Eyes of the Broken Soul: Chapter 2 – Searching for Answers
Disclaimer: I do not own Naruto, nor am I affiliated in any way with Naruto. I just like the show and mangas so I wrote this fanfic.
This fanfic and the ideas therein do belong to me, ‘Tenrai Senshi’. If you want to use it in any way shape or form, you’ll need my permission first. All original characters also belong to me and may not be used without my permission.
Warning: Naruto is a bit OOC in this story due to circumstances explained, most notably in the earlier chapters. Some of the other characters may act OOC as well, mostly due to different circumstances taking place, but that isn’t 100% certain yet. If you don’t like it, don’t complain because I’ve already warned you.
AN: Well, as I said, I would upload the next chapter if people enjoyed the first one and although I didn’t receive many comments, the ones I did receive were positive, so thank you very much.
In any case, for those of you who may not have read the first chapter yet, just hit the link above, under the title image.
I hope you enjoy! ^ ^
Chapter 2 – Searching for Answers
“Man, my legs are killing me. If I don’t stop walking now, I think I’m gonna turn into a puddle of jelly.”
Iruka let out an almost blissful sigh as he heard the soft mumblings that escaped Naruto’s lips as they continued down the busy streets of Konoha, although they were somewhat incoherent thanks to the shopping bags that seemed to tower out of the boy’s hands while successfully hiding most of his face from view, a reward from their shopping trip that resulted in some new clothes for Naruto. The chunin had to wonder how his younger charge managed to see where he was walking at all, given the obstacle that barred his vision, but somehow the boy managed regardless, save for a brief stumble here and there.
“Well, it isn’t too much farther now anyway,” Iruka offered, grinning slightly. “Then we can finally have that lunch I promised you, provided you survive the trip without crashing into anything.”
Naruto simply pouted as he watched his sensei chuckle softly to himself, before continuing on his way with his new possessions firmly in hand. Of course, Iruka had offered to carry the bags himself in an effort to relieve Naruto of that burden, but the boy was so excited about his new belongings that it was difficult for him to even imagine parting with them just yet, and the bright smile that seemed to be plastered almost permanently across his face was enough to tell Iruka that it was best to let him enjoy the moment.
Besides, there was something about it that Iruka couldn’t quite put his finger on. The smile he saw on Naruto’s face was so different to the cheeky, fox-like grin the youngster had always adopted before. It seemed calmer, brighter and more genuine than it had in the past and Iruka couldn’t help it as his heart welled up simply from having witnessed such a display of warmth.
For the most part, the pair had trudged through what could only be described as a considerably busy morning. After having left the academy, Iruka had taken Naruto to one of Konoha’s medical centers to see to his considerable amount of injuries. Naruto didn’t seem too pleased about the prospect at all, if his consistent frown was anything to go by at the time, but Iruka managed to goad him on with a few words of encouragement and reassurance.
Unfortunately, despite the chunin’s own efforts, the medical staff stationed at the center were hardly welcoming or pleasant, which didn’t help the situation in any regard. It took a great deal of time and frustration for Iruka to get any of them to even look over Naruto in the first place and even then he was far less than satisfied with their scant efforts.
Naruto was barely even given a simple overview and Iruka was almost shocked to notice the manner in which their doctor opted to simply ignore the bruises and cuts that clearly marked his body, as if they weren’t even there to begin with. To say that he was angry would have been a grave understatement on anyone’s part, however, after a few rather violent threats that even managed to shock Naruto, the medical practitioner was soon checking the boy more thoroughly, scanning over his muscles and organs to ascertain whether any more severe internal injuries had been suffered.
Iruka could barely restrain his frown when he read the diagnostics report that he received shortly after. According to the review, Naruto had received numerous fractures and lacerations from his prior treatment, as well as bruised or torn muscle tissue and some punctured blood vessels. It was surprising that he was still able to move at all, given the near endless list of injuries that filled the frighteningly long sheet of paper, and Iruka silently considered breaking his earlier promise of not bringing retribution to the ones responsible for his student’s condition.
After all he knew a few particularly… ‘talented’ individuals who could more than easily make their lives a living hell. One Morino Ibiki came to mind as a possible tool for vengeance, although the sadistic temptress that was Mitarashi Anko had crossed his thoughts as well.
Luckily for Naruto, however, and for Iruka’s increasingly frail heart rate, none of the boy’s internal organs were too severely damaged and it seemed as though Naruto’s wounds were also healing at a remarkably rapid rate, much to his teacher’s surprise. After finally being given an ‘all clear’ for the time being, they then proceeded to their next destination for the day and one that held far more promise than the last.
