Master of the Shadow Clones | A Naruto Fanfic



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noheartx

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So I've had this story up on fanfiction for awhile now, but i recently decided to go over the story and fix it up a bit and add some stuff. I've got about 5 chapters done out of a total 31 that are up right now, and its about halfway through, give or take. And since editing doesn't take as long updates will be quick. I'll post one and two for now, and see if anyone likes it. I was hoping i could use this as a beta site, because that sounds far more effective than a beta reader.

Anyway, little bit about the story before I post it up:

-M rated but i dont write porn scenes -_-
-Completely AU except for the characters

Cant think of anything else, so enjoy!
 

noheartx

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Master of the Shadow Clones


Chapter 1: Of Death and Demons

The resonance of destruction and chaos echoed through Minato’s head as he dodged the insanely strong blows this masked man liked to dish out. While his village was being destroyed by the most powerful Tailed Beast in existence, he was stuck fighting a freakishly powerful man with impossibly long limbs and a single Sharingan eye, which frustrated him to no end. If he survived this he would have to have a word with Fugaku…

“Had enough yet? I thought you were supposed to be able to kill thousands in seconds? I’m not impressed.” Minato never let taunts get to him, in fact, he prided himself on his ability to keep his composure. But when he saw Kushina’s dead body, well composure was the last thing on his mind. As he slammed another Rasengan into the assailant he was not surprised to see that, once again, he had brushed off his signature technique like a fly.

“What are you made of?” Minato asked in astonishment as he flashed away. The assassin just chuckled with amusement.

“You don’t wanna know the answer to that.” His arm stretched out and snatched Minato by his throat, but the Hokage was gone in a flash, and he reappeared behind the assailant. Two three-pronged kunai were thrust into his back, and the assassin roared in anger as blood spilled down his back. He turned around and slammed his hands on the ground, creating a fissure that seemed to never end. Minato watched as the assassin wrenched both kunai out of his back, and he realized that it was not blood, but a thick, black liquid. The man’s Sharingan pierced him with hatred from across the canyon, and then he was suddenly gone. Minato immediately turned around and started flashing towards the village, not bothering to chase him.

There was already too much at stake.

XxX

“Just a little longer! We must hold it at bay until the Hokage arrives!” One Leaf ninja shouted to his comrades. Although he didn’t really believe that was possible at this point. The Nine-Tailed Demon Fox was just too powerful. Hundreds of Leaf ninja were already dead, with hundreds more wounded. It would truly take a miracle for the Leaf to come out on top.

“Fire Style: Big Flame Bullet!” Jiraiya exhaled a huge breath of fire powered up with Toad Oil right into the Nine-Tail’s face. The fox reared its head back and howled in pain, but quickly countered with a tail swipe, sending Jiraiya flying to the ground. “Shit…”

“Look it’s the Fourth Hokage!” Not a second after that exclamation did a loud tremor sweep through the earth as Gamabunta, the boss of the Toad Summons, landed on the Nine-Tails, flattening it against the earth. A guttural roar of defiance ripped through the air as the toad was blown away by a pulse of malevolent, crimson chakra, destroying the terrain in its path. In a bright, yellow flash, Minato appeared next to Jiraiya and helped him up. A long, hard-as-diamond staff cracked the Nine-Tails in the skull, sending it back down to the ground. The old Third Hokage had donned his armor once more in the name of his village, much to the protest of his family. ‘Retirement be damned! Just because I am not the current Hokage does not mean I am not Hokage!’ Of course, he was right.

“I’ll hold it down Minato! You focus on the sealing!” Hiruzen jumped away and engaged the Fox after that, using the Adamantine Nyoi, a weapon which could extend as far as the eye could see and would never break or scratch. The weapon was really a transformed version of Enma, the Monkey King and personal summon of the Third Hokage.

“Sealing? What is he talking about Minato?” He asked desperately. The blonde Hokage nodded solemnly. Jiraiya then noticed that he had a bundle of blankets in his arms. “What is…” Minato looked at Jiraiya with eyes full of sorrow.

“I didn’t want to have to do this…but I don’t see any other choice.” Jiraiya paled as the blankets shifted and a tiny hand poked out.

“Is that-“

“Yes. This is my son. It’s too bad I’ll never get to raise the boy.”

“What do you mean?” Jiraiya already understood the reason for Naruto’s presence. He was to become the next Jinchuriki of the Nine-Tails, like his mother before him. But why wouldn’t Minato be able to raise him? “What have you done boy?”

“I’ve created the most complex and efficient sealing technique for a Jinchuriki. With this seal, I will split the Nine Tails Chakra in half, Yin and Yang, and seal both halves in myself and Naruto respectively. Then over the years as Naruto’s chakra coils grow, he will start to slowly absorb the Nine-Tail’s chakra until he absorbs all of it.” As Minato explained this, Jiraiya stared at him in amazement. Jiraiya was probably the only person in the Hidden Leaf who truly understood just how hard a seal of that magnitude would be to pull off, and yet Minato talked about it like it was a simple exploding tag.

“How the hell did you create something like that? Furthermore, how are you going to hit the Fox with that huh? And you still haven’t answered my question about why you can’t raise Naruto.” Jiraiya was talking too fast and too seriously, but Minato understood his concern.

“Kushina…is dead. Someone figured out that Kushina went into labor, and a man with a single Sharingan eye came to where we were doing the birth. The ANBU were dead before they knew what was going on. I saved Naruto but…” The blonde Hokage looked down and shuddered, “…dammit that was what he had wanted me to do. I was in my safehouse when suddenly I felt the Nine-Tail’s chakra, and I knew there was nothing I could do. By the time I got back, the Nine-Tails was free and a kunai was buried to the hilt in her head.” Jiraiya was visibly taken aback by his student’s bluntness. It wasn’t like him.

“We’ll get him-“

“No we won’t. You can, I won’t. I have a date with death in a few moments. That’s one date you won’t see for awhile Sensei, but I guess the hookers will hold you over until then. Just tell Hiruzen that I’m sorry I failed him. Oh, and if you see Kakashi please tell him the same.” Minato stated as he interrupted the Sannin.

“What? What do you mean you have a date with death? I don’t like how you’re talkin’ right now Minato. If you seal the Nine-Tails-“

“I will die.” Minato interrupted once again, this time with finality. “The cost of power is great Sensei. You should know that. In this case, it’s my soul. But I’m willing to pay it if it will save the village. It’s the least I can do.” Jiraiya was totally baffled.

“Least you can do! You won the diddlying war! And don’t give me the humble shit boy; you and I both know it’s damn true. That’s why you wear that hat.” The white haired man stated angrily.

“And it’s because I wear this hat that I have to do this. It is a Hokage’s duty to sacrifice himself for the village. If this is what I must do to save the home that I love and cherish, then so be it.” Minato rebutted sadly. Jiraiya could only fume silently as his once eager and positive student-turned-Hokage got ready to sacrifice himself. “’Just promise me one thing Sensei.” Jiraiya glared at Minato for a long second before he sighed and shook his head. Stubborn boy.

“Anything Minato. Name it and I’ll do it.”

“Watch over him for me. I just…I just want him to be happy. He deserves it.” Jiraiya nodded.

“I’ll do it. As the boy’s Godfather it’s my duty right?” Minato smiled.

“Thank you Sensei. You don’t know how much that means to me.” Minato then turned to see the Demon Fox barred in a cage made out of the Adamantine Nyoi.

“Now Minato!” Hiruzen shouted as the fox bellowed in rage. The Blonde Hokage nodded handed Naruto to Jiraiya before pulling out a scroll and making the last hand sign he would ever make. “Goodbye Sensei. Dead Demon Consuming Seal!” The scroll opened, and a large, circular seal with a whirlpool pattern flashed red as blue chakra chains shot out of it and almost mummified the Fox. Enma transformed back to normal as the chains slowly lifted the Nine-Tails into the air and ripped it in half, an image that would stay seared into the minds of every ninja fighting that day. The two halves were then pulled back and siphoned into both Naruto and Minato’s bodies. Identical seals appeared on their stomachs, and Naruto’s crying had ceased. Gamabunta, who had recovered just moments ago, knelt down next to Jiraiya as the Sannin caught Minato in his arms.

“What did I miss?” Jiraiya glared at the Toad Boss.

“Everything you fool.”

“What! How dare you call me a fool Jiraiya. Forget Snakeskin wallets, I could use a new Jiraiya-skin wallet!” The toad bellowed challengingly.

“I’m not in the mood to joke around Gamabunta. Minato is dying.” That got the toads attention, and his demeanor did a three-sixty.

“Minato! What happened?” The Hokage laughed hoarsely.

“Details details…what does it matter now? I did what I had to do. The village is safe, Naruto is safe, and I retrieved the Nine-Tails, although that never really mattered. Now I just need to rest…” Jiraiya shook him.

“Not yet. We can save you Minato. Just don’t give up!” Jiraiya wanted to take Minato and run, but with Naruto in his arms he couldn’t carry both. And he certainly wasn’t going to leave either of them.

“No. I saw the Death God. I saw his arm as it reached into my stomach and ripped out my soul. I know it was real too.” He coughed. “Don’t worry Sensei, everything is fine now. Just take care of Naruto and everything will…be…” His words were swept up in the wind as his life faded away, and not a second later, a bolt of yellow lightning streaked across the sky. Jiraiya gazed at it in awe before he started to laugh.

“Even after you’re dead, you’re still the fastest.”

XxX

“That’s quite a story Jiraiya.” Hiruzen Sarutobi commented. Jiraiya had explained, in detail, Minato’s final moments to the newly reinstated Third Hokage as soon as he returned to the village.

“And now we have his legacy to protect.” Jiraiya said, looking down at Naruto. The blonde baby was fast asleep, with a look of serenity on its face. “I promised Minato I would look after the boy, and I won’t go back on my word.” Hiruzen nodded in agreement.

“Yes, I think that is the best course of action. Unfortunately, now that I have my old position back, I do not believe I would be able to adequately care for the boy. But Jiraiya, how do you expect the village to react? Surely they will call for Naruto’s blood.” A look of pure anger and determination appeared on Jiraiya’s face.

“They’ll have to go through me first. I’ll kill anyone who tries to harm Naruto, Leaf ninja or not.” Hiruzen could tell that Jiraiya was completely serious, and he honestly couldn’t blame him. Jiraiya was going to treat the boy like his very own flesh and blood.

“I understand your feelings Jiraiya, but please do not do anything stupid.” Jiraiya shook his head.

“It would be stupid on their part, not mine.” Hiruzen sighed. He would just have to accept Jiraiya’s aggressiveness. The door to the Hokage’s office suddenly opened, and both Hiruzen and Jiraiya frowned. “Danzo.” The old war hawk shuffled into the room, his face being an emotionless mask. What you could see of it at least.

“Hiruzen. And Jiraiya, you’re here as well.” Jiraiya ‘tched’ at the man and took a seat in the corner of the room. Danzo ignored Jiraiya’s blatant disrespect and moved to sit in front of Hiruzen.

“How can I help you Danzo?” Danzo looked over at Jiraiya, and his eyes locked on to the boy in his arms.

“So that’s the Jinchuriki of the Nine-Tails.” Jiraiya head snapped up and he glared at the elder. Danzo turned back to Hiruzen. “I have a request.” Hiruzen raised his eyebrow.

“What do you request?”

“I wish to take the boy under my wing and train him myself.”

“Absolutely not!” Jiraiya interjected.

“You are not the Hokage.” Danzo shot back with a glare.

“But I am. And Jiraiya has already been given custody of the boy.” Danzo’s single eye narrowed.

“You would waste the opportunity to create a powerful weapon for the Leaf because of sentimentality? You are a fool Hiruzen.” Jiraiya stood up now, enraged at the old man.

“He is not meant to be a weapon! He’s a hero you bastard! Minato would never let anyone use his son as a weapon and dammit I won’t either!” Danzo’s eyes widened.

“Son…?” Hiruzen nodded.

“Yes, Naruto is in fact the son of our late Fourth Hokage. That is why the Nine-Tails was sealed into him, because Minato did not think it would be appropriate to use another person’s child if he could not sacrifice his own.” Danzo sat in silence for a moment before standing.

“Very well. But you are making a mistake.” With that, the old war hawk exited the room. Jiraiya glared at the door.

“That man pisses me off.”

XxX

“I wonder what the Hokage wants to tell us.” Maito Gai commented as all of the ninja and civilians in the village gathered around the Hokage Tower.

“I’m sure it has something to do with…recent events.” Kakashi Hatake answered. At 15, Kakashi was already one of the most respected ninja in the village, having achieved the rank of Jonin at age 13, and ANBU only a year later. Along with him were Maito Gai, one of Kakashi’s friends and an eccentric Chuunin, Asuma Sarutobi, son of the Third Hokage and a Chuunin as well, and Shikaku Nara, lazy genius of the Nara Clan and Jonin rank ninja.

“It looks like we’ll be finding out now.” Shikaku said, pointing at the Hokage, who had just emerged from the tower. He stood on top of the tower, and he activated a technique that would amplify his voice.

“Thank you all for coming. I know many of you are busy rebuilding your shops and homes, so I promise to make this quick.” Behind the Hokage stood his former student. In Jiraiya’s arms he held a bundle of blankets. “As you know, our Fourth Hokage gave his life to defeat the Nine-Tails in combat and save our village.” Murmurs of sorrow and regret spread through the crowd. Everyone had been affected by the death of their Leader. “But what most of you don’t know is that a Tailed Beast cannot truly be defeated. Instead, they must be sealed into something…or someone.” At this point, Jiraiya stepped forward, handing Naruto to the Third. “Before he died, Minato used a Sealing Technique of great power to seal the Fox into his own son.” The crowd was deathly quiet. That piece of information had hit them like a hammer. “The Fourth Hokage’s final wish was to see his son treated like a hero, because he is what keeps the Nine-Tails at bay. Without him, we may not be here right now.” There was a low murmur that reverberated through the crowd. Most of the people there didn’t really know how to feel about this. On one hand, Sarutobi was right. He was keeping the Nine-Tails at bay. On the other hand, what if the Nine-Tails was able to control the boy, or worse, break the seal. “I understand how many of you may feel,” Hiruzen continued, “but you must understand that there is nothing to fear. The seal is the strongest of its kind, and there is no way the Demon Fox could escape.” Hiruzen knew that wasn’t entirely true, but the only people who could let the fox free were Minato and Jiraiya. And eventually, Naruto. “So please, I beseech all of you to view this boy as a hero, and not as a demon. Honor the memory of the Fourth Hokage by treating his legacy with respect and kindness.”
Hiruzen observed the crowd. Some of the people seemed to accept his speech, and held no hostility towards Naruto. But he could tell not everyone shared the same sentiment. Some were angry, whether it was over the loss of a comrade or what have you, and wanted Naruto’s head as payment. He sighed as he turned around to report back to his office. It would be a hectic day, and he needed a little time to prepare himself.

‘I’m going to need my pipe to get through this one.’


XxX

The Hokage, Clan Heads, and all of the other important people in the Leaf Village sat around a long conference table. At the head sat the Hokage himself, with his one remaining student seated on the right side of him. Then there were the two village elders, Homura Mitokado and Koharu Utatane, as well as Danzo Shimura. There were the Clan Heads, Hiashi Hyuuga, Inoichi Yamanaka, Chouza Akimichi, Shikaku Nara, Fugaku Uchiha, Shibi Aburame, and Tsume Inuzuka. Hiruzen represented the Sarutobi Clan. Then there were the representatives of the civilian sector, Jizuna Kaikoru and Daidashi Tsukedo.

“You made a bold declaration today Hiruzen. Do you think it was smart to inform the village of Naruto’s Jinchuriki status?” Koharu asked skeptically.

“I did what I thought was right. Minato’s last request was that Naruto be treated as a hero. I must respect his wishes.”

“And in doing so you have wasted a valuable tool.” Danzo interjected. Jiraiya clenched his fists but stayed silent. An outburst from him would only hurt Sarutobi’s argument.

“We will not discuss this again Danzo. Naruto will be placed under the care of Jiraiya. He is the boy’s godfather, and he is next in line to receive him.” Danzo shifted in his seat but said nothing more.

“While I understand your reasons Lord Hokage,” Hiashi supplied, “I see much wisdom in Danzo’s opinion. With a weapon like that, surely our enemies would think twice before any kind of attack.” Danzo smirked.

“I agree as well. This is an opportunity we cannot afford to pass up.” Koharu announced.

“This is not up for discussion. As the Hokage I have already given my judgment on the matter. Do you wish to defy your Hokage?” That silenced everyone. “Good. Now, let’s move on to the next order of business. Our forces are greatly diminished at this point. We lost too many ninja to the Nine-Tails, and our forces are the weakest they have been since after the last war. In order to counter this problem, I must ask that all Clan Heads be reinstated as active ninja and start accepting missions again.” A few of the Clan Heads seems surprised, but others just nodded.

“Anything for the village.” Shikaku replied.

“Fine with me.” Tsume added.

“While I do not disagree with this course of action, who will run our clans for us?” Fugaku asked.

“Relegate your responsibilities to the Clan Elders if you must. But we need our strongest ninja out on missions to show that we are not so weak. My student will be accepting missions as well. In the mean time, we will do a complete overhaul of the Ninja Academy curriculum so that students can be promoted to Genin at an earlier age. It may not be the best course of action, but we need to bolster our numbers.” No one voiced their disagreement, so Hiruzen leaned back in his chair. “That is all I have to say. If any of you wish to speak the floor is yours.” Shikaku Nara cleared his throat.

“I think we should restore Jonin status to a good portion of our ANBU. It would give the appearance of having a larger army, and they could still take on similar missions.” Hiruzen nodded.

“That sounds like a good idea. Does anyone have any objections?” No one said anything. “Very well, I will see that it is done.” Shikaku nodded. “Anything else?” It stayed silent. “Good, then this meeting is adjourned.”

XxX

“Wait, what?” Kakashi was confused. He had just been called into the Hokage’s Office to find out that he was essentially being kicked out of ANBU and being reinstated as a Jonin. While it didn’t really bother him, he’d rather have stayed in ANBU. “I’m confused Lord Hokage.”

“You see Kakashi, after the attack from the Nine-Tails our forces are at an all time low. By reinstating you as a Jonin, your name is back on the roster, and our numbers are bolstered. As an ANBU, you aren’t technically on the official list of ninja.” Hiruzen explained.

“I see. Well, anything for the village Lord Hokage.” Hiruzen smiled. With that, Kakashi exited the office, leaving Hiruzen alone. That had been the last ANBU-turned-Jonin of the day, and the Hokage didn’t have another appointment until later that evening. So he took out his pipe and packed it full of grinded up marijuana. While many would say that it was immoral to smoke the substance, Hiruzen disagreed. In fact, he knew many ninja in his force smoked the stuff after a stressful day or mission. It was better than tobacco, because it was completely harmless, and the feeling you got was much more relaxing. So, he lit his pipe and took a long hit, keeping the smoke deep in his lungs, and exhaling after a few seconds. Just then, he heard a knocking on his window, and he only knew of one person with the audacity to enter through the window.

“Come in Jiraiya.” The window slid open, and Jiraiya hopped into the room. “Keep the window open.” Jiraiya walked over to the desk, and the scent of the smoke filled his nose.

“Stressful day?” Hiruzen just nodded and set the pipe down in front of Jiraiya, who picked it up and took a hit. “Oh yea, that’s the good stuff.” Hiruzen shook his head with a smile.

“What do you need Jiraiya?” The Sannin set the pipe down and shrugged.

“Nothing really. I’ve just been a little on edge. Naruto is a handful. I think this is the first time he’s slept in two days. I love the kid but he’s a damn handful. So I left thirty Shadow Clones and decided to pop in for a visit.” Hiruzen chuckled.

“Well he is Minato’s son.” Jiraiya scoffed.

“More than you know it. Did you know he can already walk? He’s a month old! That should be physically impossible!” Hiruzen’s eyes widened.

“That’s impressive. He’s going to make a fine ninja one day.” Jiraiya nodded.

“You bet your ass he is. And I’m going to be the one who trains him.”

“Well of course you are. You’re the only one who can.” Hiruzen took another hit of the pipe and exhaled slowly. “You just better be careful. Who knows who might target him.” Jiraiya sighed.

“I’m not so much worried about attack from within the village. Most of the ninja forces accept the fact that Naruto is just a host surprisingly. It’s mostly the civilians who distrust him. I’m more worried about Hidden Rock…”

“Yes, if anyone were to make an attempt on his life it would be them.” Back in the Third War, Minato had single-handedly defeated entire battalions of Rock ninja literally in seconds with his Flying Thunder God Technique. It was how he got the nickname the Leaf’s Yellow Flash. Since then the Hidden Rock had harbored an intense hatred for Minato and by association the Leaf Village. And surely that hatred would now be directed at Naruto.

“I know I can handle any assassins, and I have traps set up all over my estate, but I’m still worried y’know?”

“It’s natural for you to be. He’s your godson.” Jiraiya sighed and walked back over to the window.

“Yea. Well, I should be getting back. Shadow Clones can get kinda stupid sometimes.” With that, Jiraiya jumped out the window and returned to his abode. Hiruzen continued to smoke his pipe, hoping that soon everything would finally return to normal.
 

noheartx

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Chapter 2: The Prodigy


“It’s about time you got here.” Jiraiya said as he shut the door behind his guest. “I heard you had a penchant for being late but this is a little ridiculous no?” His guest shrugged.

“I got lost on the road of life, what can I say?”

“What kind of excuse is that?” The silver-haired Jonin sighed. “Now what were you really doing?” Kakashi looked down at the ground.

“I was at the memorial stone.” Jiraiya’s eyes widened, and then an expression of understanding appeared on Jiraiya’s face.

“Say no more kid. I understand.” Kakashi nodded. “Let me take you to the kid.” Jiraiya led Kakashi upstairs and into one of the large rooms of the estate, where Naruto was meditating quietly.

“You got him to meditate?” At this, Naruto’s eyes popped open, and he smiled.

“Hi Kakashi!” The blonde boy jumped up and ran over to Kakashi, engulfing him in a hug.

“Not anymore.” Jiraiya stated with a sigh.

“Hey Naruto. How’s it been?”

“Great! Uncle Jiraiya started training me to become a ninja!” Kakashi turned to Jiraiya.

“Really? Don’t you think four is a little young?”

“How old were you when you were put in the Ninja Academy?” Kakashi scratched his head and chuckled.

“Point taken. Seem's like so long ago... Anyway what have you been teaching him?” The Jonin asked.

“Nothing too intense. Basic Chakra manipulation, some Taijutsu, and some weapons training. I’m sure he’d appreciate it if you helped him out a little too.” Naruto’s eyes lit up.

“That would be awesome! Will you help me train Kakashi? Please!” Kakashi laughed and ruffled the boy’s hair.

“Sure, I’ll help train you Naruto.” The boy shouted in excitement.

“Yes! C’mon let’s go now!” Naruto bolted out of the room, and he could be heard charging down the stairs and out the back door.

“Wow, he sure has a lot of energy.” Jiraiya scoffed.

“Tell me about it. Sometimes he even tires me out.”

“Great. So this isn’t going to be a walk in the park?” Jiraiya laughed and put a hand on his junior’s shoulder.

“No, not by a long shot.” Kakashi sighed. “It’s okay, I’ll only be gone for two weeks, tops.” Footsteps could be
heard on the stairs, and seconds later Naruto appeared in the room again.

“C’mon Kakashi! What are you waiting for! I’m not gonna become Hokage if you don’t train me!” Kakashi held his hands up.

“Okay okay, we’ll go train now.” Kakashi looked gravely Jiraiya before being dragged out the door. Jiraiya let out a chuckle as he followed the two boys. He was glad Kakashi could do this on such short notice, not that he really had a choice in the matter. His mission would take him all the way up to Lightning Country, and he knew he couldn’t leave Naruto alone for that long. Even with his state of the art traps, someone was bound to try something stupid.
Over the years, the villagers had developed mixed feeling about Naruto. Most of the civilians still hated him, mostly because of their ignorance of Minato’s genius. They still thought the Nine-Tails could escape at any time, and that Naruto was a menace to society. On the other hand, a good portion of the ninja population saw Naruto as what he truly was: a hero. They knew Minato’s seal couldn’t be broken without extreme circumstances, and with Jiraiya to watch over the boy, it was highly unlikely it would ever come to that. Of course, there were still some ninja who vowed to avenge their fallen comrades by slaying the demon, but that faction’s numbers lessened every year. It was an ongoing battle, but Naruto was slowly gaining the recognition he deserved.
The main reason that Jiraiya didn’t want to leave the boy alone however, was because of Hidden Rock. Like they predicted, as soon as word reached the ninja village about the Fourth Hokage’s heir, there was a unanimous demand for his blood. Assassins had been sent multiple times over the years, all of whom had been dealt with easily by Jiraiya. When Hidden Rock found out it was Jiraiya of the Sannin that was watching over the boy, they got smarter. Now, assassination attempts only happened when he left the village, and if it weren’t for the ANBU stationed around the estate 24/7, the boy would be dead. How Hidden Rock knew when Jiraiya would leave the village, he didn’t know, but it was an extremely dangerous breach in security that they had no way of fixing without any evidence. ANBU had been looking into it for years now, but apparently whoever was doing this was very good at cleaning up after themselves.

Jiraiya did one final check of his gear before slipping out of his house and making his way to the village gates. He just wanted to get this mission over with so he could stop worrying.

XxX

“So what kind of techniques do you know?” Naruto asked excitedly. Kakashi and Naruto were sitting on Jiraiya’s back porch after a surprisingly tiring training session. While the boy wasn’t anything Kakashi couldn’t handle, he had insurmountable amounts of energy, and tiring him out was a feat of its own. So for the past half hour, while they had been resting, Naruto had been pelting the Jonin with questions about ninjas, ninja techniques, missions, and really anything else that came to his mind. His thirst for knowledge was impressive, and he took to things like a leaf in the wind.

“Well Naruto, I know many techniques, thanks to my Sharingan.” Naruto cocked his head.

“Sharingan? What’s that?” Kakashi pulled up his headband and Naruto’s face took an expression of awe. “Woah…your eye looks so cool!” Kakashi chuckled.

“Yea, it is pretty damn cool. It’s also very powerful. You see, with this eye, I can copy a technique I see someone use just by watching how their chakra flows through their bodies.”

“You can see people’s chakra?” Kakashi nodded.

“With the help of this eye I can. It also gives me an enhanced perception of reality.”

“What does that mean?”

“Well, it basically means that I can see things better and quicker than a normal eye. It’s easier for me to read through a person’s attack, and it gives me insight on what I can do to counter that attack. It has saved my life more times than I can remember.” Naruto smiled.

“That’s amazing. Is that something I can do too?” Kakashi shook his head.

“Unfortunately no. Do you know what a Bloodline Limit is?” Naruto nodded.

“Yea, Uncle Jiraiya explained it to me. It’s a special ability passed down through certain clans right?” Kakashi nodded, once again surprised at the boy’s knowledge.

‘He called him Uncle Jiraiya? Does that mean he knows about his parents?’
Kakashi pushed the thought aside and continued to explain.

“Correct. The Sharingan is a Bloodline Limit passed down through the Uchiha Clan.” Naruto’s face lit up with understanding.

“Oh I’ve heard of them! They live in the Leaf Village right?” Kakashi nodded. “But I thought your last name was Hatake.”

“It is. I’m not an Uchiha. This eye was given to me by my dead teammate, Obito Uchiha. The story behind it is…a little gruesome and I’d rather not go into it. All you need to know is that this eye is the only living memento I have of Obito, and he saves my life everyday just by letting me see the danger a normal eye couldn’t see.” Naruto nodded.

“That’s so cool. Well except for your teammate.” Kakashi looked up into the sky.

“It’s okay. He’s in a better place right now.” A solemn silence came over the two, until Naruto broke it with another question.

“So if you can copy techniques, you must know a lot right?”

“Over a thousand, actually. They call me the Copycat Ninja because of it.” Naruto’s eyes almost bugged out of his head.

“Over a thousand! That’s a lot!” Kakashi laughed.

“It sure is. But I’m always learning more. Whenever I go on missions there’s always a new technique to learn, and I take full advantage of my Sharingan to learn one.” Naruto jumped up from his seat.

“Let’s train more!” He exclaimed suddenly. Kakashi’s eyes widened.

“Really? You’re not tired?” Naruto shook his head furiously.

“No way! I’m always ready to train.” Kakashi chuckled nervously and stood up.

‘This kid is going to be the death of me. Damn you Jiraiya.’


XxX

“Come in.” Hiruzen called out after hearing a knock on his door. The door opened, and a blonde blur raced around his desk and tackled the old Hokage into a hug.

“Hi Gramps!” Kakashi walked in after with a hand on his head.

“Naruto, I told you to be calm when we went to see the Hokage. Not tackle him.” Hiruzen laughed and waved his former ANBU captain off.

“It’s no trouble Kakashi. And hello Naruto. What brings you here today?” The blonde ball of energy looked up at Hiruzen with a bright, beaming smile.

“Come to lunch with us Gramps!” Hiruzen looked up at Kakashi, who, from what you could see at least, seemed mortified that this little boy was calling the Hokage ‘Gramps’.

“I’d love to Naruto. Kiyoko!” A petite, brunette woman scurried into the office.

“Yes Lord Hokage?”

“Please hold all of my appointments for about an hour. I’ll be heading out to lunch now.” His secretary bowed in respect.

“Of course Lord Hokage. Anything else?”

“No that will be all.” Kiyoko scurried back out of the room, and the Hokage stood up.

“Did you have a destination in mind Naruto?” He asked, already knowing the answer.

“Ichiraku’s!” Naruto shouted with a smile.

“Very well. Ichiraku’s it is.” The Hokage walked around his desk and left his office, followed by Naruto and Kakashi.

They walked through the halls of the Hokage Mansion until they finally reached the exit. As they walked down the road, Naruto began to tell the Hokage of his training with Kakashi.

“Two Hours? Kakashi is that true?” The silver haired Jonin nodded.

“Yes sir. His stamina is truly amazing for a boy his age.” The Hokage’s eyes widened, and he smiled down at the boy.

“That’s amazing Naruto! You’re going to be a strong ninja one day.” Naruto grinned.

“Yea! And I’m gonna take your hat!” Hiruzen seemed shocked by this, but then he let out a hearty chuckle.

“Well Naruto, that’s a quite respectable goal. But the road to becoming Hokage is harsh. Do you think you have what it takes?” Naruto nodded.

“Of course! I won’t give up until I become Hokage!” Hiruzen gazed into the boy’s eyes and saw the fierce determination that burned there.

“I believe you Naruto. The Will of Fire burns strong in you. Don’t ever lose sight of your dreams.” Hiruzen smiled widely, and Naruto smiled back, both of them breaking into laughter. Kakashi just watched with interest, starting to understand the bond that the Hokage and Naruto shared. They were really like Grandfather and Grandson, one passing his knowledge and wisdom down to the next.

XxX

“Thank you for coming Kakashi.” Kakashi nodded.

“Of course Lord Hokage.” Hiruzen leaned back in his chair and took out his pipe.

“You don’t smoke do you?” Kakashi’s eyebrow rose.

“What, Asuma’s never told you?” Hiruzen cocked his head slightly, and Kakashi’s eyebrow widened. “Oh, you didn’t know. Well you didn’t hear it from me.”

“Right.” Hiruzen lit his pipe. “Anyway, the reason I asked you to be here was because I am curious about the depth of Naruto’s skills. How strong is he?”

“Well, like I said before, his stamina is incredible. Easily Chuunin level. He has also mastered the tree climbing exercise, and he can even effectively use it in battle. His Taijutsu is a bastardized version of Jiraiya-Sama’s Taijutsu, but it’s wild and unpredictable. Although it’s very effective. He actually landed a few hits. Granted, I wasn’t going full strength, but it’s still impressive.” Hiruzen nodded.

“Well, it looks like we have another prodigy on our hands.“

“Sir, if I may, might I suggest enrolling him in The Academy?” Kakashi asked carefully.

“The Academy? He’s four!” The Hokage stated in defiance.

“Lord Hokage, I was five when I entered. We may have been at war, but Naruto is just as good, if not better, than I was at that age. He’s a true genius. And that kind of potential shouldn’t be wasted.” The Hokage sighed deeply before leveling Kakashi with a contemplative stare.

“You were Minato’s student, so it only makes sense that you would want to be involved with the boy. This isn’t like you Kakashi.” The silver haired Jonin smirked.

“Yea well, he brings it out in me.”

“Yes he certainly does. He has that effect on everyone it seems... I’ll speak to Jiraiya about it when I see him. I’m sure he’ll be ecstatic.” Hiruzen nodded and Kakashi walked out of the room with a bow. Hiruzen couldn’t deny, if Kakashi’s observations held true, that Naruto was 100% ready for The Academy, but he was just worried about the boy. He knew exactly what it was like to be a prodigy, and he hoped Naruto would be strong enough to make it through. Especially considering who his father was. Minato Namikaze was a pretty big damn name to live up to, considering he was the strongest shinobi of his generation. But maybe Naruto had the potential. He would just have to wait and see.

XxX

“The Academy? Are you serious?” Naruto asked, excitement dancing in his eyes.

“Yes I am! You’ll be the youngest kid to ever be admitted into The Academy. I’m so proud.” Jiraiya’s smiled down at his godson. “And when you become a famous shinobi one day, it will be me, Jiraiya of the Sannin who can take credit for training you!” Naruto looked up at Jiraiya and frowned.

“Uncle Jiraiya, you’re doing it again.” Jiraiya blinked and sighed.

“Sorry kid. I guess I’m just excited to have a pupil again. You know I trained you father right?” Naruto rolled his eyes.

“Yea Uncle Jiraiya, you’ve told me like a million times.” Jiraiya laughed.

“Alright I’ll stop. But seriously you should be proud. You have the potential to be one of the strongest shinobi who ever lived, did you know that?” Naruto looked at Jiraiya in awe.

“What do you mean?” Jiraiya smiled and poked Naruto on the chest.

“You have a power inside you that can be matched by no other. If you never go back on your word, and never give up, then you will never fail.” Naruto nodded firmly.

“I’ll never give up. You know that.” Jiraiya nodded.

“I know. Just remember, even in the darkest times, you must push on. No matter what happens.”

“I told you, I’ll never give up until I’m Hokage!” Jiraiya smiled.

“Good. Now, let’s go get you enrolled in The Academy.”

XxX

“It will take the three of us to defeat Jiraiya, but we can do it.” A cloaked figure said. Four more cloaked figures stood in a circle in an empty warehouse in an unknown location.

“Jiraiya of the Sannin?” Another of the figures asked.

“Yes. He has already come dangerously close to discovering us once, we cannot afford for him to succeed in that.” The first one responded.

“Do you really think we can take on one of the Legendary Sannin?”

“You do not need to worry about that. We will take care of that.”

“Rest assured, the Sannin will die. You two are dismissed.” The first figure stated firmly. Two of the figures, one of them being the one who questioned whether or not they could defeat Jiraiya, disappeared in swirls of wind. The three that remained started walking slowly the other way.

“Why are we doing this?” One of the cloaked figures, a girl, asked.

“Because it needs to be done.” Another, a man, answered, his gritted teeth showing under his hood. “Some things in life aren’t fair.”

“But think about what you’re doing!”

“It must be done!” The three figures stopped. One of them was breathing heavily. They stood in silence as the one figure caught his breath, and then they continued on their way in silence.
 

KingdomKey

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This was a lot to take in at once but I like where this plot is going. I'm curious about who the four mysterious cloaked figures are but I'll wait and see if my guesses are right. I look forward to seeing your next chapter.
 

noheartx

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Chapter 3: The Pain of Love



“Is that the Academy?” Jiraiya smiled down at his godson.

“Sure is. You ready for your first day?” Naruto nodded enthusiastically. “Good. Now, I know you’re going to find most of this stuff boring, but please at least try to pay attention?” Naruto sighed and nodded. “Alright. Just remember the other kids are going to be a lot older than you, but you can’t let them intimidate you.”

“I’m not scared of a bunch of children!” Naruto shouted in defiance. Jiraiya let out a throaty chuckle, the irony of the statement amusing him.

“Whatever you say kid. Now go. Have fun.” Naruto nodded and dashed away from Jiraiya, joining the other children who were pouring into The Academy. Jiraiya smiled, a wave of nostalgia washing over him. Knowing Naruto, these next few years would be hell.

XxX

“Alright class, settle down.” The chatters and whispers of the ninja prospects’ ceased, and the Chuunin Instructor, Iruka Umino, cleared his throat. “Today, we have a new student. I’d like to introduce you to Naruto Namikaze.” Iruka motioned towards the blonde, who was standing at Iruka’s side. One of the student’s hands rose.

“Yes Aki?”

“Are you related to the Fourth Hokage?” Naruto nodded.

“Yea, he was my dad.” Whispers broke out across the room.

“He must be really strong.”

“He has to be! But look how young he is!” Iruka tapped the blackboard.

“Ok that’s enough! Naruto, you may sit wherever you like.” Naruto nodded at the Chuunin and walked all the way to the back of the class, taking an empty seat in the far left corner next to a girl with long black hair and bright, shining blue eyes. They exchanged glances as Naruto sat down, and Naruto smiled at her.

“Hi! I’m Naruto.” The girl blinked before smiling slightly.

“I’m Kairi.” Kairi stared into Naruto’s eyes for a moment. “So you’re the son of the Hokage?”

“Yep.”

“Then I want to fight you.” Naruto’s eyes widened.

“Why?”

