Here's the ninth chapter!

A big thank you to those that offered to beta the story! I now have two new beta's; Zeke Jones and kmackyd!

Another thing; Naruto will be keeping the mask according to the poll.

Now, on with the story!

Five months until the chunin exams

Naruto's muscles screamed in agony but he ignored their pleas. His body pumped out sweat like a broken faucet but he paid not attention to the liquid that dripped from his body with every movement.

"Nine hundred'n ninety-eight, nine hundred'n ninety-nine...," Naruto muttered, swinging the hundred pound training tanto in the center kata, sweat showering off of him. The training tanto was a solid black because it was lead with a weight seal placed on it.

"Yosh, Naruto-kun! I believe in you; you can do it!" Gai yelled as fire roared in his eyes and it the air around him, "JUST ONE MORE NARUTO-KUN!" he yelled at the top of his lungs.

Naruto grunted as he slowly raised his tanto, never wanting to be the one that disappointed Gai, he forced his body to obey his commands and managed to raise his tanto over his head. He paused for a moment, gathering his breath and lowered the tanto to it's center position.

"One thousand!" he yelled out before dropping the tanto, causing the lead sword to indent into the soft ground, and a second later Naruto joined it by falling backwards.

He did his best to ignore the burning sensation in his arms in favor of focusing on the blue sky that hung overhead. The only thing that he could hear was his harsh and ragged breath along with his heartbeat pounding in his ears.

Naruto admired the view for a moment, a moment of serenity, but it was soon broken by Gai blocking his view of the sky with his face that wore a giant smile.

"Most excellent Naruto-kun! Your flames of youth are shinning most brightly this afternoon!" Gai commended, his teeth sparkling.

Naruto grinned up at his sensei before rolling over and forcing himself to stand up. He was tired but he wasn't going to quit! He still had half a day worth of training to do.

Gai saw this and his smile only got bigger. Naruto had thrown himself into his training since his first A-ranked mission. He didn't even need the order to train harder for the exams because he already had plenty of motivation and time.

Naruto hadn't gone on another mission since the C-rank turned A. It had been an eye opening experience for him and his first real peek at the shinobi world. His friends nearly died; they had been out numbered and out powered and it had only been sheer luck that they managed to escape with their lives.

So, Naruto threw himself into becoming stronger; so next time everything went to hell, he would be strong enough to protect his friends and make sure they were okay. He wouldn't let another one of his precious people get hurt.

He also had his promise to Anko-nee to think about. He meant what he said; he was going to rip that snake apart for having the audacity to ever harm his sister figure in such a way. He was going to make that prick beg for mercy before he...

Naruto let the thought slip away. Before he what...? Before he killed him; but he had never wanted to hurt anyone before...was it because he now had precious people? Was it because the way of the shinobi was already starting to corrupt his pure hearted nature?

Naruto was snapped out of his musings by Gai acting his typical flamboyant self, "Yosh! Now that we've completed our physical training for the day; we shall now practice your most youthful ability!" he said as he threw a fist into the air, which Naruto copied.

He grinned to himself; this was his favorite part of training every day. He was completely fascinated by his ability and was eager to master it. He was so excited that he completely forgot about his burning muscles and lined himself up with the nearest tree.

Naruto glared at the thick trunk of the tree, today would be the day! Today would be the day that he made progress with his kekkei genkai! Naruto took a deep and calming breath; clearing his mind of any thoughts other than controlling the chakra arms.

Seconds went by before a gentle breeze ruffled Naruto's hair; signaling go. Naruto thrusted out his hand, summoning the ligament of pure chakra to appear and it heeded his call.

A sapphire blue arm escaped from Naruto's palm and raced towards the tree; the hand open and ready to grab what it's creator desired. It gripped the tree a second later, causing Naruto to think that he had finally did it.

However, the tree then exploded in a shower of splinters before toppling over with a loud crash.

Naruto groaned and let the chakra arm dissipate, "I broke the tree again..." he muttered in disappointment. He had been so sure he was going to do it this time!

