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Sanguine: of gods and children

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Sanguine: (1) marked by eager hopefulness, confidently optimistic, (2) bloodred, (3) consisting of or relating to blood: bloodthirsty (4) accompanied by, involving, or relating to bloodshed, (5) healthy, red, complexion

 

Prequel

A Cursed seal. As the legend goes there was a demon of chaos that took the form of a large basilisk. This demon killed hundreds of thousands of people in the Konoha Kingdom. Madara Uchiha led an army of five hundred people against the demon determined to rid the world of the serpent for once and for all, and send the demon back to the underworld. He was successful and using a sword that had been blessed by the high priest with powers annotated from the sun god he was able to pierce the heart of the serpent. When the serpent lay dying it used the last bit of its power to curse the Uchiha clan. It was his revenge. The cursed seal.

The first child born with the curse seal was Madara’s own son. The seal started out small in the base where the neck met the shoulder. The older the child grew caused the seal to grow and consume. Black ink swirls covered the skin, the neck, the face, the arms, the stomach. It was a curse of madness. Madara’s son went crazy and developed an unquenchable bloodthirst. The temple's high priestess tried riding the curse but was unable. Hundreds of people were slaughtered by the cursed seal. The only one able to stop it came from the Senju clan who were blessed with holy power gifted, again, from the sun god.

The Senju clan earned their place of power. The holy temple was filled with members of the Senju clan that aided the emperor's conquests. Throughout the generations whenever a baby was born within the Uchiha Clan with a cursed seal on its body the baby was immediately murdered for fear the past would repeat.

It had become a legend and five hundred years later Fugaku Uchiha was reigning emperor of Konoha. The second crown prince, Sasuke, was born with the cursed seal. The high temple priest urged the emperor to kill the baby immediately. The memory of what happened had become so distant the urgency wasn't headed. Emperor Fugaku immediately refused. There was no need to murder him as his elder brother, Itachi, was to succeed the throne. Instead, Emperor Fugaku banished his son to a large manor in the countryside.

As Sasuke grew the cursed seal grew as well. There was something sinister about him that was sensed by the locals and those who served him. There was a bloodlust from an early age emitted from him that was only quenched at night. The maids and servants hired at the manor were found slaughtered one by one, and crown prince Sasuke was to blame. His eyes were bloody, ruby, red with the cursed seal insignia burned into his corneas. It frightened everyone. The high priest pleaded with Emperor Fugaku to execute his son or more innocent people will die. Emperor Fugaku still refused and made declarations that as long as he was alive and reigning he will not execute his son. It was said to help the fearful villagers crown prince Sasuke was chained to his room and the high priest utilized a powerful spell to blind Sasuke and he spent his days with a blindfold on.

As the years passed Emperor Fugaku fell ill, and each year the sickness grew and grew until he was barely able to get out of bed. Behind Emperor Fugaku’s back the high priest and the temple were plotting to execute Sasuke as soon as Fugaku died and crown prince Itachi succeeded the throne. There had been many assassination attempts on crown prince Sasuke’s life and every attempt was thwarted with crown prince Sasuke slaughtering them. There was no question of the power growing within crown prince Sasuke from the cursed seal. The temple devised a sinister plan and instead of an adult they used another child to gain crown prince Sasuke’s trust so that he could drop his guard, and when the time comes, he was at his weakest he can finally be executed and the world will finally be rid of the cursed seal.

 

Present Time

There was a prophecy. The sun god had provided visions to all the members of the holy temple on the successor to the temple. The child of Minato Namikaze and Kushina Uzumaki. There was internal turmoil. It was the first time a member outside the Senju clan was to take over as high priest. It was blasphemy. It was an insult, and the Senju clan wouldn't roll over like dogs and let this happen. The Senju members conspired against both Minato and Kushina and ruined them from the outside in.

Naruto was indoctrinated from birth. When the midwife cut the umbilical cord he was handed over to the temple. He had never met his father and his father never held him. He was told his father was a traitor and went against the high priest and betrayed the emperor. His father sinned and to pay for the sin with his life. His father was beheaded inside the temple and his blood covered the floors of the shrine while Naruto was still in utero. Minato’s head was placed on a stake on the walls of the palace for everyone inside and outside the palace walls to see the fate of a traitor.

The sin was still too great to be absolved with just his life.

The temple required a new life and when Kushina gave birth they had expected a baby girl. When they looked between Naruto’s legs and saw something else they were immediately displeased. They had wanted a baby girl they could eventually impregnate and sacrifice to the sun god. This would have to do. He was raised as a sacrificial lamb nonetheless. They took Naruto and raised him as a baby girl. Due to Minato’s sins that transferred to Naruto he was no longer in line to succeed as high priest. The members of the temple agreed. They will need to sacrifice Naruto when his virginity was taken at the cusp of adulthood and seek another prophecy. There was still a duty of the temple to keep Naruto within their control, keep him virginal, pure.

They kept him separated from Kushina as often as they could. His blonde hair grew longer and they dressed him in white dresses. He was dressed head to toe in white and when he got even a speck of dirt on him he was beaten and flogged.

Naruto was told he was not worthy enough. To pay for the sins of his father he had given the title of a girl. He had to be raised as a girl. A slave to the temple. If he finished repenting for the sins of his father he would be forgiven in death and will have salvation. He was born sick. He was born sinful and he needed to repent. Part of his indoctrination was what he heard and was taught about crown prince, Sasuke Uchiha. A cursed seal was imprinted on his life and if crown prince Sasuke continued living it was detrimental to the holy temple and the high priest and threatened the kingdom.

They wanted to ruin Naruto in every way imaginable. The high priest summoned him into the inner sanctuary. He was still a child. They found a loophole when it came to virginity. The mouth had no connection to virginity. The first rule he learned was nothing belonged to him. His clothes didn’t belong to him. His shoes didn’t belong to him. He didn’t have any possessions. His hair didn’t belong to him. His eyes didn’t belong to him...and his body didn’t even belong to him.

“You have a body that tempts men, Naruto.” The high priest whispered in Naruto’s ear.

The high priest wrapped his arms around Naruto’s body and pressed up against him from behind. He brought his lips to Naruto’s neck and began to lick the skin. The high priest brought his mouth down and bit Naruto’s neck, embedding his teeth into his flesh, and started to suck. Naruto knew better than to make a sound. Even if it hurt. Even if it left a mark. He wasn't the first child and he wouldn't be the last to receive the mark from the high priest. He became perfectly immobilized. He knew how to play the game. All the children of the temple knew how to play. The high priest's hands began to explore Naruto’s body under the white dress he wore. Naruto held his breath. Hands rubbed against his stomach, across his chest, played with his nipples to the point they hardened and became erect before fingers walked their way between his legs.

