45.45% Birth of the Forest / Chapter 5: Chapter 5

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Chapter 5: Chapter 5

"Hello, Orochimaru." Naruto greeted the Sannin flatly.

Orochimaru shook himself out of his daze, seeming stunned at being cast aside so easily by a Genin. He looked at Naruto with rage contorting his face.

He walked slowly towards Naruto, trying to assess him.

"You are no Genin, Uzumaki Naruto. To know the Fuja Hoin, to defeat my summons so easily and not to mention…stopping my kick so casually…you have much power. Why not join me?"

Naruto's forest green eyes met Orochimaru's snake like ones.

"Thank you for the offer, Orochimaru. But no, I am content here. You however attacked my comrade and nearly killed him…so…"

Naruto appeared in front of Orochimaru and kicked him with tremendous force sending the Sannin hurtling back into the forest for about a mile, crashing through the trees and foliage.

Sakura stared at Naruto disbelievingly, finally out of her mental paralysis. Defeating Zabuza easily was nothing, but matching a Sannin just as easily…

Naruto started to leak Mokuton chakra, a faint silver shroud around his body. He turned to Sakura.

"Sakura, take Sasuke and get up on to the highest tree here. This fight will be harmful to you if you stay at ground level. Sasuke will wake up any moment now…."

Sakura couldn't move. This was getting too much for her.

"I can sense Orochimaru returning, Sakura. Move NOW!"

Shaken out of her daze, Sakura went on to follow Naruto's instructions and took Sasuke to the highest tree in the vicinity. It was far enough from Naruto that she would be safe from collateral damage, but still near enough to keep him in view.

Naruto waited patiently for Orochimaru to show himself.

"So strong." Orochimaru said, appearing in front of Naruto. The Kusa Kunoichi's face was peeling to reveal his true one. He ripped it off entirely and stood before Naruto as the snake Sannin.

"Tell me Naruto-kun, how is it you have the Shodai Hokage's chakra? Its potency puts even my chakra to shame…"

Naruto looked at Orochimaru in amusement.

"It was too much to hope that my kick put you down, wasn't it? You were Hiruzen's prized student after all…"

Naruto pondered, sampling Orochimaru's chakra deeply.

"You defiled the grave of the Shodai, didn't you Orochimaru, you filthy traitor? You took his cells unto yourself thinking to match his strength…"

Pieces of the forest floor were rising around Orochimaru in the wake of his anger. The snake Sannin hid his rage well, but Naruto could taste it in the chakra he emanated.

"You forgot something, Orochimaru. The First's true strength was the Will of Fire, his power was only a tool and not who he was…you wouldn't understand would you, you slimy traitor?"

Naruto was letting his cynical side show now, seeing that his words were getting to Orochimaru. A loathsome scowl marred Orochimaru's face.

"I will obliterate you, Uzumaki Naruto! You have thwarted me for the last time!"

Naruto smirked, seeing the sheer strength of Orochimaru. Hiruzen at least taught the shinobi arts well to his students.

"Come" invited Naruto, beckoning Orochimaru.

…..

Sakura stared as Naruto goaded Orochimaru. She was so absorbed in the fight unfolding beneath her refuge that she failed to notice Sasuke stirring.

Was Naruto so confident in his own strength? Irritating Orochimaru was a sure way to achieve a painful death. He was described as a man with immense power and a huge arsenal of Jutsu, who challenged the Yondaime for the post of Hokage.

A veteran of the third war and trained personally by the Sandaime, Orochimaru was feared by all but the Kage and the other S-class shinobi.

That was the man Naruto was challenging so casually. Yet looking at his almost excited face, Sakura believed that he could hold his own.

That thought sent shivers up her spine.

"Ohh…", came Sasuke's groan. He sat up groggily staring blankly at Sakura.

Orochimaru! He stood up immediately, looking around for the Sannin.

"Sasuke-kun!" exclaimed Sakura, glad that he was awake.

"Where's Naruto?" questioned Sasuke urgently. However strong Naruto was, he would never be able to stand up to Orochimaru.

Sakura got an awed look on her face and pointed at a spot below them.

Sasuke walked to the edge of the massive branch. What he saw would redefine his conception of Naruto forever.

The boy he had so callously written of "dobe" stood opposite Orochimaru calmly, silver chakra leaking off him faintly, on the verge of combat.

The ground around the two of them was cracking up under the pressure of the chakra being released, and that awed him.

