks so identical to his own.

"What does partic-particuary mean?"

"Particularly means not very. Not very close," Mumei explained. He couldn't remember when he had learned to read and write. It was something he had taught himself when the orphanage and school had failed to do so.

"Ojisan why did you come now?" the boy prodded further.

"I came looking for my brother and found out he had died, leaving you. I needed a purpose and now I have one," he replied with a gentle tug of the boy's sunshine locks.

Slowly, the boy released him and gazed up at the man as if he was about to disappear at any second, leaving him all alone yet again.

"You… won't leave me, right?" the boy asked with fear in his eyes.

"Only when I have to and not for long. I'll always come back," the man smiled soothingly.

Naruto beamed. "Ne, can we play ninja, ojisan?"

"Maa, don't call me ojisan, it makes me sound old," he pouted comically.

"Ok, Mu-nii-chan!"

"That's not-," he started to say but stopped when Naruto's grin started to waver, "alright, Mu-nii-chan it is," he finished with a sigh.

Mumei crouched down to Naruto's level. "How about I teach you to be a ninja instead?"

The boy's grin got even wider. "I'll be the best ninja! I'll be Hokage, dattebayo!" he shouted in glee.

The man ruffled that head of sunshine hair and smiled, "I know you will be."

Naruto's heart soared. This was the first time that someone actually believed in him. Tears welled up in his eyes and he surged forward, wrapping his arms around Mumei's neck.

Mumei fell backwards with the momentum, landing solidly on his rump, the boy in his grasp. They sat there for quite some time, the boy crying into the shoulder of his flak jacket, his tiny hands wrapped around the man's neck. Mumei rubbed soothing circles on the child's back but the affection only seemed to spur more tears. He was glad he got there when he did; that he had chosen to see Naruto before starting his one man mission to save the world.

Once Naruto had settled down and released him from his octopus grasp, Mumei took the boy's hands in his. "How would you like to come live with me in your parents' house?"

A teary smile and a nod was his answer.

"Come on, let's gather up your things and we can leave this apartment forever."

The boy jumped into action, gathering up small items. He had only a few clothes but piled them in the center of the room anyways. Next he moved his plants to sit in front of Mumei. Then came his precious Gama-chan and sleeping cap. Finally he took out a box from under his bed and placed it delicately in his uncle's hands. The man removed the lid and peered inside.

It was filled with small trinkets that he presumably found in the garbage when he was rooting around for food. Mumei's heart throbbed painfully with compassion for the child's situation and anger for the villagers that treated him this way. He grabbed the boy into another hug, placing the box on the ground. "You will want for nothing," he whispered into his hair.

Once the emotions had passed, he released the child and removed a scroll from a seal adjacent to the one with his sealing supplies. He sealed the boy's items inside the stasis seal quite quickly as he had few possessions.

"Where did it all go?" Naruto asked in wonder.

"It's called Fuuinjutsu. The Uzumaki clan and your father were famed for their abilities in this technique. I'll teach you."

Rolling up the scroll, he handed it to Naruto, as they were his belongings. The boy hugged the scroll to his chest, excited at the prospect of learning how perform such wonders.

Mumei took the boy into his arms once more and rose to stand. Naruto seemed amazed that he was finally being held in such a way. He had seen children held by their parents and family members before, but he did not have any memories of being held, of being in the arms of someone who loved him.

"We have to do a little shopping first, is that okay?" he asked the boy who now had a fearful look on his cherubic face.

"I won't let any of them hurt you," Mumei reassured the child.

"O-okay," the boy whispered.

With Naruto on his right hip, Mumei raised his left hand into the Shunshin handsign and the duo vanished in a whirl of leaves. The landlord could deal with cleaning out the apartment that he had let decay around the child.

They appeared on the main street outside the market where food vendors were lined up.

"I'm going to put you down now," the man informed him before setting the boy gently on the ground.

Just as he was placing the child on the road, he felt someone watching them. Kakashi. He knew that the man wouldn't let well enough alone. He was perched several rooftops away and had donned his Inu ANBU mask but Mumei could still sense that he was there, watching. Waiting.

Naruto clung to Mumei's side, afraid of the outside world and what his new uncle might think of him once he found out that he was a monster. The man ruffled the child's golden locks and took one tiny hand in his.

"Come now," he said with fake cheeriness, although it was only discernible to a very watchful eye; Kakashi's eye.

