Chapter 2: The Old Puppeteer
Author’s Notes: Revised as of 1/4/15
With the Uzumaki
“Moooom…” Naruto whined.
“We’re tired…” another Naruto said.
“… We’ve been at this all week…” the third Naruto said.
“Again,” Kushina told them.
The Narutos all sighed in defeat and sat down on the ground, closing their eyes and concentrating. Kushina had begun teaching them how to use her Chakra Chain jutsu. It required no hand seals, but it required so much concentration that even with two hundred clones working on learning how to generate the proper amount of yang chakra for the jutsu, it still wasn’t solid enough. He needed to focus on mixing a large amount of his physical energy into a small amount of spiritual energy, without it completely overtaking it.
Once ten minutes passed, they placed their hands on one of Kushina’s affinity testing seals, which she managed to make along the way. She had over five hundred of her multi-purposed, newly christened “Affinity Breakdown Seals” ready for the market, and she finally managed to create chakra chains away from her body.
Once again, you’ve gotta love shadow clones.
The top ten that got the closest to the proper yang chakra composition were then dispelled and the process was repeated, until the original was the only one left. He’d then try on his own, rest for some time, and then repeat the process. This way, he crammed at least a few months’ worth of training in a day.
There were about twenty more clones doing various chakra exercises, including some from the medic-nin book she got. Since medics needed absolute and precise chakra control, those exercises were the best for him to gain better chakra control. In addition, yang chakra was used in healing as well, similar to how yin was used in genjutsu. It had a slightly higher concentration of physical to spiritual, but nowhere near as much used in her chains.
Still, she had about five shadow clones working alongside them since she would probably need to learn medical techniques in case of an emergency. Just because Naruto could heal himself faster now didn’t mean he could heal anyone else.
There were a few more clones working on their katas, but there were less than three hundred clones total in use. Rather than just letting Naruto make nearly a thousand of them, Kushina didn’t want to have Naruto running low on chakra too soon, since converting regular chakra to any element was draining, and because they were still close to enemy territory.
They’d been doing the same thing over and over for the last week as they slowly made their way towards Suna, avoiding the shinobi paths on her map. At this point they were past the Land of Fire and into the Land of Rivers, which was situated right between the Land of Fire and Land of Wind.
Since she didn’t want to risk being discovered by rotten luck, Kushina had applied the seal to herself, turning her eyes a light shade of purple and her hair black, wrapped into a single ponytail. She also altered Naruto’s new one to have black hair and purple eyes as well, so they matched… the first one he made didn’t agree with the fox’s chakra, as she learned when she slightly altered the seal on his stomach to give Naruto a better sense of hearing and smell.
They also had to use different names when in the presence of others, for obvious reasons… neither one of them wanted to put too much effort into it though, so they just settled on “Shina” and “Naru” to get it out of the way.
I wonder if I could get someone in Suna to personally supervise him in using his wind chakra, Kushina thought to herself. Suna’s shinobi population wasn’t all that high, but they had the greatest number of wind users.
The main problem for this portion of their journey was going to find someone to teach them about puppetry. Only shinobi native to the village could learn it, and according to the Unofficial Bingo Book, the only other major puppet master outside the village was Sasori of the Red Sands. If they entered into the village as shinobi without any real reason, they’d be subjected to interrogation.
“Hm?” Kushina eyes narrowed, as memories from one of her clones that were patrolling the area just returned to her. “Naruto, wrap it up. We have guests.”
A short distance away
A well-toned, middle-aged man, dressed in a simple white T-shirt and black pants, with a jacket around his waist, was moving through the forests as fast as he could. He was currently running from three missing-nins from Ame, two males and one female, that were clearly playing with him.
One of the men had only a single eye exposed, the other hidden from sight by his hair, and he had a mask over his mouth and a bandana. The other was muscular, with chin-length gray hair, arm warmers to go with a sleeveless shirt, and a teal mark across his face. The last was a young woman with short light-brown hair, wearing pink tube top that was barely covered up by a light green shirt.
The older man was out of breath when he reached the edge of a river. “Honestly, kids these days acting worse than bandits.”
“Well, you could’ve just given us your gear old man…” the girl said. “Oh well.”
“Chakra Chain: Emergence,” a voice echoed through the forest. A dozen small explosions occurred at the same time around the helpless man, as ghostly, translucent chains erupted from the ground beneath him.
