Eyes of the Broken Soul- Chapter 4

Eyes of the Broken Soul

Disclaimer: I do not own Naruto, nor am I affiliated in any way with Naruto. I just like the show and mangas so I wrote this fanfic.

Hope you enjoy the next chapter.

Chapter 4 – Aftermath

The frantic sound of shuffling feet and murmuring shinobi echoed throughout the unusually busy hallways of the Hokage tower as a new morning met with the chaos of its walls. Frustrations were running higher than ever in the ranks of ninja that made their way through the hallway, passing a lone Iruka as he made his way to his awaiting destination.

Ever since the events of the previous night, regarding a certain young boy’s infiltration of the Hokage’s library, the security levels the old building had been on high alert and there were shinobi stationed at just about every door and corner.

Having such a dangerous and valuable item, such as the scroll of sealing, stolen by a ten-year-old boy who was considered little more than a nuisance, had everyone on the edge of their seats.

Iruka, however, knew that there was no possible way for a young academy student who barely any skills as a ninja to sneak past trained shinobi undetected, and he suspected that Mizuki had played a great part in his apparent success. The silver haired chunin had obviously planned the entire setup with careful consideration and only used Naruto as a scapegoat to cover his tracks and take the blame.

It was an underhanded and despicable ploy on Mizuki’s part to use an innocent child to his advantage, especially considering the boy’s status and the animosity directed towards him. Naruto had always been seen as nothing but trouble in the eyes of the village, so it wasn’t surprising that he would immediately be marked in accusation for the theft without little consideration or debate.

Iruka scowled at the thought of it.

First Naruto hospitalized one of his wardens in a desperate act of self-defense, then he was tricked into stealing a dangerous scroll because of the feelings of inadequacy he held in his heart. Add to that the fact that the Kyuubi was sealed inside him and you’ve got a big red targeting ring painted on the poor boy’s back. It wouldn’t have surprised the chunin if there were already requests put in for Naruto’s immediate execution. Iruka didn’t even want to think about what would happen if word of his possible bloodline got out as well.

Which is how the fuming sensei now found himself walking to the Sandaime’s office so early in the morning. He had to deliver his report on the previous night’s events to try and clear Naruto’s tarnished name. Although the Hokage already knew of Mizuki’s part in the entire ordeal, the chunin still needed to submit sufficient evidence to present to the council and show his student’s innocence in the matter.

Iruka shook of his frustrations about the unfair light the boy was viewed in and approached the door to the third’s office with newfound determination. The ANBU guards stationed outside promptly let him in and the chunin soon found himself in front of the old man who sported a smoldering pipe firmly held within his mouth.

“Ah, Iruka. I was expecting you a bit sooner, although I’m sure you have your reasons for arriving late.” Iruka gave a small apologetic bow in respect as the door closed gently behind him.

“My apologies lord Hokage, but I had to make sure Naruto arrived safely at the academy. After everything that’s happened last night, I was afraid of letting him walk there by himself.”

Sarutobi let a brief smile stretch across his old and tired lips. It seemed the chunin before him put the Naruto’s safety above everyone else, including the Hokage himself. It was comforting for the old man to know that someone really cared that much for the boy and soon his doubts about Iruka taking care of him were washed away completely. After a few more moments of bathing in his own subtle relief, the old man’s face took on a far more serious expression.

“I assume you’ve completed your report?” He enquired firmly. “I would like to clear this matter up as soon as possible before it blows out of my ability to handle.”

Iruka walked up to the desk with his files in hand and promptly dropped them onto the wooden surface.

“I’ve given a detailed description of everything that happened last night. I’ve also made it clearly obvious that Naruto was manipulated into stealing the scroll by Mizuki for the man’s own purposes. To impose any punishment on a boy who couldn’t have possibly known any better in the matter would not only be unjust, but it would also throw into question the morals of the citizens of Konoha. I think you’ll find the evidence pointing to Mizuki’s betrayal to be irrefutable and once he comes around from his comatose state, Ibiki can interrogate him to clarify any further discrepancies one might try to raise.”

Sarutobi raised his eyebrows in astonishment. He had never seen so much absolute will and determination in Iruka’s eyes as that he was witnessing no. The chunin had covered all his tracks without any room for possible error. He had carefully planned his entire defense of Naruto and he would be damned if it wasn’t perfect.

“Very well Iruka.” Sarutobi sighed in relief.

“I will present your case to the council and vouch in support of your honesty and your character. Naruto should be safe for now, at least until this matter is completely resolved or he is otherwise proven to be guilty after further investigation. Although I doubt anyone would be able to put forward such incriminating evidence.”

Iruka gave out a sigh of relief of his own thereafter, immediately losing his somber stare in light of a more relaxed expression. It seemed as though things were under control for now and Naruto wasn’t in any immediate danger yet. Now all that was left for the chunin was to clear up one more matter with regards to his pupil.

The third looked up at him with a curious expression, noticing the firm look on the chunin’s face, and took another deep draw from his pipe.

“You have something else you wish to speak about?” Iruka nodded silently in confirmation.

“I have a request to make with regards to Naruto’s advancement as a shinobi. I did some digging around at the academy before I arrived here and I’ve discovered some discrepancies with regards to the latest assessment exam.”

Sarutobi let out a puff of smoke along with a deep sigh. He knew where this was going.

“I’ve since discovered that it was Mizuki who requested that the exam be a written test.” Iruka continued. “He obviously knew about Naruto’s shortcomings and used them to herd the boy into a vulnerable position. In light of this, I request that Naruto be allowed to pass the exam and proceed into the next stages of academy training.”

The old man listening simply leaned into the back of his chair and folded his fingers into one another, closing his eyes in thought. A few moments later, he spoke up once more, his voice laced with the lingering hint of regret.

“Iruka, as much as I understand your concern about Naruto’s progress and wellbeing, what Mizuki did was not strictly against procedure. Unfortunately, I cannot allow the boy to pass based on this knowledge alone. The council would never accept such a decision just because of a mere accusation on your part.”

Iruka nodded his head in understanding.

“I am aware of the possible ramifications of such an act, which is why I have given in a signed application for Naruto’s advancement into the next level of training. According to academy procedure, if an instructor deems one of his students ready for higher levels of training, he may request an early advancement based on that students performance.”

Sarutobi opened his eyes again and locked his gaze with Iruka once more, somewhat surprised by the proposition put forward.

“What you say is true.” He agreed. “You are allowed to vouch in your student’s favor if you deem him worthy, but I will need sufficient justification if I am to present a valid case. The academy board will not allow such an advancement unless there is enough evidence to support your assessment of Naruto’s capabilities.”

Iruka then pulled out another envelope from his vest and handed it to the Hokage, sporting a sly grin on his face.

“I think you’ll find more than enough justification in there. The fact that Naruto stood up to a chunin and readily laid his life on the line to protect someone else from harm speaks volumes for the boy in itself. The fact that he actually managed to defeat that chunin, I believe, is more than enough reason for him to pass.”

Sarutobi opened the envelope and began to briefly scan over its contents, regarding it carefully as he inspected the evidence presented. After a brief overview he looked back up again, only this time his eyes narrowed somewhat.

“Iruka, I want you to be sure that this is the best course of action to take. I’m afraid that the Naruto’s setbacks may cause him some difficulty with his learning. Perhaps it is better that he be allowed these six months to regain the basic skills he has been denied all these years.”

“Lord Hokage, with all due respect this is Naruto’s only dream.” Irula responded, somewhat firmly.

“It’s the only thing he has left to hold on to, to keep him moving forward. If we keep him back now I’m afraid that he’ll only fall even deeper into the hole that has been dug for him. I swore to Naruto that I would fix this problem. I’ll do everything in my power to ensure that he learns everything he needs to know so that he can catch up to the rest of his class.”

Sarutobi couldn’t help it as a small grin stretched across his lips, satisfied to see the resolve firmly set in Iruka’s heart. He recognized the strength he could see in the young man’s eyes and it was that very will of fire burning in his gaze that promised the old man looking into them of the truth in his words.

Iruka was adamant to see Naruto’s dreams come true and Sarutobi found himself unable to deny his request.

“Very well. I’ll see to it that your application is honored at the soonest possible convenience, but right now we have other pressing matters to discuss.”

