Naruto had spent the week building his dream tree house, or would it be better to say houses, as several trees had been invaded by a horde of Narutos? He had discovered the Kage Bunshin, a jutsu that allowed him to create solid copies of himself, by pure chance. Deep within the forest he now resided in, there was a hidden construction that smelled of death and danger to the point even the big cats kept away. It had saved Naruto's life that day. He explored the underground labyrinth and found some rather ugly things: human bodies tied and tortured to death, butchered and otherwise defaced. One room contained a rather extensive store of scrolls, that explained chakra, and hand signs. A school all for himself! Amongst the scrolls was the hand signs for Kage Bunshin, and the dangers it represented for those weak on chakra. There was a huge repertoire of jutsus in there, several thousands in fact, and Naruto had begun to learn them one by one until he hit the Kage Bunshin. There, in his face, was the answer to his prayers: a Kage Bunshin could read and memorize a jutsu, train in it, and then dispel himself and all that he had learned was transferred to the originator of the Bunshin!
Naruto tested it with one, two, three, four Bunshin, and realized that, contrary to what the scroll said, he was not tired after making a total of ten Kage Bunshin in short order. Furthermore, he felt only a light discomfort when all ten dispelled at the same time, as his mind sorted what each had learned. From that day forward, he had put up to one hundred Kage Bunshin to reading and memorizing the mine of jutsus stored in the underground library. Six months later, today, he had only touched the surface of the library as he had discovered scrolls that contained scrolls! How huge was that library?
That morning, he had dispatched his usual one hundred Kage Bunshin to continue reading and learning. By sundown, the batch of Bunshin would dispel in waves of 10 and he would gain maybe four hundred more jutsus. He added several hundred Kage Bunshin to build his tree house complex, and sent a dozen more at the lip of the volcano caldera to keep an eye on the happenings outside of his garden of Eden. He then focussed on meditation, a thing one of his dissipated Bunshin had read about as being essential to improve mind jutsus and hiding one's chakra. Not that he needed it, as he instinctively had learned how to do it to escape the villagers, but no one had told him so.
As he relaxed, he fell in a deep state of meditation and found himself in a sewer, of all places!
"Is this my inner mind?" he said out loud, "I wonder how dirty some of the perverts at the orphanage are in there given how messy their actions are in real life!"
He jumped and found himself sticking head down from the roof of the sewer pipe when he heard a grumbling voice:
"Who is there?"
"And who is there in my mind?" replied a flustered and shocked Naruto.
"Ah! My jailer! Welcome to my humble abode, puny Human!"
"This is your home? But it is hell! It is so messy! Never heard of draining the water so it would be dry?"
"You know nothing of Hell, Human! As for draining, I would need to be free of this cage to do anything about it! And stop hiding around the corner! Since you hold me, at least face me like a man!"
The mention of a cage intrigued Naruto so he walked on the ceiling toward the voice. As he turned the corner, he saw a huge room lit with red light that seemed to come from the centre. Once his eyes had adjusted, Naruto saw a huge beast held in a cage whose door opened into the narrow-gauge tunnel he had been following. He realized immediately that the rusty water he had been stepping in was no ordinary sewer water, but was leaking from every pore of the huge beast. He understood immediately what that meant: Red chakra was poring out of the beast, therefore it was a Demon. Suddenly, what he had heard a week or so earlier made sense: He was the Container for the beast, a Jinchuriki, and there, in all its glory, was his tenant. He also figured why people called him Demon. They were too stupid to separate the jailer from the prisoner.
"Happy with what you see?" snickered the Demon.
"No. I am not. I have been tortured day in day out because of you for five years!"
"It has been five years? Only? I feel I have been held in this cage forever!"
"Yes. Five years and a week ago, you attacked Konohagakure and destroyed half of it before getting put in me by I do not know whom."
"As for whom, I can tell you: Namikaze Minato... your father, brat!"
"But I am Uzumaki Naruto, not Namikaze Naruto! And Namikaze Minato would never sacrifice a child to satisfy his ambitions!"