Mumei led Naruto into the market and stopped at a fruit stand. With the child's hand held firmly in his own, he used his other hand to inspect the produce. He could feel the anger directed at both him and his charge. His eyes flicked up and locked with the vendor's. The KI that he sent rushing towards the man knocked the hateful man on his ass.

Naruto, who was completely unaware of the exchange giggled before burying his head in his uncle's ANBU pants. He inhaled gently to reassure himself. Home.

Mumei sensed Kakashi's pleasure in the man getting his ass handed to him. He fought a visible smirk at the jounin's glee. For some reason, Jiji never allowed anyone to do anything about Naruto's mistreatment. It was unfair, because he deserved the world.

The vendor righted himself quickly under Mumei's calculating gaze. Those crystal blue eyes flicked over him, determining if he was a threat or not. The vendor had never felt so much like prey. In response to that icy glare, the man bowed his head and tried to look as nonthreatening as possible. If he were an animal, he would have been on his back with his neck bared.

After deciding on a pound of cherries and grapes, several ume and peaches and a container of blueberries, he reached into his pocket and shelled out the appropriate amount of yen. The vendor scrambled to put their purchases in a bag. He handed the brown paper bag over with a bow of his head, "thank you for your patronage."

This pattern of reaching a stand, glaring at a vendor, choosing food items and moving on continued. At the end of their food trip Mumei was carrying numerous paper bags in one hand and Naruto's tiny palm in the other. Each bag was filled with foodstuffs, from a variety of meats and fish to grains to vegetables, he had enough to feed the two of them for quite some time.

Outside the market he placed the bags on the ground and knelt down. He let go of the child's hand and unsealed another stasis scroll. Naruto quickly grabbed hold of his flak jacket, afraid of being left alone. Mumei hummed soothingly as he sealed the food into the scroll.

"Would you like to pick out some shinobi clothes?" he asked the six-year-old.

Naruto beamed, his apprehension instantly gone. Instead, he started bouncing up and down in excitement, his hand still grasping the green vest.

Sealing the scroll with the food back into his arm, Mumei reached for the small fist grasping his flak jacket, taking it in his own.

They took off walking in the direction of the shinobi surplus store run by the Higurashi family. The daughter, Tenten, was close to Naruto in age, only a year older. This was her first year enrolled in the Academy but she still worked in her parents' shop.

Arriving at the nondescript storefront, Naruto looked at his uncle in confusion. It didn't appear to be a shinobi store. "Look underneath the underneath," Mumei said before opening the door.

A burst of color appeared before their eyes. Mumei herded the child through the door and into the warm light of the store.

"Hello! Welcome!" came a call from the back.

Mumei led Naruto over to the juniors section and helped him look through the clothes that were available. There was a sea of blacks and blues but Naruto steered towards the brighter oranges.

"Naru, you have to be careful about color. It's hard to camouflage," Mumei warned.

"Hai, but I'm a master of camouflage! Nobody can see me, even in orange!" Naruto boasted.

Mumei chuckled, the child wasn't wrong, he was indeed very good at camouflage and stealth. He acquiesced, "Just not too much orange, ne?"

Naruto nodded enthusiastically before grabbing a burnt orange vest with large front pockets. Mumei sighed dramatically and picked out a midnight blue t-shirt that would go underneath the vest. Naruto smiled happily at his uncle's acceptance of his favorite color and picked out ANBU pants that matched his new idol's.

Next, he picked out some accessories. Black shinobi sandals made their way into the pile of clothing as well as tape to wrap the bottom of his new pants. Several pouches and more shinobi tape to bind them joined the heap. Shinobi gloves with non-reflective metal Konoha plates entered the mix. Finally, Naruto picked out some forearm protectors. The cloth was soft and breathable but several non-reflective metal plates were attached to the top. They looked almost identical to the ones that Mumei wore in memory of his Kakashi.

"We have weapons back at the house, so you don't have to worry about that," Mumei said instead of commenting on the forearm protectors.

The duo made their way over to the counter, mountain of clothes in tow. Mumei greeted Higurashi-san. The merchant carefully calculated the cost for 5 sets of clothing, one pair of forearm protectors, two pairs of sandals, two pairs of gloves, a significant amount of shinobi tape and the child-sized pouches. "165,000 Yen, sir," Higurashi informed the shinobi.

Naruto's face dropped and he clung to Mumei's side once again. That was so much! He hadn't seen that much money in his whole life. Mumei ruffled the child's spiky hair before digging into his pocket and shelling out the correct amount of Yen.