At that moment, as if on queue to the Hokage’s words, the doors behind Iruka suddenly sprang open revealing a young woman with deep red eyes as she appeared from behind them.

“Ah Kurenai, you’re just in time” The Sandaime smiled, gaining a respectful bow from the woman as she approached his desk.

“Lord Hokage, you wished to see me?” She enquired respectfully.

Sarutobi stood from his chair and walked around his desk to approach the two shinobi standing before him.

“There is a matter of great concern that I wish you to help us with. I’m sure you’ve heard of the young boy named Naruto Uzumaki have you not?” Kurenai nodded in confirmation.

“You mean that academy student I keep hearing so many things about? Apparently he’s caused quite a lot of problems lately, what with the recent series of mishaps surrounding him.”

Iruka shot a deadly glance over towards the jounin speaking, radiating a sudden killer intent that made her back up a bit in her words.

“Naruto isn’t some pest that you can just step all over and get rid of!” He spat bitterly. “He’s a kind and friendly boy who’s been labeled unfairly by those around him! I suggest you speak carefully about him when you’re near me!”

Both the Hokage and Kurenai were taken aback somewhat by Iruka’s sudden flare of aggressiveness, but the old man could understand why he reacted the way he did.

“Kurenai…” Sarutobi began again. “…what you have heard about Naruto from your peers is not to be taken to heart so easily. Remember that the boy is the holder of the Kyuubi and as such he is often subjected to unfair treatment and harassment from those around him.”

Kurenai tried to see the Hokage’s point of view but she was still hung up on the image of the troublemaker she had always heard him to be.

“But lord Hokage, I’ve heard reports that he hospitalized one of his wardens….”

“It was in self defense!” Iruka snapped back, cutting her off before she could continue.

“Self defense? From what? What did the man do to warrant being put in hospital.”

This time, Iruka felt his blood chill in his veins. He would have broken the jounin’s neck right then if it weren’t for the fact that she would be helping Naruto in the coming days. Instead, he just took a deep breath to try and calm his nerves and began to explain.

“You talk about Naruto as if you already know who he is, but you have no idea what that boy has been through. Those bastards at that god-damned orphanage used to beat him every single night just for the sake of it! A young boy who could hardly defend himself was subjected to the tortures of his caretakers all because of the stupid monster sealed inside him and all you can do is assume he’s the one to blame for his situation!”

Kurenai’s expression began to sink into a frown at the sound of Iruka’s words.

“I… I had no idea….” She stammered in surprise.

“That’s right, you don’t have any IDEA!!!” Iruka retorted.

“No-one has any GOD DAMNED IDEA what kind of life that kid has had to live, but I know! I could feel it every time I touched the boy! All of the pain and sadness he felt inside, you couldn’t possibly imagine what it feels like to have those emotions coursing through into your heart!!!”

Sarutobi quickly placed his hand on Iruka’s shoulder, prompting the enraged man to calm down somewhat at his firm hold. The chunin then took a deep, quivering breath and gazed back into Kurenai’s eyes. He began to relax, however, when he saw the sudden shock and guilt etched onto the jounin’s face.

“Iruka… I… I’m sorry… I didn’t…”

“It’s… alright.” Iruka cut her off, his tone dropping into a near whisper. “I… I shouldn’t have reacted like that. You… had no way of knowing what was happening to him.”

The Hokage quickly took another deep draw from his still smoldering pipe soon afterwards, trying to ease his own over-stressed nerves. Iruka may have only been a chunin, but he could swear the young man would have killed Kurenai if the situation wasn’t handled as quickly as it was. After allowing the two some time to calm down and think, he began to speak once again.

“Kurenai, the reason I called you here is to help Iruka access Naruto for any possible bloodline traits. We believe the boy hospitalized his warden with an advanced genjutsu, but we are not sure exactly how he managed to cast it.” Iruka held up his hand to stop Sarutobi in his tracks.

“If I may lord Hokage…” The old man nodded and allowed Iruka to continue. After gaining the man’s confirmation, the chunin began to speak once more.

“Last night, Naruto used the same attack again on Mizuki when he tried to kill us. I didn’t actually see it properly because I was standing behind Naruto, but it was very clear that he didn’t form any hand signs at all. In fact, he made no other body movements at all. I have no doubt whatsoever now that whatever that attack was, it was definitely cast by a doujutsu.”

Kurenai’s eye’s widened in surprise.

“You mean… like the Sharingan?” Iruka nodded in confirmation.

“Yes, only Naruto isn’t an Uchiha, so I doubt it is related to the Sharingan in any way. This is something else all together, something we’ve never come across before.”

“That is why I called you here.” The Sandaime spoke up once more, continuing in Iruka’s stead.

“I need you to work with Iruka and discover how this genjutsu, if it even is one, actually works. If we can discover its source, it may lead us into discovering what kind of bloodline this may be and what abilities it grants Naruto. Go with Iruka to the academy as soon as possible and see what you can find out. The sooner we uncover this mystery, the sooner we can help Naruto learn to control it before he or someone else gets hurt.”

Kurenai nodded in silent approval shortly before the two shinobi made there way out the door. Just before Iruka disappeared from view, the Hokage called out once more.

“I will see to it that Naruto’s results be reassessed immediately, I only hope he’s ready for what you’re putting him up to.” Iruka smiled and then nodded his head.

“I’ll personally ensure that Naruto gets the attention he deserves, even if it takes all the time and strength I have.”

With that, the chunin disappeared with Kurenai down the hallway, leaving a concerned old man to his wandering thoughts.

As the cheery sounds of laughing children sounded throughout the small academy playground, Naruto quietly sat on one of the swings, rocking himself in a gentle sway as the warm sunlight caressed his skin.

The boy tried desperately not to draw any attention to himself as he sat upon its small wooden frame alone. He felt so isolated and afraid without Iruka there to protect him from harm and knowing exactly why he was hated didn’t help him feel any better.

When the scarred chunin had told Naruto that he needed to see the Hokage the boy had begged for him to stay, not wanting to be left alone amongst others that might do him harm.

After some convincing on Iruka’s part, the boy reluctantly accepted and let the man go on his way. He knew it was important for his sensei to report his findings, for both Konoha’s sake and for Naruto’s own, but now he once again found himself exposed and vulnerable.

Ever since the Iruka taken him in, clothed him and shared his love with the boy, Naruto finally began to feel safe for the first time in his life. Now it was like his shield had been taken away from him once more, leaving him vulnerable and completely subjecting the boy to the cruel world around him. The youngster didn’t even have any friends to support him and spend his breaks with.

Despite all of this, Naruto desperately tried to find the courage to stay strong. He knew Iruka wouldn’t leave him alone for too long and it was only a matter of time before his sensei was back and he could feel safe again. He silently watched as his feet dangled aimlessly beneath him, allowing his painful thoughts to wander on the events of the previous night.

It was still a little overwhelming for the boy to learn that the Kyuubi was sealed inside him, to finally know why he had been abused his entire life and Naruto couldn’t help but feel the unfairness of it all.

Why was he the one that was left with no parents? Why was he the one that had a monster sealed inside of him? Why did the other children tease and bully him all the time while the adults stared at him with hateful eyes? Why was it always him?

Unfortunately, that wasn’t the only thing that bothered the boy. The results for the assessment exam were being posted in the hallway today and Naruto knew he would have obviously failed miserably. Once everyone learned that the dobe hadn’t passed, he would be subjected to even more name calling an bullying, not to mention the fact that the rest of his class would no doubt advance ahead while he would be forced to stay back for another six months.

He didn’t know if he could fit into a new class. It had taken a lot of time, but he was finally growing used to the group he was already in. Even though he was still hurt by their cruel taunts and snickers, some of them were still alright, while others even managed to ignored him all together.

Naruto’s thoughts were suddenly jarred when the end of their break was announced. The boy took a deep breath and mentally prepared himself for what would come and then reluctantly pulled himself off the safety of his swing and made his way back into the hallway, back into the dangers of those cruel stares that threatened him with there promise of pain and sadness.

As he made his way towards his classroom, he noticed a crowd forming around a post board on the side of the wall.

Many attentive eyes searched through the paper that had been pasted on the board, while curious whispers sounded throughout the air. Naruto stood on the tips of his toes, trying to see what all of the fuss was about. Although he was the shortest in his class, he somehow managed to gain view of the contents of the paper, but this only prompted the boy into a frown. It was the results for the assessment exams.