"Whatever the label, you carry his smell, and that of a female Uzumaki. I never learned of her name. However, the Uzumaki are well-known for their rather huge chakra pathways, even in Hell. It might explain why you survived the sealing. As for sacrifices, he sacrificed you, did he not? His own son, no less!"
"I know the fourth was married to Kushina, but they always wrote Namikaze Kushina..."
"Is it common in your civilization for the females to take the name of their male mates?"
"No... In fact, it is the only instance I noted..."
"Then think, gaki! And drop to the floor, damn it! Twisting my neck to look up at you hurts!"
Naruto jumped to the floor, standing on the edge of the canal that allowed the red chakra to leave the cage.
"I wonder where that all goes?"
"To be absorbed by you, where else? Dimwit!"
"Yes, by you. It is pushing your chakra pathways wider, allowing for more of my own to drain. Each time you got hurt, there was a surge of chakra asked and I supplied it."
"Well... thank you, then. Otherwise, I might have been dead at birth."
"Why do you supply the chakra? If I die, you would be freed!"
"Let me see how I can explain this to you. I did not attack your village willingly. I was controlled by an external will. He broke into my mind using a jutsu and took control in a flash. After that, I was but a puppet. In a way, I want to stay in here. At least I have my mind free if not my body. You are protecting me from that bastard. I know the one that did it was from your village, because I smell his children when you move around. But he is not here anymore. The day you die, he will be able to take control again, so I will help you survive as long as possible."
Naruto sat in mid-air, using chakra to give density to the gas enough to support his weight, and began to think, in the classic Thinker pose.
"I see you have been studying chakra manipulations of the elements, gaki. Good. There may be hope for you still!"
"Thank you. You know my name, but I still do not know yours..."
"The village has not taught you of me?"
"No. In fact, I learned of your existence by eavesdropping on a conversation between two Anbu searching for me."
"And they did not find you? Surprising, gaki, very surprising."
"They were just below me, and one looked up but did not see me."
"You are full of surprises, gaki. It seems you have learned more chakra control than I thought. Hey! You said at the start of the conversation it had been five years! That means you are five? Only five?"
"Yes, what is so surprising?"
"What is surprising is the level of control of chakra you have for a five year old human. Can I read your memory?"
Seeing no reason why not, as the Demon was part of him, Naruto assented.
After half an hour, the Demon looked at Naruto, impressed.
"Gaki, I am impressed! And it takes a lot to impress the Kyuubi no Kitsune, believe me! But I think some revenge is in order, especially with the civilians of that forsaken village! Now, as to the place you found that huge jutsu library... it is a laboratory. It was used to extract genetic information on blood lines so the genes could be grafted to others. Even in Hell, that is forbidden. We have morals, contrary to that individual."
"I found a paper addressed to one Orochimaru, one of the Sannin of Konoha. I figure he is the one in charge, since the Sannin were part of the top ninjas of the village. It had a Snake in the address too. I found the idea of a Snake repulsive."
"I do not like Snakes either."
"Coming from a Fox, it is not surprising. There is one thing..."
"Hey, I know Foxes follow you everywhere, but so does that Cat, Tora I believe?"
"Yes... ever since I saved it from drowning."
"Gaki, I plan to show you how to control your elementals. You already have wind, so I will add water. It is not my best, but if you combine wind and water elementals, you get ice. Then we will add fire, my element, so you can do the fire storm jutsu and the fire tornado jutsu. Finally, you will learn the earth elemental. That can be fun, as lava can be used much like water, especially when it is extremely liquid and hot, or as explosives because the gases imprisoned in molten rock decompress explosively, throwing bits of molten lava all around for miles. After all lava is a combination of fire and earth."
Just then, a loud bell rang in the tunnel.
"Oh shit! One of my Bunshin dispelled. I need to go. I will be back as quickly as I can."
"Okay. I will be waiting."
