Understanding Does Not Presage Peace (Naruto, Insert)

Chapter 8: The Inverse Chakra Postulate

Karmic Acumen

Well-known member


Chapter 8: The Inverse Chakra Postulate

“-. December 2, 5 ANB .-“​

Kakashi’s shadow clone took his observation to the Hokage that same evening. The Third didn’t rescind the protection detail immediately, but it did see Kakashi leave by the end of that same week instead of the mission being extended indefinitely. I whiled away the days working on my first draft of Comprehensive Research Methods. Well, in between throwing Naruto at Scarecrow Man whenever the kid came by to care for Gama-chan (Archaic Nifon turned up when you least expected it). I was pretty sure Kakashi secretly appreciated the time he got to spend with the kid, despite his till-then active avoidance of Naruto due to trauma. Which I never more than hinted at. We had to stay professional, it was literally a matter of my life and my death here.

Still, I was able to use the threat of further Naruto exposure to cajole Kakashi into doing me a few favours that technically went beyond his bodyguard responsibilities. Chief among these was applying a couple of storage seals into the skin of my underarm. Just in case. They had to be blood-activated since I didn’t use chakra, but it was a price I was willing to pay. I didn’t tell him what I would put there and he didn’t ask. Which was good because he had made certain assumptions I didn’t want to mess with (a nail gun indeed, how I kept a straight face when he told me that, I had no idea).

When the final day came, Kakashi asked if I’d come up with any new insights that he hadn’t already recorded from all the speaking to myself I did when I was taking notes. It was actually a fair question. I liked to take entire days to speak in a different language, just to stay in practice. It was kind of sad, but voicing everything I wrote was a regular thing since my family died. I also made all my important research notes in either English or Latin. Well, when I wasn’t talking in Gaelic and writing in Ogham just to fuck with him.

“Well, there is something,” I told him as he was on his way out.


“The Daimyo will probably impose courtly characters for all official matters within a few years.”

“… Alright, this came out of nowhere. What’s your reasoning?”

Kanji being Fuinjutsu had completely blindsided me. Which it shouldn’t have. Though vaguely, I could recall now that, when Kakashi made his earliest appearance in the Naruto manga, he tossed some papers to his team and told them to meet him for survival training. Naruto was dismayed at seeing kanji, while Sasuke and Sakura had no problem reading it. From the perspective of a Japanese author or reader, that would make sense – Japan has katakana and hiragana as a sort of kiddie language, while adults were expected to know and use kanji.

That’s not the same here, it turns out. After reflecting on it, I realized why – it’s just been 50 years since Hidden Villages and even the countries themselves became a thing. Not only has there been no time for language drift, there are no major geographical barriers between the nations. There was also none of the centuries-long history of Old Japan using Kanji imported from China. Also, there probably wouldn’t have been time during the Warring Clans era to waste on learning such a complicated and extensive writing system when you’re constantly at war. You’d use that time to train fighting instead. So while Japan had three syllabaries – katakana, hiragana and kanji – the Elementa Nations only had two – a hiragana equivalent, and a katakana syllabary used for transcription of more traditional vernacular and for poetic license.

It was kind of like guns – guns didn’t exist, but the word did. And it didn’t come from a physical weapon. It came from the Second Mizukage’s Water Gun Jutsu, which he named after his dead lover Gunnirda. I didn’t know if it was the same in my other life, but I wouldn’t be surprised if guns were named after Gunnhildr or some such there too, Valkyrie names got around a lot.

That aside, there actually was a logographic system extant, namely the courtly characters used by the royal families and high nobility, which were themselves derived from Fuinjutsu according to Kakashi. Because superstition. And vanity. In a world with warrior mages beyond the government’s ability to police, the nobility could only assert their will over ninja via two ways: money and bureaucracy. And never during wartime, because as everyone saw four times in a single generation, wars were ninja wars. The supposed state authority had precisely no authority over its military in practice.

Incidentally, Jiraiya’s dying message would have been something else if this world’s kanji equivalent wasn’t at least moderately well woven into the fabric of society by that point.

So. “I give the nobles another five to seven years tops, less if some great crisis happens on the Ninja front that doesn’t outright start the next world war. It’s one of the increasingly few ways the nobles can assert any real authority over you ninja – play along or you won’t know what the hell official documents in the rest of the country say.”

Kakashi’s lone eye looked at me evenly. That was fine. His seriousness came through in how long he took to respond, and the lack of ‘Ma’ or other whimsical exclamations. “That would be a bit hard on our little genin.” And many chunin, and likely the younger jonin too, like baby Anbu. “But I’m not hearing any grounds for this prediction.”

“Call it a hunch then.”

If I was right, the Uchiha Massacre was probably when it happened originally. The Daimyo and/or his courtiers would have seen Konoha at its weakest since Kurama’s attack and pounced on the chance to assert authority over the shinobi, however pettily. Probably argued it as a nation-wide operational security buffer, however transparent the reasoning might be. The ninja would have other things to worry about, namely probing strikes from the other villages. The nobles would pounce on it as a way to eliminate or buy out lesser businesses who didn’t know or use the script. The mess might even spill into whatever caused Sarutobi Asuma’s estrangement from Hiruzen at the same time.

It was petty and would all lead to just more pointless chaos in the end, but that’s what state authorities did. Especially state authorities made up entirely of useless bureaucrats.

In case it wasn’t clear, politics suck. They especially suck when the ruler isn’t in control of his own military.

“Time will tell then,” Kakashi said when I didn’t follow up. “It’s not like your hunches ever got you in trouble before or anything.”

“This is why I like Shisui more than you.”

“Ma, that’s harsh, Hanzo-san.”

Archaic Nifon was now showing up where I most expected it too.

Kakashi waved and disappeared in a body flicker.

Let’s hope he remembers to relay Shisui my ‘let bygones be bygones’ dinner invitation.

As I closed the door and returned to my office, I took a glance out the window to my very extensive back yard, where builders and genin were hard at work following the foreman’s directions in constructing my water wheel. It looked like it would finally be finished today. All under the fascinated eyes of one Uzumaki Naruto, who was once again visiting to ‘mind the toads so I didn’t have to interrupt my important work.’

That’s what I get for giving praise without caveats.

Ah, but having someone to take care of my lab not-rats was not so bad. Especially someone so honest and eager to please that he was ready to do anything I told him, even if it meant spending the whole day as my gopher. Not that I’d ever take child labour that far, in fact I only had him over at most twice a week – that was my current upper limit of Naruto exposure. But I was finding that an Uzumaki Naruto that trusted you was a gratifyingly thoughtful and attentive child. Still energetic, but also considerate and quiet unless spoken to, especially when he saw you were busy.

I’d taken to publishing all my ‘lost lore’ as one- or two-page comics in the newspapers (both of them now). I even used the cut-outs as colouring sketches to work Naruto through the rest of the basic hiragana, until he could practice with the digraph and diacritic tables on his own. Even managed to get him interested in proper puzzles. He got through them all fast, though, and the big ones I hired ninja to get me from Heyan-kyo as a belated birthday present were still days or weeks off. Naruto showed some interest in handicaps – like missing pieces – but it didn’t work very well because working on the same puzzles just bored him. Not that he ever told me so, he only complained about it to the toads when he thought I couldn’t hear him. His indoor voice was, shocker, still pretty loud. I was sure my speculations about his brain activity were true even before a delivery nin brought me the hospital’s report about Naruto’s brain scans. Unasked for. Like I was his next of kin or something.

Apropos of nothing, Sarutobi Hiruzen was a pathological busybody and my vengeance now manifested as dreams where he featured as my browbeaten, woebegone secretary.

In the meantime, I was letting the kid play at sorting and rearranging my workshop clutter. It was amazing how much tools and other useful stuff I had buried under scrap that I’d forgotten about. I challenged him to set it all up in the manner that was most efficient. Then he got to learn how badly he did by the amount of frustration he inflicted on himself while I had him fetch this tool or screw I needed for my all-new, custom-built power generator. He’d rearranged everything five times already. I fully expected him to go from sorting junk to assembling random doo-dads one of these days. Any future pranks he played on Konoha’s citizens and nin would be amazing. Yet he always asked for permission before doing something and if I needed him for something instead, blatantly hoping for me to say yes to the latter every time. He’d even begun to ask me in English now, already picking up my languages just through passive exposure. It was almost like having an apprentice.

My neighbours were distraught and blaming Yori for everything, but Naruto had been slowly wearing them down by parroting my random ‘pearls of wisdom’ at them. ‘Because that’s how I fixed his stupid so it has to work on them too’ apparently.

Incidentally, Talk-no-Jutsu was an area of effect type spell that required no aiming.

If only I knew how to deal with this employment limbo. The envelope with Naruto’s pay was steadily collecting money. I’d been waiting to ask someone if I’m supposed to give it to him or deposit it in an account somewhere. But Shisui still hadn’t shown up, and it wasn’t like I needed his advice, just information. I wasn’t about to wait for permission to make judgment calls, especially when nobody else had any common sense worth a damn.

Shocker: Naruto’s best self still gave me headaches.

The messiah appeared just as Fantasy Old Japan finished becoming Fantasy Current Japan, I thought wryly as I sat at my desk and filled my fountain pen from the inkpot. Perfectly timed with Madara’s planned stillbirth of the new age. Or Kaguya’s, for all that Black Zetsu’s claims about his influence on history were delusionally exaggerated.

And wasn’t that its own can of worms?

Actually, now that I thought about it… “The Moon’s Eye Plan apparently worked out the first time, which raises a number of questions,” I wrote down in Spanish. Besides encryption, I was using the different languages I knew as an added differentiation method between my various pursuits. “How long did it last? What were its effects? Why? Why not? Did it really happen at all? How did it work if the Moon was only created afterwards as a place to seal her? Was there a different moon before the current moon? What happened to it? Was the moon shoved into the old moon? Was it merely co-opted?” The titanic battle ending up in a free-for-all in space wasn’t entirely out of the question at that level of absurd. Perhaps the moon was damaged and repaired around Kaguya in the aftermath. Or maybe the previous moon was used to break the world like Madara tried with those two meteors against the shinobi alliance. “Does it have anything to do with the round shape of certain coastlines at the centre of the world map?”

So many new theories to develop.

Just as many questions too. Like what were the implications for the reach and efficacy of the Infinite Tsukuyomi? Did the technique fail during the day or when the moon was on the other side of the planet? Was there an equivalent of Australia somewhere in the other hemisphere that the Shinju’s branches and roots didn’t reach? And if there were people not ensnared, what did they do for the duration? How long did it last, for that matter? I couldn’t imagine Hamura and Hagoromo rebelling over their fondness for shinju pods.

Maybe they experienced a visceral reaction to vorarephilia.

… I’d have to be very careful not to say that around Naruto. Ever.

Thank samsara that I have half a dozen unknown languages to pick from, instead of writing this down in Nifon for everyone to see how crazy I am.

