AU. A dying father's wish changes the path for his newborn son. Uzumaki Naruto is given a burden no one should ever have. Will his lineage shine through in his path to be a hero? Can he protect...
Prologue: Yondaime's Wish
Konoha, the Hidden Leaf Village, was under attack from a giant nine-tailed fox demon, Kyuubi. The nearby forest had felt the fury of this beast, and valiantly the Hidden Leaf ninja were fighting a failing battle. As the battle wore on through the night, deep in the center of the village, inside the office of the Hokage, the last stand was being planned. Two men, a strapping blonde and his graying predecessor were arguing over the sounds of violence they could hear through the open window.
"You can't be serious, Arashi!" exclaimed the older man. "I know Yume didn't survive the birth, but that doesn't mean you should sacrifice yourself!"
"It's the duty of the Hokage to protect the people of this village, Sarutobi-san," replied Arashi. "You know that well. Konoha will still be in good hands like they were before my reign."
"It's past my time," rebuked Sarutobi. "You have your whole life ahead of you."
"Yume was a big part of that life," Arashi said solemnly.
Sarutobi walked over to the nearby window, the smoke and fire clouded the sky above the village. "What about Naruto?" he asked.
"Should I succeed in containing the demon, he will become Konoha's protector," said Arashi. "In time, with the Kyuubi imprisoned in him, he will become this village's greatest shinobi."
"As much as I love this village, Arashi," said Sarutobi. "What if they see your son as nothing more than the demon incarnate?"
"I cannot believe they would be so ignorant or heartless," responded Arashi.
Sarutobi turned to meet the Yondaime's gaze. "Fear can cause many things," he replied. "Cowardice can be as hurtful as anger. Sometimes it is even more painful."
Yells of pain and suffering broke through their conversation, reality coming back to the forefront of their minds, causing the two shinobi to turn and look out the window.
"Time is running short," said Arashi.
"Will the technique work?" asked Sarutobi. "You will only get once chance at it."
"I will not fail this village," answered Arashi. "This is my ninja way."
Arashi knelt down next to the window where a blanketed basket sat. He lifted the bundle of blankets that protected his newborn son, Naruto. "I wish things could be different, son," he said softly to the sleeping child. "Your mother and I will watch over you from the Heavens while you become a hero."
Tears slowly ran down the Yondaime's cheeks as he held his son close for what would be the last time. Kissing Naruto lightly on the forehead, he handed the bundled up boy to the welcoming arms of Sarutobi.
"Before you came, I sent my former student, Hatake Kakashi with a message for Tsunade-sama," said Arashi.
"Tsunade?" asked a surprised Sarutobi.
"Don't seem so surprised, old man," Arashi said, giving Sarutobi a grim smile. "I don't expect you to be able to watch over Naruto, your hands will be full with the village. And as much as I love Jiraiya, with his lecherous lifestyle I can't see him being able to handle a baby."
"And you believe Tsunade can?" questioned the Sandaime. "She rarely returns home to Konoha, ever since she lost her love and brother."
"She needs this, she just doesn't know it," replied Arashi. "Jiraiya crosses paths with her occasionally during his travels, and the few times she did return was to see our team. Besides, there is no stipulation that says she needs to keep Naruto in Konoha."
Sarutobi silently took in what Arashi was telling him. "Will she get the message in time?" he finally asked.
"Kakashi is dependable. He'll get it to her," Arashi answered confidently. "Until that time though, please watch over Naruto." He nodded to the older man and leapt out the window, running across rooftops towards his moment of destiny, refusing to look back.
"Don't worry, Arashi," said Sarutobi quietly as he shifted his gaze from the running shinobi to the sleeping child. "Everyone in this village is one of my own." Placing Naruto back in the basket, Sarutobi picked it up and followed the Yondaime's path through the village, all the while mentally preparing himself for the sacrifice that was about to take place.