After they had left the hospital, Iruka could already see Naruto’s face lighten up considerably. It was almost as if a heavy weight had been lifted from his soul and the chunin watching over him silently wondered if this was, perhaps, not the first time that Naruto was subjected to such poor treatment at the hands of other hospital staff before. It would have explained his apparent dislike, or perhaps even fear, of such places.
It was only a while later that the wandering pair had finally found themselves entering into another store of Iruka’s choosing, only this one held an assortment of clothing and materials of all shapes and sizes. Naruto allowed his eyes to wander over the bright tapestries and intricate patterns that met his eyes, as well as the various and unique fashions that many of the outfits adhered to. He was somewhat confused as to why Iruka wanted to stop at that specific store but soon their purpose there became apparent.
It was already painfully clear to Iruka that Naruto had no possessions left to call his own other than the barely tangible clothes on his back, so it only warmed his heart that much more when he saw the boy’s eyes light up life fires after he told him that they would be buying him a new outfit to replace his tattered wares. Naruto could hardly contain his excitement as he darted off to browse through the contents of the store, opting to try one outfit on after the other while Iruka took the role of his inadvertent fashion adviser.
The chunin couldn’t help the chuckle that escaped his lips when he saw Naruto almost leap out of the change rooms sporting a bright orange jump suit, his face nearly split in half with a wide and exuberant grin. However, the man’s common sense told him that it was better to advise against the outfit even if it meant breaking Naruto’s heart, and after a convincing speech about how ‘brighter wasn’t always better’ and how a shinobi would have to avoid being seen, Naruto seemed to accept his reasoning despite the dejected sigh that still managed to escape his lips.
Eventually, the cheery blond had settled on a deep blue, short sleeved shirt that seemed to match his own eyes in colour, as well as a pair of black pants that reached just passed his knees in length. On the back of the shirt was an embroidered, dark orange spiral, with similar but only smaller designs on the base of either sleeve. Naruto had also replaced his old and tattered footwear with a pair of new, black shinobi sandals that rose up to his ankles and allowed his toes to show through the front.
After receiving Iruka’s approval of his choice, the blond practically bounced with his teacher over to the counter to check everything out. Unfortunately, the woman who served them seemed to recognize Naruto and regarded him in a similar manner to the doctors they had previously visited. However, once again, Iruka’s unusually ‘persuasive demeanor’ won over in the end and he managed to negotiate a price that still managed to leave his wallet relatively intact, much to his relief.
Once that was out of the way, and once the clothing had been packed to go, along with some extra articles to ensure that Naruto at least had a decent wardrobe, Iruka handed the young boy his new belongings and watched with stinging pain in his heart as the youngster squeezed the packaging tightly against his chest, hugging it in an almost possessive manner. The boy’s eyes seemed to stir with a mix of emotions along with a lingering sense of disbelief, with their gaze now lost into nothingness as he simply stood there silently, trying to sort through his own feelings.
It was almost as though the mere prospect of being offered such a kind gift was difficult for Naruto to comprehend, but soon a bright smile flashed across his face and lifted his expression once more, clearly defining the evidence of his joy. For a moment, Iruka could have sworn that he saw the same flash of gold in his eyes that he had noticed earlier that day, only this time there was no sunlight to blame it on.
And so, the couple now found themselves traveling to their final destination for the morning and to the long awaited lunch that Iruka had promised his student. It wasn’t long before the smell of freshly cooked ramen began to fill the atmosphere around them and even Iruka could see Naruto’s nose start to wrinkle curiously as he took a few whiffs of the lingering fragrance left in its wake.
“Is that really food?” The boy almost sighed out, enraptured by the rich aroma. “Man, it smells so good I can almost taste it on my mouth.” Iruka simply laughed at his expression.
“That it is indeed,” he smiled. “You know Naruto, if you keep drooling like that, you’ll dehydrate before we even get the chance to eat anything at all.” The said blond quickly snapped back to reality at Iruka’s words, before smiling sheepishly and wiping away the perpetrating river of saliva that ran down his cheeks, both of which had awkwardly turned red in colour.
Moments later, the two arrived at their destination, entering into a small stall with a sign out front that read ‘Ichiraku’s’. At first glance, there wasn’t anything particularly special about the store. It was scantly decorated, save for a few brightly coloured frills and weaved tapestries that hung from the walls, and the kitchen that was easily visible from the front almost seemed like nothing more than a mess of burning stoves and scattered cutlery. However, even despite its simplicity, for some reason it felt warm and inviting to Naruto.
Their arrival was quickly noticed by a large and somewhat old man behind the counter, who quickly pulled himself away from a boiling pot in order to address them, a smile of recognition gracing his lips as he did so.
“Well, good day to you Iruka! It’s good to see coming to visit me after all this time. It’s been, what, a few months since the last time you had a good ol’ bowl of ramen?”