Naruto gasped as the expertise of the high priest touched him intimately. He tried to control his panting. Tried to ignore the pleasure that started to build. Nothing penetrated him below. His hands remained on the outside. The high priest couldn't chance Naruto losing his virginity before the right time.

Naruto detached from his body. He focused on the stained glass in front of him. It was a full moon tonight and light spilled through the stained glass and the colors of the glass covered him in the enriched sanguine color. The stained glass depicted the high priestess who rid the world of the first cursed child. The longer he looked he saw the high priestess transforming into his mother. He imagined her arms around him and hugging him. His mother's soft and beautiful face. Her long red locks. He felt safe and protected in her arms. He was too afraid to close his eyes afraid if he did the illusion he created would vanish, afraid the illusion of his mother he conjured up would burst.

“Get on your knees. Your body needs my seed to cure you.” The high priest commanded. Automatically Naruto kneeled down as if he was to pray. This happened as long as he could remember. He knew when it happened to the other children because they would whistle in the dark. It was what they called crying in the dark. “Open your mouth. Remember not to use your teeth. If you do I'll flog you.” Naruto tipped his head back and opened his mouth like an obedient child who listens to their elders. The high priest inserted his finger and pressed down on Naruto's tongue. Naruto started sucking his finger using his tongue. "That's a good girl. Do it just like that. Open wide."

The serpent slid into his open mouth excitedly. It was suffocating. It tasted like salty coins in warm milk. It tasted like the high priest hadn’t bathed in a few days. The mustiness was overpowering. The smell filled his nostrils and consumed him. He hated this smell. They all did. The taste he could ignore. It was the smell that was hard to forget. The smell wrapped around his brain and flipped and flopped his stomach. He fought back the urge to vomit. Vomiting only made things worse, and he didn’t want to be flogged again.

“You’re such a little whore.” The high priest said cruelly. He was moaning as Naruto sucked. “This is the only way to purify you filthy fucking whore. I bet you're loving every second of this you little bitch.” The priest wasn’t just satisfied with Naruto’s sucking and using his tongue. He grabbed hold of Naruto’s blonde hair and jerked his head back and began thrusting violently into Naruto’s mouth. It caused Naruto to immediately gag. He couldn’t breathe. He could feel the serpent being shoved deeper and deeper into his throat. His whole body was being rocked with each thrust. He could feel snot rolling down his nose as he tried to breathe. Tears streamed down. The high priest was blocking the stained glass window and Naruto couldn’t concentrate on anything else except what was happening to him at this moment.

“Why are you crying you fucking whore! If I don’t give you my seed who will purify you?” The high priest screamed and smacked Naruto across the face. "How can I give you my seed if you don't stop fucking crying! You're acting like I'm forcing you! Just wait until it's finally your tiny, tight, cunt that gets my seed. Then you'll really be crying."

Naruto could feel his stomach acid burning his esophagus as his body fought for oxygen. He hated when the high priest screamed at him during the whole ordeal. He wanted him to shut up. He always used words he didn't understand. What was supposed to make Naruto feel pure and clean only left him feeling even dirtier. He felt lightheaded. He was gagging and attempted to escape as every particle of his body pleaded for oxygen. The priest held the back of Naruto's head and pushed his head forwarded preventing him from escaping. The high priest finally ejaculated and filled Naruto’s mouth and throat with his seed. When he pulled himself out Naruto started vomiting and gagging. He was met with another blow from the high priest. He could feel the high priest continuing to pump the thick warm substance across his face. It hit his forehead, his cheeks, and rolled down his face.

“You’re supposed to swallow! How am I supposed to purify you if you don't swallow?” The high priest threatened. “Do you want to stay a filthy whore? You don’t want to repent! You want me to keep doing this to you because you enjoy it so much!” The high priest wrapped both his hands around Naruto’s neck and within seconds Naruto was pinned against the floor with the high priest straddling him. The weight pushed against his diaphragm knocked all the air from his lungs. His oxygen supply was cut off again. He was choking and gagging and crying. He couldn’t even plead or beg for forgiveness. He was running on empty.

“I should just kill you now! Fuck your tight cunt now and kill you!” The high priest screamed as he continued to choke Naruto. Both of Naruto’s hands went up and tried to remove the priest’s hands. His legs kicked out as he tried to buck the high priest off. It was impossible. His vision became blurrier and blurrier until he couldn’t see anything. He became weaker and weaker. Naruto’s eyes rolled in the back of his head and passed out. It was always so sudden.

Naruto didn't even know he passed out. A bucket of water was splashed over his head and Naruto woke up. He was laying on his back. He was still in the shrine and the high priest was standing above him with a bucket. The high priest was back to normal. His face was calm. He had reverted back.

“I have a mission for you: a way to help repent for your father’s sins.” The high priest started talking softly. “If you succeed you will have purity restored and I wouldn’t have to keep giving you my seed like this.”

Naruto was coughing and took sharp breaths. He pushed himself up into a sitting position and whipped the water from his face. He was listening.

“I am sending you to the manor. I want you to gain the crown prince’s trust. I want you to befriend him. I want you to play with him, eat with him, and sleep with him. I want you to become the crown prince’s world.” The high priest explained.

“The...crown prince? The cursed child?” Naruto’s voice was filled with fear. He heard all the horror stories about the cursed child’s bloodlust. The innocent people he had slaughtered within the walls of the manor. How it was a death sentence for anyone assigned to him. The temple had lost numerous members that were sent there to kill him.

“I’ll die!” Naruto cried out. He could barely survive the high priest and knew he wouldn’t survive the cursed child.

“So what? Your life is worthless! If you die serving the temple it’s a fitting death for you!” The high priest screamed. The vein in his forehead began to throb and his face turned scarlet. Naruto didn’t say anything else. It was true. Everything the high priest said was true. His purpose was to repent for his father's sins.

“It will work with you.” The high priest calmed down. He could flip a switch so easily. “Your existence and body tempt people. It will tempt the cursed child. The cursed child will cherish you. After you gained his trust. I want you to slowly start adding poison to his food. It won’t be enough to kill him. It will bind to his blood and organs and weaken him. Make him sicker and sicker and sicker. When crown prince Itachi succeeds the throne...we’ll kill the cursed child, and rid the world of evil.”

