For as long as Naruto could remember, spirits have forced their way into his life. No matter where he went– South to visit his godmom's family, China for a school trip, Korea for the summer, so on– ghosts followed Naruto around. Most of his waking moments were spent either ignoring the hovering spirits or actively fighting them off of him.
More than once, a ghost has admitted that they couldn’t help but want to be around him, that his aura was too strong to resist the attraction to, and Naruto chalked up his bizarre ability to see them to that attraction.
Didn’t mean it didn’t still piss him off, though.
Mizumori town is a little sea-side town off the coast of mainland Japan, sharing an island with a forest by the same name. With a population of around 30,000 people, it was far from sleepy, but nothing compared to the enormous cities across the water to the West. One of the better clinics of Mizumori was the Senju clinic– no longer a family clinic, as the last descendant, Lady Tsunade Senju, hired outside help instead of family workers– and the destination of one Naruto Uzumaki.
Orphaned as a baby, Naruto was left to his closest living relative; though calling Tsunade a relative was a bit of a stretch, she agreed to take on the child, quickly teaching him her trade and instilling in him her bad luck with gambling. Fast-forward 15 years, Naruto was a student at Mizumori High School and part-time worker at the Senju Clinic.
Naruto liked the route he took home. Not only was it scenic, with multiple gardens along the way, but he also got to walk right by Ichiraku’s, the best ramen place in all of Japan. He made it a point to go by at least once a week, but any more and Tsunade threatened a diet, so he merely smelt his favorite food on his way by. His breathful of ramen was interrupted by a small voice.
Naruto glanced warily to the side, where a girl in elementary dress floated. He tried not to be annoyed; it was a little girl, after all, and she’d been so polite. At least the ghosts tended to bother him more when Sakura didn’t walk him home since she always got so worried about his contact with the supernatural. Taking another deep breath to regain the heavenly smell, he smiled wildly.
“That’d be me,” he agreed, jabbing a thumb to his chest and ignoring the weird looks he got from talking to seemingly thin air. Naruto had learned to disregard what others thought a long time ago. He continued on his way home, allowing time for the young spirit to follow alongside him.
“My name is Mitori, and I got told you might help me with something…”
Naruto’s smile faltered slightly. To hide his growing irritation, he shoved his hands in his pockets. “Mitori, huh? What can I do ya for?”
She blushed and looked at her hands. There was nothing Naruto understood less than shyness, and so he huffed and turned to face her.
“Look, I’m just trying to go home. What’s wrong?”
She stiffened, surprised, then timidly asked, “If you are not busy later, could you please come by my grave? I’m afraid I cannot rest in peace until the incense my parents left me is upright. You see, someone knocked it over skateboarding…”
Naruto regretted any nice bone he had in his body. “‘Course,” he decided, mentally hitting himself. “Which graveyard?”
Mitori brightened immediately. “Mizumori Hills,” she responded, and Naruto stifled a groan.
“You know that’s all the way across town?” Mitori nodded sheepishly, and Naruto sighed. “If I get a clog to the face for coming home late…”
It was technically against school rules to wear the uniform casually outside of school, but, considering the way Naruto was headed, he doubted he wouldn’t be able to easily get out of trouble.
After all, his parents’ ashes were stored at Mizumori Hills, and not even the most hardened enforcer would argue him visiting on a school night.
Naruto didn’t tell the girl this; instead, he chatted her up about a new tv series she seemed to really enjoy, using the knowledge Sakura provided him to keep up with what she was saying. It made Naruto sad to know that her life was over, and she could no longer watch television shows on Earth.
“I know that there’s TV in heaven,” she’d assured him, and there was no way Naruto couldn’t smile at that. He pushed the thought, “Does she let herself spy on her parents mourning?” aside, unable to even imagine what it would feel like to do the opposite of what his parents did to him and leaving them. Not that he knew that his parents were actually dead, considering he has never seen them as ghosts. The files from his past read orphaned, but, really, the system has never been that good at record keeping. It is almost sad to Naruto that he hopes more that they are dead, and moved on to heaven, than alive and willing to leave him behind.
After over an hour of moderate-paced walking, they finally entered the region known as Mizumori Hills. The hills were comprised of slight bumps in the ground, leading into a forest of trees at the back of the town. The graves were located at the base of the forest, and she pointed her own out quickly.