“It’s good to see you too, Teuchi-sama,” Iruka replied courtly, bowing slightly. “Unfortunately I’ve been unusually busy lately, what with teaching all these little twerps at the academy and all. You know how much of a pain they can be.”
The chunin then gave an accusing glance at his younger company, causing Naruto to pout childishly, before sticking his tongue out in defiance. Noticing the extra guest, whose short frame had otherwise been well hidden behind the counter, Teuchi turned to the young boy before smiling brightly, a friendly gesture that took Naruto somewhat by surprise.
“Well hello there little one,” he offered cheerfully. “And who might you be?” Naruto simply scratched the back of his head, not particularly fond of the attention he was suddenly receiving, before lowering his head and answering softly.
“Um… my name is Uzumaki Naruto,” he barely managed to croak out, afraid that the mere mention of his name would somehow bring him misfortune. He wasn’t sure what it was about him that made people hate him, but he was pretty convinced that he would no longer be welcome in the man’s store once his identity was known.
For a moment, Teuchi simply remained silent, opting only to scratch his chin in thought as he regarded the now timid form that stood before him. With every second that passed in quiet, Naruto’s head only seemed to sink that much lower and it was almost as if he was awaiting some sort of reprisal that had yet to come.
“Naruto eh?” The old man finally huffed again, allowing a smile to play across his lips. “Well, that is a fine name, isn’t it now?”
Naruto’s head shot up so quickly, Iruka could have almost sworn that he heard it click and it wasn’t long before the boy himself was smiling happily again, pleased that the old man that hosted them seemed to be far friendlier than he had experienced in the encounters he had suffered before.
“Well, come on boy. I’m quite sure I heard your stomach growling long before you walked through into my stall. So what will it be for the young master today?”
Iruka, seeing Naruto’s excitement reemerge, quickly handed him a nearby menu and let him read it for himself while he looked over his own. Naruto opted only to stare at the canvas at first, regarding the symbols that marked its surface with a great deal of concentration while moving his lips as he looked through each line, almost as though he were trying to mouth out the words. It was only a while later that he turned back to face his teacher again and Iruka could only watch with knotted stomach as the boy’s face grew into a discomforting frown.
“Iruka-sensei…” Naruto finally mumbled, staring up at his teacher with shameful eyes as well as a tinge of embarrassement. “I… I can’t understand what it says.”
Iruka could feel his heart plummet in his chest as Naruto’s words reached his hearing. He could only imagine how poor the boy’s treatment at the orphanage if he couldn’t even read properly. The reason for his poor grades at the academy was suddenly becoming all too clear now and Iruka could only berate himself for the fact that he had never questioned it before.
“Alright, don’t worry about it Naruto.” He finally responded, sighing. “Here, let me help you with that.”
The chunin then leaned over to his distressed pupil and began to recite the menu’s contents, helping the boy decipher the words for himself as well as gently correcting his mistakes. After a few minutes of working through it, as well as a few curious stares from their remarkably patient host, Naruto finally looked up to Teuchi again and called out his order.
“I’ll have one bowl of miso ramen!” Iruka then quickly leaned over and whispered into his ear again. After giving of a small nod following the silent instruction, Naruto tried once again, only this time rephrasing his words into something more favorable.
“Can I have one bowl of miso ramen… please?” The last word was emphasized with an odd smile on Naruto’s part and the old man listening simply grinned in response, as if to silently approve his well-mannered request.
“Of course you can little one.” Teuchi then turned to Iruka. “And what can I get for our other guest?”
“Oh, I’ll just have one bowl of pork ramen please.” Iruka responded just as politely.
Teuchi smiled in approval once more and then turned to see to their meals, but just before he made his way to the back of the stand he caught sight of the bruises around Naruto’s eyes, which he had only just noticed despite the boy’s efforts to hide them from view.
“What happened to you little one? Looks like you’ve been roughed up a bit…” He inquired uneasily, his eyes fixated on the soiled face before him. Iruka was about to open his mouth to answer the man’s question, but Naruto quickly cut him off before he could speak.
“Oh that? Well you see… I… I just got into a fight at school that’s all. Nothing to worry about.” Naruto then allowed a smile to plaster across his face, as if to reaffirm the validity of his excuse and make it seem more genuine.
Teuchi still seemed somewhat uneasy, but his face seemed to relax a bit at the boy’s explanation. He then turned to see to their food again, only stopping to call out to Naruto once more.
“I hope you showed the other kid not to mess with you again!”
“You bet ya!” Naruto grinned in reply, trying to sound as reassuring and as genuine as possible. However, as Iruka continued to watch him, he noticed the boy’s face fall back into a frown soon afterwards, clearly betraying the truth of the matter to anyone who might have seen his failing expression.
