Author Notes (A/N):
Timeline Events you NEED TO KNOW
- Events between Itachi and the Uchiha clan never occurred. The Uchiha and Hyuga are integral parts of a very dominant Konoha village.
- Sasuke never deserts Konoha.
- Akatsuki founded its own village. They have no Kage, rather, they follow their nine strongest warriors. Due to the Yondaime's intervention, they could never appropriate Naruto or Gaara.
- Sakura, Sasuke, and Neji have all become legendary Jounin in their own right. Naruto has become hokage. While the kyuubi was sealed inside Naruto, it wasn't the yondaime who sealed it, rather the sandaime. With the yondaime around, the persecution and hatred of Naruto was much less direct, and more manageable.
- Arashi Uzumaki is Naruto's father, and was hokage until very recently. Naruto has just come to power in Konoha-mostly due to his previous status and accomplishments against Akatsuki. His father only stepped down on the condition that his son inherit his legacy. It has caused some dissension on the council, but the people who really matter-the konoha elite-have mostly approved of the choice. An interesting side-effect of the Kyuubi inside Naruto is his distinct lack of aging. He still appears as an older teenager, though he is in actuality in his late twenties.
- Gaara remains kazekage. The choice of Naruto as Hokage was also tied to his close friendship with Gaara. Ties between Konoha and Suuna have never been stronger.
- Oorochimaru is believed dead-but well...you know how that usually turns out...
- Several of the old 'gang' of rookies have perished in battles against a hostile Akatsuki organization.
- Kusakage is from an unrecognized village from bokusougakure, a hidden village with no country ties. They have connections to the Hyuuga clan in Konoha, and are battling Akatsuki in their own small country.
- You might hear some ninjas refer to a man called 'Konoha's rage' or 'the white rage'. They're talking about Naruto.
- meh, I'll list more changes as they become relevant.
While this is a Naruto fanfic, I've decided to explore events downstream with the next generation of ninjas. There will be familiar faces, of course, but many characters of my own design, based on a new storyline that continues the saga of Konoha Village.
I consider myself an open-minded individual. As such, I request that if you find an error in my work; instead of being an ass and flaming, be mature and just send me a friendly note and I'll try to correct it to the best of my abilities. I'm not some hardcore Naruto fan, like some of you out there; my knowledge comes mostly from a friend who requested that I write this fic. I'm trusting at least, that she knows what the hell she's talking about. Any Japanese names you may encounter have not been made-up by me, so they might be entirely wrong, or ridiculous to anyone with knowledge of Japanese. Again, if you see something amiss, let me know so I can figure out how to fix it! ^_^
Rating may be subject to change...
Want to help me out? Leave some reviews, mail me...whatever. Let me know you care.
/Caught in the Eye of a Storm/
/Prelude - Nothing but Blood/
Rain pelted the lonely hillside that a figure slid down-displacing mud and loose rocks in his haste. The man and the bundle in his arms were drenched from the ongoing downpour; the tattered green cloak he wore was plastered to his body and torn in several places, displaying a large number of scrapes and bruises from his frantic flight. He stumbled through the trees of Fire Country, awkward as he ran, his hands never leaving the bundle of rags in his arms. His eyes would dart from tree to tree as he leaped about; jumping to the trees to clear small streams before returning to the rough path he was following.
Aiken couldn't decide if he wanted to curse the dreary weather, or praise it. The clouds and the rain were a mixed blessing; throwing off his pursuers and hindering his progress without a thought.
A movement caught his eyes and the chunin threw himself into a small copse of trees off the road just as several kunai whizzed through the air, missing him by several good feet. Aiken rolled to his back as he landed, skidding to a stop in the middle of a small clearing, the package in his arms safe. His curses were soft as he spat out mud out of his mouth. A glance around him revealed a circle of ten motionless figures waiting at the edges of the clearing.
Trapped. These guys were good.
Aiken got his feet carefully. Looking around the circle slowly, gauging the nins around him. His hands were numb from the cold and his legs spasmed beneath him-exhausted from his long trek. Despair clawed at his heart as fear once again filled him; but it wasn't the fear of death that tore at his heart. It was the fear of failure.
"Surrender, bokusa nin. You cannot escape." A figure had moved from the circle. The mask he wore marked him as a hunter-nin-but the voice and the design were unfamiliar.
Hunter-nins. These were all hunters. There was no way he could fight ten at the same time. Not with the baby he held inside his cloak. It was suicide. Frustration with his inability and rage at his faceless pursuers lent force to his response.