“Chakra Chain: Barrier,” the same mysterious voice said. The twelve chains arched and formed a dome around the man, and the gaps between the chains were filled by a shimmering force.
“The gentleman has a point,” the mysterious voice came from the river this time. Kushina slowly rose from the river using the Hiding in the Water jutsu she learned from one of the scrolls in Uzushio, with her arms crossed and dressed in her combat outfit, with a matching backpack on spaghetti strings. “You three could stand to do better than that.”
A rain of shuriken poured down at the missing-nins, who jumped back at the last second, leaving a good sized spot with shuriken popping up like weeds. Landing in a crouch next to his mother was Naruto, dressed in his combat clothes as well.
“So, time to go from practice to practical application.” Naruto grinned. He only had his mother to spar with up until now and wanted to try what he learned against an enemy.
“Naru, remember these three will actually be trying to kill us. Don’t take them lightly.”
“Yes ma’am!” he said, before flicking his hands and causing shuriken to appear between his fingers. He threw them at the masked one who dodged with ease. “Come at me bro!”
That little—” Kirisame muttered before going after him.
“I feel bad for that kid,” the kunoichi muttered to Kushina. “That guy is a sadist. Your kid is gonna be in pieces.”
“My child can take care of himself…” I hope, she thought secretly. Naruto had yet to face a situation where he’d need to kill or be killed. She wasn’t sure he was mentally prepared for dealing with his first kill, but hopefully it wouldn’t come to that in this battle. “Let’s get started.”
With Naruto & Kirisame
Naruto placed the palm of his hand in front of his mouth and inhaled. Releasing trace amounts of wind chakra from his body and merging it with the surroundings, the air he inhaled became concentrated and flowed towards his mouth before stopping at the palm and spinning in place. Once he exhaled the spiraling sphere flew towards the Ame-nin who jumped up and avoided the attack, leaving it to crash into tree that was behind him and leaving a moderate sized crater in the wood.
Naruto inhaled and exhaled rapidly, repeatedly firing the jutsu over and over, only to have the enemy avoid it with ease. It’s not bad offensive-wise for a low-ranked jutsu, but the time between shots is too long and the strength is dependent on the amount inhaled…
Naruto flicked his wrist and sent chakra into the seal on the palm of his right glove. A Kunai popped out and he held it in a reverse grip before charging the man.
“Let’s see what you got kid!” The Ame-nin formed the Rat-Dog-Ox seals and water gathered in his hands. “Water Style: Water Whip!”
He lashed out at the boy, before taking a wide swing that Naruto ducked under. He twisted his hand brought it down, causing the whip to twist and catch the boy’s leg. “Get over here!”
He pulled the whip in and pulled out a kunai, plunging it deep into the boy’s waist. Naruto gasped in pain… before popping in a plume of smoke. “What the hell?”
“It’s called a shadow clone,” the young boy’s voice came from behind him.
Kirisame exposed eye went wide and he pivoted on his rear leg, swinging the whip horizontally. Naruto ducked under it and edged left, swinging his reverse-gripped kunai at an inside arc to graze Kirisame’s shoulder, before placing his foot behind the taller shinobi’s and kicking it from under him.
Kirisame flipped backwards and landed… only to find himself flying. A concussive force of condensed chakra ruptured the moment it hit him. He went head first into the tree and stopped moving.
“My taijutsu isn’t going to be very effective damage-wise until I grow a bit more, but at least the Wind Style: Air Bullet worked.” Naruto smirked and made three shadow clones to haul his unconscious prize back to the others.
With Kushina, Hisame, and Murasame
Unlike Naruto, Kushina was an experienced kunoichi who fought in a war. Seeing that her enemies were getting ready to start making hand seals, she brushed her fingers against the storage seals on the blouse’s sleeves and threw the kunai that appeared in a spread fashion. The goal wasn’t to hit, but to make them move or deflect it.
Kunai were okay for close combat, you could slit the enemy’s throat, slip the blade between their ribs, and all that fun stuff, but the further away the enemy, the lower the effectiveness without using chakra. Both of them dodged, as expected, and Kushina rushed towards Hisame.
“Old hag!” she roared, finishing the seals and creating a water whip.
Kushina dodged the first swing with a slide and aimed to angle the kunai into the girl’s heart from below the breast, only to miss when she twisted. Kushina threw the kunai at Murasame to force him to redirect his water whip long enough for her to grab Hisame by her loose shirt and toss her out of it and directly into Murasame.
