Ophelia is Konoha's newest Jinchuriki
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Minato Namikaze was many things. The fourth Hokage. A hero of the third ninja war. The first ninja in history to ever earn a flee-on-sight rating from a major nation. A loving husband, a proud father, a sealmaster, and much more. But right now, more than anything, he was exhausted; it had taken everything he had to match that masked man without allowing Naruto or Kushina to be harmed when they couldn't move, much less defend themselves, and a fair few things he didn't to defeat the most powerful of the Biju without letting Konoha be crushed as collateral damage. Even with all that, it wasn't quite enough. Rather than his own strength suppressing the monster, that task had fallen to Kushina and her adamantine sealing chains, never mind that she was halfway into the grave herself. It wouldn't hold the fox long, of course, but it would have to be enough for him to imprison it in someone else.

"It's too powerful for a child. It was nearly too powerful for me, and I was much older than he is - old enough to know what I was getting into, and to be prepared for it."

"He's our kid, Kushina. I know he can handle it - I already know he can handle anything he puts his mind to, and the new seal is much more secure than yours was. It won't require active upkeep and constant willpower from him to keep the fox controlled like you did, not while he's young - if he decides he wants to loosen the seal when he's older so he can use more of the fox's power, Jiraiya will have the key. I'll leave it with the toads."

"Minato, I love you, you dork. And if I didn't have to give everything I have to hold this furry asshole down right now I would kiss you for it. But trust me on this one - I have more practice restraining the fox than anyone alive, and I'm an adult ninja, and it's still taking everything I have just to keep this bastard pinned. If there's anything wrong with the seal, even just some minor error we overlooked, you're asking a impossible task of a child to not let him loose. We need an active ninja; even if they're not an Uzumaki, it'll still be safer. Damnit, where's auntie Tsunade when you need her?"

"I hardly think what Senju-hime needs is more power to throw around while drunk."

Minato begins to laugh at his own joke, then aborts halfway through, wincing in pain from the burns inflicted by the Biju's caustic chakra during their clash. Then he starts, as though thinking of something brilliant.

"I've got it. I'll have the shinigami rip the fox in half. I'll take the yin half with me to the grave, and we'll put the yang half in Naruto. That way, it'll be somewhat more manageable for him to deal with!"

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"That's the stupidest idea I've ever heard, Minato, and I've known you for over two decades now. But as much as I hate to say it, that might actually work. Better take the yang half with you, though; his Uzumaki heritage will give him plenty of physical energy, more than he'll know what to do with really, and it'll let him balance out whatever effect the fox has. Doubling up just means he'll constantly have to struggle with hyperactivity."

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"See, this is why I need you; you were always way smarter about this kind of thing. You're right, as always - I'll make sure to do that."

"Sealing Technique: Reaper Death Seal!"

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And so it was that the Yondaime Hokage perished, leaving behind only his child to their fate as the village's latest human sacrifice. But unbeknownst to him - or, indeed, anyone - his last minute decision would have long lasting effects he could never have predicted...

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And some that were regrettably straightforward.

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In hindsight, it was perhaps woefully naive to assume that it would be sufficient to just swear Konoha's ninja force to secrecy on the subject of Naruto's status as a Jinchuriki and let it be known that any sharing of this information or resulting mistreatment would be punished to the full extent of Konoha's military law. Oh, it certainly had its advantages - making that the poorly held secret of Naruto Uzumaki all but completely drowned out any speculation on his parentage, and the draconian punishments he used when making an example of anyone caught made people extremely loath to even discuss the matter with anyone they didn't completely trust. In that sense, it was a masterstroke of counterintelligence that more than lived up to all the hopes he and Danzo had of it - to this day, he was almost completely certain no other nation's intelligence arms had put together the truth of Naruto's parentage. Certainly Iwa had not, as was made abundantly clear by the lack of relentless assassination attempts. And by punishing those who discriminated against the child, they had inculcated a sufficient degree of toeing the line that they didn't face any serious efforts to smother him in his sleep or drive him out on the streets. But the secret itself had not been kept to the Shinobi told, passed in whispered conversations and changing hands behind closed doors and told to those close, relatives and friends and lovers, until scarcely any in the village were not aware of which child had the fox sealed within them. And in terms of attitude... the inhabitants of Konoha had become experts at fulfilling the minimum required of them and not an iota further.

Those in charge of his raising at the orphanage certainly made sure he was fed, twice a day, and his diapers changed sufficiently often he was not marinating in his own excrement. They devoted the required amount of time to teaching him literacy, and did not lock him away in any enclosed space or "forget" about him. But there was not a single iota of warmth to be found from anyone there, because they couldn't make a rule about that, and there was scarcely anywhere in Konoha he could face a warmer reception. Mikoto Uchiha had offered to raise the boy, but he had had to shoot that down - even if the other clans could have been persuaded to tolerate the Uchiha having custody of the Kyuubi Jinchuriki after the suspicion they faced about the attack, outsiders being raised in that clan were sufficiently rare that it would draw far more attention to the boy from foreign agents than he could possibly survive. Jiraiya had promptly all-but fled the village upon his student's death, and Kakashi had thrown himself into the depths of Anbu, leaving him as the only one available with any measure of personal connection to the child. And he... Hiruizen was immensely busy, the task of being Hokage an enormous undertaking even before his first retirement, and he scarcely had any time to spend with his own children and grandchildren. Parents steered their children away from Naruto, or took them home if ever he went somewhere to play; his fellow orphans picked up their attitudes from their caretakers, and did not limit themselves to simply not being kind. And the shops, stalls, and pedestrians of Konoha were ever willing to find fault in his every action.