Naruto was training to control the strength of the chakra hand...and failing miserably. He was attempting to grab a tree without breaking it, then he would raise the tree out of the earth while not snapping the great oak like it was a tooth pick.

Gai observed that the chakra arm possessed great strength, and they were going to tame it. They had tried using rocks, which were harder than a tree, but...they had run out of rocks sizable enough to practice on.

Gai had Naruto's kekkei genkai training all planned out. Once they mastered its considerable strength, they would then work on fine tuning it; stuff like catching eggs and washing dishes.

After that they would attempt to see if Naruto could make other things out of his chakra. They knew Naruto could make an arm of chakra but could he make a leg? A head? A whole body?

If he could then the sheer battle potential for Naruto's ability was astounding. Gai couldn't even think of all the possible ways for it to be used!

Naruto had already mastered a few things. He could make the chakra arm as wide, skinny, big, or small as he wanted as well as making it as long as he wanted. However, that was limited a bit; when Naruto lost sight of it, the chakra arm lost its tangibility.

From what they could tell; it required Naruto to focus on the shape and solidity for the chakra to be of any use, otherwise, it would dissipate. Normally, that would be burden on a normal person; you can't focus solely on one thing during a fight, but that fact was proved false with Naruto.

It was because of his Uzumaki brain. Their brain was fundamentally different than everyone else's. They could completely focus on a hundred different things; they could give a hundred things their undivided attention.

No one was sure why the brain of an Uzumaki was so different but it was commonly believed that it was what made them so good at fuinjutsu. If you could do a hundred different things just as well if you focused solely on them; imagine what they could do if they focused on one thing?

Gai was broken out of his musings when a blue arm once again emerged from Naruto's palm; however, he did not focus on the mass of chakra in favor of examining Naruto.

The boy had been relentless in the past month; he trained every single day until he collapsed. Gai was beginning to worry about the boys health even though he showed no signs of becoming ill.

He showed no signs of developing a fever nor exhaustion of being over worked. Every single day he was in the clearing, just as ambitious as ever and training with the same enthusiasm with whoever he was training with that day.

Though, perhaps it was to be expected given the fact that Naruto lost a teammate and a friend; even if he was reluctant to call him such.

Gai was so focused on Naruto that he almost missed it when the tree didn't explode on contact. He watched in amazement as the chakra arm gripped the tree, Naruto being ever so careful not to destroy it, before the arm began to tug upwards.

Gai heard the groan of the roots as they did everything they could to be hidden beneath the earth but failing. Inch by inch, the tree rose from the earth and just when Gai thought that Naruto might have finally done it; the tree exploded.


"Naruto-kun! You shouldn't use such unyouthful words!" Gai interrupted before Naruto could express his anger, "And you have nothing to be angry about! It was a magnificent try!" he said as he offered the boy an encouraging thumps up.

It managed to cool the boy, though he still muttered obscenities underneath his breath, for he got back in his stance and got ready for another try.

'This time...I'll definitely do it this time!'

Four months until the chunin exams

Asuma let out a cloud of smoke as he walked down the street. While he always enjoyed smoking, a trait that he shared with his father, he wasn't currently doing it to pass time. No, he was smoking because of nerves.

He had just been ordered to train Naruto Uzumaki's wind affinity; the same child that thought he hated him because of a misunderstanding. While he normally wouldn't give a hoot if a kid didn't like him; Naruto was different.

Based on what he heard about the boy, he was incredibly likable and a glowing example of selflessness and purity...okay, that was a bit of a stretch but he did want to patch things up between them. He was friends with Kakashi and, more importantly; Naruto was the little brother of Kurenai's best friend.

Naruto could ruin any chance he had with Kurenai with a few words...

Asuma shook his head of the thought, intent on patching things up with the child and making the brat sing his praises, and entered training ground seven.