Enraged, both of them sent their water whips straight towards her, like poles. They were also standing close enough to be caught up in her next shot.
“Water Style: Spiraling Water Ball!” she said, as she leapt back, following the same pattern as her son, but taking from the condensation in the air and mixing with water chakra. She took a deep breath, aimed towards the pair at a slightly downward angle, and fired the ball of spiral water.
It cut through the whips easily since they were stretched far enough and knocked the duo off their feet on impact. Kushina created four chakra chains from the palm of her hand and shot them out like snakes, making them coil around the pair. She then slammed them into a tree, pulled them in with a single tug, and clothes-lined them both.
They didn’t get back up.
Kushina breathed a sigh of relief once Naruto returned and looked unharmed. “Place him with the others,” she said, before she released the man in her barrier and pulled out the Unofficial Bingo Book from sealing scroll in her backpack.
“They aren’t here, meaning they were new missing-nin…” she mumbled, closing the book and turning to Naruto. “Have any problems?”
“Nah, the guy was cannon fodder at best,” he shrugged.
“Don’t take any battle lightly. Things have a bad habit of going from bad to worse really quickly…” she paused before looking at the man. “Are you okay?”
“Yeah,” the man said as he stood up and picked up his bag from the ground. “Thanks for the save.”
“We were just in the neighborhood and heard the commotion,” Naruto told him, not bothering to look up as he started looting the unconscious Ame-nins’ supplies. “Ooh, they’ve got cool blank masks and a scroll to do that whip thing… and another one that follows up with lightning!”
Kushina sighed and shook her head. “It was no problem… I’m sorry; I don’t believe we’ve done introductions yet.”
“My name is Gen,” he said, extending his hand for Kushina to shake. “I’m a blacksmith from Takumi.”
Kushina grabbed his hand and shook it politely, noting how hard and callus they were. It was evidence that he worked long and hard towards his profession.
“My name is Shina,” she pointed to Naruto, “and this is my son, Naru. I’ve heard of your village before. It specializes in making customized weapons for shinobi.”
The man sighed. “It used to, but now so many villages have gained some skill in it. We’ve lost a lot of business, so we visit nearby villages and set up shops. What about you? I don’t think I’ve seen that barrier jutsu before and you aren’t wearing a forehead protector… ”
Kushina smiled. “We’re basically mercenary-nin, without a village… hang on for a second, please.”
They both stopped to look at Naruto chuckling, as he had finished stripping the missing-nin of their supplies and wallets. She rolled her eyes and made the Tiger-Ram-Snake-Tiger seals and cried, “Water Style: Froth Prison!”
A stream of light-pink water came from her mouth and collided with the ground around the three. The moment it made contact with the organic matter it began a chemical reaction that formed a good amount of solid foam which strengthened based on the amount of chakra present. “They’ll be like that for a day or so.”
“Mercenaries… would you two be interested in serving as my bodyguards for my trip to Suna?” he asked. “I can’t pay you a lot right now, but I can make you just about any weapon you could want, for both of you!”
Well, that was convenient. Never again will I doubt my son’s dumb luck, Kushina thought. “We’d be glad to—I wanted to try my hand at selling some of my own things there anyway, and I heard they had an open bazaar.”
He chuckled. “It is pretty big, but you can never get any space unless you get there early or reserve a spot. I don’t mind sharing my stand. What will we be selling?”
“Seals,” Kushina tapped her shoulder and released a bit of chakra, causing a shuriken to appear. “These are my special combat storage seals. I made them to hold various items in separate compartments, and respond to the amount of chakra I release when I touch them.”
“Yeah,” Naruto showed him the palm of his gloves. “All I have to do is pulse chakra into mine and BAM! I have something to fight with. Although the frequency and burst of the chakra pulse determines what comes out… ”
Gen whistled and smiled. “I tried to be a shinobi when I was younger, but I dropped out before I became a genin and moved to Takumi. So I can use chakra, but only for using small storage seals and testing the weapons I make that don’t require elemental chakra.”
“Interesting… tell me, have ever considered using a chakra storage seal that…” Kushina and Gen went on about endless possibilities of seals and weapons combined…
Somewhere in Konoha
A girl with buns in her hair was working with her father on blacksmithing, when she stopped mid-swing and looked up with sparkles in her eyes…
“Something wonderful is going to happen, and it involves me and weaponry… ”
Her father just sighed and shrugged.