Naruto’s heart thumped painfully in his chest. The slaying of the cursed child was what the temple called for to save the kingdom. It was the type of assignment Naruto dreamed of to serve the temple and save the people. It was what he had to do. He wanted salvation. He wanted to become pure and clean.

“Do you understand your assignment?” The high priest demanded.

“Yes, High Priest.” Naruto nodded his head enthusiastically. He was given a new purpose. One of redemption.

“You’ll leave tomorrow. Now get out of my sight before you tempt me again!”

*****

Naruto was sent to the manor for the purpose of serving the crown prince. In the carriage ride, Naruto’s imagination took over. He expected the cursed child to be a monstrosity. A hunchback with a large brow bone that jutted out. An underbite where rotten teeth were exposed. A half-human, half-animal running around in a cage screeching like an ape. It was a long journey to the manor and the closer he got the more horrific his thoughts of the cursed child became.

The walls of the manor were even taller than the walls of the palace. The stone wall extended high into the air. It was almost impenetrable except the purpose wasn’t to keep enemies out it was served to keep the cursed child in. There was a powerful iron gate that was wheeled open and the carriage entered. The inside manor was beautiful. It was lush with trees, flowers, and interwoven paths that led into various flower and rock gardens. There were statues and water fountains. He saw a large pond filled with lily pads and water lilies where a stork was resting. The main house was artistically built and no expense spared. The house had tatami flooring, sliding doors, and wooden verandas circling the house. Smaller houses and structures were speckled around the main house like a small village. These housed the workers.

There was a serenity around the manor. A sense of peace within the walls. A stillness as if the manor was holding its breath and waiting. Yes. The manor was holding its breath. But Naruto didn't know why. Didn't know what the manor was waiting for. Naruto stepped out of the carriage to see an older girl who appeared to be in her late teens greet him. She looked skittish. Her hair was pulled up into two buns.

“You must be Naruto. My name is Tenten.” She bowed. She was wearing the light blue traditional maidservant dress. She looked Naruto up and down. “You’re from the temple?” Her face looked disappointed. She looked over her shoulder. A look of apprehension washed over her. She lowered her voice until she was barely audible. “You need to change if you want to survive.” He was dumped into the manor and when he looked back the carriage was already gone and the gate already closed.

Naruto was wearing the white dress as required of all the girls within the temple. It was decorated with intricate beading and lace. Naruto’s blonde hair reached the small of his back. It hung limply at his sides. It was humid out and the humidity took all the volume from his hair. Although he was a boy he had been raised with the same mannerisms as the girls within the temple. He was raised as a girl. Tenten grabbed Naruto’s hand and quickly led him to the furthest house from the main house. He was able to fool everyone around him. They all believed he was a girl.

“The crown prince does not like the temple. If he knows you’re from the temple he’ll kill you.” Tenten explained. She began shuffling through different trunks until she found a light blue maidservants outfit that would fit Naruto. “Change into this.”

Naruto’s eyes widened. “Now?” He asked.

“What? We’re both girls.” She shooed him. “Go on.” Her round chocolate eyes didn’t leave him.

“Please...turn around.” Naruto asked nervously. His face bloomed pink. “We’re not allowed to change in front of others.”

Tenten stared at him as if he had two heads. “You’re really as modest as they say!” She turned around and Naruto started changing. As he changed, Tenten started explaining the rules of the manor and what Naruto needed to do to stay alive.

“There are not many of us still left within the manor. Nobody wants to work here. If the money wasn’t so good I wouldn’t be working here but my mother is sick and the medicine is expensive. You shouldn’t be in the main house after dark. Actually, you shouldn't be anywhere after dark. Remain in your quarters. You’re going to be in charge of watching the crown prince during the day and delivering him his meals. He eats three meals a day. It’s best to stay at least six feet from the crown prince at all times. He can’t reach you if you stay at least six feet away.”

“Isn’t...isn’t the crown prince blind?” Naruto asked. He tried to hide the quiver in his voice.

“He sees in other ways. It’s best not to look directly into his eyes. He keeps his eyes covered most of the time...but if he takes his blindfold off...don’t look in his eyes or you’ll die.” Tenten warned. It was the curse of the basilisk. One look in the serpent's eyes and it can kill. He bit his lip and nodded his head.

Tenten spun around and looked at Naruto. She appeared satisfied with how he looked. She nodded her head. “You look like us.” She stepped closer and smelled him. She wrinkled her nose. “You smell different. You don't smell like us.”

“I smell?” Naruto asked. He tried sniffing himself and couldn’t smell anything.

“You’re too clean. You're not in the temple anymore so you won't be able to do your cleaning rituals here.” Tenten commented. “A maidservant shouldn’t smell so clean. You need to know your place. Come here.” Tenten motioned for Naruto to follow. She walked him down a path where cherry blossom trees were planted. They weren’t in bloom. She pointed to the ground where there was a section of dirt. “Roll around here.”

“Ey?!?” Naruto exasperated.

“You smell too much like the temple. He'll know right away. He hates the temple.”

Naruto walked to the dirt section and rolled to his back. He looked up at Tenten. She nodded her head. “Roll around.” Naruto did just that. He rolled around and as he did Tenten burst out into a fit of giggles. He felt foolish. It wasn’t cruel laughter like some of the other kids in the temple whenever someone was being humiliated. It was a burst of melodic laughter. Tenten kneeled down. She rubbed both hands against the earth and began rubbing Naruto’s face and neck with her hands. Naruto froze. She then put dirt in Naruto's hair.

“There.” Tenten surmised. “You’re starting to look and smell like a maidservant. You'll smell and look like us in no time.”

Tenten began to give Naruto a tour of the manor. Showing him where everything was located. As she gave the tour she didn’t stop talking. She had a roughness about her he hadn’t witnessed in another girl before. He barely left the temple. She spoke in a dialect that was hard to understand at times. She lectured him for being too proper with his words. He needed to loosen up. He didn’t hate Tenten and the more time he spent with her the more he started to like her. She was honest. The first time he saw a change in her was when they got to the main house. She tensed up. The carefree nature vanished. The brightness of her face darkened and paled. She shivered.