The moment his foot crossed the threshold into the training ground, his sixth sense was screaming that there was trouble and he jumped back on reflex. It was right when a handful of kunai pierced the ground that had stepped on. He waited for the onslaught to continue for seconds but when it never did, he walked up to where the kunai laid.

It was then he noticed a thread that lead to a branch; he quickly figured out the trap. The thread would snap, causing the branch to swing out and by extension it would fling the ninja tools.

Very mundane and simple but useful against unsuspecting enemies.

Asuma hummed loudly; what was this? Was there an enemy hanging about or was it a training tool? He doubted it was the first based on the lack of complexity so that left the second.

He took out his battle knives; just incase he needed them, before walking through the forest. It wasn't more than a five minute walk, distance wise, but it took much longer considering the sheer number of traps that littered the forest until the clearing.

The things were everywhere; bear traps, smoke bombs, paint bombs, kunai traps, holes with stakes at the bottom...every time he thought he was in the clear; a dozen new traps would spring!

He reached the clearing, only looking slightly worse for wear, and he found the causes of his rough trip. When he arrived in the center of the clearing, he saw two grinning faces; Ankos and Naruto's.

Asuma felt dread creep up on him, hoping Naruto hadn't said anything before he could clear up the misunderstanding between them. Screw not being able to date Kurenai; Anko would kill him!

"Hmmmm, not too shabby mister guardian! However, you made a couple mistakes on your way here! Naru-chan, what were they?" Anko asked, a smile a little too sweet on her face.

"The most glaring one was he continued to walk on the path when it was obviously littered with traps. He also chose to say on the ground rather than go to the tree tops; where there was a chance of less traps. He also seemed over confident in his ability to take what was dished out," Naruto replied instantly.

Asuma flushed ever so slightly; it was just plain embarrassing to get nitpicked by a child.

Anko nodded, "Exactly right Naru-chan, exactly right," she said and patted Naruto's head praisingly before the looked over at Asuma, "I'll be sticking around for your lesson; we wouldn't want in accidents with killing intent...would we...?" Anko said sweetly, sending a blast at Asuma.

The black haired man coughed into his hand and tactically avoided the snake mistresses eyes. His fate would be sealed the moment he did.

Naruto had told Anko about the incident that happened a few months ago; he had been able to deduce who Asuma was from the talks between Kakashi and Gai along with the talks between Anko and Kurenai. When Anko heard about it she had been furious but when Naruto managed to calm her down, she realized that Asuma wasn't the type to hate Naruto for what he contained. So, that meant it had to be an accident.

"Y-yeah,...wouldn't want that," Asuma muttered and the killing intent disappeared a

moment later as Anko walked off to a nearby tree and sat in one of the branches; a cup of tea and a stick of dango in her hand as she watched the two.

Cracking his neck, Asuma clapped his hands together, "Alrighty then; since I didn't get to introduce myself last time we met, I'm Sarutobi Asuma, jonin of Konoha and until recently I was one of the 12 ninja guardians," he said, and sent Naruto a grin, hoping that his achievements would at least slightly bump up his opinion of him.

His grin was answered by a blank glare.

'What a tough nut to crack,' Asuma mused before continuing, "as you know, I'm going to be helping you train your wind affinity since I'm the only other wind user in Konoha." Well,...that wasn't entirely true; there was always Danzo but that was a problem in itself.

A spark of interest entered Naruto's eyes.

Asuma saw it and mentally smirked, "Do you know anything about elemental affinities or should I start from the beginning?" he asked and managed to get Naruto to speak.

"Fire is strong against wind but is weak against water. Wind is strong against lighting but weak against fire. Lighting is strong against earth but weak against wind. Earth is strong against water but weak against lighting and, lastly, Water is strong against fire but weak against earth," Naruto answered before saying, "I have a wind and a minor lighting affinity but I developed an affinity with fire,"

Asuma nodded praisingly, the boy had a good head on his shoulders, "Exactly right! Now, can you tell me what it means exactly to have an affinity with one element?" he asked, trying to get a more accurate point of where Naruto was at.

