White. Always white. Why did it always have to be white?
The man stared at his surroundings, an eyesore if there ever was one.
The man grunted, not for the first time wondering if he needed to hunt down whatever bastard “decorated” this place and give him a piece of his mind while kicking the guy’s ass. Honestly, how lazy did someone have to be to do nothing with an entire endless space aside to make it white?
“So, Shinigami-sama, you have four billion afterlife points to spend between two things however you like. We have this really nice blank space which you can turn into just about anything which would only take half of the remaining points. You also have a fairly underfunded torture department but honestly what use could you possibly have for it in the afterlife.” The accountant with the clipboard adjusted his glasses waiting for the Death God’s reply.
The Shinigami tilted his head for a moment, as if trying to think of a distant thought. After a few moments there was a spark of recognition in the ghastly figure’s eyes. The Shinigami could not help but to grin wickedly, and to say the word “wickedly” in conjunction with the Shinigami was saying something quite spectacular indeed considering the amount of “wicked” his normal smiles passed for.
“Yes, what possible use could I have for torture…” The Shinigami said agreeably.
Minato sighed, taking a hand and running it through his wild blonde hair. He looked at his surroundings again, and again he saw nothing but the color white closing in on him.
I’ve really got to talk to the Shinigami about getting a decorator in here, I feel like I am about to lose my mind.
The Shinigami’s assistant, an annoying woman if there ever was one, had been rambling on for hours about all sorts of things until Minato finally snapped.
“Assistant-san, if I have to look at both you and these damnable white walls for any longer I am going to get rid of one of them, and here’s a spoiler for you, I can’t move this room.” The bossy woman stopped mid sentence at the hard look. The look that Minato had leveled to the assistant was enough to scare her away from the man for a day or two.
And who said ruthless aggression never got you anywhere?
It should be noted that this isn’t exactly white’s fault. I mean, what could be done when a man who had lived such a varied life that Namikaze Minato, the Yondaime Hokage of Konoha, was stuck in one room for a good deal of his afterlife that didn’t have a lick of color in it? It was unbearably boring, and if there was one thing that Minato did not like, it was boring.
“Minato, the plan is to wait for the Iwa*(1) ninja for four hours here, by doing this…Minato?” Jiraiya looked up, noticing that his apprentice was not around.
“Oh, did you say something, sensei?” Minato answered a few feet away as he dumped off a few Iwa bodies. Jiraiya looked down at his finely tuned and well drawn out strategy and sighed.
I can’t really get mad can I? He is a monster of my own creation after all…
Excitement had to be forgotten now. That was his past. A life of excitement and choice. This life was a choice as well, he didn’t have to be here. He could have let his village burn and him along with it, and he probably would have had a very relaxing after life. An afterlife that involved very little of the color white.
Minato had never even considered the notion that he had a choice in the matter. Not even for a second. He was the Hokage, and the Hokage protected the people that trusted him. It was as simple as that.
It turned out that had been the easy part, summoning the Shinigami to seal the Kyuubi into his son. The hard part was actually being under contract with the wicked fiend. The Shinigami was nice enough most of the time, but the very fact that Minato spent all day dealing with paperwork was proof positive that his new master had a dark sense of humor, as he had loathed such trying work during his life. He often remarked that if he had known that he would have been used as a paper shuffler instead of as the Death God’s snack, he probably would have just left his village to burn.
At this time, I am reasonably sure he is joking when he says that.
The Shinigami had done his best to placate him, offering daily sacrifices for nothing more than his amusement, although Minato had declined that particular offer. The Shinigami constantly reminded Minato that this task was a huge honor and that there was only one person to judge the dead in the entire afterlife, and he and he alone had that high distinction. As much as he wanted to argue the point, he couldn’t. It was an honor to be the one chosen to as the person who placed all life in their respective destination, for better or for worse.
Of course, he had the benefit of over a decade to get used to the fact that he was the one doing all this work. It hadn’t been very reassuring when he was getting his first tour of the place.