Naruto then fell back down onto the flats of his feat and slowly walked away. There was no point in looking for his own name, after all, they didn’t even show the names of those who failed. He was just about to give up any hope of mercy, when a sudden call drew his attention once more.

“Hey do you see that? The dobe actually managed to pass after all.”

Naruto’s heart suddenly jumped into his throat as his body froze into place, his shock overwhelming his body as the words nagged at his heart.

They… couldn’t be talking about him… could they?

He then quickly turned around on the spot and, after whipping his face of the evidence of his emotions, ran up to the board to look over it again. After squeezing his small body through the crowd that had gathered, trying not to touch those around him, he finally managed to gain access to the results sheet.

There, right near the bottom of the list, was his name ‘Naruto Uzumaki’. The boy almost had a heart attack as his mind translated one of the few words he recognized, his own name, while his eyes momentarily flared into a golden hew and then back again. However, despite his shock, he somehow managed to contain the overwhelming emotions that filled inside of him. He had passed… barely, but it was still a pass nonetheless.

‘But… how?’ Naruto thought quietly to himself ‘I’m sure I didn’t answer any questions’

An ember of hope finally reignited in Naruto’s tattered, worn out heart, breathing new life back into his dream of becoming a shinobi and proving his worth to those around him. The boy almost collapsed into tears on the spot, but he quickly reminded himself of his current location as well as the company present around him.

He then gathered what little strength he had to keep himself from falling and gently squeezed back out of the crowd again, before making his way back into the classroom while trying to absorb what had just occurred.

The boy didn’t even notice the stares and whispers of those around him as he walked back up to his sea, nor the eyes that continued to hold him in their stare. It was as though the entire world had blanked out completely, leaving only Naruto and his emotions behind. The blond plonked down into his chair with little thought or care and slouched over onto his desk. The substitute teacher that was covering for Iruka while the chunin was gone, walked into the class and cleared his throat to speak.

“Alright ladies and gentlemen, as I’m sure you are all aware the results for yesterday’s assessment exam have been released. All those who failed will be removed from their classrooms from tomorrow morning and will be registered into a new class to try again in six months. As for those who have passed, all I can say is congratulations. From tomorrow onwards, you will now start learning the more advanced forms shinobi conduct and combat skills, as well as some minor jutsu training as well. This will be a lot harder than what you’ve been accustomed learning so far and if any of you are still unsure about your ability to continue yet, you may submit a from to the academy to be held back for another six months for more preparation. All such forms need to be handed in by the end of today.”

The substitute teacher then turned to the door to see Iruka stepping inside. At the sight of his sensei’s return, Naruto’s face lit up like an exploding bonfire. His eyes began to shimmer in a golden hew as a sudden relief set into his racing heart. He was safe again. Just being in the same room as Iruka was enough to make the boy feel warm and protected. His eyes then returned to their normal shade and shifted to the dark haired woman that entered in behind him.

“Who is she?” He mumbled to himself, scowling at the thought of his sensei spending time with someone else.

When the said woman’s eyes shifted over in his direction, Naruto grew uncomfortable in his chair. Somehow he new that her gaze was specifically fixed onto his form, almost studying him like a one would study their prey.

Naruto sank into his seat and tried to ignore the woman’s glare while refocusing his gaze and watching as the substitute teacher bowed to Iruka, before being relieved of his duties to the class. Once the man was out of the room, the scarred chunin turned to his students began to speak.

“Alright class, I’ve got some good news for you all. The academy has decided to give you the rest of the day off in light of yesterday’s exam, so go home and take a well-deserved break. You’ll need it for tomorrow.”

A sudden cheer erupted around the classroom as the excited students burst from there seats to dart for the door. Before they got very far Iruka called out again.

“Oh… and don’t forget to tell your parents your results. I’m sure they’ll want to hear how you all did.”

The chunin couldn’t help the snicker that caught under his breath as a unanimous mumble of irritation reverberated amongst some of the leaving students causing him to grin in satisfaction. Naruto, however, simply waited quietly at his desk for the other kids to leave and then jumped out of his seat and ran down to the man waiting at the end of the class. The boy then leapt into his sensei’s arms and squeezed as tightly as he could, with no condemning eyes to witness the embrace.

“Iruka-sensei, I missed you so much! I was… a bit scared without having you here.” Iruka returned the tight hug, kneeling down to meet his student’s height.

“I was only gone for three hours Naruto. It wasn’t that bad was it?” The boy chuckled in response as if to shrug of his sensei’s words, but the relief Iruka felt emanating of his body told him that Naruto was in fact telling the truth. Naruto then quickly snapped into a big grin, remembering what he was so excited about telling the man.

“Did you hear Iruka-sensei, I passed the exam! I don’t know how but I actually managed to pass!”

Kurenai watched on in surprise as Iruka ruffled the blond’s hair in congratulations, gaining an innocent giggle and a few previously unshed tears of joy.

Was this the same boy that everyone had told her to watch out for? This kid, who was so fragile and desperate after being apart from Iruka for only a few moments?

The jounin quickly shook her head in silent frustration at the mere thought of it, realizing that she had been suckered by the misinformed words of her peers.

A few moments later, Naruto pulled out of the hug that had held him closely and then, realizing that the other woman was still standing there, quickly hid away behind Iruka’s body. The chunin then stood to his feat and looked down at the panicked eyes of his student.

“Um… Naruto, this is Kurenai.” Iruka announced carefully. “She’s going to help you deal with these…. new powers you seem to have.”

The scarred chunin tried to explain the reason for the chunin being there as lightly as he could, after all, he didn’t want to confuse the boy too much or scare him for that matter, but even despite that, Naruto’s eyes never lost their waver as he regarded the woman with a great deal of mistrust.

Kurenai, seeing the boy’s discomfort, knelt down in front of the timid blond and offered her hand with a smile.

“It’s… nice to meet you Naruto.” However, despite her attempts at gaining his approval, Naruto just pulled further back away from her, shielding himself behind Iruka’s protective form. The jounin could see the genuine fear in the child’s eyes as well as… something else however, before she could think on it, Iruka gave out a sigh then tried to reassure the boy of her good intensions.

“Hey kiddo, there’s no need to be afraid. You can trust Kurenai, she’s not going to hurt you.”

Naruto, however, remained unmoving and Iruka could feel the grip of fear that held the boy’s heart in place flowing through his touch. He could also feel Naruto’s body begin to tremble in the woman’s presence, signifying his obvious discomfort.

After a few moments of silence, Iruka finally slouched in defeat, realizing the obvious reason for the boy’s concern. He then walked the Naruto over to the door while Kurenai remained on her haunches, frozen in disbelief.

“Naruto, can you wait for us in the playground. I’ll be out in a minute, I just need to speak to Kurenai-sama alone for a moment.” Naruto reluctantly accepted, trusting his sensei’s promise to see him soon. He slowly walked down the hallway, only looking back to see his sensei smiling in reassurance.

Once the boy was gone from view, Iruka turned back to see a clearly stunned and slightly shaken Kurenai looking back at him.

“I… didn’t realize just how bad it is for him” She admitted with a guilty tone apparent in her voice.

“Those bastards! When I get my hands on those lying, deceitful, useless piles of… ugh! How could I have even listened to them!? I’m no better than the one’s that made Naruto’s life a living hell!” Iruka just walked up to the fuming jounin and put his hand on her shoulder.

“It’s… not your fault. Naruto isn’t this way because of anything you did. I think this whole incident with Mizuki has shaken Naruto’s ability to grow closer to other people. That bastard was one of his teachers, someone the boy should have been able to believe in and look up to. Now Mizuki’s betrayal has made Naruto question his own trust in others. I think I’m the only one he’ll allow himself to even make contact with any more. He’s probably too afraid that someone will use his own feelings against him if he allows them to touch him any more.”

Kurenai face began to fill with confusion.

“What… what do you mean by that? About someone touching him?” Iruka let go of his grip on the jounin’s shoulder and walked over to the door, opening it to go outside.

“I think it’s better if you found out for yourself, it’s not something I can easily explain. Come, let’s go see him together. Maybe if you two spend some time with one another he might open up to you, although I’m no longer sure if that’s even possible considering how he’s been treated.”

