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Once Upon A Dream

Chapter Text

Four small children are lost, damaged but not broken.

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Within the dark cupboard of an average suburban house lies a small, dark haired boy on a bloodied cot. His body trembles in exhaustion and fear and hunger as he wonders why his relatives hate him so. Alone he cries, wishing for the pain to stop, but most importantly, he wishes for a savior as he slowly falls asleep.

Down in the dank basement of unsuspecting farm house, a little boy squeezes rainbow eyes shut tight, unable to escape the ties that bind. He shakes and screams in agony as a knife slowly carves into the golden skin of his small chest, hoping against hope his real family will come and save him. When the darkness comes, he welcomes it with open arms.

Hidden within the dark and dirty alley a tiny blond boy is battered and covered in blood, lying on the dirt ground. He curls into a tight ball, unable to move any further than he's gone so far. His bruised body aches but it's his soul and heart that truly hurts. As he collapses, abandoned and miserable, he wonders when his family will come and help him.

A tiny wisp of a girl whimpers and curls up in the thick duvet on her large bed as images and words repeatedly flash through her mind. She doesn't cry or call out for help, not when Daddy’s away again and the only other living creature within her home are house elves. She wishes to find those like her, alone and forgotten, so they can be a family.

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In the grand scheme of things, the wishes of four children seem useless and insignificant. Why should Fate waste attention on them specifically when much of the world suffers so? But unbeknownst to these tiny sufferers, their seemingly innocent prayers have begun a path that will shake the world to its core.

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The room couldn't really be called a room. It was just a space - a space with water for a floor, no walls to be seen, and an enormous pair of iron gates. Behind those sealed gates?

A nine-tailed demon.

Contrary to what most people believed the kyuubi wasn't a thoughtless mass of chakra. He tended to be ruled by his emotions, true, but he possessed the ability to think and reason.

After spending centuries with his kind before roaming the world freely, creating havoc as he went, it was difficult to suddenly be confined. Then to get another taste of freedom, no matter how temporary or controlled before getting jailed again....

The kyuubi understood why the Fourth Hokage had sealed him away. The damage he caused, the lives he'd taken - the demon was glad the shinobi stopped him, even at the cost of the man's own life, as he literally could not. That reasoning didn't stop the anger towards the blonde shinobi, himself, but most of all, Madara.

He wanted - no, needed - revenge.

But the kyuubi was a realistic fox. Sealed away in baby, that desire was improbable - for now. So he spent the majority of his time slumbering.

Watching through the eyes of the jinchuuriki as he grew only caused anger at those who would abuse a defenseless kit for what he unknowingly held inside him and frustration at the kyuubi's own powerlessness. So he dozed instead and waited patiently for when his kit could comprehend.

Indeed the human child was his in a way none of his previous holders could ever be. How could the child not when his thoughts and feelings constantly bleed through the connection they shared, even as the kyuubi slumbered? He could knew of the boy's fear of the villagers and his longing for a family, his determination to be great and the immense inner strength he'd yet to uncover.

The demon would teach the kit to be even stronger, in every way fathomable. To never give up and to survive and flourish as the underdog. Because until he made the rest of the world see him for who he was and not what he held, they would consider him lower than the ground they walked upon.

And if he happened to stop Madara while he did so then all the better.

Chapter Text

Uzumaki Naruto couldn't believe his eyes as he watched the dust before him slowly clear.

If it weren't for the fact that bad eyes were impossible thanks to the demon sharing his body, he would've thought it was time to get his sight checked by Sakura or Grandma Tsunade. But no, Naruto knew from the dirt invading his nostrils and the cries of the injured and dying he could hear from the outskirts of Konoha, the carnage before him wasn't the trick of bad eyesight.

Konohagakure had been destroyed.

His village was now nothing more than crumbling buildings that once stood proud and tall. A painful constriction squeezed Naruto's heart as he stood before what little remained, his feet frozen to the ground and tears filling his unblinking eyes. Rubble remained of places he'd held close to his heart since he was just an outcast --- places Naruto hadn't even had the chance to enjoy since he came back from his three year trip. Grandma Tsunade, Sakura, Kakashi, and everyone else... Undoubtedly, some were injured, more than a few probably dead. Not to mention all the floored civilians who had nothing to do with any of this.

First, it was Gaara, who was lucky enough to have Chiyo sacrifice her life for his and return him from death's embrace. Barely any time passed before that immortal freak killed Asuma. Some bastard murdered his mentor in cold blood, and now, there were the countless deaths during the destruction of Konoha. All of these lives lost and for what? Because of one demon and its Jinchuuriki? It wasn't right.

Just thinking about his dead teacher made Naruto's heart ache painfully. The helplessness and desolation he'd felt since learning of the Pervy Sage's death threatened to overwhelm him. Just for a little while, he wanted to give into his grief. Let himself rage and cry out his sorrow.

Once again, Naruto had to remind himself wallowing in pity was the last thing the Pervy Sage would want or expect from him. And so would Aimè, Hari, and Fai. Even Kurama, who claimed not to care but Naruto knew it was a load of crap, would scoff in disgust.

In fact, Aimè would laugh and tell him to suck it up, focus on the now and save the pain for later. If Naruto concentrated hard enough, he swore he could feel the sting of Hari's reprimanding slaps upside his head, Kurama’s disapproving glare, the comforting arms of Fai around his waist. They had always believed in him, even as he was ready to throw in the towel and scream at his failure.