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So she learns that she must not be Uzumaki Naruto.  (She's not sure she ever wanted to be him, anyway.)

She finds small places of safety and loneliness, because you can't be rejected that way.  (It is not locking her away if she closes the door herself.)

She watches.  She learns.  (That the thing that hurts the most is the care she'll never receive.)

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One day, she asks the constant presence in her soul a question, after her morning inquiry is met with the usual growl of frustration-anger-resentment and wanting out like a trapped beast.  Which...well.  That's just true.  She can't do anything about it, though.  Hokage-sama and all the sneaky ninjas with the animal masks won't let her.  And she thinks something's wrong with the blank ones.  So she's not going anywhere near them.

Anyway she has a question for the fox.

<...Are you a kitsune?>

<'cause if you're a kitsune I might have an idea for something.  And maybe we can make things suck less for ourselves.  Please?>

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"Am I a Kitsune? Tell me, brat, what do you think?"

She's in front of a cage, with immense, sturdy metal bars that somehow still seem totally inadequate for containing what's on the other side. It's enormous, so big it's hard to get a sense of scale, and its voice is like the thunderclaps, the nine tails behind it swirling almost hypnotically - but right now all that attention is focused on her, and even through the barrier she can tell it hates.

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The tiny child looks at the creature her village calls a monster.

...She doesn't really quite believe them that it is, despite herself.

"...You have nine tails.  You're fox-shaped.  But kitsune aren't 'supposed to' exist.  They're in the fiction books and not the nonfiction ones, at least the ones they'll let me read.  So.  I don't know, and I don't wanna guess and be wrong, which would be even worse.  Like how everyone keeps guessing I'm a boy, because of what I look like.  Which is wrong.  And I want to fix that.

"So I wanted to ask.  Because I'm not sure, and - because just because you look like something, just because people think you are something, doesn't mean that's what you are on the inside.

"You wouldn't let me ask you questions like this if you were the monster everyone thinks I am."

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The fox laughs.

"Oh, I am everything they say about me and more. I've shattered mountains, leveled cities, burnt down forests, and even eaten some of you gnats in my time. You mistake your situation; the only reason you yet breathe is this seal, not my mercy. But you're not the most insufferable of all the humans that have tried to enslave me, so I suppose I can answer this much. Yes, I am a kitsune, and of all the monsters in this world?"

He grins, showing enormous, sharp teeth.

"I'm the strongest."

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She seems - outright confused by this line of conversation.  "Did I say I thought you were merciful?  I know I've been turned into the cage for a beast, o mightiest of kitsune, no matter that you are also a person.  But - if you will forgive my presumption...

"Neither of us were given a choice in this - and you're still choosing to humor me, despite everything.

"That's a different sort of strength.  But it's strength, too.

She pauses.

"...I don't wanna enslave you.  I just...

"Don't want people to get hurt.  Even though they suck.  Because hurting people is wrong and they can't make me.  I can choose who I am and I choose to be kind.

"...Which is why I can't let you go, because we both know that if you're let out in Konoha, you're gonna go hurting people afterwards.  And they won't let me out of Konoha, either.

"But I don't wanna - tell you what to do, other than that.

"Can I prove that to you somehow?"

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"Flattery won't get you anywhere; if you truly didn't wish to enslave me, you would set me free. It's not like they wouldn't deserve what comes next. But you won't, and there will come a time when you decide that power is more important than your pretensions at principles and you'll try and take my strength for yourself. Your kind always do."

The sheer pressure of his gaze intensifies for several moments, and then returns to its resting force.

"I suppose if that day is inevitable, there's no loss in offering this much early. Grant me one of your senses, and I will heal you when you come to harm."

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"...It might be fair, that you should hurt Konoha for how Konoha hurt you.  But...it wouldn't be right.  Because - then the hurting just - goes around again.  And everybody loses.

"And I want to let you go - but I'm trapped, too.  I...they have never been nice.  But I -

"They didn't leave me to die.  Even if it's because you'd kill them if I did.  Which...I think I probably owe you for the threats kind of on my behalf.  But...I can't leave them to die, because of that.  A lot of them...

"Konoha is full of people who wouldn't know what chakra seals are like if it bit them on the butt.  And...

"I guess what I want to ask, is, are they really to blame for what the ninjas do?  'cause...

"That doesn't...sound right?  Do you think it sounds right?

 

"...And...um...  Which sense would you like to use?  Or - let me look at...um...

"...that's a lot of...whatever this is.