He had only been on the job for a few hours, recently having sent an elderly man to a peaceful rest after he died of natural causes, when something occurred to him, the paperwork he had in front of him hadn’t updated to include his ruling on his afterlife even though there was a space for it printed on the paperwork.
Using his Shinigami calling button*(2), Minato summoned the Shinigami to his side. The Shinigami was an impressive looking figure, standing around eight feet tall and having a tattered dark robe surrounding his hulking frame. It was natural to be drawn to his face, a shade of white that seemed to be sullied with some inner darkness, in stark contrast to the pure room around them. He had several rows of teeth that were now etched in what could be believed to be a grin of sorts and his small, demonic looking eyes were staring pointedly at the Yondaime Hokage, a look that would have unnerved lesser men.
Namikaze Minato was not lesser men.
Staring right back at the Shinigami with unwavering calm, Minato spoke.
“Shinigami-sama, a problem has come up. I just got done with my first soul and I have noticed that the file,” At this he held up the small folder, “Did not update. I thought this system was automated as you didn’t mention anything about it to me before.”
“Well Hokage-kun*(3), I did not think I had to explain everything to you, but alas it seems your hand needs to be held, so be it.” Minato’s eye twitched ever so slightly at this remark.
“You are dead, as you know, but you still exist in a very real and meaningful way. You although perhaps more unique than many of the mundane people who pass by day after day, are not different in this regard. You are kept busy with your task as judge of the dead, they too are kept busy with their own tasks. Many people you see you will send on their way to a peaceful after life, but peace breeds boredom, and with boredom comes the urge to do something different. Therefore, we have people who fill out these reports in their spare time. It helps them relieve boredom, it helps us keep track of everything. A rare win-win.”
Minato nodded his head, understanding he logic behind it.
“That’s a lot of work Shinigami-sama, how many people do you have working on that at any one time? A few? Ten maybe?” Minato wasn’t sure what to guess, after all he was the only judge of the dead so it would stand to reason that there wouldn’t be too many more people writing these reports.
The Shinigami thought it over for a moment, doing some rough calculations in his head.
“I’d say roughly five thousand people at any one time.” The shock on Minato’s face was evident, that was a lot more people than he would have ever expected.
“Given that there are so many people that are alive, I suppose that makes sense, but still, that’s incredible. Given that there are so many people on working on the manuscripts of people’s lives, how many people work on the files after someone is deceased?” As soon as Minato had asked his question, the Shinigami had seemingly let out a perverse chuckle of delight. Minato shook his head slightly, convinced that he had heard wrong, the Death God does not chuckle.
“Only one I am afraid.” At this the Yondaime let out a loud laugh, feeling sorry for whatever poor bastard was stuck with that particular job.
“That’s simply terrible, Shinigami-sama. What miserable soul did you manage to stick with that job?”
Minato stopped laughing abruptly at that declaration, much to the Shinigami’s amusement.
“Yes I know, woe is you, I know. However unlike many of the lesser gods you silly mortals like to worship or to call upon in worship, I am not second class. I will not take anything less than the soul of the person who summons me in tribute for my deeds. You will see people who are much less talented than myself have many more souls in their possession because they are weaklings who are willing to settle. To date I only have a handful of people, yourself included, because you had what is required to summon me – Guts and power.” The Shinigami rested his hand on Minato’s shoulder in an almost kind gesture before lowering himself to the blonde ninja’s eye level.
“So quit your bitching before I stick you in a dungeon to rot you big baby.” Minato didn’t know it at the time, but the Shinigami had taken a liking to him more than ever that day.
The paperwork wasn’t as simple as he had hoped for either. He had to give detailed analysis as to why he had chosen where to place each individual. While he had complete discretion as to where a person would go it seemed that simply asking someone to pick a random number between one and forty was out of the question. That plan dashed, he had decided to take the job very seriously. Even so, if he knew he was going to get stuck with this job when he made the pact with the Death God maybe he would have just let Konoha be destroyed by the fearsome fox demon.