Naruto didn’t bother to hide his groan at the sight. Not only was the incense knocked over, but the cup was busted, and it would be disrespectful to just prop it back up in the base. He quickly checked his watch. 7:00.
“Shit,” he muttered. Not only would Tsunade have his hide, but the memorial store was also shut down for the day. “Let’s just…” He stuck a hand in his bag, rummaging around a bit until he found what he was looking for. An unopened yogurt cup.
“Would this bother you as the holder?” Naruto questioned, holding out the cup for the girl to inspect. She shook her head shyly, and Naruto opened the top to quickly empty it.
After the contents were downed– which, this little girl better appreciate that, warm yogurt is disgusting– Naruto licked the cup clean to set in place. Luckily, it fit the base, and Naruto could stick the incense back upright easily.
“Is that all?” Naruto asked as if she hadn’t inconvenienced him two and a half hours.
“Thank you, Uzumaki-kun,” Mitori told him, shaking her head. “I think I can finally be at peace…”
Naruto slung the bag back over his shoulder. “Get to heaven quickly, hm?” He left once the girl faded, starting his run back across the town, the sun setting behind him.
“I’m here,” Naruto called, toeing off his shoes and locking the door. He made his way into the kitchen area, knowing dinner was well over with, but hoping to catch a snack before he made his way upstairs to study.
Without warning, a hand met the back of Naruto’s head.
“Ouch! Damn it, Tsunade, what was that for?” Naruto demanded, bringing a hand up to cover the– surely bruising– spot.
“Dinner starts at 7:00 every night. It’s nearly 8. You’re late.”
Naruto scowled. “You’ve got to be kidding me. I’m in high school now, baa-chan! Do you know how humiliating it is to be the only one with that curfew?”
He looked to Tsunade, who was still standing behind him menacingly. Her shirt, as per usual, showed off a ridiculous amount of cleavage, and her eyes were narrowed threateningly behind a thick coat of makeup. Her blond hair was pulled back by two plaits, and Naruto suspected she had worked right up to dinner time again.
“Not the only one,” Sakura sing-songed. “And some of us can even stick to the curfew, too.”
Naruto stuck his tongue out at Sakura’s brown-nosing. Sakura Haruno also lived and worked at the Senju Clinic. Tsunade took her on as an apprentice after Naruto admitted to not wanting to run the clinic after graduation. She was the top of their class, and her parents were always traveling, so the arrangement worked out well. She was a petite thing, but Naruto had learned quickly that her arm muscles that may not be shown off below her long-sleeved shirt were severe and terrifying. She began dying her hair a bubblegum pink shortly after moving into the clinic, joining Naruto on the mornings when he touched up his roots. Next to Sakura sat Tsunade’s long-time assistant, Shizune, dark hair piled on her head and work clothing also still on. She likely worked the same amount of hours as Tsunade today. Shizune was stern, much more so than Tsunade– towards Naruto, at least– and her disapproving gaze made Naruto break into a mild cold sweat to compliment the one he had worked up running home.
“I’m sorry, baa-chan. I went to Mizumori Hills after karate.” It was a guilt trip, and Naruto felt pretty guilty himself, but he did not want to get grounded for breaking curfew. Summer was coming up soon, and he and his friends had all sorts of plans he would rather not miss out on. All three of the women fell silent, and he continued into the kitchen past Tsunade to grab some fruit from the fridge.
Tsunade finally broke the silence. “I know you’re having a hard time, Naruto. Just, try to stick to your curfew until the summer, okay?”
Naruto couldn’t look at her, so he just nodded and dragged his bag and his fruit up the stairs. He knew logically that the curfew was his own fault, and that she was just worried. Some punks in the area began picking fights with him recently– over his abilities in karate, his previous lack of friends, the fact that he bleaches his hair– and he couldn’t really afford to get into trouble with the school since his looks were already discriminated against among the faculty. It wasn’t necessarily the blonde that made the teachers give him a distrustful eye, but the piercings, and his face…
He guessed he had been in an accident as a baby, before he remembers anything. Across each of his cheeks are three long, slightly jagged scars, that Sakura had admitted looked like whiskers from a distance. With his slanted eyes, much more prominent than most in this area, he was considered sly, and mischievous on sight.
Having made it to his room, Naruto unlocked his door and ducked in. He shoved his bag next to his desk, already debating which subject he was going to work on homework for tonight. Sitting on the floor in next to his bed, Naruto bit into his apple. Today had been long, and he was ready to sleep, but he knew that he could not put off his English homework any longer, even if it was his worst subject. He sighed into the next bite, noticing that the melancholy was settling in again. The therapist had said it would go away, but even many years later he was still struggling to want to do anything.
