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A Maelstrom Change

Chapter Text

A Maelstrom Change

Chapter 1: Sleeping currents

“Nature is often hidden, sometimes overcome, seldom extinguished.”
Francis Bacon

Uzushiogakure was a beautiful village, built among the islands of the Land of Water. Right on the edge of one of the islands not far from the Land of Fire, it shown brightly in it’s dazzling, dangerous glory with it’s bright red stones that turned the village deadly during the early morn and night. And yet, the Hidden Eddy Village’s beauty also shown through the black and gold decorations of each building, hiding the protective seals that served as both sword and shield. Said seals were put in place by the unconventional Uzumaki Clan, masters of the mystical arts known as Fuinjutsu. Rumours and legends stated that this quirky clan was long-living, their power rivalled only by their fierce and caring hearts for their friends and allies. You could make a friend easily with an Uzumaki, but betray their trust and they would remember it for life and a day.

Happiness and lethalness, just like the village, this duality was the emblem of each of her citizens, ruled wisely by the Uzukage. Compared to the Five Great Villages in the Elemental Nations, Uzushio was but a small village, even so, her strength was far greater and respected. It was only due to the fact that Uzo ninjas preferred peace over war that the world wasn’t ruled by them.  

Even with such peace-loving thoughts, Uzushiogakure still had it’s own share of enemies. It could have been due to the fact that they were frightened and it was a preemptive strike or it could have been due to Uzushio’s alliance with Konoha over their other neighbours. No one really found out the reason as to why Kirigakure was so consumed in destroying Uzushio during the Third Shinobi War.

Their efforts were so consuming that the Sandaime Uzukage started to plan for when the Mizukage would finally achieve his goal. For Shinobu the Third was tired that his village was being targeted nearly all the time, wanting to have a peaceful era where the people under his command could continue on with their lives without fearing death due to battle. So he concocted a plan that was quite truly Uzumaki style … to say the least.

 The first step of the plan being to spirit away as many civilians as possible into one of the numerous Uzumaki hideouts far from the village, prioritising the children and women, while trying to keep families as whole as possible. Then, the next step was, perhaps, the most tricky to put in place, a gamble to play that if pulled off would be the most brilliant one to play. It involved blowing up Uzushio and pretending that Kiri had finally pulled it off in destroying every Uzumaki, civilian and shinobi, so that the other Great Villages wouldn’t try to pick them off in their weakened state.

Konoha would have tried to help them out, as Mito Uzumaki was their Shodaime’s wife and first Jinchuuriki of the Nine-Tails, but even Uzumakis had pride and in the end, Konoha would have been overtaxed to help them out during this war.

In spite of that, Konoha was also a factor to take into account: the Uzumaki special chakra that was needed to tame the Chakra beast known as the Biju. At least one “survivor” was needed to honour said treaty with Konoha. A child so that it would be further protected by the principles by which Konoha was founded. On top of this, the child needed to be part of the Uzumaki Main Branch as they had all the characteristics needed.

The risks were high for the child would be alone for the rest of his or her life and would have to pretend that everything was lost. The one chosen for such a mission was a five years old girl, youngest daughter to Akira and Kameyo Uzumaki, and sister to the next Uzukage, Shinobu. It was not her real name, but in order for every Uzukage to remember the foundation on which Uzushiogakure was built on, that is to say endurance, remembrance and the will to survive any situation, each Kage would take on the name Shinobu.

Kushina Uzumaki, at the tender age of five, accepted one of the longest and most dangerous missions that could be given to a child. She was chosen as the lone survivor of Uzushio and become the Jinchuuriki of the Nine-Tails Demon Fox in Mito Uzumaki’s stead. For one year, she trained exclusively under the tutelage of her various relatives, basing their lessons from the various notes that Mito had sent, fully aware of the plan that her village was about to do.

Once Kushina had mastered the basics, and Mito to weak in Konoha to continue carrying her burden, Shinobu the Sandaime Uzukage, enacted the next part of the plan. By then, practically all civilians had been evacuated from the village. Only the warriors remained with a couple of civilians who volunteered to stay for illusionary purposes.  Little by little, the Uzo nins  brought their enemies straight into the village, making them believe that Uzushio was beginning to falter. Then, when almost all of the enemy ninjas were in the village, Shinobu the Third activated the final seal that had been built in the village foundation, blowing up the whole structure with everyone in it.

When the village had been built, the Final Seal had been incorporated in order to protect the secrets of the Uzumaki Clan. The Shodaime Uzukage had not imagined that it would have been used by his Third Successor for the utter destruction of the village in a kamikaze attack. Be that as it maFor y, this utter destruction held one of the ultimate salvation for the village. For a village was not only buildings, but it was also it’s villagers that made up. By engaging the seal, the Sandaime guaranteed the rumour that the Uzumaki clan was no more … and only a little from the Main Branch, the Royal Branch, remained in the History Books.

At least with the Final Seal and the sacrifice of numerous shinobis from Uzokage, Kirigakure took a devastating blow.