I put my hand on the van de Graaff generator and closed my eyes, focusing on my hand for a while. Loading up on static energy staved off the death of the cell souls and seemed to even replenish their strength. They still weakened and faded without it, but it was a gradual process that took at least a couple of days, and I could replenish the cell souls within an hour. It was a stopgap measure, with diminishing returns the greater my chakra capacity grew. Had I been a ninja, this would probably be my capstone on my path to ultimate power. But since I wasn’t a ninja, I could only be glad that Kakashi never suspected what was really happening here. I was more interested in what my DNA might have to offer me than a tool I’d need to drop everything to learn how to use. This was really just an inconvenient time limit imposed on my actual goal to figure out how to properly unlock the secrets of human DNA.

Interestingly, it sometimes felt like the loss of awareness happened a bit slower, which hopefully meant the Anami were learning too. How to block the chakra from eating them, maybe. Or how to control how much it ate? It’s like they’re giving tribute in exchange for their lives, like sacrificing a maiden to a dragon. I still had no idea how complex their autonomy was, and the fact that each of them now had all of my DNA to operate off didn’t help. Or vice versa. I tried to ‘tell’ them what to do, but it was clear that my brain had no idea what I was trying to do. Probably wouldn’t unless I empowered it similarly, an experimental stage I had yet to reach. I’d need to recreate that initial moment of epiphany.

The tingling began to crawl up my wrist, so I removed my hand from the generator and set about writing down everything I was just thinking of. The trick was to give enough static electricity to keep the cell souls alive, but not enough to encourage them to expand up my arm or further. Not before I figured out a way to avoid my excretive system failing on me like before. The much increased grip strength and dexterity were admittedly nice, but the price really wasn’t worth it. Even if it were, I had higher expectations from my creations than accidental deicide. And look at that, I was projecting intelligence on unicellular life again.

With so many side tracks shooting through my brain at once, maybe it’s not so unreasonable to think I might share kin with the Uzumaki.

Oh well, I always worked better when I let my brainwaves work themselves out instead of forcing them aside. Especially the wild ones. Now that I’d written them down and they weren’t crowding my brain anymore, I could focus on current matters again.

“Surviving toads continue to show superlative health and growth,” I wrote down in a separate notebook, in Latin this time. I should probably order a new bookshelf, the piles were getting unmanageable. “’Gama-chan’ has reached the size of an adult Leopard Toad, despite starting out as a fully developed adult of the Chorus Toad genus. Growth is still ongoing. At the current rate, it will reach the size of an adult Bull Toad within at most three weeks. Behaviour complexity has been increasing at a sporadic but consistently upward rate, with a commensurate rise in intelligence tentatively inferred.”

I hadn’t exactly expected it when I improvised this experiment with Kakashi, but now that it was happening I’d be lying if I said I didn’t think about comparing results to summons. Kakashi’s nin-dogs didn’t count. Not only were they a different species with much bigger brains, but they were their own breeds that he summoned from home. He’d been reluctant to admit it, but didn’t deny when I deduced them as his legacy from his Inuzuka mother. His mask wasn’t just an illusion ninjutsu, it was also a blocker for his hypersensitive sense of smell.

“The rest of the surviving toads have been exhibiting a similar development curve, with differences largely accounted for by the difference in genus.” To the point where I was seriously beginning to wonder if Anami served the same function as natural energy. The results were almost indistinguishable from the contract summons in everything save for my toads’ lack of speech ability. And since none of them were as big as Gamakichi yet, I couldn’t even rule out that they’d develop that too, in the future. Maybe growth was a side effect of some other property of the summon realms. But then, were summon realms even that different? Since both the Ryuchi Cave and Myobokuzan could be reached on foot, regardless of how secret the path was, I was betting on ‘no.’ Still, there were two things that stopped me from considering Anami and Natural Energy interchangeable. One was the visible and palpable manifest nature of the Anami life forms. The other was in the different ways they killed you if you handled them wrong. “Anami and Natural Energy tentatively classed as different phenomena for now.”

Of the thirteen toads that I subjected to the Anami process, nine had survived, and the others only died because I took them away from the medium part-way through the process. I made sure to run all those experiments at night, under one-way sound-locking seals I paid Kakashi to apply to my workshop walls. That way my neighbours wouldn’t hear the screaming, and there was minimal risk of Naruto crashing through my window in a panic again. The toads expired like I almost expired, screaming in agony while seeping black sludge too fast or too unevenly. It was an ugly process, but it gave me hope that I wasn’t completely off-base in the hypothesis that I developed while stuck on bedrest with only the gradual demise of my soul cells for company. The more my plasma cells regenerated, the better I could tune out the world in favour of inspecting my all new perfect hand and everything in it. I was learning a lot, even if little to nothing made it to my long-term memory. Yet.

“Conclusion: Gama-chan – and friends – survived the process of suddenly experiencing a leap in cellular purgative and operational efficiency, because the plasma cells managed to reach all places of its body at once, rather than just a limited area.” As the plasma biologically perfected the cells it touched (well, provided a medium through which the DNA did that), and with this happening everywhere at once, the organism was able to coordinate and set a purgative rate within tolerances. Then it continued with improvements and additional growth until whatever new limits of the organism were attained. By contrast, I was only affected by the living plasma in a limited area, which meant those large amounts of waste were instead pumped into my un-optimised blood and organs, which could not take the impurities. The rest of my biological systems didn’t understand what was happening either, so my brain didn’t even know to send a ‘slow down’ command.

I hadn’t been poisoned. What did happen were the repercussions of locally and unevenly applying a treatment that should have been holistic.

“Preliminary inference: the Anami treatment works holistically as an all-or-nothing process.” Because, I assumed, the Anami gave the entire body, especially the brain, the ability to figure out and coordinate the rest of the body on how to adapt to the cells’ optimized capabilities and vice versa. “Tentative conclusion: Anami act as auxiliary hardware for the cells’ otherwise unused self-purification and pan-coordination instructions.”

My cells knew what to do immediately, I realised with… I didn’t even know what to feel. My DNA had pre-existing programming in case my cells… gained spirits. Or maybe regained them.

The implications of which being that, somehow, DNA already possessed the complete instructions to do that. Along with who knew what else a plasma sheathe could let biological organisms accomplish. DNA, a pinhead’s drop of which had as much storage and processing power as a quantum computer. Now it seemed that plasma sheaths stood in for the otherwise absent RAM and WiFi equivalents. Also, they came with their own, potent power generation ability independent of the biological metabolism. Cue life suddenly activating all that ‘junk’ DNA just lying there. Extremely efficiently. DNA inherently possessed instructions for using plasma souls. Additionally, the plasma sheathes allow for previously inactive functions encoded in DNA to re-activate.

And as if this wasn’t a monumental discovery, there was also the rather obvious fact that the same couldn’t be said for chakra. The DNA may or may not have instructions for building a chakra circulatory system, but that was it. A human body or brain had little to no idea what to do with the thing, never mind the chakra itself. Instead, it needed training to even feel it, never mind use it. The only exceptions, and even those just partial, were bloodline limits that relied on either the chakra itself being special (like ice bloodline), or having specific organs whose special abilities were autonomous (like special eyes). There were real anomalies, a big one being the Hozuki bloodline who could… become water. Somehow. But one exception never disproved the rule. They did make the rule harder to quantify though.

Maybe they inherited the properties of the Shinju’s chakra that was still in sap form, I thought dryly, though it didn’t sound all that reaching in my head.

The obvious counter-argument was that people needed training for literally everything, but then… I’d completely bypassed that during my brief moment of deep-level awareness, and my hand didn’t seem to have finished improving in dexterity and strength. Also, that limitation didn’t make much sense to begin with – why would an organism limit itself that way? If the genes knew exactly how to achieve the optimal physique, why not just do it instead of needing stress and pain to persuade them first? Logically, so long as sufficient nourishment was provided, the DNA should constantly be working to improve an organism to its absolute upper limits in all ways. But it didn’t. It did in plants, it even did it in some animals, but not in humans. For some reason.

There was another thing – while DNA and cell souls didn’t know what to do with chakra, chakra did appear to know what to do with cell souls. It ate them.

Ate them to make more of itself.

I opened a new notebook. I’d have to buy a bunch of new ones since I was running short, but that was for later. “Fact: DNA inherently knows what to do with plasma. Fact: DNA doesn’t inherently know what to do with chakra. Fact: Ninjutsu occurs when an individual uses chakra to connect with his own, pre-existing ‘physical and spiritual energies’. Tentative observation: Ninja trained in control of their chakra have no subtle body / spiritual energy active outside their bodies. Fact: Chakra comes from a life form that is by design parasitic. Fact: senjutsu needs natural energy to be balanced equally against physical and spiritual energies, not chakra per se. Fact: senriki doesn’t need chakra to work at all. Tentative inference: the chakra needs to be controlled against gorging itself too fast on natural energy or it kills you. Tentative Conclusion: Chakra being ‘made up of physical and spiritual energy’ is incorrect wording. Instead, chakra consumes individuals’ ‘physical and spiritual energies’ to make more of itself, but unlike natural generative or regenerative processes (lymphatic circulation, blood circulation, energy generation from adenosine triphosphate) this process is not circular. Supporting evidence: more chakra does not equal greater health, wellbeing, stamina or longevity, but it does benefit from them, and it has been known to sicken people low on ‘vitality’, burning them from the inside or mutating into disease-like, sometimes deadly symptoms. Conversely, loss of too much chakra leads to illness and death, even when the individual’s health, wellbeing and even stamina level remain otherwise optimal.”

Well now, don’t I sound ominous? I wasn’t about to label chakra as an evil parasite inimical to mankind. I hadn’t investigated the numbers enough to decide if the ninja way had a net positive or negative effect on humanity.

That said, I somehow doubted Occam’s Razor applied here. The Ootsutsuki were aliens. The Shinju was an outside context problem designed to collect genetic material and produce the chakra fruit from something. That energy had to come from somewhere. The fact that the Shinju was designed to harvest both energy and genetic material at the same time – despite Ootsutsuki pride in their own genetic superiority – suggested that was a sacrifice in efficiency. Perhaps an unavoidable one. Like, say, if you couldn’t collect the energy without the genetics.

In much the same way, chakra itself couldn’t exist without eating existing energy, which it could still do even without the shinju. A tree that could apparently infest and harvest all life. Including animals and humans.

A lot of ancient mythologies and folkore say humans were made from trees. Ask and Embla were the first humans, made from ash trees. Lif and Lipfrasir were the couple destined to regenerate the world after Ragnarok and their names were an alternative spelling for Yggdrasil. Norse myth wasn’t the only one that said humans were made from trees either. Gwydion literally meant ‘born of trees’ and he was Welsh.

On this Earth, this could be explained as humans escaping the Shinju pods. However it happened. From that perspective, the chakra pathway system was essentially the Shinju writ small. Like… Like Mistletoe existed without a root system, but only did so because it lived off the sap of actual trees instead. Like a parasite. And yet, paradoxically, Mistletoe was considered a holy element of renewal in alchemy back in my last life. Like chakra was here.

