beboots: (gaara)
"I think that this is the theme song for my attitude at the moment..."
(And yay, HTML has stuck with me! :D I learned it when I was a little kid, making neopets pet pages... and after only a little bit of refresher, I can at least make links. Huzzah!)

The Blue and Yellow Staircase by ~Beboots on deviantART

So, I'm pretty busy at the moment, mostly studying. And frantically writing essays: a French one on La Moustache (see previous post for its craziness), a Canadian History research paper on the Quiet Revolution in Quebec (that's when they first started getting all... seperatist-y) and a Habsburg History paper on Maria Theresia and two of her sons, Joseph II and Leopold II (and how Enlightened/Absolutist they were).

So far, I'm not panicking. Not yet. Just keep swimming, just keep swimming...

I'm also writing some fanfiction. I'm still working on that House, M.D./Twilight crossover from hell, admittedly very slowly, but then again, I'm determined to finish it, so... yeah. I've written down a few ideas, in point-form, for Temeraire fics, and I really want to write a few of them... mostly because that fandom isn't nearly big enough, yet. I am also working on a Good Omens crossover with Harry Potter, essentially in which Remus Lupin and Aziraphale become friends. Yes, I know that it's been done before, but not in a multi-chaptered fic. >:3 I've written the first two chapters, and a smattering of other scenes, but I want to finish this fic (and the other crossover, mentioned above) before posting anything. That way, I won't abandon my readers halfway, like I have with Rise of the Jinchuuriki.

Which I am finishing, by the way. Or at least continuing. I have like 20,000 words more of it written. Just not... in order. D: It shall get done as well!

... as soon as I'm finished my three papers. Hopefully.
beboots: (gaara)
 ~Surka the warrior shrew, Nurk: The Strange, Surprising Adventures of a (Somewhat) Brave Shrew. By Ursula Vernon. 

Yes, I did indeed write so much that this chapter had to be posted in two pieces! :D

beboots: (gaara)
 "A true adventurer needs a keen wit, a stout heart, and a strong bladder. Dumb luck can stand in for the wit and the heart, but I've never yet found a good substitute for the bladder."
~Surka the warrior shrew, Nurk: The Strange, Surprising Adventures of a (Somewhat) Brave Shrew. By Ursula Vernon. 

Yay! I managed to finish writing this chapter before I leave for France! It's presentable, at least, although I may yet change a few things...