So even though he wanted to give in to paindefeatfear, Naruto refused. He couldn't let Jiraiya or anyone else down. Not when so many people had faith in him. Not when they were counting on him.

Naruto took a deep breath and let it out. He could do this. Hewould do this. For those whose lives and home were lost, for those who grieved, for those couldn't stand up and fight back.

By Naruto's feet, Shima spoke, her froggy features pulled into a solemn expression. "It's obvious who's behind this. I felt the same presence as when I fought by Jiraiya's side."

A small, angry flame continuously burning in Naruto's chest since Jiraiya's death turned into a raging inferno. How dare that bastard come here and do this? He'd already stolen Jiraiya and plenty of others. He wouldn't take anyone else. In his mind, Kurama rumble his agreement as he awoke.

In front of him, the dust slowly cleared, revealing shinobi and civilians alike. But Naruto only had eyes for the six figures wearing black cloaks with blood red clouds. And it seemed Pain was in agreement as all six Paths stood before him suddenly, the smoke from their summoning quickly dissipating. Naruto grinned ruthlessly, sharp canines menacing in the sunlight.

"Bring it."

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Amidst the devastation and rubble, the spliced pieces of Katsuya did her best to heal and protect those in the debris. Tsunade methodically scanned the surrounding areas, unable to move too much, thanks to her quickly depleting chakra. Though Pain had crushed the village swiftly, the injuries sustained so far were less severe than she'd hoped.

Shikamaru spoke quietly with his father, Shikaku, seemingly oblivious to his broken leg. Nearby, an ANBU tried to help Iruka by lifting a piece of concrete off his back. It revealed a somewhat squashed mini Katsuya, and the Fifth Hokage let out a sigh of relief, thankful that his spine was protected and he wasn't dead --- or worse, paralyzed. Near her, Kiba was being tended to by his family along with a mini Katsuya and a slightly larger Katsuya helped a member of the Akimichi clan. She watched as more and more shallowly injured ANBU went around, lifting up cement slabs, pieces of wood, and more remnants off of shinobi when a shock of silver stained with crimson caught her attention.

Tsunade turned her head towards it slowly. Only one person in Konoha had hair that hue. Sure enough, the hair was attached to Kakashi's still body. Even as a sob caught in her throat, she found it fitting his mask remained fixed firmly on his bloodied face. From the size of the hole in his still chest, it was obvious he had been killed before Pain's release of Shinra Tensei. And he wasn't the only one. More and more dead were revealed as ANBU moved debris.

First Jiraiya and now this. These bastards had destroyed homes and ruined lives for no reason. The excuses the Akatsuki used didn't matter. There was no justification for all the lives that'd been lost so far. Tsunade would never forgive Pain.

She only brought herself to look away from Kakashi's corpse when a giant slab collapsed nearby. It caused more and more debris to fall in a domino effect, sending more dirt and dust into the air. But as it cleared, she saw the unmistakable profile of a giant toad with the a human standing atop its head. "Naruto..."

With his sunflower yellow hair, cerulean eyes, and tan skin, it was definitely him. But he looked a little different. The short-sleeved, mahogany cloak he wore was new, as was the giant scroll strapped across his back. Judging from the way it almost fell over his brows, his hair was a little longer, even with his hitate across his forehead. But it was his eyes that really caught her attention.

His left had one wide vertical pupil instead of the normal circular one. The right also had a wide vertical pupil but with a pointed horizontal pupil dissecting it. Pupils like the Kyuubi, she thought. They were glowing a bright umber, like he'd been lit from within, and made the pain and anger was clear on his handsome face even clearer.

It was saddening that someone as kind and forgiving as her grandson now knew how hate felt. He wasn't anywhere near Tsunade, and yet she could feel the it pouring off of him in literal waves. At that moment, she remembered exactly kind of power was locked within his body, and she couldn't help the shiver of fear that ran through her weakening body.

It was quickly replaced by shock and fear when, in a proof of smoke, all six Paths of Pain stood before him. And she couldn't stop the smile of pride when Naruto faced them without flinching or hesitation, a wicked grin crossing his face little by little.

"Bring it."

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In a lush forest near Konoha's western border, there was barely a rustle of leaves as six figures landed on the ground. The second smallest of the group turned towards the muscular older man with shockingly white hair beside them. Though his smooth voice was muffled, thanks to the speckled wrapping wound from his mouth to his shoulders, the question was still clear. "How much longer until we reach the village?"

Caught off guard by the sparkling emerald gems peering up at him, he paused before he said "If we hurry, it should be another hour at most."

The youngest member of the group rolled his eyes, displeasure and irritation clear on his handsome face. "Hn."

"All you've done is complain. Shut up, brat!" Like the second shortest, the smallest member wore the same wrapping and a beige capote that hide everything but rainbow eyes shimmering in annoyance and slippered feet.

"Ow! I'm not a brat! Why did you hit me, you overzealous son a ---?"

"Watch yourself, otouto."

"You could've traveled with your team instead of us, like Hari offered. You choose to come with

us

," a dreamy voice reminded him.

"Watch where you put your hands, old man. I don't want to have to break them, again."

"Aw, I'm just messing around, Fai. Besides, what would my godson say if he heard you speaking that way to me?"

"He'd call you a pervert and laugh. Just like everyone else."

Exasperated fondness was clear as Hari interrupted the childish bickering. "We're leaving."

Like a ephemeral zephyr on a scorching summer day, the group vanished as swiftly and silently as they appeared.

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