He was no sensor, and he could still feel the enormity of their power as high up as he was. If he got close, he imagined he would faint from the overload.

He felt no jealousy towards Naruto. Instead he just felt awe, pride and overpowering concern for the safety of his teammate.

Together he and Sakura watched closely as Naruto and Orochimaru finished gathering their chakras.

…..

"Come."

Orochimaru shot towards Naruto with blinding speed, going directly at his vital points.

Naruto blocked calmly, and countered with his own strike which was also blocked. The two opponents glanced at each other and acted simultaneously, beginning their battle in earnest.

The lethal snake Taijutsu of Orochimaru was matched strike for strike by the Nature fist of the Shodai Hokage. Everywhere they met, gusts of wind blew off and the ground exploded.

Naruto was drawing strength from the abundant Nature chakra pervading the forest and kept on increasing the power of his strikes. His blows were getting heavier and heavier.

Orochimaru could hardly believe he was fighting a Genin; the strength of his blows was unbelievable!

Naruto was enjoying himself thoroughly; the Sannin was truly a snake through and through. He spoke like one, acted like one and was certainly was as lethal as one.

Naruto dodged one of Orochimaru's kicks and it impacted the tree behind him, barrelling through its trunk and cutting into half.

Naruto grinned. Orochimaru was very strong, strong enough that he would challenge him considerably at his current chakra capacity.

Of course if the Sannin had fought Senju Hashirama at full strength, he would be crushed in an instant.

He appeared in front of Orochimaru and aimed a kick saturated with his chakra at his head. Orochimaru blocked it, but was blown back through another mile of trees at the sheer strength of the blow.

The Sannin looked livid when he confronted Naruto again, looking worse for the wear.

"Sen'ei'jashu!"

Massive snakes shot out from Orochimaru's hands and flew directly at Naruto's throat.

Naruto held out his hands in the serpent seal.

"Doton: Chikyu no Ogama!"

Two massive scythes of earth rose on either side of the approaching serpents and fell, skewering them into halves.

Orochimaru was already going through a sequence of handseals. Naruto could feel a massive amount of Fuuton chakra gathering…

"Fuuton: Daitoppa!"

A massive blast of air ripped towards Naruto, destroying trees and ground alike.

"Doton: Shinju Zanshu no Jutsu!"

Naruto went underground and appeared behind Orochimaru with a shower of earth. The sannin reacted instantly, forming seals rapidly.

Naruto did not need a sequence of Hand seals, though. He needed just one.

"Doton: Haritsuke no supaiku!"

An extremely sharp spike of earth blasted from the earth near Naruto's feet and sunk into Orochimaru's chest. Its impact was so great that Orochimaru was sent flying back and the sharp end of the spike sticking out of his back crashed into a tree, effectively nailing the Sannin.

Orochimaru opened his mouth, spitting himself out, shedding his skin like the snake he was.

He looked at Naruto with a lopsided grin.

"It's been fun, Naruto-kun, but I cannot play any longer. You are too strong to be left alive…"

Naruto faced Orochimaru impassively, feeling the massive spike in the Sannin's chakra. It was of no element, but it felt somewhat…ethereal. Yes, that was the best word.

"Mandara no Jin!"

Orochimaru's mouth opened disgustingly wide and out came a multitude of snakes. Thousands upon thousands of the white reptiles rushed rapidly towards Naruto, piling up to thirty feet and spanning a great width.

Naruto was staring, amazed at the magnificence of the Jutsu. He had never seen its like, even as Hashirama.

Out of the mouth of every one of the tens of thousands of snakes rushing towards him came out a sword he recognized well.

The sword of Kusanagi, dripping with poison. This was a very powerful technique, and he could not counter it with Doton or Suiton. The thousands of Kusanagi would just rip through.

He could not reveal Mokuton yet though he could easily stop the snakes with that, Kusanagi or not.

Which left…?

The air around Naruto turned blinding silver for half a mile in all directions, chakra pouring out of every one of his tenketsu in a torrent.

He raised his palms routing all his chakra into them. Orochimaru looked stunned by the magnitude of the chakra Naruto was releasing.

The multitude of snakes was almost upon him, the heap growing all the time.

Naruto breathed deeply and slammed his glowing palms into the ground.

A massive semi-circular shockwave erupted from Naruto's position, blowing each and every one of the snakes to pieces.

The forest was destroyed as utterly as Orochimaru's ten thousand shockwave reached the Sannin and hurled him far away for the third time.