Several Days Later
It took far longer to get to Suna with Gen in tow, since he couldn’t keep up with the pair at full speed. Before they entered the village’s range, Naruto and Kushina had changed to their civilian clothes and asked Gen to keep quiet that they were fully-capable shinobi since they wanted to keep things on the low for now. Suna and Konoha are allies, and if they drew attention here…
Gen had no problem with it, and it wasn’t too hard to get into the village as civilians. Seal salesmen were expected to have some chakra to make or demonstrate their goods, and they didn’t belong to any village. They kept all their combat clothes and private things in a seal that Kushina kept hidden inside another seal, in case they tried to check for it.
Once Naruto and Kushina got a room, they went sightseeing around the village. The marketing areas were the most active, but the buildings were the same color of brown and looked like they were made of clay. There was that really round building in the center of the town, but other than that…
Their BBQ places were great to eat at and had a surprisingly wide arrangement of foods that were imported. There were a few kids around Naruto’s age, but they were training in Suna’s style and, while Naruto left Konoha and trained with his mother, he didn’t want to take any chances. He just went around with his mother as she checked out various stories and bought things that she could probably use to make a fortune later on.
Later that night, Naruto was snoring in his bed. Watching him sleep peacefully from behind a desk with a small lamp on it was Kushina. She’d always hoped that she would get the chance to watch him grow
He looked so much like Minato. She missed him so much, it wasn’t fair. It felt like she took away his second chance from seeing their son.
But she knew if they kept going, they would get a chance to bring him back. So, to keep their boy safe until then, she needed to get stronger. That was the reason she had three scrolls in front of her.
The first one was Sealing Arts of Yin, written by the Uzumaki Clan. It went into detail about the use of yin chakra and spiritual energy, how it brings illusions and phantasms out and give them shape. The sealing formulas it had inside involved forcefully disturbing the balance of yin and yang chakra.
The second one was Yin Style: Phantasmal Markings, which she got from Kurogane. It uses yin chakra to mark a target’s spiritual energy with symbols or letters that exist but don’t have physical form and couldn’t interact with the physical world.
Yin chakra was an absolute nightmare for her to use, as her chakra was geared towards yang chakra. That was why she never went into genjutsu. While Naruto had abysmal control from having the fox to blame, she had her own chakra quality to blame.
She would need at least a year of practice without shadow clones to mold the necessary yin chakra for phantasmal marking, but with the help of these two arts, she could create a truly demonic technique.
One that she hoped she never had to use.
Two weeks later
If one were to ask how Kushina’s sales were going, they would probably have to wait in line. For about an hour. On a good day.
Her seals were a hit!
Affinity Breakdown Seals, Combat Storage Seals, Security Seals, Privacy Seals—not the new ones she made, but their older versions—they were selling. If she got low on some, she’d have a few shadow clones in hiding make more.
To make matters even better, Kurogane contacted her through their scrolls and had requested more of the seals she made him. When she mentioned the new ones she made, he just said to send them over after he gave her the profits from her last ones.
Now, Kushina wasn’t a greedy person by nature and she didn’t change in the slightest. She put everything else that wasn’t needed for the next two weeks and Naruto’s allowance away. It had to go towards building their village back up again.
If she franchised it… hehehe…
But, extremely profitable dreams aside, she was technically housing a missing-nin and that wouldn’t change until he got support from another village as large as Konoha, but since he was housing the fox, that wouldn’t stop a war from breaking out. It had to be more than a single village…
It was only thanks to their appearance changing seals—she didn’t market those for obvious reasons—that they could live in temporary peace. But Naruto was at least talking to others his age that didn’t hate him because of their parents. The main downside was that the fox’s chakra would destroy the seal if he used any of it besides the healing portion.
Gen was making an equally great amount of profit with his custom weapons. Between his and Kushina’s techniques, the weapons gained some popularity for being able to absorb chakra flow easier and strengthen themselves to prevent chipping and breaking. Most of the blacksmiths couldn’t match those, and Gen and Kushina could sell the templates for a commission.
The two had big plans for even more potent weapons and seals combinations, using elemental seals and such, but Kushina wanted to hold off until they tested them on her and Naruto’s custom weapons, as well a few prototypes. She only bought the sealing scrolls that were geared towards using regular chakra, water chakra, and wind chakra from Uzushio. When Kushina eventually left Suna for Konoha, she would definitely give him a scroll like the one she gave Kurogane.
Having a guy like him in Uzushio would do well for economic growth.