The Uchiha wouldn't be killed on HIS watch... )
Author’s Note: I’d just like to state right off that this fic is, indeed, firmly alternate universe. Yes, I have read the latest chapters of the manga (aren’t they awesome?!), but I have only incorporated a select few elements of them. Please, don’t complain that I haven’t included this-and-this detail of back-story, or that "oh, this-and-this doesn’t quite fit because of the first panel on page 12 in chapter 386!" Yes, I’m aware of Itachi’s new back-story (or, at least, what has been revealed thus far as of chapter 401). I have discarded some of “canon”, just as I did with Gaara (canon Gaara doesn’t have Shukaku inside him anymore, right?), so it is already alternate universe. Not being identical to canon is what makes fanfiction fun to read and write. :)
I also ended up writing many of the Uchiha portions of this chapter several months ago (alongside the first and second chapters, in fact), and scarily enough, aspects of what I thought was an original and unexpected take on the Uchiha massacre… was canon. I really should have posted this chapter sooner, so I could prove my prophetic abilities.
All of those who correctly guessed the following references in the last chapter take a cookie!
Harry Potter Reference #1: Naruto feeding bacon to the messenger bird from Sand, like Harry does with Hedwig.
Harry Potter Reference #2: Iruka’s Snape-like characterization in the second to last scene of my last chapter.
Howl’s Moving Castle Reference: The line “The eighty-seven-year-old boy smiled back” is a reference to the title of one of the songs on the Howl’s Moving Castle soundtrack (the movie by Hayao Miyazaki), entitled “90-sai no shoujo” (translated as “90 Year Old Young Girl”). Yeah... it was really, really obscure, and I probably shouldn't have mentioned it... D:
I seriously didn’t think that I’d finish this before I left for France... Then, I wrote like 4,000 words in one day in a fit of inspiration. Surprise! :D I have also nearly finished my Fujiwara no Sai costume; there are photos in my profile! Anyone attending either the Japan Expo in Paris or Animethon 15 in Edmonton should feel free to come up and say "hi" if they see me!
Anyway, I hope that you enjoy this long-anticipated chapter!
Naruto couldn’t believe that he hadn’t remembered the Uchiha massacre sooner.
To be completely honest, all thoughts of Sasuke and Itachi and their family had slipped from Naruto’s mind entirely. He had been understandably distracted by… other matters. Like instant ramen. And Iruka-sensei. And what pranks to play on the ANBU tomorrow.
But now that he was aware of it, the thought of the imminent Uchiha massacre weighed heavily on Naruto’s mind. What could he possibly do to stop it? He may know that it was going to happen, but how would he go about preventing it? He would probably need backup, but who could he tell? Obviously, very few people would believe him, the accursed Kyuubi-brat. If he tried to go to the police, well, the vast majority of the officers were Uchiha, and they would be more concerned with the pressing question of just what was he doing meddling in clan business? He could, of course, go to the current Hokage, but then the old man would ask questions that he would be hard pressed to answer, such as: “How do you know that in the first place?”
He could try to stop Itachi himself, but even he couldn’t kid himself into believing that he, at age eight, was a match for Uchiha Itachi. Even with his superior knowledge, gained through more than half a century of experience, the fact was that he simply didn’t have the physical training just yet.
…He really shouldn’t have slacked off so much in his training. He should have known that it would come back to bite him in the rear end.
Perhaps he could have a clone wander by on the exact date and sound the alarm before… but no, that wouldn’t work. He couldn’t even remember the day that the Uchiha had been killed. Naruto hadn’t exactly been paying attention the first time around, and his memories of this time were just a little bit dulled by the passing of the years. Sure, there were some times of the year in which Sasuke grew more brooding, but with his overall less-than-cheerful demeanour, it was difficult to pick out “anniversary of my family’s death” angst from the rest of it. Naruto supposed that he could just wait around the Uchiha district every night until Itachi started looking like he was about to go off and become murderous, but the more time he spent there would increase his risk of being spotted and captured by a clan famous for their eye techniques.
What could he do? He knew that the massacre would play an important role in what was to come, but in all honesty he didn’t want to let dozens of people die just so he would know for sure the path the future would take. He would have to do something. That was what being Hokage was all about, after all: protecting the citizens of Konoha.
…Even if they were arrogant, egotistical bastards.
Gaara’s father was beginning to become a problem.
Wait: that statement was misleading. His father had always been a problem. His defects as a leader were just being thrown into focus now, especially because Gaara now knew what to look for. Gaara had been immersed in the politics of Sunakagure for decades, and he hadn’t stopped just because he was eighty-odd years in the past. He didn’t have as much political clout, of course - none at all, in fact - but that didn’t mean that he would ignore his surroundings. A detailed knowledge of the political climate of his village would only aid him in the years to come.
But back to the topic at hand: his father was, to put it plainly, a bad leader. The only thing he had going for him was that he was a half-decent ninja. Gaara had suspicions, though, that the only reason that a stronger shinobi hadn’t overthrown the current Kazekage just yet was because any and all high-rising jounin seemed to mysteriously fail to come back from dangerous, S-class missions assigned to them especially by their leader.
That was just bad for business. Deliberately culling off strong ninja? The same ninja that provided the majority of the income for the entire village? No wonder Sunakagure’s shinobi were considered inferior goods among the warlords of the Elemental Countries. Gaara hadn’t been able to figure out why this was before, not having seen the “beginnings” of Suna’s descent from respectability.
At the outset, Gaara wrote his father off as a lost cause. If Naruto were here, he would probably berate Gaara for giving up on the Kazekage so easily: everybody can change! You’re proof of that! Gaara ignored this thought. The blond had never known the Yondaime Kazekage. He had never even met him in person, in fact. What would he know? Besides, Gaara hadn’t had as much practice as Naruto had in the “changing people’s outlooks on life” department. It really was much simpler to just get rid of the current Kazekage than to try to change him “for the better”.
And so Gaara was waiting, patiently, for the moment to strike.
Naruto went through the motions of his day, still sorely distracted by the pressing problem of one Uchiha Itachi.
Perhaps… if he were to distract Itachi… Secure his loyalty for himself… Itachi had always been interested in power, right? What if he made him an offer…? But what could he possibly offer Itachi as an eight-year-old that the other couldn’t get just as easily on his own? He’d probably just get laughed at and then killed for knowing too much.
Wait… did Itachi know of the Kyuubi sealed inside Naruto at this age? He certainly did after he joined the Akatsuki, but did he know beforehand or was he told later? He must have been very young at the time of the Yondaime’s death… would he be old enough to know?
Would it even make a difference if he did?
Maybe it would. Itachi respected power, after all. Or at least Naruto thought that he did. And he was intelligent. So if Naruto offered him a better deal than the Akatsuki… Not that he knew what the Akatsuki were offering, but he was pretty sure that it was more than some pocket change, a few cups of ramen and the word of a demon-brat.
Of course, this was all assuming that Itachi was rational, and sane. For all Naruto knew, Itachi could be just psychopathic, plain and simple.
He had never found out the true reasons for Itachi’s betrayal – Sasuke had killed him before he could be questioned about his motivations – but Naruto had his suspicions. Once he had ascended to the position of Hokage, he had become privy to some very interesting, classified documents. These papers had been buried and forgotten some time after the Uchiha massacre. Some of them pertained to the Uchiha clan: whispers of a conspiracy of the police force – completely run by Uchiha – to take control of the village by force. There were mentions of ANBU operatives spying within the family, and referrals to mission documents that no longer existed. It was all very mysterious. Perhaps he could dig up more information this time around, before it was shredded and made to disappear. Otherwise, he would be going into the situation blind.
And there was still the matter of how to gain Itachi’s trust and loyalty.
He had no doubt that he would require the most infamous Uchiha to be on his side to prevent the massacre. Naruto fight the Uchiha genius head-on. At least, not physically. Verbally, perhaps…
But then again, Naruto did have one advantage (besides, well, foreknowledge of the event, to a certain extent): it is said that the only way to fight an Uchiha is with another Uchiha. It was rumoured that a bloodline descended from demons was the only thing that could combat a bloodline descended from demons. The cool thing was that Naruto had something better: an actual demon.
Of course, the Uchiha’s famed bloodline was created to combat his demon... somehow... but Naruto was fairly certain that he could work around that little problem. He’d run across more difficult challenges before.
The Kyuubi rumbled its discontent wordlessly from the back of Naruto’s mind. The nine-tailed beast never spoke to Naruto unless he went inside his mind, before its cage and forced it to speak. Quite frankly, Naruto didn’t want to speak to his “tenant”. Whenever the demon fox spoke, it was always about how many humans it had killed, how many mountains it had demolished, how many nations had crumbled before its mighty power, yada yada yada. Naruto could never get the Kyuubi to agree to anything he wanted unless it prevented Naruto’s own death (and by proxy, extended the Kyuubi’s existence). Oh, the nine-tails sometimes went along with Naruto’s plans (feeding him from his stores of demonic chakra, and so forth), but even then ‑­
the ex-Hokage had to be wary, as a compliant Kyuubi meant a scheming Kyuubi – the fox was probably trying to find a way to escape.
From what little he had spoken to Gaara on the topic, apparently Shukaku was even worse. Gaara’s demon actively lied, schemed and yelled, disrupting the redhead’s thoughts constantly. Naruto considered himself lucky, that the Yondaime Hokage had sprung for a very comprehensive seal. At least he didn’t have to listen to the Kyuubi at all hours of the day and night... At least he could get it to shut up.
But as for providing information? The fox was next to useless. Considering that the Kyuubi was hundreds, if not thousands of years old, one would think that the nine-tailed beast would be a veritable wellspring of exposition. Unfortunately, this was not the case. When the Kyuubi deigned to answer any of Naruto’s questions, it was usually in the form of cryptic references to people and events that he had never heard of, and usually topped off with a variation of “and when I escape I shall destroy you and your village and everyone you love and anything else I come across,” usually with more references to blood, death, and consuming things.
The Kyuubi had a one-track mind.
For all that the demon fox was technically a sentient being, he was very much bestial in his thought processes.
Convincing the beast was going to be difficult.
After the sixteenth time that Uncle Yashamaru tried to kill him, Gaara almost snapped.
Gaara had developed very good self-control over the years, you see.
But it was so frustrating. He was trying to make a difference, to win his uncle over, and some days he almost thought that he might have gotten through to Yashamaru in some small way... And then Gaara would walk into the living room and almost be decapitated by some garrotte wire strung at his height across the doorframe, or he would go into the library to read a half-finished scroll to find it coated in contact poison, or find himself fending off a barrage of explosive tags in the hallway on his way to the bathroom in the middle of the night… It was all very trying. It was always worse, though, seeing his uncle after a failed assassination attempt – the look on the man’s face, quickly and carefully covered up under a veil of false concern. Gaara could almost see the man thinking: next time… next time the demon that killed my sister will die.
Irrationally, he had begun avoiding rooftops.
The roofs of a shinobi village are always reinforced as they take the brunt of the foot traffic among ninjas. Gaara was no exception – short of sand teleportation, the fastest way to get around the village was by way of roof. However, what with... unpleasant memories... It was as if he could stave off his uncle’s death by avoiding the place that had been the scene of it.
Naruto was much more likable. He probably would have succeeded in winning Yashamaru over by now, if he were in Gaara’s place… No. He couldn’t think that. That was a defeatist attitude. He was competing against Naruto. There was no way that he could concede defeat only months in. He could be patient… patient and determined.
Gaara focussed instead upon winning over civilians. They formed the majority, after all, even if they had less influence in village politics than shinobi did.
These children were as good a place to start as any. They were a similar group of children to the ones that he had run across playing ball, months ago. For all he knew, they may be the same ones. Gaara had difficulty recognizing the faces of those far below his notice. They were a bigger group than before, anyway; there were half a dozen or so of them, but they came and went during ‑­
the course of the game in patterns that Gaara couldn’t quite follow. Perhaps they had been declared “out”, or were going to get snacks, or leaving because they were bored, or for some other reason that Gaara couldn’t divine. Children were much more unpredictable than ninja were.
Gaara approached, slowly, as a group of children gathered in the courtyard. One of the kids noticed him as he got closer, and punched one of the other boys in the shoulder to get his attention. Then, they all turned to look at the demon in their midst.