Just as he was finishing up his food, a cold breeze made his hair stand up on end. Someone stepped past him, and Naruto barely had the presence of mind to wonder how this chick got through his window on the third floor, before she spoke and oh, this is a strange girly-looking man in his room. A strange looking man with a sword.
“It’s near,” he said in a low voice, glaring at Naruto’s wall as if he was glaring through the wood. Naruto gaped for a good couple seconds in disbelief, wondering if the man had just missed him sitting on the floor, before springing up from the floor into action.
"What’s near? What the hell do you think you're doing in here?" Naruto demanded, tackling the intruder. "Tsunade! Someone's broken in!" Naruto yelled, pinning down the stranger, who gaped at him like a fish and didn't lift a finger to fight back.
"You can see me?" the trespasser asked dumbly.
"Of fucking 'course I can! I don't know if your parents ever told you, but dressing like a ninja doesn't make you invisible."
Tsunade burst into the room, clogs clonking threateningly. "Where are they?" she demanded, popping her knuckles. Then her eyes landed on Naruto and something clicked. "Naruto, they must be a ghost. I can't see them..."
Naruto looked down in disbelief. "Why are you so solid? Usually, ghosts are cold and whispy..."
Tsunade growled. "Tell them to quit bothering you. You have work to get back to." And she left.
Naruto stared at the stranger in an angry awe.
"Can you let me up, imbecile?" The 'ninja' asked rudely, seeming to snap back into that snobby attitude. Naruto scrambled off of him quickly.
The ninja brushed himself off, and scrunched his nose, as if he was displeased with something. He seemed like his real thoughts were far off of Naruto for a moment, then his flat gaze rested on Naruto.
“You’re human?” he asked, sounding like he didn’t care what the answer would be. Naruto bristled.
“Of course I’m human. What else would I be?”
The ninja actually smirked a bit at that, and Naruto wanted to tackle him again. “How strange. Usually, humans cannot see me, let alone touch me.”
Scoffing at this guy’s arrogance, Naruto finally snapped, “Well, go play ninja somewhere else and quit bothering me.”
Naruto felt a pang of triumph when the smirk fell. “I’m not ‘playing ninja’. I have a sacred duty to attend to. I will leave only once I have completed my task, and no sooner.”
Naruto groaned. “Not only are you playing ninja, but you’re playing fantasy ninja. Just great. How old are you, 12? No wonder you look like a little girl.” This caused the guy’s eye to twitch, just barely. In reality, he looked about Naruto’s age now that Naruto had a good look at him, but with a smooth, unmarked face that screamed privilege and innocence. It is a surprise that he could remain that way in death, usually the ghost Naruto encountered still had remains of the way they died marring their bodies. It made Naruto wonder just how he had died.
He was hopeful that the ghost would be annoyed enough to run along and find his peace elsewhere. What Naruto wasn’t expecting was for the ninja to pull out a very real sword from the sheath that Naruto previously thought was fake on his left hip.
“Holy shit,” Naruto blurted and he took a step back, hopeful that the blade couldn’t cut him, but worried anyway since the ninja had felt more real than any other ghost he had encountered before now.
The ninja turned his sword to point towards his own body, and Naruto only had a split second to wonder about ritualistic suicide by sword point before the hilt was pressed forward–
Right into the forehead of the ghost that had been hovering around the clinic for two weeks solid. Naruto hadn’t noticed him in the room, what with everything happening.
“No,” the ghost wailed. It was the spirit of an old man who had died quickly after his wife, falling asleep one night and never waking up after his heart stopped. His beady eyes bulged, looking at the hilt in fear. “I don’t want to go to Hell.”
For the first time, that cold mask of the ninja went soft. “This is konso. You need not fear. Where you are going is a place of peace. You will be welcomed to the Soul Society.”
There was a calm in his eyes that made Naruto widen his own. The guy had been nothing but irate and rude to Naruto, but he comforted the scared spirit patiently.
“Follow him,” Sasuke said, and there was a small flash. A butterfly appeared, and in another flash, the ghost and the butterfly were gone.
“What was that?” Naruto asked, feeling oddly humbled.
“My duty. I am a Shinigami. I maintain the balance between realms by moving spirits from this world to the next. I do not play ninja.”