Shortly after the Yondaime sacrificed himself by imprisoning the Kyuubi inside his newborn son, only the screams of baby Naruto filled the now quiet streets of Konoha. The two Hokages had ordered an evacuation of the nearby area before they performed the ritual against the fox demon. Slowly the streets filled with villagers, several Jounins and members of ANBU that were around formed a protective barrier between the people and the Sandaime.
Sarutobi stood in front of the masses, right next to the covered body of the fallen Yondaime Hokage. He could see the frightened faces of the villagers, and quickly made a subtle hand motion with his free hand. Out from the crowd leaped a young dark haired shinobi to a quiet stop in front of the Sandaime.
"Are you alright, Asuma?" asked the Sandaime.
At the young ninja's nod, he took a quick glance to the nervously awaiting crowd before focusing back on the young man.
"Here, this is Naruto," Sarutobi said, handing the bundle in his arms to Asuma. "I'll explain after I deal with this situation. This is no place for a newborn."
Asuma looked puzzled but readily accepted the crying baby. Sensing his dismissal as the Sandaime turned back to the crowd, Asuma disappeared amongst the masses. As he made his way deeper into the village, the damage became less noticeable, and the amount of people milling about decreased. A few minutes of weaving through the streets brought him to the person he was looking for, his best friend, Yuuhi Kurenai. A dark haired kunoichi, Kurenai was at the moment helping an elderly couple back into a nearby apartment building. As Asuma approached her, Kurenai turned defensively, only relaxing once recognition set in.
"Asuma!" exclaimed Kurenai, "what are you doing here? I thought you'd be near your father." Noticing the bundle of blankets in Asuma's arm, she moved closer. "What do you have there?"
"This is why I'm here, Kurenai," Asuma leaned forward and moved the blankets aside to reveal the now sleeping Naruto. "Father didn't have time to explain it to me, but I take it this little guy is important. I figured you'd know better how to watch him than myself, so I was hoping you'd help me out."
"IS IT BECAUSE I'M A WOMAN!" Kurenai yelled, flailing her arms about angrily before realizing the presence of the sleeping Naruto. She quickly lifted the baby gently into her arms, cooing at Naruto's soft breathing. "He's so adorable. So when will your father and the Yondaime come for us?"
Asuma froze at Kurenai's innocent question, causing the kunoichi to lift her gaze from Naruto to Asuma after he didn't answer her question immediately.
"The Fourth..." Asuma trailed off as he gathered his emotions. "The Fourth died defeating the demon."
Kurenai's face froze in a gasp at Asuma's declaration. She silently stared at Asuma, searching for the truth in his words. Not finding any reasons to doubt Asuma, tears began to slowly trail down her cheeks as she held Naruto closer to her chest.
"Ho-how did it happen?" Kurenai asked, letting out a small sob.
Asuma could only shake his head grimly as he put his hand on Kurenai's shoulder comfortingly. "Everyone was ordered to clear from the area by the two Hokages right before they took on the Kyuubi. And when it was over, my father had already covered the Yondaime with a cloak and held little Naruto in his arms."
Kurenai sat down on the steps of the apartment building, slightly caressing Naruto's chubby face. Asuma quickly followed suit, sitting down right next to his best friend as they waited for the worst night of their young lives to end.
Hatake Kakashi, a Hidden Leaf Jounin, was quickly running through the forests of Fire Country, the delivery of the scroll in his vest pocket of the utmost importance. He had never met the intended recipient, Tsunade, but did know of her reputation as one of the Legendary Sannin.
Kakashi would rather be fighting against the fox demon and protecting Konoha, but he could not refuse his former sensei's request. After the tragedy with Obito, and the fallout with Rin, Arashi-sensei and Yume-san were the last family he had. If Tsunade can help against the Kyuubi, Kakashi would more than welcome the kunoichi.
Tsunade had gained a reputation for gambling through her travels, so Kakashi hoped to follow her money trail through the cities of Fire Country if he did not run into her first. He was determined to make this mission successful, unknowing of the sacrifice taking place miles away inside the walls of Konoha.