“Fact: The Chakra Pathway System is not a spiritual part of the body like the Hindu Chakras, or the Taoist Dantians it resembles, it is a biological system that can be detected and manipulated through physical means, at least partially.” In other words, not the sort of thing you could impart via the Chakra Tansfer Technique. In fact, a Chakra Pathway System was probably necessary for that technique to work instead of burning you or otherwise killing you from the inside out. I’d have to ask if summons had chakra pathways too, of if they used chakra some other way. I wouldn’t be surprised if they don’t have chakra at all, and all their techniques are based on direct physical or spiritual energy manipulation. Chakra wasn’t an energy field like the Force, that was natural energy. Natural energy predated chakra, senriki predated senjutsu, sapient megafauna predated the Ootsutsuki, the Great Toad Sage Gamamaru was there for Kaguya’s arrival, and Hagoromo only gave chakra to humans. Conversely, the Sage had to learn senjutsu from somewhere. While it’s not impossible he developed it on his own, it was a fact that he lived with the toads long enough to befriend Gamamaru and receive the prophecy of the ‘mischievous blue-eyed boy.’ “Reminder: ask a Hyuuga if anything besides human beings have chakra pathways.”

Whatever the case, I had questions about how Hagoromo Ootsutsuki ‘gave chakra to mankind.’ Especially in light of how the only precedent to that was him and Hamura. Inheriting it. In the womb.

In theory, the Creation of All Things technique might have served to bridge whatever gap in bioengineering might have existed. But I was hesitant to believe the technique lived up to the logical extreme of its name, because, well… “Fact: throwing energy at something can move it or change its basic energy state. It does not allow people to use their spines as swords or grow to and back from gargantuan size with no change in function or shape, never mind more sensitive matters like cognitive capacity. Tentative inference: a form of subtle matter, one deliberately engineered to alter nature to serve as food and fuel for dimension-hopping alien predators, would theoretically be able to invoke capabilities for which organisms already have instructions encoded in their makeup.”

So you could have elemental techniques occur entirely with chakra, but body modification techniques like Kaguya bone manipulation and Akimichi size change needed inheritable genetic traits and biomass to work. More ambiguously, the Uzumaki had ‘special chakra’ because of their uncommon vitality, not the reverse. I remembered that Karin needed to bite herself to heal, which didn’t make sense if the chakra itself was the one with the healing properties. It was enough to make me wonder if the older Uzumaki and maybe Hashirama had soul cells too, or something similar.

Didn’t explain some of the more esoteric techniques, but then… those pretty much always relied on using physical or spiritual energies directly. Whether you reverted the chakra to its base components or just bypassed it entirely, it all came down to yin, yang, or yin-yang release. People called them types of chakra, but how often did people simplify their vernacular for laypeople? No wonder ninjas needed very good chakra control to even activate the Mystical Palm, never mind use it properly. Or genjutsu, where you needed yin ‘chakra’, and got stronger the better you got at ‘separating’ the yin or yang ‘chakra’ from your ‘base’ chakra. Effectiveness literally depended how good you were at direct physical or spiritual energy manipulation. Which explained why the techniques that worked by affecting your target’s chakra with your own still worked on beings without chakra – it was the other energy at work, not the chakra itself. It neatly explained the inconsistencies in effects between targets too. Conversely, forcing your chakra into people in raw form induced fever-like symptoms or acted like outright poison of the burn-you-up-from-within variety. Akado Yoroi was an outside context problem in that vein too.

“Tentative inference: Kurama of the Nine Tails is not made of chakra at all, but from the planet’s collected physical and spiritual energies that the Shinju hadn’t gotten around to metabolising into chakra yet.”

The difference between parasitism and symbiosis was a matter of degrees, and there was no evidence that Hagoromo Ootsutsuki didn’t have mankind’s best interests in mind when he designed the Keirakukei. That said, humans had power before chakra, and chakra exhibited parasitic characteristics because that was the whole point of its creation by its equally parasitical makers. Finally, Hagoromo Ootsutsuki made all chakra-related decisions for humanity, entirely unilaterally. In that light, the degree to which he actually understood or even respected humanity was debatable at best.

I was willing to exclude malice. Of Hagoromo I could believe that he was well intentioned. Even the worst of groups have a redeeming member. But I could not exclude the possibility of arrogance. Nor ignorance.

Imagine that.

“Tentative conclusion,” I said lowly, almost not believing what I was writing down. “The Keirakukei system is either faulty or… incomplete.”

I thought back to my vague memories of the Chakra Pathway System from the manga, and to my much clearer memories of the scans taken of my own system during my hospital stay. Above all else, what stood out to me was the layout of the Celestial Gates. Namely, how asymmetrical it was. Unbalanced. The two gates in the brain could be glossed over, maybe, but the Gate of Death being located over the physical heart left the entire thing jarringly askew to my eyes. It might just be personal bias, but I also had to consider what it might mean if it wasn’t bias.

“Preliminary hypothesis: it should be possible to reverse-engineer an automated system capable of the inverse process of chakra generation. A Keirakukei redesigned to include this functionality would enable the transformation of chakra back into yin and yang energy, thereby completing the ‘loop.’”

Maybe this was why every Ootsutsuki could absorb ninjutsu, even though their power pools were otherwise finite. Like the Sage’s power gifts to Sasuke and Naruto started with a very high cap that steadily decreased with use.

I am never writing this down in Nifon, I thought darkly. Who knows what lows of in-vitro experimentation Orochimaru or Danzo would sink to?

The aim most in line with natural law would be to do away with the system entirely and go back to whatever humans were capable of doing with their DNA and energies before. As big of a trump card as Senjutsu was, Senriki was an even bigger deal, and the difficulties achieving the sage state today were tied more to chakra control issues than anything. But that would be ignoring the little issue of how Kaguya, by all accounts the runt of the Ootsutsuki Clan, a clan made up of members that invariably revealed themselves to be complete morons the moment they opened their mouths, had managed to singlehandedly subdue the entirety of mankind-that-was.

Most of that was down to the Shinju, and doubtlessly a great deal of subversion. But it was still a pretty damning statement about humanity pre-Kaguya. Hopefully it was down to low population numbers and tech level, and maybe a rarity of human supernatural powers. Perhaps due to ethics or conservation of power, a careful balance that collapsed in the face of an outside context problem as most closed systems do.

But there were two, major advantages to chakra. One, chakra was stupidly easy to utilize. And two…

Humans could actually make more of it.

Which, as far as I understood, the Ootsutsuki themselves couldn’t. As parasites tend to. Thus their eternal farming spree across the universe.

Asymmetrical warfare is won by whichever side reverse engineers things better, I thought grimly.

“Conclusion,” I finally wrote down at the very end of the page. “More data points required.”

I closed the notebook, put my pen in my chest pocket and went down to the kitchen to prepare dinner. Back when the water wheel construction began, I put a standing order with a local restaurant for home catering. But people were still shunning Naruto, and jonin sensei largely preferred to avoid the problem too, which I couldn’t even blame them for when it was their very pre-teen genin being exposed to the risks of the kyuubi ban. The promise of a meal cooked with my own hands was the most painless way I’d found to keep Naruto inside while the workers and ninja had their food on the patio. My love of big windows worked against me a bit, with how prone Naruto was to stare through them longingly, but that’s what seats with their back to the wall were for.

Truth be told, I didn’t need to do any of that. I wasn’t obligated to feed those people, and I didn’t need to bribe Naruto, he was almost disturbingly compliant these days. But I knew better than to reduce children to minions no matter how much I disliked them, and my past life sensibilities had carried over almost entirely too. When you had workers over, you damn well fed them and fed them well.

Also, I had a feeling that I’d have been charged more if not for the good food offsetting the stress incurred because of the crew’s shared pathology. Jinchuriki Derangement Syndrome was no joke.

The caterer came just as I was taking the pan off the stove – wood stove, because this bizarre world apparently wasn’t going to achieve large-scale oil industry unless I introduced the train, even though it was vain enough to sell soft drinks and ramen in plastic cups – so I led them to the back. “Oy, Naruto, it’s dinner time! Get your warty friends back inside, will you?”

“Sure, Mister Hanzo, right away! Bye, builder guys! Bye ninja, you’re cooler!”

They ignored him, but Naruto pretended he didn’t care as he started calling for his little pack of croaking friends. The biggest indicator that the toads had gained intelligence was in how easily they learned commands in the days after their… let’s call it awakening. Their behaviour had only grown more complex since, until now they behaved something like housecats, except much lower maintenance. That was another thing, the toads’ metabolism had vastly improved in biomass processing and energy generating efficiency, to the point where they barely needed to eat more than they did at the beginning. Less if they got candy. Apparently, they could preserve their biomass almost perfectly if they had a net intake of fuel, no matter how small. Glucose, in other words. I didn’t expect this to last if the things kept growing like a liger, but it did vastly extend the observational period I could look forward to.

I laid out the food, as well shakers for salt and my best recreation of the all-purpose seasonings I’d favoured in my last life. Just another thing on my long list of monetizable ideas I still hadn’t done anything with. While the nin took their turn eating, the foreman and I went over the water wheel one last time, checking to make sure the motive mechanism wasn’t missing any attachments. Everything was in order, so I ignored the man’s curious questions about my plans for the thing, paid the remaining half of the commission and closed the contract.

I left the man and his crew to their dinner while I saw the nin off and went inside to find Naruto making the weirdest faces while using the candy treats to teach the toads tricks. Water Helmet was standing on its tongue, Firebelly was on its back playing dead, Midwife looked as if it was about to explode – her vocal sac was so big I could see inside it - and Spadefoot was failing to karate-chop a sugar plum in half. Only Gama-chan was spared, lounging easy as you please on Naruto’s head, blinking mildly.

I cleared my throat? “Are the other back in the terrarium?”

“Yep!” Naruto said brightly, holding up a candy for Gama-chan to snap up with its tongue. “I put them in the middle one though, I hope that’s okay? They’re getting too big, and if I’d split them up they’d be lonely! I put lots of dirt and bugs in there, and that broken flowerpot too!”

“Sounds good.” I think I hid how begrudging my praise was this time, though a big part of it was no doubt Naruto being distracted by the food. Mutton, potatoes and onions cooked in a nice, thick stew served with chip butterflies. Konoha wasn’t big on seafood, alas, so I only made chowders when the coastal caravans came in with fresh mussels, which was rarely. “Playtime’s over, kid. Food, then home.”

“Right!” Naruto shooed everyone but Gama-chan out of the room – the toads obediently went hopping downstairs to their terrarium, which really shouldn’t have lost its strangeness as fast as it did – and proceeded to inhale multiple servings in the time it took me to finish mine. I went slowly and kept refilling his bowl until he was full. Today, he stopped at three. As I hoped, he was stuffing himself less and less with every week that passed. As funny as future Naruto eating a dozen ramen bowls at once may have looked from the outside, the underlying implications had never sat right with me – one only stuffs himself to bursting when they’re sure they won’t be eating well for a while. I was sure Ichiraku made very good Ramen, but the fact it was the only place Naruto could eat to his heart’s content was a tragedy. Doubly so since a big part of that was him not getting ripped off there like everywhere else.