“Hi.” Gaara said, awkwardly.
“What do you want?” A kid with black hair asked as they all looked at the intruder with suspicion.
“Um, can I play with you?”
“My dad says that you’re dangerous.” The same kid declared. Other kids nodded in agreement, muttering ‘yeah, yeah’ amongst themselves.
“I won’t hurt you.”
“Yeah, but if you were really dangerous, you’d say that so you could get close to us and eat us all up.”
“I don’t eat people.” The kids looked doubtful. “Really. I had a muffin this morning, though. With raisins.”
“Eww...” Several of the kids pulled disgusted faces. “Raisins...” Gaara was hard pressed to tell which they thought more disgusting – the thought of eating people, or dehydrated grapes.
“So... can I play with you?”
The same black-haired kid – apparently their spokesperson – looked Gaara up and down. “We’re playing ninja. You can be the monster we’re fighting, if you want.”
Gaara considered this. It was a foot in the door, at least. “Fine.”
The kid smiled. “Cool. Now stand over there, and look scary.” He pointed at a low wall. “Hiromi, you go stand behind him. You be the princess.”
“Why do I have to be the princess?” The girl – apparently Hiromi – whined.
“Because I said so! And you’re a girl. Go on! I promise we’ll rescue you soon.” Hiromi looked at the boy with suspicion. “Go on! Both of you! And remember to look scary, monster!”
Gaara didn’t play a very good monster, at first. To be fair, he was trying not to hurt the children. “Playing ninja” essentially entailed having the majority of the children (the “ninjas”, of course) run at him, the monster, to rescue the princess. Fairly straightforward. Of course, running at a jinchuuriki with a very jumpy demon was extremely dangerous. Gaara had to focus more on subduing the instinctive movements of his sand than he did on evading his “attackers”.
“Rawr! Hand over the princess, demon!” One of the kids yelled, shaking a stick (though where he had acquired a tree branch in the middle of the desert, Gaara had no idea) in the pantomime of a weapon.
He handed Princes Hiromi over to her rescuers, with very little struggle, because they had asked. This apparently wasn’t what the kids wanted. Several of the boys scowled in tandem, and even the Princess didn’t look terribly pleased to be rescued.
“Oh, c’mon! You’re a monster! Fight!”
Gaara shook his head. They definitely didn’t know what they were asking for. There was no way he’d go full out on a group of children.
“C’mon, what use are you, then?” The kid with the stick yelled, running at him.
Fine, then. If it meant that he would remain in the game... With barely a thought, the sand beneath the kid’s feet raised itself. It only moved a few inches upwards, but it was enough to trip the kid and cause him to fall, flat on his face with a smacking sound. A hush fell over the group ‑­
as all of the other kids stopped their taunting to stare at this new development. The kid on the ground didn’t move.
...I must be careful.’ Gaara reminded himself. ‘Children are fragile.’ He narrowed his eyes. ‘But not that fragile. He can’t be... dead.’
Sure enough, after a moment, the boy lying prone popped his head up to stare at Gaara, the demon of the Sand. He opened his mouth. Gaara braced himself, mentally, for the screams. “Wow! Cool! You can move the ground!”
That was... unexpected. “...Yes.” Gaara stated, slowly. “I can move any sand.” ‘Doesn’t everybody in the village know – and fear – that?’
The kid he had tripped grinned at that, jumping up. His clothes were streaked with dust and sand. “That’s so cool! Do it again! When we’re attacking!” The other kids joined in a chorus of “yeah!”s.
Gaara sighed, mentally, face inscrutable. Going from fearing death at his hands to not taking one of Suna’s most dangerous jutsu seriously... it was an improvement (for him), at least.
“Fine. Give me back... the princess.” Gaara deliberately made his voice gravelly, opening his eyes wider in a manner that he knew Naruto thought of as “creepy”. He took a single step forward. The “ninja” took several steps back. Then, Gaara cleared his throat, and awkwardly stated: “Roar.”
It was spoken like it was written, hardly “roar”-like at all, but it caused the spokesman child to grin. “Never, monster! You’ll have to take her from us! Men, protect the princess! To the death!” He charged.
The edges of Gaara’s mouth turned upwards just slightly, and the demon-brat of Suna tripped the kid with his sand. Several of the kid’s “loyal ninja” laughed. Princess Hiromi shrieked with laughter as she was swept up by a gentle plume of sand to be placed behind the redhead.
“To the princess!” Another of the boys cried, undeterred by the shifting sand beneath his feet.
It wasn’t until a few hours later, after he had successfully preventing the ninja from rescuing the princess without giving his attackers anything more than a few skinned knees... that Gaara realized that he was having fun.
Actually, convincing the Kyuubi to go along with Naruto’s plan was surprisingly easy.
Naruto had slipped right into a meditative trance right after supper, and had followed the now-familiar route though his mind to the door of the Kyuubi’s cage. Inside his own mind, he appeared much older and more grizzled. Naruto was pleased to note that his spiritual knees didn’t twinge, despite the way the rest of him looked.
“What do you want, brat?” Of course, an elderly human was still infinitesimally young to a demon. Naruto got no respect from the beast. Ever. But that wasn’t anything new.
Initially, he decided to go for the polite route, instead of the ‘hey, do as I say, you damn fox’ route. “I need your help with something.”
This statement elicited a deep, barking laughter. “Why should I help you?”
So much for politeness. “I don’t know, maybe because I can make sure that the Uchiha will never try to control you again?”
The Kyuubi growled lowly. “You cannot promise that, brat. If they can force their way into your mind, they can force their way into mine.
Interesting. The Kyuubi was being surprisingly coherent today. That had almost been a straightforward answer!
Naruto shrugged, feigning nonchalance as best he could while standing in front of one of the most powerful demons in existence. Despite his apparent age, he felt much less frail in this “form” than he would have had he been a seven-year-old standing here. “How about... you’re overdue for your rent? I haven’t been housing you out of the goodness of my heart, you know.”
The Kyuubi’s enormous eyes narrowed, and it stared down its muzzle at the human before its cage. Okay, it wasn’t buying it.
“Look, all you have to do is lend me a little bit of your chakra, and then the Uchiha won’t blast you to pieces or turn you pink or whatever it is that those Sharingan eye thingies do to subdue you.”
Then, the Kyuubi chuckled. It was a gravelly, deep and inherently malevolent laughter, one that Naruto recognized all too well. He would, in all likelihood, not like what the beast had to say next. “You are going to try to defeat Uchiha Itachi, aren’t you, brat?” The beast’s mouth widened in a threatening grin full of fangs. Its eyes flashed a deeper red. Naruto didn’t deny it. “You will try, and you will fail.” It proclaimed, all malicious glee.
“I don’t think so,” Naruto stated, calmly, in reply. His grey hair took on red overtones in the strange light thrown off by the beast’s chakra, and even his own friendly face, wrinkled by laugh lines, looked sinister.
“Fate dictates your actions.” Several of its tails coiled and writhed in the darkness behind it, just out of sight but not out of hearing. “You believe that you are working against fate, that you can change things. Big things. But that is impossible. Your fate cannot be altered.”
“Again, I don’t think so.” But a seed of doubt was planted in Naruto’s mind. So far, he hadn’t changed much. Certainly, things were different: he ate different foods, wore different things, talked to different people… but he hadn’t changed anything major yet.
The beast’s grin grew impossibly wide, as if it could feel Naruto’s doubt. Some – most – of its teeth were taller than Naruto was. “It will be amusing to see you try.”
“It will be amusing to prove you wrong.” Naruto told his inner demon evenly.
The tailed beast growled again, low and deep in his throat. Naruto was used to such responses – the Kyuubi didn’t often speak in words if it didn’t have to, animalistic growls being just as good for simple concepts as anything else. This particular growl meant something along the lines of “I will go along with this stupid plan but only because I don’t have anything better to do,” but with more condescending overtones than human languages would allow.
Good. The former Hokage could handle a little bit of condescension. It practically rolled off of him like water, only it was less noticeable than that because while you could just ignore words, it is much more difficult to ignore wet clothing. Anyway, he could handle it if it meant that the Kyuubi was going to be providing him with chakra.
He’d gone over this with Neji once already: screw “fate.”
The Uchiha wouldn’t be killed on his watch.
After several months of attempting to “convert” members of his village to his cause (or at least get them to not run from him, screaming in fear), Gaara came to a realization. He had a grand total of zero allies within Suna who had any sort of political clout. He had very few allies, period. Thus far, he had only managed to secure the friendliness of a few shopkeepers and several dozen children; he wasn’t entirely sure that even his siblings were all that enamoured with him at the moment. Sure, they weren’t trying to kill him, but... There wasn’t much point in thinking about his father or Yashamaru, either.
There wasn’t much else that he could do. He would have to acquire allies.
That was how Gaara found himself knocking politely on the door to the grandmother of the most dangerous missing-nin Suna had ever produced: Chiyo.
Anti-climactically, nobody answered.
If Gaara had been in the habit of forming facial expressions, he would have pursed his lips at this blatant insult. So he wasn’t even worth speaking to, was that it? Perhaps he would have drawn his eyebrows together and even frowned. As it was, the redhead looked just as blank as ever, and merely lifted his hand again to knock once more.
Once again, there was no answer.
Well, at least he had tried to be polite. He raised his hands and formed a single seal, placing a finger over his left eye. Some sand trickled from the gourd on his back and slid beneath the door, as if propelled by an invisible, but purposeful wind. Once on the other side, it solidified into a sand-coloured eye. With a twitch of his finger, Gaara had the eye turn around to examine the lock from the inside. It was a deadbolt – which was easily taken care of with a flick of sand – and a key lock. The lock he took care of by inserting a thin stream of sand into the keyhole. After that, it took him only a few moments to find the trip lever within the lock. It really was very simple when one can detect minute differences in pressure and texture in the metal.
The door opened with a click, and Gaara moved forward, into the house.
In all honestly, he would only be mollified if they were dead. They were being rude. He, the (soon-to-be) Kazekage wasn’t in the habit of being ignored.
The siblings were old, but he knew that they hadn’t died because they had lasted for nearly a decade longer than this in his time. Therefore, they were deliberately slighting him.
The house itself was relatively large, as befitting their grandiose reputation in Suna’s history, but it was very barren. There were hardly any decorations anywhere. Sand coated the walls and covered the floors, a design feature that wasn’t uncommon in the village hidden in Sand, where the most plentiful building supplies involved sand mixtures. Soon enough, Gaara came to the open atrium where the first famed Sand Siblings of Suna spent the majority of their time.
There were two people sitting at the edge of a pool – an expensive fixture to maintain in moisture-poor Suna. They were fishing, or pantomiming fishing.
One of the two was sitting suspiciously still. Shit. He hadn’t meant it! He needed them alive!
He hopped up the stairs, all but blurring in his haste. “Chiyo-sama.” He called out in a tone that was most unlike him; he had almost used an exclamation mark.
The ancient women started at the sound of his voice. She wasn’t dead, then. “Keh! What are you doing, disturbing my beauty sleep? What do you want, brat?” It rankled, being called a “brat” by someone who was probably his equal in age.
Still, there was a time to be rude, and there was a time to be polite. Trying to obtain allies definitely fell under the latter situation. “Chiyo-sama, Ebizou-sama,” Gaara began, bowing shortly to each. “I needed to speak with you.
Ebizou, Chiyo’s brother, blinked slowly. “Oh! Sister! There is a boy, here!” He seemed to have just realized that someone else was in the room with him. Gaara snorted, internally, his face outwardly stoic. He hadn’t gone senile at that age.
“Yes, and I am wondering what this boy wants.” She pronounced the word ‘boy’ to rhyme with ‘demon’.
Gaara bowed once again, despite the slight. “I wish to talk to you about my father.”
“The Kazekage.” Gaara elaborated, quietly.‑­
“Eh? What number are we on, now? Four or five?”
“Four, Chiyo-sama. He is the Yondaime Kazekage.”
“Ah, is that so? Keh.” Chiyo made a noise of disinterest. “If you know our names, you should know that we don’t enter into the world of politics anymore. We don’t enter into the world at all.”
Ebizou nodded ponderously in agreement with his sister. “The world belongs to the younger generations, now. You need to do things for yourselves.”
Gaara stood before them, silently, for a few moments. He was painfully aware of how young he looked. Finally, in his usual blank tone, he said: “Sometimes, the ‘younger generations’ don’t know what they are doing. They need help, and guidance, from their elders.” ‘Including me,’ he thought.
The ancient siblings seemed to consider this. Gaara waited for their replies. Thirty seconds passed, then a minute. Then, Ebizou’s chin began to nod towards his chest, the man’s eyes closing. Momentarily, he began to snore.
Gaara really hoped that he never became senile. This was getting ridiculous.
Apparently, even Chiyo thought so as well. “Brother!” She called in her scratchy voice. “Brother! Wake up!” She turned to look back at the ‘youngster’ in their midst, with a leering grin on her face. “Continue. Just what do you want from me?”
“The Yondaime Kazekage is really bad for Suna. He is killing off loyal ninja to stay in power. Soon, sensing weakness, our enemies will be at our door. When the time comes, I would like you to... take up the mantle of Kazekage in his stead.”