‘It must have hurt for him to have to lie like that, just to keep those around him from worrying.’ He thought quietly to himself.
The man then began to wonder just how many times Naruto had done the same with him in the past and he silently cursed himself for his own negligence on the matter. He couldn’t help but feel guilty about Naruto’s poor physical and emotional condition and the fact that he had never taken notice of it before.
After a few more minutes had passed by, two steaming bowls of ramen were finally placed in front of the two waiting guests. Iruka shot off another small glance towards his younger counterpart, to which Naruto gave a polite ‘thank you’ to the store owner, and then followed with his own ‘thank you’ before they both got stuck into their meals.
Iruka couldn’t help his thoughts as they wandered over everything he had witnessed in Naruto so far. He could already tell that his caretakers hadn’t taught him anything about proper manners or etiquette either and his lack of reading skills showed their neglect more than anything else, save for his injuries caused at their hands. Another thing that shocked the chunin watching over him was how fast Naruto seemed to shoot through his meal as well, gulping it down at an alarming rate as though he hadn’t eaten in days.
It wasn’t long before the bottom of the porcelain bowl became visible through the pool of soup that remained behind, which Naruto promptly finished off with a satisfied gulp as he drank it down.
“That was the best food ever Iruka-sensei!” The boy boasted happily, slapping a grin on his messy face as he emptied the bowl and planted it back down on the table.
Iruka giggled at the sight of his ramen filled cheeks and his warm smile. It almost completely hid away the bruises and marks that covered him… almost. However, despite the relief he felt seeing Naruto happy, the boy’s mannerisms regarding something as simple cooked food begged another question, one that he decided was worth asking now that the moment had presented itself.
“So… Naruto, what exactly did they feed you at the orphanage anyway?” He inquired curiously. For a moment, Naruto’s eyes seemed to lose their glimmer and Iruka almost immediately regretted his decision.
“Well, sometimes they would just give me leftovers after everyone else had finished their own food, that was if I was lucky.” Naruto responded glumly. “The rest of the time I just got moldy bread that was already a week old.”
Iruka felt his stomach knot sickeningly once more. Everything he had heard so far had almost prompted him into losing the food he had just eaten moments before. Oh yes, he would definitely be talking to Anko, there was no doubt about it now. Ibiki could torture what was left of those sickos after she satisfied herself with their screams. Revenge would be sweet indeed, but before Iruka could delve any deeper into his unusually sadistic thoughts, Naruto drew his wavering attention once more, tugging on his sleeve.
“Um… Iruka-sensei, can… can I have another bowl…. please?” He pleaded, allowing his big blue eyes to cast what seemed to be some sort of ‘pity no jutsu’ on his sensei. The chunin gave off a warm smile and nodded in approval, much to the boy’s obvious glee.
A few minutes and eight bowls of ramen later, Iruka was starting to wonder if taking Naruto to lunch was such a good idea after all. The youngster was simply devouring every helping he was given with an unmatched ferocity and it was almost unnatural to see such a high volume of food disappearing into such a small frame without so much as a single sign of strain.
However, even despite the ever-growing threat to his wallet, Iruka couldn’t help but smile as he watched Naruto continue to eat happily. By now, the boy’s face was completely smeared with the evidence of his hunger, as trails of sauce and debris littered his cheeks. One particular offending noodle was hanging precariously beside his mouth and it only made Iruka laugh seeing it hanging on for dear life.
However, even despite the mess, he could still see Naruto’s bright and cheery smile shining through the whole time, and that alone was enough to put the chunin at ease. He knew in his heart that he was doing something right, especially after seeing those eyes only a few hours before… eyes filled with so much sadness and pain.
Once Naruto had finished his last bowl, he allowed a deep sigh of satisfaction to escape his lips.
“Thanks a lot old man!” The boy announced cheerfully, allowing another bright smile to flash across his face. Teuchi simply nodded in approval of his courtesy, despite its robust nature, before taking the empty bowls to be washed, although he couldn’t help but silently remark on how cleaned out they were already.
Seeing that Naruto was done, Iruka quickly grabbed a nearby serviette, before moving over to wipe his face of the contents of ramen that still clung firmly to his skin. Naruto giggled slightly as the cloth rubbed over his whisker marks, a seemingly natural reaction that betrayed their sensitivity, before opening his eyes again to look up at his sensei.
Iruka almost cringed at the sight of his innocent stare as his efforts to clean Naruto inadvertently revealed the bruises that still marred his face, bruises that had otherwise been hidden behind the dirt that had momentarily concealed their presence. He found it difficult to conceive the idea that Naruto could still even smile with a face that held so much evidence of his maltreatment and yet, the boy had shown a radiance that day that he had hardly seen before.