“Well you have to be strong if you got into The Academy at this age.” Kairi explained. “And if you’re the Hokage’s son I bet you’ve been trained well.” Naruto nodded. “That’s what I thought. So I’ll fight you, and beat you, so I can be the strongest kunoichi in the Leaf Village.” Naruto stared at her before grinning.

“I accept your challenge, but I’m not gonna lose! I’m gonna be Hokage one day!” Kairi nodded.

“Following in your father’s footsteps? That’s gonna be tough.” Naruto shook his head.

“Doesn’t matter. I’ll never give up until I become Hokage.” Kairi smiled at Naruto.

“I like you. Do you want to be friends?” Naruto grinned widely.

“Yes! I’d love to!” Kairi smiled back, and she blushed slightly.

“Ok. Then from now on, you’re my best friend, Naruto Namikaze.”

XxX

“Uncle Jiraiya!” Jiraiya spun around, seeing his godson running towards him from The Academy entrance.

“Hey kid, how was it?” Naruto shrugged.

“It was alright. I kinda knew a lot of the stuff they were teaching already. But I made a friend!” Jiraiya’s eyebrow
rose.

“Oh? And who might that be.”

“Her name is Kairi. I sit next to her, and she’s really cool.” Jiraiya patted the boys head.

“Oho, already drawing them in are we?”

“Huh?”

“Nevermind. Anyway, let’s go. You wanna get some training in?” Naruto nodded.

“Of course! Let’s hurry!” Jiraiya laughed as Naruto ran down the street, following the boy at a leisurely pace. He truly cherished his time with the boy, and he wouldn’t trade anything for it.

XxX

“Ok, that’s enough.” Naruto collapsed to the ground, while Jiraiya just dusted his hands off. “That was pretty good. You almost got through my guard.” Naruto groaned.

“Yea but that knee to the ribcage hurts like hell.” Jiraiya shrugged and turned around.

“You’ll get used to it. For now, we can rest for-“Jiraiya’s head suddenly snapped to the side, and he threw a kunai into the bushes around the training ground. “Who’s there?” Two cloaked figured popped out of the bushes, and Jiraiya tensed.

“We have come to take your life Jiraiya of the Legendary Sannin. Any last words?” Jiraiya scoffed and got into his battle stance.

“You think it’ll be easy to kill me? I’m so excited to prove you wrong.” Jiraiya then disappeared and reappeared in between the two assassins. “Let’s begin then shall we?”

“We already have.” Jiraiya jumped straight into the air to avoid the third cloaked figure that came charging at him from behind. As he ascended, he flung both of his legs out, kicking both of the other cloaked figures away. They easily recovered however, and they both started going through hand seals.

“Water Style: Water Dragon Missile!”

“Lightning Style: Lightning Dragon Missile!” Two dragons, one of water and one of lightning, formed in the air and charged at Jiraiya, combining themselves into a giant water dragon with crackling lightning armor. Jiraiya could only substitute himself with a nearby rock as a means of escape, marveling at the power of the technique.

“It seems like you are stronger than I anticipated. Then I may have to go all out for this. Naruto, run back inside! It’s too dangerous for you out here!” The blonde boy nodded and scurried into the house, leaving Jiraiya and the assassins alone. Jiraiya was surprised that the assassins did nothing to stop Naruto, but it just confirmed that he was really their target. “You should feel honored. I don’t usually break this technique out for just anyone, and especially not so early. But I can’t let you hurt Naruto. I guess it’s just not your lucky day.” Jiraiya flew through hand seals, biting his thumb and slamming his palm onto the ground when the sequence was complete.
“Summoning Technique!” There was a poof of smoke, and when the smoke cleared, two small toads were sitting on each of the Sannin’s shoulders.

“Jiraiya! What’s going on?” Fukasaku, the old Toad Sage, questioned.

“Hello Ma, Pa. It looks like I’ll need your help once again.”

“Again? You should really master this technique on your own Jiraiya!” Ma scolded.

“I’m a very busy man, I don’t have time to train like I used to.” Jiraiya sighed. “I really am sorry to bother you, but it looks like I’ll need your help for this one.” The two toads waved their hands in dismissal.

“We don’t mind Jiraiya boy. Were always glad to see you.” Shima answered sweetly.

“But you don’t look too beat up,” Fukasaku continued, “so I’m a little confused as to why you summoned us.”

“I’m mostly worried about Naruto. These three claim to be after my life, but who knows what they really want.” Jiraiya explained hastily.

“What!?” Both toads shouted in disbelief. “They’re here to kill you?” Jiraiya flinched at their bluntness, but then nodded.

“That’s what they say.”

“Well they’re pretty stupid!” Shima screeched. “Who would want to take you on?” Jiraiya shrugged.

“I don’t know, but I would like to finish this before it attracts attention.” Shima and Fukasaku nodded, and both of them put their palms flat against each other and started channeling Nature Chakra. The change was instantly noticeable; Jiraiya’s face had taken on a whole new look. His nose had gotten larger and rounder, warts grew all over his face, and red marks appeared around his eye, signaling his use of the Honored Sage Mode. “God I look like one ugly son of a bitch.” In an instant, he appeared next to one of the assassins and kicked him in the side, sending him flying into the woods. “But I can definitely kick your asses.”

XxX

Naruto watched from inside the house as his godfather took the first strike. The young boy recognized the Honored Sage Mode immediately, and he couldn’t help but smile a bit. From what Jiraiya had explained to him, the Honored Sage Mode would exponentially increase Jiraiya’s fighting prowess, which meant the assassins had little chance of surviving the battle. But deep in the pit of his stomach, a cold fear festered and grew with every second that passed.

XxX

Jiraiya’s estate was no normal estate. Being both a bestselling author and a seasoned ninja who took S-Rank
missions almost exclusively, Jiraiya had plenty of money to spend. But, being the modest man he was, only a small portion of that money went towards the house. No, most of his money went to the training ground in the backyard. The training ground was the exact replica of the training ground Jiraiya had trained at during his Genin days. There was the river which sat right behind the clearing. The clearing was surrounded by thick woods, and the three posts that stood in the center, where Jiraiya had been tied all those years ago. Jiraiya was just relieved that he had so much room to fight; he couldn’t imagine the damage this battle would cause to the village.
But luckily, he wasn’t in the village, and he was free to use even his most powerful techniques.

“Rasengan Barrage!” The ground where Jiraiya’s technique hit exploded and blasted chunks of the Earth in every direction. Two of the assassins, who had been where Jiraiya’s technique impacted moments ago, ran towards Jiraiya, and one started speeding through hand signs.

“Fire Style: Eruption!” The ground rumbled, and Jiraiya jumped away in time to avoid the geyser of flame that shot up from the ground. The second assassin then jumped towards the eruption, and finished a sequence of hand seals right before entering the inferno.

“Fire Style: Magma Fists!” The figure burst through the fire, both of his fists encased in solid molten rock like boxing gloves. He charged in and started swinging his fists around like wrecking balls, destroying anything unfortunate enough to be in his path. Jiraiya danced around the giant fists, only barely avoiding each strike.

“Ma! Pa! A little help!” The two toads nodded and started flying through hand seals.

“Wind Style: Jetstream!” Pa shouted.

“Toad Oil Bombs!” Ma shouted a second after. Pa aimed his technique at the ground, shooting Jiraiya into the air, and safely out of the assassins range. Ma then shot two oil bombs, one at each fist, and they exploded spectacularly. Jiraiya fell back to the ground just outside of the cloud of smoke left over from the explosion. He then hastily flew through some hand signs, and erected a Mud Wall to his left, blocking a Water Dragon Missile that had been speeding towards him. When the smoke cleared, the three assassins were standing together in the middle of the clearing, all of them looking as if they hadn’t even started fighting, except for the singes on the cloak of the man caught in Shima’s attack.

“These three are tough. Ma, Pa, ready?” All three sped through hand seals. “Sage Art: Burning Oil Bath!” All three sucked in a large breath, before each expelled a different substance: Jiraiya spat out oil, Shima breathed out a powerful fire technique, and Fukasaku shot out a powerful gust of wind. The three matters converged, creating a super-hot lava flow, that rushed towards the assassins. One of the assassins created a Water Encampment Wall, but the lava flowed right through it, creating a cloud of thick steam. Jiraiya stood still as his technique slowly melted away, waiting to see if he had killed the assassins.

“Are they dead?” Fukasaku asked hopefully.

“They have to be! No one can survive that attack!” Shima answered enthusiastically. Jiraiya continued to stare into the cloud of steam, and when he saw a faint glowing at the center, he cursed.

“Clearly you’re wrong. These guys might be on my level.” Jiraiya muttered as he plunged his hand into the ground. He pulled a large, stone sword with a blade as sharp as any steel one from the depths of the earth and swung it around a few times. “It’s been awhile since I’ve used this thing, but it should all come back to me pretty quickly.” He lunged forward and slashed at the three offenders, making them jump backwards. A Shadow Clone of Jiraiya came crashing down on the trio from above, barely missing his targets as his stone blade sunk into the ground. Thinking they were safe, one of the assassins started a technique, but suddenly the stone blade shot up from under him, and he only barely managed to keep it from splitting him in half. The sleeve of his dark cloak fell to the ground and his toned right arm was exposed. Jiraiya pulled the sword from the ground and scratched his head.

“Damn, that should have got him.” He felt a presence behind him, and he whipped around and brought the blunt side of his sword up to block a stunningly powerful kick. The sword rattled in his hand and Jiraiya almost dropped it, but his grip stayed firm and he used the counter-momentum to send the attacker flying away. The other two assassins flew at Jiraiya, each crouched on the head of a Water Dragon Missile, and at the last second they jumped off and shot bolts of lightning at their attacks, supercharging them they second they collided with the ground. Steam and smoke rose from the point of impact, but Jiraiya was nowhere to be seen.

“Haha take this! Giant Rasengan Barrage!” Two Jiraiyas holding monumental Rasengans attacked in a pincer formation, aiming to completely pulverize the assailants. The third one, with speed that could have possibly matched Minato’s, appeared next to his comrades and a second later they were all gone. Jiraiya’s attacks struck each other, destroying the Shadow Clone and sending Jiraiya flying away like a rocket. A large crater had formed where the attacks collided, and the three assassins were standing in the middle of it, acting as if the battle had yet to start.

“Enough of this. We have to kill him now or help is going to arrive.” The lead assassin ordered in frustration. His two partners nodded and disappeared to engage their target, leaving him to think silently. “It’s a shame you have to die Jiraiya, but the fate of the world demands it.” He then disappeared as well as a single drop of water hit the ground.

XxX

“ANBU!” Two ANBU, Dog and Weasel, appeared in front of the Hokage’s desk.

“Yes Lord Hokage?” Dog asked as he stepped forward.

“Do you feel that?” It was silent for a moment.

“If you mean the large source of chakra southwest of here, then yes.” Weasel answered after a few seconds.

“That chakra feels like Jiraiya’s…but why would he be using so much. In fact, I’m almost positive he’s using the Honored Sage Mode.” Sarutobi clenched his fists. “Your orders are to investigate what Jiraiya is doing. If he’s in danger…please report back to me.”

“You don’t want us to lend him our aid sir?” Dog questioned.

“No, I do not. If Jiraiya is in fact using the Honored Sage Mode against his opponent, then I am afraid you are no match for this enemy. You must report back to me. Understood.”

“Yes Lord Hokage.” Both of the ANBU simultaneously answered. They then disappeared without a sound, off to fulfill their mission.

XxX

Jiraiya groaned as he pushed himself up, shaking the stars out of his vision.

“Ma, Pa, you okay?” The two toads grunted in response, and Jiraiya stood. He cracked his neck, and smirked.

“Good, because these fuckers are starting to piss me off.” Suddenly, Jiraiya leapt out of the way of a large tunnel of green fire that blasted through the woods. Everything in its path had been completely torched, and Jiraiya’s eyes almost bugged out of his head.

“What the hell was that?” He said to himself in awe.

“I’ve never seen such a technique before.” Fukasaku commented, just as awestruck as Jiraiya.

“Goddammit who the hell are these guys?” Jiraiya shouted in anger. “There’s nothing I can do! Fire like that will burn right through the stomach of the Great Fire Breathing Toad of Mount Myoboku.” Jiraiya’s eyes widened as he was again forced to jump out of the way of the powerful technique, this time his clothes getting singed from proximity. “Damn that’s fucking hot!”

“Jiraiya, we need a plan!” Fukasaku shouted.

“Alright gimme a sec!” Jiraiya pulled out an oddly shaped kunai from his pouch and stared at it intently. “This is our last shot. I’m running out of chakra. This will definitely take up the rest but…well it’s never failed before.” Shima and Fukasaku nodded. They of course knew what it was. Jiraiya twirled it around on his finger a few times before gripping it tightly. “Even in death you’re still saving my ass...some Sensei I am.”

XxX

“Please tell me you just saw that.”

“Yea, I saw that.”

“Okay, at least I’m not going crazy.” Dog and Weasel stood on the top of Jiraiya’s estate. From there, they could see the massive stream of fire tear through the woods with alarming ease. Even Weasel, whose clan specialized in
Fire Style Techniques, had never seen or heard of a technique so powerful.

“We should report to Lord Hokage.” Weasel suggested.

“I agree. Let’s go.” And faster than they ever had before, Weasel and Dog raced to the Hokage’s office, immediately appearing in front of his desk. Luckily no one else had been in the room, but it wouldn’t have mattered.
This was an emergency.

“Lord Hokage.” Dog greeted stoically, as he was expected to.

“Ah Dog, Weasel, you have returned. What news do you bring.” The old Hokage asked.

“Lord Jiraiya may be in serious trouble. From what we saw, one of them has a Fire Style Technique with destructive capabilities I could only dream of.” The Hokage raised his eyebrow.

“Jiraiya has a technique like this. Describe it for me.” Weasel stepped forward.

“The only way to describe it would be a massive stream of green fire. It disintegrated everything it touched.” The Hokage’s eyes widened.

“That’s not Jiraiya’s technique! Green fire…what kind of power could generate that? I have to go there now.” Dog and Weasel stepped back in surprise.

“Lord Hokage, you will aid Lord Jiraiya?” Dog asked fearfully.

“I must! I’m the only one strong enough too. I may be old but dammit Kakashi I’m still Hokage.” Kakashi was shocked at the blatant disregard of protocol from the Hokage, but it wasn’t like Itachi didn’t know who he was anyway. The Hokage had ripped off his robes, revealing his suit of armor underneath. “I will go aid Jiraiya now. Follow if you must but do not interfere in the fight unless I give the order. Are we clear?” Dog and Weasel both nodded, and the three shinobi disappeared from the Hokage’s office.

XxX

“Ma, Pa…there’s one last thing.” The two elder toads turned to the Sannin.

“What is it Jiraiya?” Shima asked curiously. Jiraiya’s solemn tone was a rare one, so of course her curiosity was peaked.

“If it looks like I’m gonna die...please go back home.” The two sages were shocked.

“Don’t say things like that!” Shima shrieked. “You’re not gonna die here you idiot!” Jiraiya shook his head.

“It doesn’t matter. Just promise me you’ll do it. One day, you have to train Naruto, whether I’m here or not. Only you can teach him.” Jiraiya was very serious, and the elder toads could only agree.

“Fine. Then we just won’t let it come to that!” Shima stated boldly, bringing a smile to Jiraiya’s face. If these were his last moments alive, he was glad Fukasaku and Shima were here to see them.

XxX

The trio had regrouped not far from the house after their plan to flush Jiraiya out had failed. They figured that getting close to Jiraiya’s godson would give him a reason to reveal himself. It had been unusually quiet when suddenly, Jiraiya jumped out of the woods, throwing a kunai with a fake explosive tag in the middle of the assassins. They scattered immediately, Jiraiya going in pursuit of the leader. He charged in at his target and started to take wild slashes with Minato’s kunai. The two other assassins then appeared next to the leader, immediately charging in at Jiraiya. Their strikes were quick and perfectly timed, but Jiraiya was able to hold the Taijutsu barrage off rather well. It was only when the leader jumped up from the ground behind him that Jiraiya dropped his guard, turning swiftly to deliver a solid chop to the neck. The leader blocked the blow and jumped in the air, sending Jiraiya skidding away with a spinning kick. Jiraiya slowly stood and brushed himself off, tossing the kunai into the air and catching it with a smirk.

“You three put up a hell of a fight, I’ll give you that. I’m impressed, really, but this game is over.” Jiraiya waved the kunai in front of his face with a victorious smirk. “No one has lived through an encounter with this technique. You should be honored that it took this much to kill you.” Jiraiya then hurled the kunai with as much force as he could straight at the trio of ninja. One of them retaliated with another kunai, intercepting Jiraiya’s kunai, both of them clanging uselessly to the ground.

“It seems your technique has fail-“Jiraiya suddenly appeared behind the leader.

“I don’t need a kunai to do it.” Jiraiya swung his kunai, and the sound of metal cutting flesh pierced the air. Jiraiya’s eyes widened. “Wha-“

“I didn’t recognize it at first, but that is, if I’m not mistaken, the Fourth Hokage’s Flying Thunder God Technique. Impressive. Too bad you aren’t the only one with a Time/Space Ninjutsu.” Jiraiya coughed as the assassin pulled his blade out of Jiraiya’s heart with a squelch. The Toad Sannin fell forward, coughing up copious amounts of blood in the process. The assassin poised his blade for a killing blow, and was about to end Jiraiya’s life, when his blade was blocked by a long metal rod. Hiruzen Sarutobi was standing over Jiraiya’s body, the Adamantine Nyoi in his hands.

“Get out of my village!”

XxX

Naruto’s stomach dropped. The blood…it was…Jiraiya’s…blood. Jiraiya was bleeding…dying. He felt despair and anger well up inside of him, when suddenly he was blanketed by a very warm feeling; like someone had just poured a bucket of warm water over his head. Suddenly, red started to bleed down the boy’s eyes until they were fully red, and it was all he could see.

“NOOOOOOO!” The back of the house was blown away as the half-inhuman voice stopped everyone in their tracks. Even Jiraiya was startled, and he was barely coherent.

“It finally broke through…” Hiruzen muttered as he examined Naruto with fearful fascination. The three assassins were also awestruck.

“So this is what the Nine-Tails is capable of.” The leader whispered in awe.

“It’s staring at us.” Another stated frantically.

“I wonder why?” The girl asked sarcastically. They had no time to retort however, because Naruto was upon them in an instant, three tails billowing open in their faces. They each barely dodged getting pierced through the skull by the chakra tails, but they couldn’t dodge the claw that bashed all three of them into the ground. The second strike from the claw only smashed into the ground as the leader once again used his Time/Space Technique to escape. Another tail sprouted as the boy fell to the ground in agony, his skin burning away from his body. The three assassins took that as their cue to escape as Hiruzen and the two ANBU jumped around Naruto.

“They’re getting away Lord Hokage!” Dog shouted.

“We have no choice. Naruto is the higher priority.” The Hokage answered back, a mix of emotions present in his tone. They heard a loud groan and they whirled around to see Jiraiya trying to crawl toward them. “Jiraiya!” The Hokage shouted in concern for his student as he bent down to help him.

“Quickly…I can…fix the seal.” Jiraiya’s voice was raspy and quiet, and Hiruzen was terrified for his student. The Hokage pulled Jiraiya over to Naruto, who was now completely covered by a shell of red chakra shaped like a fox. The Jinchuriki roared as it raged out of control and Hiruzen could do nothing as it lunged at him, claws poised to rip out his heart. He was suddenly shoved to the ground when he felt and tasted blood splashing on his face. Above him, Jiraiya’s palm was on Naruto’s forehead, while Naruto’s now healing arm was plunged through Jiraiya’s chest. It took a few seconds for the boy to clear the cobwebs in his head, and when he did he started to cry.

“Uncle Jiraiya…” Jiraiya coughed and started to laugh.

“Hey, don’t cry kid. You’re gonna be just fine.” The white haired main gently pulled Naruto’s arm from his chest, wincing in pain as he did so.

“But I hurt you! You’re…you’re dying!” Naruto wailed in despair.

“This isn’t your fault Naruto. I was done for before you did this. I had to stop the Nine-Tails from taking you over. I had promised your father.” Jiraiya explained sympathetically.

“But…you’re dying. How will I live without you?” Naruto asked as he stared into Jiraiya’s eyes.

“I’m sorry Naruto. I’m sorry I’m not gonna get to see you grow up. I’m sorry I’m not going to see you graduate. And I’m really sorry I won’t be there when you get your first girlfriend.” Jiraiya smiled. “But I know you’ll be just fine without me. Just remember, don’t ever give up. I know you’ll be strong one day.” Naruto stared into Jiraiya’s eyes and nodded.

“I’ll never give up Uncle Jiraiya. Not until the day I die.” Naruto promised with all the determination he could muster. He watched through tears as Jiraiya smiled, and then closed his eyes, the life leaving his body forever. Naruto stared at his lifeless body, collapsing over it and going into a fit of sobs. The Hokage and his ANBU silently paid their respects to their fallen comrade as Naruto lamented his loss. Hiruzen had shed a few of his own tears before walking over to the boy and bringing him into the house. He tucked the boy into bed, Naruto having no trouble falling asleep, and went back out to Jiraiya’s body. He sealed it in a special storage scroll, so that Jiraiya could have a proper funeral. He definitely deserved one. Hiruzen sighed heavily as he looked up into the night sky. Today was supposed to be a special day for Naruto. But now, it was tainted with the death of his beloved godfather. The weeks that followed were sure to be just as trying, and Hiruzen could only pray that he would be able to help Naruto through whatever he went through.
 

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Now I know what you're thinking. You killed Jiraiya BLASPHEMY! Hes my favorite character in the series, so this hurts you just as much as it hurts me. This is just a completely different direction for the plot to advance. its new and refreshing, so don't stop yet. you wont be disappointed
 

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Chapter 4: The Future Hokage


Naruto lifelessly stared at Jiraiya’s memorial. Hiruzen stood next to the boy, a hand on his shoulder, silently mourning the loss of his one remaining student. It was ironic really, when the Sannin were children Jiraiya was the worst of the three; now however, Hiruzen could see that he had been the strongest. He was the only one with the Will of Fire.

Naruto openly wept, not bothering to wipe the tears from his face. Naruto had built the memorial himself, insisting that Jiraiya didn’t want a ‘stupid fucking rock over my head’ while he was buried. His body had been cremated by the toads on Mount Myoboku itself, an honor very few have ever received. His ashes had been buried in the woods around the Leaf Village, in a special place Naruto designated. That’s where he built the memorial, a small, smooth, round stone, with a burning candle, and a copy of Jiraiya’s book The Tale of the Gutsy Ninja.
He was going to put one of Jiraiya’s porn books, but he figured that wasn’t really appropriate.

The funeral itself was small, in fact only three people were there. Once again Naruto insisted that it was what Jiraiya’s would have wanted, and so only the people closest to him were there. There were Hiruzen and Naruto, and then there was Jiraiya’s wayward teammate Tsunade Senju, who had promised she was only here to pay respects to her former teammate and then get the hell out of the village. So the three stood over the memorial, for hours on end, reminiscing on their times with Jiraiya, throughout the entire day. Halfway through the day it had started to rain, but it had fazed none of the mourners. Late at night, when the rain finally stopped, Naruto looked up at Hiruzen, his voice barely audible.

“Can I go home now?” Hiruzen nodded. He then turned to Tsunade.

“I’m sure there’s nothing I can say to get you to stay is there?” Tsunade glared at Hiruzen.

“Are you crazy? This damn village is cursed. And because of it, Jiraiya is dead.” Hiruzen flinched. “All because he loved this stupid village.”

“Shut up.” Naruto mumbled, still staring at the ground.

“What was that?” Tsunade asked, glaring at the boy.

“I said shut up!” Naruto suddenly shouted, his head snapping up, his eyes flashing red for a moment. Tsunade’s eyebrow shot up in surprise, instantly recognizing who exactly this boy was. She had never met him before, but now she could easily tell he was Minato’s child just by looking at him. “The village meant more to Uncle Jiraiya than his life did! That’s why he sacrificed himself!” Naruto’s eyes were burning with anger. “Aren’t you supposed to be a part of this village too? You’re a disgrace!” Tsunade’s anger spiked, and Naruto’s eyes widened at her crushing Killing Intent. He was a little scared, but he stood firm.

“You watch your mouth brat. You have no idea who you’re speaking to.”

“I know all about you. I know about Nawaki and Dan.” Tsunade’s eyes widened. “After Dan died you gave up. You let your self-pity overwhelm you, so you tried to gamble and drink your sorrow away.”

“Don’t talk about something you know nothing about!” Tsunade furiously shouted.

“I know everything about it!” Naruto screamed back. “What do you think I’m going through right now? But I’m not just going to give up! I’m going to be strong like Uncle Jiraiya, and I’ll never give up until I become Hokage!” Tsunade turned pale, as if she had seen blood. “And I’ll be the best Hokage the Leaf Village has ever had!” Hiruzen stared down at the boy, who was breathing rather heavily after his tirade. His words had a clear effect on Tsunade, and he was the only person alive who would ever get away with saying that to Tsunade and not ending up splattered across a rock somewhere. Still, Hiruzen was proud of the boy’s spirit. Jiraiya was right when he said Naruto was special.

After Tsunade collected herself, she glared at the boy for a few seconds before turning around with a huff, and walking away with her usual swagger. Naruto looked up at Hiruzen, who shook his head, before taking the boy’s hand to walk him home.

XxX

“Naruto! Open up!” Kakashi sighed as he banged on the door to Jiraiya’s estate. Naruto had pretty much cut off contact with the whole world for a week, besides the Hokage, and Kakashi was worried. Of course, he knew about Jiraiya’s death, and he knew Naruto was affected by it the most. But he wanted Naruto to go back to attending The Academy. He had only been there for a day before Jiraiya was killed, and he hadn’t been back since. The Hokage personally excused all of his absences of course, but Kakashi still wanted the boy to go back. He had real potential, and he would only get stronger over time by learning and training. Honestly, it was as if his potential was limitless.

Kakashi was surprised when the bolt clicked, and the door opened, revealing a tired looking Naruto. He was wearing his pajamas, with his funny sleeping cap with the eyes, and there were bags under his eyes.

“Hi Kakashi.” He mumbled.

“Hello Naruto. Can I come in?” Naruto nodded and turned around, leading Kakashi into the kitchen. On the table was a big steaming bowl of ramen, and Kakashi sighed at the boy’s eating habits.

“How have you been Naruto?” Kakashi felt like an idiot for asking, but he really had no idea what to say. Comforting people was not on his extensive list of skills.

“It hurts.” Kakashi knew the pain of losing a loved one all too well, and it was heartbreaking to see Naruto go through it.

“I know it does Naruto.” Kakashi said with a sigh.

“I miss him.”

“A lot of people miss him. I miss him. But he wouldn’t have wanted you to feel this way, would he?” Kakashi asked, hoping he could help the boy.

“I know. But I can’t help it. What am I supposed to do?”

“You are supposed to never give up.” Naruto turned to Kakashi and his eyes widened. “Continues Jiraiya’s legacy, and become the powerful ninja he believed you could be. He had more faith in you than anyone else. Prove to him that his faith was rightfully placed.” Naruto stared at Kakashi, a smile slowly forming on his face.

“Okay. I’ll be the strongest shinobi who ever lived. That’s a promise.” Kakashi chuckled at the boy’s insane promise, and ruffled his hair.

“Well, if you wanna be the strongest, you should probably go back to The Academy.” Naruto jumped out of his seat.

“Oh man! I forgot all about The Academy!” Kakashi laughed.

“That’s okay. The Hokage personally excused your absences, so you won’t be in any trouble. So, you ready to go?”

“Wait one minute!” Naruto dashed upstairs and got changed in a record amount of time, surprising Kakashi when he returned a minute later. “Okay, let’s go.”

XxX

Kakashi and Naruto approached The Academy, a smile back on Naruto’s face. He was excited to get back into The Academy, and maybe he would finally get to show off some of his skills. When they got to the entrance, Kakashi left Naruto with a pat on his head, wished him good luck, and left to fulfill his duties. Naruto was about to walk into The Academy when his collar was grabbed and he was yanked backwards. “Wah!” He flailed his arms in an attempt to regain his balance, but it was in vain, and he fell on his ass. He was a little confused at what had just happened, and when he looked up he saw two big, blue eyes glaring at him.

“Hello Naruto.” Kairi stood over him, eyes narrowed. “Where have you been for a week?” Naruto got up and turned around, facing Kairi.

“My Uncle died.” Kairi’s eyes widened, and her guilt was immediately apparent.

“Oh! I had no idea!” Naruto shook his head.

“It’s okay. I’m feeling better.” Kairi smiled.

“Good. Now let’s go to class.” Naruto nodded, and they both made their way through The Academy to their classrooms, taking their seats in the back. There were a few whispers about Naruto’s return, but nothing too serious occurred. Iruka walked in a few minutes later, and was very surprised to hear his call of ‘Naruto!’ was met with a ‘here!’. He smiled when he saw his newest student back in the classroom.

“Good to see you’re back Naruto.” Naruto chuckled and scratched his head in response. When Iruka finally finished role, Naruto was please to find out that the first half of the day today was dedicated to Taijutsu Sparring. He hadn’t trained in about a week, but he was confident he could take the kids in this class. He wasn’t cocky, but he wasn’t a prodigy for nothing. Iruka led the class outside, and around the back, to a small training area with kunai targets, punching posts, and sparring areas. “Okay class, I know you all know how this works, but I must explain this for Naruto’s sake.” Iruka smiled at the blonde and he smiled back. “The way we spar here is simple. One person stands in the ring, and then I choose someone to spar with them. The winner stays in the ring, and can stay as long as they win every fight. Do you get it?” Naruto nodded. “Good. Would you like to go first then? I would like to see your skills, so I can rank you.” Naruto stepped into the middle of the ring, and waited for Iruka to choose his opponent. “Ok let’s see…Yoku you go first.” A boy with milky blue eyes stepped forward, and Naruto identified him as a Hyuuga. He didn’t think it really mattered; this kid probably couldn’t use his Bloodline Limit yet anyway. They both stepped forward, and Iruka showed them the proper way to conduct a spar, before ordering them to begin. Faster than any academy student could track, Naruto was behind Yoku, delivering a spinning kick to his head. Yoku went down hard, having no time to react or defend himself. Naruto stood over Yoku calmly, waiting for Iruka to call the spar. Iruka was shocked at Naruto’s speed, having no doubt none of the students could have tracked it. He was well above academy level, and he was certain that he wouldn’t lose to any of the kids here.

“Naruto, can you come here a minute?” Naruto walked over to him.

“Yes Sensei?”

“I don’t really know how to say this, but I can’t let you spar against these children.” Naruto looked at him in confusion.

“Why not?”

“Well, quite frankly I don’t want any of them to get injured.” Naruto smiled a little bit, before looking annoyed.

“But then who am I going to spar with?” Iruka sighed.

“I think that will be me.” Naruto’s eyes widened.

“Really? Alright! That’ll actually be a challenge!” Iruka smiled, and walked into the circle.

“Okay class, because Naruto is...well to be blunt possibly the strongest one here, I will have a spar with Naruto.” His class looked annoyed at his comment, but they really couldn’t protest it, so he shrugged. “Naruto, are you ready?” The blonde nodded, and then they begun. Naruto jumped in at Iruka, his fist cocked back, aiming for his face. Iruka ducked under the swing, and aimed a punch at Naruto’s exposed stomach. But Naruto had grabbed Iruka’s shoulder and spun out of the way, deflecting the punch with his other hand. Naruto’s leg came spinning around, and Iruka was only barely able to catch it. Naruto dropped to the ground, and ducked under a haymaker from Iruka, but could not dodge the knee to his gut. He rolled backwards, rolling out of the circle thus declaring Iruka the winner. Naruto sighed as he pushed himself up. The rest of the students looked at Naruto in awe, baffled by Naruto’s skill. How an academy student could take on a Chuunin was beyond them, but they knew he was strong. Iruka approached Naruto with admiration in his eyes. “That was impressive Naruto. I don’t think it’s a question of where you’ll be ranked, but I have to assess your other skills first anyway.”

XxX

Since Iruka could do nothing to curb his interest in Naruto, he decided to dedicate the rest of the day to figuring out exactly where the boy would be ranked. In all honesty, he already guessed the boy would take the number one spot, but Iruka’s fascination with the possible prodigy was too great to pass up a chance to measure the boy. The class was now gathered on the sports field of the Academy.

“Alright class, next is Ninjutsu practice. Kairi, will you come to the front to demonstrate the three Academy Techniques please?” Kairi gave Naruto a smug look before she stood next to Iruka and performed the Transformation Technique, Clone Technique and Substitution Technique flawlessly. Iruka commended her on her success and sent her back with the other students before calling out the next student. “Naruto Namikaze!” Naruto stepped forward.

“Is that all I have to do?” He asked skeptically. Iruka eyed him exasperatedly.

“Those three are the required techniques. If you know any other, you may perform them as well.” Naruto grinned at that, and easily blew through the Academy Techniques, surprising the class when he transformed into the Fourth Hokage. Then, Naruto started another string of hand seals with a grin.

“Earth Style: Mud Wall!” A thick wall of dirt and rock rose up between Naruto and the rest of the class, causing the kids to gasp in awe. Naruto collapsed to one knee as the wall stopped growing. “Woah…never got it that big before…” Iruka ran over to the kneeling Naruto and put a hand on his shoulder.

“That was…amazing. How did you learn that?” Naruto looked down.

“My Uncle Jiraiya taught me…but he’s gone now.” Of course, Iruka had heard of Jiraiya’s death. So he was not surprised to hear this. “Hold on, there’s one more thing I wanna try.” Naruto pushed himself up and Iruka backed away in surprise. Naruto held his hand out and focused as chakra started to build up in his hand. The blue chakra started to swirl around when it exploded, sending Naruto flying a few feet away. Iruka ran over to him, stunned that he would try something so stupid.

“Naruto! Are you okay?” The blonde boy groaned and opened his eyes, giving Iruka a slow nod. Iruka stared at him a second before sighing. “Was that…what I think it was?” Naruto just nodded again.

“Still can’t do it…” He muttered in frustration. He pushed himself up and retreated back to the group of students, all whom were staring at him with awe and a little fear. Kairi tugged on his sleeve.

“What was that?” She asked softly. “Are you okay?” Naruto nodded.

“’Yea, I’m fine.” He didn’t answer her first question, and she didn’t ask again. The look on his face had stopped her from trying to speak to him.

“Alright class! Time to go back inside!” The children started to file in reluctantly at Iruka’s command, Naruto and Kairi being the last to go in.

XxX

The rest of the day had been less exciting, mostly because of Naruto’s solemn mood, but Iruka had been correct when he had predicted that Naruto would take the number one spot. His tactical skills had been superb for a boy his age, and while his academic skills weren’t perfect, they were certainly enough to establish his place at the top. The other students were envious of the boy, but there was nothing they could do about it. He was a prodigy; he was just better. So at the end of the day, Naruto had left The Academy with Kakashi, who was extremely proud of the boy for getting the top spot. Naruto told him all about the various skills they assessed, and how he fared in each one. Kakashi agreed to help Naruto with a few of his skills, and Naruto was ecstatic to receive any kind of training from Kakashi. When they got to Jiraiya’s estate, Kakashi left Naruto with a wave, departing to do whatever Kakashi does. Naruto walked upstairs, and into Jiraiya’s room. Everything was just as he left it. The bed wasn’t made at all, clothes littered the floor, as well as books and scrolls. Sadness overtook Naruto as memories of Jiraiya bubbled up in his mind, but he forced them down and told himself he wouldn’t cry. He walked through the room, investigating everything in the room. Jiraiya was bound to have something important in here; something that Minato had left to give to his son. Naruto was sure of it. But now that Jiraiya was dead, he had to find it on his own. So he searched through every drawer, crack and door until finally he was at the last room: the closest. Naruto walked in, surprised at how small it was. It was no more than four feet deep, and it was square, and it was virtually empty, except for a box on the ground. Naruto knelt down and opened the box, smiling at what he saw. He pulled out a book labeled, Sealing Jutsu Notes of Minato Namikaze, an oddly shaped kunai with a yellow seal tag on it, four or five scrolls, an odd ninja village headband with a swirl in the middle, and a note.

Naruto,


I don’t know how long it took you to find this, but if you found it that means that I’m dead. But don’t be sad kid, you’ll be alright. I guess I wrote this to tell you all the things I would never have the chance to tell you, because
there’s so much you should know. I guess I’ll talk about all the stuff in the box first.


The book was written by your dad, as you might have guessed. That book holds the most extensive, specific and powerful Fuinjutsu techniques you will find in the elemental nations. If you study that book, you’ll become a seal master in no time. Don’t blow yourself up though, sometimes that’ll happen if you screw up.


The kunai is the weapon that made your father what he was; the key to the Flying Thunder God Technique. One day you’ll master that too, and maybe you’ll even improve it. I know your dad wanted to, and he would want you to surpass him.


The headband was your mother’s. It was of the Hidden Whirlpool Village, a village that no longer exists. It was destroyed many years ago during the Second Shinobi World War right after your mother came to the Leaf Village.
The history of the attack is almost nonexistent, and no one really knows who did it. People have suspected the Hidden Mist for years, but there’s never been proof. Your mother was part of Whirlpool’s greatest clan, the Uzumaki Clan. They were known for their mastery of Fuinjutsu and their longevity. Kushina once told me that the
leader of her village had been over 200 years old! Pretty crazy right?


The scrolls are for various techniques. One of them is the Rasengan, in case the only living person who knows it dies. That would be Kakashi. Only try to teach it to yourself if he’s gone though kid. You’ll hurt yourself if you try alone. Another one is the scroll with all the details of the Flying Thunder God Technique, but you shouldn’t touch that until you’ve read your father’s book a few hundred times. The rest are things your father and mother left behind, things that you will need one day. I’ve never opened them, I could really never bring myself to. They’re not for my eyes anyway.