Naruto gaped for a moment, before snapping his mouth shut. “OK, no way are you some death god. I can admit you did something there, but you’re too young to be a god.”
The twitch was back. “Are you implying I lie?” he asked coldly, before shaking his head. He ducked his head, hiding behind a curtain of black bangs, but Naruto could hear the smirk in his voice. “First restraint- obstruction. Incantation: Bakudou, seal.”
It was as if Naruto was wrapped tightly into ropes, and strung tight. He fell to the floor with a heavy thud. He half expected Tsunade to yell at him to not abuse her floors, but she was strangely silent. “What the fuck?” he demanded, glaring up at the other boy, who had a hard edge of smug in his eyes.
“I told you. I am Shinigami. This is a low-level seal, typically used only to restrain demons, but in this case, I found it was an appropriate example. It will wear off, though long after I am done with my duties and gone.”
Naruto, who had found it useless to struggle, lay on the floor catching his breath. This ghost wanted him to believe he was a death god, and could also cast spells on Naruto. Just lovely, this day was going extremely well.
A horrifying sound interrupted his thoughts. It sounded like a mixture of a car crash and an animal screaming in complete agony. It made Naruto want to vomit.
"What was that screaming?" Naruto demanded, feeling the cold settle in his body.
The Shinigami's eyes narrowed. "What screaming-" This time, when it happened, the Shinigami's eyes widened. Without bothering to answer Naruto, or remove the spell he’d placed on him, the Shinigami ran to the door. He opened it and grimaced.
Naruto could hear absolute chaos and knew with dread pooling in his stomach that his makeshift family was being attacked from the terror he heard in their sudden screams.
“Listen, I believe that you’re a death god or whatever! I don’t know what on Earth could make that sound, but I can hear my friends being attacked! Let me out of this!” Naruto demanded, beginning his struggle again.
"What's your name?" the other asked, not unkindly but wasting time.
"Naruto! Naruto Uzumaki! Now let me go save them!" The Shinigami ignored Naruto.
"I promise that your friends will not come to harm, Naruto." He stepped out of the room, and Naruto screamed after him.
The Shinigami's magic must not work after the Shinigami moves from target to target, Naruto thought, suddenly able to fight the restraints. "C'mon, c'mon," he said impatiently, listening to Shizune and Sakura screaming downstairs. He was ignoring that he hadn’t heard Tsunade the entire time.
Once he was finally able to move his legs, he wasted no time half-running, half-hobbling down the stairs.
The first thing he saw on the ground level was Shizune looking up at him with big, terrified eyes. "Naruto!" she yelled. "Run the other way! Hurry before it's too late!" Naruto looked at her angrily.
"Like hell I'd leave either you or Sakura," he snapped, then felt the imaginary chains snap entirely. Despite the fact she was hurt, he grabbed her and slung her over his shoulder.
"No!" Shizune sobbed into his back. "You need to leave!"
He sat her behind the check-in counter after assessing the battle was outside, then told her forcibly to, "Stay here!" She shook her head and sobbed, but didn't move. Naruto didn't have time to worry about it, but he allowed himself a quick hope that she could take care of anything life-threatening herself. He grabbed the emergency bat they keep behind the counter and ran as fast as he could through the giant hole in the wall.
"Sakura," Naruto yelled, and felt his knees turn to jelly. Sakura was wildly punching and trying to get out of the giant hand that clutched onto her middle, raising her high into the air.
The thing that the hand belonged to.... was disgusting. It had holes where it's heart and eyes should be, harsh designs crossing its body, and gruesome joints popping and surging under its skin. If that's what the slick shit covering it could be called.
"What the fuck?" The Shinigami demanded angrily, stealing Naruto's attention from the creature momentarily. He stood off to one side, sword unsheathed, looking ready to battle. "You weren't supposed to be able to move!"
Naruto ignored him, and surged forward, cracking the bat across what seemed to be the ankle of the fucker holding Sakura. "Let go of her!" he grunted, and the thing turned to look down at him. The clawed hand not holding onto Sakura swiped down, and Naruto's eyes widened in fear.
There was a flash and instead of Naruto getting stabbed to death, it was the shinigami who was stuck on the monster's fingers. "Shinigami!" he yelled, watching in horror as the claws retracted from the boy's body and made their way up to its wide face. It's perpetually gleeful mask stared down at Naruto mockingly, licking its fingers with a long, grotesque tongue.