The clothing peddler packed up the clothes for the duo and Mumei again sealed them into another scroll. The blond-haired man picked up his companion and placed him on his hip once more and walked out of the store. Once they were safely outside, Mumei raised his left hand in a half tiger hand sign and they disappeared in a flutter of leaves.

Kakashi crouched, still watching, several buildings away. He assumed that Mumei could not detect him but he couldn't have been more wrong. He watched the two disappear in a Shunshin and decided that was enough skulking for the day. Nothing bad had happened so far, in fact the man treated Naruto with nothing but compassion and kindness. Sighing, he retreated to his jounin apartment.

Mumei and Naruto appeared outside the gate to the empty lot and Naruto looked at his uncle in confusion. There was supposed to be a house here. The shinobi raised his left hand, bit into a finger and Naruto flinched from the smell of blood. Mumei whispered soothing nothings to the child as he placed his hand on the seal complex.

The barriers released with a whoosh and the duo stepped inside the rod iron gate. Mumei placed his hand on the locking mechanism and turned to face the mansion. Naruto looked at it in shock. "This… was my parents'?"

"Yes, and now it's yours."

Naruto wiggled where he was seated on his uncle's hip, ready to run about the gardens and meadow that surrounded the house. Mumei set the child down and he immediately bounded off, scroll and Gamakichi-kun plushie held tightly in his grasp.

Mumei chuckled and went inside the mansion in order to put away the groceries and prepare dinner. Humming while he worked, he boiled the water for ramen and got to work preparing a side of vegetables and fruit. Once the water was ready, he added the ramen noodles and prepared the pork. Next he put together the miso and seasoning that the soup would require and strained the noodles out. Mumei poured all his ingredients together and placed the cooked pork and several narutos on top of the ramen.

Once dinner was prepared, Mumei went outside to call Naruto in. The child seemed to be playing with shinobi with Gamakichi-kun, pretending that the plushie was his loyal summon. It wasn't far off from the truth and Mumei smiled at the prospect.

"Naruto, dinner!" he summoned the child.

Naruto's ears perked up, never having been called in for dinner before. This was a day of many firsts for the boy. Dusting off his shorts, Naruto sprinted for the mansion that he had not yet been inside. Slipping off his shoes, he smiled handsomely up at Mumei and then opened the door together.

Naruto stared in awe. It was gorgeous. Mumei took him by the hand and led him through the kitchen into the breakfast nook area. It was a smaller dining space and was generally more intimate. The dining room seated up to ten people and would feel lonesome with only two there to enjoy the meal.

With Naruto sat at the table, Mumei brought over the ramen for the both of them, first. Then, he went back for the side of veggies and fruit. Naruto looked at the ramen with glee but pouted when the vegetables came out. The vegetables he had before always tasted gross because they were old and moldy.

"Itadakimasu!" both boys shouted before digging into the ramen.

Both Naruto and Mumei shoveled the noodles into their faces like they were starving. Mumei alternated between pork and noodles while Naruto finished his pork at the end. Both Namikaze slurped the remaining Miso and placed the bowl down simultaneously.

The two shared a smile before Mumei dug into the vegetables and fruit salad.

"You have to eat your fruits and veggies before you can have seconds," he bribed.

Naruto huffed an overdramatic sigh and reached out his chopsticks to take a piece of fruit. It was delicious. Fruit had always been too expensive for him so he stuck to his instant ramen. This was phenomenal. The juices were like fireworks of taste in his mouth. He chewed hastily and swallowed, grabbing for another piece.

"Don't choke," Mumei laughed.

Good quality fruits and vegetables were not something that young Naruto had the luxury of. This was a special treat. Mumei was dedicated to making sure that the young child grew to his full height and remained at a healthy weight. To be an exceptional shinobi, you had to have an exceptional diet.

Naruto shoved piece after piece of fruit into his mouth until it was all gone and he smiled guiltily at his older companion. Eyeing a vegetable like it was going to bite him, he carefully picked up a piece and deposited it in his mouth. It wasn't as good as the fruit but it was actually tasty. Naruto gobbled up the remaining vegetables and held out his ramen bowl expectantly.

Mumei chuckled and returned with seconds for the two of them. Again, they devoured the ramen. They continued emptying their bowls until there was no ramen remaining.

"Thank you for the meal!" Naruto exclaimed.

"Would you like to see your room?" Mumei returned.