“Is something wrong Iruka-sensei?” Iruka snapped from his thoughts as Naruto addressed him softly, his gaze quickly being drawn down to the blue eyes that suddenly regarded him with curiosity.
“N-no, it’s nothing at all,” he stammered uneasily in response. “It’s just… I think it’s time we talked about what occurred last night. I know it’s probably very hard to think about, but do you think it would be alright if you told me what happened?”
Naruto allowed a deep, shaky breath to escape his lips following Iruka’s words. He knew the subject would be brought out sooner or later, but that fact alone didn’t make it any easier to talk about.
“Well, it’s like I was telling you,” he finally began, albeit uneasily. “That big man came into my room and started to… well, he hit me and he didn’t stop hitting me. He just carried on and on and I… I didn’t know if it was ever going to end.”
The boy took a deep sudden heave, an action that betrayed his growing emotions. However, even despite that, Iruka did not interrupt him. Instead, he simply opted to allow Naruto some time to collect himself. After a few uneasy moments, the boy continued.
“It happened every night, you see, so I wasn’t really surprised to see him, but that still doesn’t make it any easier you know.” Iruka nodded his head in understanding, prompting the boy to continue.
“Anyway after a long time, well, it felt more like forever, he finally stopped. He didn’t say anything, he just walked away. I thought it was over but then he just came back again in with this thing in his hand and that he said he was going to use it on me. It looked nasty and it had all these sharp edges on it, so I guess I kinda freaked out.”
Naruto then bowed his head, almost shamefully.
“All I did was look into his eyes, I swear,” he admitted regretfully. “But then he started going crazy. He fell over and started… he started screaming. It was… horrible…” Naruto’s tone then began to sink into a near whisper as he continued.
“It… it looked painful. Like he was being tortured or something,” he continued solemnly. “Anyway, after that, everyone was pretty mad at me. They said it was my fault that the man was in hospital. That’s when they threw me out onto the streets and told me to never go back.”
Once Naruto had finished with his explanation, Iruka could hear another heavy breath escaping his lips, no doubt a desperate attempt to release any built up tension that had otherwise welled up inside. The man then continued to sit there quietly for a moment, contemplating all the information he had been offered, while Naruto simply watched him silently.
‘It almost sounds like Naruto’s warden was caught in a genjutsu of some sort,’ Iruka thought quietly to himself. ‘But Naruto hasn’t learned any genjutsu at the academy and he still lacks the chakra control to even pull one off, so then, how could he have cast one last night?’
Iruka then looked over to his younger companion and for a moment their eyes locked together. Seeing the deep blue irises that met his gaze, a thought suddenly snapped into his mind.
‘Wait, Naruto said something about looking into the man’s eyes. That’s when he started reacting. But, if Naruto’s eyes have something to do with this, then that means…’
The man simply shook his head in disbelief. ‘No, it can’t be, there’s no possible way Naruto could have a…’ He then remembered back to the first time he had looked into Naruto’s eyes that day and odd reflection of colour he had seen in them, the same reflection he saw again later when they were shopping for clothes.
“What’s wrong Iruka-sensei?”
Iruka was once again snapped from his wandering thought by the softly spoken words of the boy in front of him. Looking back down again, he could easily make out the worry hidden within Naruto’s expression, as well as a lingering sensation of guilt. Seeing the opportunity provided by the awkward silence, he decided it was the right time to ask the boy some questions to help clear his own thoughts on the matter.
“Naruto, did you see anything unusual when you looked into the man’s eyes? You know, like anything out of the ordinary?”
Naruto seemed to think on the question for a moment, although Iruka understood his hesitation. After all if his suspicions were correct, the boy probably wouldn’t understand much of what had happened, especially given the complexities of the situation.
After a few fleeting moments, Naruto finally answered.
“Well, things did seem to look a little different.” He mumbled awkwardly. “When I looked at him, it was like everything was clear to me, clearer than they’ve ever been before. It was almost as though I could see inside of him, you know, all the feelings and the pain. He seemed… sad almost, like he had lost someone close to him long ago.”
Naruto then paused for a moment, his features quickly falling into a heavy frown.
“It was me, wasn’t it?” He began added solemnly. “I made that man…”
“No,” Iruka cut him off. “What happened wasn’t your fault Naruto. It wasn’t your fault that those horrible things were being done to you and it most certainly wasn’t your fault if that man got hurt. It was his own actions that resulted in that consequence.”
‘Although I will have to inform the Hokage of this development,’ he added mentally. ‘We should head over there as soon as possible.’
Iruka then stood from his seat, prompting Naruto to do the same, before turning to Teuchi, who had already looked over to them.