“Why don’t you go introduce yourself to the crown prince while I go finish up the laundry.” Tenten spoke quickly. She didn’t allow Naruto to answer before she spun on her heels and ran away. Naruto swallowed and walked up the stairs to the wooden veranda. It was the reason why he was here. His hands opened up the screen door. He was shocked to see how dark everything was inside.

“Who's there?” A voice coming from the darkness asked. Naruto’s heart thumped. This was his assignment. His mission. He slid his shoes off.

“My name is Naruto. I’m your new maidservant.” Naruto greeted. Naruto pushed open the sliding doors and entered the room. “It’s dark in here.” Light flooded the room from the open door. Naruto stood at the edge of where the last ray of sun greeted the darkness of the room. His eyes started to adjust. Naruto kneeled on his knees and bowed.

“It is an honor to meet you, crown prince.” Naruto greeted warmly.

“Come here.” The crown prince called out. Naruto pushed himself up and ventured across the threshold and walked into the darkness towards his voice. His eyes began to adjust. He saw an outline of a boy. The blade of a sword emerged from the darkness. Naruto saw a ray of sun reflecting off the blade and immediately tried to dodge the blade. Then he was struck. The blade caught Naruto across his right bicep just as he tripped and fell. The sword sliced across his skin and he could feel blood pouring from the wound. It was a five inch wound that sliced him horizontally. The blade was sharp. So sharp it could have cut his arm off.

“Were you sent to kill me?” The crown prince screamed. "You reek of the temple!"

“No! I'm not!” Naruto cried out as his body struck the tatami mats. His left hand went immediately to his wound.

“You’re a child.” The crown prince commented as if finally getting a good look at Naruto.

“Yes…” Naruto answered weakly.

“How old are you?”

“I was born in the year of the snake.”

There was a pause. Naruto squirmed and tried to keep his focus on breathing through the pain. “You’re the same age as me.” The crown prince calculated.

“Mhm.” Naruto murmured. He squeezed the wound on his arm trying to stop the blood. It poured between his fingers. He continued to hold pressure against it.

“Aren’t you afraid of me?” The crown prince asked. "Why aren't you running away? Are you too afraid to leave?" He laughed cruelly.

“Why...why would I be afraid?”

“I just sliced you with my sword. I can smell you bleeding everywhere.”

“Are you...going to kill me?” Naruto asked. Naruto noticed the crown prince’s feet. They were both barefoot. His left foot had a shackle fastened around his ankle, and it was connected to a chain. Naruto could see the shackle had rubbed the flesh clean off, and underneath was a festering wound. Parts were infected. Parts were scabbed. Parts were bleeding. The crown prince was wearing an informal black kimono. The crown prince went from standing to kneeling. He went down so they were on the same eye level.

“No.” The crown prince answered. He sounded as if he was still debating if he was going to kill Naruto or not.

“Then why should I be afraid?” Naruto asked and raised his eyes. He saw the crown prince was wearing a black blindfold that covered half his face. His skin was white. Like the snow on top of a mountain. That beautiful, virginal, snow that was untouched, and the only purpose was to be beautiful. Naruto’s eyes adjusted more. He could see the cursed seal. It was painted over his neck, and the left side of his face. On his cheek. He wondered how far the curse spread on his body.

“You’re not lying.” The crown prince commented. His head tilted. Naruto remembered Tenten saying that the crown prince can see in other ways. Just what other ways was the crown prince looking at him?

“Why...why would I lie?” Naruto asked.

The longer he looked at the crown prince the more of his features he began to see. The more he saw of the crown prince the less afraid he became. He noticed how thin the crown prince truly was. He was smaller than Naruto was. Thin. So thin that Naruto could see the clavicle bones in his neck jutting out. He was malnourished. Underweight. He was swimming in the kimono. Was the crown prince refusing food? He was still holding onto the sword and Naruto noticed how thin his wrists were. Naruto looked at the blade. It was covered in Naruto’s blood and it dripped onto the tatami mat.

Naruto had a higher tolerance for pain. The discipline he was subjected to within the temple made getting sliced by a sword no different than getting a papercut. He was more concerned about losing blood. The pain, like a papercut, subdued quickly. He could feel endorphins flooding his bloodstream. It was his favorite part of pain. When endorphins filled him and he felt nothing but pleasure.

“What did you say your name was?” The crown prince asked as he sheathed his sword.

“Naruto.”

“Get out of my sight, Naruto. Leave before I strike you again!” The crown prince yelled. Naruto didn’t say anything else. He scrambled up and ran from the room. Naruto made sure to close the sliding doors, slid his shoes back on before running away.

*****

Tenten had finished bandaging Naruto’s arm up. She put a salve on the wound to prevent infection.

“Are you okay?” Tenten asked.

“Mhm.” Naruto answered.

He needed to befriend the crown prince. He needed to be okay. He couldn’t be making a fuss over one wound. The scars on his back was enough to prove his high tolerance of pain. Prove he didn't care how scared and bruised his body was. His first impression of the crown prince was...pity. Naruto remembered leaving the temple once and saw how hungry the children outside the palace were. So skinny he could count all the bones.

“Why is the crown prince so skinny?” Naruto asked.

“He refuses to eat.” Tenten answered plainly. “We can’t force him to eat. We just...I mean you’ll just need to deliver his food. What he does afterwards is up to him. You did your job.”

It made Naruto uneasy. The children of the temple weren’t starved. They ate just the right amount of calories to appear healthy. Just enough to keep their faces full and their hair glossy. They needed to have beautiful faces while serving the sun god. They didn’t indulge in food like the royal family. He wondered how the crown prince would react if he asked him to eat. When dinnertime came Naruto collected the tray from the chef. He looked at the food and frowned.

“What’s this?” Naruto asked the chef. He thought it was a mistake. "Is this for the crown prince?"

“It’s his food.” The chef snapped. Naruto gripped the tray tightly.

It was a meager bowl of rice, miso soup, and a small fried fish. It was the meal of a prisoner. The children of the temple ate more than this for one meal. Naruto didn’t know why he was feeling anger inside him. It bubbled in his stomach. Was it pity? He saw the bones jutting out. So defining it was almost nauseating to look at. Naruto didn’t budge. He turned his attention to the chef who appeared to be in his thirties. An adult who knew better. Someone who hated the crown prince and didn't care if he lived or died.

“No.” Naruto commented. “This isn’t his food. This is a meal for a prisoner not a meal for the crown prince.” Naruto placed the tray back down.