"I will die before I surrender--with the child if need be."
The hunter-nin tilted his head as if not comprehending the shaking nin's words. His voice was flat, mechanical. "The Kusakage is dead, Aiken. Your father is dead. Your brother has betrayed you, and your village will be ashes in a matter of hours. What do you gain by struggling against fate?"
Aiken tried to calm his ragged breathing. "Peace for an old man's soul. I don't expect you to understand."
The hunter's arms burred in the gathering darkness, the small dark shaped of shuriken and kunai hurled at the young chunin. A very short sword appeared in Aiken's hands, but he was tired, and didn't have the strength to move out of the way fast enough. The successful clink of his sword as it whirled to deflect the deadly missiles was short-lived when pain blossomed on his right shoulder, his left side, and his left thigh. Aiken grunted as he dropped to one knee. The sword he still held, struggling to keep it steady and hold his precious bundle at the same time.
"I do not wish to harm the child, Aiken. We cannot let any harm come to him. My masters need him yet."
Tears of frustration mingled with the chill rain as they ran down his cheeks. He flipped his sword and pressed it to his bundle as the hunter nin watched on. "If you come any closer, I'll kill the child."
"I know all about you Aiken, the Kusakage's son. The failure. The alcoholic. The weak. I know all about you."
"You don't know anything about what I'm capable of." Aiken bit out. He glanced around the circle, then to the trees, trying to judge distances. He would have to run again. He might be a disappointment, but few could beat him at a flat-out sprint. He must be near the gates now...why did every damn tree in this country have to look so darn alike?!
"You would not risk the heir-" He stopped as the earth exploded under his men. For a moment Aiken just stared in shock as unknown nins in similar dress burst into action. The hunter-nins were caught off balance. None had sensed the attack until it was already in action.
Konoha-nins had arrived.
Aiken wasn't about to stop and ask question. He jumped, his leg burning as his muscle clenched over the deeply embedded kunai. He took to the trees, using the last vestiges of his chakra to boost his legs and his feet. He had to be close. Those nins had been friendly. He had to be near. The Hokage had gotten his message after all.
Aiken felt the killing intent behind him. He would not slow down. Not now. Not when he was so close. Not when-
The trees opened up before him. Huge gates of stone and red wood were not a couple hundred paces in front of him. Beyond was safety. He had made it. For the first time in his life he had set out to do something, and he had done it.
As he jumped from the trees to the ground the chunin's chakra seemed to exhaust itself and he slipped, pausing the furious pace he had set for the first time since he had begun the frantic dash to his destination. It was all the hunter-nin behind him needed.
Something hit him in the back, something so heavy it drove him into the ground pushing air from his lungs. Aiken tried to shout in pain, but all that came out of his mouth was a strange gurgling and a thick liquid. He pulled the package out from under his body. It was covered in his blood, but otherwise unharmed. He couldn't move, he was pinned. He struggled to turn, push himself off the ground...do anything! A long sword pinned him to the ground. Hope began to fade along with his vision; darkness clawed at him. The last thing he saw was the hunter-nin, rushing at his body only to skid to a stop and drop into a defensive crouch as a hail of small projectiles landed at his feet before two shapes blocked his view.
Two tall and imposing figures blocked the downed chunin from the hunter. Their presence made the hunter pause, unsure at the new arrivals. The third figure, a short boy in black and red body armor decorated with the konoha leaf, was kneeling by the chunin.
"I need to...see..." The man coughed, and blood spattered the small package he was pushing towards the blond.
"Shh...don't talk." The youth warned. "Sakura!"
A fourth figure joined him a moment later. She wore a decidedly non-battle kimono and looked as if she had just stepped out from a dinner engagement. She knelt beside the younger teen. Her hands took on a surreal green glow for a moment, before she bit her lip and shook her head sadly, her pink hair plastered to her head.
"Konoha!" The hunter-nin said levelly. "This is none of your business!"
The spikey-blonde ignored the hunter, trusting his two companions to watch his back. He grabbed the package of rags and peeked inside, feeling the warmth of life within. He did not smile. If anything, his expression hardened.
Injured as he was, the chunin found the strength to laugh. His laugh quickly turned to a grimace of pain as more blood spewed from his mouth. "I...finally...do something right...and it...kills me. Take...the boy...to the...Hokage. /Please/."