Naruto emerged from his trance to feel a memory inscribing itself in his conscience. A group of young ninja had entered his forest. They were not behaving normally either. The groups were composed of twelve, rather than the usual three. So this was not an exam for the passage to chunin from genin. Another of his Bunshin dispelled, and he realized they were searching the forest as they were following a standard search pattern. Good luck with that. He replaced his two dispelled Bunshin and doubled them on top of the volcano. Making another Bunshin, he sent it to the laboratory to make sure the set-up was as invisible as could be made. Then, using another one hundred Bunshin, he made a profusion of seals within seals. They would be used to move the library and every scrap of paper in there to a huge cave he had found some time back inside the caldera. It was located way up, invisible from the bottom or the top as it was hidden from view by the protruding lip of the caldera.
He sent an army of clones, numbering over five thousand, with the seals to the laboratory. Their numbers were such that no fish tried to assault their wave as they skated over the lake. The movement of the water erased any trace of chakra. He then climbed up to the lips of the caldera and watched their progress through the forest below, as they jumped from one tree top to the next, using chakra in profusion to sustain their movement through the air, and using the same chakra to create air streams that pushed them and helped them glide over the canopy. That too erased any trace of chakra that might lead pursuers to the laboratory. Added with his natural ability at suppressing chakra, Naruto's clones were all but undetectable, traceable, or trackable.
The Bunshin made it quickly and dove through the ventilation trap that led to the first level of the laboratory, where they disappeared silently, not even touching the side to leave an indication of their passage. Then the cloned began packing the library in scrolls, which were then packed into ever denser, thicker scrolls. The library shelves followed the same path, as well as all medical reports. Then, the clones packed the treasures accrued in the vault: diamonds, gold, silver, precious and not so precious stones, bronze coins, poisons held in stasis, and seeds of all types. Overall, several hundred tons of stuff were packed in about two hundred super-seals. Finally, each clone added a seal to the sealing scrolls that made them feather-light, even if their mass was far more considerable. A single clone then placed the seals in a bag and, with the help of the others, was thrown out of the ventilation hole, before he activated the wind elemental and used it to fly over the forest canopy to the edge of the lake. He spiraled up to several thousand feet, and then used a jet stream to move over to the island, all but invisible to the ninja below, still stuck in their futile forest search pattern. The Bunshin dropped behind the volcano's lips and came to a gentle stop at its bottom, moving the scrolls to the big cave his boss, Naruto, had learned about. Once done, he dispelled, informing Naruto of the success of his mission.
Meanwhile, the other clones cleared any trace of their passage in the laboratory, going so far as to cover the tables and floors with a thick layer of dust. As each room was completed, the clone dispelled, thus keeping Naruto up to date on the progress. The last clone unlocked the laboratory door from inside, lifted himself from the floor, removed his footprints, and dispelled. No one would be able to say if someone had entered in the antechamber of death from the looks inside. Even outside, no trace was visible: the few clones that had been assigned to hide the entrance were proficient and methodical. Mud was layered and set to cake and dry, creating the impression the door had not been opened in years. The ground itself showed prints, but prints that seemed to have been weathered for years. They too used the wind jutsus at liberty to erase traces, give the impression of natural aging, and lack of visitors to the place for an untold number of years. Their dispersal to report to Naruto was the last stage in a well thought out prank.
Naruto replaced his human-shaped clones with eagle Kage Bunshin, a combination of Henge no jutsu and Bunshin no jutsu that was totally unknown to the ninjas, but allowed Naruto to spy without being bothered and get 'first-hand' reports as if he had done the spying himself. Finished with his preparations, he sent one of the eagles over the entrance of the laboratory, and another to keep track of the ninja as they searched the forest. The others, he dispersed strategically in the forest to keep an eye on the animals' behavior.