“What did you say to me you little bitch?” The chef yelled. Naruto wasn’t afraid of the chef. He wasn’t afraid of the crown prince. The only person he was truly afraid of was the high priest. He stood his ground. He knew how to carry himself. He was taught so within the temple. Members of the temple stood on even ground as the royal family. Naruto even though he was filled with sin and sickness was above the chef. The social hierarchy was engraved in all the children of the temple. They served the gods and advised the royal family. He pretended to be a maidservant but he was in higher status than all of them.

“When I report back to the palace that this is what you’re feeding the crown prince...who do you think will be punished? Me or you?” Naruto threatened. He didn’t break eye contact with the chef. He knew the royal family. Emperor Fugaku. Emperess Mikoto. Crown Prince Itachi. The children of the temple were invited to many social events hosted by the Uchiha's. He knew how to act in high society. They wore their white uniforms and performed. The children of the sun god were special.

“Who are you?” The chef asked. There was hesitancy in his voice. He wasn't asking 'who do you think you are', he was really asking 'what is your true identity?'

“Why else would the palace send me? To report back on the crown prince’s condition. The emperor wants to make sure his son is being taken care of.” Naruto gave just the right amount of information to make his point crystal clear.

Naruto could see the chef digested these words carefully. It was true that the emperor spared his son’s life. There must have been a reason. The chef didn’t say anything else. He turned around and went back to cooking, deciding to alter the menu. Naruto didn’t leave. He supervised the chef. He watched the chef prepare a thick curry. He knew what higher society dined on. It was a delicious aroma filling the kitchen when the chef was done which caused Naruto to believe it was a meal befitting the crown prince. The chef prepared the new tray of curry, a bowl of steamed vegetables, rice, a bowl of permissions, and a kettle of green tea. Naruto surveyed the tray, and nodded his head in approval. When he left he heard the chef mumble on his breath.

“You fucking bitch.”

Naruto pretended not to hear and carried the tray back to the main house. He set the tray down and kneeled in front of the door.

“Crown prince. It’s me, Naruto, I am here to deliver your dinner.” Naruto announced outside the sliding doors. He slid his shoes off.

“You can leave it there and leave.” The crown prince called. Naruto pretended he didn’t hear. He opened the sliding doors, picked up the tray and entered the room.

“What are you doing? I said to leave the tray outside!”

“How will you eat it if it’s outside?” Naruto asked. He carried the tray and set it on the floor. “It’s too dark in here to eat.” Naruto moved and began pulling down the blankets that covered up the windows. Every blanket he removed caused light to pour through.

“Stop it!” The crown prince yelled. Naruto didn’t listen. The room was illuminated in light.

“I stopped.” Naruto answered.

“That’s not what I meant!”

Naruto shrugged and kneeled down in front of the tray. “On the tray is curry, vegetables, rice, permissions, and green tea. Shall I pour you some tea, crown prince?” He smiled sweetly.

“No. I’m not hungry.”

“I don’t accept that.” Naruto answered and began pouring the tea. “You need to gain weight. You’re nothing but skin and bones.” Naruto’s eyes glanced at the sword in the crown prince’s hand. He was mindful of where the sword was at all times. It was currently in its sheath.

“Try some of the curry.” Naruto asked softly, sweetly, encouragingly. “It’s so yummy.”

“I don’t eat curry.”

“Now you do. Now either eat it or I’ll force feed you.” Naruto threatened.

The crown prince laughed. “You’re going to what? I’m still the crown prince and you’re nothing but a maidservant!”

Naruto didn’t know what he was doing. He stood up and shoved the crown prince back with both hands. The crown prince fell backwards. He was caught unawares. The sword fell from his hand and Naruto crawled on top of him. He sat on the crown prince’s stomach and pressed his hands against his shoulders. Pinning him to the ground. Naruto grabbed a spoonful of curry. When the crown prince opened his mouth to yell at Naruto he jammed the spoon into his mouth. Naruto kicked the sword away and watched as the sword slid across the room. He had eliminated the threat of getting sliced again.

The crown prince struggled but swallowed the spoonful of curry. He gasped. “What are you doing? Get off me you animal!”

Naruto jammed another spoonful into his mouth. “I don’t know why you’re refusing food, but you’re not going to refuse food on my watch! Look at you. You’re not even strong enough to push me off. Try and push me off if you can.” Naruto laughed as he continued pinning the crown prince to the floor. He watched as the crown prince attempted to push Naruto off. “Maybe if you eat you can push me off. Open up your mouth.” Naruto teased.

“GET OFF ME!”

Naruto jammed another spoonful into his mouth.

“I’m stronger than you.” Naruto commented slyly.

The crown prince was breathing heavily. He knew he needed to knock the crown prince down to the same level as him. He didn’t want the crown prince to think he had any power over him. The same rules applied with the other children of the temple. They were all even. They all experienced the same discipline. The same punishment. The same treatment from the high priest. None of them were better than anyone else. The same rules were going to apply to the crown prince.

“I’m the crown prince!” He screamed as if it made any difference. It didn’t. There was nothing he could do at this moment. The sword was across the room and he couldn’t remove him. Naruto was stronger. He was a child who ate three square meals a day. A healthy, robust, child.

“What does it matter you’re not stronger than me, and we’re both the year of the snake.” Naruto taunted.

“I’ll kill you.” The crown prince spoke with gritted teeth.

“No you won’t.” Naruto didn’t feel afraid. The crown prince didn’t answer. He remained still for a moment. Naruto didn’t move.

“I’ll eat.” The crown prince said after a moment of silence. “Get off me and I’ll eat.” Naruto waited a few seconds. He looked down at the crown prince trying to assess if he was lying or not. He decided to trust the prince and climbed off. He watched as the crown prince pushed himself into a sitting position. His cheeks were flushed with reds. It was the first time that Naruto noticed how young the crown prince was. They were the same age but the crown prince looked...younger. His heart thumped. He didn’t know why a maternal feeling was washing over him when he looked at him.

“How are you a girl if you act like that?” The crown prince bickered. “Nobody is going to marry you. I bet you’re ugly too. Maybe a pig will marry you. You’re basically a pig anyways.” The crown prince continued to mumble as he took the spoon and began feeding himself. Naruto was curious to know how the crown prince maneuvered and fed himself when he was blindfolded. Was he able to sense the outline of things?

“I’m not a pig!” Naruto argued.

“Yes you are. Oink oink.You have no manners. You don’t know your place. You don’t listen. Stupid pig. Stupid animal.” The crown prince continued to grumble.