Kurenai took a deep breath and then followed Iruka out the door. She felt a terrible guilt weighing inside of her heart. How could this child suffer so much pain because of the narrow minded opinions of those fools around him, opinions that she herself had been influenced by much to her own disgust.

She could see that Naruto was slowly allowing himself to sink into an inescapable isolation and it wasn’t healthy for the boy to break his ties with the rest of the world. Kurenai silently vowed then and there that she would do everything in her power to help Naruto if it was in her capability to do so.

It was the least she could do to right the wrongs of those that made his life miserable.

A few minutes later saw the two shinobi slowly making their way out of the academy hallway, entering into the small playground where Naruto had been asked to wait. As the warm soft midday sunlight caught the two in it’s heated gaze, the young boy they had sworn to help slowly came into their view, swaying slowly on the protective wooden swing that he had always sat on during his school breaks.

Kurenai was afraid, in fact it was more accurate to say she was terrified. For the first time since becoming a jounin, she found herself questioning her own abilities and whether or not she would actually be able to do any good, but after seeing Naruto look up to them with fearful eyes at their approach, she reinforced her resolve with newfound determination.

She had to help Naruto, she had to right the wrongs he had lived with all his life, wrongs that she herself had been party to even if it was in an indirect way.

The young woman had never seen such terrified eyes as the ones she saw in the blond boy they were approaching and she was almost heartbroken at how afraid Naruto was just being near a stranger. Had Mizuki really done so much damage in a single act of betrayal, or was it just that Naruto’s heart was already too frail to defend itself from any more suffering.

Unfortunately the jounin already knew the answer to that question and she was beginning to understand why Iruka was so defensive over his student. The chunin didn’t want any corrupt hearts to even come near the boy, much less try to form a bond with him.

As the two shinobi approached the swing on which Naruto sat, Iruka slowly stepped up to the boy and knelt down in front of him. Naruto’s gaze locked with his sensei’s and Iruka took his hand into his own, rubbing it gently in reassurance.

“Naruto… I know you’re afraid about all of this. I know that what Mizuki did tested your trust in others but I need you to please work with me here. Kurenai is going to help you deal with these powers you have, but she can’t do anything if you don’t allow her to come close to you. Do you understand what I am trying to tell you?”

Iruka tried to feel for any emotions that would tell him what Naruto was feeling, however it did little to reassure his nerves. He could sense a hint of fear and confusion, but that soon turned to denial and mistrust.

“Iruka-sensei, I already trusted one person too much and look where that got me.” Naruto finally responded.

“I almost lost you, I almost lost the only person who ever loved me and now you just want me to do it all over again? How do I know she’s not going to hurt us as well?”

Kurenai watched in dismay as the boy’s eyes began to fill with panic. The words that fell from his lips stung deeply at the woman’s heart, cutting it apart like a jagged blade. She knew she wouldn’t have done anything like Mizuki, but it still didn’t help her feel any better about the situation. Iruka took a deep breath citing the youngster’s heavy words and continued to try win Naruto over.

“Look, Kurenai is not going to do anything to hurt you. I trust her and I know she feels bad about what happened to you. Please just try at least. I’ll be here the whole time and if you start to feel uncomfortable you just tell me and I’ll stop everything immediately. Is that alright with you?”

Naruto seemed to regard the man’s words carefully, and then finally released a heavy, anguished breath despite himself. He then spoke up once again, only this time in a near whisper.

“Alright… alright, but only if you promise to stop when I say so.”

Iruka nodded in approval and then offered Naruto his hand, before leading the still quivering boy up from the swing and over to Kurenai.

The young blond only did his best to follow nervously behind him, while still trying to use Iruka’s body as a shield from the woman’s gaze. Once they had reached the waiting Kurenai, Iruka stepped aside in order to allow her access to the child firmly attached to his side.

“Naruto… I need you to give Kurenai your hand please.” Naruto simply regarded the said woman with a great deal of fear and then looked up to his sensei once more, his eyes widening in surprise at the sudden  and unexpected request.

“But… why Iruka-sensei?” He stammered precariously. “I… I don’t know if she… It’s just that….”

Iruka, however, quickly placed his hand on Naruto’s shoulder to calm his nerves, while squeezing it in reassurance.

“I need you to do this because it’s the only way she can understand.” He offered gently. “Please Naruto, I won’t let anything happen to you, I promise.”

The said boy cringed in fear and then looked up to Kurenai again, who was clearly still was confused as to what exactly was going on, but a quick glance from Iruka prompted her into following his lead. The jounin then slowly knelt down in front of the boy and offered her hand.

“Naruto, I promise I wont hurt you. I just want to help.” Naruto took a deep gulp and looked up to his sensei again, as if silently pleading for his advice.

After one more reassuring nod on the chunin’s part, the boy looked into Kurenai’s eyes and then slowly held out his hand. He quickly pulled it back again in fear, half expecting something bad to happed, but then moved it out to meet hers again once he was certain of his safety.

His quivering hand eventually made its way to the nervous jounin’s own and slowly fell onto it with a light touch. Kurenai felt the boy’s shaking fingers press against her palm and then she gently closed her own hand around his to hold it in place.

They both simply stood there silently in the moments that followed, neither one moving for what felt like an eternity, until finally it happened. Kurenai’s eyes widened in surprise as a sudden rush of emotions filled into her unprepared heart and almost jumped at the unexpected feelings that coursed through her body.

At first she could feel confusion and panic, but it eventually ran into full-blown terror. She quickly looked up to Iruka once more, her eyes wavering in the evidence of her disbelief, who only nodded as if to answer an unspoken question on her part.

Kurenai then looked back into Naruto’s eyes once more and began to notice the shimmer of gold reflecting back at her. The boy’s face began to fall into a frown soon afterwards and tears slowly began to touch against his cheeks.

‘Are… are these his emotions? Is this his Naruto’s pain and fear that I’m feeling inside?’

There was so much fear, so much panic in Naruto’s heart, that it even brought the boy to tears. Kurenai silently cursed under her breath following such emotions, realizing just how much psychological damage the boy must had endured, especially if he couldn’t even touch a stranger without breaking apart completely.

Eventually, as if to honor a silent request on Naruto’s part, Kurenai finally released her grip on the boy’s hand and freed him from the fear that held him frozen in place. She then offered to back away and gave the boy some space, allowing Iruka the freedom to kneel down in front of him and embrace the boy in a reassuring hug.

“That was good Naruto.” He whispered gently, rubbing the youngster’s back in a soothing motion while easing the tension that still gripped his heart. “I’m so proud of you. That wasn’t so bad was it?”

Naruto simply continued to stand there silently, still shaking someone despite the comforting hold that enveloped him, however he still managed a brief nod despite himself.

After a few more moments of relief, Iruka finally pulled out from the embrace and then walked off to the side with an equally shaken Kurenai. Once they were a bit further away from Naruto, the two began to speak out of reach of his ears.

“So… judging by the look on you face I guess that means you felt it right?” Kurenai just nodded in conformation, trying to brush off the lingering emotions that still clung to her soul.

“What… what was that just now?” She mumbled, trying to discern what had just happened. Iruka just took a deep breath and then began to explain.

“The first time I felt it was the day Naruto had been kicked out of the orphanage.” He began solemnly. “I think it has something to do with his bloodline but I’m not entirely sure yet. Every time he’s exposed to prolonged contact with another person, his feelings and emotions seem to flow freely onto them.”

Kurenai, nodded her head in understanding. It did make sense after all and it was the only thing that would explain what she had felt right then. There was just one thing that was bothering her about all of this.

“But… if Naruto shares his feelings with others through prolonged touch, then why hasn’t anyone ever noticed this before? Surely by now someone should have realized that this was happening.” However, the jounin’s inquiry was only met with a discomforting frown on Iruka’s part.

“I asked myself the same question at first, but after spending some time with Naruto, the answer soon became painfully obvious. His feelings only begin to flow into the one touching him after a few seconds of exposure and I doubt Naruto has ever touched someone for that long before his first hug with me.”

The jounin listening couldn’t help as her eyes widened in shock at the man’s words. She didn’t want to here what Iruka had to say next, but he continued to explain nonetheless.

“Before two days ago, Naruto had never received a hug in his entire life. He had never been embraced or carried in another person’s arms. He had never even held the hand of someone that cared for him. The only time Naruto ever came into physical contact with another person’s touch was when their fists were crashing into him. That kind of cruel exposure never lasted more that a second at the most.”

