Clever Fox

Smart!Female!Naruto – A darker and more realistic retelling. The idea kept kicking around in my head so I caved and wrote it down. Not sure whether this will become an official project of mine though.

Alternate Universe
Plot Bunny
Naruto
Length: 2,766

Konoha just didn’t know what to do with its new Jinchūriki. Emotions wrought with pain after the battle, the method of how the Nine-Tailed Fox had vanished mattered less than the simple fact that it was gone. It wasn’t until later, with the discovery of the Fourth Hokage and Uzumaki Kushina’s bodies that questions arose, and by then Sarutobi Hiruzen had hidden the child away. Namikaze Minato still had enemies that would gleefully go after his child, especially now. And with the village having a hard enough recovering as it was — forcing him out of retirement to become the Third Hokage again too — Sandaime Sarutobi kept the baby in his own home. When he announced a few months after the fact that Uzumaki Naruto had been chosen as the new Jinchuriki, no one realized Minato and Kushina’s child had survived.

Especially since those who knew of the pregnancy had been expecting a little girl.

It hadn’t been intentional, at first. The only baby clothing Sarutobi had in his house were the baby clothes Biwako had kept from their son, and he was far too busy mandating repairs and understanding political machinations. The only other people who knew, were the ANBU guards assigned to the child—glorified nannies of lethal force. The only thing they taught Naruto was how to throw shuriken. So by the time Sarutobi thought it safe to buy the girl a dress, she turned her nose up at it. She sheared off her golden hair with scissors because it kept getting in her eyes. She looked so much like her father with that short hair— he tried to tell Naruto this, but his throat locked up every time. She was safer if she didn’t know, he told himself. The less she knew about her parents, about what was living inside her, the better off she’d be. So he told her half-truths. Her parents had died during the Kyuubi attack, and he’d taken her in because the orphanage had been full.

But he didn’t know how to raise a child on his own. He was barely ever there. Every time he came home and heard the pitiful sniffling of a lonely girl, he would turn to ask Biwako for help only to remember that his wife had died during the attack. She’d been the one to help Kushina give birth. At ground zero. See Naruto as a hero? He was such a hypocrite. No wonder the villagers couldn’t separate the girl from the demon— he dumped the child in her own little apartment the moment she could feed herself.

He was sure—that was the moment he’d made a mistake, when he ignored the hurt look in her bright blue eyes as he ushered her into her new home, feeding her false lies about visiting often. Because often turned into once a month in the blink of an eye.

Naruto kept cutting her hair short and wearing t-shirts. The one time he playfully asked if she’d like a skirt, after all that was what little girls wore; she told him they were impractical for fighting. Boys and girls were stupid. So she referred to herself as, “ore,” and learned how to swear, picked fights with the boys and proclaimed her ambition to become Hokage from the rooftops. He did what he could to keep the villagers from mentioning the Kyuubi, but he couldn’t stop the hate in their eyes as Naruto walked down the street. He saw the way the shine in her blue gaze darkened every time he visited, the twist of her mischievous smile taking on a feral glint. She caused more trouble, stealing from the market, painting walls and buildings— she once broke into his house and stole every fork in the place. And he knew why she did it. She did it to get people to look at her. To see her. And that was why he knew he couldn’t stop it.

He went to visit, just before she started at the Ninja academy. She barely looked at him, sitting on the edge of her window, blond tufts messed by the wind, whisker-like markings on her cheeks—and he thought the glint in her eyes as she glanced at him had too much of the fox in them.

Who am I?

The question rattled around in young Naruto’s mind. It was hard to form an accurate picture of identity without information. No parents. No reason why the villagers looked at her with such violent disregard in their hard eyes. She could see it plain as day. They treated her as other. Different. But why? Naruto wondered for a long time, mulling over the question, fretting about what she might have done, what could have brought their ire.

She found no answers.

Instead, she was left alone in her small apartment with Sandaime Sarutobi closing the door behind him. She didn’t really even know the man. He had made sure she knew how to dress, how to eat, and how to use the toilet. That was it. The second she had been able to run she had found every exit—stopped every time by a figure wearing an ANBU mask.

She had no concept of family.