“Because you’re too young yourself, is that it? Keh!” Gaara didn’t deny it, but just met her eyes resolutely. “What about any of the council members? I’m sure that they are just itching for the job.”
“The majority of the council are civilians and ninja older than you are. None of those shinobi have retained their strength the way that you have.”
“Keh!” She grinned at the blatant compliment. “Fine! It’ll be more interesting than fishing in a desert!” She grinned again. “I shall... take up the mantle.”
“If the situation presents itself.” Gaara clarified.
“If?” She cackled. She actually cackled. “Fine.” She grinned cheekily, making the wrinkles of her face deepen almost grotesquely. “When the situation presents itself, I’ll start wearing that Kazekage hat that you seem so fond of. Just don’t expect me to die very quickly.” She narrowed her eyes at him. “I can read your intentions like a book, brat.”
Gaara nodded his head in acknowledgement. He didn’t entirely care what she thought of him, so long as she did what he wanted her to. However, knowing her… unique personality, he had serious doubts that things would turn out as he expected them.
In any case, he had found a replacement for his father’s post. The Yondaime Kazekage’s days were numbered.
It was purely by chance that Naruto found Uchiha Shisui’s corpse. He had been “patrolling” the riverside with Kage Bunshin for several weeks without much hope of running across any suspicious Uchiha-massacre related activities. He had half planned to dissipate any bunshin witnessing such activities to alert himself, who would then “casually” lead his ANBU observers to the “scene of the crime”, as it were, but… Now that the situation was at hand, he knew that he couldn’t do anything without at least trying to talk to Itachi himself. After all, he had gotten quite a reputation on the political scene for being able to convince even the most stubborn of people to change their ways. He had a lot of experience doing so, especially in his youth.
Naruto found Shisui of the Mirage floating, face-down in the Nakano River, caught in an eddy by a sandbank. Naruto had done a perfunctory vitals check as soon as he had dragged the body from the water. One touch to the man’s cool skin was enough to confirm it: the (former) Uchiha was definitely and undeniably dead.
The body was fresh, though. Rigor mortis was only just beginning to set in, and the body didn’t display any signs of bloating or rot. Naruto had seen enough dead bodies over the years to be able to estimate, roughly, the time of death. Shisui hadn’t been dead for very long at all.
The Uchiha district wasn’t all that far downstream, either.
That meant that his attacker – Uchiha Itachi – was likely still in the area. Naruto crouched lower over the body, glad for his shortness and the height of the reeds by the riverside, further lined by trees, allowing him – and the unfortunate Uchiha – to remain hidden from normal eyes. Unfortunately, Naruto was probably being watched by Sharingan eyes, which could see chakra and wouldn’t be fooled by something as simple as a bed of reeds.
Naruto felt in his pockets quietly for anything that could be used as a weapon: a few bits of string, two paint brushes left over from a prank from yesterday, and his half-full Gama-chan purse. He could probably use Gama-chan as a bludgeoning instrument, but he seriously doubted he’d make a dent in Itachi’s head with its padded cuteness. There were no weapons on Shisui either, which was unusual for a shinobi. Shisui really had trusted Itachi, to go to meet with him unarmed. Naruto swallowed the bile that appeared in the back of his throat, suddenly realizing that he wasn’t alone.
Naruto stood up and turned to face Itachi from across the river. The most dangerous missing-nin that the Uchiha clan had ever produced was standing quite calmly on the opposite bank, twenty feet or so away from Naruto, dressed casually in what Naruto had come to think of as the Uchiha “casual uniform” – dark shirt, emblazoned with the Uchiha clan’s crest, and lighter shorts.
The boy was suddenly painfully aware of the fact that he was standing above the corpse of the other shinobi’s (former) best friend. Itachi would have no compunctions about killing a young child that he didn’t even know. Naruto swallowed once again, feeling greatly unprepared in this situation. It felt like one of those dreams where you suddenly realize that you’ve walked into an exam that you haven’t studied for, and have forgotten your clothing. Only this feeling was ten times more intense, because the worst thing that could happen in that situation is a failed exam and a feeling of eternal shame. Finding oneself standing, weaponless, in front of a murderer who had absolutely no problem with killing anything that stood in his way could result in permanent maiming or death.
But Naruto knew that it was far too late to pretend that he hadn’t seen anything. He couldn’t just walk away, not with Uchiha Itachi staring directly at him with blood-red eyes. His knees trembled, suddenly, with fear. ‘I could die, here,’ he thought, suddenly struck by the realization of his own mortality. ‘I could die, and my body would just disappear, and nobody would come looking because it was just the demon brat anyway, and if he’s gone then all the better for us...’ Naruto’s eyes suddenly hardened. ‘Like Hell I will.’
“Good morning, Uchiha-san!” The jinchuuriki of the Kyuubi called out brazenly.
Well, he hadn’t been known as the number one most surprising ninja for nothing. Naruto could feel the Uchiha’s surprise. Good. Naruto had managed to unsettle the other ninja. Now the ball was in Itachi’s court.‑­
There was silence for a good ten seconds. The water of the river between them flowed on, oblivious to the tension in the air. Never before had the distance between the two banks seemed so dangerously close to Naruto.
At least Itachi hadn’t killed him outright. There was that, at least… It wasn’t much of a silver lining, but it was acceptable. Perhaps Itachi would be reasonable.
That thought was shattered to pieces only moments later when a kunai cut through the air where Naruto’s throat had been only a split second before he had instinctively dodged. It thudded into the wood of the tree behind him, a heavy and menacing sound. And suddenly the Uchiha was far too close – when had he crossed the river? – and Naruto was scrambling to stay alive.
“Woah, woah- calm down!” Naruto cried, realizing as he spoke that he had never really sounded so young to his own ears. His only answer was another thrown kunai, followed swiftly by a pair of shuriken when Naruto proved agile enough to dodge the first weapon. “Hey, Uchiha-san!” Another shuriken whizzed by Naruto’s cheek, nearly creating a fourth whisker there. This was getting ridiculous. “Hey! I need to speak with you!” He somersaulted forward to dodge an unexpected stab from a short sword –when had Itachi gotten behind him? How fast was he? – a blade which he vaguely recognized as being standard issue for ANBU members.
Naruto knew that he was displaying far too much agility for a supposed eight-year-old child (very few, if any, children could successfully dodge ANBU captains trained in assassination), but he would rather keep his head on his shoulders with a blown identity than being anonymous and dead.
“Wait, wait! Come on, just-“ Naruto threw himself to the side to evade another handful of shuriken. “Stop, already!”
Miraculously, he did. Naruto, having taken cover behind a particularly large tree, realized that Itachi had probably just run out of kunai for the moment. Still, it was a good a break as he was going to get.
“Hey, I need to talk to you!” Naruto called out from his hiding place, trying to sound confident. He succeeded only marginally, drawing upon all of his experience with false bravado (usually used when caught red-handed setting up pranks; that, and when he was bluffing in front of particularly ornery politicians). Naruto slowly inched around the tree, following the movement of the ANBU-trained ninja, keeping the tree between them at all times.
“And why should I not kill you right now?”
Naruto slowly peered out from behind the trunk to look at Itachi, revealing only his eyes and his spiky hair to his opponent. “I doubt you’d be able to.” Before the Uchiha could go for another blade to prove him wrong, Naruto elaborated. “You’re not the first one who has tried to kill me. As soon as you make the fatal blow, I’ll just be healed by the Kyuubi’s chakra.” This wasn’t strictly true, but very few knew of the extent of his abilities. But a little white lie couldn’t hurt him, and in fact it was probably actively saving his life at the moment.
Itachi’s dangerous eyes narrowed. “Granted, I may not be able to kill you, but there are other ways of silencing a person.” The Uchiha’s sharingan eyes shifted fluidly into their Mangekyou form.
Naruto quickly averted his eyes, staring at a point in the centre of Itachi’s chest, which was marginally less capable of sucking him into a genjutsu from which there was no escape. “If you do that, then you won’t hear what I have to offer in return.”
The future of the Uchiha clan was in that one, long, calculating look. Naruto tried not to fidget.‑­
“You are just a child,” The thirteen-year-old ANBU member finally said. Naruto didn’t tell Itachi that to him, it was the Uchiha who looked like a child. “You may have the power of a demon, but you cannot use it. Why should I listen to you?”
Naruto hesitated for one long, weighty moment. “Because I know what will happen to you if you walk down that road.”
Again, Naruto paused. What if it didn’t work…? “You’ve already killed your best friend, to get the Mangekyou Sharingan. You’re going to try to kill the Uchiha clan.” Naruto didn’t mention that he didn’t know why Itachi was going to do so. It was probably enough that he knew about the forbidden Sharingan technique. All he had to do was appear as if he understood Itachi’s reasoning. “You’ll join the Akatsuki, an organization bent on destroying the world with the chakra of captured demons. They’ll be stopped. But you – you won’t even get to see the Akatsuki defeated. You’ll be killed by your own little brother, who swore revenge the day you betrayed him and destroyed everything he cared about. Your death will be easier than he expected, because you had gone blind from using the Mangekyou too many times. You’ll die, weak and blind, killed by someone who was never meant to catch up to you in power.” The red-eyed ninja’s eyes narrowed even further. Naruto inwardly cursed the inscrutableness of Itachi’s facial expressions. “And besides, who said that I cannot use the Kyuubi’s power?” Itachi’s expression didn’t change, but Naruto could almost feel the dark-haired boy’s interest. Naruto’s mouth slowly split into a grin, revealing a hint of fang, as the whisker marks on his cheeks grew bolder, and his own blue eyes turned red enough to match the Sharingan.
“You are the Kyuubi.” Itachi stated, as if coming to a realization.
“Naww…” Naruto grinned more wildly, revealing more fang. “Something worse – a human mind who can use the Kyuubi’s chakra. The Kyuubi is into mindless destruction more than anything; I can direct it. That’s much more dangerous, don’t you agree, Uchiha-san?” What was unspoken, but implied by the way that Naruto addressed Itachi was the subtle ‘Your family can control the Kyuubi’s mind, but you can’t control mine.’
“Do not try to distract me, Jinchuuriki.” Ah, there was that title... Itachi knew what he was. “How do you know of... my future? If what you have told me is indeed true.”
Naruto smiled again. “I’m from the future.” He said, flatly.
Itachi didn’t react.
“Seriously.” Naruto insisted.
Again, there was no reaction on behalf of the stoic Uchiha. Then, finally, he blinked, slowly. “Accepting, for the moment, that you are telling the truth, Jinchuuriki... If I am dead... what happened to you? Are you trying to prevent a war?”
Naruto laughed. “Kind of. Well, no. Not really. Well technically...” He considered, thinking of the myriad of small wars that had occurred during his reign. “No, none in particular. Not really. And to answer your first question... I’m the Hokage.”
If Itachi’s face wasn’t so unreadable, Naruto would have identified that expression as a disbelieving look.
“Believe it.” Naruto told him, seriously.
“What could you hope to gain from telling me all of this?”
“I want you to do the right thing. You don’t really want to kill your family, do you?” Naruto was going out on a limb with this...
There was something in Itachi’s expression that spoke of intransigence. “It is not so simple.”‑­
Something about the Uchiha’s tone irked Naruto. Throughout this discussion, Naruto had been slowly inching out from behind the tree that he had been using as a shield. Momentarily forgetting that this was a much more dangerous Uchiha than Sasuke, whom he normally verbally sparred with, Naruto emerged completely from behind the tree and spat out: “Stop with the “lone warrior” crap! This isn’t a game!” Naruto knew that these words sounded particularly strange, coming out of the mouth of a young child, but as long as his point came across, he wasn’t terribly bothered by the incongruities. “Of course it’s that simple! You have two choices: you either do the right thing, or you don’t.” It was a child’s logic, but that didn’t mean that it didn’t ring true. “You need to do what’s best for Konoha. It’s what we’re trained to do, isn’t it? We’re both Konoha ninja, after all.”
Uchiha Itachi slowly nodded, although whether it was in agreement with his statement or just an acknowledgement that he understood what had been said, Naruto had no clue.
Naruto had said his piece. There wasn’t much he could do otherwise. He could only hope that Uchiha Itachi would make the right decision.
Then, Naruto looked directly into Itachi’s eyes. He knew the danger. But this incredibly simple action spoke of a great amount of trust: Naruto trusted that Itachi wouldn’t place a genjutsu on him.
The tomoe in the sharingan eyes swirled once more, then faded to an almost normal looking black, but Naruto didn’t feel the telltale prickling of genjutsu along his skin.
Itachi nodded, briefly, at him, in respect. Naruto allowed himself a small smile. He... he had gotten through to Itachi! He had done it! Naruto nodded back. In the split second that Naruto’s gaze was averted, Itachi threw a shuriken at his neck.
It was a killing blow. Luckily for Naruto, he was never there in the first place.
To be continued in a second post! (Yes, I wrote so much that LJ won't let me post it in one piece!
beboots: (Ninja Vash Drunk)
 Bierce, Ambrose, The Devil's Dictionary. (The snarkiest book I've read in ages.)