Naruto’s sealing lessons were the only ones they could practice while inside the village. He was moving onto making tracking seals and chakra releasing seal. Tracking was done in two parts or more depending on the seal. Typically one was applied to the target and sent a chakra signal to another seal that had a receiver.
The chakra releasing seals did just that: release chakra. It was a storage seal that handled chakra and as a result could hold jutsu as well if the seal was properly done. Naruto couldn’t make one to hold jutsu on his own, but he could make one to just release pure chakra. If a second layer of sealing formula was applied then you could shape the chakra, otherwise it just burst out, and a third layer added the pressure of force behind the released chakra. Too little pressure was the same as having a light breeze push it out, but too much could change the shape added by the second layer and rupture it.
Kushina demonstrated by taking a decorative kunai she made with Gen. It was shaped more like a normal one, except it was flattened out more and the sides of the blade above the hand were curved into points. The top side of the kunai had one set of seals that activated when she used chakra and fired a blast in the shape of the kunai’s blade. The bottom side seal released a small outward pulse.
Naruto would most likely learn how to do the third layer in half a year and a half without shadow clones. He had the second layer down, but he needed to study some physics and matters related to forces applied to surfaces. Then it was a matter of trial and error.
The next thing on Kushina’s list was to find a puppet maker.
It was through some rumors and basic information gathering that she came to learn of the “Honorable Grandmother” Chiyo, who was the best puppet master in Suna and also the best puppet maker. She also found out what her favorite restaurant was and started to take Naruto there to eat a few times. On their fifth visit in two weeks, she spotted her.
“Excuse me,” Kushina said as she walked up to the elderly woman. “Are you Chiyo-sama?”
“Ah, the girl who sells those popular seals…” the elder said, turning in her seat. “What do you want with an old woman like me?”
“I’ve heard that you were the best puppet maker in Suna,” Kushina bowed. “Can you teach me how to make a certain type of puppet? I am certain that only someone with you experience could do such a thing.”
Kushina kept her head down for what seemed like hours, waiting for a response, until Naruto tapped her on the arm. “I think she just died… ”
“Huh?” Kushina looked up to see he eyes half open and her face lowered and relaxed. Her breathe was nonexistent. “Quick, someone get a medic! I’ll see if I can—”
She was cut off by Chiyo suddenly jumping out of the chair and both she and Naruto jumped back. They both almost went into a combat stand out of shock. Instead they resisted the urge and stood there shaking.
“Hehehe… Just kidding! I’m not dead.” Chiyo chuckled. Given how most people knew her… eccentric habits, they also chuckled. What they didn’t know was that Kushina didn’t like being laughed at.
The pony tail Kushina had tied as part of her disguised appearance began to crackle with eldritch energy and unravel, branching into nine tendrils. Some people would say that the room chilled suddenly, others would say they could see her literally burning with anger. Naruto had his hands full holding her back.
“C-calm d-down m-m-mom…” Naruto stuttered. “You can’t go around doing that to anyone that angers you… ”
The old woman just continued to chuckle. “You amuse me,” she turned around. “Unfortunately, I’m no longer an active puppet master or maker, nor do I take students….”
She walked away from Kushina and out the door. “You’re simply out of luck dear.”
“Tough break lady,” some random guy said. “Chiyo-baa-sama doesn’t really do anything these days for anyone.”
“What’ll we do?” Naruto asked quietly. “We can’t just give up.”
Kushina closed her eyes and smiled, she wouldn’t give up that easily. “Of course not, Nar—” she was cut off by the sound of explosives coming from down the street, followed by screams. The clacking of wood came was the only thing that stood out.
“Naru, stay inside here!” she said, before running outside to see about five Suna ANBU fighting shinobi with Suna forehead protectors and their puppets. Chiyo’s body was lying on the ground, unmoving. When one of the civilians was running past her, Kushina grabbed the woman’s wrists and asked what happened.
“Some members of the Puppet Brigade attacked Chiyo-baa-sama, after telling her to hand over some scrolls! She refused and suddenly there was a puppet attacking from under the ground! She stopped it with her strings but the arm shot off and stole her scrolls! After that more guys and puppets came and the fighting started to escalate—!”
“WHERE’S MY CHILD!” another woman screamed.
Kushina was starting to get worried, and tried to think of a way to help. She could pass herself off as a mercenary shinobi, but it would cause them to doubt her since she was supposed to be a civilian. Plus, the air was so dry that the amount of condensation to use an effective spiraling water ball would take too long, and jumping into the fight all of a sudden could get her targeted by ANBU by mistake.