Naruto looked around at the devastation he had caused sadly, never liking to see the destruction of trees. Let alone those created by himself.

He immersed himself in his senses and sighed in relief as he felt Orochimaru fleeing rapidly towards the east boundary of the forest.

That battle had pushed him a little.

He sensed Sasuke and Sakura tremulously approaching him from behind.

"You can come out now, Sakura and Sasuke."

The duo slowly walked towards him, not believing the sheer destruction unleashed during the battle. They had never seen a fight like that before and never understood the meaning of a Kage-level fight as they did now.

"You are so powerful, Naruto… You actually drove Orochimaru back…" Sakura said in absolute wonderment.

"Good fight, dobe" Sasuke said, unable to think up any more praise for his rival. How stupid, he thought to himself. Naruto was too far ahead of him to be considered his rival.

"Gahahah!" Naruto laughed happily. "Thanks Teme…Did you actually complement me?"

"Hn…I think I did. Don't get too used to it though." Sasuke said, smirking. Naruto was his rival, alright. No matter how powerful he got.

Sakura just smiled at her teammates.

"I have one last thing to do…" Naruto said, sensing all around them for around five miles.

No one.

He assumed all teams were driven away by the scale of his and Orochimaru's fight. All teams had something resembling a sensor on their team, after all. They would have certainly given wide berth to a Kage-level fight.

That suited him just fine.

He looked at the devastation caused by his final attack and the absence of trees, and gathered his chakra.

"Mokuton Hiijutsu: Mori no taito!"

The massive semi-circular area of the forest that was divested of trees for at least a mile rumbled.

Small saplings rose up everywhere in the huge barren area slowly ….and with a great rush shot up to become massive trees that repopulated the empty area.

Sasuke and Sakura looked open-mouthed at their teammate who had just created about a square mile of forest. Naruto just kept stunning them regularly.

Naruto looked at them amusedly.

"We need to leave the area now. I can sense multiple chakras approaching us and Sasuke still needs my healing."

They nodded and shot off as one.

….

Yugito, Samui and Omoi had just finished off a team of Kiri, and were collecting their Earth scroll.

The Niibi Jinchuuriki felt an explosion of extremely dense chakra a good distance to their west. It felt familiar. There was also another very strong chakra that felt just evil.

Naruto and someone who was no Genin were engaged in combat.

The ground shook violently for a few moments and then stopped.

What was her fellow Jinchuuriki doing? To feel the tremors of his jutsu this far…that should be a very powerful technique.

Omoi and Samui were prodding her quizzically.

"Yugito, could you sense whoever caused that tremor?"

"Yes. That was the Kyuubi Jinchuuriki, Naruto. The chakra did not feel like any element, though…"

"So he used the Kyuubi's chakra?"

"No…it was his own."

"Not cool…Not many people have the capacity or control to do such a thing with just pure chakra."

Omoi in the meantime was into his own apocalyptic thoughts and was being ignored by the blondes.

"Kitten, that boy is no Genin. Be wary of him…very wary. He seems to exude a chakra that can calm or even suppress me if need be."

Yugito gave a mental nod to her bijuu. Suddenly she felt a release of unfamiliar chakra from Naruto.

It felt like…life?

What chakra could actually create life?

She was suddenly pulled into her mindscape by the Niibi.

She stood in a lush grass plain, confronting the Hellcat.

"What?"

"Yugito, Naruto either has the Mokuton…or the Rinnegan."

"WHAT?"

"There is no other explanation. That is how he suppressed Kurama so well, and seems to have the power to suppress me. Only two known techniques can create life…One is the Mokuton and the other is a Rinnegan technique called Banbutsu Sozo, the Creation of all things. Both possibilities are extremely disturbing…"

Yugito was extremely stunned. Naruto most probably had one of two mythical bloodlines?

The Rinnegan was the Rikodou Sennin's Doujutsu. The power he wielded with those eyes was said to be unfathomable… beyond human comprehension.

The Mokuton was documented a little more. Senju Hashirama's strength with that bloodline was so great that he was compared to the Rikodou Sennin sometimes. Taming Nine Bijuu like it was nothing…?

Both possibilities were extremely frightening for the elemental countries. A second coming of either of the two legendary figures would tip the scales…no, completely destroy the scales.

A-sama had to be informed immediately.

She turned to Omoi and Samui.

"We need to get to the tower at the earliest. No wasting time. I have something extremely important to convey to Raikage-sama."