Naruto paused for a moment, "It makes using the jutsu you have an affinity with easier and take less chakra but the stronger affinity you have for an element, the harder it is to use jutsu that are strong against it," he said and got another nod from Asuma.

"Exactly; while it isn't impossible, it's just more difficult. You're actually lucky in that regard; since you have a natural affinity with lighting, it cancels out that effect," he said before he clapped his hands again.

"Alright, you have the basics down; now, on too the good stuff," he said, "you probably already know this but Wind is the strongest element for close to mid range fights. It's incredibly versatile and I'm going to be teaching you how to master this element,"

He picked up a leaf off the ground, "The first step is to cut this with nothing other than your chakra," he said and in an after thought, he added, "the trick is to imagine your chakra rubbing against each other, sharpening each other. The finer the line, the sharper the cut,"

He wasn't going to wait until Naruto either figured it out on his own or until he asked him for advice. He could only imagine the terrors Anko would unleash if she though he was being lax with her little brother.

Naruto nodded and with a cross of his fingers, fifty copies poofed into existence around him; surprising Asuma greatly. Kakashi had raised his limit after the last mission he went on. He was also becoming more lax with the limit as it became more apparent there wasn't any real side effects of the shadow clones.

Each clone picked up a leaf, already knowing their instructions, and began attempting to cut the leaf.

Asuma lit another cigarette as he waited for Naruto to comment about how he wasn't meeting any success.
However, an hour later, one of Naruto's clones yelled out and presented its accomplishment. It had managed to cut nearly a fourth of the leaf.

Asuma shared a surprised look with Anko, both greatly surprised that Naruto was already meeting success. Most ninja took a few weeks to master the first step but the bulk of that was getting started.

Another hour later, Naruto dismissed his clones, wincing at the minor headache he got but it didn't stop him from picking up a leaf and holding it between his two hands and focusing.

A second later, he felt a shift in the leaf and opened up his hands to see if he had succeeded; he had! The leaf was cut directly in half! The cut was kinda jagged but that didn't matter!

Naruto let out a cheer as Asuma let out a low whistle; while he was still pissed that his father had weaponized Naruto, the boy was clearly a prodigy of the highest caliber. Hell, he might even make Itachi and Kakashi look like jokes!

"I did it, I did it, I did it, I. did. It!" Naruto chanted in a singsong voice as he paraded the split leaf around like a trophy. Asuma grinned along with Anko at the sight. He may be a ninja and a prodigy and even a jinchuuriki, but in the end he was still a child.

"Alright, alright, I'm impressed...but will you be able to handle the next step?"

Three months until the chunin exams

"I'm getting another teacher?!" Naruto exclaimed in excitement, and got a nod from Kakashi.

"Yeah; his names Hayate Gekko and he's going to help you develop your kenjutsu style. You have a great base and idea but it needs polishing and he's just the guy to do it," Kakashi said and as if summoned, Hayate entered the clearing.

The sickly man walked up, he was special jonin the same age as Kakashi but it was surprising considering how the man looked like he was a light breeze away from death. Hayate had always been sick for as long as Kakashi knew him, but he also didn't know of a better kenjutsu specialist.

The man could do things with a blade that were both beautiful and terrifying.

"Ah, hello; I'm Hayate Gekko, I'm here to help you with kenjutsu," he said, punctuating his words with a cough. Naruto looked over at Kakashi, a doubtful expression on his face, before he turned back to Hayate.

"I'm Uzumaki Naruto!" he greeted cheerfully and got a nod from Hayate.

"It's a pleasure; now, I understand that you've developed your own kenjutsu style," he started, greatly interested in the style Naruto had created. Naruto was the son of his sensei, Kushina Uzumkai, and the Uzumaki were already known for their prowess with kenjutsu.

He was positive that whatever Naruto had created would be worth seeing.

Naruto nodded and grabbed his blunted tanto, the one he trained with, and Hayate took out his own training katana. A second later they began their spar.

