Cloud whirled the sake in its cup
idly, staring up at his own face.
They had pictures of four guys up on the wall
of the old man’s office – and one of them had his face. Two were the faces of
the dead guys he’d beheaded, and the last – the third picture – was younger
version of Sarutobi.
The past and present leadership
of the village – the Hokages, with his duplicate being the fourth one.
Successor to the current one, who’d taken up the mantle at Sarutobi’s retirement
and then died and forced the predecessor back into office. So, the whole fight
with the Sephiroth clone had been about the Hokages – Orochimaru resurrecting
and enslaving the other three to kill the Third of the total four. Only,
apparently the Fourth one couldn’t be summoned just like that – and so Cloud
had been dragged into the fight in his stead.
That was, as far as Cloud could
figure out, what had happened in a nutshell. He’d have to wait for Sarutobi for
confirmation, but for now he was satisfied he had it down pretty well.
“What was his name?”
Cloud asked, nodding at his face on the wall. The other him had slightly
different haircut and eyes that had never been touched by Mako, but his face…
they even had the same resting face.
It was eerie.
The masked guy – who was still
staring at him from the other end of the room – narrowed his eyes. “You
“Why would I? I’m not
him,” Cloud answered, wondering. Was this what the others, Genesis and
Angeal, felt when they first encountered their own clones? This weird lack
Their clones had been actual
clones, though, ShinRa made and grown in vats – or they were other people
transformed. Manufactured in any case. This guy, this other Cloud, was real, as
real as he was… if bit more dead.
“Minato,” the masked
guy said and it sounded a bit like accusation. “His name was Namikaze
“Hm,” Cloud answered and
took another sip of the sake. “Seems like you knew him personally.”
The guy was certainly pissed enough at him for that.
The masked guy’s single visible
eye narrowed. “He was my teacher.”
“Ah.” Smarter than
Cloud then, probably. He’d never had any sort of patience for book learning and
hadn’t been able to leave his school behind fast enough.
So, a teacher, a leader of a
militarised village and a fighter – or at least Cloud assumed, after having
seen Sarutobi fight the others and from what Orochimaru said, that the other
had been a fighter. A good one too. It was an… interesting choice of careers.
Silence stretched on, tense and
awkward. Cloud ignored it in favour of getting more sake. Not his favourite
drink – he was going to miss Tifa and her cocktails before long, probably – but
it was alcoholic enough to do for now. Maybe, with enough many cups, he’d even
feel it affecting him. Sipping without much hope of that, Cloud looked up at
himself – at Namikaze Minato.
If he had to stay here – and
honestly, his luck being what it was he probably did… the whole duplicate
business was going to be a problem. The other guy was obviously famous and well
liked. And people had habit of hating poorer replacements.
And Cloud had no intention of shouldering
Sarutobi took his sweet time
arriving – by the time he did, Cloud swore he could feel holes in his face from
the masked guy’s, Kakashi’s, constant staring. When the old man did arrive
though, he wasn’t alone. The white haired guy with red trails on his face was
with him – along with a kid of all things.
Cloud blinked slowly, his eyes
drawn to the kid almost automatically. Because he was noticeable. He
wore orange jumpsuit of all things. And he had blond, spiky hair bright as anything
and blue eyes, and…
“Good, you’re still here – and
making your way through my best sake too, I see,” Sarutobi said, while the
kid stared at Cloud with open, puzzled interest. The white haired man was a bit
more suspicious – and Kakashi was still glaring.
“Is everyone alright?”
Kakashi asked, glancing at the white haired man and then at the kid.
“Sasuke and Sakura?”
“Sakura banged her head – we
took her to the hospital. Sasuke’s fine, just tired,” the kid asked and
pointed a finger at Cloud. “Who’s he?”
Sarutobi looked at Cloud, who
arched an eyebrow in answer and took another sip of sake to cover the sudden
yawning bit of dismay that had opened up in his gut. The old man seemed to take
that as agreement, as he turned to the others.
“This is Cloud, the
alternate reality version of our Fourth Hokage,” Sarutobi said and then in
clear and simple terms proceeded to explain the fight with Orochimaru and the
Edo Tense to the others. Kakashi and white haired man – Jira something wasn’t
it? – neither of them looked away from Cloud during it, so they’d probably
already figured it mostly out. So… it looked like it was just for the kid’s
Cloud narrowed his eyes at the
kid, who was looking between him and the photo on the wall. The kid saw the
resemblance but… didn’t actually recognise him? So not Namikaze’s kid after
all? Or… he didn’t know he was?