The first time she saw a mother in a crowd, she didn’t understand. The woman held the hand of a child not much older than herself, kind warmth in her eyes. The expression hardened the second they met her curious blue gaze, and the woman ushered her child down and around the corner.

What had she done?

She tired to ask Sandaime Sarutobi the next time he visited her. She asked him many times. He always said it wasn’t her and she believed him. Until—why did everyone avoid her in the street? Why didn’t anyone look in her direction? Why did the other children scurry away from her the moment she approached? Why did everyone pretend she didn’t exist? She stopped believing him after a while. She stopped asking him.

Naruto stared up at the moon and wondered what to do with the swell of emotion in her throat. And she tried. She tried. Maybe if she just reminded them she was here. Maybe if she just made enough noise they would look her way. She raised her voice, shouted, screamed—just look at me. Naruto discovered spite and took revenge on the eyes that scorned her. She stole a freshly laundered sheet from the line, switched signs around, painted the Hokage’s face in giant red profanities.

The first time it happened, he showed up that evening at her apartment. He was disappointed. He didn’t want that kind of behavior. Didn’t he understand that he’d brought her to this? But he didn’t understand, and expected better of her. She had spent an entire week stalking the older man. The other villagers noticed him; they respected and even loved him. She had seen him visit his son, seen how it was so different than to any interaction they’d had. She had craved his attention, his love, and this was all he brought her.

That was the first time she’d ever screamed in his face. She had seen the way his eyes flickered with fear, but didn’t understand why. “I’m going to become Hokage,” she had screeched on top of her lungs. “I’m going to become Hokage one day, dattebayo!”

She had shouted from the rooftops for a straight week before the fury in her veins settled. She had felt it like licking flames in her blood. But no one cared. The most she got were mocking laughs. The parents still hated her on sight and hid their children from her. She was ignored, swatted, disregarded, and it ate away at her heart.

It settled upon her shoulders like a shudder of ice, a sharpening of her blue gaze. The villagers hated her—that much was a fact. She was alone—that was a fact. And she could either collapse in on herself and mourn for what would never come, or—

—There would come a day when the entire world knew her name.

She would become the monster they feared. She would become deadly and powerful and would make all of them wish they had gained her favor when she was young and trusting and naïve.

They’d had their chance. Now it was her turn.

The last time the Old Geezer had visited her, Naruto had seen it again—the look of fear in his eyes. For the first time, the look filled her with hot satisfaction. It sat like a bubble of lava in the pit of her stomach. She didn’t want or need his approval anymore. One day, he would want hers.

And on that day, he would understand.

It happened the day Naruto found the fox mask.

A few streets over from her house, a special market had appeared. The sign said something about summer. She had a hard time with Kanji. She had followed the scent of grilled meats and had dashed out her window—marveling at the colors, and music, and people.

She had hovered from an electrical pole, listening to the laughter, the kind words, the excitement and thrill borne in the air like static. She wanted to be one of those people. She slipped down to the street and joined the current. And at first it was—nice. She saw a table full of rings and bracelets, with stones that glittered emerald. She passed a barbecue with chicken cooking on skewers.

And then she found the vendor selling festival masks.

She’d never seen ones like these. The ANBU she remembered were plain, white and black. But the gentleman manning the kiosk didn’t have any like that. There was one like a bright pink pig face, and another that looked monkeyish and feral, with strands of red hair around the edges. But then, a streak of orange caught her eye.

It was a fox. It had a polished, almost porcelain design—almost like the ANBU masks. But instead of white, it was black and a vibrant orange streak cut a pattern across the face. Perhaps it was the combination of something familiar and yet foreign that drew her to it. She drifted closer, eyes glued to the mask, and was just thinking about how much it might cost when the shopkeeper grabbed her roughly by her shirt.

He was a large man with a crooked nose and an uneven mat of hair that was clearly thinning in places. She was struck by the ugly look on his features; she had seen him smile at another visitor only a moment ago.

“What’re you doing here? Scram!” he shouted in her face, spittle flying off his lip to hit her cheek. He shoved her back and she, unprepared for the violence the action, fell to the ground.

She sat there, stunned for a moment as he continued to shout at her. She had just been looking; she hadn’t even touched the mask. Why was he so angry with this—but she saw in his eyes. He wasn’t just angry. There was fear there too, and it compounded and turned into a rage to fierce she wondered if he might kill her.