Barely a week after that, Kushina Uzumaki stumbled through the Boarders of Konoha, running away from a couple of Kiri Ninjas who had found her trace. The Sandaime Hokage, so ashamed that he and the rest of the village had failed in their duty to their greatest allies, took her in as a ward of Konoha. It was not enough to live up to this shame of not helping the Shodaime’s wife’s Clan. To further commemorate their disgrace, each Konoha shinobi was to sew the Uzumaki crest, red to represent the fallen, unto their vest once their reached the rank of Chunin. This style would be kept for the future years … even if the significance was lost after a couple of generations.

For weeks and weeks, Kushina was under the interrogation of the ANBU to understand what has happened. For weeks, Kushina repeated the same story that she had been taught to deliver flawlessly. That she was part of a small group of survivors that fled Uzushio the moment Kiri breeched the walls. A group of ten people led by two Chunin-level shinobis whom sacrificed themselves so that the rest could survive and keep Uzushio alive in tales. The group decided to split up and go their separate ways, optimising the possibility of remaining alive. Dead men told no tales after all.

Kushina could not remember how she got separated from the rest of her group. All that she could remember was that she went towards Konoha in order to honour the pact between Uzushio and Konoha. For many days, Kushina tried to hide from her pursuers, living off the land as well as she could. She couldn't express her immense joy when she saw ANBU come and save her from the Kiri ninjas.

Finally, after verifying the story, using the probing characteristics for war time period, Kushina was released into Konoha, obtaining a status of refugee from Uzushio. She became a ward of the Sarutobi Clan, partially due to the fact that she was related to Mito Uzumaki and because there was no greater clan that could host a person from such an esteemed pedigree. It did not hurt that Kushina immediately assumed the role of Jinchuuriki of the Nine-Tails Demon Fox as well. Both the council and Mito were glad for the first Jinchuuriki was getting old, her seal weakening as the older Uzumaki’s chakra flow slowed down, despite her natural large reserves. Kushina’s was much bigger than Mito, the largest born to the Clan to date.

As Mito drew her last breath, Kushina felt the warm and dangerous energy of the Kyuubi circle through her body’s network. It would be a feeling she would live with the rest of her life. A life of loneliness, far from her clan and family.

The only time Kushina broke the silence with her clan, it was to inform her sister, the new Uzukage of the destroyed village, that she would become an aunt. Due to the seriousness of keeping the members of Uzushio a secret, the message would be received only five years after Kushina sent it. This was a fact the future mother was aware off so she wasn’t worried about not having a rapid response.

If only she knew that she would not live to see her son’s second day

Chapter Text

Chapter 2: Conjunction of currents

“Merrily we sailed along
Though the waves were plenty strong
Down the twisting river Rhine
Following a song...

Legend's faded storyline
Tried to warn us all
Oh, they called her "Loreley"
Careful or you'll fall...

Oh, the stories we were told
Quite a vision to behold
Mysteries of the seas in her eyes of gold...
Laying on the silver stone, such a lonely sight
Barnacles become a throne, my poor Loreley…”
Blackmore Nights “Loreley”

When Naruto was five, two things happened to him that would change his life forever.

The first was that he was finally got evicted from the orphanage, after so many threats from his supposed caretakers. Not that it changed his living in any sort of way as knew the streets better than the orphanage.

The second was that he met his aunt from his mother’s side. He was hungry that day, watching a woman eating ramen from his favourite place. Teuchi and Toshiko Ichiraku had always been nice to him, ever since they first met him a year ago, allowing to stay at their shop and home whenever they could. Sometimes slipping him a bowl of ramen with extra vegetables if they could. Back to the woman that was sipping her ramen, savouring each bite. Naruto’s stomach must have made some sort of noise, for the woman looked up from her bowl. The young boy was ready to receive one of those harsh glares and insults that everyone he had met would usually do. Instead, he received a nice smile and a question as to whether or not he was hungry. Seeing his hopeful gaze, the woman ordered for him a big bowl of miso ramen from the couple with extra vegetables and pork.

The woman was beautiful, at least in Naruto’s eyes. She had long, shimmering, shiny, blonde hair that was half-up with one bright blue Kanzashi in the bira-bira style. The hairpin had a big, orange, whirlpool design on the end, with four strands of orange ribbons decorated with shiny, golden bells that would chime lightly at her slightest mouvement. Her blue-grey eyes were nice and soft, a bit like Jiji’s whenever Naruto could visit him. She had let Naruto take his time to sit himself down while gulping the food in too big bites for his little mouth. The woman noticed how the young boy would curl around the boy, afraid that his food would be taken away from him. Her eyes narrowed, not liking this sight in a child. She had seen to many children under her care who would starve for food, even if most of the adults would sacrifice part of their portions for them.

Shinobu Uzumaki had arrived in Konoha after finally reading the letter from her baby sister. She was so excited to meet her nephew and brother-in-law for the first time. Except … except it turns that her sister lost control of the Kyuubi during the birthing process, allowing a masked man to guide a rampaging Chakra creature to destroy large parts of Konoha. This, in turn, forced her brother-in-law to enact a bastardised version of the Death Reaper Seal to imprison the Nine-Tail Fox in his own son, her nephew, to save the village he was the Kage of.