“Thank you very much for hosting us Teuchi-sama. I appreciate your kind hospitality towards both my student and I.” He then nudged Naruto in the shoulder.
“O-oh, um, thanks old man!” The boy stammered, having understood his sensei’s gesture. “The food was really awesome! In fact, it was the best I have ever tasted!” Teuchi simply smiled in response, before bowing his head to see them off. Iruka was about to hand over the bill for their meal, but the older man simply waved him off.
“There will be no need for that today,” he laughed. “Besides, you have given me the blessing of bringing me a promising new customer, one I am sure I will be seeing often in the future. Aren’t I right Naruto-kun?”
“You bet ya, old man!” Naruto grinned in reply.
With that, he and Iruka made their way out of the stall and back into the dusty streets, after which they began to make their way once more, with almost no destination in mind. There were a few moments of awkward silence between the traveling pair, so Naruto simply took the moment to regard his surroundings in the time offered to him.
By now, the sun had already passed its threshold at the top of the sky and was now making its way towards the horizon. Its golden light bathed the rooftops and streets in a radiant glow that brought a comforting warmth to all those that fell under its embrace and even Naruto felt relaxed as he felt its gentle caress against his skin and across his face.
There were a few moments where his thoughts wandered back to the night before, back to the cold and the dark, back to the damp chill and billowing winds, back to the pain. The mere thought of it sent a shiver down his spine and even he couldn’t help it as a single tear slid down his cheeks. However, even despite his efforts to quickly wipe away the evidence of his emotions, Iruka had easily noticed his unease.
“Is something wrong, Naruto?” He inquired carefully, bringing them both to a halt. “You look a bit shaken up.”
Naruto simply looked back up to his sensei, his eyes lost in a forlorn expression.
“It’s just… I guess I’m not used to anyone being so kind to me.” He sighed. Iruka then watched as his eyebrows began to furrow together, almost as if caught between an awkward frown and a curious stare.
“Why are you doing all this for me?” He finally continued. “I mean, why are you going out of your way to help me, when all anyone else ever did was call me a monster? All my life, everyone I have ever known has just treated me like dirt, but not you. You’re so kind and… and…”
Naruto felt himself being pulled closely to Iruka as his words devolved into little more than whispers. At that moment, all he could feel was the warmth and strength of the man’s arms holding him tightly, his face otherwise buried in the mess of fabric that made up his vest. It was only a short time later, before he heard the soft words offered by his sensei reach his hearing once more.
“Look, Naruto, I don’t know how to explain the actions of others and I can’t justify any reasons for them treating you the way they have. All I can say is that it was wrong. You aren’t any of those things they called you and you didn’t deserve what they did to you in any regard. What they did was wrong. Do you understand what I am saying?”
The chunin then pulled away slightly, enough to just barely catch Naruto’s eyes as well as the small gesture as the boy nodded his head in silent understanding. He began to feel the same odd sensation of emotions he had before when they had hugged earlier that day, a mix of confusion, sadness and grief all melded together, but he was also pleased to feel a sense of comfort and relief through their contact as well.
Hearing Naruto’s soft words of gratitude, Iruka then ruffled up his hair a bit, gaining another soft chuckle, followed by a wide, grateful smile.
“Alright, that’s looking better already,” he smiled in return. “Now, lets go see the old man and get this matter resolved once and for all.” With that, the two began their long journey to see the Saindaime, a meeting that would hold more surprises for them than either could have ever expected.
The trip to the Hokage’s tower was met with little trouble for Iruka and Naruto, save for the hateful stares directed towards the youngest of the pair by many of the villagers that they passed. However, such remorseless glares were only intercepted by Iruka’s own deep scowl, a threatening gesture that easily warded off any thought one might have had of harming his student.
He only hoped that Naruto himself did not notice what was happening around him, although if the boy’s withdrawn expression and almost timid body language was anything to go by, he doubted that was the case.
Fortunately for them both, they were soon inside the large structure that was their destination and almost just as suddenly as they had walked through its entrance, there was a sudden sensation of relief shared by the two. Iruka didn’t really know if such emotions were his own, or whether they belonged to the boy whose hand he had guided him by this far, but it didn’t really matter anymore. He was just happy if Naruto felt comfortable.
Walking down the bustling hallways, filled with scampering shinobi and messengers alike, the pair eventually arrived at the doors that led to the Saindaime’s office, its passage guarded by two, masked shinobi standing on either side. Naruto recognized the masks immediately and knew that they identified these particular shinobi as ANBU, an elite division of Konoha’s best ninja that answered only to the Hokage himself. However, before he was even allowed a moment to stand in awe of such enigmatic figures, one of them turned at their arrival, before bowing curtly and addressing Iruka directly.