Kurenai felt the tears begin to fall onto her cheeks as the man’s words continued to fill her with the bitter taste of remorse. She couldn’t believe what she was hearing. She couldn’t believe that someone could treat a poor boy so cruelly his entire life.

How had he even managed to survive this long in such absolute isolation?

“Now you know why.” Iruka confirmed bitterly. “This is why Naruto is so reluctant to allow others to touch him. I think that he’s picked up on the fact that this strange bond occurs. I think its because he can feel it as well as we can.”

“So… you mean it works both ways when he touches someone?” Iruka nodded his head in confirmation to the jounin’s question.

“Yes, I believe so. Sometimes when I get angry or upset while holding Naruto, he seems to become afraid or panicked in my arms. I have to be careful when I’m touching him, in case I do any more damage to his already broken soul.”

After a few more moments shared between the two, Kurenai let out a deep, tired breath, announcing the end of their assessment with a heavy sigh.

“Thanks Iruka.” She offered gratefully. “I know it must be hard to share this information with someone else but I assure you, this will stay between us and the Hokage. I won’t do anything to betray your trust.” Iruka’s eyes brought on a more grateful expression at the jounin’s words.

“I appreciate that… more than you could ever know. So then, are you ready to continue?”

Kurenai simply nodded, brushing off the last remnants of the emotions she felt, and then followed Iruka back to where Naruto stood.

Naruto quietly watched from the distance as the two older shinobi spoke out of reach of his ear. The boy couldn’t help but wander what they were saying to one another. This whole situation was scaring Naruto completely and he began to question whether it was such a good idea to agree with this in the first place.

Another thing that bothered him was how trusting Iruka seemed to be around this strange woman. He and Mizuki had been friends for a long time, but that still didn’t stop the silver haired chunin from turning on Iruka the first chance he got. Naruto had almost lost the most important person in his life last night and now he was worried that this… Kurenai was only there to steal him away again.

It wouldn’t have surprised the boy. All his life, everyone around him did everything in their power to see him miserable. What if this was all just a ploy to keep him from the one person that seemed to care?

Naruto quickly shook his head from side to side, trying to brush off the uneasy emotions he felt inside while clearing his mind of doubt.

“Iruka told me that he trusts her. He wouldn’t lie to me would he?” He mumbled quietly, trying to convince himself of their good intensions.

He was so confused, so hopelessly lost in everything that was happening. When he touched her, he could feel Kurenai’s panic and unease flowing into his heart as well and it made the woman’s motives that much more difficult to discern.

Was she afraid of him? No that wasn’t it, it was something else completely, like… concern almost and a bit of remorse.

This confused Naruto even more, but before his thoughts could find an answer in the depths of his own reasoning, the two shinobi that had inhabited his mind were already making their way back to where he was standing. The young boy quickly hid his emotions behind a quickly conceived mask and tried to look as natural as possible, but it didn’t help too much though, because Iruka could immediately notice the distressed look on the boy’s face.

Once the two had reached him, Iruka knelt down in front of Naruto once more and then began to speak softly.

“Naruto, If its alright with you, I’d us to continue working with Kurenai for now to find out what’s going on. Do you think you can do that for me?”

Naruto looked up to the said woman, locking with her gaze. Her eyes seemed to be begging for his acceptance. The then let out a deep sigh and nodded his head in silent approval.

‘Maybe I should give her a chance after all, but only for a little while.’ He thought quietly to himself.

Iruka quickly lit up into a grin following the youngster’s response and then stood from his haunches. Kurenai herself couldn’t contain her own smile as she delighted in the fact that he may start trusting her after all.

“Alright then, lets get started!”

A few hours had passed since Kurenai had began her evaluation of Naruto’s abilities and the boy had spent the better part of that time answering one question after another, first about the time in the orphanage when he had hospitalized his caretaker and the about the previous night during the incident with Mizuki.

It was painful for him  to once again recite the terrible events of those two nights, but a warm hand from Iruka kept Naruto from breaking apart on the spot. Every time the jounin would ask a particularly difficult question, she would cringe in discomfort as Naruto’s eyes sank deeper into sadness, shedding another held back tear, but she also knew that she had no other choice and that she had to learn as much as she could if there was to be any hope of discovering Naruto’s hidden abilities.

Once her investigation was complete and she had enough information to work with, the jounin moved onto the next step.

“Alright Naruto, I know that was hard but I’m grateful for your honesty.” She offered gently, praising Naruto for his bravery.

Kurenai then stood up from her seat on the grass and prompted the boy to do the same. A teary eyed Naruto slowly stood from the ground and followed her lead. “Iruka, if it’s alright with you, I’d like a moment alone with Naruto.”

Iruka looked down at the boy to gain his approval, to which Naruto nodded in silence. The chunin then made his way of the field and stepped inside the academy structure. He took one last look back to see if Naruto was fine and flashed a reassuring smile to calm the boy’s nerves.

Once he was out of view, Kurenai turned to back Naruto again before holding out her hand and offering it to the boy. Naruto took a deep gulp once again and then reluctantly accepted.

The jounin then led him  over to the nearby swings, before seating herself down on one of them and then prompting Naruto to sit next to her. The two of them just remained there in silence in the moments that followed, neither one talking as they swayed gently back and forth in the cool afternoon breeze.

Kurenai knew that before she could help Naruto, she would have to gain his trust and understanding, so she decided to give the two of them a moment to just grow comfortable in one another’s presence. She had to break through the shell that he had formed around his heart.

“He’s… a good person isn’t he?” The young woman finally offered, breaking the silence with gentle words.

Naruto simply regarded Kurenai with a confused expression, prompting her to explain.

“Iruka, I mean. He’s always been so kind to those around him. In all the time I’ve known him the man always did what he could to help others in need. He even stood up for you even when everyone else condemned you, even when… I condemned you. I wish I was more like that.” The small evidence of emotion then began to form in Kurenai’s own eyes, causing Naruto’s heart to fill with panic and concern as he saw the unmistakable pain in her gaze.

The woman then slowly stepped off her seat and knelt in front of the blue eyed boy beside her, before taking a hold of both of his hands and holding them firmly in her own, stroking her thumbs over them in a soothing comfort.

“I… I’m so sorry about all of this.” She whispered softly. “I was just the same as everyone else. I never knew what kind of pain you were going through, but instead of trying to find the truth I just assumed the worst. This is the only way I can make things up to you so… I need you to let me help.”

Naruto could feel the sincerity flowing from Kurenai’s touch. He couldn’t detect any deceit or hatred in her heart, but even still the lingering dread that clung firmly to his heart remained regardless.

He wanted to trust Kurenai, he wanted to hug her and tell her that he forgave her, but his heart was warning him not to get to close lest he was burned again as he had been before. He couldn’t allow anyone else to gain advantage of his emotions any more, no matter how sincere they appeared to be.

Kurenai, noticing the feelings of confusion emanating of Naruto’s touch, slowly released her grip around his hands and again and withdrew from his touch, as if to respect his emotions. However, the soft words that followed soon afterwards, caught her by surprise as the fell from his lips.

“It’s… alright…”

The red-eyed jounin quickly looked up in surprise as she heard the near whisper of Naruto’s words reach her ears.

“I… I don’t blame you for what happened.” The boy continued solemnly. “It’s just that…”

“I know…” the jounin cut him off. “I understand how you feel and I don’t expect for you to ever fully trust me. I just want you to trust me enough to help you through this problem. After that, you can decide whether or not you ever want to see me again.”

Naruto nodded his head in understanding and then stood from the swing.

“Alright… just tell me what you need me to do.”

In response to his cooperation Kurenai gave out a deep sigh of relief, trying to contain the hidden joy she felt inside, before speaking once more.

“Okay then Naruto, the first thing I need you to do is to try and remember how you activated your abilities. I need you to repeat everything you did on those two nights.”

Naruto tried to do everything as Kurenai had suggested, but the more he attempted to reenact what happened, the more he felt like he would never be able to do it. The jounin herself just continued to watch on in quiet anticipation as the boy slowly tried to call on the same feelings and emotions that had triggered the attack on his assailants, but she began to realize that he would never be able to forcefully resurface those emotions again.