Despite being in hiding, the Uzumakis kept a close eye on the affairs of the Five Great Villages so it did take a while before Shinobu even realise that her sister had been among the victims of such a tragedy and that Naruto was all alone. The blonde couldn’t do anything to help him out though. It was imperative that Uzushio be rebuilt in perfect secrecy. Taking care of Konoha’s Jinchuuriki’s would bring about attention that she didn’t want to have on either her or her citizens.

That didn’t mean that Shinobu couldn’t try to make sure that her nephew would have a somewhat decent life. Something, she gathered from his interactions with other people, that he would gladly give to the first person that gave him a bit of attention. A dangerous weakness that Konoha cultivated in one of their strongest weapon. The whispers and dark mutters reaching her ear even now. From the corner of her eye, the Uzukage saw some masked figures watching over the child as well.

Getting up, she paid the ramen stand owners before discretely slipping them a message for the boy. Teuchi and Toshiko were both from Uzushio, part of the group of small children that escaped but without their parents. They were two of the four spies that resided in Konoha at the current moment, all four civilians with practically no Chakra training. The best type of spies in a ninja village, all trained in various roaming schools for civilian children that didn’t want to become ninjas, but still do their part to help rebuilt and protect Uzushio. There were at least four civilian spies per Great villages: a couple and two solo who didn’t know who were their counterparts just in case.

Shinobu pretended to observe the diverse market stalls as she strolled down the scenic route of Konoha. Making sure that her tails, ANBUs by the look of it, would think that she only fed a street boy because she felt pity for him. She fed a couple of other children that wondered the street, mostly stuff that were on the stalls that they were gazing at. After two hours of walking around, she felt that her tails were suitably reassured that she was only a tourist with a kind heart.

Swiftly, she went to the top of the Hokage mountain, right above the Fourth’s head where Naruto waited for her. He looked so much like her sister, only with her brother-in-law’s colouring.  Luckily, he had both of his parents’ mind as well as Shinobu would do anything to make sure that he was safe and sound, even if she had to fight all nine Bijus with her hands tied behind her back! Before she spoke with her nephew about sensitive information, she activated a couple of seals so that any watched would believe that Naruto was by himself watching the village with longing.

The profound relief in having living family members outweigh the fact that he couldn’t tell anyone about it. Naruto only showed a real sad face when he realised that he wouldn’t be able to follow his aunt out of the village to join the rest of his clan. He took the revelation of housing the Kyuubi somewhat well. After all, he had inherited the stubbornness and kindness of Mito and Kushina respectively, if it wasn’t now then he would have accepted his fate sooner or later. He now had an explanation as to why the rest of the villagers hated him, not blaming them for their anger towards him.

The fact that she couldn’t bring her nephew with her didn’t mean that the Yondaime Uzukage wouldn’t make sure that he would survive his life as a ninja. Deception was the currency of their profession so that will be the first lesson she would teach her nephew. To put on a mask for the rest of the world. To be underestimated, unknown and written off as someone who was to weak to be a threat. In order to do that, fooling one’s allies was a good way to go.

Konoha may ignore and shun her nephew for what he carries, but the Uzumaki Clan would not abandon one of their own. Nephew and Aunt talked for another hour, about normal every day stuff, what he liked, disliked, his hobbies and all those little details that establish the base of a good relationship. The only downside was that they had so little time together, Shinobu not knowing when she would come back and visit with all her obligations.

They also talked about how Naruto would get his training. As Shinobu was to visible and busy, they had to find a way to be able to instruct her nephew without tipping their hand to the survival of the Uzumaki Clan. It was then that Shinobu had an idea while debating on the wonders of ramen. What better way then to use the civilian network Uzo to teach her nephew the way of the Uzumaki Clan? The Ichiraku family had a good cover to give things to Naruto, on top of that, Teuchi came from a long-line of ninjas, being the first of his family to refuse the way of the shinobi to be a useful spy as a civilian. The ramen owner would be Naruto’s first teacher until someone more suitable and flexible can join Konoha. Until then, there was the first step of the training to but: getting a very colourful set of clothes, maybe a jumpsuit for reduce mobility, to improve for stealth. Naruto was slightly older than the usual age for when the Uzumaki Main Branch started their Special Training, only by one year, but the boy had determination, the Uzumaki stubbornness and will to improve. If he had his mother’s and aunt’s personality, then Shinobu knew that he would quickly catch up.

When she told Naruto who his first teacher would be, he lit up like the little boy of sunshine he should have been if Kushina was still alive. Then, Shinobu taught Naruto a nifty little seal that would disguise him without using any excessive chakra that would alert anyone with eyes to an anomaly. A clever shadow clone transformed to look like her nephew took care of his honour guards as they set out to to choose his clothing. Something in orange, Naruto’s favourite colour, would be very nice indeed. The other benefit of having such clothes would mean that if Naruto bought them from any other shop, he wouldn’t be overcharged for such purchases.