There had been certain passive-aggressive… measures taken towards me by certain individuals and establishments ever since my association with Naruto got out. They didn’t last past my first expose in the newspapers about their malpractice. Shopkeepers and businesses knew their way around the Konoha Herald, but I was in the Konoha Sage too, now.

After we were done, I saw the building crew off and packed the rest of the food in a casserole for Naruto to go. The kid, as usual, dragged his feet on the way out and asked me if we could go to Ichiraku Ramen next time. I, of course, said no.

Accepting would mean that I’d finally passed some manner of point of no return. No way was I going to make it that easy on him.

“Well, I tried,” Naruto said, pretending not to be disappointed. “I guess I’ll see you later, Gama-chan.” Naruto nuzzled the frog so tightly I was afraid he’d crush it, then he held the toad out to me. “Here.”

“… Keep him.”

Naruto froze, wide-eyed.

“If he agrees.”


Don’t project, don’t project. “See, he agrees.”

“Really!? That… that’s great! Thanks so much, uncle, you’re the best!” Naruto glomped me, then jumped back, hugged Gama-chan to his chest and ran away.

I stayed in the doorway and watched him kick up dust on the way down the street until he suddenly stopped just before turning the corner, a long stare of longing that quickly turned embarrassed when I waved and sent him running again and out of sight.

I don’t remember my kids being this exhausting. I went back inside, closed the door and belatedly stopped to go over what had just happened. “What did he just call me?”

Uzumaki Naruto just called me uncle.

Fuck my life.

Heaving a sigh, I went down to my workshop to check on the toads – they were all in their proper homes – and reluctantly put off connecting the water wheel to my new power generator. Instead, I checked to see if they’d changed their mind about wanting food. They didn’t, but they did want attention. I sighed as they jumped on me, sitting on my head and hanging off my arms and shoulders. I raked up the dirt in the terrariums and added new worms and insects, some of them big ones collected from around the village via D-ranks I paid. I’d have to see about some bigger ones from Training Ground 44 soon, the toads were getting big. Also, demanding of my presence, if not necessarily my attention or food. Kind of like human brats. Heavy too, ungh, they were growing denser over time. I’d been measuring their decreasing excretion quantities against their food intake, but it still surprised me how much biomass they could pack in such small bodies. It didn’t seem to be slowing down either. Or their growth in size. I should probably make sure all that riding Gama-chan does on Naruto’s head isn’t stunting his growth.

When I was finally finished cajoling the croaking menaces back into their glass tanks, I picked up one of the few notebooks I wrote in this world’s own language and added an entry I’d been waffling on since my possible Uzumaki ancestry was so forcefully pointed out to me by the Busybody-in-Chief and that despicable tattletale of a doctor.

“Guidelines for Uzumaki remnants investigation and identification.”

In a world so much closer to the emergence of mankind as a species, basic phenotype was a much more reliable indicator of lineage and family relations than in my previous life. If someone was a redhead, for example, the odds of them being part of the Uzumaki clan was actually very high. It wouldn’t be possible to tell true odds apart from my confirmation bias before the medic nin finally figured out how to extract DNA reliably, never mind identify the proper enzymes for DNA profiling. Still, I gave it about a 70-75% chance of a redhead being part of the Uzumaki clan, by my admittedly fudged estimates. Increasingly so with any additional traits.

The Naruto manga noted that Uzushiogakure was destroyed, but was a lot more coy about when and how, and especially about what happened to the survivors. Karin was one thing, but when several different unspecified nations decide one clan is dangerous enough that they’re willing to annihilate it and suffer the resulting world war, it was guaranteed that any survivors would be taken back for use as breeding stock. And the best breeding stock would have gone to the biggest bighsots. And what were the major Uzumaki characteristics? Exceptional vitality, exceptional chakra stores, red hair, and being the only ones capable of surviving as Kurama’s jinchuriki. Which meant they’d be ideal hosts for all the other Biju as well. Perhaps enough to make up for any inadequacies in the seals. Furthermore, I could now add exceptional synaptic rate bordering on hundred-fold mental partitioning as well.

Rasa of Suna was a redhead who fathered an even brighter redhead who became the closest thing to a perfect Shukaku jinchuriki that Sunagakure had ever seen, even with a faulty seal turning him bipolar for a while there. Turning humans into puppets pretty much had to be fuinjutsu-based, and not only did Suna have a lot of sealing people – however mediocre – they had Sasori of the Red Sands. A redhead who hated the Kazekage of his generation enough to kidnap and murder him for some reason, and most importantly could control 100 puppets at once, which would literally require both massive chakra and a synaptic rate beyond convention. Roshi of Iwa was the jinchuriki of Son Goku, and he hated the Tuschikage enough to leave Iwagakure. Karin’s mother passed the healing chakra and chains to her daughter. Nagato was self-explanatory. And all of them were born around the time of Uzushio’s destruction.

Hell, even Terumi Mei was a freak of nature with two nature transformation bloodline limits, in a world where Senju and Uzumaki bodies were the holy grail of bloodline improvement. She certainly didn’t develop her Kushina-like attitude from her Zabuza-like childhood (only her triggers were different), she was born within a reasonable time window, and, surprise surprise, she had red hair and green eyes.

I couldn’t even rule out Akimichi – Uzumaki intermarriages, Chouza’s red hair was certainly not an Akimichi trait.

More recently there were Karin, Tayuya and Gaara. Karui of Kumogakure was also a maybe, she had the attitude if nothing else.

And then there was Killer Bee, who looked entirely Kumo but was an adopted orphan. For whom Samehada abandoned its favorite welder because he had much tastier chakra. Something most likely not owed to his bijuu because nothing similar happened with Naruto, Roshi, or any other jnchuuriki Kisame fought and defeated before. Also, B had a fairly good seal for Gyuuki that was not also used for Yugito Nii. For some reason.

“I wonder what this all says about me,” I wondered aloud.

“Croak.” “Ribbit.” “Ribbit.” “Ribbit.” “Croak.” “Ribbit.” “Ribbit.” “Reee.”

“Yeah, I thought so too.” Since the soul did reflect on the body, especially in this world where a few corpse bits could reconstitute the appearance of a dead person via necromancy, it wasn’t impossible that I had just developed to reflect my most recent self-image. I looked almost identical to my past life, minus my bulkier frame that was entirely down to nurture, not nature. Still, I couldn’t help but wonder…

“At this point I’m frankly surprised Yagura doesn’t have red hair too,” I muttered, absently scratching my beard with the end of the pen.

“Croak.” “Ribbit.” “Ribbit.” “Ribbit.” “Croak.” “Ribbit.” “Ribbit.” “Reee.”

“He could just favour his non-Uzumaki parent like Naruto. He was certainly quick-tempered enough in what little I saw of him, and he looked much younger than he actually was too.”

“Croak.” “Ribbit.” “Ribbit.” “Ribbit.” “Croak.” “Ribbit.” “Ribbit.” “Reee.”

“Are you singing to me, little ones? That way lies some truly horrifying illusion magic you know.”

“Reee.” “Croak.” “Ribbit.” “Ribbit.” “Croak.” “Ribbit.” "Ribbit." "Reee.”

“Well ain’t that cute.” But it’s wrong! And not at all disturbing. Definitely.

I checked over my notes to make sure I didn’t give any names or places I couldn’t justify via ‘Merchant McCaravaneer happened to mention it.’ But I was especially thorough about the phenotypes and characteristics, how to identify them, and where Uzumaki survivors might ‘most likely’ have ended up ‘based on the geopolitical factors at the time of Uzushio’s destruction.’ I was all burned out on statistics, but hopefully my prior ‘feats’ would lend me credibility here, even though I was completely bulshitting my way to the facts this time.

It was two days later, long after I’d connected my generator to the water wheel and turned my property into an independently-powered household, that Uchiha Shisui knocked on my door.

“Hello, Mister Masanari. I was told you wanted to see me?”

I hugged him. Because.

Shisui was surprised, but didn’t stay stiff for long and even returned the gesture.

“I said to call me Hanzo, kid.” I pat him on the back before releasing him. “I’m glad you’re here, finally.” I motioned for him to follow me directly downstairs. “Of course, it would’ve been a lot better if you were here yesterday so that I didn’t spend the past 24 hours sitting on pins and needles postponing my Very Important Experiment, but such is life.”

“Why do I hear Very Important Experiment in terrible capital letters?”

“Because you’re a very wise boy. How’s life been treating you? I see you’ve grown a few inches, congratulations. Things good at home? At work?”

“Thank you, soon I’ll be just a head and a half shorter than you. Things have been so and so.” There was a pause behind me. “My home life has been fine, thank you for asking. Things at work have been a bit tense, but I will manage.”

I paused just inside the door to my workshop. “Can I ask, or is it horribly classified and thus prohibitive of moral support?”

“Lord Danzo wrote me up.” In the semi-darkness, the shadows gave Uchiha Shisui’s dark eyes an eerie depth. “For unacceptable waste of strategic assets.”

… Holy shit. “You know what, why don’t you sit down and let those roof-hopping feet rest while I bring down some snacks?” I maneuvered him into the chair closest to the toads and didn’t even wait for a reply before going back upstairs. I needed some time to recover from what just happened, it was far too much elation for far too little setup.

“I so do not have the charisma to break fate like this,” I grumped as I dug through my freezer for the clove rocks. And some of the ice cream, why not? The shop had finally gotten the Twister right. “Maybe it’s Asura’s chakra, his schtick was charming everybody else to do what he was too incompetent to do himself.”

Was blaming Naruto for everything an easy way out? Definitely. Was I wrong to do so?

Honestly, I wasn’t sure.

When I got back down, Shisui was leaning over one of the terrariums, inspecting the toads with his Sharingan active.

“See anything strange?”

“… Maybe. The Sharingan doesn’t show anything, but the Mangekyou Sharingan sees things in slightly different shades on and around the toads. Like when I’d be seeing chakra, but there isn’t any so only the hints of the component energies can be glimpsed.”

He actually told me about the Kaleidoscope Eyes. That was just… That was a lot more information than I thought he’d share.

I put the plate down near him. Shisui inspected the clove rocks, tried one, then took the ice cream instead. Oh well, the cloves were an acquired taste. I took a couple for myself. “I’m assuming Kakashi told you what to expect?”

“Only what he witnessed during his bodyguard mission. You are not under Anbu surveillance.”

Which said nothing about Root. “Thanks.”

Shisui glanced at me meaningfully. “I wish I could do more, but that’s all I can say.”

This kid really was too kind for the Anbu, he was lucky it was a bleeding heart like Hiruzen in charge. Relatively speaking. “Right. Well. Best get to why I asked for you. But first!” I went over to my desk and collected the several notebooks I’d prepared ahead of time. My ‘theory’ about the Uzumaki was the latest entry, but not the only one. “These are the latest conclusions I’ve drawn that I think might be subjects of interest for the village. I haven’t had time to write a thesis for any of them, and quite frankly I’m all burned out on that. Don’t expect me to do it again, those are four brain-melting years of my life I’m not getting back. You should be able to verify this now that you have the methods though.”

“Sounds important.”