It's snowing outside again. ;_; I'm on summer vacation, and yet it looks more like February outside. At least it's sort of melting... kind of, not really. ;_; When will I be able to bike once more...?

Yes, I've finally finished writing the next chapter of Rise of the Jinchuuriki! ... and it's like 6,000 words long. D: My time participating in National Novel Writing Month was not wasted. I wrote most of it in the last week. Speed writing for the win! :D

Yay, ninja kindergarten! )

Chapter Six: Game Start

It was rainy all day. It was the kind of light rainfall that wouldn’t be bad in short bursts, but instead lasted for incredibly long amounts of time, pervading everything with a persistent and unpleasantly cold dampness. Konoha was a beautiful village in the sunlight, but in the gloom and mist of the rain, the place took on the appearance of a washed-out old photograph.

The weather made things more than five feet away difficult to discern from the greyness of the background. This could make anybody feel depressed. It had the added effect of making the ninja inhabitants of the village feel paranoid.

Naruto, for one, was jealous of Gaara. The bastard was probably sunning himself in the wonderful desert weather. The blond grumbled curses a six-year-old shouldn’t know under his breath to himself as he jogged back towards his apartment under an old umbrella with two tines bent out of shape. At least the thing didn’t have any holes, which was more than he could say about the roof of his apartment...

Naruto wished he could use some chakra to blur to get to his apartment faster, but he knew that Gaara would never let him live it down if he was revealed to be from the future because he didn’t want to get wet. Well, perhaps that was being unfair. Gaara wasn’t the kind of person to gloat. Stare in hidden amusement? Yes. Chuckle in the depths of his mind, where only the Shukaku could hear him? Perhaps. But he would never gloat out loud. It was almost worse, that way: knowing that Gaara may be laughing at you (or not) but being unable to point and go “hey, that was mean!” He couldn’t exactly ask his friend and peer to stop doing nothing.

Finally arriving in his apartment, Naruto shook some persistent raindrops from his pathetic-looking umbrella before placing it in a chipped flower vase that he used as an improvised umbrella stand.

“All right, ramen!” He crowed to himself as he crossed the room to his kitchen corner (one room apartments were useful in that respect, at least: everything was conveniently all together).

With a flourish, Naruto removed one of two dozen cups of instant ramen from his shopping bag and placed it almost reverently on the counter. His haul had been a challenge to acquire, as usual. His success this time had been in part due to three cans of paint, a length of rope, a towering but fragile display of canned nuts, a bunshin to distract the store manager, and a strategic henge. Even so, he had nearly been found out at the end. He would have to be careful not to go to that store again very soon. Luckily, he had managed to purchase a decent amount of ramen – food of gods and future Hokage. Not only was it cheap and delicious, it also kept very well. A long shelf life was very useful, especially when he didn’t know when he would next have a successful shopping trip, which were always few and far between.

As he prepared his supper, he noticed several muted chakra signatures alight on the roof. ANBU, most likely: several of them, trying to mask their chakra. They were probably there to watch him. He continued nonchalantly making his supper, giving no indication that he knew that they were there. He wouldn’t be expected to know. He knew that they were probably there under the orders of the Hokage.

When he had come into office, he had sorted through some of the old paperwork and old files that they had on himself, just to see what the Sandaime and the Godaime had been up to. That had been how he had discovered that he had actually had a rotating guard of ANBU watching over him since he had been very young, even past the point that he had become a genin. Naruto had gathered that they were a compromise, of sorts, between the Hokage and the council of Konoha. The Kyuubi brat wasn’t to be trusted, and so was watched as an enemy would be. It made him sad in a hollow sort of way, the feeling of not being trusted. He had felt it less as he had grown to become a trusted village leader. Now he had to get used to it again.