They found a shop not far from Naruto’s home, near the red-light district, that sold good quality clothing in bright, vivid, neon-like colours of all shades of the rainbow possible. There was even a body suit in green that had orange leg-warmers to go with it. Naruto wondered who would buy such clothing, not that he could say anything about that, he was going to buy a vivid orange jumpsuit, the same shade of orange than his aunt’s kanzashi, now in Naruto’s possession. Before switching with the clone, Shinobu kissed Naruto on the forehead, wishing him luck. “You will be fine. I’ll try to be there for your graduation day.”

“Aww, why can’t I see you before?” Naruto pouts was a dangerous weapon, at least that was what Shinobu thought.

She crouched down before him, “if I can see you before, I will. Otherwise,” she handed him a scroll, “you will be able to contact me using this scroll. Only in case of emergency though and it will be a one use only. Make it count and for nothing silly.”

Naruto nodded solemnly, already thinking as to how he will hide the scroll among his possessions. He wouldn’t let his aunt down.

— Life is like a whirlpool, if you don’t fight it you’ll be trapped at the bottom, but if you fight back  you’ll get to the top. —

Two times! That was how many times Naruto had failed his graduation exam, but it was for a good reason, he swore whenever his aunt asked him. Naruto had discover during his last year (the first time) that one of his assistant teacher was a spy for Orochimaru. Atsushi Mizuki was one of those people that Naruto could just sense was mean-spirited, yet, at the same time, useful for one of Naruto little schemes.
Privately, Naruto also wanted to pass the final test for the Uzumaki Special Training before graduating, just like any other Uzushio nin. It consisted of making one gigantic prank that would effect the place he lived in, all while being handicapped with his clothing and by planning everything by himself. Naruto’s goal was the Hokage Monument. Leaving a lasting impression to be remember by all for the years to come. It took him two years of planning, little details that kept cropping up that he had to resolve as soon as possible. Some of them were stuff that needed to be watched and observed, such as the routes for the Chunin patrols, the hidden Jounin ones and the very secretive ANBU routes when he will be fleeing the “scene of the crime”.

And if he brought on a little retaliation on the Fourth Hokage, well, then it was only  his private vengeance against the man who placed such a burden on his only child, then went and died, thus leaving him all alone.

After placing the finishing touches on his masterpiece, Naruto started to run all around Konoha, avoiding the Chunin, the Jounin and the ANBU for about four hours, before letting Iruka “catch him”. His teacher held a special place in his heart as he was one of the rare people to see Naruto as a person without being related to him in any way possible. Of course, they had their ups and downs, like for any relationships, but Naruto can now safely say that Iruka was somewhat like a big brother to him.

In order to keep up his mask of an idiot, Naruto purposely botched up his Transformation to look like a buxom blond version of himself. He was particularly proud of his Jutsu as it was written as an Uzumaki Diversion specifically created by yours truly! His jutsu was taught to other Uzushio nins as well, making Naruto proud and happy. But, this story is getting off-track as to why Naruto had purposely failed his third attempt for graduating.

Naruto, using a combination of spying and discretion while preparing for the Uzumaki Special Training test, had come upon Mizuki speaking with one of the traitorous Sannin. He overheard the turncoat and the traitor planning to steal the Forbidden Scroll. Knowing that Mizuki was a coward at heart, so by not passing the graduation test (ten-to-one it would be the Clone test as the Jinchuuriki had to much Chakra to be able to do a regular clone, making it a disadvantage for him), Naruto would attract the Assistant Teacher’s attention upon him. Seeing Naruto dejected and willing to do practically anything to pass this time, Mizuki will definitely try to use the boy in his dastardly plot. The only downside being Iruka who had to play the villain when he refused Naruto once again to get a Konoha headband.

What Naruto predicted (after discussing it at length with his other teacher from Uzushio) happened. With Mizuki telling Naruto that there was a secret exam to get the headband. What Naruto had to do was steal the Forbidden Scroll and learn at least one technique. Before he did just that, Naruto made a pit stop at Ichiraku to leave a coded message through Teuchi to his other teacher. Why not take advantage that the Forbidden Scroll would be in his position then to give a couple of techniques for Uzushio?

Stealing the Scroll was a breeze, the Hokage being nice to Naruto, having purposely lifted most of the security when he realised who was trying to sneak into the tower. It wasn’t like Naruto would betray the village deliberately. On top of this, he would be able to watch over the young boy with his All-Seeing Ball.

(If only the Third knew that Naruto had already found a way around the Ball as it had been an Uzumaki creation. Akira Uzumaki had fashioned it for the First Hokage as a wedding present when Hashirama Senju wed his daughter, Mito.)

Taking advantage of the blind spot for a short while, Naruto quickly opened the scroll for his two teachers: Teuchi Ichiraku and Takeshi Mizushima. It was a matter of minutes to have all of the forbidden and secret justus replicated onto a spare scroll.