“—Take it and get out of here!” she heard him yell, and just managed to shut her eyes before the fox mask struck right above her right eye.

As the thing fell to the ground, the shopkeeper stopped shouting. In it’s place were loud heated breaths as they stared at each other. After a moment, she wiped her brow and found blood on her fingertips. She looked up and realized the crowd had fallen silent around them, but no one said a word. Did no one care this man had thrown something at a child?

No. No one cared.

“What the hell?” she whispered. She got to her feet, smacking the dust and dirt from her pants. “What the hell?” she repeated, picking up the mask.

No one else was treated like this. Other kids had parents to stand up for them, to hold them, to love them. Other people had friends. Other humans treated each other with polite kindness. She saw nothing but loathing in those eyes—blame. She began to walk down the street and the crowd parted as a school of fish would for a shark.

She broke into a run, but their words snipped at her heels. It’s that. Why do they let that stay in the village? Why don’t thy think of us? Stay away from that. She bit her lip and tasted blood. Why. Why did everyone look at her like that? She took a sharp turn and into a side street, before scaling the pole outside her building and landing on the ledge of her window.

Naruto climbed into the safety of her apartment and stood, suspended in the middle of her bedroom. Various clothes were thrown about, the covers of her bed messed, the bathroom door slightly ajar. In the next room was her darkened kitchen, cup noodle packets on her counter and in her trash. She looked down at the mask she held in her hands.

The fox had a small crack in the left ear, like jagged bolt of lightning.

Her eyes filled with tears. She slid the mask over her head, and she stopped holding back. She sunk to the ground, nestled into the crook against her bed and curled into a ball, and she cried. Her limbs shook, her breathing fluttered, she swallowed gulps of sorrow.

Why?

She just wanted someone to tell her. Naruto don’t know where she went. She felt as if she were in a dark place, flooded and dank—lying in a pool of her own tears. It was cold down here, chaotic. It wasn’t a place for little girls determined to become Hokage. But today, hidden beneath her mask, she felt lonely and miserable and shitty and was just so tired. She just wanted to hide.

“Naruto—”

She hiccupped and jerked up, splashing water. That voice—who—? She was still in her dark place, but she knew she wasn’t alone. She found a cage of thick steel bars, the entire length of the space. She stared at the darkness on the other side, at the shape that first shifted and then came into focus in a shock of vibrant red fur. As she stared at the creature, black lips pulled back to reveal large teeth, a rumbling sound filled the air and she realized it was laughing.

“Ironic choice of mask,” the voice thundered again, and Naruto lifted it off. She wiped her eyes.

“Who—are you?” she managed, staring up at him.

“Figures no one would tell you. I am the Kyuubi,” and she watched as his nine tails curled and tossed in the air behind him.

Naruto got shakily to her feet and wandered over until she stood right in front of the cage. “You—you attacked the village four years ago.”

Something flashed in those blood-red eyes.

“You’re inside me?”

The Kyuubi leaned forward until his face rested on the ground in front of her. “I am the reason why.

Naruto stared at him. She stared at that shock of orange fur, at the vibrant cruel eyes. And then she gave a little hiccup as another surge of tears climbed up her throat. She broke into a watery smile, trying to wipe her eyes. “Sorry.” But now the she’d started again, it was hard to stop. “I must be a terrible person.”

“You must be a terrible person,” the Kyuubi deadpanned back to her. There was pause while she sniffled and desperately tried to stem the flow. “Why are you crying?”

“You know—” Naruto began, gulping another fresh wave of tears. “I know you killed a lot of people and—and everything—but,” and she pried her hands away from tear-stained face. “But I’m so relieved that I’m not alone.”

The Kyuubi blinked.

“I’m Uzumaki Naruto,” she went on, plopping back down onto the ground and slinking the mask so that it hung to the side of her face. “You’ve probably been more lonely down here all on your own, huh? I’m sorry I took so long. What’s your name?”

And as Kyuubi Kurama listened to Naruto talk for hours, fox mask hanging off the side of her face, some of the festering in his soul began to ease. Before for the first time, there was a human who only wanted to be his friend.