But back to the issue at hand: what to do about the watching ANBU. Well, Naruto thought, logically, pouring his boiling water over his cup ramen, What would Gaara do in this situation? Besides kill them? Or smother and subdue them with sand? Or go up onto the roof, acting for all the world like he went up there all the time, and stare at them, blankly, like they were crazy, until they went away?

In the end, Naruto decided on just the opposite of such things. Sure, Gaara was his friend, but the guy wasn’t exactly known for his mastery of social niceties.

“So… how come you aren’t in the academy?” Temari asked, apparently uneasy with nothing but the sandwiches, the table and the serious silence between them.

Gaara chewed on his mouthful of sandwich quietly for a moment, swallowed, and replied in his usual monotone, “I’m too young.”

“But you’re six, aren’t you? There are some six-year-olds in the youngest class. Some five-year-olds too.”

Gaara shrugged. He was a demon brat who could already take down any shinobi assassins that they could throw at him. They weren’t about to teach a failed weapon with clearly ambivalent loyalties to Suna how to be more deadly. The first time around, he had learned by instinct, watching others, and later, from a petrified Baki, his jounin “sensei” and handler.

“That’s just silly. You should ask fa- um, somebody to get you in.” She paused, awkwardly, and then added: “It’s really fun! My teacher says that maybe Kankuro and me can graduate soon.” Gaara knew that she had been about to tell him to ask their father, but had then realized that wait, their father didn’t seem to like any of them, and so wouldn’t be doing them any favours anytime soon.

So Gaara shrugged once again.

Temari turned her attention back to her sandwich, and Gaara frowned, internally. Talking to this Temari was more difficult than he would have thought it would have been. What did children talk about, amongst themselves, with no adults present? He couldn’t remember. Maybe he had never known in the first place.

He continued to eat his sandwich in the uneasy silence. Temari avoided his gaze, staring down at her crumb-spotted plate. There was an innocuous smear of peanut butter on her chin. Gaara couldn’t remember ever seeing his sister look so young before. She practically radiated naïveté. It was almost unnerving, to know that this little girl would grow to become one of the strongest and most deadly kunoichi that the Sand had ever known.

But then again, he supposed that he, the demon of Suna, looked just as “cute” at the moment, although he probably looked less naïve, even now. He was certain that the “look” didn’t suit him.

Temari, having finished staring at her empty plate, stood up from the table and took her dishes to the sink.

Gaara could think of nothing to say, so he decided upon a strategic retreat.

His chair scraped against the sandy floor as he stood up (sand pervaded everything in the desert, be it buildings, clothing, or even food). Gaara walked towards the door, and his sand followed. Temari didn’t watch her little brother go.

He paused in the doorway. “Temari.”

His sister looked up all of a sudden, nearly dropping the plate into the sink. “Um, yes?” Wariness was a good thing to cultivate in young ninja. Gaara approved. Cautious shinobi invariably lived longer than bull-headed ones… with the possible exception of a certain blond future Hokage that he knew (but then again, the ability to heal fatal wounds with demonic chakra was always a useful trick.)

Gaara met her eyes. “Thank you for the sandwich.” And then he was gone.

Naruto had peripherally monitored the few movements of his ANBU watchers all throughout his dinner. He didn’t envy them, sitting out there in the cold and the wet, while he ate his hot and awesomely delicious cup ramen.

Naruto had once heard of a custom from a place so far away the country could have just been made up. People believed in little gods or fairies or demons or something, and they would put offerings in little dishes to leave out at night to ask for their protection, or maybe just so they would pass their houses by.

After a moment’s thought that night, Naruto put some of his still warm ramen (leftover from his eleventh bowl) in a sealable container, and put it out on the windowsill. He was careful to lock the window afterwards, even though it would be useless against any ANBU that decided to come looking for more food. Naruto seriously doubted whether any of them would even touch it – they were probably too paranoid and afraid of poisons – but it made him feel better that the ANBU who were forced to watch him had the option of something warm to eat.

Besides, it might be his Kakashi-sensei out there.

He wasn’t surprised when he got up the next morning, though, to find that there was an untouched bowl of cold ramen sitting outside his windowsill, dripping with rainwater.

It was probably for the best. He would have actually been worried if the ANBU watching him had been green enough to accept food from the subject that they were supposed to be monitoring. Still, Naruto supposed if the ANBU grated on his nerves too much, he could always just be really, really irritating, which would make his watchers less likely to pay close attention to him… although, if they were good ANBU, they likely wouldn’t fall for such a simple trick.

The house was quiet. Temari had gone to bed hours ago, and it was still just a little bit too early even for ninja-in-training and their chuunin caretaker to be up. Gaara was always up, though. After Temari had gone back to sleep, Gaara had crept into the kitchen once more and had washed the dishes, just as he had promised himself earlier. This task proved difficult when he realised that, humiliatingly enough, he was actually too short to reach the sink. He had to drag a chair to the counter to get at the water tap.

Washing the dishes took all of ten minutes, which then left him wondering what to do. He normally didn’t have to worry about finding things to occupy himself; there was usually an endless array of things requiring the Kazekage’s attention. It was bizarre to find himself with nothing pressing to attend to.

In the end, Gaara decided to go outside and walk the streets, and watch as his village woke up.

The sun had only barely risen, so it was still chilly. The desert wouldn’t take on its characteristic heat until the sun had been up for a few hours. Already, despite the cold, there were a few people awake. There were ninja on guard duty were just returning from their night shifts, their replacements already up and about. The bakers had already been up for hours, and were only just now taking their wares out of the oven. Gaara passed by one of these bakeries just as an assistant – a middle-aged civilian woman with strong-looking arms – was putting a tray of breakfast muffins in the window. She looked startled to see so young a child out alone, so early in the morning, but she didn’t seem to recognize him. Gaara gave her a short nod, one that would hopefully be interpreted as friendly, and continued on, away from the delicious smell of freshly-baked pastries. He didn’t remember that specific bakery from his time, but then again, civilian businesses came and went often. Some people were more suited to life in a shinobi village than others, after all.

As he wandered the sandy streets, as silent as any slow-moving sand dune, Gaara became aware of the raucous sound of children’s laughter. Then, as he drew closer, he could hear the sound of something hitting pavement, and then, running feet. The former Kazekage slowly rounded the corner of the building closest to the sound of the voices. There, lay a courtyard where four children were playing ball. A lonely swing set was set up to one side. It was to this structure that Gaara made his way. He sat down on the swing, still unnoticed, and observed as the children played their game. After a few minutes of watching the children’s interactions in silence, he was beginning to divine the rules of the game that they were playing. There were no teams; all four seemed to be playing for themselves. The goal of the game didn’t seem to be to simply catch the ball, but to avoid having one of the other three get it. However, it seemed that one wasn’t allowed to hold the ball for longer than three footsteps. Kicking the ball out of reach of the others seemed to be the preferred method of handling. Occasionally, one would be declared “out”, usually after missing a catch, causing the ball to go out of bounds. Being “out” seemed to entail sitting on the side of the playing field for a minute, and being unable to handle the ball. Gaara didn’t know if this was supposed to be a well-known game, or simply one whose rules were made up as these four children played it.

Suddenly, a stray kick caused the ball to go wide. It bounced off of a pillar at an odd angle, and finally came to rest on a ledge a story or so up one of the buildings that composed the square.

“Aww, man!” one of the kids exclaimed in disgust.

“What should we do?” one of the others asked.

Gaara felt strange. There was something… oddly familiar about this situation. He supposed it was just because it was a typical childhood scene, one that he had only ever seen from afar. Just days before he had gone back in time, in fact, he had watched a similar group of kids play a different game of ball, watching from the Kazekage’s tower. That must be it.

Gaara glanced at the children, who were scuffling their feet and each demanding of the others to do something about getting the ball back.

Gaara probably could have just climbed up there, clinging to the wall with chakra. A kid with good chakra control was much less threatening than the Demon of Suna. But Gaara had gotten into the habit of using his sand to handle things out of reach over the years, whether they be dropped objects, a scroll he needed from across the room, or even light taps to get the attention of people. He hardly even thought about it anymore. His sand just moved. Such was the case now. A wisp of sand detached itself from the piles that lay in ever-present drifts in the Hidden Village of Sand, and threaded itself through the air to deftly knock the ball off of the ledge. It fell in a slow arc directly into Gaara’s outstretched hands.‑­

The eyes of the children followed the ball’s progress. Gaara stepped forward and gravely deposited the ball into the slack hands of the closest child. This seemed to snap the kid out of his trance.

“It’s Gaara!” That child screamed, dropping the ball and immediately beginning to run away. This, of course, set the rest of them off, and they all scattered away from the demon-child in their midst.