Now we’ll get to what I’m leaving you. All of my money and my house obviously go to you, not that you care about that. I leave the Icha Icha series to you, but you better not screw it up kid. That was my masterpiece. And lastly I guess the Toad Contract. The old man should have the scroll, so just show him this note and he’ll give it to you. Whatever you do, just don’t summon Gamabunta on your first try. He might get angry.


Now that I’ve told you a bunch of good things, it’s time I told you something that only the Hokage and myself know. The attack of the Nine-Tails was not a natural disaster, as the textbooks say. It was orchestrated by a single man who attacked your mother and killed her on the night of your birth. He also used a single Sharingan eye to control it and use it as a weapon against the Leaf. Your father fought him that night, but he escaped unharmed. I was never able to figure out who this man was in my life, but maybe you can one day. I just hope you’re strong enough the day you do, because even I would be hesitant to go up against someone who could fight on equal grounds with your father.


I guess the last thing I want to say is just don’t give up. Your father’s last request to me was to protect you and give you the life you should have had. I tried, but I guess if you’re reading this I failed at that huh? Just know that your father, your mother and I all believe in you, and we know you’re stronger than anyone else.


Jiraiya


Naruto stared at the note for a long time, taking in the message. So there was a man with a Sharingan eye behind the Nine-Tails attack. And his dad couldn’t defeat him, which meant he was powerful. But that didn’t matter, because he would surpass Jiraiya and his father and become the strongest Hokage ever.

“Mom…Dad…Uncle Jiraiya…just watch. I’ll make you all proud.”

XxX

It wasn’t that he didn’t trust Kakashi, it’s just he was the only guy with a single Sharingan Naruto had ever seen. Which is why he was following him around the Leaf Village as he blindly walked through the crowds and read Jiraiya’s book. Finally, because Kakashi had known Naruto was following him the whole time, the Jonin suddenly appeared behind Naruto and grabbed him by his collar.

“What’s with the security detail pipsqueak?” Naruto frowned at him.

“How did you find me?” Kakashi laughed.

“It’s gonna be a long time before you can get by me. I hope at least.” Kakashi chuckled and scratched his head.

“So, why are you following me?” Naruto fidgeted and avoided Kakashi’s gaze and sighed.

“Were you…were you responsible for the Nine-Tails attack on the Leaf Village?” Kakashi blinked.

“Naruto, are you insane? The attack was a natural disaster.” Naruto shook his head.

“Nuh-uh. Uncle Jiraiya left me a note saying that a man with a single Sharingan eye killed my mother and unleashed the Fox on the village.” Kakashi’s eyes bulged before he looked around quickly, hoping no one heard that, and flickered away to his apartment with Naruto.

“Are you serious?” Naruto nodded. Kakashi rubbed his face and ran his hand through his hair.
“That is…does the Hokage know?” Naruto nodded. “Does anyone else?” Naruto shook his head. “I don’t really know what to say. This is incredible. Someone actually controlled the Nine-Tails. Did he get away?” Naruto nodded and stared at Kakashi hopefully.

“So…it wasn’t you?” Kakashi laughed and patted Naruto’s head.

“No, it wasn’t. If it had been, I wouldn’t have gotten away. Sensei was always one step ahead of me.” Naruto smiled.

“Good. I’m sorry I thought it was you Kakashi.” The silver-haired Jonin just shook his head.
“Don’t worry about it. I honestly thought I was the only one with a single Sharingan too.” Kakashi started to think about the other man with the Sharingan, and he got so wrapped up in his thoughts that Naruto had to shout to get his attention.

“Kakashi!” Kakashi looked down at Naruto.

“Were you saying something?” Naruto frowned.

“Don’t pull that Guy crap on me.” Kakashi laughed mirthfully at that, and Naruto groaned. “Will you pay attention?” Kakashi quelled his laughter and bent down to Naruto’s level.

“Sorry. What’s up kid?” Naruto stared at him intensly.

“Will you help me find this man? For my dad?” Kakashi’s eye widened, but he smiled and put his hand on Naruto’s shoulder.

“Of course. We’ll find him and make him pay for what he did to Sensei.” Naruto nodded with determination, and Kakashi briefly saw Minato’s face in the boy. It was gone after a second, but he had no doubt what it meant.
 

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Chapter 5: Secrets

Naruto awoke suddenly, hearing his alarm clock blaring right next to his ear. He quickly turned it off, preventing himself from breaking yet another alarm clock. Sometimes, when Naruto woke up, he would chuck the alarm clock against the wall out of anger for waking him up. And he had gone through many alarm clocks that way, so he really didn’t feel like buying another.

Naruto sat up and groaned, realizing what day it was. It was the first day of his fourth year in The Academy today, and he wasn’t all that excited. He had wanted to graduate early, knowing that Kakashi had done that at his age, but Hiruzen denied him, stating that Kakashi had been in The Academy during the war, and that it was different. Naruto didn’t understand, but he figured that the Hokage was right anyway. So now he had to deal with a bunch of kids who had no idea what they were doing. When Hiruzen told him he would be placed in a class with kids his age, he nearly yelled at the Hokage. It was ridiculous to put someone of his caliber into a class full of first year kids.

Well, except for one other kid.

Sasuke Uchiha had entered The Academy just one year after Naruto, and immediately they had become rivals. Sasuke was always challenging Naruto to test his strength, and both boys were pretty evenly matched. Although most of the time, Naruto was the winner of their spars. Since they were the same age, and close to the same skill level, they had constantly been paired together during drills and lessons at The Academy, and because of that they had formed a bond of begrudging friendship. Sasuke had a tiny bit of admiration for the boy, just for his work ethic alone, and a healthy respect of the boy’s strength, which he had learned through experience. Naruto on the other hand genuinely liked Sasuke, and considered him to be his best friend. They trained together weekly, and both were getting stronger and helping the other every day.

But other than Sasuke, Naruto was sure there was no one in this class that would be of interest to him. He just hoped his training outside would continue to get more intense.

Kakashi had taken Naruto under his wing after Jiraiya died, taking over the duty of training the son of the Fourth
Hokage. He felt he was obligated to, after all, the Fourth was his Sensei. So, for the past four years, Kakashi had been training Naruto, watching him turn into the ninja he was meant to be. At seven years old, he was already Chuunin level, in every aspect of his skills. His ability to learn techniques so easily, due to the Shadow Clone Technique, was amazing, breaking the boundaries of time. Kakashi had immediately taught Naruto the Shadow Clone Technique, in fact it was the first thing he taught him.

~Flashback~


“A new Technique? Really? Awesome!” Naruto shouted in excitement. If Kakashi was going to teach him a new Technique right off the bat, then he would probably be an awesome Sensei.


“Yes, it’s a technique that I believe you will be able to master. It’s called the Shadow Clone Technique.” Naruto blinked.


“Is it a clone of my shadow?” Kakashi almost burst out laughing, but even his mask couldn’t hide his smile.


“No Naruto, it isn’t. It’s a very useful technique. Just watch.” Kakashi made the single hand seal and Naruto was shocked to see an identical Kakashi, with a shadow, standing right next to the original.


“Woah! Is that solid?” Both Kakashi’s nodded. “Awesome! Can I try?” One Kakashi stepped forward.


“Yes, but let me explain what to do first. Did you see the hand sign I made?” Naruto nodded. “Good. That’s the only one. Now, when you mold your chakra for this technique, I want you to put in a good amount, about half, of your reserves. Can you do that?” Naruto nodded again. “Alright. If I’m correct, you should get around 200 or so clones. Try it out.” Naruto brought his hands into the single seal and his face scrunched up in concentration.


“Shadow Clone Technique!” There was a massive plume of smoke that appeared around the entire area. Kakashi’s eyes widened, his Sharingan already seeing the number of clones there were.


‘600…that’s incredible. This kid could be his own army.’ When the smoke cleared, Naruto was grinning.

“DO YOU SEE ALL OF THESE CLONES!”


~Flashback End~


The other reason he taught Naruto the technique was because he knew that in theory, if one could produce a massive amount of Shadow Clones, then the time of training could be exponentially cut down. What would take a normal man weeks could take him hours, months could take him days, and years could take him weeks! It was truly incredible, and Kakashi even believed it to be better than his Sharingan.

There was one other thing that took up the rest of Naruto’s time. Ever since he had found his father’s notes on Fuinjutsu, he became engrossed in it, and even obsessed with it. He wasn’t smart enough to comprehend much of the complicated stuff, but the most basic things he understood, and he had even started practicing on his own. While he knew it was extremely dangerous to do so, the boy didn’t know of anyone else who was up to the caliber of Jiraiya or his father had been in Fuinjutsu. When he had asked Kakashi about it, the Jonin had admitted while he had some knowledge, it was not nearly as much as his Sensei’s. He still agreed to help Naruto with anything Fuinjutsu related, for the sake of his safety more than anything else.

The rest of the day would be boring, unless he could convince Sasuke to cut class, which he had only succeeded in doing once. Naruto sighed as he pulled his shirt on over his head. This year was gonna be boring.

XxX

“We’re not cutting the first day Naruto.” Naruto’s expression fell and his shoulders drooped.

“Why not? It’s not like we’re missing anything important.”

“The first day is one of the most important!” Naruto sighed and rolled his eyes.

“Fine Sasuke, we’ll go to class. But I guarantee half way through the day you’ll wonder why you even went.” Sasuke shrugged.

“Whatever.” Naruto frowned and stopped in his tracks, earning a confused look from the Uchiha. “What are you doing?”

“Is that the head of the Hyuuga Clan over there?” Sasuke looked to where Naruto was now pointing, and sure enough Hiashi Hyuuga was walking down the road, holding the hand of his daughter.

“It looks like it is. Does that mean there’s another clan heir in our class?” Naruto nodded.

“I guess it does. And a Hyuuga heir too. Looks like you have some competition.” Sasuke scoffed.

“As if. The Uchiha are superior to the Hyuuga in every way.” Naruto stared at Sasuke for a moment before raucous laughter erupted from his mouth. “What are you laughing at?” Naruto slowly calmed himself down, still chuckling a bit and wiping a tear from his eye.

“Dude you sounded JUST like your dad!” Sasuke’s eyes widened, before a small smile formed and a chuckle escaped his mouth.

“I did didn’t I?” Naruto smiled.

“All you need is the permanent scowl and the angry disposition and you’re there.” Sasuke scowled, and Naruto started laughing, pointing at his face. “There it is!” Sasuke grunted and turned away, leaving Naruto behind. Naruto caught up quickly, and together the two friends made their way to The Academy.

XxX

“My name is Iruka, and first I would just like to welcome you all to The Academy!” Iruka looked over his class with a wide smile on his face. It was going to be an interesting class this year. When he had first seen the role sheet, he almost spat out his coffee at the number of clan heirs that were in the class. Seven was an absurd amount of clan heirs, and the clans they hailed from were some of the strongest in the Leaf Village. The Nara, Akimichi, Yamanaka, Aburame, Inuzuka, Hyuuga and Uchiha all had heirs in this class, and Iruka would be damned if this class didn’t produce some of the finest ninja of their generation. Plus Naruto, the son of a former Hokage, this class was completely stacked. Of course, Iruka already knew Naruto and Sasuke from their previous years in The Academy, having been their teacher in the previous years as well. When Naruto had joined his class four years ago, and Sasuke three, Iruka grew prouder and prouder of the two boys each day as their skills soared to levels unprecedented for kids their age. At seven, both were easily Chuunin level, and both could now beat him in a spar. Naruto still claimed the number one spot, while Sasuke nipped at his heels in the second spot. When Iruka heard that instead of graduating the two boys would be put in a class of their peers to get better acquainted with them, he had been ecstatic. They were two of his favorite students, although he could never admit that out loud, and teaching them again was sure to be interesting. And maybe it would inspire these kids with great potential to become the best ninja they could be. “For the next five years…”

Naruto and Sasuke sighed as Iruka went into his beginning of the year speech. They had heard many variants of it over the years, and so they had no need to pay attention to it. Naruto looked to his left at the other boy who sat at the table. He had spiky, black hair that was tied into a ponytail that stuck up in the air, but the boy’s face could not be seen, for it was currently planted on the table. Naruto cracked a smile and poked the boy in his side.

“Huh?” The boy’s head popped up, and he lazily glanced over at Naruto, who was beaming at him.

“Sleeping on the first day? That doesn’t seem like something a ninja would do.” The boy was about to retort, when Sasuke did it for him.

“You slept on the first day for the past two years, if I’m not mistaken.” Naruto frowned and turned to Sasuke.

“Why would you say that? Now I look bad!” Sasuke shrugged, and the black haired boy started to laugh. Naruto turned back around. “What’s so funny?” The boy raised an eyebrow and casually shrugged.

“You said it yourself. It doesn’t seem like something a ninja would do.” Sasuke chuckled from behind Naruto, and the blond frowned.

“Whatever.” The frown was replaced with a smile. “Well I’m Naruto, and I’m gonna be the best Hokage there ever was!” The boy blinked at Naruto’s declaration.

“Are you Naruto Namikaze?” Naruto nodded. “I see. So then that means you’re the Hokage’s son.” Another nod.
“Troublesome.”

“Why is that troublesome?” Naruto asked.

“Of all the people I could have sat next to, I had to sit next to the strongest academy student in years. I’d call that troublesome.” Naruto cocked his head.

“You know who I am?” The boy nodded.

“Everyone knows who you are. My father told me all about you too. You started The Academy at age four, and the only reason you haven’t graduated is because the Leaf Village is at peace right now.” Naruto seemed a little shocked that his name was so famous. “And if you’re Naruto, then you must be Sasuke Uchiha.” Sasuke nodded at this.

“I am. Although I’m impressed you understand why Naruto and I haven’t graduated. Not many academy students have knowledge of how a ninja village really works.” The boy shrugged.

“My dad is always telling me things, saying I need to learn about the village to be a good ninja and clan head one day. It’s more troublesome than anything else if you ask me.” Naruto nodded at this.

“I know what you mean. My Uncle Jiraiya was always telling me stuff like that. I didn’t care about it before, but now I guess I kinda see why it’s important.” The boy shrugged.

“In a way it is. But I don’t have to worry about that right now.” Sasuke nodded.

“I don’t believe I caught your name.”

“Shikamaru Nara.”

“Oh, so you’re the heir of the Nara Clan?” Shikamaru nodded.

“Troublesome as it is, I am.”

“Naruto! Sasuke! Shikamaru! Be quiet back there!” The three boys jumped at Iruka’s sudden shout, and they immediately turned forward. Naruto and Sasuke knew Iruka was not one to be messed with, and when he brought his wrath down upon you, it was not pleasant. So they quieted down for now, deciding to save their conversation for lunch.

XxX

Eventually, the day ended, and Naruto was excited to leave the dreadful prison. When Iruka dismissed them, Naruto sprinted out of the classroom, with Sasuke close behind. They were both itching to train, especially after that long day in The Academy. They arrived at Jiraiya’s estate, immediately heading for the training ground. As usual, they started with some light warm ups, before they got ready to spar.

“So what’s the score now anyway?” Naruto asked as they got into their stances.

“29-30.” Sasuke mumbled,

“Well then get ready to fall even farther behind!” Naruto shouted with a grin.

“I’ll make you eat those words!” Sasuke charged in at Naruto, pulling out two kunai as he did. Naruto took his own kunai out just in time to block Sasuke’s first strike, and he quickly ducked under his follow-up slash. Sasuke swung his leg at Naruto, who blocked with his arm. Naruto then grabbed Sasuke’s leg and threw him high into the air. Flipping in midair, Sasuke landed gracefully and rushed back at Naruto, attacking him with a flurry or slashes and strikes. The blond was pushed onto the defensive, blocking any strike with his kunai, and weaving through any he could not. Sasuke pressed with aggressiveness and speed, finally forcing an opening and kicking Naruto away. The blond tumbled through the grass and rolled into a tree. Naruto rose with a groan, and Sasuke ran at him. Sasuke threw both his kunai, and Naruto yelped before barely substituting with a log, saving him from pain. He dropped down behind Sasuke, forming two Shadow Clones as he landed. The three Narutos charged at Sasuke, who jumped straight into the air. He threw three kunai at each Naruto, but only one made contact. The other two jumped after Sasuke, launching kicks and punches at the Uchiha. Sasuke couldn’t keep up with both Narutos, so he closed his eyes and focused his chakra for second. In a moment, his Sharingan activated, and Naruto’s attacks were clear to him. Sasuke easily adjusted, and soon his pace matched both Narutos. Sasuke weaved through Naruto’s attacks expertly, and kicked the last clone, dispelling it instantly. Naruto jumped away, not wanting to go up against a Sharingan in hand to hand combat. Seeing Naruto’s retreat, Sasuke flashed through hand seals.

“Fire Style: Grand Fireball Technique!” A large swirling ball of fire flew towards Naruto, who finished a sequence of hand signs as the fire ball closed in.

“Earth Style: Mud Wall!” Using a technique taught to him by his dead godfather, Naruto saved himself with a wall of mud that shot up from the ground. Sasuke leapt over the wall, hurling a handful of shuriken at the blond. Naruto jumped away, only to find Sasuke in front of him, kunai poised to stab. Naruto ducked under the thrust, and pulled Sasuke forward by his outstretched arm. He then jumped into the air and planted both of his feet on Sasuke’s chest, sending him flying with a dropkick. When the Uchiha collapsed, Naruto was crouching over him, a kunai inches away from his forehead. Sasuke groaned in resignation, and Naruto broke into a wide smile.

“Now it’s 31-29!” Sasuke glared at his friend, until a hand was thrust in his face, and he took it with a smirk. Naruto pulled the Uchiha to his feet, and both of them decided to call it a day. Since Naruto had won, he convinced Sasuke that he deserved a free bowl of ramen. Sasuke hesitantly agreed, knowing one bowl could easily turn into five or six. With a reluctant sigh from Sasuke, and a cheerful yelp from Naruto, the two geniuses departed the training grounds and made their way to the village. Along the way to Ichiraku’s, Naruto noticed a lone boy in the middle of the park, lying on his back and gazing at the sky.

“Hey Sasuke, is that Shikamaru?” Sasuke looked at where Naruto’s finger pointed, and nodded.

“Yea, it’s him.” Naruto started walking towards the boy.

“Hey! Shikamaru!” Shikamaru lazily raised his head, sighing to himself as Naruto approached.

“I knew you were going to be troublesome.”

“What was that?”

“Nothing.” Sasuke walked up behind Naruto, greeting Shikamaru with a nod.

“What are you doing?” Naruto asked, taking a seat next to the Nara boy.

“Staring at the clouds.” Shikamaru simply stated, so Naruto shrugged and laid down next to the boy. “What are
you doing?” Shikamaru asked.

“Staring at the clouds.” Shikamaru sighed, realizing he couldn’t get rid of the blond boy, and went back to cloud gazing. Sasuke shook his head, but laid down anyway, preferring to relax rather than empty his wallet on ramen. The three boys laid there for awhile, occasionally commenting on the shape of a cloud. Time passed and soon dusk set in. The sky glowed yellow and orange, and Shikamaru finally sat up.

“It’s getting late…” Naruto and Sasuke sat up as well, nodding at Shikamaru’s statement.

“That was really relaxing!” Naruto exclaimed as he jumped up and stretched his arms. “Do you do that every day?”

“Yea. I like watching the clouds. They’re so free and lazy, floating through the sky like that. Sometimes I wish I could just float through the sky aimlessly; it would be much less troublesome than being a ninja.” Naruto cocked his head.

“You’re really lazy aren’t you?” Shikamaru smiled at Naruto before walking away and waving over his shoulder. The two boys watched him lazily mosey down the road, until they couldn’t see him anymore.

“He’s a little weird.” Sasuke stated casually.

“Yea, but so are we. And I like him.” Naruto turned to Sasuke.

“Yea, he’s alright.” Sasuke let out a sigh. “I should be getting home.” Naruto nodded, and Sasuke turned around and started walking away. Naruto decided he would stay in the park a little longer, so he laid back down on the ground and fixed his gaze on the sky.

XxX

“With all due respect Lord Hokage, what you ask of me is insane!” Hiruzen sighed as he took a puff of his pipe. Normally, an ANBU operative would never question an order from the Hokage, and if one did he would be immediately removed from the organization. But the Third understood the ridiculousness of his request, and the ANBU’s reaction was well justified.

“I’m aware my request is highly sensitive and quite frankly brutal.”

“Then I-“ the ANBU paused, and Hiruzen waved his hand.

“You may speak freely Itachi.” The ANBU removed his mask, and the stoic face of Itachi stared back at the Hokage.

“Sir, you are asking me to kill my entire clan. How could one live with themselves?” Hiruzen shook his head.

“It is a heinous crime I know. But my advisors are vehemently pushing this solution. The Uchiha have become restless of late, and I fear the gears of war are cranking. A civil war is the worst possible outcome of this problem, and it must be avoided. I do not wish to see one of our most prominent clan’s demise, and I am open to any suggestions that you may have, but the truth is this rebellion must be quashed before it starts. You have been a very valuable mole, and not using the information you have brought me to organize a preemptive strike would be a waste.” Itachi looked down at the ground and Hiruzen sighed. “I am just as opposed to this plan as you are Itachi. But as Hokage I must make unpopular decisions for the good of the village.

“And so you think massacring the Uchiha is for the good of the village?” Itachi asked suddenly, snapping his head up.

“Of course not. The Uchiha Clan is a clan feared around the Elemental Nations, and their strength is a pillar of support for the village. But do you think a civil war is better? Not only Uchiha, but countless Leaf ninja would lose their lives if conflict broke out.” Itachi clenched his fists.

“That doesn’t justify it.” Hiruzen looked at Itachi sadly.

“It never will. But as Hokage I will shoulder the burden for the sake of the village.” A hopeless look made its way to Itachi’s face, and Hiruzen noted this was the most emotion he had ever seen out of Itachi. “I will give you two weeks to find a solution on your side, while I try to find a solution on mine. I will stall my advisors for as long as I can, but they are persistent. In two week I will call you in for a meeting where the mission will be formally assigned to you.” Itachi nodded.

“Thank you Lord Hokage.”

“Please understand Itachi, I truly wish to see the end of this conflict without bloodshed. Death is a plague that I have fought with all my strength ever since I took this seat, but death is insatiable. It always wins. I will do everything in my power to see that it does not win this time.” Hiruzen stood up and turned his back to Itachi and gazed out the window. “I am getting old Itachi. I’ve watched over this village longer than any Hokage before me, and even longer than my successor. I have seen conflict on a greater scale than you can imagine, and yet when it comes to the village, I feel as if I am a small child. I love each and every member of this village, but even my love and determination cannot protect them all.” Hiruzen turned to Itachi with a sorrowful expression on his face.
“In the end we’re ninja, tools of war and destruction, and our profession comes with the darkest secrets and the bloodiest jobs. Even the greatest ninja can fall into the abyss of insanity if they think too much. Keep your mind at ease Itachi, and do not let your Will of Fire burn out, because yours shines brighter than anyone I know.” Itachi took a deep breath.

“Thank you Lord Hokage. Truly.” Hiruzen smiled at the young ANBU captain.

“Do not hesitate to come to me with your concerns Itachi. We strive for the same outcome, and I will help any way I can.” Itachi nodded. “You are dismissed, Weasel.” Itachi put his mask on, and in a second his presence was erased from the room. Hiruzen collapsed in his chair and groaned. He would need more than tobacco to recover from that.
 

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Chapter 6: The Fate of the Uchiha

Sasuke frowned as Itachi walked out the door. Once again, he had rebuffed Sasuke’s request to train. But something about him seemed off to Sasuke. Itachi was certainly a master of his emotions, but Sasuke was his brother, and he could always tell when something was bothering his brother. Itachi had barely been home in the past two weeks, and when he was he cut off all communication with his mother and father. The reason for his recent absence was ANBU business as Itachi stated, and while that was a valid excuse, Sasuke couldn’t help but think something else was affecting his behavior. No, he knew something else was behind it, but he couldn’t figure out what it was. All Sasuke could tell was that there was a certain sense of urgency to Itachi.

Itachi wasn’t the only one acting oddly. Fugaku, Sasuke’s father, had also been acting strangely lately. He skipped the family dinners almost daily now, and there was always a look of contemplation of his face. Members of the Uchiha Police Force dropped by frequently, as well as a few of the clan elders, and would be locked in Fugaku’s office for hours at a time. While they could just be discussing clan affairs, with Itachi’s recent behavior, Sasuke couldn’t help but think there was a connection. And he’d be damned if he didn’t figure it out.

Seeing as The Academy had off today, Sasuke decided to find Naruto and tell him about his brother and father’s odd behavior. The blond would definitely be interested in finding out what was going on, and Sasuke was counting on that. After exiting the Uchiha District and walking through the village, Sasuke arrived at Jiraiya’s estate. He pounded on the door and waited for a few minutes until the door opened slowly. Naruto was standing in the doorway, rubbing his eye and dressed in his pajamas.

“What are you doing here?” Naruto murmured sleepily. “It’s eight o’clock.”

“I know what time it is. Get dressed, we have things to do.” Naruto sighed and shut the door. Five minutes later he came back out, fully dressed and slightly less sleepy.

“What are we doing?” Naruto asked as they walked away from the house.

“Itachi and father have been acting strangely lately, and I wanna figure out what’s going on.” A devilish grin spread across Naruto’s face.

“So you want to spy on them?” Sasuke nodded. “This is going to be fun.” Sasuke sighed.

“It’s not going to be easy you know.” Naruto shrugged.

“I’ve hidden from ANBU before, it isn’t that hard. And even Itachi can’t see through my Invisibility Technique.”

“We still have to be careful.” Naruto nodded, and the two boys headed for the Uchiha District.

XxX

“Father…” While his expression was stoic, on the inside Itachi felt like nothing more than a small child. He was far too young to be dealing with this, and yet this was what the cost of being a great ninja was. They called it a blessing. It disgusted Itachi.

“Every night for the past two weeks you have tried to convince me to stop our revolution in every way you can.” Fugaku’s stare was ice cold, and it bared the weight of a whale. “Don’t tell me you’re nervous.” If the head of the Uchiha clan ever showed emotion, he would have sneered then.

“The Hokage does not need to die. Neither do our clansmen. He is old, he won’t occupy the position for much longer. With my pedigree…I could become the next Hokage. Then the Uchiha would have an equal say.” Fugaku scoffed.

“Don’t get cocky son. You’re light years away from Hokage level.”

“Then why am I the one who’s putting the knife to his neck?” Fugaku could not think of an immediate answer, so there was a pregnant pause before he retorted.

“You are foolish if you think the council would allow an Uchiha Hokage. This argument is over. Either you are with us, or you should make yourself disappear.” Itachi stood in stiff shock and his father left him with that. He had never said anything like that before.

For the first time, Itachi felt a tear slide down his cheek.

XxX

Naruto and Sasuke stood stone still against a wall. In front of them, a meeting between Fugaku and a few of the Uchiha Elders, as well as some members of the police force, was taking place. Fugaku led the meeting, and currently they were debating something that had literally shocked Naruto and Sasuke to their cores. When they first decided to intrude on the meeting, they had followed the clan members into the room, slipping in under the guise of Naruto’s Invisibility Technique. Everything had gone along smoothly, until the purpose of the meeting was brought up. When Fugaku brought up a plan of a rebellion against the Hokage, the two boys had almost yelled in shock, only keeping quiet because of their current situation. And now with every word uttered by the Uchiha in the room, Sasuke felt his respect for his clan plummet. As they watched, the meeting continued, its members completely unaware of the intruders.

“Itachi’s reports have been scarce of late Fugaku.” One of the elders stated. “We are in the final stages of our plan. We need all the intel we can get.” Fugaku hestitated.

“Itachi...has been extremely busy as of late. Since his recent promotion, his mission load has increased, and he barely has time to relay large pieces of information. Do not worry about it much; we will have all of the information we need.” A few of the elders nodded, but one cleared his throat.

“If it is as you say Fugaku, then everything should pan out perfectly. But…” the elder narrowed his eyes, “what if it is not?” Fugaku’s eyes narrowed as well.

“What are you implying?”

“I’m not implying anything. But I am questioning whether or not Itachi is the right man for the job.”

“You speak out of line.” Fugaku stated with barely masked venom.

“Do I? I have nothing against your son Fugaku, but this is a very delicate operation. There can be no errors.”

“I assure you my son’s skill is more than enough to complete this mission. There are few Jonin in this village that can match my son’s skill.”

“It is not his skill that I am calling into question.” The elder stated cryptically. Fugaku looked at him in confusion, before anger flashed across his face.

“You dare call my son a traitor?” Fugaku shifted to stand, but one of the elders grabbed his arm.

“Peace Fugaku!” Fugaku glared at the man restraining him, before shifting to glare at the other elder. “Explain yourself Katsuro.”

“The ANBU are loyal to the Hokage first. Who’s to say he isn’t a double agent.” Fugaku was now physically restraining himself.

“My son is-“

“You keep defending him Fugaku, but do you not wonder the same? You said he was busy with ANBU work, so who’s to say he isn’t meeting with the Hokage right now. What if his recent ‘work’ has been his betrayal.”

“Enough! I will not let you insult my family in my house! My son is loyal to the Uchiha and only the Uchiha!” Killing Intent was leaking out of Fugaku now, and the elders eyed him with a hint of fear.

“Easy Fugaku. Just relax.” Fugaku looked at the elder who was trying to calm him down. He took a deep breath and let out a harsh sigh.

“Itachi will not fail his mission. When the time comes, he will assassinate the Hokage without question and without fail. There is nothing to discuss about it.” The elders stood up.

“Well then, this meeting is over. By your leave Fugaku?” Fugaku nodded and the elders filed out of the room, closing the door behind them. Sasuke disconnected himself from Naruto and stepped forward, glaring into the surprised eyes of his father. Naruto, who was baffled by Sasuke’s course of action, just sighed and cancelled his technique.

“Sasuke, what are you-“

“Traitor.” Sasuke said angrily, cutting his father off. “How could you betray the village?”

“There are many things that you do not understand-“

“So what! What right does that give you to betray the village? Let alone assassinate the Hokage!” Sasuke’s Sharingan had activated in his rage, and Fugaku activated his own.

“Enough Sasuke. You are too young to understand.”

“But Itachi isn’t? Why would you bring him into this? What do you hope to accomplish?” Fugaku stared down at his son, his stoic face giving nothing away.

“Sasuke, I will not tell you again. This does not concern you. Now please leave me.” Sasuke clenched his fists and gnashed his teeth.

“You are not my father.” With that he exited the room, Naruto scrambling behind him. Fugaku was taken aback by Sasuke’s declaration, and a wave of guilt washed over him.

“Itachi…”

XxX

Naruto followed Sasuke as they walked through the streets of the village. He wasn’t really sure what to do; Sasuke was clearly rattled by what has just taken place. When Naruto had been told they were spying on Fugaku, he was expecting something less dramatic than a coup d’état.

“Where are we going?” Naruto finally asked.

“To find Itachi.” Sasuke replied flatly. Naruto shrugged and continued to follow Sasuke, until they reached the Hokage’s office. The Hokage was smoking his pipe when they barged into his office, and he raised an eyebrow at them.

“Naruto, Sasuke, what a pleasure. Please come in.” The last part was unnecessary, seeing as they were already in.

“Where is Itachi?” The Hokage was surprised at Sasuke’s forwardness; usually Naruto did the talking.

“I cannot disclose the location of-“Sasuke sighed and looked at Naruto, who stepped forward.

“Uh gramps? This is kinda important. We really need to find Itachi. Can you please make an exception just this once?” Hiruzen stared quizzically at the boys, before making a gesture with his hand. Itachi silently appeared behind the boys.

“What is it little brother?” Sasuke turned around and glared at Itachi.

“So you’re a traitor too?” Hiruzen seemed taken aback by this declaration.

“What nonsense is this?” Itachi asked.

“I spied on one of father’s meetings.” Hiruzen’s eyes went wide, and Itachi’s did the same behind his mask. Immediately, the Hokage activated his privacy seals. “How could you Itachi?” Itachi tore his mask off.

“What did you hear?”

“Everything! I heard that the Uchiha plan to rebel against the Hokage and start a civil war! And I heard you’re supposed to assassinate the Hokage!” Itachi looked over at the Hokage, who had a stressed look on his face.

“You’re a trai-“

“Silence Sasuke.” Itachi interrupted.

“Itachi is no traitor Sasuke.” The younger Uchiha turned to the Hokage. “I have known of this development for quite some time now, thanks to your brother.” Sasuke turned back to Itachi, who nodded.

“So you really are double agent then?” Itachi cocked his head.

“Did you hear that in the meeting?” Sasuke nodded.

“That poses a problem.” The Hokage stated. “If they are suspicious of you, then things could get ugly. Be careful Itachi.” Itachi nodded.

“What do we do about them?”

“Well I’d like to thank them for telling us about this first of all. I’d also like you two to understand that this is an SS class secret. You cannot tell anyone about this.” The two boys nodded.

“What are you going to do?” Sasuke asked.

“That’s none of your concern Sasuke.” Itachi answered quickly.

“How can you say that! It’s my clan too!”

“You are too young for things of this nature.”

“Stop treating me like a kid!" For the second time that day, Sasuke's Sharingan flared to life. "I brought you important information didn’t I? I have a right to know!” Itachi stared at Sasuke.

“Fine, you want to know what’s going to happen?” Itachi looked over at the Hokage, who leaned forward.

“Sasuke, your brother and I have been working tirelessly for weeks to find a way to end this conflict without bloodshed.” Sasuke’s eyes widened.

“Is that why you’ve been so busy brother?” Itachi nodded.

“Your brother has been trying to convince your father that a coup is not the way to solve this. Unfortunately he has not been successful.”

“So what now?” Sasuke asked.

“Tonight I will undertake a mission that will put an end to this conflict before it begins.”

“And what is that?”

“Putting an end to the Uchiha Clan.” Naruto and Sasuke’s faces broke out in astonishment.

“What!” They both exclaimed.

“Unfortunately that is what it has come to.” Hiruzen stated. “We cannot risk a civil war, not when we have finally achieved our status quo once again. “

“That’s…” Sasuke looked at the Hokage and Itachi, then at the ground. “I understand.” Hiruzen and Itachi were now visibly shocked.

“You understand?” Itachi asked.

“Yes. Our clan is a clan of traitors. And traitors must be punished.” Hiruzen nodded.

“Yes that is what we decided.”

“But how are you going to do it?” Sasuke asked.

“I will go through the clan compound under the cover of night and assassinate them all. Then I will leave the village as a missing ninja.”

“Missing ninja? But you can’t leave!”

“I must Sasuke. I cannot come back to the village after murdering our entire clan.” Sasuke looked at Itachi with fear and sadness in his eyes.

“But…I’ll be all alone. What am I going to do?”
“Just be strong little brother. Maybe one day we will meet again.” Sasuke lunged at his big brother and wrapped his arms around him.

“I’ll miss you big brother.” Itachi let a rare smile spread across his face.

“I’ll miss you too Sasuke. But for now, I must prepare for tonight. Stay at Naruto’s tonight. I do not want you to witness anything.” Sasuke nodded, and after he stepped back, Itachi disappeared. Both boys looked at the Hokage, who smiled.

“Well that was quite tiring. Who’s up for some ramen?” Naruto exclaimed his approval, while Sasuke smiled and nodded. Hiruzen led the boys out of his office, only wondering how two seven year olds could have spied on the Uchiha Clan head.

XxX

News of the Uchiha Massacre spread through the village like wildfire. Everyone was talking about how the Uchiha prodigy Itachi had gone insane and murdered his entire clan in cold blood. Sasuke was furious that his brother was being slandered, but the Hokage had sworn him and Naruto to secrecy, so there was nothing he could do.

“Relax Sasuke, they don’t know the truth.” Sasuke looked at Naruto, who was walking with his hands behind his head. They were on their way to The Academy, and Sasuke knew the worst was yet to come. When they finally arrived, mostly everyone was staring at Sasuke, whispering something into someone’s ear. Only one person wasn’t, and that’s because his face was planted on the table.

“Hey! Shikamaru! Wake Up!” Naruto poked the Nara in his head, and he lazily glared at Naruto.

“Every day you insist on waking me up. Why is that?” Naruto smiled.

“Because if you slept then you wouldn’t get to talk to us.”

“Troublesome.” Naruto frowned. “So, Sasuke, how are you.” Sasuke shrugged.

“Alright. Why do you ask?”

“You know why I asked. But alright isn’t the answer I was expecting.” Sasuke shook his head.

“You wouldn’t understand. I don’t want to talk about it.” Shikamaru shrugged.

“Fine by me. I was just being friendly.” Naruto smiled at this.

“See, we are friends!” Shikamaru sighed and put his head back down. “Hey, don’t ignore your friends!”

“Friends let friends sleep.” Was the muffled reply that came from Shikamaru. Naruto huffed and crossed his arms.

“Whatever.” Sasuke watched the exchange with a smirk. Naruto was right. They were friends, and Sasuke knew he would need them to get through this ordeal. Hell, their bickering alone was entertaining enough to put a smile on his face for years. But most importantly, it was a semblance of normalcy, and that was all he needed.

“Shikamaru, you should train with us today.” Shikamaru’s head shot up at Sasuke’s suggestion.

“You want me to train with you?” Sasuke nodded. “There’s no way I can keep up with you.”