Teuchi Icharaku had been his very first teacher to learn about disguises, stealth and the history of Uzushio as well as the Uzumaki Clan. The Ichiraku Clan had been long term allies of the Uzumaki ever since the war-time feuding period. They had served as vassals, protecting the Uzumaki Main Branch as best as they could, hence why Teuchi had moved to Konoha with his late-wife, may Kami grant her soul eternal peace, a couple of weeks before Kushina arrived to keep an eye on her. By using the surname Uzumaki, Sasuke Sarutobi, the Third Hokage, had inadvertently placed Naruto under the Ramen chefs protection, thus Teuchi and his wife Toshiko had willingly served food to Naruto when he was young, opening the shop earlier for the boy or giving him a place to sleep near the warmth of the stoves when the orphanage would throw the boy out during the winter season. That was until they learned about his true heritage as part of the Main Branch family.

The Mizushima Clan was one of the first great families to join the newly formed Uzushio at the very beginning. In exchange for signing up first, the Uzumaki clan taught the members of Mizushima numerous secrets of the Sealing Arts. Especially the ones where no Chakra was needed as the Mizushima had a good portion of it’s members that could not access their Chakra. Yet, family was family and they refused to throw out or kill the members that couldn’t become ninjas. Takeshi Mizushima was part of the group that couldn’t mould Chakra, while, at the same time, being a Seal Master of great experience. That was why Shinobu sent him to Konoha to teach her nephew the arts of sealing and meditation, not to mention to further his training in the arts of stealth and secrecy that Teuchi had started. Needless to say that he was Naruto’s favourite person for granting him a somewhat normal life when he went out and about in Konoha.

Takeshi was the reason the scroll was so easily transcribed. Having prepared a couple of copying seals in advance, he just had to apply them ever so often on the piece of paper, placing their counterparts on a separate sheet of scroll so that the writing would duplicate itself. The teachers talked Naruto for the next part of the events, taking advantage of the time to teach Naruto the Shadow Clone Jutsu so that he could pretend that he believed Mizuki’s lies for graduation.

Everything was going according to plan, all except for one little detail that nobody could have predicted: Iruka’s loyalty to Naruto. The teacher was the one to find the young boy and protect him from Mizuki’s attacks. Naruto was technically a genin by Uzushio laws, not to mention the fact that he was more trained than by Konoha standards. Yet, still hiding his abilities, Naruto let Iruka protect him the best he could, touched by what his teacher said about him.

Having said that, Naruto couldn’t let Mizuki attacking Iruka, hurting him, go unpunished! Using his new technique, Naruto went for the good ol’ blitz attack, taking advantage of his chakra reserves, already large due to genetic lineage even more so if he used the Kyuubi,  to create more than three hundred clones. Mizuki never stood a chance, unprepared and arrogant enough to believe that he needn’t be primed against a lonely, weak, student. In the end, Mizuki was the one to get pummelled, tied up and delivered by the ANBUs to the Torture and Interrogation department.

Naruto, on the other hand, got rewarded by officially getting the Leaf headband from Iruka. Then, he got treated to Ramen by said teacher, basking in the approval of his official teacher, his first teacher and his other hidden teacher — Takeshi was masquerading as a late-night client. What more can the young boy ask for?

The secret message from his aunt was the highlight of his night as well. All in all, Naruto could consider his first mission for Konoha (and Uzushio) a win.

Chapter Text

Chapter 3: Hidden currents along the coasts

“We don't even know how strong we are until we are forced to bring that hidden strength forward. In times of tragedy, of war, of necessity, people do amazing things. The human capacity for survival and renewal is awesome.”
Isabel Allende

Kakashi Hatake was nothing like the bingo book described him. Oh, he was dangerous, that was for sure, but how can Naruto’s new teacher (from Konoha) be considered dangerous when a simple erasure could hit him? True, if Kakashi had evaded the erasure, then the array of senbons that Naruto had set up, hidden from Sakura and Sasuke’s eyes, would have done the job. Still, it was funny to see a Jounin being hit by such a childish prank. The best part being that Kakashi Hatake couldn’t know who had set up the secondary trap, as it was just complex enough that it couldn’t be a genin level (for Konoha).

The last laugh went to Kakashi though, as he tried to frighten his possible-students for the real graduation test. Not eating breakfast? Naruto was snickering inside. Takeshi-sensei had already done that when he first met Naruto when the boy was eight! Leaving aside that little detail, Naruto took advantage of the night to find out what sort of test Kakashi could have concocted. Learning that the silver-haired man had been his father’s student who in turn was the student of the Toad Sage, who in turn was the Professor’s student, … well, it possible meant that the test would be centered around teamwork. Possibly the bell test, if Naruto wasn’t mistaken. The Sandaime had been heavily influenced by Uzushio’s team test when the village was still standing tall and proud.

Which meant that he was going to hit a snag to work as a team with woo-is-me Sasuke — Naruto still hadn’t gone over the fact that his first kiss had been stolen by the raven-hair — and intellectual, but physically challenged, Sakura. Not the easiest thing to convince two hot-headed practically teenagers that they needed to collaborate together! Especially if Kakashi added some spice by saying that only two can pass.