“BOOM!” a loud crash came from an alley, and Kushina recognized her son’s chakra by heart despite not being a sensor-nin, since it was currently flowing through her body. She took off to go get her son and missed the Chiyo laying on the ground becoming a pile of sand and scattering in the wind.
Naruto wanted to see what was going on, despite his mother’s warning, so he watched from the back entrance of the restaurant they were in. It was then that he saw a man with a little girl in his arms, running around a corner. His ears twitched once his enhanced hearing heard the little girl sobbing silently for someone to help her, before being knocked out and another voice said something about the old lady’s scrolls.
The guy had grabbed a little girl during the commotion to use as a hostage, after his partner’s puppets grabbed the scrolls. Chiyo had some impressive techniques, and for her not to teach them how to make or use those ten special puppets of hers was as good as treason to them. He and his partners knew they couldn’t return and that they’d become missing-nin, but they figured they could aid Suna from the shadows instead, and if taking a hostage was necessary, then so be it.
Suna placed the importance of missions above all else, and the ones caught up in the fighting knew that they had to by some time for him to get away. If they died, then they knew they did what was for the best. The mission came before their lives, and this was their mission.
Naruto chased after the man. He was afraid that if he went to get help, the man could escape or use the child as a hostage…plus he felt confident that he could take the man down after he handled the missing-nin from Ame with moderate ease. But brute force was out of the question, it had to be a sneak attack.
He made three shadow clones and transformed two into rocks and the last into a wooden stick, running behind the man and into the alley. “Wait right there, you bastard!”
The shinobi looked back at Naruto, who threw both the rocks past his head. The man sighed, pocketing the two stolen scrolls and pulling out a storage one with a new puppet. The puppet clacked and its chest popped open to reveal dozens of poison dipped spikes before charging at him.
Naruto threw the wooden stick over the puppet, flying straight towards the shinobi. The man shook his head. The child thought he could stop him with a few rocks and a stick.
Too bad kid, if you just ignored me th—his thoughts were cut off in an instant, as the wooden stick the thought he dodged became a clone… and smashed his face in with his knee. He thought it was simple stick that he could avoid and didn’t even consider using a substitution. Before he could get his puppet in finish the boy off, a voice came from behind him, and a spike in chakra.
“WIND STYLE: AIR BULLET!” a second clone called out before firing condensed chakra bullet at the puppet. The real Naruto jumped into the air and braced himself, right before the attack landed.
The alley way was hit hard and dust flew into the air once the condensed chakra ruptured and exploded out with enough concussive force to slam Naruto into a pile of rubble that was once a dead end wall. The clone used a good potion its chakra for the attack since Naruto wasn’t sure how durable the puppet was, and it had dissipated once it was hit by the backlash. The puppet was just splinters and scrap steel.
The child and Chiyo’s scrolls had been spared by the attack thanks to Naruto’s planning. In that instant the man looked up at him, the second rock became the third clone and grabbed the child, while his first clone grabbed the scrolls and both ran past the second clone and out the alley, not seeing the figure standing on the rooftops watching.
Naruto chuckled in delight for pulling off such a well-executed plan enough to fool the man.
“You little brat!” the shinobi screamed, jumping out of the dust cloud with a tanto in his hands. He had every intention of ending Naruto’s life. The boy had to move… he couldn’t.
Naruto looked down to register what happened to his body as time slowed down. The shrapnel from the debris had embedded itself into his stomach and legs, cutting open his shirt, and pierced deeply enough cause moderate bleeding, but it hadn’t cut into a major blood vessel. The healing chakra from the fox could heal it in less than five minutes… he didn’t have five seconds.
Don’t freeze up, he tried to tell himself, as the tanto began its descent.
Move or you’ll die, he couldn’t concentrate like this. He couldn’t use substitution like this!
The sound of flesh being pierced rang in the boy’s ears, and the smell of iron from blood and steel colliding overpowered his nose. Blood fell over his forehead and slowly oozed its way down into the open space of his gaping mouth. He laid there shivering…
As the man’s empty eyes met his own.
“That was a close one,” an old voice reached his ears.
Naruto was in shock, so he didn’t notice the chakra strings attached to dead man’s hands. With a quick tug from the puppet master, the man who manipulated a puppet seconds ago, became a puppet that slid the tanto between his ribcage and into his heart.