Hayate stuck with playing defensive but dabbled with the offensive. He wanted to test out Naruto's style on both sides of the coin and he wasn't disappointed by what he saw.

Naruto's style was very simple but outrageously effective. It stuck true to the traditional use of circular momentum but in a fast motion. What was more, there were so many ways the element of surprise could be used.

You think he was going for a right overhanded swing? No, left sided slash.

Once he mastered his kenjutsu style, only those with lightning quick reflexes or instincts would be able to deal with the deadly style.

His defense was just as solid, though, he did see some holes in it. It seemed to rely too much on an opponent thrusting but didn't have much in the way of blocking a slash.

Hayate called an end to their brief spar. He saw everything he needed to see as well as the strengths and weaknesses of the style.

"So, whatd'ya think?" Naruto asked proudly, smugness in his tone. His style was awesome; he knew, he made it himself!

Hayate coughed into his hand, disguising a small laugh, "It's very impressive. The basic idea is ingenious, however, there are a few things that need to be altered," he said and got a scowl from Naruto.

Naruto was typically open to advice; he didn't deal well when his own techniques were critiqued.

Hayate saw this and pressed forward, "Your defense was good but it's very open to slashes; that was the most glaring weakness I saw. Your offense was very good, however, once someone gets the hang of it; it becomes very predicable," he started and saw Naruto nod.

Kurotsuchi had managed to do that when she saw it only once. He would accept that.

Hayate smirked after he let out a cough, "I would recommend stationing your blade in a way that they can be deflected over head and for your offensive..." he trailed off in thought, "It needs to become more unpredictable. You could do this by adding the number of spins and eliminating the pop that is heard before you spin. Even if the enemy can't tell where your blade is coming from, they might be able to dodge because of that warning," he said before coughing up a small storm.

Naruto nodded his head softly; the advice was fair. He was already planing on adding more spins after his fight with Kurotsuchi so he knew Hayate knew what he was talking about. However, he didn't know how to make his style more unpredictable...

"Maybe I'll use shadow clones...?" he muttered to himself but he was overheard by Hayate, who paused before a grin found itself on his face.

"Did I hear you say shadow clones?"

Two months and two weeks until the chunin exams

Naruto took a deep breath as his pen glided across the surface of the paper; forming the kanji for fire. His ink glided smoothy, without any hesitation, until the kanji for fire was clearly seen on the paper; not an imperfection in sight.

Naruto examined his work; trying to find the smallest stray line or anything being slightly out of place. When he spotted nothing, he grinned. He'd gotten much better at calligraphy since he started learning fuinjutsu; something that was required for the art.

Satisfied with his work, he reached over and grabbed his newest book, 'Fuinjutsu level four: You've blown yourself up at least once so far! Don't you lie!.' And began reading.

Level four dealt with a wider variety of seals and something that Naruto was much more excited about. Level four was also the introduction for developing your own seals or tweaking preexisting ones.

He didn't think himself quite ready for that yet; so, he was dealing with the intricate weight and resistance seals. He was currently learning how they worked, what line did what, and other things that bored most people.

However, Naruto was enraptured with the book. Every single thought in his head were thinking about how great of an art fuinjutsu was and how everyone should practice it; but noooo, it didn't have enough in battle application they said.

Bah! Explosive tags were fuinjutsu and they had plenty of battle application! It really ground Naruto's gears when they brushed off the mystical art of fuinjutsu.

'I'll show'em! Fuinjutsu has the most battle potential ever!' he thought as he read his book, absorbing every scrap of knowledge. He knew that it was quite the claim but could he back it up? Could he really show the world how great of an art fuinjutsu was?

He was reading about the weight seal when a thought struck him.

Ever so slowly, a sinister smile tugged at Naruto's lips.

Two months until the chunin exams

"These are the handsigns," Kakashi said before he slowly made handsigns, "Snake, Dragon, Rabbit, Tiger," he said slowly, letting Naruto memorize the handsigns.