Knowing that, Naruto decided to arrive a bit earlier and trap the training ground to get a small home-advantage. What the freshly-made genin predicted came to pass. Kakashi dangled two bells in front of the group (after being three hours late, all to his reputation) saying that only two out of three would pass his test. Sakura and Sasuke, already hungry from not eating breakfast, had apparently forgotten that the squads were always four-men or they had not picked up the obvious thing that Konoha was mostly famous for.

After an embarrassing defeat by the hands of his teacher — and Naruto could still feel the phantom pains in his butt, happy that neither Takeshi or Teuchi saw such an embarrassing moment —, Naruto did something to further his reputation as the dead-last in the eyes of his group. The result was him being tied up to the log.

The orange-wearing ninja had forgotten to take into account one or two small details concerning his other teammates. The first one that Sasuke, being the last-living and loyal to Konoha Uchiha, he was guaranteed a place among the ninja forces. The second being that Naruto, as a Jinchuuriki, was also guaranteed a placement on the ninja forces. Meaning that due to political reasons, Naruto and Sasuke had to be passed. Sakura was the lucky civilian girl that had potential, hence why she was also guaranteed a team. Kakashi’s test, and the other similar ones that the Genin teachers did on their teams, had one main goal, that is to eliminate most civilan-born students, in order to not say that Konoha wasn’t fair in accepting all those that wanted to learn.

Luckily, Sasuke made sure that they could pass by giving part of his lunch to Naruto. His shy blush making him adorable, explaining as to how he could have gotten such a big fan-club. Not that Naruto was looking or anything!

It took a well-placed pinch to stop Naruto from laughing out-loud when Kakashi started spouting his bullshit about “looking underneath the underneath”. If his teacher had applied his advice, then maybe he could see Naruto’s true nature ? The young boy was doubtful, not when he saw how Kakashi was perpetual late  for their meetings and not truly train them after their missions.

Now, normally, Naruto would have sucked it up and let things flow, but Fate was funny enough to put in a different path that he had to travel. Back in the days, before the fall of Uzushio, the village Hidden in the Eddies was charged to protect the Land of Waves. With it’s fall, the Land of Waves had no choice but to get by as they could. That didn’t mean that Shinobu hadn’t kept on eye on them, feeling helpless that they couldn’t do anything when Gato started to take over for the past two years. When the opportunity presented itself in the form of Tazuna — a brave bridge builder — asking for an escort to Wave, Takeshi Mizushima ordered Naruto to make sure that his team would get this C-ranked mission. Well, Naruto had a reputation to uphold, so picking a tantrum seemed the best way possible. It did help that they had beaten the record to catch Tora the Demon cat, with more injuries than necessary.

Team Seven got the mission to Waves with practically no difficulty.

— “There is one knows not what sweet mystery about this sea, whose gently awful stirrings seem to speak of some hidden soul beneath.” Herman Melville

Momochi Zabuza made be part of Kiri Seven Deadly Swordsmen, but he had Uzumaki blood flowing through his veins. He knew his history and ancestry, loyal to a fallen village rather than the one he was living in. After his failed coup, Zabuza fled to his Uzukage, where he was received warmly. After being patched up, he set up to try and overthrow the  Mizukage. That was when he met Haku, a young orphan boy that reminded him to much of his childhood. The rest was history.

So when he received word to try and get himself employed by Gato, Zabuza made sure to do so. And when he was informed that another hidden Uzu nin was part of the escort team for the bridge builder, then the Demon planned with Haku to pretend he got defeated. It was quite easy to see who was an Uzumaki, the blond hair being a dead giveaway. That, and the loudness with the brightly coloured clothes couldn’t be a better indication.

They exchanged information under the guise of Naruto attacking Zabuza to get his headband back. The slip of paper tucked discretely in a small crack in Naruto’s clothes that had been placed especially for such purposes.

It was a breeze to fake Zabuza’s death during his first encounter, Haku doing his job when he needed to do it. Kakashi being fooled in his weakened state. That didn’t last for long when Naruto’s teacher woke up and realised that he had been deceived. Underneath the underneath indeed.

Zabuza’s plan, and meeting Haku to give back his answer, allowed Naruto and the two other missing ninjas to plan Gato’s demise and Zabuza’s “death” so that the ninja could continue on with his mission, with more stealth that his death would bring him. And if Sasuke’s developed a Sharing thinking that Naruto was dead, … well, Naruto was happy to see that Sasuke valued him somewhat.

The added benefit for this mission was that Kakashi believed that Team Seven was ready for the Chunin Exams, something that Naruto wasn’t looking forward to as rumours of Orochimaru’s attack against his former village circulated among the shady underbelly of the Five Elemental Nations. However, Naruto couldn’t refuse without a good reason. So off he went with his teammates to do the Chunin Exam.