“Iruka-san, you’re finally here. Hokage-sama has been waiting for you two, he told us to let you inside as soon as you arrived.” Iruka couldn’t help it as his eyebrows rose curiously, easily displaying his surprise.
“Lord Hokage was expecting us?” He inquired, almost under his own breath.
However, he quickly shook off his confusion on the matter and bowed politely, just as the ANBU opened the door to let him inside. The scarred chunin then nudged Naruto forward, prompting him to enter, while following shortly behind him. Once they were through the door, they could hear it closing firmly behind them, leaving the two standing alone with only the presence of the most powerful figure in Konoha to meet their view.
The office was quite large for its single inhabitant and almost absurdly spacious, with a single wooden desk making up the only piece furniture to inhabit the otherwise barren floors. The desk itself, however, was another matter entirely, as its surface was dotted with an assortment of stationary, as well as towering stacks of documentation that any man or woman seeing it would only refer to as the ‘dreaded paperwork’.
Noticing their arrival, an old man looked up from his said stack of paperwork, before smiling softly, causing the wrinkles and lines that marred his face to stretch awkwardly. Iruka could see a sudden flash of relief reflect in the old eyes that looked over them and he knew that Naruto was most certainly the subject of his concern and, subsequently, the sigh that escaped his lips. How the old man had caught onto what was happening, however, was anyone’s guess.
“Ah Iruka, I’m glad you could make it.” Hiruzen finally announced softly, his voice betraying not even a single hint of the tension that had otherwise gripped his being. The old man’s eyes then moved over to Naruto, who shifted somewhat uncomfortably under his gaze. He couldn’t help but notice the boy’s poor condition, a factor that he intended to address shortly enough, but for now, he decided it was best to appear as cheerful as possible so as not to be intimidating.
“And I see you brought Naruto-kun with you as well.” He continued, pushing back his thoughts. “I am pleased to see both of you are here.” Iruka quickly gave a court bow in response to Hiruzen’s greeting and, following a suggestive nudge in his direction, Naruto did the same.
“You were expecting us, lord Hokage?” He inquired shortly after, raising his head again.
The old man simply grinned at the obvious confusion on the chunin’s face. Naruto looked equally baffled and a little bit intimidated by his presence as well, but a quick flash of his warm smile quickly erased some of the boy’s tension.
“Well, when I received news from the orphanage about an incident that occurred there late last night, as well as the fact that they saw fit to remove Naruto from their care due to the nature of the event, I naturally became concerned. Then, of course, I received a report from the ninja academy that one of my best teachers just upped and left a class unattended. It didn’t take long for me to put two and two together so I knew I would be seeing both of you soon enough.”
Iruka couldn’t help it as his cheeks flushed red with embarrassment.
“I… I shouldn’t have left so suddenly like that, my apologies…”
“There’s no need to apologize,” The Sandaime cut him off. “I can understand the good intentions behind your actions and so I have already dealt with the persistent nuisance of the academy officials. The situation has been explained as best as I could offer at the time, so for the time being, there shouldn’t be any reprisal. For now, however, we have a lot to discuss. I am sure you didn’t just come here to apologize, did you?”
Following Hiruzen’s inquiry, Iruka prompted Naruto forward, nudging him closer to the large wooden desk at which the Hokage sat.
“Naruto, can you please tell Lord Hokage everything you’ve explained to me so far?” He pleaded gently. Naruto took a deep gulp and after a few reassuring squeezes on his shoulder from Iruka, he nodded his head in approval.
“Alright, I’ll try my best.”
The boy then began to relate the events of the previous night as he had with his instructor less than an hour before. The Hokage seemed to react in a similar manner as Iruka had, nodding his head in silent understanding as Naruto explained and questioning him every so often when the moment presented itself. After another daunting retake on the terrible events that had transpired, Naruto finished with a deep heave, one that only served to quell his lingering emotions.
“And that’s everything,” he finally ended off, releasing the breath he had held.
“So, that’s how it happened…” The Sandaime sighed, pushing into the back of his chair. “Naruto, I would ask that you please step outside for a moment so that your sensei and I can discuss this matter privately, if that is alright with you.”
Naruto simply nodded his head, for a lack of any better response, before stepping outside and away from their hearing. Once he was gone, Hiruzen turned back to face Iruka again.
“So, Iruka, I am sure you have come up with your own hypothesis as to what happened with Naruto, if your expression is anything to go by.”
“That’s right, lord Hokage,” the chunin confirmed. “It is my suspicion that the warden fell into a genjutsu of Naruto’s making. However, in saying that, I also know that he lacks the sufficient chakra control to handle such an advanced technique, which puts us in a bit of an awkward place.”