Maybe I shouldn’t be so sure that he is joking.
Even in death, whenever Minato closed his eyes he could see his son, Naruto, in his hands, facing the Kyuubi with him, his face more curious than anything. That night would haunt Minato for a long time. He had traded a lot for the hopes of the mused that Naruto was likely a ninja by now, off doing boring D-rank missions, and if he was anything like his mother, complaining about it all the time.
Minato had spent a lot of time thinking of his son, despite his best efforts to push it from his mind. It wasn’t for the lack of opportunity that Minato was uninformed, over the course of his time as judge of the dead he had seen many former comrades in arms from Konoha die and pass him by, but he had never felt it was right to bring it up, at the time Naruto was just a little kid, it was doubtful that they had anything to do with him.
I hope he isn’t too spoiled, although I can’t say I’d blame them for doting on him quite a bit. He is after all the only thing holding back the monstrous Kyuubi from destroying them all, such a terrible burden will not be easy for him, but with loved ones there to guide him. Such a double edged sword for you to wield for the village’s protection, Naruto, I hope you are able to cope with that burden and someday forgive me, for the sake of us all.
His thoughts were brought to an abrupt end as a young woman entered the white space. Quirking an eyebrow at his queue button not letting him know that there was someone there he gave the person in front of him a harder look. To his immediate surprise, although he showed no outward signs of said surprise, it registered to him that the person in front of him was in fact a man.
My senses are dulling, that’s never a good sign.
Minato was returning late from a rigorous training session at the tender age of ten. He was pushing himself to his limit and it was obvious to anyone who might have seen him, as his eyes were barely open and his feet dragged. As he neared his home he suddenly detected a faint chakra source in the trees and threw a kunai straight at it.
Exactly four seconds later Jiraiya came out holding a kunai in his hand and Minato paled.
“You know, if it was anyone but me they would have been caught completely off guard and you could have killed them.” Jiraiya looked down at Minato with a disappointed look on his face.
“But sensei, I knew it was you, who else could have such a giant charka source other than you!” Minato had done his best kiss ass voice, but Jiraiya pounded him on top of his head.
“You are a ninja, not an actor, and be sure to stick with the former, because you damn sure can’t do the latter! Now get inside before I really give you a pounding!” Minato nodded, obeying his master’s order and headed in straight away.
Waiting until Minato was out of sight Jiraiya looked at his wound that Minato had left from the kunai.
Anybody but me being caught completely off guard, huh? Who am I fooling, that kid is a monster in the making, I am just glad he has a good heart and is on my side…
Getting over his embarrassment in record time, he also recognized the man as a ninja, the passive face and the calm demeanor as he looked around in apparent confusion. It hadn’t quite hit him that his life had ended, it seems.
“Hello.” Minato’s greeting seemed to startle the boy as he jumped a bit at hearing the voice before quickly turning the blonde’s way.
“Hello.” The boy’s voice was polite and crisp, and he held the blonde’s gaze for a moment before a spark of recognition went through his eyes. Although a second later it was replaced with curiosity.
“Where am I? The last thing that I remember is…Oh. I am dead, aren’t I?” Haku’s features clouded over for a moment, and the question seemed rhetorical.
Minato nodded to the question all the same.
“You are in limbo, a place I lovingly refer to as the ‘white space’. This is the final stopping point on the path to your final destination, which will be decided by me. I am sorry if your death comes as a shock to you, I know that”- Minato was cut off by Haku placing a hand in front of him.
“No, it is quite alright. I died protecting what was most precious to me, having regrets over that now would tarnish my love for that person. I accepted what I was to do long before it was asked of me. Please, spare me your regrets, for I have none.” Haku spoke softly and with a purpose, and Minato smiled at the young boy.