“We’ll take it easy on you. And while you’re not as strong as us, you’re definitely smarter.” Naruto and Sasuke had found out that behind the lazy exterior was by all rights a genius. Shikamaru was extremely intelligent for a kid his age, and he knew more about ninja techniques, ninja affairs, political relations, clan procedures and history than anyone else. Apparently, when he wasn’t cloud watching, he was reading. His memory was excellent as well, so he retained all of the knowledge he acquired quite easily.

“I don’t see how me being smarter than you will help me. You would still beat me in seconds.” Naruto shook his head.

“Who cares. You’re coming, no matter how troublesome you think it is.” Shikamaru groaned. “I’ll drag you there if I really have to.” Sasuke sighed.

“He will.” Shikamaru sighed.

“Fine, I’ll go.” Naruto smiled widely, while Sasuke grinned a little. He could get used to having these two around. Their presence was almost soothing in a fucked up way, but he liked it. Maybe he wouldn’t be so alone after all.

I swear I’ll be strong big brother. And I’ll carry on your dream to protect the village.’

XxX

The top of the Hokage Mountain was a special place for Naruto. He always felt closer to his father here than anywhere else, plus it had the best view. It was his go to spot in the village for anything: thinking, eating ramen, relaxing after training. But today he was not alone.

“It’s a little cold up here.” Naruto’s head turned towards his companion.

“It’s just a little windy. You get used to it.” The blonde replied. As they walked atop the Fourth Hokage’s head, the entire view of the Leaf Village and the horizon above it opened up in front of them. Kairi wondrously gazed at the beauty displayed before her as they sat down.

Wow…I never realized how big the village was.” She stated as her eyes flicked from building to building.

“That’s what I said when Uncle Jiraiya first took me up here. I remember he told me that if I ever wanted to be close to dad I could just come up here.” He smiled as he looked down at the monument underneath him.

“You miss him don’t you?” She asked quietly.

“Of course I do.” He answered matter-of-factly. “But missing him won’t bring him back. Instead, I’ll try my hardest to live up to his name. Both of their names. And then I’ll surpass them. If I do that, then I know I’ll have made them proud.” Kairi stared at Naruto with slightly wide eyes.

“You know, you’re the most mature seven year old I’ve ever met.” Naruto shrugged and laughed.

“Yea I think Uncle Jiraiya did that on purpose. I guess he didn‘t want me to be like he was when he was a Genin.” Kairi’s head tilted.

“What do you mean?”

“Well, he was the dead last on his Genin team. It wasn’t until he got the Toad contract that he changed. He told me all kinds of stories about Orochimaru and Tsunade kicking his ass.” Naruto explained fondly.

“That’s hard to believe. I haven’t heard of many ninja alive today that could go toe-to-toe with Jiraiya of the Sannin. Sensei told us that once during a mission, Jiraiya stayed behind to fight a force of twenty Jonin-level ninja. He came back twenty minutes later covered in blood and ash, but Sensei said none of it was his.” Naruto chuckled at Kairi’s story.

“That could have been exaggerated you know? But it sounds like something he would do. He would never let a comrade die before him.” Naruto looked up at the sky. “Who is your Sensei anyway?” He asked after a few moments of slience.

“Aoba Yamashiro. He’s a little bit too carefree, but he’s serious during training, and he’s strong. He’s a good Sensei.” Naruto nodded.

“Good. You’re so lucky you graduated. I can’t stand The Academy anymore. All I ever do is spar with Sasuke, and we can’t even go all out or we’ll end up breaking something. I just wish the old man would let me out already.” Naruto stated enviously.

“Speaking of Sasuke, where is he?” Kairi asked curiously. “You two are always together.” Naruto laughed.

“Yea, but he needed some time alone. I’m sure you heard what happened…” Kairi nodded, “…he’s just making peace with it.”

“Well I hope he does. And don’t worry about The Academy. You’ll be Genin before you know it.” Naruto looked out over the village and sighed.

“You’re right.” A smile crossed his face. “And then it won’t be much longer til I’m Hokage.”
 

noheartx

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Chapter 7: The Leaf’s Geniuses

A year had passed since the Uchiha Massacre. In its wake, the village had lost one of its most prestigious clans, but civil war had been avoided, unbeknownst to most of the population. The villager’s treatment of Sasuke had changed completely, and now they almost worshipped the ground he walked on. Besides the fact that he was a prodigy himself, mostly everyone in the village felt bad for the boy, and occasionally he would get free meals or other special treatment. He asked for none of this of course, but there was no way to stop them.

Over the last year Naruto and Sasuke had only grown stronger, as well as Shikamaru. Against his will, Shikamaru had started training with Naruto and Sasuke every day, and after a year, he was easily high-Genin level. Not as strong as Naruto or Sasuke, but he was certainly stronger than any other Academy student.

And this was the reason that Kakashi Hatake, as well as Shikaku Nara were in the Hokage’s office.

“This is a hefty request Kakashi. How do you feel about this Shikaku?” The Nara stepped forward.

“Honestly, I have no qualms with Kakashi’s request. Shikamaru’s improvement over the last year has been outstanding. He’s already learned two of our clan’s techniques, as well as attempting a third, not to mention the other techniques he’s learned. If anything, I request that Shikamaru be placed on a team with those two boys.”

“You do not wish to continue the Ino-Shika-Cho trio?” Shikaku sighed.

“I would love to, but the truth is for Shikamaru’s sake I would rather him be with those boys. That team has the
potential to function just as well, if not better, than my old team.” Hiruzen seemed surprised by this.

“That’s quite a favorable reply. Kakashi, do you have anything to add?” Kakashi shook his head.

“No, just everything I’ve told you Lord Hokage. They’re talent is being wasted in The Academy.” Hiruzen sighed.

“Well I can’t really say no can I? Very well, as of today, Kakashi Hatake is the Jonin sensei of Team 7, which consists of Naruto Namikaze, Sasuke Uchiha, and Shikamaru Nara.” Kakashi nodded.

“Thank you Lord Hokage. You won’t regret this.” The Hokage nodded, and both Jonin exited the office. They walked out together, and when they were outside, Kakashi turned to Shikaku.

“Shikamaru will be fine. I’ll protect him with my life.” Shikaku smiled.

“I know. You didn’t need to reassure me. But thank you.” Kakashi shook his head.

“No, thank you. I’ve been trying to get Naruto and Sasuke out of The Academy for years. Your approval only helped.”

“Well those two boys have helped my son immensely. There’s no one else I’d rather have watching his back.” Kakashi nodded.

“They’re definitely something else. Expect to hear great things about your son’s team Shikaku.” Shikaku nodded and walked away. Kakashi decided he would take the rest of the day off, and relay his news to Obito and RIn. His teammates had to hear that he was going to be a sensei.

XxX

“Stealth is one of the most important skills a-“The door to the classroom opened, interrupting Iruka from his lecture. Kakashi stepped into the room. “Ah, Captain Kakashi, what a pleasant surprise.” Kakashi chuckled.

“Sorry to bother you, but I’ll be taking a few of your students.” Iruka nodded.

“Yes I got the Hokage’s letter this morning.” Iruka turned to the class. “Naruto, Sasuke, Shikamaru, please go with Kakashi.” The three students stood up and exchanged looks of confusion before filing down the aisle. “Good luck boys. I know you’ll do well.” Iruka said with a smile as they walked by, further confusing them. They followed Kakashi out the door, and he led them through the Leaf Village to one of the surrounding training grounds. Naruto smiled when he recognized it, identifying it as the training ground Jiraiya modeled his own after. The boys were silent the whole time, but their confusion was clear to Kakashi. Finally, they stopped in front of three large wooden posts, and Kakashi cleared his throat.

“Ok, so I’m sure the three of you are wondering what’s going on.” He was met with three nods. “Right. Well, as of today, the three of you are no longer Academy students.”

“Does that mean what I think it does?” Naruto asked excitedly.
“Yes. Today, you three are the Genin that make up Team 7, which is led by me.” Naruto shouted in elation, while Sasuke and Shikamaru smiled. “But, there’s one more test before it’s official.”

“A test?” Shikamaru asked. Kakashi nodded.

“Yes a test. Your test,” Kakashi pulled two bells out of his pocket, “is to take these bells from me.” The three geniuses nodded and got into battle ready stances.

‘Man, they didn’t even say anything about there being only two bells. They already get it. Still, I’m curious to see how well they work together.’
Kakashi tied the bells to his waist and pulled his headband up, revealing his Sharingan. Sasuke’s eyes narrowed at this, and his own Sharingan blazed to life. “You have until noon to get the bells. Begin.” Immediately, Shikamaru’s shadow lurched forward, and Kakashi flipped backwards out of his range. Shikamaru’s shadow receded and he hurled a few shuriken at Kakashi, who deflected them with a kunai. Shikamaru jumped away into the trees as Naruto and Sasuke charged at Kakashi from his sides. The Copy Ninja blocked both of their kicks with his arms, and he threw them towards the lake behind him. They both gracefully landed on the surface of the water and dashed back in at the Jonin. Sasuke flew through hand seals and brought his hand to his lips.

“Fire Style: Grand Fireball Technique!” A large fireball, larger than any Genin should have been able to produce, shot towards Kakashi. The Jonin’s eyes widened before he plummeted underground with the use of his Earth Style: Double Suicide Decapitation Technique. He appeared below Sasuke, but against the Sharingan a technique like that lost its element of surprise, and Sasuke jumped away before Kakashi could grab him. Kakashi jumped up from the ground, and immediately five Narutos were upon him. He blocked two of their attacks, but the other three got a few hits in on Kakashi, only to find that is was a clone. The real Kakashi jumped out of the trees, and his hands flashed through hand seals.

“Water Style: Water Dragon Missile!” A large water dragon rose out of the lake, letting out a loud roar before diving at the Narutos, dispelling all of them at once. Kakashi looked around, seeing that the clearing was now empty. They had retreated for now, but Kakashi wasn’t going to give them time to rest. No, he wanted to see how far they could be pushed.

Off in the woods, Shikamaru, Sasuke and Naruto sat in a circle, thinking of some way to get the bells.

“A frontal charge isn’t going to work. I think he just established that.” Naruto sighed and scratched his head.

“Well I don’t know what else to do. You guys don’t know Kakashi like I do. It’s really hard to trick him. The only thing that’s ever worked against him was an all out assault.” Shikamaru shook his head.

“Not this time. He’s serious.” Naruto sighed and motioned for Shikamaru to continue. “Right, here’s the plan.”
Meanwhile, Kakashi jumped through the forest casually, seeking out his charges. He couldn’t let them hide forever; that would be no fun. He finally found them sitting in a small circle, talking in hushed voices. He couldn’t keep the excitement out of his voice as he appeared right in the middle of their circle.

“Hey, secrets are no fun.” The Genin hopefuls yelped in surprise, jumping back and forming a triangle around Kakashi. Kakashi saw Shikamaru’s hands go together, and immediately he jumped backwards, between Sasuke and Naruto. He went to throw his kunai, but when he was frozen in place, his eyes widened.

‘How?’
He looked out of the corner of his eye at Naruto, who stood in the same position as Shikamaru, except his shadow was connected to his. He looked forward again, noticing Shikamaru drop his hands. A second later, Shikamaru turned into Naruto, dropping the transformation. Kakashi sighed.

“You got me.” Sasuke walked up to the paralyzed Kakashi, and ripped the bells off of his waist. Shikamaru, who was now himself again, dropped his technique, and Kakashi was free to move again.

“So, do we pass?” Naruto asked, a smile on his face. Kakashi chuckled.

“I don’t think there’s any way I can’t pass you is there?” Naruto started to laugh happily, while Sasuke and Shikamaru gave him weird looks. They eventually joined in however, as they were just too excited to finally be Genin. Kakashi watched them with a sense of pride. They were his students, and he was gonna make damn sure they became they legends they were supposed to be.

XxX

As soon as Team 7 had passed their test, Kakashi had insisted they get their team photo done. Naruto, Sasuke and Shikamaru stood together, Naruto in the middle, and Kakashi right behind him, with a hand on Shikamaru and Sasuke's head. Sasuke had a slightly annoyed look on his face, but a smile was bubbling up on his face, while Shikamaru just looked at the sky out of the corner of his eye. Naruto had a small smile on his face, with his headband proudly tied across his forehead. Later when Kakashi looked at the picture, a nostalgic smile made its way to his face. It was quite different than his team photo, and Kakashi couldn't help but notice Naruto's striking similarity to his father. He was like the reincarnation of the Fourth. this team was going to be a handful, but Kakashi could only see a bright future for them.

When the picture was taken and over with, Kakashi departed to tell the Hokage of Team 7's success, and that they were ready for active duty. Naruto and his teammates decided to celebrate with a bowl of ramen, by Naruto's suggestion. When they got to the ramen stand, they were surprised to see a Genin team already there. One of the Genin caught Naruto's attention, and he happily bounded over to her.

"Kairi!" Said girl turned in her chair, and she smiled when she saw the blond ninja.

"Naruto! Are you a ninja now?" She asked, seeing the headband tied around his head. He smiled proudly.

“Yup! This is my team. You know Sasuke and this is Shikamaru." Kairi smiled at the boys.

"A team of geniuses huh? You're making everyone look bad." Naruto chuckled and scratched his head.

"So what are you guys here for?" Naruto asked.

"My team just completed our first C-Rank mission, so our sensei took us for a treat." Naruto nodded.

"What was your mission?"

"Just a simple escort. Everything went fine, and it was pretty easy." Kairi smiled. "But sensei said a Genin's first C-Rank is a big deal, so we're celebrating."

"We're celebrating too! We just passed our Genin test!"

"So you just graduated? Well then congratulations!" Kairi turned to Sasuke and Shikamaru. "Are you two as excited as Naruto?" Sasuke nodded with a smile, while Shikamaru just shrugged. "Well, I hope our teams work together on a mission someday." Kairi stated as her team finished their meals. "Bye Naruto!" Kairi's team exited the ramen stand, and Team 7 took their places. They ate mostly in silence, just basking in the feeling of being a ninja.



XxX


A few weeks later, and after a slew of D-Rank missions Team 7 could have lived without, they were once again planted on the ground in the park, gazing at the sky.

"It's Kakashi's birthday in a few days." Sasuke and Shikamaru both perked their heads up and looked at Naruto.

"Really?"

"Yea, he would never tell you, because he thinks that he doesn't deserve a good birthday. And he doesn't like people in his personal life."

"Well what should we get him?" Sasuke asked. Naruto smiled.

"I already had an idea in mind." Sasuke and Shikamaru looked at Naruto expectantly.

"Well?" Shikamaru asked after a minute.

"Kakashi has a broken sword, made out of chakra conducting metal in his house. It was originally his father's, but he inherited it, and it means a lot to him." Sasuke nodded.

"That's a great idea." Shikamaru stated, causing Naruto to smile. "But how do we fix it?"

"I found a shop that can do it, I just have to talk to the guy. But first, we need a replica made.".

"Why a replica?" Sasuke asked.

"He would notice if we took it, so we need to switch it with an exact replica." Shikamaru nodded.

"Good idea. But how are we going to get into Kakashi's apartment?"

"I know where all of Kakashi's traps are and how to disable them. As long as he's not home we're good."

"How do you know all that? Shikamaru asked, slightly amazed.

"Kakashi was like my guardian after Uncle Jiraiya died. I was at his apartment a lot, and he just taught me one day, so I wouldn't hurt myself." Sasuke nodded.

"Alright, then one of us should go distract Kakashi, while the other two go break in."

"Sasuke and I will break in." Naruto stated, earning a shrug from Shikamaru.

"That's fine. I'd rather go do the easier job anyway." Naruto smiled and shook his head.

"Alright let's go." They left the park and followed Naruto to Kakashi's apartment via the rooftops. When they got there, they stationed themselves on a roof across from his apartment.

"Do you see him?" Shikamaru asked.

"Yea. He's sitting on his couch." Sasuke answered. "What do we do?"

"Shikamaru, go knock on his door and get him out of there." Shikamaru stared at Naruto blankly.

"How am I supposed to do that?"

"Don't ask me, you're the smart one." Shikamaru sighed and jumped away from the roof, landing on Kakashi's level. Naruto and Sasuke watched as Shikamaru knocked on Kakashi's door, talked with him for a moment, and walked away with his sensei in tow.

"Wow, he actually did it." Sasuke looked at Naruto in disbelief before following him across the roof and into Kakashi's apartment. Naruto dashed over to the wall, where two pieces of a shiny silver blade were mounted on the wall. "Alright, lets' go get that replica made.


XxX


Naruto stood in front of the blacksmith's store, broken blade in hand. They had successfully gotten a replica made, and that was currently mounted on the wall in Kakashi's apartment. The blacksmith that Naruto was going to now was the same man who had made all of his father's Flying Thunder God kunai. If anyone could fix this it was him. Naruto walked into the store, earning a smile from the familiar man.

"Naruto! Good to see you! How are you?" Naruto smiled at the old blacksmith.

"I've been okay. I have a favor to ask." The old man nodded.

"Anything for you my boy." Naruto handed the broken blade to the man.

"Can you fix this? It's my sensei's, and he never fixed it." The old man examined the blade for a moment.

"I take it Kakashi Hatake is your sensei?" Naruto nodded.

"Yea, how'd u know?"

"Any Leaf Village blacksmith worth his salt could recognize the weapon of the Leaf's White Fang." The man set the blade on the counter. "I can certainly fix it, but there's one problem." Naruto frowned.

"What is that?"

"The metal used in this blade is extremely rare, and it can only be found in mines in the Land of Iron. I would need to get my hands on some of that metal to fix your blade." Naruto scratched his head.

"How do you normally get it?"

"Well, I usually go to the Hokage and have a mission commissioned." Naruto smiled.

"That’s perfect! You can go request a mission, and you can request my team to take it on!" The man looked at Naruto curiously.

"You're a ninja already?" Naruto nodded. "Well I'll be damned. Just like your father." Naruto smiled. "I'll go to the Hokage with your mission. Just make sure you come back with the right metal!"

"I will!” Naruto waved to the man and exited the shop. His plan had gone smoothly, all that was left was to retrieve the metal.

XxX

"That's enough for today." The Genin of Team 7 looked at Kakashi in confusion.

"But we've only been here half an hour." Kakashi nodded.

"Yep. But the Hokage has called us in to assign us a mission." Naruto smiled. The old man came through for him. "Let's go to the Hokage's office." Team 7 raced away from the training field, eager to start their first mission. When they arrived, they were able to see the Hokage quickly, and they were led straight to the room.

"Ah, Team 7, just in time. This person specifically asked for your team, so I wanted to get it to you as soon as I could.". Kakashi took the mission scroll.

"They asked for us specifically?" He asked as he scanned the scroll.

"Yes, I thought it odd too. Not many Genin teams get requested for missions after only a week, not to mention a C-Rank. But I think your team is more than ready." Hiruzen could see the gleam in each of the Genin’s eyes, and he could almost feel their excitement. "You may recognize the name though." Kakashi looked at the name.

"That's a name I haven't seen in years. I should stop by his shop sometime." Kakashi tucked the scroll into his pouch. "We accept the mission Lord Hokage." Hiruzen nodded.

"Excellent. Leave as soon as you are ready." Kakashi nodded and Team 7 left the office. When they were outside, Kakashi stopped them.

"The Land of Iron is about a week away. Pack for three weeks at least; I do not know how long it will take to find this metal we are looking for." The three Genin nodded, and Kakashi disappeared, leaving his Genin to pack by themselves.

"This is perfect. We'll have Kakashi's blade fixed in no time! " Naruto cheered, earning looks from Shikamaru and Sasuke.

"What does Kakashi's present have to do with this?" Sasuke asked.

"This mission was requested by the blacksmith I went to for Kakashi's blade. It's to get the special metal to fix it."

"And Kakashi doesn't know?" Naruto shook his head.

"Not a clue." Then he smiled. "C'mon let's go already!" Naruto started running down the street, leaving Sasuke and Shikamaru to catch up. Excitement bubbled through their veins, and their anticipation was at a peak. They were finally real ninja, and their lives really started here.
 

noheartx

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Chapter 8: Chakramantine


Team 7 waited at the gates of the Leaf Village patiently. They of course knew of Kakashi's late streak, and thus they were half an hour late.

"You would think he'd at least be on time for a mission." Naruto stated, leaning against the guard post. Kakashi suddenly appeared in front of Naruto, startling him and causing him to fall on his ass.

"Are we ready?" Naruto jumped up.

"We've been ready!"

"Great! Then what are we waiting for?" Kakashi walked out of the gate, Sasuke and Shikamaru close behind. Naruto followed along, grumbling about Kakashi's antics. When they were a good distance away from the village, Kakashi jumped into the trees. His Genin followed, and soon they were all jumping together in a line across the vast foliage of the Land of Fire. Kakashi of course had to slow his pace a little, but they kept up with him nonetheless.

"So what is this mission anyway?" Naruto asked, feigning his obliviousness.

"We are to go to the Land of Iron and acquire some chakramantine, and deliver it to a blacksmith by the name of Juinichi Genno. Juinichi is one of the best blacksmiths in the village. He's been in the business for years."

"He's the man who made my father’s kunai right?" Kakashi nodded.

"Yes. Sensei always said that without those kunai his technique would have been flawed." Kakashi cleared his throat. "Anyway, the mission is to retrieve this metal for Juinichi. It shouldn't be too hard." Naruto nodded.

"What's the Land of Iron like?" Sasuke asked.

"Cold. It snows year round there. Most of the Land of Iron is rocky, mountainous terrain. Their main export is metal, because of the abundance of many metals in the area. Most of the villages are mining villages, built directly on top of the mines themselves."

"Isn't that a little dangerous?" Shikamaru asked.

"You would think so, but they make it work. Also, another thing about the Land of Iron is that there are no ninja there." Naruto's eyes widened.

"No ninja? How is that possible?"

"The Land of Iron is governed only by its Daimyo, and the Samurai are the only military force there. The Land of Iron prides themselves on staying neutral in ninja affairs, and they've been like that since the founding of the Hidden Villages." Kakashi explained. As they traveled, Kakashi answered a slew of questions from the boys, who were eager beyond words. Finally, the daylight faded, and Kakashi called for them so set up camp. In just over twenty minutes, the camp was set up, and a fire was blazing in the center. Some Instant Ramen was being boiled, courtesy of Naruto.

"Are we always going to have ramen?" Shikamaru asked, staring at the pot of boiling noodles lazily.

"As long as I'm alive we will!" Naruto declared. "Ramen is the food of the gods." Shikamaru stared at Naruto with slightly wide eyes, before accepting the fact that Naruto was a little insane.

"Right." Kakashi chuckled at the exchange.

"Sensei used to eat ramen every mission too." Sasuke silently stared at the Fire as his team relaxed. He couldn't help but wonder about Itachi. He had no idea where he was, what he was doing, or even if he was ok. He wasn't feeling sad, he was just worried. Itachi may have been one of the strongest ninja he knew, but life on the run was brutal. Sasuke only hoped Itachi could cope.

"Hey Sasuke, you alright?" Sasuke snapped out of his reverie and looked over at Naruto. He smiled slightly.

"Yea, I'm fine." Naruto smiled back at him, and bowls of ramen were distributed. They sat around the campfire for the remainder of dinner, talking about things both related and unrelated to the ninja world. When their stomachs were full, Kakashi took the first guard shift, promising to wake them when he was tired. They headed off to bed, although none of them felt like sleeping, well besides Shikamaru. Naruto was of course especially wound up, so he ended up waiting with Kakashi, keeping guard with him. Kakashi was surprised at Naruto's actions, but he admired them as well. Soon, they were talking like two lifelong teammates on a routine scout mission. Kakashi didn't understand how those three boys fell into being ninja so easily, but their decisions and attitudes, while not without childish qualities, were highly mature for eight year olds. As the night went on, Kakashi couldn't help but feel excited for the days to come. Being a sensei to this team was a once in a lifetime opportunity, and he was going to put his mind, body, and soul into it.



XxX


Five days later, they finally arrived in the Land of Iron. It was a cold, crisp morning, but the pelting snow and harsh wind barely effected Team 7. Upon their crossing the border, they donned cloaks to keep their bodies warm. Now they were traversing through the snow, on the way to one of the mining villages.

"What's the name of the village we're headed to?" Sasuke yelled to Kakashi over the howling wind.

"Chakramantine Town! All of the villages are named after the metal that can be mined there! It's a pretty effective way of organization if you think about it!" Kakashi yelled back to his students. They decided not to reply, for they were sick of yelling, so the rest of the journey was in silence. When they finally arrived at the town gates, four samurai guards drew their swords as they approached, instantly recognizing them as ninja, even with the cloaks.

"You're far out of your territory Leaf ninja." One of the samurai stated with firmness. "What are you doing here, Kakashi Hatake?" Kakashi sighed, his fame once again giving away his identity.

"We're here on a simple mission!" Kakashi shouted, holding up the mission scroll. "We just wish for entrance into your village." The samurai cautiously stepped forward. Kakashi handed him the scroll, and he tore it open. He read the contents quickly, rolled it shut, and handed it to Kakashi.

"Very well. But we will be keeping an eye on you Hatake." The samurai stepped aside, and the gates creaked open. They revealed a small town, with roads just big enough for pedestrians, and stone huts lining them. Smoke was pouring out of each chimney, and it was no surprise with the weather the way it was. Wooden pallets and bricks were stacked up against some of the huts. Various mining tools were leaned against the huts as well, and it was clear that all this town knew was mining. Signs hung from posts, showing which huts were shops or inns. They stopped at one particular inn, the Mountain's Cradle, and they had booked two rooms. The rooms were surprisingly warm, but that was probably because each room had a fireplace. They were all currently in the same room, discussing how to go about their mission.

"The first thing we need to find out how to get our hands on some chakramantine. I can take care of that. I'll go out and ask around. You three just stay here and relax. I know that was a long trip." The three boys nodded as Kakashi stood up. He pulled is cloak around his body and exited their room, stepping into the stone hallway. He walked through the halls of the inn and outside into the snow, searching around for anyone who could help him. A group of miners stood outside of a blacksmith shop, probably after selling what they had mined that day. He approached them, getting their attention by clearing his throat. They looked at him skeptically, not trustful of any ninja who passes through these parts.

"Can we help you?" One of the bigger miners asked, hefting his pick axe onto his shoulder.

"I'm just looking for a way to get some chakramantine." A few of the miners shook their heads.

"I'm afraid that's not possible." The big miner stated.

"Why not?" Kakashi asked.

"Well, there’s a group of bandits who have made their home in the chakramantine mine. They took it over, and we haven't been able to get back in since." Kakashi seemed shocked.

"The samurai haven't taken care of them?" Usually, samurai were a lot more precise and hasty when it came to bandits. It was in a samurai's code to protect his people, and any threat was to be eradicated immediately, or die trying.

"Well that 's the thing. They tried, and they got their asses kicked." Kakashi was shocked further.

"A bunch of bandits beat samurai?" The big miner shook his head.

"Not quite. Now I don't know if this is true, but I've heard rumors, and it’s the only explanation as to why the samurai lost. There has to be a ninja in that group." That would explain it, thought Kakashi. While the samurai in the Land of Iron were definitely the strongest of any samurai army on the continent, there weren't many samurai in the world that could fight on par with a ninja. Ninja's just had a wider, more diverse set of skills.

"I see. Where is this mine?" The miner pointed down the road, towards a mountain.

"Straight down this road will lead you to the mine. Just make sure you follow the markers when you leave the village." Kakashi nodded.

"Thank you sir." Kakashi turned to leave, but the miner called for him to wait.

"Are you goin' after those bandits?"

"If they get in the way of my mission, then I'll take their lives. That's my job." With that he walked away, satisfied with the information he acquired. For the rest of the day they would rest, and tomorrow they would scout out the mine.



XxX



Team 7 marched along the snowy trail, their path shown to them by the markers. Kakashi had explained the situation upon arriving back at the inn, and now his Genin were a hundred percent serious. The pretense of a fight got their blood pumping and their hearts thumping. Finally, they caught their first glimpse of the mine shaft, and Kakashi stopped them behind a ridge.

"Ok, we know that this mine is occupied by the bandits, making it an enemy stronghold. I found out the bandits are about 75 strong, so there should be no problems. However, as I mentioned before, there's a possibility that there is a ninja with the group. I’ll deal with him when he shows himself.” Kakashi glanced up at the mine, stared at it for a few seconds, and then turned back to his charges. "Alright here's the plan: go in and defeat all the bandits." The Genin gave Kakashi a dry look.

"That's not much of a plan. I bet Shikamaru could think of a way better one." Naruto stated. Kakashi just chuckled.

"I agree, it isn't the most well-thought-out plan. But they're bandits. Realistically, if there aren't any Jonin level ninja in there, I could do this by myself." The Genins' eyes widened.

"You could take on 75 people alone?" Sasuke asked, not being able to keep some awe out of his voice.

"Bandits, yes. But ninja are a different story. Now listen up. There are two sentries posted by the entrance. Naruto, Sasuke, you two go knock them unconscious." Naruto and Sasuke grinned, before they left their cover. They dashed towards the mine, faster than a bandit's eye could track, hiding behind a few wooden crates near the entrance. They silently jumped behind the guards, and before the bandits could speak, Naruto and Sasuke delivered brutal strikes to the temple with the hilt of their kunai. The bandits collapsed in a thud, and a few moments later Kakashi and Shikamaru walked up to the entrance. "Well done." Naruto beamed at the praise, while Sasuke just grinned slightly. Kakashi walked up to the mine entrance, looking down the long, dark tunnel. Torches hung on the walls, barely illuminating the mine. Unused tools and various supply crates were stacked against and on top of each other, but there was no sign of the bandits. "It looks like the bandits are further in. Let's go in and see what we can find." Kakashi started to walk into the mine, and his students were right behind him. They treaded quietly through the mine, in order to keep their presence hidden. Finally, they reached what looked like one of the huts back in the village, except it was at least thirty times larger, and Kakashi decided to investigate it. As soon as he walked into the large hut, he regretted it. This must have been the barracks, because all 75 of those bandits turned and glared at him when he walked in.

"Aha, I knew I took a wrong turn-"

"Get him!" Kakashi sighed and started to fly through hand seals.

On the outside, Team 7 was waiting patiently for their sensei when the roof exploded, showering stones everywhere. Kakashi jumped out of the hut, and landed next to his charges. "Ready for a fight?" Naruto grinned in anticipation as the bandits came pouring out of the barracks. They surrounded Team 7, leaving them no choice but to fight their way out. It was quiet for a moment, until part of the bandits parted, giving room for who Kakashi assumed to be the leader to walk through.

"Well well did those pesky villagers finally swallow their pride and hire some ninja to take care of us?" The man grinned and stared at Kakashi, his headband shining in the low light. "And not just anyone, but the Copy Ninja himself. This just keeps getting more interesting."

"We're here for the chakramantine." Kakashi replied. "It's not my mission to kill you, but I will if you get in my way." The rouge ninja started laughing.

"So righteous! Well then Kakashi, I tire of this banter. Show me the power of the Copy Ninja!" The ninja, who was previously a member of the Hidden Sand Village, judging by his slashed out headband, pulled out a katana, and charged it with wind chakra. Kakashi's eyes widened.

"He may be a little stronger than I thought..." He mumbled to himself. "You three take care of the bandits!" He shouted, before charging a kunai with lightning chakra and charging in. He threw his kunai, knowing that hand to hand with a wind user was not in his best interest. He followed up his throw with a few hand seals.

"Fire Style: Rolling Fire!" Kakashi blew out a wave of fire that rushed across the ground at his opponent. His opponent jumped into the air and dove in at Kakashi, his katana aimed at Kakashi's head. Kakashi stepped sideways, letting the blade pass by him, before grabbing the rouge ninjas arm. He snapped it backwards, hearing a satisfying crunch as he did. The rouge nin grunted in pain, but he didn't falter. He switched the grip on his sword, bringing it around to cleave Kakashi's head off. Kakashi substituted with a rock in time to save his head, and he reappeared behind the missing ninja with a kunai at his throat. "It's over. Don't move or I'll kill you." The ninja started to laugh, and when he twitched, Kakashi plunged the kunai into his jugular, ending his life.



XxX


Naruto had never thought about fighting this many enemies at once. It was complete chaos. Bandits were hacking and slashing at him and his teammates left and right. With the addition of numerable Shadow Clones, it was almost as if there was a tiny war going on. But what the bandits made up for in number, they definitely lacked in skill. Naruto understood why Kakashi said he would be able to take one all these idiots by himself. He was sure that he could have done it just as well! The bandits took no time at all to defeat, and by the end there were a bunch of tied up, unconscious ruffians decorating the mine floor like lawn gnomes. Naruto surveyed his team's work proudly, deeming his first mission a complete success, even if they hadn't technically accomplished it yet. Now was the easy part. Eventually, Kakashi came back and joined them, although the other ninja did not. They didn't ask, nor did Kakashi tell, but they knew what Kakashi had done.

"Any casualties?" The white-haired ninja asked as he approached the boys.

"I think one of them might have got my hair." Shikamaru stated with annoyance, feeling the back of his hair.

"Well then, we should get you to a hospital right away." Sasuke said, completely straight-faced. Naruto giggled, and Shikamaru rolled his eyes.

"Fine, but you have to carry me." At that, Sasuke frowned.

"Never." Kakashi patted both boys on the head, turning their expressions into smiles.

"You guys did great today. I couldn't be any prouder than I am right now."

"Does that mean you'll treat us to ramen when we get home?" Naruto asked excitedly.

"No. I would like to hold on to this next paycheck thankyouverymuch." Naruto sulked, before his head snapped up.
"Hey, where is this metal were supposed to find anyway?" Kakashi looked around. He walked over to a shiny, silver rock formation.

"Found it." Shikamaru rolled his eyes, and he walked over.

"This is chakramantine?" He asked, examining the rock.

"Yup. Grab a kunai and start breaking off chunks of it. We'll seal it in a scroll, and then our mission will be complete." Naruto and Sasuke walked over, pulling out kunai along with Shikamaru. They got to work on the chakramantine vein, breaking off as many large chinks as they could. After about ten minutes, Kakashi stopped them and sealed their prize in a scroll. "That should be enough. C'mon, we'll go back to the village and rest for the rest of the day. Tomorrow we depart for home."



XxX


Naruto couldn't help but smile at the sight of the Leaf Village gates. After another long five days of travel, he was ready to lie down in his comfy bed and sleep. The villagers of chakramantine town had been extremely thankful for the eradication of the bandits, stating that the bandits had the village in a chokehold with their occupation of the mine. Their last night at the inn had been free, and many other gifts were offered to them as well, but they were all declined. The samurai had cleaned up the rest of the bandits, although they could take no credit for it.

When they arrived in the village, Kotestu and Izumo, the gate guards, told them the Hokage was expecting them.

"He wished to speak with your team immediately upon your return." Izumo had told Kakashi. When they arrived in his office, Hiruzen was puffing his pipe, staring out the window.

"You wishes to see us Lord Hokage?" Hiruzen turned around and set his pipe on his desk.

"Indeed. How did they perform?" The Professor asked, getting straight to the point.

"Better than I did on my first mission, that's for sure." Hiruzen smiled.

"I've heard that story before." Kakashi chuckled. "Well then I assume the mission was a success. Here is your pay," Hiruzen handed Kakashi four envelopes, "and the mission objective?" Kakashi pulled out the sealing scroll full of chakramantine. "Excellent. This will be delivered to Juinichi by the end of the day. You are dismissed." Kakashi nodded, and Team 7 exited the tower. He distributed the pay to his Genin, who looked at their envelopes with pride.

"Ah, I remember my first paycheck." Kakashi drew in a deep, nostalgic breath. "Don't waste it on hookers, booze, and drugs." The boys eyed him oddly. "Eh, I guess you're not old enough for that. Well, ciao." Kakashi disappeared in a puff of smoke.

"Do you think-"

"No." Sasuke cut Naruto off mid question.

"You don't even know what I was going to ask!" Naruto shouted in protest.

"You were going to ask if we thought Sensei was going to go get some hookers, drugs and booze." Naruto looked down at the ground.

"Jerk." Shikamaru sighed.

"And now that image is in my head forever." Naruto laughed at this, and soon the other two joined in as well.
 

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Chapter 9: Ready for Chuunin?

"I'm sure with all the rumors going around, and the various preparations that have been going on over the past month that most of you have figured out that the Chuunin Exams are coming to the Leaf once again." Hiruzen sat in front of every Jonin-sensei in the village. His pipe extended from his mouth, and he would take a puff between sentences. "Which brings me to the purpose of this meeting. I'm sure a lot of you are excited about nominating your teams, so we might as well get this started. I'll start with the older teams."

Kakashi contemplated his choices. His team was obviously ready physically; they were already Chuunin in skill level. But it was their mentality he didn't want to damage. People died in the Chuunin Exams, hell some people have had to kill comrades to get through them. They were built to weed out the pussies, and while he didn't think they couldn't handle it, he didn't want to put them through that just yet. But, then he'd be a hypocrite. He took the exams at age 6, fresh out of The Academy, two years before his protégés. He passed them easily too, although he had seen things in that exam that were burned into his mind forever. But in the end, he came out okay, and Kakashi truly believed in his charges.

"And lastly, Kakashi Hatake, leader of the young Team 7." Kakashi looked at the Hokage, who was gazing at him curiously. Apparently he wanted to know if the geniuses would take part just as much as everyone else. No one in the room thought Kakashi would nominate them, so when he stepped forward, shock was evident on mostly everyone's face.

"I, Kakashi Hatake, nominate Naruto Namikaze, Sasuke Uchiha, and Shikamaru Nara for the Chuunin Exams." He stepped backwards, knowing that he had just started what was going to be a rumor that spread like wildfire. He smirked behind his mask, amused at the attention these boys got.

"Well, then this meeting is adjourned. Begin training your Genin to the best of their capabilities; they will need it.