Naruto looked at him with glee for certainly not the first time that day. "Yes, please!"

Mumei stood and Naruto shot out of his seat like a rocket. The man walked through the kitchen and to the stairs and gestured for Naruto to go up first. The boy sprinted up the stairs, quickly looking in each room. Before Mumei could warn him not to look in the bedroom next to the master, the door was flung open.

Naruto stared into the baby blue room in silence. Mumei ran up the stairs and stopped behind the child.

"They… really did love me," the boy whispered, tears welling up in his eyes.

"Of course they did, you were their precious gift," Mumei responded.

"I thought they abandoned me because they hated me, just like everyone else in the village," he sobbed.

Mumei crouched down and enveloped the child in a bear hug. "They loved you with everything they had. They died protecting you."

Naruto cried even harder for what he had lost. He had nothing for so long, no-one to call family. To think that he had this wonderful family that had been ripped away from him this entire time was incredibly frustrating. "Why didn't anyone tell me?" he sobbed.

"I don't know, Naruto, I don't know," Mumei soothed, rocking the child in his arms.

Eventually, the child fell asleep, tears still in his eyes. Mumei's heart hurt. Naruto's hands clutched his flak jacket, even in his sleep. Taking the child cradled in his arms, Mumei walked to the master bedroom and laid down with the boy on the king-sized bed. Naruto nuzzled his sunshine head into the man's chest.

Mumei sighed in partial comfort and fell asleep.

 

 

 

Chapter Text

As Mumei slowly returned to consciousness, his eyes darted around the still light room ensuring his and the child's safety. No shadows yet laced the furniture like dark doilies. Looking downward, all he saw were big blue eyes staring up at him in wonder. The boy reached out with one hand and poked him quickly in the cheek.

"What was that for?" Mumei chuckled.

"I wanted to make sure you're real," he whispered.

Mumei smiled gently. "I'm not going anywhere, Taiyou-chan," he said affectionately.

Naruto giggled happily; he had never received a nickname that wasn't monster before. He really loved his uncle and he barely even knew him.

"Ne, what was my father like, Mu-nii-chan?" the boy snuggled deeper into the shinobi's flak jacket as if it were a mountain of blankets.

"Let's see... he was brave and strong. He was the kindest and goofiest man I've ever met. He loved you and your mother very, very much."

Naruto looked at the man in fascination. "What was his name?"

"Namikaze Minato."

"And my mother's?" he added.

"Uzumaki Kushina."

The child took a minute to ponder these names. They sounded kind of familiar but his six-year-old knowledge only extended to the current Hokage. He had yet to learn about the previous Hokages and how they died. At least this way Mumei could break the news of his heritage and status as a jinchuuriki gently.

That reminded him. Mumei partially entered his mindscape and tugged on the red string connecting him and Kurama. Kurama, he called with another tug.

What do you want, meat sack? the beast's glowing ember eyes appeared in the darkness and loomed above the man.

How does this work? You inside me and the other Kyuubi inside Naruto? Are you separate entities or do you share the same chakra?

I'll explain this simply so even your dullard brain can handle it. Somehow you managed to end up with the Yin portion of my chakra while Naruto has my Yin portion.

Mumei considered this. The Yin portion of Kurama's chakra must have reformed at some point. It made sense that it would reform after the war that decimated so many lives. Or maybe the Shinigami simply ran out of room with all those deaths, and kicked Yin Kurama out. Either way, it appeared that Yang Kurama had sacrificed his life in order for Mumei to go back in time. The damn Kyuubi pretended that he didn't care, but Naruto had always been his priority.

That explained why Yin was so hostile as Yin had been in the beginning. That made him wonder...

He reached out for the green string that led in the opposite direction, twisting through the trees of the meadow and down into the ground. It led to a sewer and weaved through the tunnels with ease. Hesitantly, Mumei gave it a tug. Kurama? he called into the open air as if he were talking to a person that wasn't actually there.

A grumbling sound rumbled out of the darkness and up through the ground, shaking it like an earthquake. Trees quivered where they stood, shedding green leaves upon the dewy ground.

Where have you been, my child? I've been waiting for you, the voice rasped as if it had not spoken in centuries.

Kurama! Mumei shouted in excitement. I thought you died!

I did. My memories came back with you but the me that you knew is dead.

Mumei took a moment to grieve but the loss did not leave him feeling empty like the others had. Maybe it was because his life-long companion seemed to be right in front of him or maybe it was because he had nothing left of himself to give up. Either way, he was pleased that his friend had his full set of memories. He wasn't alone in this world!