“Right then. Before that, am I right to deduce that the Sharingan evolves in moment of extreme psychological duress?”


“Okay, good to know I didn’t waste my time. Here. This is everything I could think of about the Sharingan. I’m sure a lot of it is wrong and your clan probably knows the ins and outs much better than me, but I still… figured…”

Shisui was already mid-way through speed-reading the entire notebook with his Sharingan and was now showing me that he had a very expressive ‘Ohshit’ face. “Mister Masanari, this...”

I craned my neck to see what page he had stopped at- “Ah.” The ‘consequences of only having eidetic memory during times of duress’ page. Where I was, entirely hypothetically, inferring the consequences of people ‘saving’ their sharingan use for missions, thereby ensuring that the only eidetic memories in their minds were the bad ones. The section included a steady, detailed exploration of the foundational nature of formative memories in maladaptive core beliefs. It ended with me ‘speculating’ on how things might turn out when ‘the nice ones’ snapped. “Right, that.” I cleared my throat. “That should be mitigated by having the sharingan active during downtime. I strongly recommend using it as much as possible while you’re having a great time with the people you love most in your life.”

The Curse of Hatred wasn’t hogwash, unfortunately.

Shisui speed-read the rest of the notebook and closed his eyes for a long moment. “You say here that it doesn’t make sense for the Sharingan to only evolve during moments of trauma. Because it’s not a viable evolutionary trait.”

“It’s really not.” Well, as I’d been learning from spacing out over my hand for hours on end, technically nothing was an ‘evolutionary’ trait, as the definition went. I’d gone over my DNA and the history of all changes in it – which yes, was also recorded apparently – and though I didn’t retain the info, I did remember the conclusion I drew during those times. And my conclusion was that all the 'junk’ DNA wasn't junk at all, and 'evolution' led to no new changes to DNA, only swapping parts that were already there. But I had to remember that nobody in this world even knew what DNA was.

Fudging it was, as usual. “It makes literally no sense for any biological organism to evolve a dependency on trauma for success – that’s a flaw, not a feature. It makes more sense if the important part is just a sufficiently paradigm-shifting emotional experience. It doesn’t need to be good or bad, just really powerful. A defining moment in your life. My idea of a test is to have someone about to have a baby keep the Sharingan active during the birth. Or for the husband to keep it on for the labour process.”

Shisui took a slow breath. “My Mangekyou Sharingan emerged when my father stopped recognizing me on his deathbed.”

I grimaced. “I must sound like an ignorant fool then.”

“You misunderstand.” Shisui tilted his head back, still with eyes closed. “My eyes evolved when I acknowledged that everybody dies. In that moment I became prepared for his death. When he passed on, I felt peace. I knew he was finally in the Pure World, free from all suffering and pain. And so, my Copy Wheel Eyes became the eyes of the Kaleidoscope.”

I waited silently after Shisui said his piece. Somehow, I didn’t feel like I was the right person to be told all this. This was classified information, wasn’t it? But it wasn’t like I was going to change my entire character and reject honesty. It was strange, though, how much more willing people were to use it these days. With me anyway.

“Eidetic memory of the good times.” Shisui opened his eyes and looked at me with the Sharingan glowing red. Then his eyes averted just enough for them to not be looking directly at me as the three tomoes grew into the kaleidoscopic shuriken. “That’s what you said, right?”

I stood there, quietly. I didn’t think he’d do it with me. I didn’t know what to say. To think he’d consider me to be… Think this moment was important enough… But I was thankfully desensitized to the absurd at this point. I hated to see it happen prematurely, but when a boy becomes a man you showed respect. “Look me in the eyes.”

Shisui’s Kaleidoscopic Eye snapped to mine.

I felt nothing crawling into my mind. “I’m honoured that you consider this, here and now, with me, to be an experience worthy of immortality.”

Shisui studied me for a long time, intensely, before nodding without taking his eyes off mine. “The honor is mine. Hanzo.”

That’s when I hugged him again, because I liked to hug friends too, especially when they’re still short enough for me to tuck under my chin. “You’re still tiny, I hope they give you good rations when you’re out stalking the great unwashed.”

Shisui laughed lightly. “Konoha has the best.”

“You baby assassins really are too cute for my own good,” I grumbled as I let him go. Being an elite ninja, he didn’t look flustered or off balance. “Anyway, long story short, I think it makes more sense if the Sharingan evolves for any sufficiently strong emotion.”

“It does make sense. I’ll inquire with Lord Fugaku or others about the different contexts recorded for sharingan evolutions.”

“More data points always help,” I agreed. “Okay, here, have this too. This one’s for the Hokage, but I’m giving it to you to pass on just in case I die horribly in the next few hours.”

Shisui froze mid-way through speed-reading everything I wrote about everything up to and including the potential crimes against humanity inflicted on the Uzumaki clan remnants. And how to find them. “Please tell me I didn’t hear that right?”

“Well, I’m reasonably confident that my new setup will allow me to go about my ground-breaking research in a comparatively survivable manner.” I gestured grandly at the medium surrounded by three big tesla coils, themselves surrounded by a faraday cage which was enclosed in a large nylon tent that took up half of my whole basement. Keeping Naruto away from it had been a surprisingly easy affair after I let him explore it under supervision.

“… Please tell me you’re not planning to hit yourself with lightning.”

“It’ll probably happen,” I said with all the jollity of mad scientists everywhere, though I was clearly better than those hacks. After all, I was actually sane. “But it’s fine, the human body can take a lot of static energy and look, there’s a rubber mat on the floor there, see?” Again, the oil industry in this world was unhinged.

“… I’m going to have to rush you to the hospital, aren’t I? That’s why I’m here.”

“Ideally no, but possibly yes.” I moved to the cage door and paused, looking back. “If things do go badly, you’ll keep your eyes off, alright?”

Shisui looked like he wanted to haul me to the hospital right now and sit on me until a Yamanaka came by to scan me for psychosis. “… If you insist.”

I switched on the tesla coils and watched the lightning arch all over the faraday cage like a thunderstorm in miniature. I’d never be tired of it. “I do insist.” I gave Shisui one last, meaningful and regretful glance. “Normally I wouldn’t ask anyone to put themselves out for me like this, but depending on how this goes, things might change with me. A lot. I don’t want you or the Hokage or whoever else to think I was an infiltrator all along after all, or something silly like that.”

Shisui pinched his nosebridge. “Then I suppose I must comply.” He looked between me and the chamber then, with eyes black once more. “What are you doing though? Because I’m beginning to think Captain Kakashi didn’t understand at all.”

I didn’t answer right away, instead walking around the setup to check the state of the mediums, and specifically the dust inside. It was floating and spreading nicely. “If I’m wrong, I’ll have a very bad time, like last time but worse.”

“That’s reassuring,” Shisui said sarcastically. “And if you pull off … whatever it is you’re planning?”

“Then I’ll create a new bloodline.”

Relishing the crack that inflicted on the kid’s self-control, I turned off the tesla coils outside of the medium, went inside the chamber, zipped the folds back up quickly to minimise air loss as much as possible, entered the Faraday cage and sat down in front of the medium, fingering the switchboard I’d jury-rigged in-between preparing this environment where I could, hopefully, ionise the atmosphere enough for the plasma cells to survive on their own, at least for a while.

I turned one knob. The outer Tesla coils came to life, but fainter, thrumming to the same music I’d played at the start of this, so long ago. Then I activated the electrodes inside the medium. Step by step, my experiment was recreated until new plasma life began to take shape in the miniature superstorm. And this time, when the Anami came to life and reached the same complexity as Yemo alone did, that first time, they crowded the glass walls of the medium before passing through into the wider universe.

I sat there, watching as they emerged, one by one, then in clumps, then in streams as they confirmed that the atmosphere provided them with just close enough conditions for them to sustain themselves outside the primordial soup. The air around me wasn’t strictly plasma, exactly, but it was close enough for them to go exploring. Until they found me. Came close, crowding together, orbiting me. Filling the air until I couldn’t breath it without breathing them.

Which was really the whole point.

Leaning forward, I breathed inward.

It felt like breathing lightning, but it wasn’t unpleasant. So I did it again. And kept at it as the stream of plasma-based lifeforms swarmed me, entering me, some through my skin, most through my lungs, some through my mouth, into my bone and further, entering my brain even before the plasma-bonded blood coursing through my lungs got around to carrying their load up from my heart. With each breath, I felt more and more like my body was plugged into a power socket, but without the shivers. I actually had to feel around for the switchboard to make sure I hadn’t ripped a cable and grabbed it by accident. The tingling in my right hand had returned. There was tingling in my left hand too, now. More. Then more and more, radiating from my lungs outwards and back in rhythm with the beating of my heart. Until, finally, I passed some manner of threshold and the plasma cells didn’t need me to breathe them in anymore. They just entered me, binding with every cell, dividing, spreading from one cell to the next instead of waiting for others of their brethren to come in from outside. And as it happened, I felt my awareness of myself expand inwards and outward at the same time, until I was capable of examining individual cells as easily as I could blink my eyes.

And so, I perceived the entirety of myself, just in time to notice my DNA realising just how poorly everything was working and preparing to expel everything bad and stale and inefficient.


They stopped.

Look at that, I thought, watching fascinated as my synapses formed that thought even before I thought, and then changed in response to it right after. You can follow orders.

My brain had sent and received a response to my cease and desists command even before my inner monologue ended.

You’re eager, little ones, but rash. That’s alright. It’s dad’s job to teach you virtue. Let’s start with temperance, shall we?

I really, really should stop projecting sapience on unicellular life before I accidentally make it happen. Looking at the parts of the genome that reacted to my orders, at my DNA…

There was still a lot.

But I didn’t need to explore it all. Right now all I wanted was time to figure this out. It was enough that I now knew the parts that governed cellular maintenance. There was just one problem.

My Chakra Pathway System was gorging itself on my cell souls quite voraciously. More and more as time went by. My chakra capacity was increasing alarmingly fast actually, and the Chakra Pathway System was even adapting to the rising load. Without my say-so. There didn’t seem to be a pause function. Or any other kind of executive function. I couldn’t even inspect it like I could everything else, I only saw bits and pieces where functionality was embedded in the rest of my body, like my DNA didn’t entirely know what to make of it. The Keirakukei has its own genetic code, and it’s at least semi-autonomous.

Well, wasn’t that something?

“Hanzo!” Shisui called from outside. I watched the Anami still outside combust and flee in the same time that it took me to inspect a hundred different cells by the time the first word came out of Shisui’s mouth. “Are you alright? What’s happening in there?”

“Mad science,” I said blithely. “Huh.”

“’Huh’ he says. Hanzo, you do realize you’re leaking chakra like a punctured water pipe, right? From all over your body?”

“Never mind that,” I waved the thought away. The wind on my skin felt so new. “There are old scars on my vocal folds, from when I overstressed it just as my voice cracked in adolescence, ruining my ability to sing. I think I’ll fix that first.”

“Well that’s lovely then,” Shisui grunted. “Maybe you can dazzle us all at the party. All the bigshots and their kids will be there, from all the clans, it can be your debut as a Kagura.”