Late that afternoon, Naruto made his way to the cave to watch his clones rebuild the library shelves. Amphoras were created to host the scrolls, tables with wide hard wood poles at each end were built so one could hold the scrolls' ends to ease reading. Scrolls got golden rings around them to keep them tightly closed, the main subject of the scroll indicated by a silky combination of color-coded ropes, much like the Melvil Dewey DDC classification. Books were also organized. Each scroll already read by the clones had been thus classified, and properly color-coded. This sped the scrolls' sorting into proper shelves. Books also got tagged in the same way. Each scroll's or book's contents had also been logged into cards that allowed to search for a specific contents and find every relevant reference. Hundreds of clones were at work, some building shelves, others unpacking seals, and others, using the roof of the cave as highway, carrying the unpacked contents to their final resting place. The library was organized in a circle, giving the impression of an ever-increasing spindle wheel. As each book or scroll was spread out, it became apparent that an organization was being used: the general purpose books and scrolls were near the axle, and, as you moved out, more specialized books and scrolls were stored. Level upon level of shelves were being filled. That organization was made necessary because Japanese does not have an 'alphabet' but a 'concept symbol', or kana, of which there are over fifty thousand. Thus, the concept of wheel spindles to organize the library.
The cards were also organized in a similar manner. That gave the drawers a rainbow look which matched the spindles' contents. The spindles and cards were also organized so their first syllable was an indication of the contents. For instance, Khi was found in many words related to the Khi concept and if you were looking for anything starting with that concept, you only needed to look for it. The further off you moved, the more detailed the Khi concept was expanded on. To say searching the cards or the library was a piece of cake was a gross misunderstanding of the complexity of the classification, but it was still better than piling everything haphazardly, or classifying by date of writing!
"Guys, once you have classed everything you have already read, begin reading and classing what you have not. We need to speed this up."
"HAI!" thundered the thousands of clones.
I'll have one hell of a headache when they all dispel, but I hope they will have the good sense to do it in waves, not all at the same time! thought Naruto.
As he walked to the onsen, an eagle Bunshin dispelled, bringing to him the memory of a conversation it had overheard as it was perched on a tree branch.
"I wonder what we are searching for?" asked one of the young genin.
"I wish I knew too. It would help to keep a look-out for it."
"And keep you from seeing what is around you, thus endangering your life!" said their Jonin instructor. "Focus and look for any anomaly. That Tora has been staying put at that gate for so long has the Hokage worried. Normally, that Cat would not stay by that gate. No animal with good sense would! So, something is up, but what? That is what we are trying to figure out!"
I wonder what is bothering Tora? thought Naruto, unaware it was his disappearance that had the Cat in a tizzy.
Later that same evening, another Eagle dispelled, informing him that the search pattern had reached the laboratory entrance as dusk set. By that time, Naruto was getting the mother of all headaches as wave after wave of Kage Bunshin were dispelling, fifty at a time every thirty minutes. He ate lightly, unable to stomach much due to the excruciating pain. A chicken noodle soup was all he managed to swallow, along with some cold fruits. The night promised to be hell! There were still over five thousand Kage Bunshin to dispel, and, by morning, their number would have dropped by one thousand two hundred to three thousand eight hundred. A nightmare! The next day and a half would not be any more pleasant, as most of the time would be spent absorbing information from dispelling Bunshin.
By the next morning, Naruto was almost comatose. He grabbed a banana, some fresh coconut juice and a peach, unable to even leave his cave. A dive in the cold part of the onsen helped him reduce the pain somewhat. A quick sitting on an overhanging branch allowed him to dispose of body waste into the stream that fell into the swamp leading to the lake. The swamp acted as a natural filter, so nothing of his would float around on the calm lake to be spotted by sharp eyes.
As he entered his trance, he realized the sewer was ringing like a badly tuned school band practicing the Last Charge of the Samurais.
"What the hell is going on?" he hollered, trying to be heard over the din.
"You ask? You fool! What took to you to create so many Kage Bunshin? Each time one dissipates, it creates a drumming sound! I am going nuts!"
"Only oh? You are not Santa Claus, little fool, and 'Ho! Ho! Ho!' does not cut it! Slow down the damn recall! Give me a little peace so I can at least sleep off the headache!"
"You can talk to them, dimwit! They are you, in case you are not aware! So tell them to stop, now!"