XxX


"When are we going on another mission Sensei?" Kakashi sighed, as that was the third time this week Naruto had asked. He had been putting them through rigorous training in preparation for the Chuunin Exams, but he hadn't told them about it yet. He figured now was as good a time as any.

"We won't be taking any more missions for awhile." Kakashi waited for the protest.

"What! Why not?"

"Because we will be training for the next two weeks in preparation for the Chuunin Exams." Naruto seemed like he was about to retort, when realization struck him.

"The Chuunin Exams? You mean we’re taking them?"

Kakashi nodded. "I nominated you three yesterday. Do you think you're up for it?"

Sasuke smirked. "Of course. You wouldn't have nominated us if we weren't."

Kakashi scratched his head. "That's true, but I don't want you to go into these exams thinking they'll be easy. People die in these exams." At that, the Genins' eyes widened.

"Really?"Kakashi nodded.

"Yes, in fact I can't remember the last exam when a Genin didn't die."

Shikamaru sighed. "How troublesome."

"It's more than troublesome Shikamaru. I remember my first Chuunin Exam. I was six years old, and I had been placed on a Genin team that had recently lost one of its members. We were in the survival stage of the exam. The exams were held in Hidden Cloud, and we were brought to an island. We were given a fraction of a map, and in order to get a complete map, you had to take the right parts from another team. We encountered a team from Hidden Mist, and while I was strong enough to handle them, my teammates were not. I was the only one standing at the end of the battle. One of my teammates and been fried by a Lightning Style Technique so badly, that his entire body was charred black. The other had lost both of his legs and an arm. He was still alive, but his cries of pain were excruciating, and he begged me to end his life. I did it...but those screams still haunt me today."
Naruto gulped. "That's..." He stopped talking, clearly at a loss for words. Shikamaru was deathly pale, and even Sasuke looked queasy.

"I'm not saying this to scare you three, but I just want you to understand how dangerous these exams are. Not only that, but you three are going to be public enemy number one."
Shikamaru took a deep breath. "Why is that?" He asked.

"Well, you're going to be the youngest kids there, and all of the older Genin will pick you as easy targets. Although you can use this to your advantage as well."

"They'll underestimate us." Sasuke stated, understanding Kakashi's thought process.

"Exactly. If you appear weak until the last minute, you'll certainly catch a few teams off guard."
Naruto clenched his fists, and he pounded one into his palm. "I'm not going to lose to anyone." His serious tone surprised Kakashi. "Train us Sensei."

Kakashi smiled, "You don't have to tell me. However, before we start training, I want to teach each of you a technique." Excitement bubbled onto their faces. "But it will be a different technique for each of you. Naruto, I'd like to teach you your father's technique." Naruto's eyes widened.

"You mean the Rasengan?" Kakashi nodded, and Naruto laughed happily. "I can't believe you're gonna teach me the Rasengan."

"Well, it's your birthright. You're lucky your father was my sensei. Jiraiya was the only other person who knew." Naruto smiled sadly. "As for the two of you, I’ll be teaching you my original technique. Sasuke should be the only one capable of using it, but I think you’ll find it useful as well Shikamaru."

"What do you mean only I should be able to do it?” The Uchiha asked.

“Well without the Sharingan, the technique causes tunnel vision. But, Shikamaru can use it in a different way. The way it was supposed to be used.” The silver-haired Jonin explained. "I’ll explain in detail later. For now, I'm going to teach Naruto the Rasengan, so why don't you two go spar for a bit." Sasuke and Shikamaru nodded before walking to a clear space and starting their spar. "Alright Naruto, normally the Rasengan is an extremely hard technique to learn. It took Sensei four years to create it, and it took me a year to master it with Sensei's guidance. Jiraiya learned it in a few months, but I don't claim to have nearly as much skill as one of the Legendary Three.". Naruto seemed discontent.

"How am I supposed to learn it then?"

Kakashi smiled. "Well, you have the chakra reserves of about ten Jiraiyas. Do you remember when I taught you the Shadow Clone Technique?"

Naruto smiled at the memory. "Yea…"

"Well, the other reason I taught it to you was because you're the only person capable of using it to its fullest extent."

Naruto cocked his head. "What do you mean?"

"I'll show you. Will you create a Shadow Clone for me? One will do." Naruto nodded a created a single clone. Kakashi motioned the clone over, and whispered something in its ear. He then punched then clone in its head, dispelling it instantly. After a moment, Naruto frowned angrily.

"Sasuke is not a better ninja than I am!" Kakashi smiled, and realization struck Naruto. "Holy crap I know what you said!"

"Exactly. The Shadow Clone Technique has many uses besides outnumbering an enemy. One of them is to significantly reduce training time. Especially for you. If someone with an average chakra capacity used this strategy, they may be able to speed up training by two, maybe three times the amount of time. But you...you could easily speed it up 500 times the amount." As Kakashi explained this, he finally realized Naruto's potential. It was virtually limitless. Anyone that could cram 500 years of training into one had the potential to become something beyond human. Something like a...god.

"Wow, that’s amazing." Kakashi nodded.

"It is. So, I will teach you the first step of the Rasengan, and once you get the hang of it I want you to try and master it as fast as you can. I know two weeks seems like a ridiculous amount of time, especially when it took a year for me, but if anyone can do it, you can."

Naruto smiled at Kakashi, but it was a different kind of smile. It was one of gratitude. "Thank you Sensei. I won't let you, or my father or Uncle Jiraiya down."

Kakashi nodded and held his hand out, producing a water balloon seemingly out of nowhere. "Now, the first step. Watch closely." Naruto studied the balloon intently as it started to violently shake, before bursting open.

"What did you do?" Naruto asked.

"I used my chakra to spin the water in the balloon so violently, that it popped. Now," Kakashi walked away for a minute, before returning with an absurd amount of bags, all containing water balloons. "I got you all the water balloons you could possibly need, so create a bunch of clones and get to work." Naruto nodded, and created his army, ordering them to pick up a balloon and work on the technique. Meanwhile, Kakashi had stopped Sasuke and Shikamaru's spar, calling them over. "Alright Sasuke, this really should only take a minute, with the help of the Sharing-"

"No." Kakashi blinked at his student’s response, before he looked at where Sasuke's gaze was directed. Shikamaru seemed surprised too. He was staring intently at the group of Narutos, whom were now cursing up a storm at their failure. Kakashi vaguely wondered where Naruto had learned such language, but he shook his head and smiled.

"Very well. We'll do this the normal way then." Sasuke grinned, and Kakashi held his arm out, gripping his wrist with his other hand. In seconds, his hand was crackling with blue lightning, and Sasuke could feel the raw power emanating from the technique. As soon as it started, the electricity stopped, and Kakashi relaxed. "That was the Raikiri, an advanced form of the Chidori. I'll be teaching you the Chidori, but they're extremely similar, the only difference being that the Raikiri has more destructive power. Now, while I can't be sure, I have a strong feeling in my gut that you, Sasuke, have an affinity for lightning chakra. Hold your hand out." Sasuke complied, and Kakashi held his out, an inch of space between both. The Jonin concentrated, and after a second a spark of lightning jumped from his hand to Sasuke's. "You are. That's great; that makes this a hell of a lot easier. Did you feel anything when the lightning chakra touched you?"

Sasuke nodded. "Yea, my whole body felt numb and tingly."

Kakashi raised an eyebrow. 'His whole body? He must be able to conduct it easily. I swear these kids...' Kakashi smiled under his mask. "That's good. Now to test you Shikamaru." Kakashi did the same to his other student, although a noticeably weaker spark appeared. “Not as strong as Sasuke’s affinity, but good enough. That really makes this easy. Now, you know that numb and tingly feeling you mentioned Sasuke?” The Uchiha nodded. “Good. Try to recreate that feeling.” Both boys closed their eyes and concentrated, trying to let the numbness spread through them. Sasuke felt the tingling sensation start to spread, before he lost it. He sighed and shook his head. Shikamaru did the same.

"That's okay. It takes years for some of the strongest Jonin to master elemental manipulation."

"I'll do it." Sasuke said firmly, gazing at the group of clones.

"I wouldn't have started teaching you if I didn't think you could. Now practice." And practice they did, for hours and hours. Finally, Shikamaru gave up and collapsed in frustration.

“I can’t feel my face.” He felt a pinch on his cheek and he yelped in pain. “Ow Kakashi what the hell!” The mentioned Jonin giggle.

“Clearly your face isn’t numb if you felt-“ Suddenly, a water balloon smashed against Kakashi’s face.

"Naruto..." He turned to see Naruto smiling at him, his clones dismissed.

"What's the next step?"

Kakashi's eye widened. "You're done already?" Naruto held out another water balloon, and in seconds it burst open. Kakashi was shocked. "Amazing...”

Sasuke also walked over, sweat pouring down his face, breathing heavily. "Don't think you can outdo me Naruto." Sasuke held out his hand, and Kakashi couldn't contain his gasp of surprise when sparks of electricity jumped down his arm. A Genin getting the hang of elemental manipulation in a day was impossible. It seemed there truly were no boundaries this team couldn't break. Kakashi shook his head and stood up.

"Well, I definitely wasn't expecting that. We'll take the rest of the day off then. Oh, and Naruto?" The blond cocked his head. "You have five seconds before I get you back for that balloon." Naruto's pride turned into fear, and he quickly dashed away. Kakashi saluted his other two students, before disappearing.

"You'd think he would get that he can't screw with Kakashi." Shikamaru stated, shaking his head. Sasuke collapsed on his back, taking a deep breath.

"I don't think he cares."Shikamaru shrugged and lied down next to Sasuke, content with cloud watching with his teammate.



XxX


It was two days before the Chuunin Exams begun. Ninja from every hidden village were arriving by the minute. Team 7 was training for the last day, before resting up tomorrow. Sasuke had done the impossible; he had mastered his second elemental nature, along with the Chidori, although he could only use it twice in battle before he exhausted his chakra supply. Naruto as well had mastered his father's technique, and much to Kakashi's surprise, he was already trying to figure out ways to improve it. Kakashi mentioned that Minato had always said the technique was incomplete, and that he wanted to add elemental manipulation. Naruto seemed excited to tinker with the idea, but Kakashi doubted he would get anywhere anytime soon. Although they had surprised him so much, he really couldn't be sure. Shikamaru had been unable to master the Chidori in time, but his lightning manipulation was coming along, and he would master the technique soon. On a whim, Kakashi had also taught his team the Body Flicker Technique; a simple technique that could possibly save the life of the user. Kakashi was now convinced his team was fully prepared.

"Alright that's enough." The three Genin sighed in relief and collapsed wherever they had been standing. Kakashi has really pushed them it their last spar, and even he was feeling winded. "Go home. Rest and recover; you'll need it." Kakashi disappeared then, leaving the tired Genin to drag themselves home. They stayed on the ground, deciding to do a little cloud gazing, something that had become a sort of ritual for them. They stared at the night sky, letting the sight relax and soothe them. No words were spoken, for they were too tired for that, but none needed to be. They were a team thick as thieves, and even through silence they understood each other. Finally, they stood as one, and walked themselves home, each falling asleep as their heads hit their pillows.



XxX


Naruto groggily rubbed his eyes as he sat up. It was now well into the afternoon, but after yesterday's training it was no surprise he woke up so late. He lazily put on some casual clothes, and ventured out into the village. Everywhere he looked he saw ninja from other villages. They were all much older than Naruto, and the blond felt a little proud that he was one of the youngest in the exam. He let this thought float through his head until he caught sight of a team from Hidden Sand. There were two boys and a girl; the girl and one of the boys looked like they had just graduated from the Academy. But the other boy seemed to be Naruto's age. Naruto was surprised to see someone else so young, but it excited him too. This boy was obviously strong, and Naruto couldn't wait to cross paths with him during the exams.
 

noheartx

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Not sure if anyone cares about this story, but my trial version of Microsoft Word expired, meaning i cant do anything with my work. So when I buy word which is ridiculously priced at 150 dollars, the rest of the story will be up. I'm up to Chapter 35 right now, and it's about halfway through. Anyway if anyone has anything they wanna suggest I'd love to hear it. Or criticism as well I suppose.
 

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Chapter 10: The Exams Begin

Naruto, Sasuke and Shikamaru stood at the entrance to the Academy. It had been awhile since they had last been here, and they couldn't help but think of the peers they left behind. While they were stuck in the classroom, the members of Team 7 were already living out their dreams. And now they were trying for a promotion. Hundreds of Genin from every village surrounded them, all vying for the rank of Chuunin. The tension between the examinees was high, for everyone, even comrades, were enemies on this stage. Team 7 stuck close together, following the crowd to the top floor. When they reached the top, Kakashi was standing off to the side.


"Hey." He called them over casually. "You three sure about this?" He asked as they approached, although he could've guessed their answer.


"Are you kidding? I've never been so ready in my life. Just watch us become Chuunin Sensei!" Kakashi shook his head with a hidden smile.


"You're confidence is reassuring. Well, I have a lot of money riding on you three. Don't let me down. Oh, and don't die." With that, the silver-haired Jonin walked away, leaving his Genin frowning.


"I wonder if he realizes how unhelpful that sounds." Shikamaru stated with a sigh. They walked into the large classroom, which was packed full of candidates, and that's where Naruto saw the red-headed boy.


"Hey, guys, look over there." His teammates glanced at where Naruto pointed, and they were shocked.


"He looks just as old as us." Shikamaru stated. At that moment, the boy looked over at them, pinning Naruto with a chilling glare. Naruto squinted and grinned, feeling the power this boy emanated. Something about this boy called out to him, and he was gonna make sure he found out what.


"Naruto...are you okay?" Naruto looked over at Sasuke, who was looking at Naruto like he sprouted a new head.


"I'm fine. Why do you ask?"


"Your eyes...they're red." Naruto blinked and grabbed Sasuke's head, looking straight at his headband. Staring back at him were two feral, red eyes.


"Whoa!" He stumbled back, rubbing his eyes furiously. When he looked back at the headband, his eyes were back to their normal cerulean color. "What was that..."


"I don't know, but we'll have to figure it out later. The proctor is here." The room fell silent as about 20 Chuunin, led by a stoic looking Jonin, entered the room. Shikamaru scoffed.


"Troublesome." Shikaku smirked at Shikamaru's statement, but didn't acknowledge him.


"Alright everyone, I am Shikaku Nara. Welcome to the Chuunin Exams. Now sit with your teams and shut the hell up." The group of Chuunin hopefuls quietly complied, taking about a minute to settle down. The Chuunin proctors stood around the room, and Shikaku stood in the center. "Listen up; I won't explain twice. This first exam is a test of the mind. Each team will be given a mission situation, and you must respond accordingly. You will be given a scroll by one of these Chuunin," he lazily gestured at the proctors" and then led into a smaller room, where you will receive further instruction. Any questions?" It stayed quiet. "Good. The exam begins now." The proctors distributed scrolls to each team, and they were lead out of the room one by one. Team 7 was led into a small classroom, and the Chuunin left them without a word.


"What do we do now?" Naruto asked.


"The head proctor said to wait for further instructions." Sasuke answered. Shikamaru shook his head.


"Open the scroll. Knowing my dad, there won't be any more instructions." Sasuke shrugged and unraveled the scroll.


"It's blank." Shikamaru sighed.


"He's not making this easy. Try the door." Naruto walked over and jiggled the doorknob.


"It's locked." Shikamaru looked around.


"Alright, we need to look for something out of place. That's how we're getting out of here."


"How 'bout the window?" Naruto asked, pointing at said window.

"That would be too easy." He heard a click, and he looked at Sasuke, who had opened the window. "Huh. Guess he forgot about the windows." The three Genin jumped out the window and climbed onto the roof. They found the room where they had originally been, and they broke in through the window. Shikaku, who was alone, sighed when he saw the three boys.

"Son, only your team would be the team to use the window." Naruto grinned. "Well whose idea was it?" Naruto stepped forward.


"Mine!"


"I see. You fail." Naruto balked.


"What! Why do we fail?" Shikaku shook his head.


"I didn't say you three." Naruto's eyes widened. "Your teammates can pass, but you're done." Shikamaru frowned.


"For what reason?"


"The point of the test was not to break out through the window. So one of you will be punished." Sasuke looked at Naruto, who had a devastated look on his face.


"I'll go." Naruto's head snapped up. "I'll fail. Naruto can go on." Shikaku's brow rose.


"You would sacrifice your shot at Chuunin for your friend?" Sasuke shrugged.


"I don't care about my rank. Plus, there's no point in beating these exams if I can't fight Naruto in the end." Naruto slightly grinned at this, but he shook his head.


"I'm not letting you quit for me. I messed up, I'll go." Shikamaru shook his head.


"Neither of you are going." Shikamaru turned to his dad. "You wouldn't disqualify one person from a team; it wouldn't make sense. Either we pass as a ream or we fail as a team." Shikaku smirked.


"Very well. You all...pass." Shikamaru grinned, while Sasuke and Naruto went wide eyed.


"But you just failed us." Naruto stated in confusion.


"It was never about how we escaped. It was all just a test to see how we responded." Shikamaru explained.


"Saw through that did you son? I told them it would be too easy for you if I was the proctor." At that moment the door opened, and a few teams were led in by a Chuunin.


"These teams have passed." Shikaku nodded.


"Good. We'll give them another hour. After that, any team left in the room fails."


XxX

When the hour had passed, 25 teams were left standing. The rest had been berated for their idiocy, and then promptly kicked out of The Academy. When all was said and done, the rest of the candidates sat in the large classroom, with Shikaku watching over them. It was dead silent, and the Genin were waiting for some kind of signal to start the second exam. When the door clicked open, everyone's head turned to see who it was.


"Ah! You have indeed done well Shikaku! I can tell the fires of youth burn brightly in these Genin." Naruto recognized the voice immediately, and a groan escaped him.


"What?" Sasuke whispered.


"The next proctor is a lot to handle. Whatever you do, don't look at his eyebrows." Sasuke thought that sounded strange, until he saw the proctor's face. His eyebrows were literally the size of caterpillars. Chills ran up and down his back.


"Let me introduce myself! I am the Beautiful Blue Beast of the Leaf Village, Guy Maito!" Several Genin raised their eyebrows. "I am the second proctor of the Chuunin Exams. Now, follow me everyone!" With that, Guy crashed through the window, landing easily and sprinting off. Shikaku sighed.


"Please use the door." The Genin complied, and moments later they were following Guy's dust trail. They finally arrived at a large, fenced-in forest, and Guy was standing on the fence.


"Ah! You have arrived! Then let me wait no longer! This-"Guy spread his arms out-"is the Forest of Death. Inside this forest are some of the largest, vilest, and most dangerous animals in the Land of Fire. I personally love to train against hundreds of Mammoth Spiders. They are quite clever opponents." Shikamaru scoffed.


"Troublesome."


"Your goal in this forest is to find one of these scrolls," Guy held up a green scroll with the Leaf symbol on it, "and then find your way to the watchtower in the center of the forest. But, you only have 5 days to do so, and you must have all of your team members with you at the end to pass."


"How do we find these scrolls?" A random Genin called out.


"Excellent question my youthful friend! Each team will be given a fragment of a map. You must acquire the other part of your map from another team, any way necessary. Now, I will pass around these wavers. You must sign them so that the Leaf Village cannot get in any trouble in case you die." A few Genin blanched, but Guy kept a smile on his face. "Anyone need a pen?"


Naruto, Sasuke, and Shikamaru signed their wavers and handed them to Guy before getting their map from a Chuunin. They were led to one of the many gates surrounding the forest, and they patiently waited for the signal to start.


"So, Shikamaru, what's the plan?" Naruto asked, leaning against the fence.


"Well, I noticed that pretty much every team was eyeing us up. Us and that team from Sand. It was surprising to see another kid our age." Sasuke nodded and turned to Naruto.


"What happened back in that classroom?" Naruto sighed.


"I...have no idea. As soon as I looked at that kid I just..." He shook his head. "I don't know. But I'm scared. Red eyes could only mean..." He didn't finish his sentence, but the answer loomed over them like a shadow. Even the Chuunin obserant was interested in their conversation, though he didn't dare show it.


"Well, there's nothing we can do about it now. If it happens again we'll deal with it." Shikamaru stated with a shrug. "Like Sensei said, everyone is gonna look for us. I say we find a nice, secluded spot and set up some traps. Make them come to us." At that moment, the gates swung open, and a loud horn blasted, signaling the start of the second exam. Team 7 dashed into the forest, ready to set Shikamaru's plan into motion. They stopped in the first clearing they found, and Shikamaru surveyed the area. "This looks good enough. Let's start..." Shikamaru's eyes widened.


"Start what?" Naruto asked.


"Don't move." Shikamaru ordered. "There's a giant millipede behind you."


"What!" Naruto jumped and turned around, coming face to face with the creature. Globs of spittle oozed from its mouth, and its fangs were inches from Naruto's face. Naruto jumped away just as the millipede dove at him.


"Troublesome idiot." Shikamaru sent his shadow out and ensnared the millipede. He grunted and fell to a knee.

"Can't...hold it..." Sasuke jumped into the air and smashed his foot onto the millipede's head as Shikamaru pulled his shadow back. The creature crashed to the ground with a moan, as Naruto readied his father's technique. A blue ball of swirling chakra formed in his hand, and he jumped straight over the millipede.


"Rasengan!" Naruto's attack drilled into the millipede, splattering its entrails all over the ground and Naruto. "Aw man! I didn't think that would happen." Sasuke smirked and Shikamaru shook his head.


"According to this map, there's a stream not too far from here. Go wash yourself quickly and hurry back. And for the love of god, please don't start more trouble." Naruto grinned.


"Which way?" Shikamaru pointed, and with a salute, Naruto was off into the trees.


"I bet you 5 ryo Naruto finds more trouble." Sasuke stated with a grin. Shikamaru glared at him.


"I'm not taking that bet." Sasuke let out a chuckle. "Go set up some kunai traps around the area. Make sure that they don't give away our position." Sasuke nodded and jumped into the trees, while Shikamaru started to dig a hole with his kunai.


XxX

Naruto sighed as he floated on the stream. He was clothed only in his boxers, as the rest of his clothes were drying on a tree. He still had a little time before his clothes dried enough to wear them. As he spit a stream of water into the air, he heard some rustling leaves, and his body snapped to attention. He ducked his head under water, leaving only his eyes above the surface. A team of Rock Genin jumped out of the trees and landed near the stream.


"Perfect." One of them stated. "We'll set up camp here." Naruto cursed his luck. He was outnumbered, and there was no way to escape with all of his clothes. Not only that, but this team was from Hidden Rock. Surely once they spotted him they would try to tear him limb from limb, all because of what his father did during the Third Shinobi World War. Naruto weighed out his options in his head. His only hope was to cause enough of a ruckus to alert Sasuke and Shikamaru to his situation. Shikamaru said not to start any trouble, but he didn't see any other way. He waited until they got closer to the stream, and then he jumped out, startling the three Genin, and he kicked one of them away. The other two jumped back.


"Where the hell did you come from?" One of the Genin shouted angrily. His eyes widened after a second, and rage flashed across his face. "You! You're that bastard Yellow Flash's son aren't you?!" Naruto's eyes narrowed, but he gave no answer. "My father is dead because of your father! I'll kill you!"


The Rock Genin furiously charged in at Naruto, brandishing a short sword from his back. He hacked and slashed at Naruto, who desperately wished he had his weapons pouch on him. He was able to weave through most of the attacks, but he picked up a few cuts and scratches. One of the Rock Genin's teammates suddenly appeared behind him, and Naruto was only barely able to deflect the stab at his back. The blade instead slashed through his side, leaving a bloody gash behind it. Naruto screamed in pain and quickly jumped away, needing some space to recover. He fell to a knee and held his side as the blood poured out of the wound. "Not so tough now are you pipsqueak! When I bring your head to the Tsuchikage, he'll promote me on the spot!" Naruto stood up and made his signature hand sign.


"Shadow Clone Technique!" Hundreds of Shadow Clones appeared around the three Rock Genin, who now wore fearful expressions.


"Now who's not so tough!" The voices of hundreds of Narutos boomed through the forest. The Rock Genin paled as the clones closed in on them.


XxX

"Now who's not so tough!" Shikamaru groaned as he heard Naruto's voice echo through the forest. Sasuke jumped down from the trees.


"We should go." Shikamaru nodded.


"Troublesome idiot. Why can't he just stay out of trouble." Sasuke shrugged and jumped into the trees, Shikamaru right behind him. When they reached the stream, they saw the bodies of three Rock Genin sprawled out on the ground.

"Looks like he took care of it." Sasuke stated, bending down to check the pulse of one. "They're unconscious." Shikamaru scanned the area.

"I don't see Naruto anywhere."


"Over...here..." Shikamaru turned to his left, and gasped. Naruto was sitting against a tree, his hand holding a blood soaked t-shirt to his side.


"Naruto! What happened?" Sasuke and Shikamaru rushed over to him and crouched down beside him.


"Got me from behind..." Shikamaru fumbled with his pack and pulled out a roll of bandages. He removed the bloody shirt from the wound, and cursed when he saw the gash.


"Shit that's bad. Really bad." Naruto started to laugh.


"It doesn't...hurt so much...anymore."


"Yea well that's because you're going into shock. Troublesome." Shikamaru started to wrap the bandages around Naruto's torso, and after many layers of bandages, he sliced the end and tied it tight. The bandages were already turning red.

"Naruto, I need you to lie down. Sasuke get him some water now." Sasuke handed Naruto his canteen, and Naruto took a gulp before lying down on his back. "We'll rest here until Naruto can move, and then we'll go back to the clearing." Sasuke nodded, and Naruto held his thumb up. The blonde then weakly thrust something into Shikamaru's face.

"Got...their map." Shikamaru inspected the map before pocketing it.


"It's the same one as ours, but I'll keep it as a bargaining chip in case anyone finds us. Good work Naruto." The blonde smiled before closing his eyes and falling asleep.


"What do we do with them?" Sasuke asked, pointing at the Rock team.


"Tie them up against a tree. And gag them." Sasuke nodded and got to work as Shikamaru stares at Naruto's wound. The blood was slowly permeating through the bandages like a plague.


"Troublesome."
 

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Chapter 11: Death in the Forest

Naruto's eyes blinked open when the sunlight hit them. It couldn't have been later than five in the morning, and Naruto sighed softly before slowly sitting up. Shikamaru and Sasuke were sitting around the map.


"We should try and set up an ambush." Shikamaru stated, and Sasuke nodded in agreement. "I'm not too keen on the idea of getting into another fight. Not with Naruto's condition."


"I'm fine." The two raven-haired boys turned their heads.


"I highly doubt that." Sasuke said with a shake of his head.


"Seriously I feel fine. A tiny cut like that isn't enough to stop me."


"Your shirt is dyed red from all the blood you lost."


Naruto grimaced and looked down. "I'll be fine."


Shikamaru sighed and turned back to the map. "He's not going to listen to us Sasuke. Better to help him than hold him back." Naruto smiled. "Now, as I was saying, an ambush is the best plan we have. We just need to lure a few teams into our trap."


Naruto cocked his head. "A few?"


Shikamaru nodded. "If we only trap one team, there's a chance they'll have the wrong map piece. We need to increase our odds. Even if we're outnumbered, we can still take them out. This is our ambush, we control the flow of battle."


Sasuke nodded. "We're gonna need more traps."


Shikamaru reached into his pouch and pulled out five exploding tags, some shuriken and kunai, and a reel of steel wire. "I'll leave that to you. You have a better eye than I do." Sasuke nodded and stood up with the tools. As he jumped away, Shikamaru stood and walked over to Naruto. "I'd like to see your wound."


Naruto sighed and stood, removing his shirt as he did so. He cringed at the sight of the blood soaked bandages. "Okay, maybe I lost a lot of blood."


Shikamaru grinned and shook his head. Naruto looked up at the sky as Shikamaru unraveled the bandages, not wanting to look at the wound. As he felt the last bandage fall away, Shikamaru grunted. "That's...odd."


"Does it look bad?" Naruto asked worriedly.


"No it's almost healed completely." Naruto looked down at the injury and his eyes widened. Shikamaru was right, it was only a flesh wound now. Naruto put his shirt down and smiled.


"Cool."


Shikamaru shook his head. "You...are weird."


Naruto gave him a look. "That's all you could come up with?"


Shikamaru sighed. "There just aren't words to describe you."


Naruto beamed. "Thanks!"


The Nara shrugged. "Not how I meant it."


Naruto frowned, but then he smiled again. "You're just mad because you can't figure this out." Shikamaru mumbled under his breath. "What?"


"You're troublesome." Naruto rolled his eyes and snatched the map out of Shikamaru's hand.


"So how are we going to spring this ambush?"


"Well, Sasuke is taking care of the trap, all we need is a way to lure a few teams into it. But you're the perfect person for that." Naruto's brow rose, and then realization struck him.


"Shadow Clones." Shikamaru nodded.


"Exactly. You remember how Sensei told us other teams will go after us first? Well i figure if your Shadow Clones can act convincing, we should have no problem starting a chase." Shikamaru explained.


"What do you mean convincing?" Naruto asked.


"Well most of the Genin are probably expecting us to act like scared children. If your clones can convince them of that, no doubt another team will chase them down in hopes of an easy victory." Naruto nodded.


"That makes sense. Course, They'll realize their mistake when we kick their ass." Shikamaru nodded back.


"And we come out with minimal injury, and possibly a few map fragments. Thin out the competition."


"You're a genius."


Shikamaru laughed. "That's funny coming from you."Naruto joined in on the laughter as Sasuke jumped down from the trees.


"What are you laughing at?"


Shikamaru shook his head. "Nothing. Are we good?"


Sasuke nodded. "I used up most of my tools as well. I don't think anyone will be able to escape this."


Naruto pounded his fist into his hand. "Not if I can help it."


Shikamaru looked up at the sky. "Let's eat a quick breakfast, and then we'll spring this trap."


XxX

After their meal, Naruto had created nine Shadow Clones, and they grouped up by threes. Two of each group transformed to mimic the other two members of Team 7, and on Naruto's command they scattered. Now Team 7 laid in wait, nervousness and anxiety itching at their minds. This was a real combat situation, and if the situation called for it, they would be forced to kill. None of them relished the idea, but they were ninjas, and damn good ones at that. They would persevere.


They were hidden together in the thick brush of the forest. Shikamaru was calmly staring at the sky, Sasuke was anxiously fingering the kunai in his pouch, and Naruto was grinning in anticipation. Suddenly, Sasuke's head snapped up.


"They're here." Not a moment later did two of the fake Team 7s land in the clearing, followed by two other Genin teams; one from Hidden Grass and one from Hidden Rock. The two teams looked at each other in surprise as both fake teams poofed out of existence.


"Ambush!"


A hail of shuriken flew at them from all directions, and they only barely escaped from instant death by protecting their vitals. Two explosions rocked the forest in quick succession, and the disoriented Genin barely noticed the two giant trees collapsing on them. Not all of them were fast enough, and only three of the enemies, two Grass ninja and one Rock, avoided death. Naruto and Sasuke jumped into action, appearing next to the Rock Genin in the air. They sent him plummeting to the ground, each delivering vicious axe kicks to each shoulder. The two Grass ninja jumped up to attack the Leaf Genin, but a storm of kunai launched at their backs, turning them into pin cushions. One of their bodies turned into a log, signaling the use of a Substitution. Shikamaru stepped out from his spot as the smoke cleared.


"You've lost! Your teammates are dead! Surrender and we'll let you live! I've killed enough today." The Nara gasped when he felt a presence behind him.


"I haven't." The sickeningly sweet voice sent chills up Shikamaru's spine, and he was frozen in place by the sheer amount of killing intent the woman was exuding.


"How?" He was answered with a sharp stab in his back, causing him to cry out in pain. He felt the back of his shirt start to thicken with his blood as he collapsed to his knees.


"Shikamaru!" Sasuke jumped at the woman and sent her flying with a kick to the head. She tumbled across the ground, contorting in an impossible way to recover. The woman charged back in at Sasuke, gliding across the ground, almost like a snake. Her strikes were fast and aggressive, and Sasuke could barely keep up. He activated his Sharingan, causing the woman to smile.

"The Sharingan..." The woman said it quietly, almost longingly. She cackled in glee as the speed of her attacks increased, pressing Sasuke to his limit. Even with the Sharingan he couldn't keep up.

"Shadow Imitation Technique." The woman turned too late as Shikamaru's shadow grabbed hold of her own. Shikamaru grinned as he knelt on the ground, panting heavily. "Success." The woman's eyes narrowed as she strained against the shadow. She then smirked.


"Pity, that won't work on me."


Shikamaru glared at her, then his eyes widened. "What...so...strong..." Sweat dripped down his head as he struggled to keep the technique active, but with a burst of strength she broke the restraint and jumped at Shikamaru, kunai poised to kill.


"Die!" Shikamaru closed his eyes as the woman closed in, until he heard the clash of steel.


"You will not hurt him!" Naruto stood in front of the woman, his kunai keeping hers inches from his chest. He then head-butted her, making her stumble back. He followed up with a boot kick to her chest, sending her crashing into a tree. The woman righted herself easily, as if a child had hit her.


"So you want to play? Then let's play." She suddenly appeared in front of Naruto, ramming her knee into his stomach. Naruto gagged as spit flew from his mouth, and then was sent flying through the air into a tree. Sasuke jumped at the woman and rushed her with a flurry of strikes, bur she easily weaved through them. The Uchiha jumped back after the assault, flashing through hand seals and grabbing his wrist.


"Chidori!" The woman's eyes widened and an elated grin spread across her face. She did nothing as Sasuke charged at her, blue lightning carving into the earth. She began to laugh maniacally as Sasuke's hand pierced her heart. When her body turned to mud, Sasuke cursed.


"Sasuke...you are everything I expected you to be. No...you are more than I could have ever hoped for!"


Sasuke's eyes widened when she said his name. "How..." Manic laughter echoed through the forest.


"Oh how I've longed for this day. And it has come much sooner than I anticipated. Itachi may have ruined my plan before, but it was all for naught in the end!" Sasuke took in a sharp breath at the mention of his brother.


"What do you know about Itachi? Where is he?" Sasuke shouted desperately.


"You're mine Sasuke!" The woman sprang up behind Sasuke and sank her fangs into his neck, eliciting a cry of agony from the Uchiha. He collapsed to the ground, writhing in pain and clutching at his neck. The woman cackled as she watched with glee.


"What did you do to him?" She turned to see Naruto charging at her, a Rasengan swirling in his hand. He slammed the ball of chakra in her face, pulverizing the mud clone. He knelt down next to Sasuke and started to shake him.


"Sasuke! Sasuke!" The Uchiha didn't give any sign of acknowledgement, the pain being too great. "Damn it!" The blonde jumped back up and turned around, glaring at the woman. "Tell me what you did to him!"


"I only gave him what he wished for." Naruto's eyes widened. The woman's voice was that of a man's now.


"You...your voice...it...changed."

The woman turned man started to cackle, pulling at his face, ripping the woman's face off to expose the pale face of a man. "Do not worry about Sasuke, Naruto. You will not live long enough to worry." The man appeared behind Naruto, putting his face next to the boy's ear. "I heard that Jiraiya died. It is a shame I was not able to pay my final respects to my teammate." Realization struck Naruto like a sledgehammer, and anger marred hos visage.

"Orochimaru!" Naruto quickly spun around and smashed another Rasengan into Orochimaru's face, once again hitting a mud clone.


"Such mastery of the Rasengan at such a young age. Too bad you don't possess a Kekkei Genkai, for you would be a perfect vessel." Naruto snarled at the Sannin.


"Traitor! I should kill you for what you put Uncle Jiraiya through!" Orochimaru chuckled.


"Yes, that fool was a sucker for sentimentality, always speaking of bonds and friendship. Useless garbage really." Naruto dashed at Orochimaru, coming face to face with him, his eyes blazing red.


"Don't insult him!" The Sannin's eyes widened as Naruto sent him rocketing through a tree with a furious punch. The Sannin flipped in the air, recovering easily.


"Interesting. Come, let me see what you are capable of." Naruto was happy to oblige, suddenly appearing behind his enemy. Orochimaru blocked his kick rather easily, but the force behind it sent him sliding away. "Incredible...the power of the Nine-Tails is brilliant."


With a feral roar, Naruto jumped above Orochimaru and aimed an axe kick at his head, which he caught with a slight wince. Naruto touched the ground for a moment before he appeared inside the Sannin's guard, startling him. With a furious roar, a burst of red chakra exploded outwards from Naruto, sending the Sannin flying through the air. As he recovered, Orochimaru looked at the purple veins that protruded from his flesh. "The toxicity of a Tailed Beast's chakra is incredible to work this fast on me. It seems you have forced me to withdraw. But I will leave you a parting gift."

The Sannin flashed through hand signs, bit his thumb and slammed his hand on the ground. "Summoning Technique!" Naruto growled at the giant, gray summoned snake. "Farewell Naruto."

The Sannin disappeared without a trace, leaving his summon alone with Naruto. The giant snake dove in at Naruto, who barely cleared the lunge. He landed on the snake's head and pummeled it with his fists, sending it crashing to the ground. Angered now, the snake whipped its head around, throwing Naruto off of it and onto the ground. It swung its tail at the boy, aiming to crush his puny body. Naruto recovered quickly and jumped straight at the tail, punching through it in a splash of blood. The snake hissed in pain and lunged at Naruto, who could do nothing to dodge midair. He landed on the Snake's nose, repeatedly stabbing the reptile with a kunai. Blood poured out of the wound and the snake howled in agony, smashing its face into a tree in an attempt to kill Naruto. Naruto barely avoided being squashed, jumping onto the tree as the snake collapsed. He formed a Rasengan in his hand and leapt towards the summon, slamming the technique into its head, caving its skull in. The summon disappeared after that, and Naruto could only smile before collapsing.