“I’ll skip the speech then. Please, have a seat.” Haku sat down in a chair opposite of Minato who pulled out a file out of thin air and opened it.
Minato let out an appreciative whistle. He had to admit, it wasn’t often that he got a ninja of this caliber in here this young, mostly because geniuses on Haku’s level had a tendency to survive a lot longer than this. Haku’s file had taken him by surprise though, he had expected someone far different to be the apprentice of Momochi Zabuza. Often people who were chosen to be taught by monsters such as him were swept up in their blood lust along with them. However Haku had only killed thirty eight people in his lifetime, a spectacularly low amount for a ninja of his natural talent, skill, and prodigious upbringing. Before him stood a good man, regardless of circumstances.
Minato kept flipping through the pages as Haku waited patiently for him to finish when the blonde stopped suddenly at the death page. Written in clear print was the name of Haku’s killer, “Hatake Kakashi.”
Skipping ahead a bit, he read the brief summary of Haku’s life that had all of the important life changing events and closed the file, setting it to the side.
“You have lead a harsh life, it disturbs me sometimes to think the state that I left the world all those years ago. I had a lot of leftover work it seems. But that is neither here nor there, I have a few questions for you regarding your file, nothing strictly having to do with your judgment mind you, but you met some people just before your death that are of interest to me.”
Haku retained his passive face, although he was curious about what the man before him could possibly want to know.
“You came across someone you were familiar with in your life in my file?”
Minato again nodded.
“Yes, the person who killed you, actually, Hatake Kakashi. He was a student of mine many years ago, and I taught him everything that he knows about being a ninja.” That may have been slightly exaggerated.
Haku at this point put a finger to his chin, thinking what he just heard over.
“I don’t know, Kakashi-san seemed very skilled, you don’t look like much of anything. Are you sure you taught him anything?” Haku smiled at Minato as if he had said nothing out of place.
Minato’s face twitched slightly at the obvious slight.
“I may not look like much of anything, but at least I am not mistaken for a girl everywhere I go.” Haku rolled his eyes, conceding the point then and there.
“I have to confess it seems that you have a point. You are the second person in as many days to comment on that, personally I just think the both of you haven’t seen very many beautiful women in your life times to confuse me with a woman.”
Before Minato could think of another quip to fire back at Haku, another thought interceded his thinking process.
“Wait, another people confused you for a girl? It wasn’t Kakashi was it? I thought I instilled a little more tact in him than that.” At this Haku rolled his eyes again.
Says the guy who brought it up within five minutes of meeting me, maybe you should have instilled some tact in yourself.
“No, not Kakashi-san. It was one of his young genin. I must confess, he was one of the most unique ninjas I ever had the fortune to cross paths with. His name was Uzumaki Naruto, and I am sure he will succeed in his goal of becoming Hokage one day.”
As soon as Haku had mentioned his son’s name Minato immediately picked up the boy’s file again and began flipping through it searching for any mention of Naruto. Finding it he read over the brief entry.
Haku encountered a ninja from Konoha named Uzumaki Naruto who thought she was a very pretty woman. After correcting his mistake, Haku laughed at Naruto kindly as he was in shock. It is my feeling that someone should suggest glasses to young Mr. Uzumaki, as it isn’t that hard to tell that Haku is male, but that’s for another file I suppose.
Minato made a note to found out who wrote that and kick their ass.
“Did you know Naruto-kun while you were still alive?” Haku’s question made Minato smile.
“Yes, I would say so, considering I am his father.” Haku’s eyebrows rose into his hairline at that, he had not been expecting that at all.
“Well, if you could have seen him I am sure you would have been very proud of him. I had the chance to fight him before I died, and I must say while he had no knowledge of battle tactics or anything resembling proper ability, he has a big heart. The way he fights to protect those precious to him was humbling and beyond reproach, I am sure nothing will stop his dream, he is too hard headed to give in.”