Her teammates seemed to recognize her seriousness and nodded.

Gathering their chakra, they shot off rapidly towards the tower.

….

Naruto had just finished patching up Sasuke. The trio had taken shelter in a clearing some distance from the previous fight.

Sasuke could not believe that Naruto was so skilled a Medic. How many talents did the blonde have? He felt so much better, now.

Naruto sighed in satisfaction as he sensed Sasuke's chakra flowing calmly with no fluctuation. His teammate was as good as new.

"What is that seal you used on Sasuke-kun, Naruto?"

Naruto pondered for a moment.

"It is called an Evil suppression seal. It is an advanced seal that can contain malicious influences…that is, until the user's will holds. So Sasuke-Teme, you must never give in to the instincts that may be spawned in you by Orochimaru's seal, understand?"

Sasuke nodded briefly.

Sakura glanced at Naruto. "We still have need for an earth scroll, don't we? We cannot complete the Exam without the earth scroll…"

Naruto grinned.

"We don't have to worry about that, Sakura-chan. It seems we have company" he said, sensing the approach of the Sound ninja.

The foliage parted to reveal three figures sporting the Oto headband.

The bandaged ninja of the team came to stand in front of Naruto.

"We are here for Uchiha Sasuke. Leave him to us and your lives will be spared. We will even give you our earth scroll."

Naruto looked amused, as did Sasuke.

"Sorry, no deal. Leave us your earth scroll, and maybe we will spare you" said Naruto.

The one next to the bandaged Nin yelled, "DOSU! Let us just kill these brats and get it over with! Die, Sasuke! ZANKUUHA!"

A funnel of air rippled from his arm and shot towards Sasuke, who disappeared.

Naruto stared, intrigued. It seemed Sasuke's skill with the shunshin had improved drastically. The teme certainly knew how to use that Sharingan of his.

The trigger-happy Sound shinobi now laid face first in the dirt, Sasuke standing over him.

Dosu shook his head. "Zaku, you should have waited. Kin, take the pink haired girl. I will take the blonde. Zaku, do not underestimate the Uchiha!"

Naruto was getting tired of these games. He just wanted to get the earth scroll and discuss the Orochimaru issue with Sarutobi. He needed to knock these children out fast.

"Sasuke, Sakura stand back. Sasuke, you are still not rested fully. Sakura you would take too much time to defeat that girl. Leave it to me…"

Not waiting for their responses, he just appeared in front of Zaku and knocked him out with a strong palm to the chest, sending him flying.

Before the girl could react, she was incapacitated by a chop to her neck's vital point.

Dosu pointed his arm towards Naruto for some kind of technique but was just too slow. Naruto buried Dosu to his neck with a simple Head hunter technique and rendered him unconscious with a simple finger strike.

Sasuke and Sakura no longer looked stunned, having expected something like this from the blonde.

Huh, no need for powerful Jutsu when simple techniques can do the job easily.

Naruto went to the one called Dosu and searched him for an earth scroll. They were in luck.

Grabbing the scroll of Earth, Team 7 headed straight towards the Tower.

…..

THE TOWER IN THE FOREST OF THE DEAD

Naruto knocked on the Hokage's room absently.

They had reached the Tower with no problems, unless one took into account the Genjutsu used to misdirect the participants. Sasuke had seen through that one easily with his Sharingan.

They had then opened both their scrolls, causing Iruka to appear and congratulate them on their victory. Naruto had then sent through Iruka a missive to Hiruzen regarding his fight with Orochimaru.

He was asked to attend a meeting of the Jounin immediately. Sasuke and Sakura went to rest before the next round occurred.

Thus he entered the Hokage's office, noting the multiple Jounin present.

"Come in, Naruto. And stop trying to peep at Kurenai's…posterior, Jiraiya."

Naruto turned to see a tall and well-built white haired man straighten quickly from his stealthy position behind the beautiful Kurenai.

"Sorry, sorry…." He giggled perversely, his eyes round from what had obviously been an excellent peek.

Naruto stared at the man with interest. His godfather by all accounts. He had no idea that the Gama-Sennin was a pervert on this scale.

The toad sage had taught Minato, his father. That practically made him family.

"We have gathered to listen to Naruto's disturbing account of his encounter in the Chuunin Exam second round…Tell us, Naruto!"

Naruto nodded, surveying all the Jounin present. Anko, Asuma, Kurenai, his sensei Kakashi, Genma, Aoba, Hayate….and some others he did not know.