Suddenly the world around him began to shake violently, not like the earlier rumbling earthquake, but a world-shaking, earth-cracking moan that came from the ground. His eyes snapped open.

In front of him was a concerned little boy with bright cerulean eyes and a questioning look on his face. "Are you okay, Mu-nii-chan?" he asked, worried about his new-found family member.

"Sorry, Taiyou-chan. I got a little lost on the road of life," he mumbled, instinctively quoting his favorite copy nin.

The child looked even more confused now but ignored it. In fact, he looked a little abashed as he asked, "Can I see my room now?" with a glance downward.

"Of course!" Lifting the child off of his chest, he used his abdominal muscles to pull him into a kneeling position. With his hands firmly under the boy's armpits, he spun him in a circle before placing him on the ground. The boy sprinted off in search of his room and quickly found it by his name colorfully painted in orange on the door.

Pressing his palm against the knob, he twisted it hard in excitement and shoved the door open. The wonderland in front of him made him squeal in excitement before diving into a pile of stuffed animals. Never before had he seen such a beautiful room and it was all his!

Somersaulting out of the mountain of plushies, he launched into Mumei who had followed faithfully behind the child to check out his reaction. Naruto wrapped his skinny arms around the man's waist and weeped tears of joy. Mouth buried fully in the flak jacket, he mumbled out a quiet "Thank you," before burrowing deeper into the confines of the man's vest, his hold tightening.

Mumei's heart thudded in his chest, overfilled with joy. So many emotions rushed through his head. Should he be feeling like this? Did he have a right to feel anything at all when everyone he loved was dead in the future? It had been a long time since he had felt anything but anger and grief. This outpouring of positive emotions felt brand new, like nothing he had felt in his entire life.

A tug on his flak jacket pulled him out of his reverie. "Nii-chan, can we train now?" the boy hopped up and down in his excitement at the prospect.

"Eager aren't we? You haven't even put your stuff away!" he chuckled.

"Yes! Yes! Yes!" Naruto shouted enthusiastically before shoving the scroll with his belongings into Mumei's hand. The man considered having Naruto do it, but the child did not yet have the chakra control to channel only a little bit into the seal. Instead of the contents appearing, the scroll would poof a burst of smoke and the items sealed within it would be gone forever.

The shinobi placed the scroll on the floor and inserted a minute amount of chakra into the center of the matrix. Out popped all of Naruto's belongings and the boy scrambled to find homes for every item. The box of items that he had collected the placed under the bed. As Naruto went about putting his clothes and knickknacks away, Mumei tapped a storage seal on his forearm and removed the scroll with Naruto's ninja clothes.

This scroll too he rolled out on the ground. Again, chakra was added and the mountain of rumpled clothes appeared. Naruto shouted in excitement and took out one set of clothes and put the rest away. He raced into the bathroom with the items piled in his arms and barely closed the door before he shucked off his old dirty clothes.

First, Naruto pulled on his new black ANBU pants and secured them around his waist with the drawstring he found on the waistband. These pants were meant to accommodate a growing child, although they would have to visit the Ninja Store quite a few more times in the future to ensure Naruto's comfort in his clothing. Pulling out some white tape, he secured the pant legs from his calves down to his ankles. Next, the boy pulled on the blue skin-tight t-shirt that Mumei had picked out for him. The fabric would stretch and allow for excellent movement without getting in the way. Then he donned his burnt orange vest that reminded him a bit of his nii-san's flak jacket. The vest seemed to warm him from the inside out and he beamed at himself in the mirror. Next Naruto picked up his black sandals and quickly shoved his feet in, checking to see if they pinched and then hurrying onto the next item. Grabbing more tape, he taped around the middle of his right thigh. He quickly located one of the child-sized shinobi pouches and fastened it to his leg. Picking up the remaining two pouches, he added them to the back of his pants so that they were easily accessible. Only a few items remained now. He then grasped the forearm protectors and slid them on over his arms; they were a perfect fit. Finally, he picked up the fingerless black gloves with the Konoha emblem emblazoned on the back and slipped them onto his small hands.

The child looked at himself in the full-length mirror on the door and squealed in excitement. He turned the knob quickly and bolted out to show off his new look to his uncle.