“Call me a pig again and I’ll pin you again!” Naruto threatened. The crown prince opened his mouth as if he was going to call him a pig but decided not and just continued to eat. Naruto didn’t say anything else. His eyes moved to the shackle around his ankle. When the sun started to set the crown prince shoved the empty tray back.

“The sun is setting!” The crown prince announced. “Leave now! Go back to your room and stay there until morning, or you'll really die.” His voice changed. It wasn’t the sound of a whiny child. It was serious, threatening. There was something sinister about it. It caught Naruto off guard. The personality change was hard to describe. It wasn't as frightening as the high priest but it was still alarming. Was it the cursed seal? His eyes moved over the cursed seal painted on his skin. The curse was one day going to consume him in madness and he was going to turn into a demon and go on a murdering rampage across the kingdom like Madara's son.

“Okay. I’ll see you tomorrow morning. Goodnight.” Naruto answered. He didn’t argue. He took the empty tray and left.

*****

The crown prince was different than he was described. He wasn’t a monster. He was a child. He wasn’t deformed. He wasn’t hideous. He was just malnourished and short. The only thing noticeable was the cursed seals on his skin. They were the color of ink and were a contrast to his white skin. He didn’t know what his face looked like. Half of it was covered in the blindfold. His teeth were straight and white. They weren’t rotten, and he didn’t have an underbite. He didn’t feel...threatening. Not yet. He probably became bloodthirsty at night when the sun god was no longer able to suppress the chaos inside him and the moon freed him. It was probably why he was told to remain in his room. It was the same warning Tenten gave him.

He had to take in new information and sort through it. The crown prince wasn’t hateable. He was just...a child. He acted like a child. Carried himself like a child. Was that why Naruto felt...maternal? Naruto didn’t hate him and he tried not to like him. He kept looking for a reason to...hate him. He had been at the manor for a little over a month and nothing out of the ordinary happened. Things were uneventful. It was why when Naruto woke up in the middle of the night with the urgency to urinate he left his quarters and walked to the outhouses.

It was a full moon. Everything was bathed in a blue hue. The wind was warm. It was the fourth month of the year and the cherry blossoms were blooming. The pink petals filled the trees. The wind swayed softly through the branches and pink petals floated down. Naruto walked down the cherry blossom path back towards his quarters when he stopped. The shadows of the branches spread thick and skinny across the ground. It resembled a spiderweb across the ground entrapping Naruto in its web. He saw someone. It looked like one of the maids. She was hunched over a tree and was crying. Her shoulders rocked up and down. Her crying reached him. Naruto approached her.

“Are you alright?” Naruto called out. The servant didn’t move, she just kept crying. Naruto left the path and walked towards her. She was dressed in all white and her long black hair was swaying in the wind. “What’s wrong?” Naruto asked and reached out and touched her shoulder.

The woman jerked as if she had no control over her limbs. She spun around. It was the first time Naruto was seeing her. It wasn’t a woman. It was a spirit of a mother looking desperately for her dead child. Her eyes were pure white. Her mouth twisted into an ear-piercing scream. She crouched down and her arms moved as if separate from her body. Her jerky movements weren't human. Naruto was shocked and fell backward. Blood covered her hands and dripped down.

“Where’s my baby?” The woman chortled. Her voice was high-pitched and stung Naruto’s ears. It sent shivers down his spine. “You took my baby from me! Give him back! GIVE ME BACK MY BABY!” The woman pounced on Naruto and her arms wrapped tightly around his shoulders, pinning him to the shadow web. He couldn’t even scream. Her mouth contorted and her jaw become unhinged. Large jagged teeth emerged from her gums, sending blood and saliva dripping down onto Naruto's face.

Naruto’s eyes widened as the woman bent down to rip apart his jugular. Instead, something flashed across Naruto’s vision. It was a sword. It sliced through the air breaking the sound barrier. The blade struck the woman in the neck and the blade cut through her chest cavity. Blood gushed out of the wound like a sprawling waterfall. It covered Naruto as the woman’s body dropped backwards from the force.

“Do you have a death wish? Weren’t you told not to leave your quarters after dark?” The crown prince asked from behind. Naruto was panting. His heart beat so rapidly, so painfully. Punishing him for being so bold as to leave his room during the night. The fear that overwhelmed him paralyzed him. He was trying to regain control of his body. He couldn't speak.

“Oh. Are you actually scared?” The crown prince taunted. He crouched down next to Naruto.

Naruto brought his eyes up to look at the crown prince. He was breathless. The prince wasn’t wearing the blindfold anymore. Don’t look directly into his eyes! The warning escaped him. It was too late. He looked directly into his eyes. They were illuminated. They were mesmerizing. Glowing orbs of ruby red. It was a beautiful shade of red. It really did resemble a bloody red ruby. There were jewels and treasure within the temple. It paled in comparison to the crown prince’s eyes. He became light-headed. The crown prince’s face was beyond beautiful. He had thick black eyelashes that curled. His nose was straight and narrow. His black hair fell across his face as the wind picked up again. He was smirking.

“Cat got your tongue?” The crown prince mocked.

“You saved me!” Naruto confessed. His heart thumped wildly it felt like his coronary artery was going to explode at any minute. His cheeks became inflamed. He was filled with an overwhelming sense of gratitude.

“Who's stronger now?” The crown prince mocked and tilted his head. Naruto didn’t know what he was doing. He just reacted. He wrapped his arms around the crown prince and hugged him. It was surprising to the crown prince as it was surprising to Naruto himself.

"Thank you for saving me!"

“Hey-hey-hey...what are you doing?” The crown prince panicked.

“Shut up! I’m thanking you!” Naruto argued. Naruto could feel the prince’s body tensed up against him. The prince didn’t say anything and didn’t push him away. He continued hugging the prince until his heart calmed down and he was able to think appropriately. His mind cleared and he was able to breathe normally. When he was done he let go and pulled back. He stood up and moved away from the rotting corpse.

“I...know her.” Naruto exclaimed as he looked at the face of the woman. “She works in the kitchens!”

“Mhm.” The crown prince answered and stood up. “She was possessed. She would have killed you if I didn't kill her first.”