Minato’s grin at that moment probably couldn’t have been knocked off by the Kyuubi himself. His boy was not only a ninja, but a man who fought to protect the things most important in life: Your loved ones. This news calmed any worry he could have possibly had over how Naruto had turned out, and a burden that he didn’t know was there had been lifted. Having his former star pupil teaching him was a plus, to boot. It seemed the world was a little brighter than it had been earlier in the day.
“I thank you for your time, Haku, you have eased my mind considerably. Not only that, but reading over your file and having a chance to talk to you has made my decision quite easy.” Haku’s face clouded over in confusion.
“Yes, like I mentioned earlier, I am the one that decides where everyone goes. You are no exception to that, of course. You don’t have anything to worry about, you are a good person with a kind heart, you won’t be mistreated where you are going, Haku-san.” With those words spoken Minato snapped his fingers and a door appeared a few feet from Haku with the number nineteen etched into the middle of it.
“You can step through now Haku, be free from the weight of the world, you’ve earned it.” Minato’s sincerity almost brought Haku to tears, he could hear the power and authority in the man’s voice, even was comforting as he was being.
Haku grabbed a hold of the handle when a question occurred to him.
“We’ve been talking to for quite some time, but what is your name?” Minato smiled at the boy.
“I have many names throughout the ninja world, Haku-san. I was born Namikaze Minato. During the last great ninja war as I slaughtered an entire nation that was attacking my country I was given the moniker “Konoha’s Yellow Flash”, a name praised by my allies and feared by my enemies. However, the name I hold dearest to my heart is one that my mentor gave me shortly before my death, and the one that one as young as you is most likely to recognize: The Yondaime Hokage.” Haku smiled at the last name, obvious that Minato was correct in his assumption.
“It has been an honor, Minato-kun.” Haku bowed slightly and turned and opened the door, leaving Minato alone.
Minato leaned back in his chair and put his hands behind him and thought over his conversation with Haku. Naruto being a ninja now excited Minato, although he supposed it should worry him a bit as well considering how dangerous of a job it was.
Oh, who was he kidding, he could feel nothing but pride at the situation. His boy was a ninja! Cracking a large smile at the thought, he started to fill out Haku’s paperwork.
Now that Naruto is a ninja, I wonder if I am going to be having more interesting people stopping by and visiting? Somehow, I find it likely.
(1) It should be noted that Iwa, IE the Hidden Rock village located in Earth Country, is the sworn enemy of Namikaze Minato, the main character of this story. For some reason they took it personally when a man no older than twenty started to carve up their forces like one would expect a man to carve up a turkey. In traditional society parents soothed their children by checking under the bed for monsters, in Iwa parents checked under their own beds for the Yellow Flash.
(2)After Minato had used the calling button a few times, the Shinigami began to get annoyed and worked in conjunction with several other various Gods to erase it from existence. To this day Minato will sometimes reach for a button when he needs to call on the Shinigami and look around for a moment or two in confusion, unsure of what he was doing. Sadly for the Shinigami he is aware every time that Minato makes this motion as his fellow Gods do not like him nearly as much as he would like to think they do.
(3) The Shinigami had been very pleased to have a Hokage under his control, and he made no effort to keep this a secret. Referring to Minato as ”Hokage-kun” seemed to provide the Death God with an extra bounce in his evil step throughout the day.
List of Changes from Chapter 1: Almost every sentence that kept its original content has been reworked to sound and flow better. I added a few scenes, including the “afterlife points” discussion and the Jiraiya flashbacks. Dialogue was overhauled to an extreme, I felt I did a really poor job with the dialogue the first time around and that was something I wanted to focus on. Finally I removed a few paragraphs having to do with Zabuza, as they felt very jarring and out of place compared to what I really wanted to do. Considering I added so many parts and spruced up so much, I felt it was a giant pain in the ass for this to be in there. However there is a chance if I ever get around to Chapter 3 editing that much of what I erased from chapter 1 will find its way there, in a much more suitable place and manner.