Since Konoha was in danger, Shinobu decided that it was time to reveal Uzushio’s resurrection. First step of the plan, send out a couple of teams to participate in the Chunin Exams, and spreading the news to her hidden ninjas to be ready to cast-off their masks to reveal their true allegiance. Naruto was so ready to do so, leaving Konoha would be more beneficial for his well-being as well as living among his kin.

The first two exams were a breeze. At least, compared to what his teachers would put Naruto through or what the other Uzu genins were put through. The first one was information gathering, something that all Uzu children were taught to do before they could even attempt to gain their headbands. Having to wear brightly coloured, bulky, clothes made stealth and disguises so much easier for information gathering.

The second exam, while having that small Sannin attack, wasn’t to bad. During the battle, Naruto was forced to use his Aunt’s present, the scroll conjuring one of her summons (chameleons) that attacked the enemy ninja and allowing Team Seven to escape with practically no injury. Just to be on the safe side, Naruto left a couple seals to secure their escape. They found the Earth scroll among  a pile of dead bodies, thunder still crackling among the edges of the charred remains. With all that happened, Team Seven quickly agreed that they needed to go to the Central Tower.

For the preliminary tournament, the less Naruto spoke about, the better he felt. The fact that he bested Kiba with a fart(!) — a FART! — made him feel that his mask of a fool was way to incrusted in his psyche. If only he could dig a hole and stay there for a short while. At least he survived the preliminaries and fight in the main tournament. His aunt would be so proud of him. Speaking of his aunt, since Ebisu was ditched so easily, Naruto decided that he could learn from her since she was also in the village. It was much more easier to sneak away from the surveillance that was around the Fourth Uzukage, as Naruto’s childhood escort  had stopped once he reached the rank of Genin. The only thing that Shinobu could teach him in one month was the Summoning Jutsu, the chameleon having impressed the young boy immensely. The only other summoning scroll that his Aunt had in her possession was one his father had signed. The Uzukage had hunted it down far and wide, so that her nephew could have a piece of his family. It was hard as the first big scroll was in the Toad Sage’s possession, with a second, more small and discrete was well hidden.

The month passed so fast that soon enough the tournament had arrived. And Naruto so desperately wished that he had a different opponent than Neiji Hyuga! Ok, so his father died, doing his duty as part of the Secondary Branch, what a tragedy! Then he had the Caged Bird Seal (an abomination that had so many Uzumaki itching to destroy it) carved on his forehead, that was also part of his duty! So why was Neiji complaining with his long-winded speech. It also didn’t excuse him from attacking Hinata, his cousin and the person he was supposed to protect as the Heir of the Hyuga clan!

The arena was silent, as the two challengers faced each other. Most of the audience was rooting for Neiji as his heritage brought him, in their minds, a greater advantage than the orange-wearing shinobi. For those that lived in Konoha, the Kyuubi’s defeat would be a great highlight for their day. That didn’t matter to Naruto, as he had somebody much more important to him that was rooting for him. Speaking of person encouraging him, Shinobu decided that enough was enough!

“Naruto!” came a voice from the stand, strong, commanding and yet cheering at the same time. Naruto looked up, smiling slightly at the woman in the middle of the public. His eyes questioned her as to what he believed she was telling him. An eye exchange that most people missed except for those used to combat such as the Hokage, the Jonins and the ANBU.

The woman nodded at his unasked question. Neiji shivered at Naruto’s grin, a feeling of uneasiness running down his spine. The feeling grew stronger as Naruto took off his beloved orange jacket, revealing a form-fitting black shirt, with chainmail peaking from his short sleeves and  neck. The pants soon followed, showing that Naruto had another set of pants that were practically skin-tight and black as well. A hole formed where Naruto tossed his garments, displaying the fact that his attire had weights sewn in the hem.

The grin grew bigger. It would seem that Naruto would be able to put Neiji in his place! “Sorry Neiji, looks like I won’t  be going easy on you.” The mocking tone was easy to hear, even if someone wasn’t trying to catch it.

The Hyuga didn’t like the fact that he had truly lost control of the situation. He snapped, using the same speech he had done on Hinata during the preliminaries to prove why he, a prodigy, would win against a loser who had failed three-times the exams. (Another perfect example as to why Naruto hated him, seriously, when did he had the time to prepare them?)

“Ah, but Neiji, did you or any other person stopped to think why is that I failed three-time the graduation exams, when I was placed in the Academy four years early? Think Neiji, use that ninja mentality that you teacher should have taught you.” Naruto’s smirk grew even wider, taking a fox-like proportion, appreciating the time that his opponent was given him to release his diverse seals on his body, on top of the weights he had been carrying. “And the first thing Karachi Hatake taught me? Always look underneath the underneath. Never expect an enemy to let you gather your wits. Starting off strong Multiple Shadow Clone Jutsu!”

The arena was filled with Narutos, filling all possible spaces, including the walls, except for a small radius around Neiji. The blond ninja was aware of the minimum radius Neiji could do with his Eight Trigrams Palms Revolving Heaven, hence why he was taking his distance.