“Wait!” Gaara called out impulsively, and his sand shot out to stop them instinctively. With a sudden jolt of déjà vu, the former Kazekage realized just exactly where this was going: children screaming in pain, a defiant Yashamaru trying to calm he, the out of control demon, down, and the injured children rejecting the demon’s help. With a violent hand gesture, he reigned his sand in before it could do more than graze the ankle of the boy with the funny-looking, spiked black hair. The kid only screamed more loudly as he fled.

Moments later, the courtyard was empty of all but Gaara and his sand. The desert wind whistled, blowing a small plume of sand along the ground in front of the redhead’s feet. He made no noise; he was certain that if he listened hard enough, he would still be able to hear the sounds of screaming and the pounding of running feet as the children fled. He was a kage-level ninja (mentally, anyway), and he probably could have chased them down and forced them to listen – or play – with him, but Gaara doubted that such actions would endear him to them overmuch.

This was definitely going to be harder than anticipated.

…He had never liked children much, anyway.

Gaara let a small sigh escape from his emotionless façade, and turned to walk back to his apartment. He retraced his steps, the early-morning sun shining directly into his eyes, making him next to blind. He passed by the bakery he had seen earlier; the window display was already half-empty of muffins. He walked on.

As his apartment came into view, Gaara came to a sudden realization: he was feeling sorry for himself! This thought was so potent that it stopped him in his tracks for a brief moment. He couldn't walk down the path of self-pity. That would get him nowhere. He remembered distinctly that whenever insults had gotten too vicious, and the assassination attempts had gotten too frequent, Naruto had one thing to say to him: “Feeling sorry for yourself will get you nowhere. Stop it.” And then Naruto would slap him upside the head, and Gaara would let him.

Gaara looked up at his family’s apartment, gaze hardening. He couldn’t let a few screaming children and a murderous uncle get in the way of him achieving his goal. He would just have to try harder, and that was that.

Naruto had rediscovered the fun in being a child. Well, sort of: it was more a case of “discovering” in the first place than “rediscovering”. He was no longer tentative: he refused to back down and go away to play elsewhere under the demanding glares of parents. He used sheer charm to convince children that he was a fun kid to play with. And it worked… and he found that he was enjoying himself. They didn’t seem to care that he didn’t know the rules of their games very well, and were all too happy to teach him. He was also still enjoying the novelty of being young again.

Of course, he had the added challenge of subterfuge, but that just made his “game” all the more engaging. Trying to get around ANBU members was a very nice training exercise, made all the more useful because he couldn’t properly train around them. (His mind was limited by his body. He was still only capable of what a child was capable of, despite his memories of the contrary.) They had probably been informed about his bunshin-making abilities, but Naruto faked being unskilled with them. Oftentimes, if he needed to go places and didn’t want the ANBU to follow (places like, say, forbidden sections of the Hokage’s library, or maybe just to the washroom without having the niggling feeling that someone was watching his every move), he would make a few sloppy bunshins and send those off as decoys for the ANBU, all the while making other bunshins on the sly to run off in secret to the training fields. The ANBU weren’t aware, of course, of his sheer stamina when it came to bunshins. They seemed to think that four or five was his limit (this would already be spectacular for a jounin-level ninja, let alone one with hardly any ninja training), and Naruto was happy to keep it that way. He often sent them off on childish pranks – which were all the more easy to do because of the extra pairs of hands he could create – which again blurred his purpose to his watchers. Naruto wanted them to dismiss him as a child… for now, anyway.

Still, the ANBU weren’t trained to be sloppy, and Naruto had to be careful… which was again a part of the fun. There was something about fooling the elite members of one’s village time and time again that made one feel… proud. In a sinister, giggling madly to oneself kind of way.

It was during the first week of the second month after he had returned to the past when Naruto received his first letter from Gaara, carried by a disgruntled and tired but normal-looking Suna messenger hawk. The boy fed it some leftover bacon and sent it on its way with his thanks. It wouldn’t do to be impolite to their means of communication. He then turned his attention to the missive that Gaara had sent him.

It was a simple message: “Got free sugared bun and a smile from the new baker on Central Street.” Naruto grinned.

The game was on.

The “kyuubi-brat-watch” shift started to become more interesting for the ANBU after that.

If nothing else, the ANBU were kept on their toes – was the demon luring the children of the village to their deaths? Or was he just lulling them into a false sense of security through overly enthusiastic companionship?

Kakashi narrowed his mismatched eyes from behind his masks, watching from a hidden location in the canopy of a tree across the courtyard in which the Kyuubi brat was “playing”. The ANBU agent with the crow mask on the branch beside him flicked his hands to sign out a message to him: ‘What is the beast doing?’ Kakashi conceded the point. What was the kid doing? Especially with all of those children in a circle? And why were they singing gibberish. What was this “stella ella ola?” Was this some sort of demonic trick?

The gray-haired ANBU vowed to watch the brat more closely from now on.

(Sometimes, training children to be killing machines has a downside – without a childhood, how can they discern hidden threats from children’s games? Paranoia must have healthy limits.)

“You seem happier, lately.” The Hokage noted in one of the boy’s regimented visits to his office.

“Yes, well, I figured that there’s really no point in moping and being sad, right? It’s not going to get me anywhere. So I may as well do things to make me happy. Does that make sense?”

The Hokage smiled around his pipe. “It does indeed, Naruto.”

The eighty-seven-year-old boy smiled back.

The boy deliberately shied away from people that he remembered even decades later as being particularly abusive towards him. Naruto made the movements even more obvious when he sensed the muted chakra signatures of his ANBU guards following closely behind him.

He did his best to look like the downtrodden orphan – who still had hope – as he could. He wasn’t above using the “cuteness” of his younger body to good use. He was well aware of how differently people reacted when confronted with such things as women and children in distress. There had been a non-perverted reason for inventing the Sexy no Jutsu, after all. What could be more disarming than a hysterical naked woman? That technique had been incredibly well-known and had been growing in popularity even half a century after its inception. For several decades, it was even taught among ANBU ‑­

initiates as a new forbidden technique, to use in battle when all else failed and the operative needed the element of surprise. And the Sexy no Jutsu was incredibly surprising. It had been designed to be so.

Unfortunately, he probably couldn’t reveal his famed (and infamous) technique just yet. It would still be considered much too advanced to have been invented by someone his age. He’d likely have to wait a few more years yet, mores the pity.

He had other things to focus on, at any rate, like his classes. Naruto didn’t realize that he was already enrolled in the academy until an ANBU had dragged him to class after his second day of skipping. He’d thought he was too young to be in class, but then again, he was still kind of unsure of the exact date. Naruto made a mental note to himself to pick up a newspaper. He couldn’t exactly turn to one of his classmates (none of whom he really recognized) and ask them for the day, month and year. He thought it strange that he actually couldn’t name anybody in his class, and he only remembered halfway through his first day back that he had failed the genin exam three times the first time around. This was probably his original “graduating” class.

After two weeks, he was proven wrong when he was transferred into Iruka-sensei’s class.

Naruto was, for lack of a better word, nervous. Currently, he was sitting in the back of the classroom, head on his arms, which were folded and resting on top of his desk. He was waiting for Iruka-sensei to show up. Naruto had arrived early, for once; he didn’t want to make a worse impression than he already had. He was sitting in the back, strategically, so that he could observe his classmates but avoid their attention.

He vaguely remembered his new classmates’ faces… They certainly looked different without wrinkles—or puberty. Sakura’s hair was distinctive enough, and Kiba’s Inuzuka clan face markings weren’t entirely subtle either. It was strange to think of these children as his friends and companions. Well, technically, they weren’t yet. He was going to have to work on that.

Just then, the door to the classroom burst open and in walked Iruka-sensei. Naruto looked up, hoping that this meeting would be different, and it would be the same old Iruka who bought him ramen and listened as he bitched about Kakashi-sensei and Sasuke-teme and gave him advice on how to talk to Sakura and understood when he said that he was going to become Hokage and you better believe it… and his heart plummeted when he saw the stormy expression on the man’s face. He should have known not to be optimistic in this case. Naruto watched as Iruka glanced around the classroom, before the man’s gaze settled on him, in the last row in the back.

Iruka’s eyes narrowed. Naruto gave a small smile. Iruka’s eyes narrowed further. Naruto sank down in his seat, wanting to hide, but knowing that he couldn’t. He had to face this. That didn’t stop him from almost sighing in relief when Iruka turned his attention to the blackboard and began writing down the day’s lesson-plan.

Naruto could see that Iruka’s knuckles were white around his grip on the chalk. His teacher snapped the piece of chalk twice as he wrote.