Sarutobi simply nodded his head without even a single hint of surprise marking his expression. It was almost as if he had already suspected Iruka’s answer, after all, he was widely known as the professor, a legend of a shinobi who had learned and mastered every ninjutsu in Konoha. It wouldn’t have shocked Iruka whatsoever if the old man had already come to a similar, if not more accurate conclusion himself.
“Do you think the nine-tailed fox has something to do with this?” Iruka shook his head, much to the aging Hokage’s relief.
“No, I doubt that is the case. From what I can tell by Naruto’s explanation, as well as my own observations of the boy’s behavior, I suspect an advanced bloodline may be involved.” This time, the Sandaime’s eyes did widen in surprise.
“An advanced bloodline you say?” He asked curiously. “Now that is quite a claim. Do you really believe Naruto may hold the power of a kekkei genkai?”
“Not just any kind of kekkei genkai,” Iruka replied. “I think this may even be a doujutsu of some kind, one we have never seen before. The explanation that Naruto gave us definitely suggests that much and there is no other way to explain how he was able to cast such a powerful genjutsu without any training or hand seals to activate it. We both know that kekkei genkai may sometimes be inadvertently activated in moments of extreme emotional or physical trauma, so it makes sense. In addition to that, I have also experienced a strange physical sensation when touching him, which I believe may also be related as well.”
Hearing Iruka’s explanation, Hiruzen then stood from his desk and walked over to where the young man was standing, while simultaneously removing an ornate pipe from its carrier and slipping it between his lips. He then lit the coals and drew a deep breath through the mouthpiece, before releasing his tension in a plume of smoke. For a moment, he simply allowed himself to relish in the bitter taste of tobacco that played across his tongue, before finally speaking up again, addressing Iruka once more.
“As surprising as this development may seem, there is a good chance that you may be correct in your assessment.” He began again.
“Entire generations of clans have often passed in and out of existence without anyone ever learning their secrets or even knowing of their presence, so there is a possibility that Naruto may indeed hold such a heritage as well. I will call on the assistance of a jounin who specializes in illusions to have a look at the boy. Her name is Yuhi Kurenai and if this was indeed a genjutsu of some sort, she may be able to uncover how it was executed. In the meantime, I want you to prepare Naruto for his return to the orphanage. I expect…”
“WHAT?” Iruka cut him off abruptly. “Are you really going to send him back there after what they did to him! How can you even think that!”
Before the man could even finish, Hiruzan quickly cut off his words with a firm glare, immediately silencing his protests. Iruka knew that he had overstepped his bounds and that such actions could have held far greater consequences than a mere scolding, but even despite that, he couldn’t help the anger that welled up in his heart.
Seeing his frustration, Hiruzen simply shook his head, before speaking up in answer.
“Look Iruka, I know how you feel about this matter and I understand your concern, but I can’t have Naruto living on the streets alone. It’s simply too dangerous for a young boy his age, especially considering his status as a jinchuuriki and the hatred so readily directed towards him. However, I also understand your position as well and the actions of his caretakers are deeply disturbing to say the least. I am just as upset as you are about his treatment at the orphanage and I will do my best to address that, but unfortunately, the council has insisted that he be left in their care unless a suitable substitute family can be found and I cannot argue with them on this matter. No-one else in Konoha will take him in willingly, given his nature, and I can’t force that kind of obligation on anyone, so I am afraid I have no choice but to…”
“No!” Iruka interrupted once more. “We do have another choice. I can’t allow Naruto to live on the streets either, but I won’t see him back at the very orphanage that made his life a misery in the first place. It would tear him apart inside, having to go back to that hell after all these years of torture by their hands.”
Hiruzen regarded Iruka with an air of curiosity, wondering what it was that he might suggest. The chunin’s eyes quickly hardened their gaze thereafter, clearly defining his new found resolve as well as the iron will that had now settled into his heart. He had made his decision. He knew what he had to do.
“If the council needs someone to care for him before they are willing to bend, then I will be that someone. If no one else in Konoha will take up that responsibility, then I will be the one to bear it. Naruto… he can live with me. I’ll take care of him from now onwards.”
AN: I know the content of this chapter was more informational in nature, but there was a lot of ground I needed to cover to give everyone an idea of what was going on, while still trying to keep that emotional turbulence at the same time.
Hopefully, I struck the right balance between that information-based narrative and the story telling itself, so it didn’t feel too slow or like it was dragging. And yes, I am very mushy sometimes as well, but hopefully none of you died because of an overdose of mushiness.
I hope you enjoyed it! ^ ^
Writer – Tenrai Senshi (Me of course! XD
Beta reader – Captain Pickles (I ate him afterwards. <_<)