The wooden coffin had risen from the ground and pulled itself upright, the character for four etched into its front in a bloody, garish red. Naruto had watched it open through horrified eyes and revealed a man he had only heard of in heroic stories long past.
And their cerulean gazes had met.
His heart had leaped to his throat and then blinding anger had blurred his vision. The man responsible for all of his suffering was standing right in front of him and all Naruto needed to do was pull out a katana and destroy him. Something had stopped him, some irrational need to speak to him, to ask him why – why – he had chosen Naruto.
Before he could ask, the Yondaime had smiled. It was a smile he had seen too many time to count, a smile he had longed for but had never received because of his reluctant nature. It was a smile filled with the effortless, unrequited love of a parent and all of the questions Naruto could have asked faded into oblivion.
He shook his head sharply and told himself it was genjutsu. This was not the Yondaime standing in front of him. That was not a smile meant for him. He couldn’t convince himself though as the muffled thump of footsteps was hindered by the falling rain that fell like silver distractions. Naruto could no longer move and could only stare at his dead embodied reflection and greatest enemy.
“I’ve wanted to see you for a long time, you know,” the Yondaime’s voice had been soft, melancholy.
The rain had pelted down upon both of them in protest to this impossible reunion but neither of the men had taken any notice. A thousand cruel retorts surfaced in Naruto’s mind but he found he could no longer voice them. The white coat, a coat he had worked towards for his entire life, rustled about them and was then promptly silenced again.
This scene had played out before in Naruto’s head like a well rehearsed scene, slightly different and improved with each repeat. They all followed the same plotline though; Naruto would always kill the Yondaime, always expose the once beloved Hokage for the monster only Naruto knew he was and then the Kyuubi would somehow fade into nothingness. He would be accepted as the hero he really was and become Hokage.
But now the curtain had risen and the final performance was at hand, Naruto had forgotten all his lines and even what the play had been about in the first place.
“It must have been difficult to grow up alone. There were so many times I wanted to come back to you and make things right,” he murmured quietly.
This man he had only met for under five minutes had already worked his way under his skin and loved Naruto so fully, so unconditionally that Naruto found himself asking why, why, couldn’t this man have lived?
The expression on the Yondaime’s face was enough to make the strongest man fall to his knees. He reached out a calloused hand hesitantly before placing it on his broad shoulder, meeting the simmering gaze of a boy whom had grown up too fast.
“I’m so sorry,” he told his legacy in a whisper.
His electric blue eyes had flashed open as unfathomable pain ripped through his stomach. He curled instinctively into a ball, gripping his stomach as bolts of hurt raced through his entire body. He could distinctly hear familiar screams of anguish in the back of his mind but the pain was taking over.
Then the agony disappeared. It was gone so fast Naruto had to stop and think about whether he hadn’t imagined the whole thing. It had been so intense that he couldn’t have even hoped to have thought it up in his wildest dreams.
As he stumbled towards the bathroom, he decided not to tell anyone about his brief stomach ache. He had just been released from hospital three days ago and had no intention of going back there again. Slapping cold water onto his face, he stared into the stained mirror above the sink contemplatively. A face so similar to the one in the painful memory past stared back.
Namikaze Minato. The name left a bitter taste in his mouth and at the same time filled him with unexpected warmth.
Did he hate the Yondaime for shoving a nine tailed demon inside of him without his consent? Yes. Did he hate Namikaze Minato? He wasn’t quite sure about that yet. Their strange encounter the night of Sasuke’s death not too long ago shook the now trembling foundations of his towering dislike for the Yondaime and he honestly had no idea what to think of the man any more.
A loud tap tapping at his glass window startled him and he walked out, tanned face dripping with water. He caught sight of a persistent messenger hawk and his golden brow furrowed. Pulling open the window, it flew inside his room and settled comfortably on his bed. It stared up at him inquisitively and he felt a surge of unbridled hatred contort his face as he resisted the temptation to destroy the bird. His cerulean eyes widened and he shook his head suddenly to clear it of whatever ill intentions it held for the hawk, wondering where on earth they had come from.
The hawk lifted one of its scaly legs and proffered it to him expectantly. Naruto leaned down and untied the thick string holding an even thicker scroll in place. Once he had finished removing the message, it darted away from Naruto and flew out of the window back towards the Hokage tower.
The weary bed sank under Naruto’s weight as he sat down and stole a glance at the luminous alarm clock sitting harmlessly on his bedside. It was four in the morning. He inwardly cursed Tsunade, wondering if she sent people mission details freakishly early just to piss them off. As Naruto unravelled the mission scroll, his gaze roved over it quickly.
It was a C class mission to help escort a young woman to Suna. She was a citizen from Tea and wouldn’t be in Konoha for another day, giving time for Naruto to pack and prepare. He was relieved when he found that Sai, Sakura and Kakashi were his team mates but couldn’t help but despair at how boring the mission was.
Staring out of the window at the rising sun that set the rooftops ablaze, he let a rare sigh wrack through his entire body. He wanted to see Sakura.