Naruto nodded, showing that he saw them before running through a few practice runs of the handsigns, each time going a little faster until he thought he had it down. When he did, he looked up at Kakashi expectingly.

"Good, now, the technique that I'm teaching you is called Fire Release: Dragon Fire. To do this technique you take some ninja wire," he went into his bag and grabbed a spiel of ninja wire and held it up, "you wrap it around your target," Kakashi wrapped it around a nearby rock, "then you use the jutsu from at least twenty feet away,"

To demonstrate, Kakashi jumped back until he was twenty feet away and then he flew through the handsigns that he had taught Naruto. He pulled the wire taunt before he breathed fire on the wires.

The wires caught in a blazing inferno before racing towards the wire covered rock; which soon burst into flames when both sides of the wire collided. Naruto watched in awe as flames consumed the rock, making it glow red hot, and felt the heat of the flames even though he was so far away.

Seconds later, Kakashi ceased the jutsu and let he wires fall; the flames died down and revealed a rock well on its way to becoming magma. Kakashi looked over at Naruto, giving the boy a signature eye smile, " try," he said in a chipper tone.

He had recently copied this technique from Itachi; his fight against Rakan made him realize he needed a few more focused and intense fire jutsu.

Naruto could only gaze at the destruction the jutsu caused in awe before a smile found it's way onto his face, "Okay!" he said before he pulled out his own ninja wire and started his own attempt.

It took Naruto more than a few tries before he produced the desired result. The tricky parts were getting the wire around the object and making the fire catchable enough that even the metal wires caught on fire.

His dragon fire wasn't as intense as his nii-sans but it did the job. After Naruto completed the jutsu, Kakashi began to explain how to use the technique in battle.

"This jutsu is helpful in a number of ways but the best use is the way I just showed you. If you wrap an enemy shinobi in the ninja wire and pin them to the rock, they can't escape and you incinerate them," Kakashi began to explain and saw a flash of discomfort and reluctance in Naruto's eyes.

He sighed, "I know you're not comfortable with the thought of killing but you can't be afraid to. Your enemies won't hesitate to kill you and if you do then it's game over; you can't just tie them down and hope they stay down Naruto; there is no room for mercy on the battlefield," Kakashi explained but his words were met with defiance raging in Naruto's eyes.

He wouldn't accept that. He wouldn't accept that he had to kill every enemy. Why couldn't he just tie them down? If he sealed them inside a scroll, what damage could they do?

There were other options and Naruto was dedicated to taking those before taking a life.

Kakashi just sighed, he knew that Naruto wouldn't change his way of thinking until he was forced to take a life; he just hoped his words would keep him from freezing up when that time came.

"Okay, now I want you to demonstrate that wind jutsu I taught you last week. Have you made any more progress with it?" Kakashi asked, thinking that learning wind jutsu should be much easier for Naruto since he was in the process of mastering his element.

Naruto nodded, "Yeah! It's twice as strong as it was before!" he exclaimed before he began to fly through handsigns.
'Wind Release: Wind Bullet!' Naruto mentally exclaimed before he sucked down a huge gulp of air, his chest expanding, before he lurched forward and roared.

A compressed bullet of air escaped his mouth, nearly as big as he was, before it raced towards the still glowing rock. When the two collided, the rock shattered into a million pieces with a loud boom.

Naruto grinned like a loon, looking almost identical to a mad bomber, before he let out a loud whoop.

"See?! I told you! I could barely break a rock before but now its, like, all gone!" Naruto shouted, glee in his tone. Kakashi just sweat dropped at his little brothers antics.

"I believe you, It's got a lot more power than last've been practicing on your own?" Kakashi asked and got a nod from the mostly blonde boy. Kakashi nodded in approval, "Good," he commended.

Normally, he would be against any child training without supervision because, you know, they were playing with fire and lighting. However, Naruto was well on his way to become chunin. So, Kakashi figured he should trust Naruto to train on his own a bit.