XxX

Shikamaru decided that this exam was by far the most troublesome thing he had ever dealt with. So far he found Naruto on the verge of death, ran into an S-Class criminal with a grudge against the Leaf, and now he was forced to look after his teammates in their unconscious states after their miraculous survival in the encounter against said S-Class criminal.


"Troublesome."


Not that he minded watching his teammates, but quite frankly he didn't know what the hell to do. Sasuke had broken out in fever, and his breathing was ragged. He was shivering despite the jacket draped across him, and Shikamaru was truly worried.


Naruto on the other hand was suffering from severe chakra exhaustion. It was a wonder he was alive really, but Shikamaru stopped letting Naruto surprise him. The kid was an anomaly.


Besides that, Shikamaru had his own injury to deal with. The stab wound from Orochimaru was painful, and had it been a few inches to the right, it could have punctured his lung. It was a pain in the ass to wrap too.


"Ngh..." Shikamaru's eyes widened as Naruto's eyes opened. "Where..."


"Easy Naruto." The blonde turned his head towards the Nara, who was sitting against a trunk. "I found us some decent cover. We should be okay here." Naruto nodded and pushed himself up. "Should you be getting up?"


"Don't really have a choice." He replied with a grunt, earning a sigh from Shikamaru. "We need...to get the scroll."

Shikamaru pulled out two maps from his pocket. "Well, one of those Genin from Hidden Rock had the map we needed. But there's one problem." The Nara handed the fragments to Naruto. "It doesn't show where the hell we need to go."

Naruto examined the maps, noting that there were no points of interest marked off. He flipped each of them over, and a smile grazed his face.


"It's a seal." Naruto laid the map pieces side by side and channeled his chakra into the seal. The map stitched itself together, and Naruto flipped it over, examining it with a grin. "And there's your scroll." Naruto handed the map to Shikamaru, and sure enough the Nara heir spotted the red 'X' on the map.


"Huh. Clever."


Naruto stood up with a groan and cracked his back. "How is he?" The blonde asked, shooting a worried glance at Sasuke.


"I...don't know. Orochimaru did something to him...he has a fever, and he hasn't stopped sweating. I think it has something to do with that mark on his neck." Naruto's brows furrowed.


"What mark?" Shikamaru simply pointed at the Uchiha's neck, and Naruto knelt down next to him. Naruto rolled Sasuke's head over, and his eyes widened. "That looks like a seal too..."


Shikamaru's brow rose. "Why can you identify a seal so easily."


Naruto shrugged. "My Uncle was a seal master, and my father was the most powerful seal master in the world in his time. I've read my dad's book on Fuinjutsu about a hundred and twelve times." Shikamaru's eyes widened in disbelief, and Naruto rolled his eyes. "What, I can't read too?" Shikamaru deadpanned, and Naruto sighed. "Yea I don't like to read that much…but my dad wrote it, so I'll read it as many times as I can." Naruto unzipped his weapons pouch and pulled out a small book. "I always keep it on me. Either this or The Tale of the Gutsy Ninja, my Uncle's book." He tossed the book to Shikamaru.


"Why are you giving this to me?" He asked in a curious manner. The blonde grinned.


"I want you to read it obviously. I think you'll find it…intriguing." Shikamaru shrugged and put the book away and Naruto stood. "Give me the map."


Shikamaru stood and eyed him suspiciously. "Why?"


"I'm going to get the scroll." Shikamaru's eyes widened.


"You're not-"


"We don't really have a choice. Someone has to stay with Sasuke, and I know you would rather do that than navigate this 'troublesome' forest by yourself."


Shikamaru sighed. "But-"


"I didn't beat Orochimaru to fail this exam Shikamaru. I'm going."


Shikamaru shook his head and handed him the map. "I don't think you beat him..."


"We're alive aren't we?"


Shikamaru smiled. "Yea we are."


Naruto nodded. "Don't worry. I'll be back by tomorrow." With that, Naruto jumped out of the underbrush, venturing into the forest alone.

XxX

Naruto crouched behind a fallen tree, peeking over it at the battle that unfolded before him. He cursed his luck; the battle was taking place right where the scroll was hidden. But that wasn't all. The team from Hidden Sand, the one with the young red head, was one of the teams in front of him. Naruto could feel his bloodlust from here. He watched as the other team of Genin, a team from the Hidden Leaf, launched everything in their arsenal at the Sand team. Sand rushed out of the gourd on the red head's back and formed a wall in front of the Sand team, fully protecting him.


"Damn it! Why can't we hit him?" One of the Leaf Genin shouted in frustration. Each of them were panting heavily, clearly at their limits. Suddenly, three tendrils of sand shot out at the Leaf Genin and wrapped around their necks.


"Mother will have your blood." The Genin uselessly struggled against the sand, their bodies being entombed by sand.


"Sand Coffin." The grains of sand felt like thousands of tiny ants slowly devouring their bodies as the helplessly struggled against the instrument of their death. Their fearful cries were drowned out as they were completely encased in the sand. The red head held his hand out.


"Sand Burial." The boy closed his hand into a fist, and the sand compressed, pulverizing the Leaf ninja, shooting their blood everywhere. "Mother wants more. More blood." The boy turned towards Naruto's hiding spot and shot a tendril of sand at the blonde. He barely dodged it, jumping into the clearing.


"You murdered them." He stated calmly.


"You..." The red head donned a maniacal grin. "Yes, mother craves your blood. I will kill you!" Naruto jumped over another sand tendril, and he created a few Shadow Clones.


"Why? Why are you doing this?"

The red head cackled. "Because mother commands me to! She must have the blood of the Nine-Tails!" Naruto's eyes widened. "I am Gaara of the Sand, Jinchuriki of the One-Tail Shukaku. Die Nine-Tails!"

Naruto sent his Shadow Clones at Gaara, too shocked to do anything else. This boy was just like him, but he was so different. His eyes were empty, but Naruto could tell they were hiding so much pain.


"Stop this!" The blonde shouted as one of his Shadow Clones was speared by a sand tendril. "I don't want to fight you!"


"Then die for me!" The rest of the clones were killed, and a wave of sand rushed at Naruto. He jumped up as it crashed under him, creating a horde of clones. The army of clones rushed at Gaara, and Naruto jumped into the trees, hoping his clones would buy him enough time. When the last clone died, Gaara gazed at the empty clearing blankly. "Soon, Nine-Tails."

XxX

Naruto sighed in relief as he leaned against a tree. He had gotten away safely, and he had recovered the scroll as well. He felt conflicted. He wanted to help Gaara, to give the boy some kind of kindness. Clearly no one else was. Even his teammates watched him with nothing but fear in their eyes. It was a reality check for Naruto. One question kept floating through his mind: what if he turned out like that? He knew Gaara's life had to have been terrible.


With a sad sigh and a silent promise, he was off into the trees again. It would be a few more hours until he returned to camp. But he was fueled by determination.


'I will help you Gaara
.'

XxX

Sasuke groaned as he sat up, the world spinning as he did. Shikamaru immediately perked up and rushed to his friend's side.


"Sasuke! Are you-"Sasuke leaned over, and Shikamaru barely avoided his teammate's vomit"-uhm...you good?"


"Water." Sasuke rasped quietly. Shikamaru grabbed his canteen and thrust it in into Sasuke's hand, who gulped it down quickly.


"How do you feel?" Sasuke wiped his mouth and sighed.


"My head is pounding and my neck is on fire. What...happened?" Shikamaru just sat back.


"We fought someone who is way stronger than us." Sasuke stared at him blankly, forcing him to elaborate. "Orochimaru attacked us."


"As in the S-class missing ninja?" Shikamaru nodded. "And we're alive?"


"You can thank Naruto for that."


Sasuke's eyes widened. "He took on Orochimaru?"


"Sounds dumb right? But this is Naruto we're talking about."


"Hey I resent that." Sasuke and Shikamaru's heads snapped sideways to see Naruto grinning with a scroll in his hand.


"Is that..." Sasuke trailed off, pointing at the scroll.


"Yea. Just went and got it." Naruto replied tiredly. "Ran into some trouble too. That red haired kid."


Shikamaru perked up. "The one our age?" Naruto nodded. "Is he strong?"


Naruto looked down at the ground. "Very strong. He's...he's just like me." Shikamaru cocked his head, but Sasuke's eyes widened.


"You mean..." Sasuke whispered in shock. Naruto only nodded, and Shikamaru sighed.


"Do you mean he's a...Jinchuriki?" The Nara asked, hoping that Naruto meant something else. But Naruto's lack of response told him all he needed. "How troublesome. Well, it's late. Tomorrow morning when it's still dark we'll leave for the tower. That'll give Sasuke some time to recover and me some time to sleep." Sasuke rolled his eyes.


"Thanks…I think." Shikamaru gave him a lazy grin and Naruto sat down.


Shikamaru nodded. "Good. Well, I'm going to bed. Naruto you take first watch. Wake me in four, no, five hours." Naruto waved him off and Shikamaru laid down, falling asleep instantly. Sasuke shook his head.


"I kind envy him for being able to do that." Naruto laughed and nodded.


"Yea…Hey Sasuke, can I ask you something?" The Uchiha nodded. Naruto took a deep breath. "Do you know anyone with one Sharingan eye…besides Kakashi that is?" Sasuke eyed him curiously.


"No, I can't think of anyone else. But all of the Uchiha are dead remember?" Naruto shook his head.


"I know that. It's just…ok this is highly classified information. Not that I don't trust you, but you get what I mean." Sasuke's brow rose. "The night of the Nine-Tails attack was the night of my birth. During my birth, a man with a single Sharingan eye attacked my parents. He killed my mother and unleashed the Nine-Tails on the village, forcing my dad to sacrifice himself." Sasuke's eyes were wide at Naruto's tale.


"There was someone behind the Nine-Tails attack?" Naruto nodded. "How powerful do you have to be to control the Nine-Tails…"


"As powerful as Madara Uchiha." Sasuke froze at that. Madara Uchiha was a legend in the Uchiha Clan, and if his father's stories were anything to go by, the strongest Uchiha to have ever lived.


"Do you think that's who it was?" Sasuke asked. Naruto sighed.


"I don't know…he's supposed to have died a long time ago. So how could it have been him? History says that he died at the Valley of the End at the hands of the First Hokage." Naruto stated.


"History also says the Nine-Tails attack was a natural disaster. I guess we can't believe everything from The Academy textbooks." Sasuke replied in exasperation. "This is beyond our ability Naruto. How are we even going to find a man who is strong enough to fight with your dad and control the Nine-Tails? He's probably a ghost." Naruto's fist clenched.


"You're right. But that won't stop me. It's his fault that my parents are dead, his fault that hundreds of Leaf ninja and civilians alike died that day. So, for the sake of the village, and my parents, I will find him." Sasuke nodded at his friend's determination.


"I'll be there. I can't let someone desecrate the Sharingan like that." Naruto smiled and Sasuke turned his head to Shikamaru's sleeping form. "I'm sure he'll be there too. Either that or watching the clouds." Naruto nodded at the Uchiha.


"Yea. I wouldn't go anywhere without you guys."


"Trust me, we know Naruto."


"Have you been awake this whole time?"

XxX

Team 7's morning trek to the tower was thankfully uneventful. They arrived as the sun was breaking over the horizon, immediately rushing past the Chuunin proctor straight to Guy.


"Ah Naruto! What can I do for you?"


Naruto took a deep breath. "I need you to get my sensei and the Hokage. It's uh...really important."

Guy quirked his gigantic brow as he studied the three boys' appearances. They were caked in mud and there were various bloodstains on their clothes. Sasuke seemed like he would collapse any second.

"What happened to you three?"


"Please...just get the Hokage. I'll explain everything."


Guy's enormous brows furrowed, but he snapped his fingers and an ANBU appeared behind him. "Please get Lord Hokage and Kakashi Hatake. It is urgent." Guy commanded, earning a quick salute before the black clad ninja disappeared. About a minute later, the Hokage and Kakashi appeared behind Guy.


"You summoned me Guy?" The Hokage asked.


"Yes, these children asked me to."


The Hokage examined the three boys, noting their conditions. "Are you three alright?"


Naruto shrugged. "Somehow. We ran into your old student."


Hiruzen's eyes widened. "You can't be serious."


Naruto grabbed Sasuke and exposed his neck, showing the mark left by Orochimaru. "What is that?" Naruto asked, pointing at the mark.


"The Curse Seal...he really was here." Hiruzen removed his hat and ran an old hand through his white hair. "ANBU!" Immediately six ANBU appeared by his side. "Mobilize teams Alpha, Gamma, Theta, Delta and Epsilon. Orochimaru has been spotted in the village. He must be captured before he harms anymore competitors." The ANBU agents stiffened at the mention of the Snake Sannin. "This information is not to be made public. Go!"


The ANBU scattered at the command, and Hiruzen turned to Team 7. "You boys have done a great service. Orochimaru is not a man to be taken lightly, and yet three Genin were able to fend him off. I suggest you take a long rest; you earned it." Then he turned to Kakashi. "Will you take care of Sasuke?"


Kakashi nodded. "I'll get started with the sealing array right away."


Hiruzen nodded. "Then I leave it in your hands. I have much to prepare for...damn you Orochimaru."


Hiruzen disappeared in an instant, leaving the tired Genin with their sensei. "Come Sasuke, we must do something about the Curse Seal right away. Naruto, Shikamaru, I'm proud of you; all of you. I'm not sure that I could handle Orochimaru on my best day." He smiled and patted his students' heads. "Go rest."


He turned around and headed for the exit, Sasuke following close behind. Naruto and Shikamaru both watched with worry etched on their faces, but they could do nothing, and they resigned to let Guy lead them to a room.
 

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Chapter 12: Turning of the Leaf

"Are these the only teams that made it?" Naruto asked as he looked around. Team 7 was one of the only three teams that had passed the second exam, the other two being teams from Hidden Mist, and as Naruto expected, Gaara's team. The nine Genin stood in a grand hall in front of the Hokage.


"Looks that way," Shikamaru replied. "These exams are brutal."


Sasuke looked down, his hand going to his neck. Kakashi had sealed off the Curse Seal yesterday, but he told Sasuke that the seal was only as strong as the person's will. He would have to fight the Curse Seal every second of his life. Hiruzen stepped forward and cleared his throat.


"Only three teams...well that makes this a little easier. First, I would like to congratulate you on passing the second exam. As you can see, it was not an easy exam. But you have overcome these trials, and each of you is one step closer to Chuunin." The Hokage motioned a Leaf Jonin over. The Leaf ninja stepped next to the Hokage and cleared his throat.


"I am Tenzo, proctor of the third exam." He stepped forward. "The third exam is an individual exam, so your teammates may very well be your enemies." Naruto glanced at his teammates, who did the same. He grinned and they smiled back. Nothing separated Team 7. "The exam will be a tournament of one-on-one battles. Since we have an odd number of participants, one of you will be seeded."


Guy, who had been standing next to Tenzo with a white box in his hand, stepped forward. "As Guy comes to you, please take a number out of the box. This is how we will determine the seeds."


Guy walked up to each Genin, holding out the box for them to pick. Once all nine had picked, he retreated behind Tenzo.

"Please call out your number as I go down the line." Tenzo ordered. He went down the line, writing down their names in their seeds. At the end, the bracket looked like:

Temari vs. Shikamaru Nara


Sasuke Uchiha vs. Nanami


Gaara vs. Daishi


Naruto Namikaze vs. Kankuro


Bye: Furen


"I have to go first? Just my luck." Shikamaru sighed in defeat.


"You better not lose. I expect to see you in the next round." Sasuke said, earning another groan from the Nara.


"I'll have to fight Gaara in the second round." Naruto said seriously, glancing at the red head.


"If you make it that is," Sasuke quipped lightheartedly.


"You don't have to worry about that. I'm going to the finals!" Naruto stated with a grin. "And I better see one of you there." Sasuke and Shikamaru looked at each other and nodded. Tenzo cleared his throat, regaining the attention of the Genin.


"The third exam will be held in one month, in the Leaf Village Coliseum. These contests are more than just a chance at a promotion; they are a show of your Hidden Village's strength. Many important dignitaries and foreign diplomats will be in attendance, studying the contestants and measuring your strengths. During this month, it would be wise to train extensively, if only to bolster the reputation of your village. The teams from Hidden Mist and Hidden Sand will be assigned training grounds if you so desire. You are dismissed."


The foreign teams retreated back to their Jonin-sensei; the Jonin from Sand was a red headed man in the typical garb of the Sand puppeteer. But he was one of the most famous puppeteers in history, being the grandson of and trained by the Honored Lady Chiyo. He was Sasori of the Red Sand, leader of the Puppet Brigade and next in line to be Kazekage.


The sensei of the team from Hidden Mist was even more famous than Sasori, as impossible as that seemed. But Zabuza Momochi was a name revered in the Mist and feared by the rest. He was the leader of the Seven Ninja Swordsmen of the Mist and personal bodyguard of the Fourth Mizukage. It seemed that both villages wanted to make a statement.

That…or something else was going on.


Kakashi put it out of his head for now as he approached the Hokage and Naruto, who seemed to be arguing like father and son.


"...must protest that you compete in these exams." Kakashi heard the Hokage say as he approached.


"What!" Naruto's loud response came as predicted. "I'm not gonna give up because some stupid snake has a thing for little boys!"


Hiruzen looked around, noting the confused expressions on people's face. "Please Naruto, keep your voice down. This is extremely sensitive information." Naruto's eyes widened before he chuckled and scratched his head in embarrassment. "I understand how much you want to compete, but it's extremely dangerous. We don't know what my old student is planning, but whatever it is it revolves around your teammate, and you two by extension." The old Hokage explained, motioning at Naruto and Shikamaru. "Understand Naruto, I only say this because I worry about you. I could never look myself in the face again if I failed Minato's final request." Naruto looked down at the ground.


"It doesn't matter. My father gave me the power to defend the village. I will not back down, especially not from a traitor who would do anything to see the village-my village-in ashes. I'm not scared of him; I've already fought him once."
Naruto looked up to Hiruzen, his eyes blazing with tenacity. Hiruzen met his gaze with equal spirit, and after a moment he sighed in defeat.


"You have the same look as your father. Whenever he looked at me like that...I knew I could trust him. And he always came through. I expect no less of you."


Naruto broke out into a grin. "You got it old man! I mean, Lord Hokage!" Naruto saluted his leader, and Hiruzen chuckled.


"Very well. Kakashi, I expect them to be more than ready for the exams."


"Of course Lord Hokage. They'll be Chuunin before you know it." Hiruzen nodded, and turned to start walking away.


"Wait!" Hiruzen turned at Naruto's call. "I'd like to talk to you about something...in private." Hiruzen looked at the boy curiously, but he walked up to Naruto and put a hand on his shoulder. Seconds later, they were in Hiruzen's office.


"You father added his seals into the office, as well as all around the village. He truly was a genius." Hiruzen sat in his chair and pulled out his pipe. "Have you ever smoked Naruto?"


Naruto's eyes widened. "I'm eight." He responded, staring at the Hokage in shock.


Hiruzen chuckled, "Old enough to kill old enough to smoke."


"Uncle Jiraiya always said drink."


Hiruzen shrugged, "To each his own. Despite what you may have heard, there is nothing unhealthy about cannabis."


Naruto cocked his head, "Cannabis?"


"Marijuana."


Naruto nodded, and then his eyes widened, "Isn't that illegal?"


Hiruzen shrugged, "If it were my choice it wouldn't be, but the Daimyo is too conservative. But we are ninja, and everything we do is in the shadows. Why do you think these operations haven't been stopped? Surely even a single ninja could stop a few normal civilians eh?"


Naruto gasped, "Wait we allow illegal things to happen?"


Hiruzen stroked his beard and took a puff of his pipe. "Let me explain something to you Naruto. The Hidden Villages across the continent, ours especially, thrive on their independence. While we ultimately answer to the Daimyo, he doesn't actually look into our affairs unless it's of international importance. Do you understand so far?" Naruto nodded. "Well, things like cannabis, which in the opinions of the populace are wrongly prohibited, can be useful. For one, cannabis is an extremely effective medicine, and it can treat many conditions from minor pain to extreme disorders, like glaucoma or multiple sclerosis. It's also the best stress reliever you can find on this planet. Many ninja like to unwind after a tough mission with a nice relaxing smoke session. I'm sure Kakashi does."


"Really?"


Hiruzen nodded. "Certainly. The majority of my ninja do." Naruto nodded as Hiruzen continued, "Now, that's not to say the drug dealers have free reign. Other narcotics are still illegal, and we regulate all of the dangerous ones, but harmless things like Cannabis are looked over, because there are much more important things we could be stopping. It's a sort of symbiotic relationship."


Naruto stared wide eyed at Hiruzen. "That's..." The boy paused.


"A lot to take in?" Hiruzen answered with a chuckle. "I know it is, but understand that I tell you this for a reason. After all, a Hokage must know every aspect of his village."


Naruto beamed at the man."Yes sir!"


Hiruzen smiled warmly. "Now what did you want to tell me?"


Naruto's smile faded a bit. "Back in the forest...when I fought Orochimaru...I think I used the fox's power."


Hiruzen almost dropped his pipe. He gathered himself and put his pipe on the table. "I see. Well I'm glad you told me. Did you lose control?"


Naruto shook his head. "No...I just got angry, and I felt much more powerful. That's how I was able to fend off Orochimaru."


Hiruzen nodded. "Yes that would make sense. Do you remember when it happened before?" Naruto looked down.


"Not really…of course I remember what happened after, but the only thing I remember before that is red…" Hiruzen studied the boy and absently chewed on his pipe in contemplation. Finally, he set it down and sighed.


"I'll be honest with you Naruto, I don't know what this means. Your father developed this seal himself, and you can bet that means no one else alive will understand it. Even I have trouble making sense of everything. But, from what Jiraiya told me, your father designed the seal so that your chakra would absorb the Nine-Tail's chakra over time. Maybe this is the start of that process. For now, you shouldn't worry about it." Hiruzen explained.


"But what if something happens?" Naruto looked down at the ground and started shaking. "Back in the forest I was aware of what I was doing…but I couldn't control it. All I could focus on was beating Orochimaru's face into a pancake." He looked up suddenly. "I don't wanna hurt anyone again! Not like Uncle Jiraiya!" Hiruzen knelt down in front of the boy.

"Naruto, do not blame yourself for that. No four year old could control the Nine-Tail's power. The Nine-Tails is full of hatred and anger, but if you fight against it with love and hope, and you never give up, then you will never lose." Naruto sniffled and nodded. "Your father sealed the Nine-Tails in you for a reason. Speaking of which, Kakashi tells me you are aware of? And for quite some time now." Naruto nodded.

"Yea, I read it a week after Uncle Jiraiya died. He left me a box with everything in it and a note. I went to Kakashi right after and asked him if it was him because he has one Sharingan…I think he was really surprised to hear something like that from a four year old." Hiruzen nodded.


"Well it is quite shocking. When Jiraiya told me I was at a loss for words. To think that someone out there has not only mastered a stolen Sharingan, but is able to fight on the same ground as your dad is frightening." The old Hokage took a puff of his pipe. "But now it is your job to one day find this man and bring him to justice. Your father believed in you, and Jiraiya did as well. I believe you can carry on both of their legacies."


Naruto stared at Hiruzen with shocked eyes. "You really believe I can do that? That I can succeed in Uncle Jiraiya's ambition? And that I can become a better Hokage than my father?"


Hiruzen looked at the picture on his wall of him and his old Genin team. "You have the same spirit that Jiraiya did. And you have the same mind as your father did. With a combination like that, I believe you can do anything."


Naruto just stood in disbelief. "I...don't know what to say."


Hiruzen just smiled. "I only say what I believe to be true. Do not dwell on it, but know that I will always be behind you."


Naruto nodded. "Thank you gramps."


"Any time."

XxX

"Naruto!"


Naruto whipped his head around at the sound of his name being shouted from behind him. "Kairi?"


The black haired girl ran up to him and hugged him. "I haven't seen you in a while!"


Naruto chuckled. "Yea, I didn't even see you in the exams. How did you do?"


Kairi looked down. "We made it to the second part...but one of my teammates got hurt really bad...we had to leave so he would survive."


"I'm sorry."


Kairi sighed and looked up. "It's okay. He's better now. And we're gonna try harder next time."


Naruto nodded. "I hope you pass."


She smiled. "So I heard your team is in the finals."


Naruto scratched his head. "Yea. We're training really hard. Sensei is really running us into the ground."


Kairi fell into step alongside Naruto. "You're so lucky, to be trained by Kakashi the Copy Ninja. My sensei says that Kakashi's skill during battle is unreal."


Naruto nodded. "I've never seen him in a life or death situation, but in our spars sometimes we can't even land a hit."


Kairi shook her head. "You know your team is the only team of Genin that could actually lay a hand on the famous Copy Ninja right?"


Naruto chuckled. "When you put it that way..."


"You don't know how famous your team is do you?" Naruto shook his head. "Everyone is talking about Team 7, the team of young prodigies. You're the favorite to win; people think you can even beat the Kazekage's children."


Naruto cocked his head, and then he stopped in his tracks with wide eyes. "Gaara is the Kazekage's son?!"


Kairi nodded. "Yea, everyone has been talking about it. Some people say it's a threat to the Leaf, having the Kazekage send his own children, but I don't know about that."


Naruto was just shocked. 'Gaara and I are so similar...why is he so different from me?'


"Are you okay Naruto?"


Naruto sighed. "I'm fine. It's nothing. Listen, I have to go meet up with my team, but we should hang out really soon. After the exams."


Kairi smiled warmly. "I'll hold you to that."


Naruto grinned and hopped up to the roofs, more determined to get stronger than ever.


XxX

"Somehow, I knew I'd find you here."


Kakashi turned around. "You were looking for me, Lord Hokage?"


Hiruzen stepped forward next to Kakashi and gazed at the memorial stone. "So many men and woman I once knew have been immortalized on this stone. It doesn't really do them justice, but it is all we can do to honor them."


Kakashi turned back around. "Yea..."


"Your dedication to your teammates is astounding Kakashi." Hiruzen stated.


"Without them...without Obito...I wouldn't be here. I owe them my life. So I try to tell them as much as I can, so they know their sacrifices weren't in vain."


Hiruzen nodded. "Minato always said that day changed you. He felt responsible for Obito's death as much as you did. It was one of the few things he felt he truly failed at."


Kakashi shook his head. "He was good at hiding it, but I could tell Sensei felt responsible. I wanted to say something, but I just couldn't. Our team fell apart after that. Rin was quieter than usual, I was drowning in self-loathing, and Sensei was so busy with the war and being named your successor, he just didn't have the time. He tried when he could...but then Rin died on that mission. After that, I dedicated myself to ANBU, and my relationship with Sensei became purely professional. Every time I stood before him, he stared into my mask with such regret it was almost painful. I wanted to tell him it wasn't his fault, but I just couldn't." Kakashi finished in a whisper, and Hiruzen put a hand on his shoulder.


"Minato was always proud of you, no matter how responsible he felt. You were the Captain of his ANBU after all. He knew that was the only way he could keep you close to him."


Kakashi looked up at the sky. "I was just stubborn."


Hiruzen chuckled. "You must have gotten that from your father. He was as thickheaded as they come."


Kakashi turned his head to Hiruzen. "Did you know my father well?"


Hiruzen nodded. "Yes, since he was just a boy. He and Jiraiya were the best of friends. I think that's why Sakumo was always able to stay on par with my students. He wouldn't let Jiraiya beat him at anything."


Kakashi's eye widened. "My father and Lord Jiraiya were best friends?"


At this, Hiruzen guffawed. "Oh yes, those two were quite the pair. That damn brat shaved my head once."


"My father shaved your head?"


"Yes. For over a month they called me the bald Hokage."


Kakashi stifled his laughter. "I can't believe my father was so...mischievous. I only remember the serious, compassionate side of him."


"When he reached Jonin he mellowed out. I think it was your mother. He loved her dearly." Kakashi nodded.


"Yea, I always remember them together. My father would hold her hand or stroke her face, and she would always smile at him. They never fought either. Not once."


Hiruzen turned around, facing away from the stone. "Your father was a great ninja. I even considered naming him as my successor at one point. I believe he would have made an amazing Hokage. He truly loved everyone in this village. His Will of Fire burned hot, and I see the same in you." Hiruzen pulled a scroll out of his sleeve and handed it to Kakashi. "What you will read in there will shock you I'm sure, but I believe it's the right choice. Lately I've begun to uncover things, things that make precautions like this necessary. Hopefully we can rip up that scroll, but please keep that in a safe place; for the good of the village."


Hiruzen started to walk away then, and he disappeared when he reached the clearing. Kakashi looked down at the scroll in confusion. He unraveled it, and scanned its contents with one eye, before dropping it in shock.


"Lord Hokage..."


XxX

"Surprise!" Kakashi threw a kunai as soon as he heard the shout. There was a yelp and a thud, and he stared at the fallen Naruto.


"What the hell are you doing in my apartment?" Naruto sat up and rubbed his head.


"You don't even care that you almost killed me?" Kakashi continued to stare at him. "Jerk. Well, with the exams and everything, we've been really busy. And your birthday was the week we were in the Forest of Death." Kakashi's eye widened.


"Naruto..." At that moment, Sasuke and Shikamaru walked out of the kitchen, holding a tray with Kakashi's favorite dish: salt-broiled saury and a bowl of miso soup. "Guys...you didn't have to do that." They all shrugged.


"So? You're our sensei; we wanted to do this." Naruto replied.


"Plus, we wanted a chance to see you without your mask." Shikamaru added hopefully.


Kakashi looked at the three of them, sighed, and collapsed onto his couch. "You three...thank you."


Naruto beamed. "That's not all Sensei. We got a present for you too!"


Kakashi groaned. "Guys, I appreciate it really, but-"


Naruto shoved a wooden box into his hands, about two feet long. "For your own benefit Sensei, shut up. I guarantee you'll love this." Naruto insisted, stepping away eagerly.


Kakashi met the excited gazes of each of his students, before sighing again and lifting the lid. He looked in, and his eye bulged in astonishment. "This...what is this?" He looked up at his wall, where the replica was perched perfectly on the wall.


"That's a replica." Naruto said, motioning at the fake. "It's a long story. But our first mission, the mission to Chakramantine town, was for this specifically."


Kakashi just stared. "I don't...this is..." He looked helplessly between his students. Finally, he pulled his mask down and smiled. "Thank you." Naruto, Sasuke and Shikamaru stared at Kakashi's face in awe. Then Naruto touched his face, making Kakashi swat him away. "What are you doing?"


"I just had to make sure it was real." Kakashi rolled his eye. "What? Wasn't it you who taught us to look underneath the underneath?"


Kakashi seemed taken aback. "I guess I did. I didn't realize you actually listened."


Naruto scoffed. "C'mon, you don't think that little of me do you?" Shikamaru cleared his throat, and Naruto launched a peanut at him, courtesy of the bowl on Kakashi's coffee table. "No one asked you Nara." The Nara shrugged.


"Well I can't believe you guys did this. It's amazing. I never fixed it myself because of what it represented, but I'm glad you guys did." His students just smiled. After that, he dug into his favorite meal, wondering which of his students had made it.


"That would be me." Sasuke answered when Kakashi voiced his question. "My mom taught me how to cook."


"That's quite surprising Sasuke. Have you ever considered becoming a ninja chef?" Kakashi asked with a grin. Naruto and Shikamaru broke into laughter, while Sasuke grumbled something about Kakashi Filet. About two hours passed before the Genin of Team 7 decided to leave. Kakashi was surprised at how fast time had flown by, and he was sure this was the longest anyone had been in his apartment, besides perhaps his sensei. As he closed the door behind his charges, a smile couldn't help but bubble up onto his face.


XxX

"Right this way, Lord Danzo." A black clad, masked ninja led an older man through a dimly lit hall. The older man walked with a cane, and half of his face and most of his body were covered in bandages. He reeked of professionalism, and his mind had been molded and hardened by many years of service to the Leaf. He was a military extremist to the extreme, believing that war paved the way to peace and prosperity. His name was Danzo Shimura, and he was a man that lived in the shadows and struck from the darkness. He did the dirtiest work in the Leaf Village, and no one, not even the Hokage, had access to his files. His organization, named Root, was an extremely well-kept secret, and although the Hokage was aware of its existence, Danzo was so good at covering his own tracks, that Hiruzen didn't have a chance at finding proof. After all, deception was Danzo's specialty.


"He's in here Lord Danzo."


Danzo walked into the room, his lackey staying outside. When he walked in, there was a hooded man standing in the center.


"So he's sent you this time had he? He must be getting serious." Danzo stated, standing across from the man.


"Well, as you may imagine, Lord Orochimaru is quite eager to get his revenge." The hooded man dropped his disguise, revealing the face of a young, silver haired man.


"I'm sure he is Kabuto. But does he truly believe he can defeat Hiruzen? He may be old, but even I would think twice before challenging my old friend to a fight."


Kabuto scoffed. "Lord Orochimaru is not to be taken lightly Danzo. As long as you follow through with your end of the deal, our invasion will be successful."


Danzo grunted. "Overconfidence will lead to your downfall."


"And underestimation will lead to yours."


Danzo's eyes narrowed. "Watch yourself snake. Remember where you are."


Kabuto held his hands up in defense with a grin. "My apologies. I'll be more respectful in your territory." Kabuto walked forward. "But you can rest assured, that by the end of the exams, the Leaf Village will be in ruins."


"And I will rebuild it, gaining the favor of everyone in the village." Danzo finished almost eagerly.


"Yea, Lord Orochimaru is quite pleased with the change of leadership. In fact, I'm sure he wouldn't be adverse to...future dealings." Kabuto stated.


"We'll see about that. First, I must see if you are a trustworthy ally." Danzo replied.


"Of course. We wish to do the same."


Danzo nodded. "The plans will be finalized within the week. I will have one of my agents contact you when they are ready." Danzo turned and exited the room, not bothering to hear a reply. "Soon...soon I will bring about the Leaf's Golden Age. Sorry my old friend, but your ideals have crippled us, and I intend to fix that."


XxX

Naruto, Sasuke, and Shikamaru stared in awe at the enormous crowd seated all around them.


"All of these people are here to watch us?" Naruto asked to no one in particular.


Shikamaru scoffed. "Since when have ninja battles become spectacles?" He asked with a shake of his head. "These people don't get it do they?"


"They're all ignorant rich people Shikamaru. What do you expect?" Sasuke asked with a grin.


"Who cares about them?" Naruto asked, stretching his legs. "They don't have anything to do with this." He looked over at Gaara. "All that matters now is Chuunin."


Tenzo stepped into the center of the arena and held a hand up, silencing the crowd. "Ladies and Gentlemen! I am Tenzo, proctor of the third exams! I would like to welcome you all to the final stage of the Chuunin Exams!" The crowd met him with a roar of applause, and the Genin of Team 7 smirked. This was their time.
 

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Chapter 13: The Burning Leaf

The Hidden Leaf Coliseum was packed full of excited patrons eager to see some action. To the general public, a ninja fight was a sort of spectacle. The flashy techniques awed children and adults alike, and many gamblers were drawn to the intense battles to maybe make some money. Even nobles attended these exams, to study which villages were the strongest, and which would give the best business.


The Hokage oversaw it all from his special suite high above the stadium. Since three villages had teams in the finals, a rare feat indeed, three kages were in attendance. There was of course Hiruzen Sarutobi, Third Hokage of the Leaf, the Fourth Kazekage of the Sand, and Yagura, Fourth Mizukage of the Mist. Each kage had two guards flanking them, and there were plenty of ANBU hidden close to the Hokage. Behind the Kazekage were Sasori of the Red Sand, and Baki the Silent Blade. Behind the Mizukage were Zabuza and Kisame Hoshigaki, another member of the Seven Ninja Swordsmen.

Down on the field, Tenzo had just explained the rules.

"All combatants not participating in this fight should report to the viewing box." Tenzo ordered, pointing at a room-sized cut out in the stone wall. Naruto noticed a doorway under it, and he walked towards it, with the rest following him. When they got into the room, Naruto immediately went to the guard rail to have a good view of the fight. Sasuke leaned against the rail next to him.


"You think he'll win?" The Uchiha asked.


"I dunno. That girl is the daughter of the Kazekage. I would expect her to be strong. We don't know how she fights, although that giant fan on her back kinda gives it away." Sasuke nodded.


"He probably already has a plan."


Naruto grinned at that, "Of course he does."


XxX

As Shikamaru approached the center of the field, he lazily analyzed his opponent.


'The giant battle fan tells me she's a long range wind user. Talk about a mismatch. Sometimes, I wish I was still in that damn classroom.' As they met in the center, he noticed that she seemed confident.


"Alright pipsqueak, let's get this over with already." Shikamaru's eyebrow rose. Extremely confident, apparently.


"You shouldn't underestimate your opponent." Temari gave the boy an odd look before bursting out laughing.


"Are you giving me advice? How old are you? Eight? Why should I listen to you?" Shikamaru glanced up to the viewbox.


"Huh, that's funny. You seem to take orders from him just fine." Behind Shikamaru's stoic façade, he was laughing in his head. Temari's eyes narrowed and she snatched her fan off of her back and slammed it on the ground.


"That's it. I was gonna go easy on you, but now I can't wait to see your body splattered across the ground." Shikamaru took a step back and widened his eyes.


"You're a little extreme aren't you? Alright then. Proctor, start the match." Tenzo gave Shikamaru a look before clearing his throat.