The one pulling the strings was none other than Chiyo herself.
The world began to tunnel and the sight of those empty eyes would forever be engraved on the boy mind. The last thing Naruto heard before he passed out was his mother’s voice.
“Do you have any privacy seals, dear?” Chiyo asked Kushina.
Kushina nodded and pulled out a complicated, customized sealing array, far beyond what she normally sold. It had a formula for disturbing sound waves by distorting the air it traveled through, while releasing alternating frequencies of chakra to disrupt the use of any sight-based technique like the Byakugan. If any outside chakra came into contact with the seal’s chakra, it would alter them immediately.
It took Kushina over a month of studying and trial and error at Uzushio to learn how to make the seal properly, setting aside several shadow clones to speed up the process.
Chiyo planted the seal on the wall and pulsed chakra into it. “That’s better. You truly are gifted child… this seal is a step above my own.”
Kushina didn’t pay the compliment any mind. She just had to get her baby clean and take care of him and… and…
“You can lay him down on the couch—the blood was my fault anyway,” the old lady said nonchalantly. “I’ll fetch the basin, some washcloths, towels…” she trailed off.
Kushina laid Naruto on the couch, and took off his torn and bloodstained shirt. The shrapnel was ejected the moment the healing kicked in, and there were no visible marks anymore, so it was probably just the shock of it all that made him faint.
“I told the guards that I would heal the boy and give a full statement about what happened before I dismissed them,” the old woman said, as she bought the material using her chakra strings. “When they wouldn’t leave, I showed them how versatile my strings were and reminded them I still had some power over the council. Your son will not be bothered for the remainder of your stay.”
“You have my gratitude, Chiyo-sama.” Kushina said, as she bowed politely.
“You can drop the honorifics dear. I’m too old to care,” she chuckled, before calming down and speaking in a more sincere voice. “Was it his first time… seeing someone die like that?”
Kushina nodded and ran her fingers through his hair as tenderly as she could. “He’ll be fine… all of us go through it at some point in our careers. But… for it to happen to my little boy… ”
“Indeed… it was probably better that he go through it now than on the battlefield… same for you. Our careers tend to lead to short life spans,” she said, not adding … with a few exceptions of course.
Kushina dipped the rag in the water basin and twisted it, slowly wiping the blood away from her child with tears in her eyes.
“I admired his courage, but if I was a second slower, your child would not have survived. Why did your son go so far to save a child he didn’t know? He is not one of us.”
Kushina shook her head and kept wiping away at her son. She had finally cleaned his beautiful sleeping face. “We may be strangers, but Naruto couldn’t just stand by and let that happen.”
In Chiyo’s hands were the scrolls that Naruto retrieved from the thief. As she watched from the rooftop, she saw his mother quickly grab the child and the scrolls before the two clones dispelled themselves before they drew any attention. Kushina tossed the scrolls to her and grabbed her son, getting ready to flee before she told them she would handle the fallout. She told ANBU that the child chased the man foolishly and was about to be attacked by a puppet when she interfered.
She figured they were probably missing-nin who wanted to settle down without worrying about anyone trying to hunt them. Truthfully, she would’ve been content with losing the scrolls since they no longer held importance to her at this point in her life, but in the wrong hands…”These scrolls contain years of my studies and notes, as well as my greatest ten puppets. You would have probably benefited more from them than trying to learn only basics from me.”
“We wouldn’t go that far,” Kushina said softly. “Neither one of us would forgive ourselves if we stole something important from someone who didn’t wrong us.”
“… Tell me about the boy there,” Chiyo pointed towards the sleeping Naruto. “I saw the seal on his stomach when he was healing himself, and I know that much chakra isn’t normally possible for one so young… I’ve seen his kind before.”
“Will I have your word that this will stay between us?” Kushina asked. Chiyo nodded her head. “My son was made a Jinchuuriki when he was born, as a last resort. We hoped that he would be seen as a hero, we didn’t want to think the worse possible solution… That he’d be persecuted because of it and suffer because of it.”
“I take it that both of you are using some form of disguises and alias right now?” Kushina nodded her head. “Good, the less I know the better. Tell me why you sought me out.”
Kushina finished wiping her boy clean and put on the spare shirt Chiyo bought, before she showed the scroll detailing the puppet she needed made. To be blunt, it was very similar to making puppet out of humans in some aspects. But while human puppets were just shells that could borrow the skills they had in life, this actually used someone’s chakra to shape the doll and store their consciousness inside of it.