"As a about I teach you a neater version of your favorite jutsu?"

During the same month.

"Again," Tsume commanded, her tone so commanding that one wouldn't hope to argue. Not that Hana would, she had asked her mother to train her after all.

Hana held onto her lunch as she once again forced herself to spin rapidly; however, she did not become a human drill like she did so often. No, this time she became a wheel of death that shredded her enemies!

Maybe that was exaggerating it a bit but the shredding part wasn't. Hana tore through any obstacle that her mother threw at her simply because that was how she dealt with any obstacle.

Hana threw herself forward and began to rapidly spin, her canine comrades doing the same right next to her.

Her current goal wasn't to actively destroy anything, but the exact opposite. She had the power part of the jutsu down in spades but now she was fine tuning her control of the jutsu.

Hana was doing this by racing through a series of elaborate cones, doing her best to stick the tight corners and not hit a single one of them. It was hard, ridiculously so, but she knew that the result would be well worth it.

This would also help her control her other techniques! No more would she be crippled by narrow spaces! No more would she be at a disadvantage!

Hana raced through the cones, knocking a few of them down but managing to still get a passing grade. When she came to a stop, still managing to hold onto her lunch, just barely, she heard her mother clapping.

"You did well," Tsume said, a feral grin on her lips, "You only knocked down three this time," she complimented. It was a rare thing for her since she usually stuck to sarcastic, backhanded compliments.

Hana grinned at her mom, "It was nothing," she said with a cocky smirk, earning a smile from her mom. She would allow the boasting for now; Hana had been one of the fastest to ever learn the Gatenga technique. It normally took a few weeks to get down the basics but Hana nearly mastered it in the same time.

Tsume was proud of her daughter; she was well on her way to becoming the next clan head.

The Inuzuka had an odd way of doing things when it came to the hierarchy of their clan. Normally, the metaphorical crown was passed from father, or mother, to son or daughter. However, unlike other clans, any Inuzuka could become clan head.

All that was required was to defeat the current clan head, or the alpha, in battle. If the alpha died before anyone managed to best them, the title was then passed onto the first born that the alpha had.

Take Tsume for example; she had become clan head when she was fifteen and nobody had managed to defeat her even to this day, fifteen years later.

That was another difference between the Inuzuka and the other clans. The clan head didn't have to be male nor did the clan heir have to be. That was why Hana was considered the clan heiress even though she had a younger male brother.

Tsume hadn't been referring to those facts either. Hana was well on her way to being strong enough to take over as clan head. Who knows, maybe she would make it a tradition for a fifteen year old to take over the clan.

The elder Inuzuka smirked at the thought.

"Woah...," she heard a breathless whisper of her only son, then turned around and saw him peeking out of the corner of the door.

Tsume growled, startling him, "Kiba! I told you to stay in the house!" she barked a him, causing the boy to trip over himself as he attempted to flee and fall outside. He landed with a small oomph before standing up with a tic mark on his head.

"But mom! It's no fair! Why does Hana get to learn all the cool jutsu!" a six year old Kiba demanded to know.

"Because she's older than you! And a ninja! And stop whining!" Tsume yelled but there was a teasing edge to her voice. She wasn't actually mad; she just loved giving the little boy hell. It was the easiest way to kill time and amuse herself.

"I'm not whining, and I'm old enough to get my own nin-dog now and become a ninja!" Kiba shot back with indignation. It wasn't fair!

Hana just laughed at the scene and earned the ire of her little brother, "What are you laughing at?!" he roared, a second tic mark joining the first. Hana's response was to laugh harder while aggressively rubbing Kiba's head.

She looked over at her mother, "Kiba might be right ma'" she said and earned a raised eyebrow, "He might be just old enough to get a pup from the next litter," she offered and earned a supporting head nod from Kiba, stars all but shining in his eyes.

Tsume lowered one eyebrow and raised the other, prompting Hana to explain her reasoning.