After a few more minutes of failed attempts, the woman began to grow desperate. She knew she had only one choice left, and it wasn’t one she wanted to resort to. Kurenai bit the top of her lip and cringed at the thought of what she was about to do, trying prepare herself for the pain she was about to see in Naruto’s eyes.

“I knew it!” She began harshly, gaining the boy’s attention.

“I guess those guys at the orphanage were right about you after all. Maybe you deserved everything that happened to you.”

Naruto took a frightened step backwards as the bitter words sank into his heart, his eyes instantly filling with panic and grief. The mere sight of his confusion an fear caused Kurenai to yelp under her breath despite herself, but she quickly managed to hide her mistake from the boy’s view. She couldn’t allow Naruto to see her true feelings just yet and she had to keep up the act despite how it tore at her heart.

“B… but I thought you….”

“You thought wrong!” Kurenai cut the choking boy off. “I can’t believe Iruka would take on a useless pile of trash like you, I mean what was he thinking?”

Naruto’s eyes began to flood with tears as the woman’s words continued to tear away at his soul, but even then, despite his fear, he couldn’t help the anger that began to take hold of him.

“D… don’t say that about Iruka sensei. He’s the only one who ever cared about me. You don’t know anything!”

Naruto’s sobs grew even louder than before as his cries of defense whispered across the afternoon air. Kurenai noticed a brief flash of gold flicker in his eyes and realized she was getting closer to her goal, she only needed to push him a little bit further.

“How could that idiot love you? If he’s that stupid, then perhaps you two deserve each other after all. Iruka’s nothing but a useless, ignorant man who doesn’t even…”

“STOP IT!!!” Naruto cut her off. “STOP SAYING THOSE THINGS ABOUT IRUKA-SENSEI!!!

Suddenly Naruto’s eyes were completely enveloped in a shining hue. His once blue orbs now shone a pure, defiant gold and locked into Kurenai’s own astonished gaze with their convicting stare.

The young woman instantly felt a sudden rush of excruciating pain and grief fill into her entire body thereafter, crippling her completely as her muscles began to collapse under her in agony. She tried desperately to fight against it, raising her trembling hands together to release the genjutsu before she was completely consumed by it.

If it wasn’t for her jounin endurance to pain she would have never been able to bear the agony, but even still it took all of her willpower just to at all. Her trembling hands slowly clamped together soon afterwards, followed by desperate cry as she called out in panic.

“Kai!!!”

A sudden surge of chakra erupted throughout the jounin’s body following her call, disrupting her own flow of chakra in order to release the genjutsu’s hold, but nothing happened and the pain just continued to fill around her.

“Why can’t I….”

Kurenai’s thoughts were abruptly flooded with raw emotions, causing her agonized body to collapse onto one knee despite her efforts to fight against it. She tried to keep herself from falling into unconsciousness altogether and quickly looked up to see the golden eyed boy staring back at her, her eyes pleading for him to stop.

Naruto, however, seemed to be desperately lost in a trance, completely unaware of what was happening right in front of him. After struggling against the suffocating pain that held her paralyzed, Kurenai tried to call out to him with all her strength, to get him to release his crippling hold.

“N… N…. Naruto! Please… stop!!”

Suddenly, the boy’s eyes returned to their normal blue shade and his mind quickly snapped back into reality. The trembling form of the crippled jounin in front of him caught his panicked gaze soon afterwards, prompting him to mumble in surprise.

“K… Kurenai?! W…. what’s happening to you?”

However, Kurenai simply couldn’t answer. Her body was still held in the dreadful agony that crippled her and tears were now streaming down her cheeks. Naruto, realizing that he had caused all of this pain, quickly ran up to the woman and threw his arms around her.

“I… I’m sorry! I didn’t mean to do it! I never wanted to see someone in this kind of pain again!”

At the instant of Naruto’s touch, Kurenai’s body began to relax again, calming under the emotions that rushed from Naruto’s embrace. The young boy began to cry on her shoulders moments later, wallowing in the guilt of causing someone else so much harm.

“I’m sorry… I’m sorry. I’m sorry…” He continued to mumble over and over.

The jounin trapped in his hold couldn’t believe what she was hearing in amongst Naruto’s sobs. Despite all the pain she just put the boy through, he was still apologizing to her as if he was the one to blame. She quickly moved her recovering arms around his small body and rocked him in her embrace.

“Sshhh… don’t cry Naruto, it’s not your fault. I’m the one that caused all of this.”

Kurenai then stroked Naruto’s back in a similar manner she had seen Iruka do so only moments before, trying to lessen his sobs and ease the guilt she felt flowing out of him. After a few more minutes had passed, she then pulled back from the hug and gained Naruto’s eyes.

“I’m so sorry Naruto. I didn’t mean any of those things I said, but there was just no other way for me to help you. Can you… can you ever forgive me?”

Naruto could feel Kurenai’s honesty flowing into his body and he knew she was being sincere in her words. He slowly began to lessen his tears and wiped his eyes, before nodding his head in understanding.

Although it was painful for him to hear those words, he realized that she was only trying to help him. After receiving the boy’s silent response, the jounin stood up to her feet again, trying to shake off the images that reeled through her mind, and grabbed Naruto’s quivering hand once more.

“Come… lets go see your sensei. I’m sure you could use a hug from him as well and I’ll bet he’s worried about how you’re doing.”

Naruto gave a teary nod of approval and followed in Kurenai’s stead as her hand guided him back the academy hallways. He didn’t know why, but the boy suddenly trusted her not to harm him. Somehow he had seen something inside of her when he caught her in his gaze, something that told him that she really did care for him as much as she said. It was the same type of thing he saw when he looked into the eyes of his abusive warden.

The two slowly made their way off the field hand in hand while Kurenai went through what had just happened in her mind. Whatever Naruto had attacked her with, she wasn’t able to stop it at all, even after forcing chakra into her own body. Only Naruto’s touch seemed to break its impossible hold over her.

Kurenai had no doubt that if he hadn’t intervened, she would have probably also ended up in hospital as well. The jounin was beginning to wonder if it really was, in fact, a genjutsu she had been hit with. She silently promised herself that she would never subject Naruto to that kind of pain again. Now that she had a small clue on his abilities, she was that much closer to discovering Naruto’s secret and helping the boy deal with the powers he had deep inside.

The last remnants of the warm Konoha sunlight slowly wisped away beyond a glowing horizon, holding in its diminishing gaze the silhouetted figures of three somewhat uncomfortable souls. Naruto’s small feet shuffled through the dusty street bellow him has he walked home with his two defenders at his sides, hiding him from the cruel stares from the villagers around him.

Kurenai began to feel the same kind of protective urge flow over her that she knew Iruka felt as well. She wouldn’t allow a hand to fall on the boy that she was now growing to understand and accept. This was her vow, her promise, and she would see it through until her last dying breath.

The boy in question carefully hid behind the two every time a villager would walk past, wincing in fear as their eyes followed his form. He knew they hated him, he knew that they would try to hurt him if they ever got the chance. He quickly pulled up against Iruka’s side and allowed the chunin’s arm to fall over his back.

Naruto just needed to feel the comforting emotions coming from his sensei’s touch, while allowing its soothing hold to ease his fears. It was the only thing that kept the boy from breaking apart under the cruel stares of those around him. Kurenai looked over the two with a saddened heart, cringing at the fact that the boy had to go through such lengths just to feel safe. It wasn’t fair for such a young soul to be condemned to such a fate and soon the jounin found herself tensing up inside with a dreadful anger.

Iruka himself couldn’t help but feel slightly uncomfortable knot form in his stomach as they made there way through the darkening streets. When he saw Naruto and Kurenai walking back into the academy a few minutes earlier, he could see the distress etched on both of their features.

The fact that they walked in together hand in hand completely baffled the chunin as well. What exactly happened out there between the two to create such an unusual situation? The chunin, however, shrugged off his thoughts on the matter, knowing that he’d have the chance to ask Kurenai later.

Right now, he had to concentrate on the boy beside him. It had been a long day for Naruto and was no doubt by now exhausted.

As the chunin looked down at the young blond boy next to him, an enticing idea suddenly popped into his mind. He decided then and there that he would hold a little dinner in celebration of Naruto passing his exams.

He could imagine it already. The glowing smile on Naruto’s messy cheeks and the wondrous blue eyes that showed his approval for food, Iruka inwardly giggled at the thought of it, and he knew just what kind of meal the boy would want.