Mumei gave the bouncing sunshine locks an affectionate gentle tug and gestured towards the stairs. Naruto bounded ahead of him and down the stairs. He followed behind at a steady pace, wondering where they would start. The boy was only six, after all. He would start him out on a basic training regimen, target practice in the morning followed by physical exercises including running and taijutsu. After lunch, he would start up with chakra exercises and then fuuinjutsu practice. Mumei decided that Naruto was still a little young for ninjutsu but certainly not for henge, kawarimi and bunshin. After the boy gained more chakra control they would start on those, finally culminating in the Kage Bunshin no Jutsu and Tajuu Kage Bunshin no Jutsu as well as Nature type Jutsus.

One day the child would be able to use every nature type as well as several kekkai genkai but until then they would work only on his natural affinities. There was so much to teach the child and he was doing so from scratch. He would shape Naruto into a fine ninja. He himself hadn't turned out poorly but this Naruto could reach even further with proper instruction from a young age. Even if the Fourth Great Shinobi War happened, this boy could stop it all with ease. Nobody would die in vain. Mumei was determined. Naruto would be the strongest ninja to exist and would unite the world in peace, dattebayo!

Aah he got over excited in his thoughts and his verbal tic came out. He would have to be careful not to actually say the word. That would indicate a direct relation to Kushina and be quite hard to explain.

While deep in his thoughts Mumei had managed to guide Naruto down to the basement and into the armoury. On the wall to the right were blunt weapons including bo staffs, nunchucks and battle fans. On the front wall were a variety of katanas, tantos and ninjatos. To the left were throwing weapons in bins labeled kunai, senbon and shuriken. On the wall above the bins hung large fuma shuriken and Minato's three-bladed kunai, tags all intact.

Naruto's face lit up like a kid in a candy store. He bounded over to the swords and looked at them in awe. Mumei summoned the boy over to the throwing weapons and began to explain what each one did and their proper upkeep.

"Kunai are for thrusting and stabbing. They are not designed to be throwing weapons but can be used for such maneuvers." He picked up a blunted kunai and handed it to the lad. "Even blunt weapons should be treated like they are the real deal," he warned.

Naruto gripped the kunai strongly with one hand by the handle. It was heavier than he had imagined. Mumei continued, "By attaching a kibaku fuda to the kunai, you can create a kibaku kunai, making it much more dangerous as a thrown weapon."

Mumei moved onto the shuriken, picking up another blunted weapon and spun it around his index finger. "Shuriken are actually designed to be thrown; with enough accuracy you can maim or kill your target so they are not to be played with. They are best for distracting or pinning down an enemy." He passed the shuriken to his young charge and moved on to the next bin that contained spools of ninja wire.

"Ninja wire is useful for a number of techniques in which you manipulate other weapons such as kunai or shuriken. It can also be used to build traps and entangle or bind enemies. It is highly durable and very difficult to snap," he lectured, placing the spool back in the bin. "With the addition of chakra, it can slice through flesh and bone."

Mumei paused in his lecture, coming to the realization that Naruto probably didn't know what chakra was. He recalled a time in his youth when he didn't even know how to say chakra correctly. Working with Naruto this young really was creating a shinobi from scratch.

"Taiyou-chan, do you know what chakra is?"

"It has to do with being a njinja, right?" the boy tried.

"Yes, it is the energy that connects us all. By combining physical energy and spiritual energy, we can weaponize chakra in the form of jutsus as well as condense it into a physical form," Mumei tried to explain. The child furrowed his brow trying to take in the information as best he could.

Naruto was best at learning through doing but there were basic things that every shinobi needed to know that were best taught by books. Mumei would have to work on turning the boy into a book person. It shouldn't be too hard, the reason that he hated books as a child was because he could never understand them. The kanji seemed complex and some symbols looked too similar. Scratch fuuinjutsu training for now, he would just have to teach his charge how to read and write.

"Naru, do you know how to read and write?" he asked gently, already knowing the answer.

The boy blushed and looked towards the ground. "Only signs and kids books," he replied shyly, sure that he was about to be scolded.

"You taught yourself that much? I'm lucky to have such a smart nephew," he beamed at the child. Naruto looked up from where he was gently toeing the ground in surprise and returned the smile. He… wasn't dumb? Not some stupid monster that could only grasp basic thought?

"Will you teach me?" the boy shouted in his excitement, launching his small body into his uncle's side.

"But of course! What else are uncles for?" With one hand tangled in Naruto's spiky gold locks and the other in his own, his fingers massaged both scalps, the former in affection and the latter in abashed glee.