The boy put a hand on the back of the chunin's head. The man seemed to read into the motion--seeing a deeper meaning, because he sighed and let his head fall one last time into the mud. The boy closed the nin's eyes reverently and detached the nin's head protector. He clutched it hard in one white-knuckled hand.
"Sakura?" He said, passing the bundle to her. The blonde had a strange expression on his face. "Take care of this, please?" The kunoichi seemed to recognize the expression, because she took the baby into her arms, a tender smile on her lips.
"Leave it to me." She looked up at the two men confronting the hunter. "Don't let him do anything stupid." She stood and vanished in a tumble of pink rose-petals that were quickly drowned and limp in the mud.
"This could mean war, konoha. Don't be stupid. You're interfering in Akatsuki business." The Hunter continued, his guard on high alert at the two shadows in front of him. They projected an aura that he had not experienced in a long time. These were strong jounin. It felt like he was facing an impenetrable wall. "That child...is ours."
"Be silent." The blonde said, so quietly the hunter almost missed his words. The strangely armored teen pried the short sword from the dead chunin's fingers and stood slowly. He stabbed the sword into the soft earth before he ran a hand through his hair, exposing two brilliant blue eyes that shone with the magnitude of chakra that suddenly encased his entire body. "The child belongs to Konoha now. And that means it has everything to do with us, now."
The Hunter was staggered by the amount of chakra that rolled off the young nin. Other chakra signatures began to join the confrontation. Konoha ANBU that had attacked his hunters were returning. His team hadn't been anything to scoff at. Hope of escape was getting slimmer the longer he waited.
He was alone. He had gone too far into Konoha's territory. He had underestimated how fast that damn chunin could travel. He had failed.
He crouched, his senses at their highest as he prepared to attempt an escape. He would force his way out through the ANBU...they were weaker than the chakra beasts in front of him.
"And where do you think you're going?" The blonde's voice was suddenly in his ear.
When had he...?
The Hunter unsheathed his last sword as he whipped his body around. The sword sliced through empty air. The blonde watched him through cold eyes of flashing blue. The sword had missed his nose by a hair, but he hadn't blinked or leaned back-as if he knew he was just out of range of the attack. He seemed unconcerned that the Hunter was armed and he was empty-handed. He stood facing the Hunter with an air of dangerous casualness. His massive chakra and killing intent unlike anything the hunter nin had experienced in a long time. The hunter found it hard to move under the pressure of his will.
Then it clicked. This was no nin.
"Konoha's Rage" the hunter said, his voice emotionless. That name might have struck fear into his bones at one point in his life...before he became a ninja. Now it was only another proof of this mission's failure. Hope was a stone sinking into the ocean. The newest Hokage of Konoha was supposed to be a joke-a weakling who only inherited the title through his father.
Intel had been so wrong.
Another voice joined the fray. "Ara? Word gets around so quickly these days...it's only been a couple months." The man who spoke stepped behind Naruto and put a restraining hand on the young Hokage's shoulder. "Naruto-/sama/...the others have been neutralized. It was...troublesome."
The man who spoke had long black hair tied behind his head and looked as unconcerned as the Hokage. The lids of his eyes were half-closed and he yawned as he eyed the dark clouds overhead with a slight disapproving air.
"You think everything is troublesome, Shikamaru." The blonde replied, eyes not wavering from the Hunter. "What happened to Bokusogakure?"
"It lies in ruins." The Hunter allowed himself a moment of pleasure when the blonde's hands tightened in response. "Ah, yes. I had heard you and the Kusakage were close. Konoha was the only village to acknowledge him and his petty little school of incompetents." He motioned with his head at the fallen chunin. "Just like that fool."
"You're an Akatsuki nin." It hadn't been a question from the blonde. His lips curled in disgust. "I should kill you." Shikamaru's hand tightened on his shoulder. The following words were forced. "Stop worrying Nara. I won't. You're beneath me."
The Hunter couldn't believe what he was seeing. Tears were streaming freely down the Hokage's cheeks, mingling with the water of the downpour. He vanished from sight for a moment before appearing at the side of the two men who hadn't moved since their arrival.
"I'll...leave this for you to handle Neji, Sasuke. I need to..." He bit his lip and shook his head. One last glare and he vanished completely in a flash of white chakra.
The white rage. Konoha's white rage.
The two that the Hokage had identified were just looking at him. Both names were known to him. They were well known in Akasuki's bingo book. Both were rated class-S nins, kill on sight. Two sets of powerful dojutsu were observing him like an ant; brilliant red sharingan and the freakish white of the byakugan. The one named Shikamaru spoke for them.