“Just for that I’ll bring Naruto as my plus one.”

“Oh no, please don’t go mad now, I need you sane.”

I could reflect on my impressions of his words in real time. I heard the inflections in his voice like I never could before. And I managed to catch his micro-expression because the human eye can actually process as many as three hundred frames per second.

“It’ll be alright, kid,” I said instead of the joke I was mid-way through building in the synapses of my neocortex. “I know what to do now.”

“… I’ll be trusting you then.”

First Naruto and now him. It was no small thing this time either, was it?

My vocal folds were already done.

Huh. What next? The pineal gland had a lot in common with the retina in the eyes, but it was calcified. I was really curious to see what would happen if I fixed that next.

I needed to take care of something else first though. At the rate my chakra and pathway activity was growing, I would need to sit here and breathe plasma for days if I wanted to optimise all my body the same way my hand was. At least without excruciating, possibly fatal agony. And I’d have so much chakra at the end of it that I wouldn’t be able to continue the process, never mind repeat it. My chakra would just eat the Anami as they came, assuming they didn’t combust and flee like they did for Kakashi.

It would certainly be enough to give me ‘exceptional vitality and longevity though.’ And ‘unique chakra’.

Did the Uzumaki and Hashirama discover this too?

I could almost see it. How the problem could be tackled from the other direction. Exhaust all chakra, use whatever means to keep it low, use seals or meditation to achieve senjutsu and stay that way for a year and a day.

Whether or not that was true, though they obviously didn’t manage to take it further. Or maybe Hashirama was the only one who did?

I’m getting greedy, I thought ruefully. But somehow, this once I don’t care.

The Keirakukei may be coded in a different programming language, but its in-built functions were by necessity still subordinate to the brain. If I couldn’t stop it from working, I could still unload the end product faster than I made it.

“Open, Gate of Death. For science!”

"Hanzo, what the hell!?"

My heart lurched once, but that was it. After all, the other gates were still closed.

Now then, I though with a languid arc of light across my neocortex. Let’s see what else human DNA has to offer.
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For Science!!!

Also the most interesting and simultaneously sensible take on Chakra I have seen yet.


Awwwwwwright, people! Taking bets on how long it takes for Naruto to jump into the plasma stream, what’ll happen when he does, and who’ll be there when it happens yet fail to stop him! One-to-two odds on of it happening within the first five minutes of seeing Hanzo in the plasma stream, eight-to-one odds it happens with Shisui, Kakashi and Hiruzen all present, thirty-to-one odds that either Jiraiya or Tsunade is present as well! (Side bets on whether the Hokage has already recalled the Sannin.)

Three-to-one odds his amami draw totally overpowers Hanzo’s, one-to-three his hair all stands on end like a blond spiky cloud, nine-to-one he falls into the seal for a Kurama powwow.

Two-to-one odds Kurama is utterly fascinated by all of this, once someone calms him down enough to listen to the explanation.

Side-thought: if the Bijuu are really aggregates of both physical and spiritual energy, as opposed to solely chakra, that sorta adds a whole new layer to how Kurama was split into two Yin and Yang entities.
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Say, has the SI given any thought to the likely fact that there are people on the moon? The second brothers descendents. Its earlier than Canon so there might be more than just the few still left right now.
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Karmic Acumen

Well-known member
Say, has the SI given any thought to the likely fact that there are people on the moon? The second brothers descendents. Its earlier than Canon so there might be more than just the few still left right now.
In chapter 2. He mentioned that he wasn't bringing it up with anyone because he didn't want to sound like a complete lunatic.


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Good to know. Should read the earlier chapters again I guess. Looking forward to seeing Jiraya reacting to Naruto having whats effectively a Nin Toad in the Inuzuka sense. Heh, and then finding out Naruto's honorary "Uncle" seems to be making them.
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I keep having this scene appear in my head of Shisui calling the Hokage over.

(The Hokage is half-buried in paperwork, bored out of his skull. Suddenly, a sound transmission:)
SHISUI: Lord Third, you need to get to Hanzo’s place right now. Quietly.
(The Hokage controls his reaction.)
HIRUZEN: Exactly what is so urgent, Crow?
SHISUI: …I’m not sure how to explain it.
SHISUI: Hanzo zapped himself with lightning and then opened his Gate of Death.
(The Hokage fails to control his reaction.)
SHISUI: Now he’s venting chakra like it’s going out of season, staring at his hands while giggling, and, you know, not dying. I have no idea what I’m looking at, even with my dōjutsu active.
HIRUZEN: …I’m on my way.


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Hey, on the book deal. Has Hanzo though of releasing a cookbook or two? Or is he keeping those as a personal secret?

Karmic Acumen

Well-known member
Hey, on the book deal. Has Hanzo though of releasing a cookbook or two? Or is he keeping those as a personal secret?
He sold some recipes to a few nearby locales so he had treats available, like the twister ice cream, but no, cookbooks have been way low on the priority list. It would be a pretty thin notebook too, since he only knows the traditional dishes and a few random stuff he recalls vaguely.


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He sold some recipes to a few nearby locales so he had treats available, like the twister ice cream, but no, cookbooks have been way low on the priority list. It would be a pretty thin notebook too, since he only knows the traditional dishes and a few random stuff he recalls vaguely.
I mean depends on how diverse the food is doesn't it? If he knows how to make a couple sauces that a couple chapters on its own. Same with spice mixes and deserts. But I get your point.


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He sold some recipes to a few nearby locales so he had treats available, like the twister ice cream, but no, cookbooks have been way low on the priority list. It would be a pretty thin notebook too, since he only knows the traditional dishes and a few random stuff he recalls vaguely.
"Hanzo wrote a cookbook?! Hanzo?! The Hokage likes him, Danzo hates him, the Uchia say they owe him, that Hanzo?! We must have it! I'm sure there will be terrible secrets, and we need them!"

On the first day it was printed, the printers were attacked. Then the building was leveled in the battle between teams from six different Ninja Villages.

And Hanzo still ended up with no money. :p:p


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Hmm, how about proposing adding a Sudoku, Crossword and maybe even a maze puzzle section to the paper? Start on them and/or even make some for Naruto until you can get him to make them himself?

Bonus if the crossword is in Imperial Script to help get than into the village consciousness. Heh, like in your other fic. Hanzo taking over the two village papers page space by page space lol.

Oooh, a science corner in the civilian paper. With fun science experiments kids can do with safe home items. Introducing the potato powered lihht bulb to the hidden village.
Chapter 9: The Thoughts and Ruminations of Genii

Karmic Acumen

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A/N: Turns out it was just over seven months until the party, not six like Hanzo said before. Hadn't looked up Sasuke's exact birth date at the time.

Chapter 9: The Thoughts and Ruminations of Genii

“-. Uchiha Itachi, July 23, 6 ANB .-“​


The man turned in surprise. “Lord Itachi, how may I help you? I’m afraid the final guest has not yet arrived.”

“No, it’s fine. I will meet him myself. You are dismissed for the rest of the day. Please enjoy your time off.”

“Very well, thank you. A good evening to you as well, and best wishes to the Young Master.” The man bowed and left Itachi to take his place at the district gates.

Normally he would not be playing usher, but for once his father did not say that Itachi’s self-imposed task was undignified, never mind aspersive towards the Uchiha Clan itself. It was a minor concession in the grand scheme of things. But considering that Fugaku had chosen to make a political circus out of the day – despite it being the last birthday Sasuke would ever see before having the shinobi lifestyle thrust upon him – Itachi was going to take what he could get.

His ruminations were cut short by an approaching noise he’d never heard before. He had trouble classifying it. The best analogy was a chain of grinding gears experiencing a fire element explosion at point black range. Ten times per second. Loudly.

Itachi looked to the fork in the road just in time to see the source of the infernal noise turn the corner at a speed most ninja would be unable to match, belching smoke as it ground along the cobbles in a sharp turn.

A vehicle, Itachi quickly catalogued it with his Sharingan, tensing as the distance decreased alarmingly quickly. Two-wheeled and… self-propelled?

The demonic machine abruptly veered leftward so hard that the… thing skid nearly horizontally before it came to a halt upright just a meter short of where Itachi stood. Grinding twangs mixed with the flapping sounds of a coat as dust rose to mix with the last fumes wafting from the pipes before the… whatever it was finally stopped. Itachi was careful not to turn his nose up at the smell of burned petrol. Had that unseemly substance finally been turned towards something useful? Besides plastics and being the most ungainly supplement to fire techniques at least.

“Please excuse the noise,” said Masanari Hanzo as he got off the- “Motorcycles will always be a bit loud I’m afraid. While I have been working on more practical four-wheelers, I decided to err on the side of speed and manoeuvrability first, just in case Naruto runs late and I have to rush over to pick him up. He insisted on coming alone because he wants his gift to be a total secret, even from me.” Hanzo turned something on the handle, causing the vehicle to wind down to a comparatively low purr, and gazed off into the distance before he looked at Itachi again. “Oh well, even if he runs late it usually leads to something more annoying not happening later, so that works too. Hello, not-quite-as-little Uchiha, I see your growth spurt is coming in early. My condolences for this tragedy, the loss of your adorability will be sorely mourned by all, I’m sure.”

It’s a good thing I sent the gate warden off, Itachi thought wryly. Though I suppose it makes little difference since the guards and grooms are still around. “Mister Masanari. Welcome.”

“Thanks. Is there a place I can stash this beast?” He tapped the… purring contraption. The pats sounded like metal mixed with leather. “And maybe change clothes. I’ve brought something more traditional if what I’m in stands out too much.”

“There should be sufficient room in the stabling facility, you are not the only guest who eschewed coming on foot. Follow me, I will show you.” Though his ‘motorcycle’ would surely make an odd sight next to the rickshas, never mind the palanquins. “As for your attire…” Itachi inspected the man carefully as he led him inside. The style was nothing he’d ever seen before. Polished white shoes, tight-collared sun-yellow shirt under a buttoned up vest done in white, long trousers – also white – that were form-fitting but not too tight to move in at a moment’s notice. Had the colors been inverted it might have looked like something more fitting for a funeral, but rather than the storm he had become upon Konoha, the man looked more like a bright gleaming cloud. Even his belt buckle, buttons and cufflinks were tastefully done in gold that accented his ensemble without standing out more than they should, like scattered sunrays peeking through. And everything was harmonised by a belt around his waist and a thin piece of cloth knotted around the neck, both colored the same red as the square sticking purposely out of his chest pocket, a shade just slightly darker than his hair. “Were this a more private occasion, you might have stood out more, but today’s event has a rather extensive guest list from outside the clan, all of whom have chosen to come in their own traditional wear. You will still stand out, but I doubt you are willing to make the one concession to change that.”

“That being?”

“The beard.” And what a beard it was, Itachi could understand why dead dialects used a derivative of it as the word for ‘man.’ He could also understand Shisui’s feelings of inadequacy, not that he’d ever tattle. “As long as it’s there, it almost won’t matter what you are wearing. Your stature is also fairly imposing, but the beard is the main thing.”

“Yeah, that stays.”