They were all either Elite Jounin or undercover ANBU. All of them with strong chakra and exceptional records. He could proceed with his briefing without fear of a leak, as he felt no questionable emotions from the powerful Ninja in the room.

"We were following the river in the forest so we could encounter some team and grab their scroll. We encountered no one and I got suspicious. Anyway, I went to gather food when I sensed that Sasuke and Sakura were in distress. I rushed back and saw a snakelike man finish biting Sasuke…"

Jiraiya scowled. "It was Orochimaru, wasn't it?"

"Yes."

The room erupted.

The Jounin were all clamouring at the fact that mere Genin had to face an S-class criminal. Only Kakashi and the third looked cool.

Naruto would never lose to somebody like Orochimaru.

Jiraiya looked at all their reactions interestedly, noting the calm of Kakashi and the Third. Those two knew something…

"QUIET!" the Sandaime roared, causing the Jounin to calm down, though they all looked agitated still.

"Thank you. Now Naruto, proceed with your story."

Naruto nodded. "I healed Sasuke, and saw the seal on his neck. What is it with that seal, by the way?"

Anko stepped forward. "Is Uchiha Sasuke dead? It is very rare that someone who receives that seal survives."

Naruto looked amused.

"No he isn't, crazy snake lady. I was getting to that. You have that seal as well, don't you? I can feel its evil in your neck…"

Anko nodded in a subdued manner. The third cleared his throat, causing attention to centre on Naruto again.

"As I was saying, I saw Sasuke writhing in pain from that seal and I suppressed it with my own seal…"

The Third hardly looked surprised. The Jounin were still whispering at the revelation of Naruto's prowess, while Jiraiya looked interested.

"Which seal did you use, Gaki?" he asked. Figures. It made sense that the son of the Red Death and his beloved pupil, Minato, would be this strong.

He already felt proud of the young boy he thought of as a grandson, even though he did not let it show.

"The evil-suppression seal. It is only a makeshift solution, though, and will only last as long as Sasuke's will to fight does. Anyway, Orochimaru was incensed by my actions and we fought. After a good Taijutsu battle, we fought with ninjutsu. I literally nailed him with an Earth spike, after which he got angry…"

Everyone wore disbelieving faces. A Genin keeping up with Orochimaru…?

"He spat out about ten thousands of white snakes at me. Oh, and he had the Kusanagi no Tsurugi. Each and every snake had Kusanagi jutting out of its mouth, aimed at me-"

Jiraiya interrupted. "That was Orochimaru's Mandara no Jin, when he used it on me there were about a million of those things. What did you do?"

Naruto looked annoyed by all these interruptions.

"I was getting to that, Ero-Sennin!"

Jiraiya looked indignant. "Do not bastardize my sacred name, Gaki!"

Asuma looked a little irritated. "If you don't mind, Jiraiya-sama…"

Jiraiya looked sheepish. "Right, Right…."

"Thank you. Now, with those snakes piling up on me I had no choice but to blow them to pieces. I assume you all felt the tremor…"

The Jounin all nodded, wide-eyed.

"How?" asked Jiraiya, intrigued and hiding his amazement well. His former teammate must be losing his touch…

"I have enormous chakra, and my control is good. I can release a concentrated explosion of my chakra if necessary, causing great damage…"

"Just like Tsunade…"muttered an amazed Jiraiya.

Naruto himself was proud of his granddaughter. Apparently, the mischievous little girl had taken after him at least a bit.

"Then Orochimaru left. I think he was surprised, more than anything. He came to test us more than anything, I think, and did not expect me to be so strong…we need to be cautious. Why was Orochimaru here, of all places?" he directed the question to Jiraiya.

Jiraiya looked at Hiruzen, who nodded. He faced the Jounin and said in his resonant voice.

"He is after Uchiha Sasuke's Sharingan. He had this mad delusion of learning all of the Jutsu in the world, and thinks Sharingan will accelerate his plans…"

The third sighed. He never understood Orochimaru, even as a little boy. He was too alien.

The Sandaime cleared his throat again.

"Orochimaru has something bigger going on. Jiraiya has brought me word of my errant former student's frequent visits to Suna.

That and the fact that Suna has sent their clearly unstable Jinchuuriki to Konoha lead me to believe that Konoha might not be safe in the next few months…"

The Sandaime looked at Naruto.