The day had drawn on and it was approaching dinner time. The reading and writing lessons would start tonight after he prepared dinner.

"Would you like to help me put together some dinner, Taiyou-chan?" he asked with a gentle pull of sunshine hair.

"Yes!" the boy exclaimed, rocking back and forth on his heels.

"Hmmm, what meat tonight?"

"Pork! Pork!"

Mumei chuckled in response, "Pork it is."

The blond man and child walked up the stairs from the basement side-by-side; it was a deceiving picture of father and son. What a mess their real relationship was. Child and his future-self masquerading as his uncle.


Mumei removed all the ingredients from the cupboards and refrigerator with ease and went about preparing a typical dinner.

"Naru, will you boil some water for 2 cups of gohan?" he instructed.

"Okay!" the boy replied cheerily and searched for a medium-sized pot. Once he found one suitable he realized that he didn't know exactly how much water to add. Because of his diet of instant ramen, he had never had to boil gohan before. "How much water?" he asked shyly, the opposite of his previous enthusiasm.

"2 cups of water to each cup of gohan, so how many cups of water is 2 cups of gohan?" Mumei replied with another question. He was unsure how much math the child knew and decided this was the best way to determine his basic math skills.

"Um…" the boy paused to ponder the puzzle. 2 + 2. If there were two cups of gohan and you added two more, that made… "4!" he shouted proudly.

"Well done!" Mumei praised.

Naruto took his pot and a measuring cup and filled it up to the little 4 cups mark. He carefully carried the filled pot over to the stove and tried to turn the burner on. It clicked signalling that gas was escaping but no spark came. Naruto frowned at the conundrum. In such a nice house it would make sense for the burners to fully work; it was nothing like his run-down apartment with its broken stove.

Noticing Naruto's silence, Mumei glanced over to the child who was staring at the burner in confusion. A smirk came over his face. Striking his index finger with his thumb, a small fire ignited. He brought the pointer finger over to the burner and let it ignite the gas that was leaking into the open air. Naruto startled and looked at his uncle in amazement.

"Will you teach me to do that?!" he exclaimed.

"In due time," Mumei answered with a wink.

"What's next?" Naruto asked with a pout.

"You can take out the tsukemono from the jar," he patted the child's head before turning back to his own work with the pork. Mumei took each piece that he had just cut and placed it in an already heated skillet with olive oil. The pork sizzled happily in the heat. Each piece was thinly cut so it did not take long to cook through. He flipped the pieces and watched them carefully until they were perfectly done. With his chopsticks, he maneuvered the pork pieces onto a plate and placed it into the toaster oven to keep warm.

Naruto had arranged the tsukemono on a plate and showed his uncle proudly. Mumei ruffled his hair in acknowledgement and asked the boy to put the rice in the boiling pot. The boy picked up the rice and measured out two cups with ease. He planted one palm on the handle to keep the pot steady while he poured the rice in. While he was turning away to place the measuring cup back on the counter, his hand pulled the pot towards him. It slid down the burner and boiling water splashed out of the pot and hurtled straight for Naruto, its target barely aware of the danger.

Mumei's hand shot out as soon as he saw the danger out of the corner of his eye. The water hit his chakra-enhanced palm and with the help of some chakra control, became a ball of floating water.

Naruto squeaked in surprise at the swift motion and shoved the pot back onto the burner and dropped to the floor with his hands over his head. The child rocked back and forth and shouted quick bursts of "I'm sorry!"

The time traveler dropped the orb of water and gohan back into the pot and put the cover on it. He crouched down next to the balled-up child, not touching him. He was familiar with trauma and it wouldn't help to put a hand on the boy, friendly or not.

"Shhh it's okay, see?" he reassured, holding out his left hand for inspection. The child opened one eye and peeked through his arms to see if the adult was actually telling the truth. Seeing that he was unscathed, the child pushed into his uncle's arms.

"I'm sorry, I didn't think you were gonna hit me," he rushed out.

"It's alright to be scared, shinobi get scared all the time," Mumei consoled.

"Really?" the boy asked with wide eyes.

"Yep, but they have precious people to protect, so they push through it and do what they have to do."

"Thank you," Naruto murmured into Mumei's neck. The man simply rubbed soothing circles on the child's back in response. Wrapping his arms around Naruto's waist, he picked him up with ease and sat him on his left hip.

"Let's set that timer for the rice for 20 minutes and have a working dinner."