A thought occurred. Was the crown prince really slaughtering so haphazardly...or was he...slaughtering the demons that had possessed humans? It was something he hadn't thought about before. They will find her body in the morning and the rumors will spread. He knew how the world will view it. They weren't here. They didn't witness what really happened. They will say the crown prince slaughtered another innocent servant. Naruto turned to look at the crown prince. He wasn’t wearing the blindfold and he wasn’t shackled. His eyebrows furrowed.

“Why aren’t you...wearing the blindfold?” Naruto asked. Did he even need to have his eyes covered?

“My eyes frighten people. I was told to cover them up.” The crown prince answered. Naruto didn’t die when he looked into the prince’s eyes. There was a cursed seal in each iris. They were symmetrical. But Naruto didn't die.

“Can you...see me?” Naruto asked and waved his hand in front of his face.

“Not really. You’re blurry. I can see your outline, but that’s it.”

“Are you saying you could have gotten out of your shackles at any moment?”

“Mhm.”

“Why have them on in the first place?”

“People feel better, and safer when I’m shackled up.”

“They hurt your foot and ankle. Why experience that pain? Just leave them off.” Naruto commented. “The same with your blindfold. Keep it off. You’re not a prisoner. You’re the crown prince.”

The crown prince smirked again. In the month that Naruto had been living here, he had forced the prince to eat three square meals a day and he had already doubled in weight. The prince’s body took hold of every calorie he ate and filled out. He was no longer skin and bones. He had filled out and began looking like he was supposed to look. Naruto was still taller by a few inches but the prince had grown too. The crown prince stared at Naruto.

“You’re really not scared?”

“No.”

“Okay. I’ll keep them off.” The crown prince spoke as he sheathed his sword. The wind picked up again. “I’ll take you to the bathhouse so you can clean up then I’ll escort you back to your quarters. It’s dangerous out here at dark.”

“Mhm.” Naruto agreed. He walked alongside the crown prince. “Is it not dangerous for you?”

The crown prince laughed. “No.” Naruto believed him. He wasn’t a typical human child. He had survived every assassination attempt. He had been slaughtering demonically possessed humans. Even walking by his side Naruto could feel how powerful he really was. No wonder the temple couldn't kill him. When they reached the bathhouse Naruto turned to the prince.

“Don’t peek!”

“I can’t see you, and why would I want to peep on a pig girl like you?” The crown prince gawked.

“Good.” Naruto shot back and entered the bathhouse. He stripped off his blood-soaked clothes and walked into one of the cypress bathtubs. The water was room temperature. He wasn't allowed to clean as often as he cleaned at the temple. He really was looking and smelling like a maidservant.

“How did you know I was in trouble?” Naruto asked as he began washing the blood from his skin and hair. He wanted to hurry.

“I was patrolling the manor. I came across you. I thought about letting you die, but then I couldn’t tease you about who was really stronger.” The crown prince answered. He mumbled under his breath. "Which after tonight proves I'm stronger. Boys are supposed to be stronger than girls."

“Do you patrol every night?”

“No. Only during the full moon and new moon.”

“I’ve never...seen something like that before.” Naruto confessed.

“I think I draw them to me. They’ve been around for as long as I can remember.”

The only information the temple had to go on about the cursed seal was everything that was documented with Madara Uchiha’s son. Nowhere was it documented about demons and spirits being attracted by the curse. It made sense the more Naruto thought about it. Wicked things attracted wicked things like a moth to a flame. Naruto brought a palm to his chest. He could still feel his heart beating. The one undeniable fact he couldn’t forget was the crown prince saved him. If he hadn’t he knew the demon would have ripped apart his throat and he would have bled out. He didn’t want to die. He had strong preservation for life.

Naruto finished scrubbing himself clean and he stepped out of the bath. He reached for a towel and began drying his body off. He didn’t want to waste time drying up so he did the bare minimum. He changed into a yukata that was hanging up. It was a little big on him but it did its job and covered him up. Naruto came out of the bathhouse.

“I’m ready.”

“Aren’t you going to dry your hair properly?” The crown prince asked. He wondered if he would ever get used to how the crown prince....sees the world.

“Ey? I’m fine I don’t want to keep you waiting.”

“You’re going to catch a cold if you don’t dry your hair off.”

This time it was the crown prince making demands. The crown prince entered the bathhouse, grabbed a towel, and emerged. He threw the towel over Naruto’s head.

“Let’s go back to the main house so I can make sure you dry off properly.” The crown prince demanded. Naruto’s heart thumped. He didn’t argue and followed the crown prince back. He didn’t understand why the crown prince was being so...nice. His niceness began to sting. It cut through him like the winter air freezing him to the bone. He kneeled on the tatami mat as the crown prince began drying off his hair. He closed his eyes. He was surprised at how gentle the crown prince was.

The last time someone dried his hair off was his mother. He closed his eyes and remembered her soft hands gently bringing the towel over his head. Her soothing voice. It was one of the rare times he was permitted to see her. His hair went to his shoulders at that time. He wished it was longer because if it was longer he would be able to stay with her longer. After drying his hair his mother took a comb and began combing all the knots and snarls from his hair. She brushed it until it was silky smooth. He had wished his hair was full of knots and snarls so he could stay there a little longer.

He could hear the high priest’s voice. Telling him if he did exactly as he was told not only wouldn’t he have to take the high priest’s seed anymore he would be allowed to visit his mother. Maybe it was because he was still reeling from his near-death experience. Maybe it was because he didn’t expect the crown prince to be so human, so kind, so gentle. Maybe it was because he was hundreds of miles away from the high priest and for the first time in his life he was able to breathe without fear of repercussions. He didn't have to take the high priest's seed and he didn't feel dirty anymore. He felt cleaner here in the dirt than he did in the temple.

It hit him. He started crying. It wasn’t the whistling in the night that the other children in the temple called when they cried softly into their pillows at bedtime. It was full-on ugly crying that derailed into wailing. He was overcome with such conflicting emotions he didn’t know how to handle them.

“What’s wrong?” The crown prince asked and dropped the comb he was using to brush his hair. “Did I hurt you?”

Naruto didn’t answer. He couldn’t. All his energy went into crying and it was the only emotion he was capable of expressing.

“It’s...okay! You’re safe. I’m not going to hurt you. I’ll protect you. I really am stronger than you, ya know!” The crown prince was panicking. It only caused Naruto to cry more. “I’m becoming stronger every day even if you pinned me down now I can probably overtake you!”