He also wanted Kurenai to come as well. He wanted her to see Naruto smile and be happy, to see the glow on his face and the reward it held for one’s heart. The only thing she had seen so far was his sadness and fear. She had never experienced he joy that could flow from his grin and the warmth it made one feel inside.

Iruka’s lifting thoughts were momentarily jarred as they finally arrived outside the small house near the edge of the village. Kurenai looked almost disappointingly over at her two companions and then smiled in despondence.

“So… I guess I’ll see you two tomorrow then?” The jounin looked down to Naruto’s face as if to gain the boy’s approval. She was still afraid that he wouldn’t trust her any more, especially after what happened between them a few moments earlier.

Her heart was put at ease, however, when the boy allowed an approving nod followed by his own brief smile. It warmed her heart to know that he was finally beginning to trust her, even if only a little.

“Alright then… I’ll see you two after school.” Just as Kurenai turned to walk away, Iruka called out to her with a small yelp catching in his voice.

“Wait, Kurenai…”

The jounin immediately stopped in her tracks and turned to face a blushing Iruka. The chunin had ‘shoot me’ written all over his face, but he still somehow managed to find the words he was looking for.

“Um… I just wanted to know… well I was wondering… um, if you wanted to join us for dinner?”

Both Naruto and Kurenai stared at the red-faced chunin in complete shock, causing him to sweat under the increasing pressure of their gaze.

“Y… you know…” He continued uneasily. “… to celebrate Naruto passing his exam and all.”

Naruto just rolled his eyes in disbelief. He didn’t have to be touching Iruka to know the man was falling apart in his shoes, but even still he could feel the man’s unease flowing from his touch. Kurenai however, just gave off another gentle smile and then nodded in approval.

“Sure thing… I’d love to join you two. That is… if it’s alright with Naruto.”

Both of the shinobi stared down at the blond, waiting for his approval. When he gave it in the form of a grin, Iruka felt his heart begin to relax, slowing down the blood flow that rushed to the chunins glowing face. “Great!” He promptly walked up to the entrance to his house and opened the door for Kurenai and Naruto to enter inside.

Once everyone was through the door, they removed their footwear at the entrance and then made their way into the comfort of the living room. Iruka prompted the other two to sit down on the sofas and relax while he got the food ready. He quickly disappeared into the kitchen, leaving the other two alone together. Once he was out of view, they both just sat there in an uncomfortable silence, neither knowing what to say to one another.

Naruto didn’t even seem to know how to handle these kinds of awkward situations because soon the boy’s face was once again falling into an uncomfortable frown. Kurenai watched with interest as the young boy slowly twiddled his thumbs together, almost seeming to try and find any words to break the deafening silence. It was clearly obvious that the years of solitude in the orphanage had hampered the boy’s ability to start a simple conversation, so instead Kurenai spoke up first instead.

“So… those eyes of yours looked really incredible today. I’ve never seen anything like them before in my entire life.”

The jounin’s words seemed to immediately spark Naruto’s interest because the boy’s face quickly shot up to meet her, instantly losing the frown for a more fascinated expression.

“Really… what did they look like? What did you see?”

Kurenai giggled at the boy’s pleading expression, his face was filled with both wonder and excitement, something that she hadn’t seen in Naruto until right now.

“Well… they shone like pure gold for one thing, the purest gold I’ve ever seen. They even matched your hair colour a little bit more.” Naruto’s eyes lit up in complete amazement as he tried to imagine what Kurenai described.

“Wow! That’s so cool! I wish I could see what they looked like!”

“Well…” Kurenai responded. “Once you learn how to control it properly, I guess you could look at your reflection in the mirror and see for yourself.”

The truth is, the way Naruto’s eyes looked were more than what Kurenai could explain at the time. She could see something else when she looked into the boy’s golden orbs, something that seemed almost… supernatural. She couldn’t find the words to describe it, but the jounin knew that they weren’t anything like the other doujutsu she had seen before. Before Kurenai could think on it any longer, Iruka made his way back into the room with three bowls of food on his tray.

He was happy to notice the relaxed and somewhat excited look on Naruto’s face as the boy turned to see him. It seemed as though he was growing a lot more comfortable around Kurenai, despite their short time together. The chunin was beginning to wonder if it had anything to do with what happened at the academy. “Well, it’s good to see these happy faces” he sighed as he made his way over towards the two.

Iruka grinned in satisfaction as he handed out the bowels of food. He knew Naruto would like what they were having and true to his expectations, the chunin gained an instant chuckle of excitement from the blond when the boy realized that they would be eating ramen for dinner tonight.

Kurenai herself managed a smile as she watched Naruto gleefully dig into his new favorite food while slurping a barely audible ‘thank you’ to his sensei. Iruka then sat down himself and began to eat his own steaming meal. There wasn’t a single word to be said as the three of them sat there in silence, with only Naruto’s slurps breaking through the seemingly endless quiet.

It was enough for the two older shinobi to just watch the boy smiling as he finished off the bowel with little effort.

“Thanks Iruka-sensei!” Naruto announced gratefully. “Your ramen almost tastes as good as Ichiraku’s!”

The man simply nodded his head in response and flashed a warm smile. Of course it wasn’t long before the blond was downing another fresh helping, happily grinning away as he ate. Kurenai was completely astonished by how much food managed to disappear into such a small body.

‘Is that a part of his bloodline as well?’ She mused quietly to herself, before giggling at her own personal thoughts.

After they had all finished their well-prepared meals, Naruto assisted Iruka in carrying the dishes to the sink and once again helped him wash them in the warm soapy water. Kurenai watched quietly from the doorway as the two playfully splashed one another with foam, her face lighting up every time Naruto giggled in happiness with the white bubbles running down his whiskered cheeks.

This was a different Naruto to the one she had seen earlier. This boy was happy in the protective comfort of his own home where no cruel eyes could shatter his soul. The jounin watching could now see just how loving Iruka was around and quietly mused how good of a father he would make for the child. Once the two ‘boys’ were done playing with the foaming water, Iruka helped Naruto dry his hands and then led the boy to his room.

Their jounin guest followed them down the hallway and continued to look on with a heart-warming smile as she watched Iruka tuck Naruto under his blankets. She was almost brought to tears by how easily the blond found so much happiness in such simple acts of love.

The young man that had made it all happen sat quietly next to the boy’s bed and stroked his back in a soothing comfort, lulling him into the ever present grip of sleep. As Naruto’s eyes slowly fell closed and his breathing began to steady, the chunin leaned over to whisper one last time into the boy’s ear.

“Naruto… I’m so proud of you for today. You’re a great kid and I’m sure your parents would be happy to see what you’ve achieved.”

Naruto yelped at the sound of his sensei’s words, his eyes shooting back open to reveal the shimmer of gold that had since enveloped them. He then turned onto his back and looked up to see the loving eyes that stared back at him, before throwing his arms around the chunin and pulling him down into a rather awkward hug.

“T… thanks Iruka sensei, thanks for everything.”

The chunin then gave Naruto one last squeeze goodnight and then walked out towards the doorway where Kurenai was silently watching, leaving Naruto to his new found dreams. Once he stepped outside, he gently closed the door behind him and then looked over to the woman that held him in her stare.

“You’re really good with him you know.” She offered sincerely. “I can see why he loves you so much.”

Iruka began to smile even more at that, walking with Kurenai as the two made their way back into the living room. Once they had both sat down again, Iruka began to speak his thoughts.

“You know, when he first moved in here, he was so happy to finally have a home that he accidentally called me ‘dad’.”

The dark haired chunin chuckled slightly at the memory of what he was explaining, but it was more of an empty chuckle than anything else.

“I guess…. I guess the excitement of moving into a new house had really gotten to him.”

Kurenai, however, simply looked over to the scarred chunin, regarding him uncomfortably as his face slowly fell back into a frown. He almost seemed… disappointed in himself for some short falling on his part.

“Are… you sure what Naruto said was accidental?” She inquired carefully. “Or are you just afraid of the implications of his words?” Iruka flinched in surprise at that, looking over to the red-eyed jounin as she spoke to him.

“I… it’s just that… I’m not sure I have what it takes to give Naruto the life he deserves. I don’t know if I can be a father that he can look up to, one that he can be proud of. In case you haven’t noticed, I haven’t exactly achieved anything special in my life.”