Cloud was keenly aware that while
he was watching the kid, the others were gauging his reaction to him and to the
situation and it’s obvious implications. Fucking mind games over mind games,
but all things considered… he couldn’t really blame them. They probably had
politics and whatnot riding on this, what with his other self being one of
their former head honchos.
“Cloud,” Sarutobi said,
drawing his eyes from the kid. “While we will be looking into Edo Tensei,
I doubt there will be a way to reverse this. We’ll do what we can but… for
now, it might be best to assume you’re stuck here for good.”
“I figured,” Cloud
muttered. Even ShinRa hadn’t meddled with summoning and dimensional Materia too
much – because when it went wrong, it went wrong.
He shrugged. “Its fine. Could be worse.”
“Well you don’t you seem utterly
heartbroken,” the quite haired guy said with a snort.
Cloud gave him a look. “You
have same gravity, similar enough atmosphere that I can breath and so far
nothing about this place is killing me, so I’m assuming your rad levels are
same as back in my world and I’m not allergic to anything present so far.
Pardon me as I could my small blessings.”
That earned an arched look, which
Cloud answered with rolled eyes and turned to Sarutobi. “What’s it gonna
be then? Am I staying here, in your village, or do you want me out of
“Well,” Sarutobi said
and looked at the kid.
Cloud looked at the kid too. The
kid looked back, confused. Cloud looked away, and back at Sarutobi. “So
you think that because I look like him, I’m going to take up his kid?”
“Wait,” the kid said.
Naruto looked between Old Man
Hokage and the Fourth look-alike who snorted and poured himself another cupful
of sake. The guy looked like – like… well like the Fourth but…
Naruto might not be the smartest
person in the room, but no matter what Sasuke said, he wasn’t a complete idiot.
And with the way everyone was looking at this guy, and him – and how they both
“Old Man?” Naruto asked
plaintively because no way, no way.
Old Man Hokage sighed. “I
had hoped to wait until became chunin to tell you this,” he said sadly.
“It hasn’t been safe for you to know. As with some other secrets… it
might and probably will make you a target, it word gets out. So it was kept a
secret. In light of Cloud’s arrival and his identical appearance… the word
will most likely get our either way.”
“No way, old man,”
Naruto breathed. “No frigging way!”
“Way,” the Hokage said
with a sad smile and looked at the Fourth’s portrait again. “His name was
Namikaze Minato – and he was your father.”
Naruto just gaped at him for a
moment, his mind whirring. Then, “You!” he shouted, rounding on the
Pervert Hermit. “You knew – you trained the Fourth, you knew! Why
didn’t you tell me? And you!” He rounded on his teacher. “You were
trained by the Fourth, Kakashi-sensei, so you
knew too, you gotta have! Why didn’t you tell me?!”
They exchanged awkward looks.
“Time wasn’t right, brat,” Jiraiya said and ruffled his hair
apologetically. “You’re still just a genin and your dad, he was a great
guy, but he had enemies. You’re his legacy, in more ways than one. We had to
“Jiraiya is your godfather, actually,”
Old Man Hokage told Naruto.
asked and pushed Jiraiya hand off his hair. “Where the hell have you been,
then? Where were you when I was in the orphanage?”
“We couldn’t exactly hang
around, Naruto,” Kakashi pointed out, his tone awkward. “Few of the
closest people to the Fourth, hanging around a kid who looks suspiciously like
him? It wouldn’t have been hard for anyone to figure out. We couldn’t risk
Naruto snorted at that and then
looked at the – his – the look-alike. Then he almost stepped back
because suddenly the guy’s face was like a thunder cloud. Which – heh – but
“Orphanage,” the man
repeated and every other adult in the room grew still at the tone. “He’s
your godfather,” the man pointed at Jiraiya while still staring at Naruto.
Then he pointed at Kakashi. “And he’s your whatever he is… and you were
put in orphanage?”
“Damn, he was even sounds
like him,” Jiraiya muttered, wincing.
“It was safer,”
Sarutobi said calmly. “And it was safe. No one knew his true
identity, so he was under no danger.”
“Right,” the look-alike
said, voice flat with disbelief, and looked at Naruto. “Are you still in
“Well, no, duh – I
got my own apartment when I was eight,” Naruto answered, leaning back a
bit more because the guy looked down right scary now.
The man’s eyes narrowed.
“Your own… apartment?” he asked and turned to Old Man Hokage, both
eyebrows arched now. “… when he was eight?”