“I thought as much.” That just left one thing. “Your coat is the only other issue I can see. I can understand its utility given your mode of transport, but it rather takes away from the rest.” Black didn’t clash with anything, technically, but it obscured the white more than contrasting it in this instance, reaching all the way down to his ankles. “Had it been done from something other than leather, perhaps…”

“Alright, I wasn’t gonna wear it inside anyway, but this should work better.” Hanzo shucked off his coat and tossed it negligently over his vehicle, then opened the smaller of the two boxes and pulled out something that looked very much like a cape. A white mantle outlined with tiger fur of a yellow shade perfectly matching the shirt and golden accents on the rest of his attire. It wasn’t a haori but it worked for him. It was fastened around the neck with ten yellow knitted laces clasped together in a buckle coloured the same gold as the rest. Like the coat it almost reached his heels, but it did not conceal the main attire and otherwise fit the man quite well.

Itachi gave Hanzo a once-over with his Sharingan – it wouldn’t do for the heir to be any less diligent than the rest of the clan in applying eidetic memory to non-stressful situations, now that they knew they should – and nodded in approval. Shisui had not been joking when he said the man’s chakra ‘looked like something straight out of the morgue’, but he would leave that to the rest of the honoured guests to socially blunder their way through. “Much better.” The material wasn’t quite as high-tier as the rest of the ensemble, but in terms of utility… “Gabardine fabric?”

“Lined with wool on the inverse side. I had an order for a coat made from the same, but it wasn’t ready in time, unfortunately, so I took the leather one in case of weather surprises.”

“If I may say so, I believe this would be the better choice even then. This piece is more on point with the venue. All you’re missing is a shakujo and you’d look like the Sage himself.” Imposing, bold and completely unashamed of making a statement wherever he went. Itachi wasn’t yet sure what the statement was this time, but it was in there.

“You actually picture Hagoromo Ootsutsuki walking around in a three-piece suit? Quite the bold tastes there, Sir Uchiha.”

What was so bold about it? “Itachi, if it pleases you.”

“It pleases me very much. And you may call me Hanzo, though it pains me to have yet another chink in my emotional armor against you adorable baby assassins.” The man had only grown more shameless, hadn’t he? Especially since he turned himself into that massive chakra beacon for an hour and a day, just shortly before the turn of the last year.

Everything that happened there was still classified beyond Itachi’s clearance. His Anbu clearance. The Hokage and Captain Kakashi were the only ones who knew, besides Shisui who was there and refused to share anything either. All anyone knew was that Masanari Hanzo was not to be aggrieved or offended. Hokage’s orders. Or else.

The ‘official’ leak was that it involved the nine-tails child and Hanzo was now considered his prime minder ‘for the good of the village.’ Itachi’s own investigations had long since revealed that Uzumaki Naruto was already home when the event occurred. So unless Shisui broke silence to say otherwise, then whatever occurred was centred around Hanzo himself. A civilian who’d never even touched his chakra before that day.

One wondered what else had changed in the past seven months and change.

“You know, speaking of adorable baby assassins, is Shisui lurking out of sight again?”

“Alas, no. Other obligations prevent his attendance today.” Itachi didn’t know where Shisui was beyond ’Anbu captain business’, which was no small matter since he was Anbu himself. “I am sure he would be here to greet you himself if he could.”

Hanzo’s side glance told Itachi… more than he could parse about how much the man had read from his reply. “Right. Then we best hurry back out. Unless I’m terribly mistaken, Naruto will be arriving any minute now.”

‘Any minute now’ proved entirely accurate, as the two were not returned to the gate for more than ten seconds when they heard the scream.

A distant scream that rapidly became less and less distant- “aaaAAAYAYAGH!”


A giant frog crashed like a meteor in the middle of the street.

“Lord Heir!”

Itachi blinked and waited for the roused guard nin to use what wind release they had to disperse the wave of dust, before ordering them back to their posts.



Uzumaki Naruto weakly shambled off the back of the giant amphibian and almost faceplanted if not for Hanzo walking over just in time to steady him. The man was the tallest person Itachi had ever seen, yet the toad was nearly as tall.

“S-so dizzy…”

“What the hell, boy.”

“I’m not late!” The wobbly child shouted. “… I’m not late, right?”

“Barely.” Hanzo narrowly prevented the child from falling again, catching him by the scruff of… attire that was likely supposed to be a mirror of his own, except there was no coat or cape, the rumpled white shirt had short sleeves, the tie had been lost somewhere along the way, and the ensemble was almost entirely done in eye-searing orange. “But I bet your present wishes you took your time more, huh?”

“Whu – OH CRAP, no no no, I handled it, it’s fine, it’s gotta be fine, it’s totally going to be fine, believe it!” The child proceeded to almost rip open the satchel hanging from the toad’s neck in his haste to pull out some manner of box, haphazardly wrapped in three different types of wrapping paper. “I stuffed it full of braces and pellets and everything, listen!” Uzumaki shook the bow-tied box next to his ear. Violently. “See, you can’t hear anything, it’s fine!”

Hanzo pinched his nose with all the gravitas of a good and innocent man being driven to suicide. “You know what, I don’t want to know. I’ll just hang back and watch the unfolding disaster from a safe distance.”

“Hey! You don’t even know what I made!”


“Yes, that’s the problem.” Hanzo shook his head. “Whatever. Let’s just go in and get it over with.”

“Ignore Grumpuncle, Gama-chan, he’s just being silly, let’s go on ahead!”


Uzumaki ran off ahead. ‘Gama-chan’ hopped on ahead. Past the stables. Without pausing.

Hanzo quietly spoke to Itachi as they unhurriedly trailed the strange duo. “Since the actual gift almost certainly suffered a fatality on the way over, you can say Gama’s visit is the ‘real’ gift and Naruto is doing a ‘one prank gift, one real gift’ thing.” The child and his… pet? Had stopped in the middle of the road, belatedly realizing they had no idea where to go. “Worst comes to worst, I have a backup gift squirreled away just in case.”

“It’s certainly unusual, but Inuzuka Tsume and her two children are here with five ninken between them. Shisui told me of your toads’ advanced intellect, so it should be fine. I expect Sasuke will be fascinated.” Itachi eyed the embarrassed child and his calmly croaking companion. Even knowing it was not the case, he could easily believe it was one of Lord Jiraiya’s summons. “Can it speak?”

“Sadly no. He learns commands easily, can repeat what you say like a parrot and can even understand certain concepts, he’s certainly sentient and much more intelligent than any other animal out there, but sapience just isn’t coming. It’s the one thing the Toads of Myobokuzan have going for them that mine can’t seem to manage.”

“Perhaps it’s still too young?”

“I doubt it, summon toads can talk and are otherwise equivalent to 5-year-olds when they’re still small as bull frogs.” Hanzo fondly pat Gama on the head. “No, something’s missing and it’s not the fleshy bits.”

“Ribbit.” The toad began to crawl alongside them. Very awkwardly, those rear legs were enormously long.

Itachi made sure not to display any of the strange feelings developing because of the unfolding events. “You’re talking about the soul.”

“Maybe,” Hanzo absently pat Uzumaki on the head and took the child’s hand as they caught up. “Though I doubt your notion of a soul is entirely the same as mine.”

It was good that curiosity was both accepted and encouraged within the Uchiha when it came to Masanari Hanzo, now that almost everyone in the clan had read his ‘Treatise.’ “I would be glad to learn more about your view.”

Hanzo proceeded to give what was clearly a much abridged lecture on ‘the Eight Parts of the Self’ which, contrary to Itachi’s initial assumption, had nothing to do with the Eight Celestial Gates. It was tempting to consider it simple philosophy, except the man talked as if it was practical, actionable data. “So its body’s is fine, its memory is good and growing, its mind is complex enough to process long-term commands, fortune it definitely has or it would be dead by now, it has inspiration to sing croaky songs every now and then, I’d even say it has spirit – dreams are literally the mind leaving the body to go off on adventures, kind of like when you throw it at somebody to cast genjutsu, or what the Yamanaka do to invade people’s heads, but that only works if spirit is there to sustain it and the connection to the memory and vice versa.”

“Much of what you ascribe to the mind is what most would call the soul, and aren’t spirit and soul synonymous?”

“No, not according to this paradigm anyway. Spirit is willpower and grit, the equivalent of a root system sustaining the non-physical parts of you, if you want to be all demystifying. It’s what you’d call yin energy, but it’s not you. To have a soul means having some manner of foundational self-concept to give the rest purpose, some basis for goal-setting and decision making. The soul is your identity.” Hanzo gestured back at the toad. “That’s what’s missing here. Turns out a soul’s emergence is a lot less arbitrary than people think.”

I don’t think most people think about it at all, Itachi thought privately, remembering when Fugaku took him out to see a mountain of corpses at the end of the third World War, when he was four. Or what might cause a soul to give way to abandon. “I think I understand, except… you are saying the memory and mind are separate things?”

“Yes, it’s why people generally don’t remember dreams, and why they don’t usually become vegetables if they get amnesia. The mind is its own stable system, the memory is just its most current frame of reference. The reverse holds true as well, it’s how the Sage’s ninshu is supposed to work, I’m pretty sure, connecting spirit roots so to speak. Blending each other’s yin to achieve all or nothing telepathy while still staying you. That’s how the tradition goes, anyway. My entirely incidental forays into neuroscience support it so far, you wouldn’t believe how much seemingly ex nihilo nonsense happens in the central nervous system.”

“I’m sorry, ex nihilo?”

“From nothing.”

Masanari Hanzo habitually slipped into long dead tongues as if he was raised with them. “What of the eighth part?”

Hanzo frowned, before realizing that he indeed had only mentioned seven. “Right. That would be the so-called ‘Familiar.’” Hanzo slapped Gama on the flank and nodded forward, prompting it to leap ahead. “Naruto, go make sure he doesn’t wander off while we talk about things hopeless loud-mouths are not allowed to know.”

The child gaped in outrage. “You’re the worst!” But shockingly, he obeyed at once. “Well whatever, I don’t care what you’re talking about anyway!” And he ran off.

Itachi blinked at the child. Sasuke would never comply without a fight.

Hanzo waited until the child was out of hearing range. “You can cast the privacy techniques, right?”

Sound Muffling Technique, Loose Lips Technique, perimeter scanned, radio Rat to check if any Hyuuga guests were using the Byakugan, none reported. “We’re secure.”

“Depending on who you ask, the eighth part can be just your sense of direction, a totem, the so-called ‘shadow’ your existence casts upon reality, or a companion spirit represented by an animal that shows up and eats your afterbirth.”

Itachi meaningfully glanced at Uzumaki and back.

Hanzo nodded. “Yeah, generally it’s not supposed to apply quite so literally. Though I suppose your clan might beg to differ on that.”

“… I’m afraid I don’t quite follow.”

“It’s this whole thing about your Sharingan leaping ahead in power when someone you love dies, but only getting the Super Sharingan when you’re there for the death of someone who loves you.” Fugaku would have a fit if he ever learned just how much Shisui shared with this man. “And then there’s Uchiha Madara, who apparently took his brother’s already Super Sharingan – because sentimentality – and got the motherlode of all powerups ever.”