"The first match of the Chuunin Exams between Shikamaru Nara of the Leaf and Temari of the Sand will now begin! On my mark." He took a breath. "Begin!" Temari swung her fan in an arc and shot a blast of wind at Shikamamru as it unfurled. The surprised Genin barely had time to dive out of the way, leaving a tiny trail of blood from his ankle. He rolled and started running as she continued to send wave after wave of wind at him, giving him no time to retaliate. Finally, one of the blasts hit him, and he was chopped into pieces, only for a log to take his place. Temari looked around the arena but didn't see him, so she turned her attention to the only cover in the area. Behind the tree Shikamaru was panting.


"This is ridiculous. I can't even get near her." He sighed and then took a deep breath as he felt something impact against the tree. He ignored it as he let his mind focus on forming a plan. A few seconds later his eyes opened and he took another deep breath. "I really hope this works." He broke out in a run from behind the tree as Temari started her attack again. He zigzagged through the arena as he slowly made his way towards Temari, evading the wind as best as he could. He jumped and twisted through them, but after jumping over one, he landed on a rock and stumbled, giving Temari the opening she needed. He heard her grunt as she launched an especially powerful blast straight at him, and he brought his hands together in desperation. Tendrils of shadow whipped up around him and spun a barrier around him, which easily protected him from the blast. He regained his balance and jumped at her with his fist cocked back, and she brought her fan up in defense, but that was what he was counting on. His hand charged with blue electricity as he punched an incomplete Chidori through her fan and stopping an inch from her face. He quickly pulled his hand out before she could break it off and jumped backwards, landing in a crouch. She threw her fan away in rage and pulled a short blade from a hidden sheathe on her leg before charging at Shikamaru. He evaded her wild slashes easily, but he left openings to other kinds of attacks, and she kicked him away with a shout of satisfaction. Shikamaru rolled over and groaned.


"Time to break out the new stuff…"


Flashback


"Genjutsu huh? I was expecting that from Sasuke, not you." Shikamaru sighed.


"Yea yea. I just figure it fits my role. You and I both know I'll never be like those two." Kakashi cocked his head at his student's dismissal.


"What do you mean?" He asked curiously. The Nara shrugged.


"They've both been blessed with this amazing natural talent that no one can match. Not only that, but they use each other as stepping stools, so there's no limit to how strong they can get. The drive they have is unreal." Kakashi nodded at that.


"That is true, but couldn't you do the same?" Shikamaru cracked a smile.


"I'm not really the competitive type." Kakashi rolled his eye.


"Right. Well, then let's get to that Genjutsu."


End Flashback


He pushed himself up and started to flash through hand signs as Temari ran at him again. He finished quickly and something that could only be described as a blob of a shadow rose in front of him. Temari stopped in her tracks and started to stare at the shadow as it started to sway and swirl. She slowly started to walked toward it and she reached her hand out when suddenly everything snapped back into focus, and she felt cold steel on her neck.


"Yield." She realized quickly that she couldn't move at all when her head, as if controlled by someone else, looked down. She saw her shadow and Shikamaru's shadows were connected. "Shadow Possession Technique. Pretty weird right?" She looked at the proctor out of the corner of her eye and sighed in defeat.


"I yield."


"This battle has been decided. The winner is Shikamaru Nara!"


Shikamaru dropped to the ground next to Temari. She looked at him strangely, and he just smirked. "You bought my bluff." Her eyes widened. "I'm out of chakra." He lied down, waiting for the medics to come and take him off the field. Temari stared at him with a mixture of shock, disappointment, and admiration.


'He controlled the battle the whole time...he knew what was going to happen before it did.' She stood up silently and leaned over the Nara.


"You're smarter than you look." He quirked an eyebrow at her. "I'm not done with you yet. There's something interesting about you." She walked away, leaving a confused Shikamaru on the ground.


"I'm too young to deal with troublesome women."


XxX

"Somehow he won." Sasuke stated as the medics took his teammate off the field.


"What do you think she said to him?" Naruto asked, watching the Sand kunoichi exit the field.


"No idea. You can ask him later." Sasuke started to walk away. "I'm up."


"Good luck." Sasuke waved over his shoulder at Naruto's encouragement. On the field he stared at his opponent. Nanami was a frail, pale-skinned, blonde girl with a scythe strapped to her back. Sasuke thought it odd that such a sweet-looking girl would have such a deadly weapon, but he didn't dare underestimate her. Her outfit was a typical Mist ninja garb, but it seemed too big for her, as the sleeves were much longer than her arms. Her eyes also looked like the eyes of a Hyuuga, although Sasuke knew that would be impossible. The girl took her weapon off her back and twirled it around a few times.


"Are you ready?" Tenzo asked, looking at both Genin. They each nodded. "Begin!"


The girl crouched low and held her scythe out wide, and then she dashed in at Sasuke, appearing in front of him in a second. Sasuke ducked under the slash with wide eyes, marveling at her speed. As he leaned back he jumped and kicked at her face, but somehow her hand caught his ankle. He yelped as she swung him around and chucked him away from her. He landed hard, but he ignored the pain; he needed to get serious. He pushed himself up quickly and made hand signs as he ran at Nanami.


"Fire Style: Rolling Blaze!" Arcs of fire shot out of Sasuke's mouth and rolled towards Nanami.


"Water Style: Water Barrier." A wall of water shot up around the girl, protecting her on all sides from the blazing flames. Steam billowed over the battlefield and Sasuke activated his Sharingan to see through the thick fog.


"Hidden Mist Technique." Sasuke's vision blurred and he realized he could barely see now. His eyes were picking up light everywhere, as if the mist was charged with chakra. He saw faint movement out of his left eye, and it came slow enough that Sasuke could easily block it. As his kunai met her scythe, he saw the outline of her face; her eyes were closed. She was blind then, he realized, and his Sharingan was almost completely useless now. He jumped over another slash, and while in the air he pulled another kunai out and blocked her follow up. Her strikes came from every direction; silent as the mist itself, but Sasuke let his other senses guide him, as well as his instincts, and soon their hidden battle was like a graceful dance. Sasuke could barely get an attack in, as her style was almost flawless, and any errors were covered by her amazing speed. Sasuke cursed as her scythe dug into his leg, breaking his defense. She was winning, and he needed to turn the tables now. He hadn't wanted to unveil his new technique so early, but he didn't really have a choice...


FLASHBACK


"You want to what?" Kakashi asked skeptically.


"I want to make a technique with a change in Chakra Nature and change in Chakra Shape." Sasuke answered firmly.


"You do realize how difficult that is right? The Rasengan is a change in Chakra Shape, but it's incomplete. The Fourth Hokage wanted to add in his Elemental Manipulation to the technique, but even he could not figure out how."


Sasuke stood firmly.
"It doesn't matter. I'll do it. I know I can do it."


Kakashi stared at the boy and sighed.
"Fine, but you need to master your element first." Kakashi's arm sparked with lightning. "By the time I'm done with you you'll be able to control storms."


END FLASHBACK


Now all that hard training would pay off. He jumped back and held both his arms out. They begun to crackle with electricity, and the mist around him began to dissipate because of the heat. Two blades of solid blue lightning extended from Sasuke's arms, and most of the mist was blown away from the power of the technique. His opponent was clearly surprised, judging by her expression. She couldn't see the Lightning Blades, but she could definitely feel them and hear them. She charged back in and started slashing around wildly, hopping around and striking at every angle. Sasuke was able to keep up with her attacks, and his weapons were big enough to give him some leverage this time. He was still on the defensive, but he was slowly creating openings and tiring her out. Sparks flew as his Lightning Blades clashed with her scythe. Their fight was so intense that at this point, the civilians could only see the sparks from their clashes and the faint traces of Sasuke's weapons. Finally they met in the middle, Nanami's scythe tangled in both of Sasuke's blades. They were deadlocked in a power struggle. Sasuke wrenched his arms to the side, flinging the scythe to the side with a loud crack. Nanami's arm hung limply at her side. Sasuke pointed his blade at her. "Yield."


She charged at him, attacking him with a flurry of kicks. She used only her legs, but Sasuke was surprised at the ferocity of the attacks. Not only was she completely ignoring her broken arm, but she was fighting like the battle had just started. Even weaponless, she was still pressing Sasuke. He growled and kicked her in the stomach after blocking a kick, knocking the wind out of her. He then dashed behind her and elbowed her in the back of the head, knocking her out cold. His lightning blades dissipated and he stared down at the girl and then at her weapon ten feet away. It was sticking out of the ground, almost straight up, shimmering in the light. Sasuke turned around and walked out of the arena, not bothering to hear himself announced as the winner.


XxX

"Look at him, walking like he's so cool." Naruto muttered. "He's acting like that was easy." Shikamaru shrugged. After his battle, the medics had taken him to the infirmary, where Shikamaru insisted he was fine, and that he only needed some bandages. They protested vehemently, but Shikamaru told them he'd walk out of there with or without the bandages, so they patched him up.


"I think he's just thinking. Whoever that girl is, she's good. And I'm pretty sure she's blind."


Naruto's head snapped over in surprise. "Blind? How can she be a ninja then?"


"Ninja are supposed to be masters of each of the five senses. She can function just as well, if not better, than you." Naruto and Shikamaru turned around and came face to face with one of Nanami's teammates.


"That's insane...how does she do it?" Naruto asked.


"She is very in tune with the world around her. She can feel nature as if it were a living soul. It's a...gift of hers."


Shikamaru nodded, "That's quite impressive. No wonder she was so skillful."


The Mist ninja nodded, "Yea, she is the strongest of us. Our sensei, Zabuza, is revered in our village, and since we are his students, at least one of us is expected to join the Seven Ninja Swordsmen of the Mist eventually. If it's any of us, it will be Nanami." Tenzo called for the next combatants to come down to the field. "I am being summoned. Until we meet again." The boy turned around, and Naruto's fist clenched.


"You have to surrender."


The Mist ninja stopped in his tracks and turned around.


"What are you-"


Naruto held his hand up, "Please, you really should listen to me. That boy...he's not normal. He'll kill you."


The Mist ninja didn't seem fazed, "I am no coward, nor am I weak. I can handle myself, little boy." Daishi walked away then, to what Naruto suspected was his doom. Sasuke came back to them then, silently leaning against the railing. After a moment he spoke.


"Does that kid have a chance?" The Uchiha asked.


Naruto sighed and said "I hope so."


XxX

It was over in a few minutes. Gaara had not been amused by Daishi's water techniques, and he had crushed him with wave after wave of sand. Even the Jonin in the stadium were in disbelief; they weren't sure they could have survived that either. There were no remains to clean up, for they had been grounded to a powder by Gaara's sand. Finally, Naruto's battle was up. Of course, Naruto was not expecting what happened next.


"I forfeit!" Kankuro had shouted to Tenzo from the balcony. Naruto was perplexed, until he overheard Temari and Kankuro talking.


"...don't want to...die if I fight...too unstable..." Naruto grit his teeth as he listened. They were talking about Gaara, he was sure of it. So his own brother was too scared to even try to communicate with him. Naruto promised he would help Gaara.


Tenzo called for a five minute break, but Gaara appeared in the field in a swirl of sand.


"I will fight now." He stated apathetically.


"Who the hell do you think you are kid? It's not even your turn."


"It's fine." Tenzo looked over to see Naruto standing calmly. "He wants to fight me."


Tenzo looked between the two, and a look of realization dawned on his face. "So he's...?" Naruto nodded, causing Tenzo to twitch. "Don't worry. I won't let anything get out of hand." Naruto didn't acknowledge his last statement. Instead he walked close to Gaara.


"I'm going to help you."


Gaara's eyes narrowed, "The only way you can help me...is to die for me!"


Tenzo jumped back as two giant claws of sand erupted from the ground and flew at Naruto.


"Earth Style: Mud Wall!" A wall of earth rose out of the ground in front of Naruto. The first claw smashed into the wall, the nails punching holes through it and cracking it all over. When the second claw impacted, the wall crumbled and Naruto was buried under the rubble. A crazed smile crossed Gaara's face as he sent a tidal wave of sand at the pile of rubble.


"Sand Tsunami!" The wave of sand fell as the rubble exploded upwards. Naruto jumped up with the rubble and blasted through the towering wave of sand with a Rasengan, roaring at Gaara with fury.


"Rasengan!" He started to fall blisteringly fast, his arm outstretched aimed right at Gaara's head. A barrier of thick sand formed around Gaara just in time, and the Rasengan hit the sand with a boom. Dust flew up everywhere, obscuring the view for the spectators. Sasuke and Shikamaru held their breath as they waited to see their friend again. The dust cleared, and in the center of the stadium, Naruto was down on one knee in front of Gaara, panting heavily. Gaara was in the middle of a small crater created by the force behind Naruto's attack. Gaara seemed to be smiling.


"Yes...this will be so much fun! I can't wait to kill you!" More giant sand claws erupted from the ground, all of them flying at Naruto. The blonde jumped high into the air, avoiding the first two, but the third changed direction quickly and followed him upwards. As the claw threatened to over take him, Naruto thought back to his training, realizing he would have a chance to use what he had learned...


FLASHBACK


Kakashi broke into a fit of laughter. He prided himself on being able to keep his composure in any situation, but sometimes, Naruto just said the damndest things.


"Why are you laughing!" Naruto shouted angrily.


"I'm-I'm sorry. That's just...well no one has ever tried that before. It's been proven that humans can't fly." Kakashi explained.


Naruto scoffed.
"I bet I can do it. Teach me how to control my element, and I promise you I'll succeed."


Kakashi just stared at Naruto. Finally he sighed and hung his head.
"You put a lot of pressure on me as a teacher you know. First Sasuke and his new technique, now you want to make one too? Even Shikamaru asked me to help him create a technique. Do you know how surprised I was when he asked that? I thought he was kidding."


Naruto grinned.
"You can handle it!" Kakashi rolled his eye. "And my father was creating his own techniques when he was young. I can't be better than him if I don't start earlier. And I'd have to live at least as long as Uncle Jiraiya."

Kakashi was shocked and proud when he heard this. To hear a young boy talk about his mortality like that was odd, but Kakashi remembered how he was in his Genin days. But his dedication to his craft was astounding, and his determination to succeed really was limitless.


Kakashi just chuckled.
"Alright kid. Let's figure out how to make you fly."


END FLASHBACK


Naruto relaxed his body and released a pulse of wind chakra from his body, pushing him to the right. The claw had no time to react, and so it flew right by him, and Naruto slapped an exploding tag on it. He dropped back down to the ground, slower than one normally would. He hadn't exactly learned how to fly yet, but he could launch himself high into the air, speed up his movements, and even shift himself midair with his new technique. The claw exploded above Naruto, scattering the sand across the arena. Naruto hadn't even touched the ground before he was in front of Gaara, fist cocked back. No sand could get in between them and Gaara was sent flying backwards, eventually being caught by his sand and averting injury.


XxX

"He just flew didn't he?" Shikamaru asked, staring at the falling sand from the destroyed claw.


"...I can't believe he one upped me."


Shikamaru twisted around. "That's your response!"


Sasuke shrugged. "I'm used to seeing Naruto do ridiculous things. You should be too."


Shikamaru sighed. "But he just flew..."


XxX

"Yes! You are worthy! Come! Let me kill you Naruto Namikaze!" Gaara was cackling maniacally, clearly having lost his mind. Naruto was a little frightened now, not necessarily for his life, but for how far this was going to escalate. Gaara seemed pretty serious...


Suddenly, explosions rocked the stadium, destroying the stone walls. Hundreds of disguised ninja jumped out of the stands, slaughtering any ninja they could get their hands on. Leaf ninja jumped into action, clearly caught by surprise. ANBU response teams appeared out of the shadows, and soon battles raged in the stadium, spreading like a plague across the village. But the invasion of the Leaf had begun. And a war had started.


XxX

Hiruzen Sarutobi jumped out of his seat as a snake bit into the chair he had been sitting in not moments ago. He crashed through the roof of the kage box and landed on the roof of the arena. The Kazekage landed before him.


"To think you would murder a Kage...have you fallen so low Orochimaru!"


Orochimaru chuckled as he removed his disguise. "Why sensei...it is good to see you as well." The Sannin answered sarcastically.


"I take no pleasure in seeing the failure I created. I will correct my mistake. You will die here today my student." With a heavy heart, Hiruzen tore his robes off, exposing his battle armor. He then flashed through hand signs and bit his thumb. "Summoning Technique!" The Hokage slammed his hand on the ground, and large, white haired monkey wearing a Leaf headband appeared next to him. "Enma! We have been invaded! Please go help our forces repel the invaders!"


Enma surveyed the battlefield. "You'll need my help to-"


"I'll be fine! Just go! You're the only one that can deal with his summons!"


Enma stood still for a moment before nodding and jumping away.


Orochimaru chuckled. "You must be underestimating me sensei. I'm far stronger than you are."


Hiruzen grunted. "Don't act so cocky. Let me remind you why your team was called the Sannin." Hiruzen appeared behind Orochimaru, his fist blazing with fire. "Fire Style: Blazing Fist!" His fist punched straight through Orochimaru, instantly destroying the mud clone. Orochimaru rose from the ground and slashed at Hiruzen with his Kusanagi. The blade made contact, but Hiruzen erupted into a plume of fire, scorching Orochimaru's face. The Snake Sannin roared in pain, and Hiruzen capitalized on the opportunity and charged at his student. He pummeled him with wild haymakers and kicks, sending him crashing through the ceiling with an axe kick. "You were the Sannin because I made you the Sannin!"


"Wind Style: Great Breakthrough!" The ceiling exploded upwards, sending Hiruzen along with it. Debris sliced into him as he fell back towards the roof. He righted himself at the last moment and landed in a low crouch.


"Don't try and take the credit sensei. I have learned far more on my own than I ever could have learned here!"


"You've forced my hand Orochimaru! No matter what, I will end your ambition!" They charged at each other, knowing the fate of the Leaf rested on this battle.


XxX

"Wow, that escalated pretty fuckin fast." Kisame noted with a smirk. "Say boss, can we get in on the action? I dunno who these fuckers are, but I was enjoying the exams." Zabuza chuckled.


"You're too eager Kisame. This could be just as entertaining." Yagura rolled his eyes at his bodyguards.


"We will stay neutral for now. Let this play out for a bit." His bodyguards nodded. "But if the Sand is behind this, they will pay for Daishi."


XxX

Naruto looked around as the attack commenced. He couldn't believe his village was being attacked. But he was too preoccupied to do anything about it.


"Yes! Look at all of your dying comrades! You will join them!" Sand started to slither up Gaara's body, and it formed a thick armor around him. A single tail formed on his back, his hands transformed into claws, and he had half of a raccoon-like mask on his face.


"What the..." Naruto barely had time to study Gaara's new form as his giant claw of sand came crashing down. Naruto rolled out of the way, but he was swiped away by the other claw. Gaara was so fast now Naruto could only see the large claws flailing around him. He felt helpless as he was relentlessly battered by Gaara's giant arms, each strike breaking at least one bone. Gaara on the other hand was high on adrenaline and bloodlust, laughing crazily with every blow. Naruto wasn't sure he could take much more, but then he heard the sound of chirping birds, and the attacks stopped. He collapsed to the ground, his body numb from the beating.


"I'll kill you for interfering! I'll make your blood stain the earth!" Naruto looked up to see Sasuke jump over a sand claw and slice it off with a Chidori. He then looked over to see Shikamaru yelling something at him, but he couldn't hear. He slowly got up, ignoring Shikamaru's prodding.


"I'm fine." He answered, a newfound strength rushing through him. "We can beat him." He looked at Shikamaru, who had a baffled expression on his face. The Nara just shook his head and together they charged at Gaara.
 

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Chapter 14: Victory in Defeat

Kakashi was furious. He ruthlessly slaughtered any of the unidentified invaders that got in his way, the blood of his victims painting his attire. He had seen Orochimaru and the Hokage fighting on top of the arena, and he wanted nothing more than to rip the Sannin's head off of his body. Not only had the snake almost killed Kakashi's Genin charges, but now he was leading an invasion against the Leaf. Every cell in Kakashi's body was calling for Orochimaru's death, and not even an army would stop him from getting the Sannin's head.


XxX

Naruto and Shikamaru charged forward, only to be sent tumbling backwards by Sasuke's body. They collectively groaned as Sasuke rolled off of them.


"You are weak Naruto Namikaze! Fight me with your full power! I want to feel alive!" Team 7 collected themselves and stood up.


"Damn he's strong..." Sasuke murmured, rubbing his side.


"Naruto...can you use the fox's power?" Shikamaru asked quickly.


Naruto's head snapped over to Shikamaru with wide eyes. "What? Why would I-"


Shikamaru interrupted him, "This kid is a Jinchuriki too. He's obviously using his Tailed Beast's power. The only thing that can compete with a Tailed Beast is another Tailed Beast."


"There is no time for talk! There is only time to kill!" Gaara sent a barrage of Sand bullets at Team 7, forcing them to scatter. "Stop running!" A grin full of insanity spread across Gaara's face. "If you won't come to me, I'll have to make you!" He turned around then, and with a great leap he disappeared over the crumbling arena wall.


"Where's he going?" Sasuke shouted.


"He's going to wreak havoc in the village. It's like he said, he's making us come to him." Shikamaru explained. He turned to Naruto. "Can you do it?" The blonde sighed and looked down.


"I don't know how." He said dejectedly.


"What about in the Forest of Death? You used it there right? So try and remember what that felt like." Naruto looked up at his friend. Shikamaru nodded at him, and Sasuke did the same. The blonde stood up straight and closed his eyes, thinking back to the day in the forest. He remembered the rage and fury he felt when Orochimaru had branded Sasuke with the Curse Seal. He remembered seeing crimson and he remembered the murderous thoughts that had rampaged through his mind. He remembered seeing his Uncle's blood on his hand. Then he thought of Gaara, and the threat he posed to the village. The blood-thirsty maniac was on the loose, and Naruto had to stop him.


'Kill...'


Red chakra started to seep out of Naruto's body, causing Sasuke and Shikamaru to take a step back. The chakra formed into a sort of armor, and as it fully formed, there was no mistaking the shape of a fox. The pointed ears, the claw like hands and the single, fiery tail waving behind Naruto; Shikamaru had no doubt what was happening. Naruto let out a thunderous roar before vaulting over the wall after Gaara. Sasuke and Shikamaru looked at each other, before nodding and chasing after their teammate.

XxX

Hiruzen's eyes went wide as he dodged one of Orochimaru's snakes. He felt a massive explosion of chakra from the arena, and he had recognized it in an instant. How could he not have, when he had faced that vile chakra face to face so many years ago. Not just him, but so many valiant Leaf warriors along with him. The chakra of the Nine-Tailed Fox was burned into the memory of everyone who survived that day. Hiruzen could only hope that Naruto was mostly in control, for this was the worst possible time for a Jinchuriki to go on a rampage, let alone two. But there was nothing he could do at the moment, because his former student was just as much of a threat.


"Fire Style: Flame Dragon Missile Barrage!" Hiruzen inhaled a great amount of oxygen, before exhaling a giant stream of fire that split into five blazing dragons. They twisted and whirled through the air, going straight for Orochimaru.


"Summoning Technique: Rashoman!" A giant, demonic looking gate sprang out of the ground in front of the Sannin just in time to intercept the fire attack. The Rashoman caved in from the impact, but held firm in the end.


"My my Sensei, that was quite a powerful attack. You really are going to kill me this time. Well, you'll try."


Hiruzen scoffed, "It's overconfidence like that that will get you killed Orochimaru!" The old Hokage shouted back.


"Overconfidence? I've already won this battle Sensei. In fact, I think I'll show you why." Orochimaru flashed through hand seals and slammed both hands onto the ground. "Summoning Technique: Impure World Reincarnation!"


Hiruzen's eyes widened, "This technique...Sensei..." Two coffins rose out of the ground beside Orochimaru.


"Yes this is the technique the Second Hokage created. But I have perfected it. Beg for your life Sensei." The coffin doors dropped, and Hiruzen gasped.

"No..."


A foot stepped out of each coffin, and the zombie-like figures emerged. "Huh...how am I alive? Sensei, is that you?" The first man asked.


"Well I'll be damned. This sure as hell ain't heaven. And why are you here Sensei? Don't tell me you croaked too." The second man rambled.


Hiruzen growled, "Orochimaru! You go too far!" Orochimaru cackled, and both of the resurrected looked back at him.


"Orochimaru...you bastard!" The second one spat in disgust.


"Jiraiya...is that anyway to greet me. I've been grieving for you, my old teammate."


Jiraiya snarled, "What have you done?" He looked over at the other summon. "Sakumo...is that you?"


"It is my old friend. It is. So this is Orochimaru's doing? And here I thought this might be another one of your pranks."


Jiraiya laughed hollowly, "If only." Jiraiya turned to Hiruzen. "So what now?" Orochimaru stepped forward.


"Now I get to watch as you two kill the Hokage. Quite an interesting turn of fate no?" He approached the two and slapped seal tags on the back of their necks, the tags glowing and then disintegrating. "Normally, I would kill their personalities and turn them into mindless killing machines, but I think leaving their souls intact would be much more agonizing for you Sensei." Jiraiya and Sakumo's skin turned from pale to normal, and their bodies seemed to brim with vitality. "Now then...shall we begin?" Jiraiya and Sakumo charged in at Hiruzen, but both of them were sent flying away. Hiruzen was surprised to see Zabuza and Kakashi standing next to him.


"What are you doing?" He asked quietly.


"I cannot stand by and watch as that monster uses my father's soul like a puppet! He has to die!" Kakashi exclaimed passionately.


"I'm just here for the challenge. My leader is going after the other Jinchuriki." Hiruzen nodded.


"Your aid is appreciated." Orochimaru growled at the turn of events.


"It doesn't matter how many of you there are. I'll still take your life Sensei. Now come!"


XxX

Yagura followed the two Jinchuriki into the village after they left, deciding he could be more useful here than against Orochimaru. He saw Naruto land in front of Gaara, who was holding a woman in his giant claw. For now, Yagura decided he would observe, because a third Jinchuriki would only make things worse at this point.


XxX

'Kill Gaara...kill Gaara...'
The whispers echoed through Naruto's head, filling him with bloodlust and murderous desire. But he wasn't going crazy. His target was Gaara, and Naruto's only desire was to kill Gaara. Finally, his heightened senses picked up on Gaara's scent, and he rushed to the source. He found his target in the middle of the street, a young civilian woman gripped between his giant claws. Gaara looked over at Naruto and howled in glee.


"Yes! Now you are using your power! Feel the bloodlust! Fight me to the death!"


Naruto roared in fury and dashed at Gaara. He swung his arm at Gaara, and the red chakra claw around his arm extended, slamming into Gaara. The woman fell from Gaara's arm and scrambled away in fear. Gaara clasped his hands together and swung them around before bringing them down to crush Naruto like a nail under a hammer. Naruto held his arms out and his claws extended to catch the deadly attack, and he threw Gaara over his head. Gaara crashed through a shop, but he quickly jumped out and swung at Naruto. Naruto was sent sliding across the ground, but the blonde easily recovered. Naruto's chakra claws dug into the earth and came out with a huge chunk of earth in each hand. He hurled them both at Gaara, who jumped over the first and smashed the other one aside, sending it into another building. Hundreds of tiny clumps of sand rose from the ground around Gaara.


"Sand Shuriken!" The clumps of sand formed into shuriken, and they shot at Naruto, slicing into him in every part of his body. He didn't seem to notice however, or he just didn't care, and he let out a feral roar as a pulse of red chakra exploded from him, knocking the rest of the projectiles away. Gaara jumped into the air and sucked in a large breath.

"Wind Style: Wind Bullet!" He exhaled a compacted blast of wind at Naruto, who just stared at the attack. It collided with him, and a large crater formed around Naruto. Naruto was forced to his knees by the pressure of the attack, but other than that it was as if he never felt it. With a roar he propelled himself off the ground, shooting off like a rocket at Gaara. He flung his chakra claw at Gaara, smashing the Sand ninja down towards the ground. As Gaara crashed into the ground, Sasuke and Shikamaru arrived on the scene.

"Holy..."


"Shit..." The battleground was a complete mess; rubble lined the streets, and buildings were half destroyed. There wasn't even a road anymore.


"Are we even gonna be of any use here?" Shikamaru asked, marveling at the damage to the street. "This fight is on a-whole-nother level Sasuke." The Uchiha grit his teeth.


"I'm not just gonna sit here while Naruto takes on a Jinchuriki by himself. We have to do something." Shikamaru sighed and looked around.


"I don't think we can do anything. Do you think you can keep up with them?" Shikamaru asked, pointing at the raging battle going on in front of them. Naruto and Gaara were pummeling each other with wild attacks, literally shaking the earth with each clash.


"No..." Sasuke whispered frustratingly.


"Then just be patient. We'll figure something out." Sasuke nodded reluctantly. The inhuman-paced battle continued around the two Genin as they tried to follow the Jinchuriki brawl. Finally, it seemed that even they needed a breather, and so the fighting ceased. Naruto seemed completely feral, having only one focus: Gaara. The red-head seemed to be enjoying himself, if the crazy smile on his face was anything to go by.


"I feel so alive! Hahaha yes! Now we shall really see if you are strong Naruto Namikaze! I will bring my wrath down upon you!" The Sand ninja brought his claws together. "False Sleep Technique!" Gaara's head drooped down, and his breathing calmed.


"Is he...asleep?" Shikamaru asked, clearly confused. Sasuke had no time to respond however, as a giant pillar of sand erupted from the ground around Gaara. A high pitched, screeching laughter echoed through the village.


"Gyahaha! I'm free! Wheeee!" The sand shaped into the form of a giant raccoon, and the One-Tail was released into the world again.


"Are you kidding me..." Shikamaru murmured angrily. "That's an actual Tailed-Beast! We are so dead." Sasuke cracked his knuckles.


"That's it. Naruto needs our help. Useful or no I'm going." Sasuke jumped away and into the battle, while Shikamaru stared at the One-Tail in awe.


"How troublesome." He sighed and followed after Sasuke, wracking his brain for a way to live through this.


XxX

Yagura was shocked that the Shukaku was let out so easily, and was about to step in when he realized that it still wouldn't make a difference. This was not the place to unleash his Jinchuriki power, something that he did not have full control over yet either. He cursed as he was forced to sit out lest they destroy the entire village, and he only hoped that this boy would be strong enough.


XxX

As the battle between the Jinchuriki raged on, Shikamaru noticed that even with the monumental difference in size, Naruto seemed to be doing significant damage to Shukaku. But it still wasn't enough.


'He needs to control himself if we're going to beat this thing.'
Shikamaru thought, watching his friend slice Shukaku's arm off with his chakra claw. The beast howled in pain before smacking Naruto through a few buildings in retaliation. Sasuke shot a powerful Grand Fireball at the beast, but it seemed to do nothing more than tickle Shukaku. Naruto shot like a bullet from where he had landed and punched a hole straight through Shukaku's chest, which he definitely felt.


"You little bastard! That hurt!" Shukaku screeched angrily, bashing Naruto to the ground with his tail, and repeatedly smashing the blonde's body deeper into the earth. Another burst of red chakra erupted from Naruto, throwing the tail away giving him time to escape. Shikamaru watched from afar, knowing there was nothing he could do besides think of a plan. He looked at Shukaku's head and noticed that half of Gaara's body was protruding from the beast's scalp. He seemed to be sleeping.


"So he is asleep...Sasuke! I think I know what to do!" Sasuke jumped away from the battle and landed next to Shikamaru.


"You were right. We're completely useless."


"Forget about that. Look up there." Sasuke looked up at Shukaku's head and noticed the red-head.


"What is he doing? He's not moving at all."


"My guess is sleeping. And I bet you if we wake him up we can stop his rampage."


Sasuke stared up at Gaara, "How do we wake him up?"


Shikamaru sighed, "I don't know. This would be easier if Naruto could control himself. We'll just have to rely on him to distract the damn thing. Do you have exploding tags?" Sasuke nodded. "Good. That's the only thing in our arsenal that might hurt that thing."


"Do you have a plan?" Sasuke asked.


"Run up there a punch him in the head." Sasuke chuckled.


"Fine with me. Let's go." Shikamaru and Sasuke ran at the towering figure, running up his legs using their chakra. Tiny tendrils of sand slithered out of Shukaku's skin in an attempt to stop the two Genin, whipping at them and trying to grab them. Sasuke flashed through hand seals and his lightning blades sprung from his hands. He slashed and hacked his way through the tendrils as he made his way up Shukaku's body. Shikamaru weaved through every tendril as he wrapped three exploding tags around a kunai.


"Jump!" At Shikamaru's command, Sasuke leapt straight up as the Nara flung his kunai at the creature's knee. It exploded on contact, and the combined force of the three tags blew Shukaku's knee off. He roared in pain as he crashed to the ground, unable to keep his balance. Naruto capitalized on this, launching a barrage of attacks at the beast. Sasuke and Shikamaru wasted no time in running to the head, where Gaara lie unconscious. As they closed in, a dome of sand started to form around Gaara in an attempt to protect him. Sasuke leapt forward, cleaving the dome into pieces with a cross slash, and Shikamaru followed with a vicious kick to Gaara's head. There was a resounding crack, and Shukaku screamed in fury.


"No! How can three children defeat me? Damn you! I will kill you all!" The body started to crumble until there was nothing more than a large pile of sand. Gaara stood slowly; now back to his normal form. He looked at the members of Team 7 with something akin to fear on his face.


"No...how could...how could I have lost?" Naruto growled and crouched as if ready to pounce. "Stay back! I will not let you erase my existence!" He screamed defiantly and pillars of sand erupted around him. Sasuke and Shikamaru took a step back, but Naruto dashed forward, charging a Rasengan in his hand. The Rasengan was a crimson red, and it seemed to almost drip with malevolent chakra. The pillars of sand twisted around each other and surged toward Naruto, forming into a large, ornate-looking spear. Naruto's attack clashed with the spear, and a brilliant flash of red and yellow exploded over the area, sending shockwaves of red and yellow chakra in every direction. Sasuke and Shikamaru were blown away by the intense explosion, even though they were farther away. When the dust finally cleared, there was a larger crater wider than the street. Any building within thirty feet of the explosion was no more than a pile of rubble now. The area was destroyed. Naruto lay on the ground at the center, his eyes focused on the clouds. The chakra from the fox was gone now, and Naruto felt like someone had taken a sledgehammer to every part of his body. He was aware of what had just happened; he saw every second of it. But he hadn't been in control for a moment of it. All he remembered were the frenzied, chaotic, sinister screams that had reverberated through his head.


'KILL KILL KILL KILL!'


It had become his mantra, his one purpose for living. To kill. It was as if he didn't have a conscious...just instinct. The instinct of a killer. He would have shuddered if he could, but he was still in way to much pain to move. He heard movement to his left, and he willed himself to tilt his head slightly. He could just see Gaara out of his peripherals. He too seemed to be paralyzed with pain. Naruto let out a soft sigh.


"Is that what it's like...for you? To hear screams of murder and death?" Naruto asked quietly.


"...Yes." Gaara answered after a moment. "He never stops...not until now."


"I'm sorry. I understand your pain. I…didn't know who I was." Naruto stated sympathetically.


"I've never known who I am. My existence is to kill. I am death in human form. Evil in spirit and mind." Gaara admitted hollowly. "Hated by all and loved by none."


"I don't hate you." Gaara's eyes widened. "I couldn't hate you. You are the same as me, brother. We are the power of the sacrifice."


"You..." Gaara was at a loss for words.


"Let's be friends Gaara. I'll help you. And I know others will too. Your brother and sister. They may be scared of you, but they don't hate you." Naruto said softly. Gaara looked at Naruto with wide eyes. A tear of blood dripped from his eye.


"Naruto Namikaze...we will be...friends." Naruto smiled.


"That's good." Naruto heard the sound of footsteps.


"Are you okay?" Shikamaru asked, appearing above him. His clothes were charred, and ash covered his body. Sasuke was in a similar state.


"I'm great. Never better. I can't move though."


Shikamaru sighed, "We'll carry you. We're going back to the arena."


Naruto's eyes widened as Shikamaru lifted him and wrapped his arm around his shoulder, "Gramps..." They were about to jump when Naruto stopped them. "Wait! Take him too!"


Sasuke looked at him in shock, "Are you serious?"


"Just do it! It's not his fault." Sasuke looked at Shikamaru, who just shrugged. With a sigh, Sasuke hoisted Gaara up, and the four of them made their way to the arena as fast as they could.


XxX

Orochimaru growled at his former sensei. He had not expected Hiruzen to have been in such good shape in his old age. He was still a shadow of his former self, but Orochimaru knew he wouldn't have been able to take on the God of Shinobi in his heyday. The traitorous Sannin had been counting on Hiruzen's skills to be dull, but it seemed that was not the case. And to make it worse two other Kage level ninja had stepped in, which was a problem even with his resurrected summons.


"Watch out Sensei!" Orochimaru scowled at Jiraiya's warning. It had been a mistake to keep Jiraiya and Sakumo's personalities intact as well. They had been a hindrance almost as much as a boon. Hiruzen easily dodged the Earth Dragon Missile thanks to Jiraiya's warning. Orochimaru was furious. He needed to end this now.


"That's it!" He shouted angrily. "I'm tired of this game! I will show you my true form!" Orochimaru's jaw seemed to unhinge itself, and it literally dropped to the ground. A large, white-scaled snake jumped out at Hiruzen. He jumped over it as it crashed through the roof where he had stood.


"You are no longer human my student. You are an abomination..." He turned to see Sakumo flying at him, white chakra saber poised to kill. Kakashi intercepted him at the last moment with his own white chakra saber, and kicked him down to the roof. Kakashi then flashed through hand seals and his hand erupted with lightning.