“Henge!” Iruka barked, turning to face the class and resolutely avoiding looking up into the final row, where a certain demon-child was sitting. “An illusion in which shinobi can take on the appearance of something that they are not.” Naruto caught the emphasis. “As academy students, you will learn the basics of this technique, enough to be able to take on the appearance of one of your classmates, or even me. Some of you will never learn more than this.” Iruka was outright glaring at Naruto, now. Yes, that was most definitely his ‘super-scary angry face’. “To graduate from the academy, you must be able to hold the henge for at least five minutes. More experienced ninja can hold it for days. Some can even make themselves invisible, to an extent.” Naruto wished that he could become invisible. “Any questions?” Iruka-sensei asked.

Everyone in the classroom was silent. No one dared to ask a question and perhaps have Iruka’s wrath transferred to them.‑­

“Recognizing when someone else is using a henge is also an invaluable technique.” Iruka-sensei’s eyes flashed. “Uzumaki.”

Naruto sat up straight as many of the students eyes fell upon the stranger in their midst for the first time. “Yes… sir?” It was best to be polite.

Iruka’s eyes narrowed further. “How would you determine if someone is using a henge?” Naruto knew that academy student weren’t expected to know this. He knew that for sure, because he had overhauled the academy curriculum himself to include it. He knew the signs, of course – little idiosyncrasies, like shadows where there should be light, a slightly different shade of haircolour on a close friend – that helped to determine if something was an illusion – but he couldn’t exactly say so.

He wasn’t supposed to know. He was dead-last Naruto, after all. “I don’t know, sir.”

Iruka made a dismissive noise, as if to say ‘of course the demon wouldn’t want to reveal its secrets.’

“Well, then: what is the exact difference between a henge and lower forms of genjutsu?” Naruto had only learned that distinction after two years in the field as a jounin. It honestly didn’t matter overmuch, as both were dispelled in the same manner. “I don’t know, sir.” Iruka made another dismissive noise.

Naruto could tell by some of the students’ murmurings that his definitely wasn’t normal behaviour from their sensei. Somehow, this didn’t make him feel all that better about his situation. Naruto understood what Iruka was doing; he was trying to demoralize him, make him slip up, or perhaps just get upset enough to leave the academy.

Maybe it was a fluke, last time, that Iruka-sensei liked me… Naruto thought, despondently, slouching further down behind his desk. He could tell that this was only going to be the start of things.

The final school bell at the end of the day had never been a more welcome sound.

Naruto was very sad to have lost his senior discount in many stores. However, he found that a young and cute body was almost as good. If he slapped some mud onto his cheeks and hair, people were hard-pressed to identify him as the demon child, and if he put on the right pathetically hungry face, the kind of face that screamed “I am an orphan! Feed me! Give me a hug!”, sometimes people actually did, if they didn’t realize who he was.

It was nice to feel a little bit loved, or at least not unwanted, for once. Naruto was resolutely avoiding thinking about the academy and its related… tensions.

Today was a beautiful day for a walk. There were many citizens of Konoha who apparently had the same thought as he, as the streets were lively with the bustle of people. Naruto stopped to admire some pastries in the window of a shop, trying to figure out if the shopkeeper liked him enough yet to give him one for free... or at least not sell him one at an extortionary price. In the reflection of the glass, Naruto spotted a pair of dark-haired brothers, the elder carrying the younger. How sweet.

He focussed more of his attention on the pair when he spotted the Uchiha clan symbol emblazoned on the back of the kid’s shirt. With a blink, he realized that it was Sasuke. He almost hadn’t recognized him, as he was both young and happy. He supposed, then, that the one carrying him had to be… Itachi.

The older Uchiha was speaking to the younger with a small smile: a rarity among that family of angst-buckets. In response, the little Sasuke actually laughed. It was… bizarre. Almost surreal.

Sasuke was… actually happy.

Naruto turned to walk on with a smile. It truly was a wonderful day.

Suddenly, a thought struck Naruto, stopping him in his tracks with its intensity.

Oh, shit. What was he going to do about Itachi?

Author’s Note: Yes, what is Naruto going to be doing about Itachi? Find out next time…! :D

“There are some six-year-olds in the youngest class. Some five-year-olds too.” Was I the only one that thought “yay, ninja kindergarten!” at this line? Probably. D: I am such a dork.‑­

Oh, and did anybody catch the Harry Potter reference(s)? There was also a “Howl’s Moving Castle” reference, but I myself didn’t realize until my sister pointed it out. Cookies to those who can correctly identify them!

Next Chapter: Changing Tactics

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The waste of fine tea through incompetent manipulation was considered one of the three most deplorable acts in the world (the other two being false education of youth and uninformed admiration of fine paintings.) 
~ Modern introduction to Lu Yu's The Classic of Tea.

W00t; I've finished my book review (handed it in on Tuesday) and my research essay for the History of China and the West (handed it in on Thursday). I ended up writing on how a foreign drink (tea) became the epitome of British culture. 
And now... it's the weekend! :D All I have to really do is continue to assemble my application to go to France this summer, edit my English research essay, compose a fifteen-minute presentation for History 290 and write a skit in Japanese! (Um, that sounds like a lot, but it really isn't.) 
Aaand since I finished writing my essay, I had time to finish writing the next chapter of "Rise of the Jinchuuriki"! :D Ahead of schedule!

Gaara rinsed what Naruto would eloquently call the “yuck” off of his face.  )
beboots: (Default)
believed Hu mad." 
-Jonathan Spence, The Question of Hu 

So currently, three essays are consuming my soul: an book review on The Question of Hu, which is actually a really interesting account of this Jesuit missionary who brings a chinese man, Hu, back to France in the 1720s, but they have a falling out and Hu is locked up in an insane asylum to get him out of the way. 
Anyway, I also have to write two more research essays. The one due on Friday, for English, is getting there. Almost done, almost done... The other one, due a week from tomorrow for my China and th West class, I've barely even started. I have a topic, and I've taken out three books from the library. D: Must... work... harder...
I'm also going to the Soba-bowl anime festival in Edmonton on Saturday, when I really should be working on my essays. Oh, well. I wouldn't be able to concentrate anyway, knowing that it was happening but still being cooped up inside. 
I also feel guilty, because I haven't updated any of my fics recently. D: Here is an excert from the next chapter of Rise of the Jinchuuriki to take the edge off:

Silly Hokage, Education is for Kids! ... not 1,000 year old demons or time travellers! )
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According to Naruto, hard work and determination could easily be substituted for lack of ability when it came to things such as these.  )
(Quote in subject title by Woody Allen; it's very true.)

So currently, I'm almost overwhelmed by mid-term studying. That's why I'm on here, updating fanfiction - because I need a mental break from 17th century China. It's interesting as all hell, but after a while, my brain starts cramping up. D:

In addition, one of my reviewers on used this emoticon:


It is utterly awesome - thumbs up, man! :D I intend to use it ad nauseam from now on. b._.b

beboots: (Ninja Vash Drunk)
Naruto on Ramen, Rise of the Jinchuuriki

You are The Moon

Hope, expectation, Bright promises.

The Moon is a card of magic and mystery - when prominent you know that nothing is as it seems, particularly when it concerns relationships. All logic is thrown out the window.

The Moon is all about visions and illusions, madness, genius and poetry. This is a card that has to do with sleep, and so with both dreams and nightmares. It is a scary card in that it warns that there might be hidden enemies, tricks and falsehoods. But it should also be remembered that this is a card of great creativity, of powerful magic, primal feelings and intuition. You may be going through a time of emotional and mental trial; if you have any past mental problems, you must be vigilant in taking your medication but avoid drugs or alcohol, as abuse of either will cause them irreparable damage. This time however, can also result in great creativity, psychic powers, visions and insight. You can and should trust your intuition.

What Tarot Card are You?
Take the Test to Find Out.

Preview for the next chapter of Rise of the Jinchuuriki (see, see, I AM working on stuff!):

Little known fact: the famous techniques of the other two sand siblings, Temari and Kankuro, were initially developed so that they could get around Gaara’s sand attacks. This had been done mostly out of self-defense. With her fan, Temari could delay the approach of, say, a wall of sand just long enough so that she could escape. Kankuro, too, had become exceedingly good at replacing himself with his beloved puppets just in case his little brother had had enough and decided to crush him with sand; he needed an escape route.

beboots: (Default)
“I am Wolf.” The man said after a suitably dramatic pause. “We have been looking for you, Uzumaki Naruto.”  )
beboots: (Ninja Vash Drunk)
So cunning you could pin a tail on it and call it a weasel.

80 words

Touch Typing

So I have decidd that I am going to start posting fanfiction on this journal! There will still be Real Life type things, but as I am a writer, well... this sort of thing is what's going on in my brain like, all the time. :3

I'm going to post the fanfiction that I'm working on currently, so people can see that hey, I'm actually sort of doing stuff besides whining! :D

Here be the first chapter of "Rise of the Jinchuuriki", a Naruto timetravel fanfiction.

Summary: After reigning for decades as Kages in their respective villages, Naruto and Gaara return back in time to their six-year-old selves. Challenge: who can win over their village and become the leader before the other?





After sixty-eight years of being the most bad-ass ninja around... )



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April 2011

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