“Yes, well – this is beside
the point,” the Hokage said with an awkward cough. “With you here and
staying here, Naruto’s parentage won’t stay a secret for much longer – the
likeness is too marked. So we need to plan how to proceed concerning this
Naruto swallowed, looking between
the look alike and the Fourth’s portrait. His… his dad’s portrait. Holy Ramen,
that would take a while to wrap his head around. And not just that but… the
other guy too. Who looked just like his – uh – dad. Was another version of him
The look-alike was looking at the
portrait, and then he turned to Naruto, thoughtful. “Well,” he said
and shook his head. “I’m in no position to negotiate anything anyway,
“In no position –? You
defeated Orochimaru without breaking a sweat,” Old Man Hokage pointed out,
making Jiraiya stand up straighter and Naruto blink with surprise. The Old Man
continued; “You defeated the Resurrected First and Second Hokages with a
single blow. That’s one hell of a negotiating position to sit in.”
“Is it?” the look-alike
asked. “I have no local currency, no idea about the geography, the
politics, or the value of… anything. Not precisely a sturdy base to start
The Hokage blinked. “You
beat Orochimaru and two of the strongest people to have ever lived,” he
said slowly and meaningfully.
The look-alike paused at that,
frowning. “Oh,” he then said. “They were… strong?”
“Yes,” the Pervert
Hermit said, his tone utterly dry. “They were a bit strong, yes.”
“Huh,” the look-alike
muttered, looking from Old Man to Pervert Hermit to Kakashi-sensei. “So, I
guess my supposed negotiation position stems from the fact that… you think I
can kill you all.”
There was moment of tense
“Could you?” Naruto
asked finally, both weirdly eager to know and kind of… not, really.
The man shrugged. “In any
case,” he said somewhat tightly. “That is not something I use to my
advantage,” he said and looked at Sarutobi. “I don’t give a crap
about how things are done here – where I come from, we don’t do that sort of
The man glanced at him and didn’t
answer. “Let’s just pretend I am not a complete asshole and that I’m not
about to kill people for my own gain,” he said with obvious annoyance.
“This is your village, your world – I am outside or whatever. So,” he
shrugged. “What are you going to do with me?”
Hiruzen stared at Cloud for a
long quiet moment, gauging, contemplating, calculating. This man wasn’t
Minato, but that thing at the core of him, that resolution – it was so much
like that it made Hiruzen’s heart clench. It had been that very quality that
had made Minato such a brilliant Kage, for that cruelly brief time he had been
Maybe in another world, Minato
would’ve been this like this man – strong and sharp and so brutally confident
about his own power that it became non-issue for him.
Looking down at his desk for a moment, Hiruzen
pushed aside sentimentality and looked at the subject from the view of a
Hokage. The way to proceed was obvious. There was no way he could let this man
go – could let this chance pass Konoha by. Cloud was powerful and strange and
yet familiar enough and there was no doubt he could be a great ally. Every
shred of leadership sense Hiruzen had screamed at him to keep the man as close
This sort of weapon at Konoha’s side, and maybe
the rumours about their weakness would die, and no other incident like the one
of that day would occur. With someone like Cloud firmly rooted in Konoha… no
one would dare attempt an invasion.
And Hiruzen wasn’t foolish enough to think
they’d seen the true extend of this man’s powers.
They needed him – and they needed his loyalty.
Naruto, Hiruzen thought, was the obvious tool
for that. The man was already exhibiting slight protectiveness – or at least
outrage – over the boy. He could use that – he would use that. And Cloud was
plainly aware of it too and he didn’t seem… at least outwardly against such
unsubtle manipulation. That could be good or bad.
“Would you be willing to become Konoha’s
citizen?” the Hokage asked finally. “With all the expected loyalty
Cloud met his eyes without expression.
“Sure,” he said and glanced at Naruto who blinked at him. “I can
be loyal. To a point.”
Kakashi and Jiraiya exchanged dark looks at
that but remained quiet while Naruto fidgeted. Hiruzen narrowed his eyes.
“To a point, which is…?”
“I don’t know what sort of sciences you
have,” Cloud said slowly. “But if unwilling, non-consensual human
experimentation is involved…?” he shook his head and said nothing more,
his silence meaningful.
Hiruzen frowned a little at that. That was…
surprising and telling and not at all comforting. “There are none that I
know of, but Konoha has a history, and it is one of the largest shinobi
villages,” he said darkly. “And I am not omniscient.”
“That’s fine, so as long as you know I
stand by idle if I see stuff like that,” Cloud said and folded his arms.
The Hokage nodded slowly, and some other thread
of tension in him unclenched. Man of some moral fibre, Cloud. That was good.
“Well then,” he said. “Welcome to Konoha, Cloud.”
- - -
Trying to find a sort of Mintao-esque Cloud hahahaha I don’t actually know what I am doing here.