With his right hand, he picked up a little egg timer and handed it to Naruto who set it for the appropriate amount of time and handed it back to his uncle. Mumei placed it back on the counter and carried the boy to the breakfast nook. They each took a place on either side of the table and Mumei unsealed some Genkouyoushi writing paper, a brush and ink.

"Do know hiragana and katakana?" he questioned wondering if Naruto had managed to teach himself the very basics.

"Yes, and some kanji," the boy responded reservedly, still somewhat afraid after the water incident.

"Okay, let's start with the kanji for numbers. Write 1-10," he instructed, pushing the paper over to Naruto.

The child wrote each kanji easily, like he had practiced them a few hundred times. In fact, the child went on to write 1-100 with practiced ease. Mumei smiled fondly at Naruto. He tried so hard to fit in with the other children his age, going as far as to drill kanji into his head.

Mumei listed off several other words including up, down, left, and right and the egg timer went off. He went over to check on the gohan and prepare dinner for the two of them. As Naruto worked hard on his writing, Mumei placed the gohan into two bowls and brought them to the table followed by bowls of miso shiru and small plates of tsukemono and pork.

"Itadakimasu!" They both said before setting into their food. As if he were running late, Mumei shoved all his meal quickly into his mouth. While he quickly chowed down he created a list of kanji next to which were their hiragana equivalent so Naruto would know what the word he was copying was. He set the list in front of the child and told him to move onto that list when he was finished with the other kanji. The boy nodded his assent and moved between eating and working.

"I'm going to the library, I'll be right back," Mumei informed Naruto. The boy barely looked up, his concentration fully on the work in front of him. A small smile found its way onto the time traveler's face. The child's brow was furrowed and nose scrunched the tiniest bit. He was so dedicated to his work, he knew that Naruto would become quite the little reader with this tenacity.

During his walk from the kitchen to the library, Mumei realized that he didn't think of Naruto as himself anymore. He and the boy were two completely different people. In fact, he kinda felt fatherly towards the child. Mumei shook that thought from his head. The child already had a father; a father who was dead.

Rounding the corner to the library, he set about searching for the children's books that he knew that Minato and Kushina had stored there. Their adoration for their son almost guaranteed a newly created children's section. The library spanned two floors and even had its own staircase. Mumei had yet to fully explore it but he knew the general layout consisted of jutsu on the second floor and other general subjects and pleasure reading on the first floor.

Scanning the first level, Mumei eventually found the newest section of the library. He traced a finger over the titles and found a book on how to learn kanji. Damn they were good parents; he could never compare. He booted the self-deprecating thoughts out of his mind and went back to selecting books for Naruto. He picked out several children's storybooks as well as several more advanced kanji books for later.

Moving over to the general reading section he found a basic book on chakra and decided that Naruto could use some general reading. This book was a little advanced for his current knowledge of kanji but he could use the practice. Any characters that he didn't understand could easily be looked up or asked about.

He padded back back down the hallway and into the kitchen. Naruto was still hard at work and squinting at what seemed to be an unfamiliar character. Seeing that his uncle had returned, the child gestured for him to come back and give him some help.

Mumei ventured over to the table to see Naruto's pointer finger jabbing a character.

"This one looks like thousand but it says that it's dry," the boy stated exasperatedly.

He settled into his seat and drew the two characters on a fresh piece of paper.

"Thousand's top line is a slash to the left; the brush is lifted at the end. Dry is a stop to the right; you stop the brush completely and move on to the next stroke," he informed the bewildered boy.

"But they look the same!" he groaned.

Mumei chuckled and agreed, "There are quite a few kanji that look the same but aren't the same."

"Noooo!" Naruto slid out of his seat and onto his knees on the floor, over exaggerating his frustration with the written language.

"I brought you some presents," he gestured to the books with a wink.

"I thought you were gonna teach me to be a shinobi not how to be a civilian," Naruto complained with a pout.

"Reading is very important to a shinobi. What if you got lost on your way to Suna and ended up in Kiri? If you can't read you wouldn't know!"

"One has sand. One has water," Naruto stated, deadpan.

Mumei sweatdropped and slapped his forehead with his palm. Who made this kid such a smartass?

"Fine, how can you learn cool new ninjutsu if you can't read?"

"Fine," the boy sighed theatrically.

Mumei pushed the kanji workbook towards the child. "Now you have homework!" he said cheerily.

"Why, Kami-sama?" the boy cried to the heavens above.