"We have determined that Kabuto Yakushi is a spy for Orochimaru, his right hand even. He is quite strong. To keep track of him, we will need you to track and spy on him, Naruto…"

"But the Exams…"

"Your actions in the Forest of Death lead me to believe that you are already Chuunin material. I hope all of you agree?" Hiruzen asked, looking around at the Jounin.

They nodded as one. Any Genin who stopped Orochimaru and brought his teammates back alive was a worthy Chuunin, no doubt about that.

"Then it is decided. Naruto, henceforth you are a Chuunin and will undertake your mission immediately. The rest of you, watch out for your Genin. And Naruto, you will have to forfeit in the coming round as you are already a Chuunin…"

They all nodded.

"Naruto and Jiraiya, please stay. The rest of you can continue…"

….

Naruto looked at Hiruzen.

"That was a good thing you did, Hiruzen. I would hate to be matched up against the children. It would be fairer to put them against ero-sennin here…"

Jiraiya looked intrigued and irritated.

"Are you saying you are stronger than me? You may have fought the Hebi-teme to a stalemate, Gaki, but I am not called the strongest Sannin for nothing…"

The third looked at Jiraiya. "Naruto here is extremely strong for a reason, Jiraiya. He will not tell you without the proper precaution…"

"And I will not tell you right now, ero-sennin. You must wait for Kushina-san to return and I will tell the two of you together."

Jiraiya nodded reluctantly.

"You have the right to your secrets after being independent for so long, Naruto. I won't press you when I have no right…"

Naruto nodded gratefully.

"Thank you. And I hold no resentment for you ero-sennin, the old man told me of the circumstances. I look forward to knowing you…"

Jiraiya looked emotional.

"Me too, Naruto, Me too."

The Sandaime looked at them both. "Let us discuss the espionage of Kabuto, you two."

They nodded and began.

THE PRELIMINARIES

"…are there any who wish to forfeit the exams by leaving at this stage."

Kabuto came forward.

"I, Yakushi Kabuto wish to quit these exams, as I have little chakra at the moment and am liable to make a mistake."

"Granted. You may leave, Kabuto."

Kabuto nodded, and walked out of the arena leisurely.

"Is there anyone else?"

"I…Uzumaki Naruto, wish to quit. Personal reasons"

The Sandaime nodded with a hint of a grin.

"You may leave, Naruto."

Sasuke looked pissed, as did Sakura. They still did not like Naruto quitting. He had not told them why, except that the Hokage had requested it.

Waving to his outraged teammates and stunned fellow rookies, Naruto began his mission of investigating Kabuto.

…..

"Greetings, Orochimaru-sama."

Orochimaru appeared out of thin air in front of Kabuto

"Hello, Kabuto. Your information seems inaccurate…" with leashed anger.

"What do you mean, Orochimaru-sama?"

"Your useless cards…they told me Uzumaki Naruto was nothing but a dead last. Imagine my surprise when said dead last nullified my cursed seal, matched my Taijutsu, wounded me…and above all, destroyed Mandara no Jin!"

Kabuto was open-mouthed with surprise. And sweating as Orochimaru's massive killing intent filled the air.

"I.., I had no idea, Orochimaru-sama. You can't have been serious while fighting a Genin…"

Orochimaru's killing intent receded, the snake sannin calming down considerably.

"True indeed. But I could tell that he was holding back too, and I don't know by how much. I don't like the direction the invasion is going…we may need more reinforcements and I will change our plans."

Kabuto nodded. "How is the Edo-Tensei coming along, Orochimaru-sama?"

Orochimaru looked slightly frustrated.

"The same…Hashirama cannot be resurrected, I have no idea why. But I have a backup, Kabuto. Sensei won't know what hit him.

Don't fail me again, Kabuto. I don't like unknowns…"

Kabuto nodded.

"Go now…I have a grave to rob."

Naruto opened his eyes, having heard everything through his concealed wood clone.

So, Orochimaru was indeed planning an invasion of Konoha and planned to assassinate Hiruzen.

What really surprised him was the Sannin's audacity. Orochimaru actually used Tobirama's jutsu to resurrect Hashirama, in other words, himself? The idiot…he had no idea of the ramifications of that technique.

Of course Edo Tensei would not work; the aspect of his soul as Hashirama had left the pure world.

He could resurrect Tobirama, though. This could not be allowed, the dead were meant to be left in peace. He would hate to see Tobirama as a puppet of some upstart.