"Raikiri!" He sped towards his father through the air, Raikiri in one hand white chakra saber in the other. Sakumo leapt off the roof with blistering speed. He formed a Wind Blade in one hand and brandished his own blade in the other, clashing with Kakashi mid-air. Kakashi was knocked backwards and he fell to the roof with a thud. Sakumo begun a string of hand seals, but was forced to stop when Zabuza appeared in front of him. He blocked his slash with his blade and knocked him back down to the roof. He landed next to Jiraiya, and both of them charged at Zabuza. He clipped his sword on his back and blocked each of their attacks and engaged them in a Taijutsu battle. He easily kept up with the two of them, in strength and speed, something that impressed both of them. Jiraiya and Sakumo jumped back and both started forming hand signs.


"Fire Style: Flame Dragon Missile!"


"Wind Style: Heavenly Gale!"


Jiraiya spewed a large fire dragon from his mouth, while Sakumo exhaled a stream of sparkling wind. The flames converged with the wind, and they superheated, turning a silvery-white. The dragon burned with the intensity of the sun as it sped towards Zabuza. He started to blur through hand signs.


"Water Style: Super Water Colliding Wave!" Zabuza spat out an unreal amount of water that rushed towards the flaming dragon. The dragon left a trail of steam as it tore through the wave, finally dissipating only a foot from the Mist ninja. Kakashi dashed past Zabuza, a streak of white light shining behind him. He kicked Jiraiya away and slashed at his father, who barely leaned under the blow. The roof started to rumble, and Orochimaru crashed through the roof from behind Sakumo, diving down at Hiruzen, who had been going through a long string of hand seals. Hiruzen cursed, and dove out of the way. He appeared behind Sakumo with the Body Flicker Technique and smacked him away with a spinning kick. He hopped next to Kakashi.


"I need you to hold them off. I can get rid of those...imposters, but only if I have time!" Kakashi nodded and turned around.


"They're not imposters...that... is my father."


Hiruzen sighed, "I'm sorry Kakashi. For what happens now, and what happens after this." Kakashi's eyes widened, and the Hokage nodded.


"I will protect you with my life, Lord Hokage."


Hiruzen smiled, "You don't have to call me that anymore."


Kakashi's hands lit up with a Raikiri in each, "Thank you, Lord Hiruzen."


Kakashi jumped into the air as Orochimaru dove at him. As they came together, Kakashi spun his body around and slashed the giant snake across the eyes. They both fell to the roof, but Kakashi jumped up again over Orochimaru's head. The Snake Sannin was blind to his final moments. Kakashi dropped down straight on Orochimaru's head and punched both of his Raikiri through his skull. He landed on his head and slashed his hands outward, flaying the Sannin's head. He ripped his blood soaked hands out of the skull and looked over at Hiruzen, who had two Shadow Clones next to him. He completed a long string of hand seals with a tired look on his face.


"Sealing Technique: Dead Demon Consuming Seal!" Kakashi's eyes widened. The two Shadow Clones jumped over to Jiraiya and Sakumo and took hold of them.


"It looks like our time is up." Jiraiya stated, smiling at Hiruzen. "Too bad it's come to this Sensei."


Hiruzen nodded wearily, "Yes Jiraiya, I'm truly sorry for what Orochimaru had done to us. It is my fault as his teacher, and I will bear the burden."


"Don't blame yourself Sensei. He did it to himself. We never blamed you. Tsunade acted like she did, but she blamed everything. I would have let him go too."


Hiruzen chuckled, "Thank you Jiraiya. You know, I always did say you two would be the death of me." The bodies of Jiraiya and Sakumo started to lose their color.


"I'm sorry for all the trouble Lord Hokage. This is like nothing I could have imagined." Sakumo stated grimly.


"It's over now Sakumo. We can all have peace at last." Hiruzen replied. Kakashi walked up to his father as the Death God started to extract his soul. At the same time, Naruto, Sasuke and Shikamaru landed on the roof. Naruto, despite his injuries, ran up to Jiraiya.


"Uncle Jiraiya!" He collapsed in front of him looking up at him with wide eyes. "What..."


"Stand up, boy. Let me see how you've grown." Naruto pushed himself up and stared at Jiraiya. Jiraiya smiled, "You look just like him...it was good to see you again kid." Jiraiya tousled his hair and his arm started to crumble. Sakumo looked at Kakashi.


"There is much I wish I could say to you son...but I'm out of time."


Kakashi shook his head, "It's fine. I just want you to know, that I...what you did, was the right thing to do."


Sakumo smiled, "I'm grateful to hear that. I'm just so sorry for leaving you on your own. But you turned out okay, huh?"


Jiraiya and Sakumo's bodies crumbled as their souls were sealed. Hiruzen smiled. "I shall see you soon boys."


The Death God sealed Hiruzen's soul, and his body fell over, lifeless. Kakashi walked over to him, knelt down, and shut his eyelids. He stood and turned to the Zabuza.


"Thank you for helping. Your actions today will not be forgotten." Zabuza nodded.


"Just following orders. If it means anything, he died a fitting death for a Kage."


Kakashi looked down at the Hokage and nodded solemnly. "Yes, but there will be time to grieve later. First, we clear these vermin out of my village." Zabuza nodded as a team of ANBU appeared on the roof.


"Captain Kakashi!" One of the men shouted as he ran up to him. "Lord Hokage..." He murmured, seeing Hiruzen's body. Kakashi sighed.


"He did it for the village. Tell me how are we faring?" Tenzo stared at the Hokage's body for a moment before snapping to attention.


"The invasion has failed. By some miracle we won. Prisoners are being sent to ANBU headquarters now. We'll know everything by tonight. Teams Gamma and Beta along with five medic teams are sweeping the village now, looking for injured and KIA."


Kakashi nodded, "Good work. We have a long day ahead of us, so you better be ready."


Tenzo saluted, and Kakashi returned the gesture. The village may have been damaged, but the Will of Fire was burning brighter than ever before.
 

noheartx

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Chapter 15: Regrowth

A sea of black covered the streets of the Leaf Village. Everyone was dressed in ceremonial black robes, and everyone was in attendance of the funeral. On top of the Hokage Mansion were close friends and family of all the deceased, grieving for their loved ones. Pictures of all of the Leaf ninja who had lost their lives were blazoned for all to see, and great, beautiful flower arrangements of all types of colors decorated the memorial. The casket of the Third Hokage stood in the center of the memorial, with a large picture of him leaned up against his casket. His old teammates stood next to the coffin with somber expressions, nodding at everyone in the funeral procession. Women wept and men sighed as they paid their respects, and every ninja in the village vowed to carry on for the fallen; to keep the Will of Fire, the legacy of the Third Hokage, burning brightly. Team 7 stood silently in the front, a stoic expression on each of their faces. They were mourning now, but in the back of their minds they thought of rebuilding the Leaf. Bringing the Leaf back to its former glory would be tough, but everyone in the village was determined to do it.


Kakashi looked up into the sky as a bolt of lightning streaked across the sky. Thunder boomed through the village, and drops of rain fell on the funeral. The cold rain was welcomed by the mourners; it was numbingly cold. Numb was a nice feeling, compared to sadness.


Soon, people started to trudge away, probably to go home and find some peace. It would be hard to find on a day like this, but reflection leads to discovery, and anything was possible. Kakashi looked down at his charges and tousled Sasuke and Shikamaru's hair.


"I'm proud of you three." They looked at the ground. "Don't let this get to you. The Hokage did this for the village. He died with honor." Sasuke looked up.


"What happens now?" The other two looked up as well, and all three stared at Kakashi helplessly.


"Now...we rebuild. Lots of changes are coming boys. Will you have my back in the days to come?" Their expressions shifted to confusion.


"Of course," Shikamaru answered. "What kind of question is that?" Kakashi smiled.


"Good. I have things to do. We'll meet up tomorrow at the usual time." He turned away and shoved his hands in his pockets, walking away as if it were a casual day.


"What was that all about?" Naruto asked cluelessly.


"I don't know, but whatever it is, it's something big. He seems...nervous." Shikamaru guessed, squinting his eyes in concentration.


"I never thought Kakashi the type of guy to get cold feet." Sasuke replied. "If he really is nervous, then this is serious." Shikamaru sighed and shrugged.


"We'll find out sooner or later."


XxX

"I'm sure you all know why we have called this meeting." The atmosphere of the room as tense and serious. This was the first step in rebuilding the village, and it was a damn big one. Homura Mitokado, Koharu Utatane, and Danzo Shimura sat in a round vestibule, representing the leadership of the Leaf. Next to them in a similar vestibule sat the Fire Lord and his closest advisor. In front of them were two columns of seats; one full of prominent Leaf ninja and Clan Heads, the other full of Lords, Military Heroes, and Monk Warriors. "With the death of Hiruzen Sarutobi, another leader must be chosen to take up the mantle of Hokage. Hiruzen did not leave any mention of a successor, so this will have to be done the democratic way. Nominations of any village Jonin will be taken, and a second will put them on the ballot. The floor is open." Homura sat down after the long explanation, and immediately Inoichi Yamanaka stood up.


"This isn't a nomination per se...but what about Tsunade Senju?"


"Tsunade Senju no longer wishes to be associated with the Leaf. With Jiraiya and Hiruzen dead, her last two connections to the village are gone." Danzo replied calmly but spitefully. "She would never take up the job." Inoichi sat down, and a red haired man stood.


"I would like to nominate Danzo Shimura." Kakashi rolled his eyes. Of course Danzo would plant a Root Agent in the meeting. He'd be dumb not to. But he needed a second vote, and Kakashi hoped no one else would back him.


"I second that nomination." Hiashi Hyuuga calmly stated. Kakashi cursed under his breath. This was turning out exactly how Hiruzen predicted. He sighed put his hand in his pocket.


"Danzo has been nominated. We shall continue with the nominations." The Fire Lord raised his hand for attention.


"What about Asuma Sarutobi, Hiruzen's son?" Asuma, who was at the meeting, started coughing.


"Me, Your Excellency?" He asked, standing up.

"Why not? You served as my father's guardian long ago, and you are one of the only two still alive today. That sash around your waist is more than something to wipe your hands on." Asuma bowed.

"Thank you Your Excellency. I am honored." Shikaku Nara stood.


"I second that nomination."


"Asuma Sarutobi is on the ballot." There was a loud bang, and everyone's head turned to Danzo, who had just smacked his cane against the ground.


"Another Sarutobi will only mean destruction for the Leaf Village! We cannot stay on the path of benevolence, or we will be overtaken by the strong." He stood. "We are very vulnerable at this point in time, and we must appear to be just as strong. We cannot do that under the guidance of a Sarutobi!" The elders seemed to agree with them, and Kakashi sighed. It was time to act.


"Excuse me. I have something I would like to say." Everyone turned to Kakashi. "The Hokage suspected many things in his final days, and he entrusted me with solving these mysteries. And as the Fifth Hokage, I will honor his request."
Everyone seemed stunned by his declaration, and Danzo snarled.


"Who named you Hokage whelp?" Kakashi whipped a scroll out of his pocket and opened it.


"This is the Last Will and Testament of Hiruzen Sarutobi." Danzo's eyes widened. "In it, he names a successor to his mantle. Can you guess who it is Cyclops?" Danzo's face erupted into fury.


"Insolent boy...your disrespect will not be tolerated." Kakashi's eyes narrowed.


"The feeling is mutual Danzo." Koharu stood up.


"This is quite unexpected. Tell us Kakashi, why did you not come forth with this sooner?" She asked curiously.


"Hiruzen told me to wait until the right moment. There were some things he lead me to believe, and some things I wanted to confirm, before I came forth." The Fire Lord stood.

"Well then it is settled! Kakashi is one of the most famous ninja of the Leaf. Plus he was the one who killed Orochimaru was he not? He's perfect for Hokage. And so he shall be." The weight of those words hit Kakashi like a meteor, and he almost passed out. But he would follow his sensei's example and be the best damn Hokage he could be, or die trying.

XxX

"Naruto! Naruto open your door now!" The large door swung open, and the angry face of Naruto appeared.


"What Shikamaru? It's four in the morning..." Shikamaru grabbed Naruto's shoulders and shook him.


"Shut up. Kakashi is the new Hokage." Naruto's eyes widened.


"Are you serious?" Shikamaru slowly nodded with wide eyes. "That's great!"


"He must have known. That's why he was acting weird." Naruto nodded.


"Yea that must have been it. But to think he's Hokage now...what's going to happen to our team?" Shikamaru shook his head.


"I dunno. I don't think Kakashi will separate us, but he won't have time to train us with all the rebuilding." The Nara surmised.


"We should go see him. You know where he probably is." Shikamaru nodded, and they dashed off into the night.


XxX

Kakashi stood still, staring at the Memorial Stone. It shone brightly in the moonlight, like a beacon of light in the darkness.


"You three know me too well." Naruto, Sasuke, and Shikamaru walked up behind the Jonin. Naruto and Shikamaru had gotten Sasuke along the way, explaining the news along the way.


"Congratulations Sensei." Naruto greeted.


"I'm guessing your father told you Shikamaru?" The Nara nodded. "Figures. Well, as of today I am the Fifth Hokage. I've already won the vote of confidence. The ceremony will be tomorrow, and after that I probably won't see you guys for a few months unless I'm assigning you a mission." The boys' eyes widened.


"What? Why?" Naruto asked.


"I have a village to rebuild Naruto. I'm sorry but all my attention must be focused on the village. We may have beaten back the invasion, but we still took losses. It will take time, but I will fix this." Kakashi stated.


"It's okay Sensei. We understand." Sasuke replied. "But what will happen to our team?" Kakashi smiled behind his mask.


"Well, I'll be the only one leaving. You three will have many opportunities now that you're Chuunin." They jumped in surprise.


"Chuunin? Really!" Naruto shouted excitedly.


"I think you three earned it. The kids in this exam were very strong. The Ex-Kazekage's children, and the apprentices of the leader of the Seven Ninja Swordsmen of the Mist are some serious contenders. Not to mention Orochimaru, and dealing with a full scale invasion. I don't see how I can't." Team 7 smiled.


"Thank you." They replied simultaneously. Kakashi looked up at the moon as a cloud drifted past it. He could tell he was going to need them just as much as they needed him.


XxX

Kakashi stood atop the Hokage Mansion. Everyone in the village was standing before him, waiting for him to be crowned Hokage. Hiruzen's advisors stood behind him; they would pass him the torch. He felt weightless up there as the crowd admired him. It was a feeling he would never forget. Homura stepped forward with the Hokage hat in his hand.


"Today we usher in a new era. The era of the Fifth Hokage, Kakashi Hatake!" He placed the hat on Kakashi's head, and the crowd erupted in cheers. Kakashi stepped forward and held his hand up, silencing the crowd. He marveled at their silence, a little awestruck by the respect he now commanded.


"Tragedy has befallen us my fellow villagers, but we will rise again. In his final days Hiruzen Sarutobi passed his Will of Fire on to me, fearing his reign at an end. And so I vow to protect the village with my life, as he did and Minato Namikaze, my sensei, did before him. I will do everything in my power to lead the Hidden Leaf Village once more, but I will need your help and support. We and the village are one, and we must act as one to mend the broken pieces." The crowd cheered again, and Kakashi waved, almost feeling starstruck. Homura put a hand on his shoulder, snapping him out of his reverie.


"There is much to do Lord Hokage." Kakashi nodded, and with a final wave he retreated into the mansion. He and the elders entered the Council Room, where various clan heads and Leaf officials were starting to arrive. Kakashi took a seat at the head of the meeting, and when the room filled they started immediately.


"There are many things you must take care of first before you start your duties. First, you must choose your advisors. As Homura and I did for Hiruzen, they will give you insight and opinion when you need it." Koharu said to him immediately as he entered the room. Kakashi, a little flustered, slowly nodded. "The teammates of the previous Hokage's were usually their teammates, but seeing as yours are no longer alive..." Kakashi winced, "...you must choose two trusted friends. Do you have any in mind?" Koharu asked. Kakashi nodded.


"Yes. I would like to make Shikaku Nara and Guy Maito my advisors." Koharu nodded.


"Very well. Nara, front and center." Koharu ordered. She snapped her fingers and an ANBU appeared. "Fetch Guy Maito." The ANBU disappeared. Shikaku Nara walked up to the front, and Koharu gave up her seat on Kakashi's left. Homura stood as well as Guy and the ANBU appeared.


"Take a seat Guy." Homura offered genuinely. Guy sat down and looked at Kakashi curiously.


"What is this about Kakashi?"


"I have made you one of my advisors. Do you accept?" Guy's eyes widened.


"Of course! How could I not accept such an honorable position from my rival! I swear I will advise you with as much youth as I can muster!" Kakashi smiled with relief at Guy's antics, while others seemed to ignore it. Homura and Koharu sat next to the new advisors.


"Next, you must pick your ANBU Captain." Kakashi shook his head at this.


"Tenzo is the most capable in our forces to lead ANBU. He will remain Captain." Tenzo smiled.


"I won't disappoint you Lord Hokage." Koharu cleared her throat.


"Right. Well now that that's settled, we can get on to the restoration." Kakashi nodded, and the room got even more serious. "The most damage occurred in the Arena District and the Southern Civilian Center. That was where the brunt of Orochimaru's forces attacked from. There's also of course the giant crater in the Market District left by the Tailed Beast and your student." Kakashi sighed.


"They stopped him didn't they?" Koharu huffed.


"I'm not here to discuss this issue with you. There are more important things to deal with." Kakashi rolled his Sharingan eye, a funny trick he had taught himself.


"How many construction workers have we hired?" Kakashi asked.


"Just about every damn one in the village, and some from the capital. We have the budget for it, but it doesn't leave us with a lot left." Homura explained.


"Were any points of interest damaged?" He asked, and Tenzo grinned. He was turning back into the clever, methodical ANBU Captain he had been before.


"The hospital, ANBU Headquarters, Barrier Corps, Academy, Gold Stores, Archive Library, and Clan Compounds are all unharmed. There is mostly destruction in the area around the arena. Unfortunately, the armory was demolished, and nothing could be salvaged. Furthermore the metal stores themselves were destroyed as well, leaving us with no resources." Koharu explained quickly.


"How much money is left on the budget?" Kakashi asked, leaning forward.


"300,000 ryo." Homura answered.


"Right." Kakashi took out a piece of paper and scribbled on it. He then snapped his fingers. An ANBU appeared beside him, and he giggled. "Damn it's cool that I can do that." The ANBU coughed. "Right. Take this to the bank and withdraw about 750,000 from my father's fortune. If they give you any trouble take it out of your account and I will pay you back plus the pay for an S Rank mission." Everyone's eyes widened.


"You can't be serious!" Danzo shouted.


Kakashi shrugged, "I am. I have no use for it. Serves the village better than me."


"That's...very generous...Lord Hokage." Homura stuttered. "But also highly illegal. You cannot force a Leaf ninja to spend his own money on a mission!"


Kakashi looked at the ANBU. "Do you have any problem with my orders?" The ANBU straightened.


"No Lord Hokage, that would be stupid." Kakashi smirked. Genma was always good at getting the elders riled up.


"My point exactly. So go!" Genma disappeared from the room to fulfill his S-Rank mission. "I said 750,000 ryo right? So now we have 1,050,000 ryo. How much money do we usually spend on a full stock of kunai?"


"200,000 ryo." Shikaku answered.


"Ok. Commission 300,000 ryo worth of kunai, and 100,000 ryo worth of exotic weaponry. We should also start negotiations with Hidden Waterfall for metals. Set aside 200,000 ryo for that. The rest of the money can be used to buy a surplus of food from the various countries we trade with, or possibly to invest in some newer defense technology. Or both." Koharu seemed a little taken back.


"That sounds like a…fine idea Lord Hokage." Kakashi nodded triumphantly.


"Good. Now, do we have any intel on the invasion?" Kakashi asked.


"It seems that Orochimaru had his own hidden village: the Hidden Sound. It was a small village, but as we can see numbers mean nothing in an ambush. It seems that the Hidden Mist had nothing to do with it, but Hidden Sand we are not so sure. Seeing as the Kazekage is dead, it's possible that the Sand were unaware of the plot. We won't know for sure until we get an answer for them. However...there is something that bothers me." Ibiki summarized as he stood up. He had personally interrogated at least ten prisoners, and he had gained much information. Kakashi's eyebrow rose. "There are more interesting things I would like to discuss with you Lord Hokage, but in a more private place." Kakashi's eyes widened.


"I see. Thank you for bringing this to my attention." Kakashi glanced at Danzo, who had an emotionless mask on.

'I know you're up to something you snake.' Kakashi thought bitterly.

"What were our losses?" Kakashi asked stoically.


Shikaku sighed and said, "159 KIA, 34 crippled for life, and 70 still on the fence."


Kakashi nodded. "I see. Make sure we have a surplus of medical supplies." He was met with nods. An ANBU appeared next to Kakashi.


"Sorry to interrupt Lord Hokage, but we have urgent news." He stated quickly.


"What is it?" Kakashi asked, hoping it wasn't bad news.


"Sasori of the Red Sand, the Fifth Kazekage, is here to see you, sir."


XxX

Kakashi approached Sasori slowly and calmly, with his two advisors right behind him. He stopped no more than a foot away, and they gazed at each other stoically.


"Hello Sasori." Kakashi greeted after a few moments.


"Hello Kakashi." He answered evenly. Behind Sasori stood his Genin team. Kakashi eyed them warily.


"What brings you to my village?" Kakashi asked, wanting to get to the point. He had no desire to play any games.


"I see you are in no mood to talk. Well then, forget the small talk. I am here to offer the possibility of an alliance between our villages." Sasori stated smoothly. Kakashi's eye widened.


"So then you didn't have anything to do with the invasion, did you?" Sasori nodded.


"No, our previous Kazekage was killed by Orochimaru on his way to the exams. I was already here…" Kakashi nodded sympathetically.


"I see. Well, I would love to begin negotiations with you, Kazekage, but I am extremely busy at the moment. Before I think of other villages I must think of my own." Sasori smiled slightly.


"Of course. That is the job of a Kage." Sasori seemed to be thinking for a moment. "What if I send some of my ninja over to help?" Kakashi seemed taken aback.


"I'm not sure that's a good idea…"


The Kazekage held his palm up. "I understand that you don't want to let foreign ninja into your village so quickly, but please trust me. Orochimaru killed our leader, and we are very pleased that you dealt with him. Our alliance would have many benefits, do not deny that Hokage." Kakashi still seemed skeptical. "Of course, we could also come to your aid if say…Hidden Rock were to invade…" Kakashi took a step forward.


"What did you say?" He asked seriously.


"You heard me. My spies don't lie."


Kakashi cursed in his head. Since Jiraiya had died, the Leaf spy network had become non-existent, since Hiruzen had died before he could pass it on to anyone. Something like this could not go unnoticed. It was too dangerous. Kakashi looked around. It was too out in the open for something like this.


'Okay, you've convinced me." The Hokage admitted quickly, earning a grin from the Kazekage. "You may send no more than fifteen ninja here, and one of them will have to be your liaison."


"May I leave my three students here now? I need no escorts, and Gaara has specifically requested to be on this mission." Kakashi looked at the Jinchuriki.


"Why should I let him into the village?" Kakashi asked with a tinge of anger in his voice.


Sasori sighed as he replied. "Gaara has changed thanks to that boy, your student. Somehow he healed Gaara's heart, and now Gaara fights for the benefit of others." Kakashi wasn't sure if he believed Sasori or not, but he had already been convinced he needed their aid. He wasn't going to refuse now.


"Fine. But until I know I can trust him, he'll be under 24-hour ANBU surveillance." Kakashi told him bluntly.


"I expected that anyway. Very well. Precious students of mine, welcome to your new home for awhile. But don't worry, you won't be alone for long." With that, Sasori was gone, and the Sand team stepped forward.


"Please, give us your orders Lord Hokage." Gaara requested apathetically, sending chills down Kakashi's spine.
 

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Chapter 16: Into the Ranks of Chuunin

Naruto, Sasuke and Shikamaru stood in front of the Hokage Mansion. Today was the day they were to officially be promoted. Kakashi had told them to come by early so he could speak with them as well. They entered the building and silently walked to his office. It was still pretty quiet at five in the morning, not being nearly as busy as during the day. When they walked into Kakashi's office, he was in a discussion with a masked man.


"Ah, right on time." Kakashi stated, greeting them with a wave.


"Your students are on time?" The ANBU asked in surprise.


Kakashi rolled his eye. "Yes Tenzo they are. Why wouldn't they be?" The ANBU coughed. "Whatever. Let's get down to business." Kakashi pulled out a scroll and unraveled it on his desk. He made a single hand seal, and three Chuunin flak jackets appeared. "Today you three are hereby promoted to Chuunin. May you serve the village with your life." They each grabbed a vest and slipped it on over their clothes. "They look good." Naruto smiled.


"It feels good." Kakashi nodded, and he became serious.


"There is another reason I asked you to come here." They looked at him expectantly, so he continued. "As you are well aware of, the Third Hokage died during the invasion. However, before the day of the exam he gave me something. It was a scroll that contained two things. One was a letter; the other was his Last Will and Testament, which stated that I was to become Hokage." Kakashi explained thoroughly.


"What did the letter say?" Sasuke asked.


"I was about to get to that. I'll read it now."


Kakashi,

With the exam day closing in, I fear I do not have much time. Orochimaru's attack has had me worried, and it's not like my old student to only strike once. But there is someone else who has me worried as well. Danzo has been acting odd lately. He's been less argumentative and much more submissive ever since the start of the exams. It's not like him. He's also been disappearing for days on end unexpectedly to unknown places. I am sure his Root program is what is keeping his attention, but he's too good at covering his tracks.

I hate to accuse my old friend of treachery, but nowadays it seems like he never cared at all. Forgive me for putting you in such a position Kakashi, but for the good of the village, Danzo must be stopped. He has taken an unhealthy interest in your students, especially Naruto, and it would not surprise me if he already had a few plans in place. Use your students to your advantage; they will be extremely helpful against Danzo.


-Hiruzen


Naruto, Shikamaru and Sasuke stood silently, taking in the information.


"That's a little...unbelievable. But I believe it." Shikamaru stated. "Why does Danzo have an interest in us?"


Kakashi shrugged and said, "It's kind of obvious isn't it? Three prodigies, two of them clan heirs, the third being the son of a previous Hokage in addition to being the Jinchuriki of the Nine-Tails. Danzo measures the value of something in power and potential. You three are at the top of his list."


Sasuke shook his head. "But what could he do to us? Or with us?" Sasuke asked.


"Danzo has his own organization called Root. It is similar to ANBU, except they listen only to Danzo, and they will follow any order, no matter how unjust. He brainwashes them to follow his every command. Imagine what he could do with a puppet like a Jinchuriki." Naruto seemed discomforted.


"He brainwashes them? So they're all like...like mindless zombies?" Naruto asked softly.


Kakashi nodded. "Pretty much. You see why he's dangerous?" The new Hokage asked.


"An army of mindless servants at his command...I see what you mean." Shikamaru responded. "But I still don't get what this has to do with us."


"Well, your first assignment as Chuunin will give you the answer."


"We have a mission?" Sasuke asked in surprise.


"Yes. Your mission is to infiltrate Root and find a way to destroy it." All three of their eyes bugged out of their head.


"What?" Shikamaru asked in utter confusion. "How the hell are we going to do that?"


Kakashi turned to Tenzo. "That's where he comes in." The three boys eyed the ANBU.

"Hello boys. It will be a pleasure to work with you on this mission. Lord Hokage has told me much about you." The ANBU greeted, extending his hand. They each shook the offered appendage.

"This is Tenzo, Captain of ANBU, and my former ANBU squad mate. He's saved my life many times."


Tenzo chuckled. "Yes, but you saved mine many more, Captain."


Kakashi rolled his visible eye. "Modest prick." The Hokage cleared his throat. "Right. Anyway, Tenzo has a way to get you into Root. It's actually quite simple really, but you three will be able to get in without a hitch." Kakashi motioned towards Tenzo, who nodded.


"To Danzo, I am an agent of Root. He thinks that I am on his payroll, but my allegiance is one of the few things we have kept secret from Danzo. My position is that of a recruiter. I seek out ANBU operatives who may want to join Root, and after a little...convincing...they officially join. Unfortunately, my position keeps me stationed here, so I have no way of getting direct information on Root." Tenzo explained seriously. Team 7 felt a little intimidated by the man, and they were starting to see why Kakashi depended on him so much.


"Isn't that kinda like treason though?" Naruto asked. "I mean, you're handing our own men over to traitors, and you're feeding them Intel as well." Kakashi sighed.


"You're right in a way Naruto. But you must understand that Root is a secret organization that isn't supposed to exist. The ninjas that join their ranks, if their death is not faked, stay in the ranks of the Leaf ninja. Also, having this link is extremely useful, and it is not one we can afford to break. But it works out in this situation."


"As a recruiter, I can get you three into Root. Danzo will be skeptical at first, but if you play the part well, you can rise through the ranks easily. To him, you three have the potential to become perfect ninja, and he would never pass up that chance." Tenzo finished explaining. Team 7 stood silently; they were pretty shocked that they were being trusted with such an important task, but it was a little exciting too. Naruto stepped forward.


"Ok. Tell us what we have to do."


XxX

"Well well, the students of the Hokage. To what do I owe this pleasure?" Team 7 stared emotionally at Danzo. The room they were in was quite dark, but the contours of the old ninja's face could be seen if you looked hard enough.


"We've heard about your organization. And we've heard you have the means to make us strong. Help us and we'll help you." Sasuke replied smoothly. Truthfully, his heart was hammering, but his facade was flawless.


"Straight to the point. Well then, I'd be more than happy to help you three unlock your true potential. But how do I know you aren't spies?" Danzo's eye narrowed. Sasuke activated his Sharingan in defiance.


"We're here for strength and nothing more. Your petty war with the Hokage means nothing to us."


Danzo's brow rose in amusement. "Good...you are determined. And your apathy is perfect. But do not ever disrespect me again, or I will have you killed."


Sasuke bowed. It was time to drive the nail through the coffin. "I apologize, Lord Danzo."


Danzo smirked, and turned around.


"Excellent. Root welcomes you." The lights of the building they were in flashed on, and Team 7 could see they were in a warehouse of some sort. "Now your test begins." About fifty black clad ninja with porcelain masks on stepped out of the shadows. Naruto, Sasuke and Shikamaru backed up into a tight triangle.

"He he, is that all?" Naruto asked, purposely acting cocky. "I took on a Tailed-Beast, this is nothing!" He shot forward, not wanting to let them make the first move. He planted a Rasengan on the closest ninja's chest, sending him flying into a large metal crate.

"Attack!" Danzo's command spurred the Root ninja into action. Weapons flew from every angle as they descended upon Team 7. The three Chuunin ducked and jumped through all the projectiles, and as the first enemy closed in, Sasuke activate his newest technique.


"Chikari!"


His double lightning blades sprung forth from his arms, and Sasuke jumped into action. He sliced the first attackers hand off and kicked him away. He jumped and spun around, his blades whirling like propellers, and sliced through three Root agents. As Sasuke landed he was forced to block two tanto slashes, one from behind and one from in front. He cut through their swords by momentarily flaring his chakra, causing the blades to grow and crackle with electricity. The weapons of the attackers snapped in half, and Sasuke cut through the two offenders like a hot knife through butter. He felt completely horrible for killing each of these men, but he had been warned...


FLASHBACK


"Have you killed before?" It was a simple question really, especially in their line of work. But something struck Tenzo as...wrong...about asking three eight year olds that question.


"Yea...during the exams...five Genin." Shikamaru answered numbly.


Tenzo nodded.
"I see. Well that makes this easier. I want to warn you boys...this assignment is going to be gruesome. Root will do anything to accomplish their goals." Naruto shuddered.


"What kind of things?" He asked wearily.


"Kill innocents, steal secrets, kill comrades...anything goes." Tenzo replied grimly. "You see why Danzo must be stopped."


Team 7 nodded, and Tenzo continued to brief them on the mission.


END FLASHBACK


Sasuke knew he had to be ruthless to complete this mission, and if he had to kill his emotions, he would do it.


Shikamaru was busy assisting Naruto against a large portion of enemies.


"Shadow Sewing Technique!" He stood in the center of the action, his shadow forming around him and lashing out at any enemy close enough. Naruto was like a lightning bolt, dashing between his enemies. It was no surprise he had his father's speed, and although a good portion of Root ninja would be dead by the time this was over, Danzo was smiling. These three were killing machines; weapons to be used to ensure victory in war. The lights suddenly cut, and Team 7 regrouped, being able to see faintly because of Sasuke's blades. Sasuke himself had no problem seeing, thanks to his Bloodline, but Naruto and Shikamaru were impaired. Shikamaru smirked however.

"Shadow Strangle Technique." Since the room was pitch black, Shikamaru's shadow was as big as the warehouse, and everyone besides Naruto, Sasuke and Danzo were caught in the technique. Within moments, the remaining Root ninja were dead from asphyxiation. The lights came back on, and Danzo was clapping.

"Yes...you three will serve me well. Come, there is much for you to learn."


XxX

The reconstruction of the village was progressing smoothly. The Sand ninja that Sasori had convinced Kakashi to allow into the city had been a tremendous help, as well as a morale booster. After the announcement that the Sand and Leaf had reinstated their treaty with the change in leadership, things had started to look up. Sasori had been right after all.

The door to Kakashi's office opened, and his eyes widened when he identified the visitor.

"Hello Lord Hokage." Kakashi stared into the cold, dead eyes of Gaara, but something seemed different about the insane Jinchuriki. He seemed...at peace.


"Gaara...to what do I owe the honor." Gaara's expression did not change, but he flinched ever so slightly.


"I would like to see Naruto Namikaze." Kakashi cocked his head.


"And what would you want with my student?" He asked skeptically.


"To thank him." This elicited a response from Kakashi, his eye going wide. That didn't make any sense. Maybe Sasori was right. Maybe he was different.


"I see. Well, I haven't seen him all day; I'm a very busy man. When I do see him, I will have him come visit you." Kakashi told Gaara. The red head bowed and exited without another word. Kakashi got back to his work, knowing that trying to figure that boy out was a futile task.


XxX

Team 7 was currently in Root headquarters, in Danzo's office. They had been shown the secret entrance to the base, which was stationed far beyond the village walls. After their surprise test, which they had learned had only been against Root Cadets, they had been issued new uniforms and masks, which they were wearing now. The uniform was a silk thin garment made out of chain mesh, with a layer of silk under it. It was meant to be worn under regular clothes, so that it could be unveiled at a moment's notice. The masks they got were quite different from normal Root masks. Sasuke's mask was the mask of Tragedy, while Shikamaru's was the mask of Comedy. Naruto's mask was split in half, one side being Comedy, one side being Tragedy. Danzo sat in front of them at his desk, staring them down intently.

"As of now, you are members of Root. Your loyalty is to me and only me. Your relationship with the Hokage, and everyone else for that matter, is a lie." Danzo stated forcefully. "Outside of Root you will use your real names, but inside these walls you are Tragedy, "he looked at Sasuke, "Comedy, "he looked at Shikamaru, "and Dos, "he turned to Naruto, "You must never tell anyone of your connections to Root. If you do, you will be erased." The three young boys nodded. "I cannot put you three through normal Root procedures; you are too important and Kakashi would notice. However, your relationship to Kakashi will prove to be an invaluable asset I'm sure." He stood. "Missions for members of Root like you are harder to set up, but with what you lack in freedom you make up for in skill."

Tragedy cocked his head, "What do you mean Lord Danzo?" He asked respectfully.


"Many members of Root have their deaths faked so that they can dedicate their full time to it. However, if you were to go missing, Kakashi would launch a full scale investigation. So you must live double lives." A boy stepped out from beside Danzo. "This is Sai. He will be your contact with Root. He will give you all of your missions, and any messages or orders I have for you." Danzo explained as he introduced the pale boy. "Missions for Root will be completed during village-issued missions. This means that your regular missions must be completed in a much shorter time period, so as to not arouse suspicion. In order for that to be possible, the next three months of your time will be spent doing endurance and conditioning training. Sai will give you the specifics tomorrow morning. He will find you. Dismissed."

Team 7 exited the office, and Danzo turned to Sai. "Don't take your eyes off of them. I'm not sure this isn't a trap."

"Of course Lord Danzo."


XxX

The night sky was decorated with bright stars. From the top of the Hokage Mountain, it was truly a serene sight. Sasuke, Shikamaru and Naruto were lying atop the face of the Third Hokage, contemplating the future.


"So we really are living a lie." Sasuke stated quietly. A cold breeze blew through the area, and a flash of heat lightning illuminated the sky.


"Seems that way. We're just the playing pieces in this game. Danzo and Kakashi are the players." Shikamaru responded lazily.


"This mission is gonna change us..." Naruto said suddenly. "Root is corrupt. Who's to say we don't become just like them?"


Sasuke grunted. "Why are you being so negative?" Sasuke asked irritably.


"I'm nervous. This assignment is way over our heads. We're not strong enough to compete with seasoned veterans. I just feel like...like I'm going to lose myself." Naruto explained sadly.


"We can do it." Naruto's head snapped towards Shikamaru. "Sensei wouldn't have given us the mission if he didn't think we could do it. I choose to believe in him. It's easiest that way."


Naruto's eyes widened. "I never thought of it that way..." he sighed, "I hope your right..." Shikamaru sighed.


"It doesn't matter now. We have a mission to do, and I don't plan on failing it." Sasuke stated firmly. "I don't know how bad Root really is, but if what Sensei and Tenzo said are true, we could be in for a rough time." Sasuke said forebodingly.


"Just don't lose sight of the end." Shikamaru advised.


Naruto nodded. "Yea. I never will."
 
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