This talk is becoming dangerous. “I still don’t follow.”

“It’s just-the idea is that some of the parts can be detached. The body becomes a corpse when you die, the soul goes to the pure world, the mind can go off wandering outside your body, you can pass your Fortune – your karma – to someone else, the familiar is technically free-ranging all the time… you know how Shisui’s crow isn’t a summon?”

It’s not? “I couldn’t speak to the significance of that.”

Hanzo’s brows furrowed. “Okay, let’s try a different track. Have you ever heard about Tengu?”

“I’m afraid not.”

Hanzo checked to see that Uzumaki was still far enough ahead and spoke lowly. “The myth goes that tengu are mischievous supernatural beings said to have been renowned swordsmen that trained everyone else in sword play back in the day.” Hanzo eyes Itachi meaningfully. “They’re said to be the reincarnated souls of those who were proud and arrogant in life, and are described as tall armored men with wings and a long stretched nose.”

This man is talking about Susanoo. “What are you saying?”

“The Yin, Itachi. I’m saying that the Spirit, too, can be bestowed to someone else. On death.”

… The techniques of the Mangekyou Sharingan exhausted Yin energies and caused progressive blindness lacking a physical treatment or explanation. The Eternal Mangekyou Sharingan was recorded to have emerged if a loved one donated their own Mangekyou Sharingan on death. But it did not emerge if two sets of Kaleidoscope Eyes were merely swapped between two living holders. The Perfect Susanoo had only been achieved by Madara’s Eternal Mangekyou Sharingan, and never since. The theory of Yin bestowal… it explained all of that.

Itachi somehow managed to contain his shock at this cascade of realizations and their implications, keeping his outward reaction to a mere incline of his head. “I won’t pretend to entirely understand from just this little information, but I would like to follow up on this at a later date.”

“I’ll have Shisui deliver a primer if we can’t meet in person.”

“Thank you.”

“You’re very welcome. Oy, Naruto!”


“You’re going the wrong way!”


“Don’t you meme at me, you ambulatory anachronism!”

“What the heck does that mean?”

“Don’t throw weird words around unless you want to feel stupid right back, now get back here.”

“Fine, fine!”

This is the man who deduced the entirety of our eyes’ mechanics from folk tales. Itachi thought in disbelief. And if what he says is true, he has a superior understanding of the Mangekyou Sharingan than the greatest secrets scribed on the Stone Tablet.

This was… it was too much.

Fortunately, reaching their destination provided abundant diversion.

Given the sheer scope of the event, the celebration was taking place outdoors, on the grounds of the lake that the Uchiha Compound was built around. Since all the many other guests and their retinues were already present, their arrival was subject to close scrutiny by everyone there.

“Announcing Konoha’s Preeminent Loremaster, Doctor Masanari Hanzo. His apprentice, Uzumaki Naruto. And Lord Itachi, Heir to the Clan.”

“Laying it a bit thick there,” Hanzo muttered.

Over three hundred pairs of eyes turned towards them in unison. That number did not include the children, save for Sasuke himself who was waiting in the middle next to Fugaku and mother.

“I’m your apprentice?” Uzumaki boggled. “I mean, yeah, I’m totally his apprentice, believe it!”

Now the number grew to include the children.

The Uzumaki child tucked himself into Hanzo’s side, clutching his hand tight. Hanzo, though, just snorted at the sight and led them through the emerging divide in the crowd. “Let me guess, all the clan delegations decided to come early because of security concerns that were in desperate need of solving before the party proper.”


“The fact they all get to gawk at the poor civilian is just a coincidence, I’m sure.”

Itachi’s lips curled in a smile despite himself. “That is the polite fiction. Lord Fugaku bid me apologise on behalf of our ignorant guests for believing you are the sort to entertain such unseemly artifice. He promises to make it up to you for the inconvenience.”

“Why thank you, Itachi. Please don’t tell him that I expected better from him and that this is the first and last time I will ever tolerate being put on display. I’ll do that myself later when there’s no more risk of ruining Sasuke’s day.”

“Good grief.”


“You tell’em, Uncle,” Uzumaki ‘whispered.’

“That’s right, I’ll tell them, you behave yourself and don’t say anything about this. Try to make proper friends with Sasuke and the other kids while you’re at it, his mother and yours were best friends.”

“Wait, what?”

“Do your best, Naruto. I’m rooting for you.”

“I-I will, I promise.”

Your doom approaches, mother, Itachi thought wryly. Oh well. If nothing else, the gigantic frog will be able to serve as distraction in a pinch.

“Mister Masanari,” greeted Fugaku. “Welcome. Please be known to my wife, Uchiha Mikoto, and my son, Uchiha Sasuke, whose sixth birthday we are celebrating today.”

“Thank you for the warm welcome, please accept these tokens of our goodwill.”

Hanzo was all smiles during the greeting. Uzumaki tried to imitate him, but he only looked sick, alas. He did manage not to trip while handing his present over though. It was a makeshift facsimile of a four-wheeled contraption made wholly from scrap. It looked to be the most embarrassing gift of the day, up until Naruto urged Sasuke to take the ‘remote control’ in the box and showed him how to work the dials. The little ‘car’ lurched in place and shot forward under its own power, guided every which way according to Sasuke’s will. Itachi could have sworn he saw stars in his little brother’s eyes. He couldn’t even blame him, it was an ingenious device that made Itachi wonder about Hanzo’s motorcycle and his comment about four-wheelers.

Uzmaki’s gift would easily have claimed top spot in Sasuke’s list of preferences if not for Hanzo’s own gift, which revealed itself to be a much more aesthetically pleasing contraption that could do everything Naruto’s could, except in the air. Fugaku was not the only person whose eyes took a calculating expression at that. More so when Hanzo revealed the thing even had the capacity for limited autonomy in the air.

“Entirely rugged of course,” Hanzo said at the end of his presentation. “Wouldn’t do for it to break at the slightest bump, or something silly like that.” The man passed his own remote to a starry-eyed Sasuke who was well on the way to losing track of reality as he planned his next session of target practice. “It also uses capacitors to store power, rather than batteries, so it could even serve to train lightning affinity if it comes down to it.”

“Well now I just look dumb,” Uzumaki grumbled. “Should’ve known you’d make something better.”

“Nu-uh, they’re both great!” Sasuke vowed like the good boy he was, snapping out of his daydream. “W-wanna show me how to play with them?”

Uzumaki looked poleaxed. “Uhm… S-sure!”

Sasuke turned to look at Fugaku pleadingly. Itachi made sure to catch the man’s eye as well. The meet and greet was over now after all.

Fugaku inclined his head. “Go ahead, Sasuke. Entertain your guests.”

“Yes! Come on!” Sasuke grabbed Uzumaki by his wrist and proceeded to drag him away. “You’re gonna show me everything and then we’ll play target practice, I can’t wait!”

“A-alright? I mean, yeah it’s gonna be awesome, believe it!”

As he watched his little brother drag Uzumaki Naruto over to the game area where the rest of the children had spent their time feeling awkward around each other, Uchiha Itachi allowed himself to pretend that this was just his foolish little brother’s birthday party. That it wasn’t just Uchiha Fugaku’s way of gathering all the clans, bloodlines and even Konoha’s jinchuriki together in one place to make a political statement to beat all political statements.

Then Uchiha Sasuke, poor, browbeaten, foolish little brother Uchiha Sasuke who’d spent the past two hours standing still and saying only what he was told to say instead of enjoying what would likely be the very last peaceful birthday of his life, finally uttered his first unscripted words of the day. “What’s with the frog?”

“Frog?” Naruto balked, then snorted. “That’s not a frog, you dummy, it’s a toad!”

“Who’re you calling a dummy, stupid?!”

“Your hair’s stupid, stupid!”

“Whu-what’s wrong with my hair?!”

“What’s wrong is it’s wrong, you dumbass, it looks like a duck’s butt!”

“T-that’s not true!”

“Yeah it is!”

“How dare you?! Take that back!”

“No, you take that back!”

“No, you!”

“No, you!”

“No, you!”

“No, you!”

“No, you!”


“Hey, you stay out of this!”

“Hey, leave my guests alone!”

“Oh crap! I’m sorry, pretty lady, I didn’t mean it, what’s your name?”

“M-my name is H-Hin… You think I’m pretty?”

“Hin? That sounds like a boy’s name though, you’re a weird girl!”

“Hey, don’t be mean to Hinata.” “Arf!”

“Oh, so your name’s Hinata! That’s a much prettier name!”

“Hey, don’t ignore me!” “Arf!”

“T-thank you, u-um-“

“My name’s Uzumaki Naruto, I’m the man who’ll be Hokage one day!”

“Pffft, as if!” “Arf!”

“Oh my god, you brought a pet!” Uzumaki said in shock to Inuzuka Kiba’s puppy. “He’s so ugly, though, and his breath stinks, is he even housebroken?”

“You bastard!” “Arf!”

“Gah!” Naruto dodged out of the way of the leaping Inuzuka boy. “He’s rabid! Rabies! Rabies alarm, quick, hide your dogs, hide your women!”

“I’ll kill you!” “Arf!”

“Madness!” Yamanaka Ino gasped, taking advantage of the chaos to latch onto Sasuke like she’d clearly been daydreaming about all afternoon. “Protect me, brave hero!”

“Wha-Get off me!”

“Sanctuary!” Uzumaki jumped behind the Sasuke-Ino fusion to hide. “Protect me, Sasuke, that’s an order from your Hokage!”

“Get away from me!”

“RAGH!” “Woof!”

“Yikes!” Naruto yelped as Sasuke fell on top of the girl, Kiba’s path now free.

Except Naruto dodged just in time now too, leaving Akimichi Chouji to become the unfortunate second half of the ensuing tangle of limbs.

“Agh!” “Arf!” “Unh!” “Arf!” “Ouch!” “Ribbit.”

“S-such savagery,” Ino whimpered as Sasuke jumped off her with his cheeks aflame.

“Bahahaha, look at your face!”

“That’s it!” Sasuke screamed, getting into Uzumaki’s face with a snarl. “This means war!”

“Bring it! Dibs on Hinata and Fatass!”

There was the sound of a tea kettle popping, and then Aburame Shino and Nara Shikamaru had to jump out of the path of Kiba’s airborne frame. “WHAT DID YOU JUST CALL ME!?”

Uchiha Itachi watched in wonder as Konoha’s next generation descended into open warfare within five minutes of Uchiha Sasuke and Uzumaki Naruto laying eyes on each other.

“Ah, the clash of the elite with the plebe.” Hanzo said glibly around his sake saucer, completely unaffected by the incredulous looks of all Konoha’s... well, elite. “There’s a story in there. I think I’ll call it the Prince and the Pauper. You see what happens when people make plans without consulting everyone involved?” The more he heard this man speak ‘common sense’, the less common it seemed. “Say, Itachi, how about you show me around?”

“Of course, sir. Follow me.”



It looked like this would be the best birthday party of Sasuke's life after all.
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