This needed further consideration. Anyway, he had to go see what had happened in the preliminaries and then report to Hiruzen. It was Jiraiya's turn to watch Kabuto anyway…

….

TEN DAYS LATER

Naruto watched as Sasuke was being trained by Kakashi to up his speed. The young Uchiha had certainly taken well to the art of using shunshin and had gained the second tomoe of his Sharingan during the fight with Orochimaru.

Sasuke's proficiency with shunshin was growing at unprecedented levels, and he was using it quite creatively.

He had apparently made quite the impression back at the preliminaries, moving so fast that his opponent could hardly see him, let alone touch him. Sasuke had apparently defeated him with speed and Genjutsu alone not laying a single hand on his opponent.

Sasuke was being called the second coming of the other great prodigy of the Uchiha, Shunshin no Shisui.

The disadvantage with shunshin was that one could not unleash ninjutsu instantaneously after using it, as the regathering of chakra took time. He himself had only eliminated that problem partly.

Sakura had tied with Ino, leading to both of them getting eliminated. Shikamaru had beaten his opponent, as had Shino.

Chouji was eliminated along with Kiba. Intriguingly, the sound ninja he had beaten in the forest were nowhere to be seen…

Jiraiya came to stand alongside him. "Hey, Gaki, how are you doing?"

"I finished my training just now, ero-sennin. I am watching Sasuke do his. Is your shift already over..?

Jiraiya nodded.

"Yeah. It is Hayate's turn to watch him now. "

Naruto nodded. "Any particular reason you are here..?"

"Yes, Naruto. Sensei told me to tell you…Kushina arrived one day ahead of schedule for some reason. She should in sensei's office by now…"

Naruto's heart skipped a beat. His mother was here, now? His face must have showed his agitation, for Jiraiya consoled him.

"She is your mother after all, Gaki. Just be yourself. Sensei has summoned me, Kakashi, you and Kushina for a meeting. Let me go get Kakashi and we will all go together."

Naruto nodded mutely, unable to calm himself. Even all his years as Hashirama did not prepare him for something like this.

He watched as Jiraiya spoke to Kakashi. Sasuke had left for his home.

His father's teacher and student approached him and laid a hand on his shoulder each.

"You will be fine, Naruto" said Kakashi compassionately. They set off towards a meeting that was long overdue.

Mother and son would be reunited at last.

….

Kabuto had sensed the Jounin who was tailing him for some time. How long had Konoha kept tabs on him?

He had to eliminate this threat to the plan immediately. He set off towards an alley, in the direction of the Suna-Jounin, Baki.

The man tailing him was obviously not very good at it. He was clumsy and gave away too many openings.

Kill him, or just feed him false information?

Kabuto weighed both choices in his mind, and decided. It had to be done for the plan to succeed.

Readying his chakra scalpels discreetly, he set off again.

Konoha would be ashes come the finals.

THE HOKAGE'S OFFICE

Naruto stood in front of the Hokage's office, Jiraiya and Kakashi standing tall beside him. He knocked with trepidation.

The door opened slowly, and Naruto entered.

Standing next to Hiruzen was a fairly tall woman with long red hair that reached down to her waist. She wore the traditional ANBU uniform, with two Katana strapped to her back in an X.

He drank in the sight of his mother, who had returned to him after all these years like a parched man drank water.

A sensing of her chakra set off a feeling of pride in him. She was very strong, with a powerful fire affinity and a stunning affinity to water.

The emotions he felt from her were strong, so strong that it amplified his own, bringing unbidden tears to his eyes.

Regret deeper than the deepest ocean, guilt raging like fire, and above all pride in him.

A lone tear rolled down his cheek.

Dimly, he noticed Kakashi, Jiraiya and Hiruzen smile brightly at the sight before vanishing to presumably give them privacy.

Kushina too seemed stunned with the Naruto she was now seeing. The last report she had gotten from her ANBU contacts had shown her son to be a little shrimp who was basically a loser.

Not this…young man, too tall for a thirteen year old Genin. With his shoulder length blonde hair and well-toned body, he could well be Minato in his youth.

She stopped examining him and stared at his face. The face of the son she had essentially abandoned for his safety.

The first thing that struck her was his eyes. Her son had innocent blue eyes that were sad and hopeful at the same time. Not forest green eyes that gave off the wisdom of a lifetime, and shone with power unrestrained.

The eyes were the windows to the soul.