You could theoretically raise the dead with it. The materials weren’t just easily available, but it was still possible to gather them with enough finances. The biggest problem was that the sealing arrays needed for it were so finesse and delicate, if you made one mistake in placing the seals, it would be ruined for good. There was only one village that had such proficiency…
“It is things like this that got your village targeted in the first place,” Chiyo chuckled, but there was no malice or ill-intent in her words. “There are many people who would commit the greatest of sins to get their hands on this, including the foolish Kazekage. Lucky for you, I’m not one of them.”
She handed the scroll back to Kushina. “Only show it to those you can trust, and never those with ambition or suffering from the pain of losing someone they cared about. Otherwise you’ll run the risk of repeating history.”
Kushina only nodded silently, rubbing her sweet son’s face.
“I will get you the materials that I can, but it may take years to do it subtly enough to not draw attention. Despite not officially taking on students anymore, I know of both a private place where you can train and a young girl who would be helpful towards teaching the boy how to use his wind chakra, and I’ll teach you the basics of puppetry myself,” she paused as Kushina looked up in shock, “on one condition, of course.”
“If it is within my ability, I’ll do so.” Kushina replied.
Chiyo put a sad smile on her face. “I have long since withdrawn from my village’s affairs after I was forced to do something I regret to this day.” She flicked her wrists and chakra strings flew out and attached themselves to the dirty washcloths, basin, Naruto’s old shirt, and the towels.
“That man should never have been made Kazekage,” she shook her head in disappointment. “Instead of allowing the raccoon dog to remain sealed away in the kettle, he did the one thing no parent should have done to such a small child for only creating a weapon… ”
Chiyo looked at Naruto with sad eyes, as if recalling a past memory. It was then Kushina realized what happened. “He used his newborn child?”
“It wasn’t surprising really… most of the tailed-beasts are sealed inside those who they feel would be most loyal to the village. If they are lucky, they only face discrimination from the shadows. But that man… he actively encouraged people to fear the boy, even going so far as to have the only person who outright loved the boy drive him to the very edge.”
Chiyo shed a single tear. “He was completely broken after that…”
Kushina was absolutely livid. She couldn’t be there for Naruto when he was suffering, to hold him tightly and tell him everything would be alright. She would regret that for the rest of her second life.
“Having proficiency in sealing is a necessary skill in making puppets from scratch,” Chiyo sighed. “I was the best at making puppets. But what that foolish man failed to realize was that people weren’t puppets… they were much more fragile.”
Chiyo just stood there in silence; her eyes were as still as empty pools of sorrow. Kages have to make decisions for the good of the village. But if that were the case, she could probably understand.
“I lost my faith in the village after seeing what I had done,” Chiyo finally continued. “Since then, that man has made one foolish decision after another, from antagonizing the Daimyo to meeting with that man from Oto.”
Chiyo flicked her wrist and strings flew out. She had a scroll in her hands in the next second. “These are the details of the seal I used on the boy,” she muttered, as she handed the scroll to Kushina.
“Though my pride would never call for me to rely on another person, I know I am at my limit. My only request is that you help me fix the seal on the child, so he no longer suffers and can sleep again at night.”
Kushina looked over the details of the seal and then looked back at the woman. “How long do we have?”
Chiyo smiled. “Two months, at the last portion of the Chuunin Exams.”
Kushina looked at her son’s peaceful sleeping face, as if he could tell the blood had been wiped clean. Even though he would probably have nightmare about that scene, or when he takes his first life in battle, every child should be able to sleep in peace.
“It’ll be my pleasure.”
Wind Style: Spiraling Wind Ball – Gathers wind chakra laced air and spins it, before shooting it. The power varies on how long the user inhales.
Wind Style: Air Bullet – Condenses wind chakra and fires it in ball shaped bursts, the explosive force is determined by the amount of chakra condensed.
Water Style: Spiraling Water Ball – Gathers water chakra laced condensation from the air and spins it, before shooting it. The power varies on how long the user inhales.
Water Style: Froth Prison – Sprays water onto the ground and begins a chemical reaction that creates foam, it solidifies based on the amount of chakra used.
Chakra Chain: Emergence – Allows Kushina to generate chakra chains away from her body.
And so, it begins…
I tried to get across what a parent would go through had their child gone through the ringer. The world of Naruto is awesome and all…but technically, they are child soldiers at that age, and Kushina only met her son for a few minutes…twelve years and four months ago.