He held the boy close, sinking down to the ground with him. "Shinigami," Naruto whispered, fighting off tears that threatened to fill his eyes. "Why did you sacrifice yourself for me?"
The Shinigami was bleeding out quickly from five giant holes. It was a surprise to Naruto the initial stabbing hadn't killed him immediately. "I will save any human before me," the boy responded weakly. "Even if they are stupid and cause everyone to die by playing hero. I would have defeated him if you hadn't got in the way."
Naruto felt hopeless, watching the creature torment Sakura. "Is there still any way to fight that thing?"
The Shinigami groaned, then lifted his sword. Its point met Naruto's chest, right over his heart.
"Take my power."
"Wait, what? What do you mean by that?" Naruto asked, glancing warily to the demon who was dancing gleefully and obviously taking it's time to taunt them all.
The Shinigami panted, grimacing in pain. "I can give you half of my power. You take it, and you fight him. It's the only way to save that girl. Even though you're an idiot, you're the only one who can do this."
“This is insane.” Still, Naruto didn't have time to think of his decision, and he nodded quickly. "What do I do?"
The Shinigami pressed the sword into his skin, drawing blood and twisting a hole into his shirt. "Say you accept it," he said simply, and Naruto got what he was implying.
"What's your name?" Naruto asked, trying not to tremble.
"Uchiha Sasuke," the soul reaper whispered.
"Sasuke. I accept." He felt the sensation of metal sliding into his ribs and everything turned black.
He barely had time to process that, instead of wearing a ninja costume and putting a sword through Naruto’s chest, Sasuke was now dressed in a pure white yukata, and holding onto just a hilt with no blade. To Naruto’s side appeared a sword, much bigger than he had ever seen, but Naruto didn’t take time to ponder that either.
Instead, he stepped forward, much faster and lighter than he had ever felt, and looked at the thing clutching Sakura. She was still struggling in that things grip, and Naruto swung upwards, somehow knowing the hit would connect and cut off that disgusting arm. It worked, and before Sakura hit the ground, Naruto surged forward to catch her with the arm not holding onto the sword. She screamed, then looked at him with round eyes. “Naruto?” she asked, and he sat her on her shaking legs. Distantly, he saw Sasuke gaping at him.
“Oi, pick on something your own size. This sword, for instance. Perfect match for your fat ass,” Naruto taunted, suddenly feeling much more confident with Sakura behind him rather than out of reach.
The monster got over its confusion quickly. "Oh," the thing before Naruto chuckled, making every hair on his body stand rigid. It didn’t seem to mind the gaping wound gushing in place of an arm. "It was you I wanted all along."
Naruto’s eyes narrowed, not sure he liked what he was hearing. Before he had a chance to think about it, however, he heard Sasuke from behind him. “Aim for the face!”
The thing lunged, Naruto brought up his sword, and with a flash of guts and gore, the thing was gone. His sword steamed. Naruto realized he was sweating profusely, and that Sakura was calling his name, then he stopped processing everything but the back of his eyelids.
Naruto looks peaceful when he sleeps, Sasuke muses as he stares down at the body of the boy with the biggest blade he has ever seen. The girl had caught Naruto before he fell, and in turn, Sasuke took Naruto from the girl, after performing what should have been an easy spell to knock her out and stop her stream of questions. He would have to erase her memory somehow… For now, he is totally powerless, even that simple spell he had cast draining him completely. How Naruto had managed to steal all of his powers was beyond him, but something told him Naruto was not exactly a normal human.
"What a clusterfuck," a voice commented behind Sasuke, and he startled, blushing when he realized he got caught staring at the blonde, and cradling him in his lap. The man who spoke loomed over where Sasuke sat, wearing black robes much like a Shinigami's, but with the neck extended to cover part of his face. An eye patch hid a portion on the left side of his face, and his grey hair stood up as if he had been electrocuted. Kakashi's only visible eye crinkled with a false happiness, quickly assessing the battlefield.
"Lose your powers, did you?" his companion asked softly, without judgment. His brown hair was styled in a short bowl cut, ending right above enormous eyebrows that complimented his strong face. Gai would have looked the perfect fighter, all big muscles on a large frame, if it hadn't been for the wheelchair he sat in.
"I..." Sasuke began, then Kakashi raised a hand.
"We can talk about this all later. We need to finish clean-up before sunrise," Sasuke's old mentor instructed. Sasuke got shakily to his feet.