"...Can I do a little bit of research, first?  I - don't know how this works, yet.  And I want to do this right."

(Which is to say, she wants to make it switchable, somehow.)

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"Just by existing, these 'normal people' of yours prop up the system of ninjas. Is the blacksmith innocent of the lives taken by his blades, simply because he only made kunai at his forge? Are the hands of the parents who raise their children on the lies of ninja and bundle them off to war clean of blood? It is hardly as though they could miss it; killing is the only thing ninja are good for."

The fox sniffs dismissively, then shakes his head.

"The deal is only for your sight, hearing, or smell. I have no interest in what passes for a sense of touch among you humans, nor in limiting myself to experiencing whatever you cram into your mouth. As for when... right now or in a decade, it makes no difference to me. You mortals are the ones that are always in a hurry."

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"...Then I'm gonna prove you wrong and be good for something that isn't violence.  I don't think they're gonna let me not be a ninja, but there's gotta be something.  

"...And you forgot medi-nin!  Senju-hime's hospital is right here!"

"...Really the problem is that some people are jerks, though.  Like...

"If Konoha didn't have to be scared of jerk ninjas like Kiri who kidnap their kids and all that, do you think they'd still train ninjas like this?  But the bad people train ninjas to do violence and somebody has to stop them.  And it mostly takes ninjas to stop ninjas!  But if there were less bad ninjas, people could do other things with their chakra.

"But until then they can't.  Because they'll die.  Or someone they care about will die.  Because they'll get hurt if they can't defend themselves.

 

"Would you blame the farmer, for feeding ninjas at kunai-point?"

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"Medic nin could heal people other than your ninjas and a few lucky supporters, you could have peace if only you finally wiped out whoever your latest enemy is. Pah, if your pathetic village somehow managed to topple Kiri, or Iwa, or Kumo, it wouldn't be a month before they were facing off against some new enemy against which anything is justified, even if they had to split to do it. If there was more healing capacity than your military needed, they would be shipped off closer to the front where they each worked under capacity but brought your ninja back to the killing faster, or drafted to another department; perhaps one of your eugenics programs. Even if the farmers weren't collaborating, I'd still give them no pause before tearing out this rotten system by the roots.

"One day you'll die or screw up, and I'll put an end to this farce; you mortals always do. Until then, you're starting to reach the limits of my patience for the yammering of children."

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"...What's a eugenics program?"

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"Your village's pet super-soldier manufactury. Breeding - or as the case may be, vivisecting, transplanting, and grafting - the traits of different ninja together in the hopes that the results are powerful enough to make up for the expense of raising all the ones that die as infants or in childhood. The Shodaime's flesh seems like a perennial favorite, not that they have the slightest idea what they're doing there."

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"...I don't know half of those words yet but the ones I do know make that sound really bad.  And not Will-of-Fire at all.  You don't have a good reason to lie like that, so...do you have any names?  'cause I think the Hokage will listen to me if I tell him this.  It's important."

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"They do it with his approval, child. All the ninja villages have one. But no, I do not have any current names unless his friend Danzo Shimura is still involved, and it's been long enough you'd really think he'd have retired. I mostly don't get sound when I'm sealed up, that's the whole reason I was willing to make a deal for your hearing."

He paused, considering.

"I'm pretty sure the one who killed your mother was one of them, there aren't a lot of places you can get a Uchiha with Senju flesh grafted onto them, but I hadn't sensed them in the village for over a year before then so it's hard to be sure where they were in the meantime."

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"...I'll talk to him, though.  It's not like he can kill me about it or ...whatever, if he's actually that awful.  ...Do you...have a name you'd like me to use?  By the way?  I, uh, everyone calls me Uzumaki Naruto.  When they're not calling me 'demon brat' or 'monster'.  ...Not sure I feel like a Naruto but it's.  Fine."

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"The Kyuubi no Kitsune will do fine; it emphasizes all my best qualities."

Then there's a sensation like rushing water, and Naruto finds herself outside of the seal and back in her body. There was a feeling to it like she could have resisted, if only she knew how, but if so it requires some skill or practice she doesn't have yet.

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She wasn't going to, though she does get out a "Thank you" if she can.  She's gotta write these things down before she forgets them!

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The sandiame Hokage does not drop by Naruto all that frequently. Some visits can be justified by maintaining a close relationship with a powerful asset for the village, and he can get away with a bit more than due to his reputation as a sentimental old man and by disguising a few of his visits so that they don't all get noted upon. It's a lot more often then he visits most children, of course, but when it comes to a child's life an hour long visit every other week or so is not, actually, all that much.

Nevertheless, by quirk of timing it's only a few days after her first conversation with the fox that he happens to drop by.

"Hello there, Naruto!" He then winks, and theatrically covers his mouth; the next part of his message is a whisper. "I bet if we sneak out right now, the matrons will hardly notice you're missing until we get back."

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"...That sounds like a good idea.  There's something 'portant we gotta talk about.  'cause it's bad, if it's true."  She's kept the scroll of her notes tied on her this whole time, even while she's asleep.

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