His words didn’t penetrate the overwhelming sadness that had encased Naruto. The crown prince wrapped his arms around Naruto and hugged him. Naruto remembered hugging his mother. Naruto wrapped his arms tightly around the crown prince and buried his head in the prince’s chest. He could smell the prince. He smelled of jasmine. He tried to remember how his mother smelled and he couldn't. Naruto hugged him back so forcefully it caused the prince to lose his balance. He fell backwards with Naruto on top of him. Naruto's body became dead weight.

“Hey...hey...this is cheating!” The crown prince protested as Naruto’s body pinned him down. “Aish! Fine.” He appeared to give up his resolve of pinning Naruto. He continued hugging Naruto. Naruto could feel the warmth exuding from the prince’s body. It was so warm and inviting that Naruto didn’t want to let go. It was comforting. It took almost thirty minutes before all the energy left Naruto. His eyes were so swollen he couldn’t keep them open. His body so exhausted it couldn’t move, and in the arms of the crown prince Naruto drifted off into a deep slumber.

The crown prince must have fallen asleep too because when Naruto woke up he could feel sun rays streaming through an open window and hitting him in the face. He was still curled up next to the crown prince, his arms still wrapped around his body, his face pressed against his chest. He let go of the prince and pushed himself up. The crown prince started stirring and he opened his eyes. Naruto looked at his bloody red ruby eyes. They were piercing. They were beautiful. He looked directly at the cursed seals within his eyes. The prince pushed himself up. It was hard to turn his eyes away. It was only natural for humans to want to stare at beautiful things.

“G’morning….how are you feeling? Are you feeling better?” The prince asked. He yawned and stretched like a cat.

“Mhm. Thank you for last night. It helped calm me down. I'm sorry for...crying so much.”

“You can sleep here whenever you’re afraid. Not on me...but over there.” The crown prince dictated and pointed to a spot across the room. Naruto nodded his head.

“Okay.” He stared at the crown prince for a few more minutes. The crown prince's stomach growled and broke the silence. Naruto stood up. “I’ll go fetch your breakfast. I’ll be right back!” Naruto turned and left.

*****

As Naruto predicted they found the deceased corpse of the maidservant. Bleeding out under the cherry blossom tree. They had also found the bloody uniform in the bathhouse. Naruto changed into another fitting maidservant’s outfit and emerged from his quarters to see Tenten standing there.

“I was so worried about you...I thought the crown prince hurt you too! I saw your uniform in the bathhouse. You’re okay!” She hugged him.

Naruto didn’t know how to explain what really happened last night. They all assumed the crown prince went on another bloody rampage. Everyone refused to enter the main house. They were all afraid they were going to be next. Naruto wasn’t afraid and soon all duties that involved the main house were shifted upon him. He didn’t mind. Naruto remained in the kitchen supervising the chef as he prepared breakfast. A servant walked into the kitchen.

“Naruto?” The servant called out. “You have a parcel.” A small square parcel with a wax seal was in her hands. He immediately recognized the seal. It was the seal of the high priest. He took the parcel. He excused himself and returned to his quarters. He closed the door and pressed his back against the door ensuring nobody randomly opened it while he opened up the parcel.

His hands were trembling so fiercely he barely got the package open. The parcel contained a vial with a screw top and a letter. Naruto’s heart ached as he read the letter.

'You know what to do. Be a good girl. I’m watching you.'

Naruto swallowed. The vial was filled with the poison he needed to use to sprinkle in the crown prince’s food. Naruto stood up, opened up his suitcase, and stuffed the vial underneath his clothes before slamming it shut. He took the letter and ran from the quarters. He ran in the opposite direction to where the rock garden met the flower garden. He crouched behind a large rock that hid him from sight and began to eat the letter. He tore the letter up into tiny pieces and chewed them until saliva made the parchment easier to swallow. He swallowed it all. He didn’t stop until the letter was gone. The evidence in his stomach.

He hadn’t earned the crown prince’s trust yet...did he? It was too early...wasn’t it?

He recited the last words: I’m watching you. Did the high priest plant a spy? Was there a spy among the staff? Yes. Of course, there was. The high priest didn’t trust him. How could he trust someone who was as full of sickness and sin as him? Someone who was so corrupt and dirty? Trusting Naruto was like trusting a starving dog not to eat a steak placed in front of him. He began to hyperventilate. He needed to find out if the crown prince trusted him. How?!

How would he know? What did he need to do that proved the crown prince trusted him? Should he put the poison in his food and see if he eats it? Yes. How else would he tell? Okay. Okay. Just once. To try it out. He’ll mix some poison up in his food, and if the crown prince eats it then he trusts him. That makes sense right? It was too late for breakfast. When should he do it...lunch...or dinner? His heart quickened and his breathing became raspy.

Dinner. So Naruto could make the excuse of going back when it got dark. No. Naruto’s mind raced. The crown prince said that Naruto could sleep with him anytime he was afraid. Wouldn’t that make the prince trust him even more? If after he fed him poison he stayed the night? Naruto smiled. Yes. The prince wouldn’t suspect him. If anything they’ll suspect the chef that already openly hated the crown prince and fed him prison food before Naruto’s arrival.

Naruto’s smile grew and grew as his plan shifted together. He was excited. Of course, the prince liked him. He liked him enough to save him last night. They had been spending every single day together over the last month. Of course, the prince liked him. Did the prince miss him? He became more and more excited. The prince liked Naruto enough to allow him to cling to him all night long. Naruto covered his mouth with both hands and tried to stifle the laughs that threatened to escape him. Does that mean the crown prince liked him?

Oh yes. The prince did like him and did care for him. He’ll cement the words today. Tell the crown prince that he is a precious friend, a cherished friend. Yes. He’ll tell the prince he’s a precious, cherished friend, and that he wants to remain by the prince’s side. Naruto stood up and walked down the path that led back to the kitchens. He stared at the tray that was full.

“Serve the crown prince another tray. A fresh tray. This one has been sitting out for too long.” Naruto demanded.

“It’s not my fault. You left!” The chef argued.

Naruto didn’t say anything and kept staring at the chef. The chef’s face twisted up into an ugly scowl and turned his back mumbling obscenities about Naruto under his breath. Naruto smiled coly at the chef’s back. Was this how the high priest felt when he took control? This incredible feeling that warmed him up? Gave incredible life and energy to?

Naruto really was a wolf in sheepskin. When the new tray was prepared Naruto took it and headed towards the main house. His next thoughts shifted from poisoning the crown prince to who the spy was that the high priest planted and how to eliminate them.