The Main Naruto was just in front of Neiji, the smirk still in place. “Did you know that the Uzumaki Clan had founded a village? The only ones to remember are those who had gone through the Third Shinobi War. So, to bring back the good ol’ days, I’m going to finish this match with only one jutsu that was renown for belonging to the Uzumaki Clan. A jutsu that every member of the Uzumaki had to learn, master and used during the warring clans period!”

All those that understood what was happening gulped. The Uzumaki Clan was known for being unpredictable and Chakra Monsters. There were to many techniques that fit which was being hinted at. Each worse than the previous one that could be even thought up.

The clones started to form a series of hand-seals, five different sequences done in combined groups. The speed showed a master and practice that hadn’t been shown during his time as a student or a genin. Something that Iruka could have attested, if he had been asked. His jaw dropping in surprise. All of the clones finished at the same time, their hands positioned to form the Ram Seal.

“Uzumaki Style: Dance of the Five Dragons”

From all five groups came a raging dragon, each a different element. That is to say: Fire, Wind, Lightning, Earth and Water. Before Neiji could start his defence rotation, the main Naruto was already close-up, using Taijutsu that wasn’t taught in the Academy and that Neiji couldn’t defend himself fast enough despite having a Taijutsu master for a teacher. The air was pushed out of Neiji’s body was a strong open-palm attack on his sternum, swiftly followed by an upper-cut that drove him in the air.

Straight into the heart  of the jutsu that Naruto had launched.

It had taken only eight minutes from start to finish, six of those minutes were for Neiji’s speech and Naruto’s big reveal. The young ninja loomed over Neiji, the smile in his place. “You looked at me and saw someone who was destined to fail. You pushed your expectations on me, something that would have you killed against a skilled opponent who hides his talents such as I did. You called yourself a Caged Bird? I see a bird whose cage door is open but who does not seek to take the first step. Do not bemoan and curse fate if you do not attempt to change it.”  

Orochimaru couldn’t have picked a better timing to start off his invasion, starting it way earlier than planned. The genjutsu of feather started to put to sleep the rest of the arena. Everything was going to plan (even if a bit earlier than anticipated), Gaara, the Sand’s Jinchuriki hadn’t lost control so he was slightly more manageable from the sidelines. With such a diversion, the Sannin then decided to take advantage to attack the Third Hokage in the Leader box.

If Shinobu the Fourth Uzukage hadn’t also been in the box, ready for such a thing. Quicker than the Third, she reacted by slamming the ninja straight in the head with her kanzashi. The hair-pin missed the intended spot, slamming instead in his hand that was holding a kana, threatening the Hokage.

This counter-attack was the signal for all the Uzu nins to defend their former allies (and hopefully again). And all meant all, those that were visible when they came to encourage the young Leaf ninjas and those that were hidden among the Sound, Sand and Leaf members.

In front of Neiji’s eyes, Naruto, the one who had just defeated him and supposedly used a lot of chakra, ready to attack as well. But it was something even more horrifying that prompted Sasuke and Sakura to wonder if they ever knew their teammate at all. For Naruto had taken off his Leaf headband, thrown it to the ground before accepting a different headband from one of the Uzu nins, a supposedly dead Momochi Zabuza.

In short, the would-be invasion was brutally and utterly stopped by the now-revealed Uzushio as well as more prepared Konoha who had been warned. Orochimaru tied up and gagged with to many seals placed on him that one had to wonder if he even had some skin space left.

As for Naruto, … he now stood proud next to his Aunt wearing more appropriate attire and a gleaming headband carved with a small whirlpool on his forehead. No matter the amount of pleading of the Third to rethink his decision or the amount of angry threats from the council could even swear his turn of allegiance. When that same Council tried to blackmail him by branding him a traitor, Naruto could only laugh in their face. It was then Naruto publicly made know, in the form of a written letter of resignation,  that he never thought of Konoha as his home and that he had always been loyal to Uzushio.

It was Sasuke who was hit the hardest, as he had always believed Naruto to have been an unwavering patriot to Konoha. If Naruto had been two-faced about his loyalties, than what else did he lie about? All the other ninjas of his generation (and team Gai’s as well) started to investigate more about the young boy they had all disregarded.

It took them practically four months before they found out about Naruto’s status as a demon container, same as Gaara who had now had his seal fixed making him more clear-headed. By then, Naruto had disappeared with the rest of the Uzushio delegation. Disappeared as nobody know where this hidden village was or how it looked like.  

It didn’t just compute that Naruto would abandon his home village. Not in Sasuke’s mind at least, his genes making him fixating on something, for the first time, on something else than revenge. Not   that it was a sane fixation, but Sasuke swore that he would bring Naruto back to Konoha, for a Leaf without the sunshine-kissed-haired boy was the village he would live in.

(If worst came to worst, by finding Naruto, Sasuke was guaranteed to find Uzushio as well where can defect to a village that seemed much stronger than Konoha. A thought that he never revealed to anyone else.)

It was a win-win situation, at least for the young Uchiha. If, and only if, he could find his former teammate.

It would take three long years before rumours began to surface of the coming Yellow Maelstrom.

The End