Naruto returned to the surface of his conscience and asked for a pause in dispelling so he could take a break. Several hours later, after his headache had abated, Naruto returned to his inner sanctum, to a blissful silence... minus a resounding snore. He watched the Kyuubi sleep, its nose in the thick furry bunch of nine tails. What a beauty! he thought. He sat, laying his back on the cage, and relaxed. The soft dripping of water from the ceiling into a pool found within the Kyuubi cage helped him to relax even more. He began to envision a better place for the nine-tailed Demon. In his mind's eye, he saw the cage grow in size and height, to allow the Demon more freedom of motion. Then he added a big lake in the middle, a forest, a huge grass land, and a wide white-water stream with a fall cascading into a small pool of hot water before making its way to the lake: what he considered good living conditions. As he added more and more, the cage grew until its outer edges were no longer visible.
He woke up as he felt a cold nose touch his neck through the cage. At first, he did not recognize where he was, until he spotted the Kyuubi looking at him from across the cage bars. The red chakra stream had widened and deepened, and now cascaded joyfully toward whatever collected it to be assimilated by Naruto. It was no longer a sewer, but a stream, with strange flowers emitting enticing perfume.
"What? Where does that all come from?"
"You made this, Gaki. All for me. It is the first time someone really cares about what I wish. Before, I did not want to leave because of that creepy control freak. Now, I will do all I can to stay in. This is no longer a prison, but my home! I added the flowers, as they remind me of where I come from. Thank you."
"You are welcomed. I prefer a happy resident to an unhappy one. Now, you told me something during my last visit that has been bugging me. You said something to the effect you could smell the family of the one that took control of you."
"Yes. Unfortunately, I can not tell you where it is located since I can not see what you see. My nose is hooked to yours, and, currently, it is the only sense that is."
"Can we improve this? I would see no objection to giving you access to my sense of sight, hearing, taste, or even locomotion. Although, you might find the way we walk and run a bit unnerving. That you can smell the outside world even if my sense of smell is terribly underdeveloped gives me hope we could do it."
"You would be willing? That is marvelous. It would be like being out of this cage yet safe in it. The dream of all Canary birds!"
"And the nightmare of all Tora Cats in the world!"
"There is that."
"There is little knowledge about jinchuriki in what I have read so far, but I am sure there are more of you around."
"There are. Nine of us in fact. The number of tails is an indication of the quantity of chakra at our disposal, of our level of power. That you have survived is an indication that you have integrated my chakra rather well. As you grow older, you will gain bigger pathways. Not that you actually need them to face the humans, gaki, but you might one day have to deal with other jinchuriki or, Hell forbid, a free-roaming Demon."
"Would a free-roaming demon be a challenge for you?"
"If I were free of the cage, no. But you are my instrument, should we face one, and that means you must be able to deal with however much chakra I will be ready to dish out to handle the threat."
"What if I released you?"
"No! No! Never! You are my safety net, gaki! You will need to do the fight for me."
After some thought, Naruto answered: "Okay, Kyuubi, I will. You are part of my precious ones, much like Tora the Cat."
"What do you want from me, gaki? To play Cat and Mouse with you?"
"Err... Actually, no. I do not want to be a Mouse. I have seen how Tora handles them, and it is with reason the little rodents hide from it! Last time, you told me about elementals. How about starting the training on them?"
"Oh. Yes. Good idea. Since we already share the nose, that means we have a way to assess wind. From your last memory dump, you already have a good understanding of how to use it. What I will do is help you affine your sense of smell to my level. That should take some time, maybe six hours or so. First..."
With that, the Kyuubi had Naruto smell the flowers he had created. It told the beast that Naruto had not been wrong in telling him his nose was far from effective. First step was multiplying the Olfactive sensors by a million, which prolonged Naruto's nose to that of a big dog. Then the Kyuubi trained Naruto into distinguishing primary odorous, gradually refining the discriminatory power of the developing organ. After six hours, the Kyuubi was satisfied.