"Troublesome...mah," he shrugged, "I suppose he's grown up somewhat. The old Naruto would've ripped him limb from limb." He said it almost...fondly. Shikamaru sighed and stuck his hands in his pockets, giving the Hunter a glare. "Even though I said that to Naruto...it would be unfavorable in a strategic sense if Akatsuki was told where the child was taken."
The hunter turned his sword to the man who spoke. His chakra was unbelievably low for a Jounin. If death was knocking on the door, he would take this pathetic man with him. The hunter tensed for an attack but found himself unable to do so. His feet remained planted to the ground. They would not budge.
The jounin had his hands clasped in front of him. "/Kagemane no jutsu/." The jounin grunted sourly. "Neji...disable him."
A shadow binding! The hunter cursed. The dark clouds played right to the jounin's strength. He scanned the ground in front of his feet. There! A small dark line that extended into his own faint shadow from his opponent's feet. Now all he had to do was concentrate enough chakra...
"Hakke Rokujuyon Sho!" A voice whispered from beside him. The hunter couldn't even turn to face his attacker. In a twisted sense, the hunter almost wanted to see the Hyuuga's gentle fist. Then there was pain-in spades.
The Hunter lay on the ground, immobile. He couldn't sense his chakra anymore. It was just...gone. Everything hurt, his entire body. He was used to pain...but this was...
"Tch! Akatsuki has become a refuge for the weak." A voice full of scorn taunted.
"Mah, mah Sasuke..." Shikamaru replied in a soothing voice. "The only requirement to join seems to be a love of killing. It's easier for the council to control a horde of weak psychopaths than a handful of S-class nins." The jounin's sandals stopped near the Hunter's head. His vision swirled as the Hunter looked up into his tormenter's face. "I almost feel sorry for him...Ibiki was just saying that he was getting out of practice." He shrugged again. "Mah...do your best."
"Sakura? How is he?"
Sakura didn't turn from where the baby lay, in a small crib where the child was clutching her finger possessively. "He's fine Naruto." She smiled down at the child. "So this child is..."
"Mmm." The blonde nodded. He glanced at the scroll that lay on the table beside a bunch of bloody rags.
Sakura followed his gaze, "That scroll was in the wrappings...it's sealed. Probably for this little guy." She averted her eyes when she caught sight of the Hokage's face. No-one wanted to watch him cry. It seemed so...wrong for the man who was supposed to be Konohagakure's pillar of strength. But...Naruto had already proved he was anything but conventional. "Are you...I mean...How are you doing? I know that you and the Kusakage were-"
"He's dead. His family, his clan. They're all gone-if the Hunter can be believed. He belongs here now. He's a child of the leaf now."
The ice in her friend's voice ended that line of thought. "I know Sasuke would be against it, Naruto, but I wouldn't mind taking him in."
The blonde hokage smiled then. His eyes seemed to brighten as he walked to the crib and learned over, picking up the small package and cradling him gently to his chest. The child snuffled in his sleep, but did not wake. "No. I'll raise him like his father would have wanted." Sakura smiled slightly. They were going to look funny together, father and son. Somehow, the effects of Naruto's ageing weren't apparent thanks to the demon chakra imbued throughout his body. He still looked like he did when he was still a gennin, although a bit slimmer, and his hair a couple inches longer.
"Still as hotheaded as ever, Naruto-/sama/." She stressed the last syllable.
"They destroyed the village, Sakura. And killed everyone. It's the least I can do. Akasuki bastards. I should have...done something more..." His voice caught. "I should have been there...for him."
Sakura felt a wave of annoyance build inside her. "Now wait just one second! You don't possibly feel like this is your fault, do you? Akira made his own choices, Naruto. You offered him and his people refuge. HE refused!"
Tears were running down his cheeks again, his blue eyes shimmering with dampness under the industrial white lights of the hospital. "He was still my friend. They have no-one to grieve for them now. If not me...then who, Sakura?"
"Don't you dare think that the first thing a child wants to see is his new father crying, Naruto. Don't you dare. Cry all you want tonight, but by tomorrow, they had better be gone. He deserves all the smiles he can get."
Naruto's eyes sparkled as he looked over at his longtime friend. "Maybe you should tell that to your husband too, neh? We wouldn't want the little Uchiha turning out like dear old stone-cold...would we?"
"Naruto..." A note of warning in her voice. Getting Sasuke to smile was...well...rather difficult. Sakura paused, then laughed. "Yeah, maybe I will."
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