And the boy she was seeing through his eyes was no Genin, Chuunin, Jounin or even a Kage. He seemed to be more. Much more. An incarnation of mercy and hope, forgiveness and compassion.

She could stand the silence no longer.

"Naruto…?"

Naruto nodded tremulously. All his certainty as Hashirama left him standing as a little boy who ached for his mother.

He saw her approach him as if it were a dream. She slowly came to him and caressed his face with trembling hands.

"I am sorry, Naruto. So sorry for all the pain you must have felt without me to love you. I only left for your safety…"

Kushina was now openly crying, her face showing her extreme anguish and self-loathing.

Naruto too was shedding tears at this long awaited moment finally arriving.

"It is alright…Kaa-san."

Kushina flung herself at Naruto, hugging him tightly. The two remaining Namikaze were together again, the loss of their separation and love and hope at their reunion flowing through their veins like cleansing fire.

Naruto smiled to himself softly, hugging Kushina tightly to himself.

It would be alright.

Naruto had, with some assistance from Kakashi and Hiruzen told his mother of his life after she left him.

How he was thrown out of the orphanage and had fended for himself at the age of six in the cold streets and beaten almost to death regularly.

How he was given an apartment for himself and lived there alone, loveless and scorned by all.

His academy years.

Now, it was time for the final secret: his true identity. He looked at Jiraiya and Kushina, assessing them.

Kushina was not raging, as Naruto had expected her to be. She had an expression of uttermost self-loathing upon her face as she visualized the sufferings her child had gone through.

The village should burn in hell for its ignorance. No mother should ever have to leave her child to suffer like this.

Minato…he had faith in Konoha. Like the trusting idealist he was, he had turned her little bundle of joy into a Jinchuuriki knowing full well the hatred it brought.

She still loved him, though. How could she hate him when she, still alive, had left her son to suffer? That would make her a hypocrite.

Naruto looked at her almost as if he had read her mind.

"Do not hate the village for my suffering, Kaa-san. It was born of ignorance and I pity them for it…"

Jiraiya looked at him in amazement, Kakashi and Hiruzen in pride.

Kushina was incredulous "How can you not hate them, Sochi?"

Naruto turned to Hiruzen. "Hiruzen, it is time…"

Kushina looked quizzically at Kakashi.

Naruto walked to Mito's seal again, and activated it again. Jiraiya and Kushina looked on stunned.

"What was that seal?" Kushina asked her son, awed by the chakra he had emanated.

Naruto explained the seal to her and Jiraiya, causing them to sit in wonder of Mito's prowess. Kakashi and Hiruzen just looked on in anticipation.

"Kaa-san, ero-sennin, it is time for me to reveal my secret to you. You are both seal masters and can understand better than most…"

Kushina and Jiraiya listened attentively.

"The sealing of the Kyuubi changed me, Kaa-san. It awoke in me something that should be impossible…"

Here he lifted up his black shirt, showing the room the changed dead demon seal on his stomach.

Kushina and Jiraiya looked at the seal with curiosity. The two had a look of slight comprehension upon their faces.

"It awoke in you a new personality did it not, Sochi? I can deduce that much from the change in the seal.."

Naruto nodded appreciatively.

"It caused me to remember my previous life in this world and become both my old self and current one at the same time."

Kushina looked distressed. As parents, they had not done right by their son. He had to undergo too many things that should not be experienced by any child.

"Do not be distressed Kaa-san. It is my old life that led me to become what I am now, to find peace."

Kushina and Jiraiya looked at Naruto with anxiety. This could very well be harmful and was extremely unexpected.

Naruto clasped his hands in the ram seal, flaring his chakra.

"Is that…Nature chakra?" Jiraiya asked in amazement.

"Only in major part" replied Naruto. His chakra always had a high concentration of Nature chakra mixed in it. They had called it Mokuton chakra.

Kushina was amazed and at her son's chakra. He was unleashing enormous amounts and didn't even breathe hard.

She watched as he molded chakra.

"Mokuton: Budo no Hirogari!"

Impossibly, vines started spreading and flowers bloomed upon them covering the space of the entire office.

Hiruzen looked stunned at seeing his sensei use Mokuton again. Kakashi looked awed. He would never get over Hashirama-sama using Mokuton in front of him.

Naruto looked at Kushina and Jiraiya, who looked at the spectacle in amazement. He felt a sense of déjà vu, having done this to Kakashi before.

"I was and am Senju Hashirama, the Shodai Hokage of Konohagakure."


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