Kurenai walked up from her own chair and sat down next to the slouching man. She slowly rested her hand on his shoulder and gained his eyes with her own reassuring gaze.

“I think you’d make an excellent father. There is no one in this village that can give Naruto a better life than you can. I can see it on his face when he’s around you. He is truly happy when he’s being held in your arms. You’ve achieved more than you could possibly imagine. To make a child happy and to love them, if that isn’t the pinnacle of one’s achievements then I don’t know what is.” Iruka blinked his eyes in surprise and then allowed himself to smile.

“Thanks, I really appreciate it.”

“It’s only the truth.” Kurenai responded, gaining another blush from the chunin. “Most kids would be ecstatic to have a loving father like you.”

The two sat there in another moment of awkward silence thereafter, thinking on the words shared between them, until Iruka began to speak once more.

“So… what exactly happened between you and Naruto while I was inside the academy? I mean, when you came back he looked a little bit panicked. You didn’t look so great yourself for that matter.” Kurenai’s face took on a more saddened expression. What she was about to tell Iruka would hold a lot of weight for the chunin to bear.

“Iruka, there’s something I need to tell you. I know this may upset you but I only hope you can find it in your heart to understand.” The scarred chunin took a deep, dreaded gulp. He didn’t like the sound of where this was going. “Today, while we were outside together… I… I managed to activate Naruto’s bloodline. I did it in a terrible way that I know I shouldn’t have and I’m not proud of that fact. I… I’m sorry.”

Iruka’s expression quickly fell into a frown.

“You… you upset him didn’t you?” He growled firmly. “You hurt him in order to force him into activating it.”

Kurenai gave a guilty nod, causing Iruka to scowl in disapproval. He then stood up from the chair and began to pace in frustration.

“I can’t believe you would do something like that! I trusted you enough to be alone with him and this is what you go and do! Do you have any idea what kind of pain he has to deal with, just for you to go and bring all those hurtful emotions up again?!”

“Yes… I do actually!” Kurenai cut him off, glaring back at the fuming sensei with hardened eyes. Iruka paused in surprise, wondering what the jounin meant by her words. He then slowly seated himself down on the nearby chair, before calming himself down and waiting quietly for her to explain.

“You… you were right after all.” She began, her voice once again growing calm.

“Naruto’s bloodline is a doujutsu and a powerful one at that. When he looked into my eyes, it was like I could feel all the pain and sadness that he had accumulated inside.”

Tears then began to form in the jounin’s eyes as she desperately tried to recount what she had experienced.

“It… it was like I was Naruto. It felt like I was in his battered body, feeling all of his pain and grief. I could see all the hateful eyes around me, staring at me with all the cruelty they could muster and when… when…” Iruka quickly moved over to sit next to the sobbing woman, placing his hand on her shoulder in comfort.

“When they started… beating him… It was like I was the one being hurt. Every single blow, every curse they spat and all the tears he cried… I felt it all. I don’t think I could ever forget the memories of what I experienced, it was all just to terrible for words to describe.”

Kurenai began to break down in Iruka’s arms, crying in his shoulders as the pain of those awful memories flowed through her mind. She couldn’t understand how a young boy like Naruto had survived so long after all that torture, how he still managed a glowing smile even though those memories haunted his soul.

How could he live with the same pain that had brought a jounin to her knees in tears in a matter of seconds?

After a few minutes of quiet sobbing, Kurenai eventually pulled out Iruka’s arms and then wiped away her tears. They both sat in complete silence for a while, staring into each other’s eyes, before Iruka finally began to speak again, this time in a near whisper.

“So… what was it like?”

Kurenai looked over to the scarred chunin in confusion, her eyes still recovering from the tears she shed.

“His eyes, I mean. I’ve seen them change every now and again. They keep flashing gold whenever he gets excited or upset. What did you see Kurenai?”

The said woman tried to think about her answer. How could she explain something she didn’t fully understand herself? The words just came out in the only way she could form them.

“His eyes… they were beautiful.” She spoke softly, her thoughts lingering on the breathtaking gaze that had momentarily stolen her soul.

“I’ve never seen anything like it before. When he looked at me, it was like staring into the gaze of heaven itself. Of course, I never really had much time to look properly, because soon after that all hell broke loose.” Iruka nodded in understanding, trying to picture everything that she was describing.

“So, was it a genjutsu that he used on you?” Kurenai shook her head.

“No, I don’t think so. All of my experiences with genjutsu so far tell me that this definitely wasn’t one. Normally, a genjutsu disrupts a persons chakra pathways, manipulating its  flow to the brain in order to cause the person’s mind to start hallucinating. What they see and feel when under those effects are all just illusions that may cause psychological damage, but otherwise have no actual physical effect on the body. This, however, was completely different.”

“Different how?” Iruka asked curiously, trying to coerce the jounin to continuing.

“Well, when someone is caught in a genjutsu, they should be able to release it by forcing chakra through their bodies in order to disrupt the illusion or have someone else do the same. When I tried that, it was like it had no effect at all. Whatever this attack was, it wasn’t affecting my chakra flow in any noticeable way, but it wasn’t completely physical either. Whatever pain I was feeling, whatever emotions flowed through my body, it was all definitely real. This was no illusion or genjutsu and I’m not even sure if there is anything I can classify it as at this point in time.”

Iruka tied to absorb everything that Kurenai was telling him, but she looked just as confused about it as he felt. The closer they seemed to be getting to the answers of Naruto’s bloodline, the more elusive the mystery became. After Kurenai had explained everything she knew, Iruka slowly stood from his seat and closed his eyes in thought.

“We’ll have to spend more time together with Naruto if we’re ever going to figure this out. I’ll inform the Hokage of our progress as soon as possible. In the mean time I’d like you to continue your investigation into the effects of Naruto’s doujutsu. You know more about its capabilities than anyone else at this point in time.” Kurenai looked up in surprise.

“You mean… you’re still going to allow me to go near him after everything I did?” Iruka slowly nodded in confirmation.

“Although I don’t like the way you handled things, I do understand you were only trying to help Naruto and besides, he seems to trust you as well and that counts for a lot in my books.” Kurenai then stood up as well and gave a grateful nod to the chunin.

“Thanks Iruka, I promise I won’t disappoint you or Naruto. I’ll head of to the library tomorrow morning. Maybe they’ll have some information on these eyes of Naruto’s. After that I’ll come over to the academy and we can continue our evaluation.”

The chunin gave his approval, to which Kurenai gave out a relieved sigh.

“Well then… I guess I should be going home now. We’ll need our rest for tomorrow if we’re to be at our best.” The jounin finished, before turning to walk over to the door. However, before she could get far, Iruka placed his hand on her shoulder, stopping her in her tracks.

“Wait Kurenai, its getting very late outside and we’ve had a very long day. After what happened to you I don’t feel comfortable leaving you home alone. I think it would be better if you slept here tonight. I have a spare bedroom that you can use if you like?”

Kurenai smiled and then turned to face Iruka again. She really was tired and the chunin did have a point.

“Sure thing… that sounds great.”

Iruka couldn’t help but smile in light of her response. He then led the exhausted jounin over to her room and then, after making sure she was comfortable, slowly made his way to his own. The tired chunin quickly flopped into the warm embrace of his bed soon afterwards, allowing his thoughts to wander once more as they usually did while he lay there each night.

The new academy training would be starting tomorrow and he had to help Naruto catch up to the rest of his class. He couldn’t break his promise to the blond boy that had now become like a son to him. They had to gain a handle on this doujutsu he was displaying otherwise the long term consequences may be severe.

Well, that is it for this chapter. I hope you enjoyed!

~ by Tenrai Senshi on July 30, 2009.

4 Responses to “Eyes of the Broken Soul- Chapter 4”

  1. Enjoyed it?

    Enjoying it is an understatment my wothyness friend.

    That was the most awesome fanfic i ever read. I actually teared up and some of the parts in the story.
    You diffenently have the unbound talent to go very far with this.

    I look forward to your next chapter.

    Oh and Btw

    FIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIRST!!!!!!!!! hehe

  2. such a long fanfic… anyways, very nice! i like how it’s good, but why so long? >_> oh, well. i guess i got to deal with it. -_-
    lol! i guess i’m second. >_<

  3. i never knew this was out! >.~<

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