"Now, you need practice. First, explore the forest within the caldera, and then the edges of the island, and finally, the forest beyond. The more you will smell, the more you will learn about your environment. Before we do this though, I need to show you how you look. Have a peek in the pool of water beside the cage."
Naruto looked and saw his face. It had changed considerably. The number of whiskers had grown, and his nose now extended several inches in front of his wider eyes.
"Wow! What happened?"
"The nose grew to allow space for your new sensors; second, the whiskers allow you to detect the wind direction and give the sense of smell a three-dimensional aspect which allows you to estimate the direction and distance of the smell's origin. Notice that your eyes are bigger, allowing for a better night vision also. When we get to that sense, you will like it."
"Can I hide it?"
"Sure. Henge to your old self and you will look as you used to, whilst maintaining the gains. Note this change will carry to your new Bunshin, the ones you create from now on, so do not forget to Henge them before releasing them outside of the caldera!"
"That makes sense..."
"I always do."
"I better get back to recovering my Bunshin. It has been a while. I suggest you hide in the cave found within the forest. The woods will absorb the sound of the Bunshin bands!"
"Give me ten to reach the cave, gaki!"
"No problem. See you later! Love you, Kyuubi!"
That gaki is growing on me. I never felt that warm in my thorax before. I wonder if that is what love is? thought the Kyuubi.
Naruto emerged from his trance, took a hefty dinner of vegetables, fruits, and ramen, a quick bath in the onsen, and then lay down on the warm flat rocks that lined the water supply of his personal bath tub. Using a bunch of leaves as pillow he relaxed and called for the first wave of Bunshin to dispel. His state of almost trance sped the assimilation process, much to his surprise, and allowed him to recall in fifty Bunshin every ten minutes, a nice improvement over his previous fifty per thirty minutes. After six hours and nine hundred Bunshin dispelled, he decided he had enough. Naruto called on his surveillance Bunshin to report on what was happening outside of the caldera. Nothing much, according to the few that dispelled to do the report. The laboratory had been missed. The lake was ignored after a Jonin almost got eaten up, and the search had been moved further back, toward the rear of the forest.
The only thing interesting had been two chunin talking together during their late watch. Naruto thus learned that Minato Namikaze, his dad according to his new friend the Kyuubi, owned a vast track of land that framed the forest of Death, with a narrow tract held by the Hyuga clan exactly separating the two huge forests. Thinking things out, Naruto decided this did not make sense. Why would the Namikaze divide their land by selling a strip to the Hyuga clan? Then the chunin mentioned that it was impossible to search the Namikaze lands because it was protected by powerful seals, only allowing a Namikaze to enter. As Naruto wondered where the loud-mouth had learned this, said loud-mouth bragged.
"Dad told me the Namikaze clan had a reputation for seals. The biggest achievement of Minato was sealing the Kyuubi no Kitsune in that brat, Uzumaki Naruto! Anyway, unless there is another Namikaze around to access that strip of land, it will be locked until the seals break, an unlikely event given the Namikaze renowned prowess with seals."
"You know we are not supposed to talk of this?"
"Yes, but I also know trees do not talk!"
"But they might have ears!"
"Ha! You are like my grandma. She too told me never to talk of this to anyone because walls might have ears! In our own home?"
"You never know who might not sell you out for personal gain or to escape punishment."
"True... Will you?"
"If I were, do you think me dumb enough to tell you so?"
"What are friends for except to keep our secrets?"
"A secret is when only one person knows about it; when two know, it is private knowledge; when three know, it is of public domain."
"You are more paranoid than Iruka, the chunin teacher at the Academy!"
"Better paranoid than under the tender care of Ibiki!"
The name of the chief interrogator of Konoha sent shivers down their spines and closed their mouth.
Naruto thought about what he had learned. It might be interesting to visit the Namikaze holdings. But how? Finally, he decided to put this off until the search parties had left the forest of Death and he could travel it without encountering ninja patrols. Animals were, in his mind, less troublesome. If the search continued at its current rate, the forest would be cleared of undesirable visitors in four or five days, maybe six if they found anything of interest.