"Well, my teammate Naruto isn't much older than Kiba," she said before pausing for a moment and let out a small sigh, swallowing her pride, "and he's probably stronger than me," she admitted.

She honestly didn't know if she would win against Naruto. If she had full access to her nin-dogs then she'd say things would go her way but there was Naruto's ability to make limitless shadow clones, that tossed that advantage out the window.

Naruto was fast, strong, smart and a tad ruthless when it came to a fight and Hana really didn't know if she would be the one that came out on top if they fought.

Tsume's eyes went wide at the admission, ignoring Kiba's cries of BS. If she was willing to admit that, something that every Inuzuka loathed to do, then it really spoke how highly she thought of the boy.

"And how does that help Kiba's case?" Tsume pressed.

Hana paused for a moment, "uhhh...because Kiba and Naruto are the same age? Naruto's pretty mature too so, I guess what I'm trying to say is that since Naruto's mature and Kiba sometimes act like him, he might be mature enough to handle it," she said in a slow tone, trying to put her thoughts into words.

Tsume looked down at her youngest son, who was looking up at her with expecting eyes, and thought about her daughters words. She let out a small sigh when he used those puppy dog eyes of his; she never stood a chance.

"Fine, fine; if I think you're suitable to be one of their partners I'll pair you up with one in the next litter," she said with a small grin when Kiba began bouncing up and down, yelling out in joy.

During the same month.

Lavi gulped down water, temporarily forgetting the manners his mother had all but beaten in to him. He was exhausted and sweat poured for every pore. His throat felt like sand paper and he had a killer headache from dehydration.

He absentmindedly wondered if he made a mistake asking Naruto to introduce him to his taijutsu teacher.

The man was certifiably insane. There were no if or buts, the man was crazy. All he did was scream about youth and punch things; it was ridiculous!

The reason he had made the mistake was simple. He knew that Naruto's taijutsu teacher was a professional so he thought he would be the best one to help him with his own taijutsu. Lavi knew he was lacking in the field but it had been very apparent in the mission months ago.

When he had been fighting the white haired one, he might as well had been standing there and just took the blows. He hadn't been fast enough nor strong enough to put up any form of defense, much less offense.

The teenager had torn through him; the only reason he hadn't been defeated quickly was purely because of the teenager's fear of his hornets.

Then there was the red head, he flinched when he remembered his first kill. Lavi had been completely at his mercy. The red head had carved him up like dinner and he could do nothing but dodge and run.

Lavi thought he could get by with just knowing the academy style. Taijutsu was no favorite for any Aburame, who preferred to stay at a distance, so it was not highly encouraged for practice in his clan.

His clan mostly focused on developing their hives and their chakra reserves, allowing them to feed a larger hive.

After that mission, when long distance was not an option, he thought his clan was acting a bit foolish. A good shinobi trains his strengths but a great one trains his weaknesses.

And that is the story of why Lavi was currently wishing for the sweet release of death rather continuing this hell.

"Yosh Lavi-kun! You mustn't give up now! We still have another hour of sparring to go!" Gai yelled in an excited manner, a fist in the air.

"Yeah Lavi! We still have a whole 'nother hour!" Naruto exclaimed right next to the green clad man. His tone was just as excited the elder man's. Lavi was in shock; how could anyone enjoy this?

He was no slouch when it came to hard work but he had never, ever, not once in his life, thought that he would be doing something so physically demanding.

However, Lavi calmed his racing heart and took a few breaths to calm himself. He couldn't look bad in front of Naruto. Not only would that insult his pride but Naruto was one of the few that ever expressed interest in his clan.

Everyone else thought they were weird or gross and avoided them. Sure, they weren't discriminated against but they were never overly welcomed in social situations.

Naruto was different. He was completely uncaring that he shared his body with insects. In fact, he thought it was cool and was always asking questions about his clan.

It was for that reason he walked back over to rejoin the sparring session. Lavi refused to let Naruto's interest in his clan die because he was simply to cowardly to accept a challenge!

As Lavi took his new stance, for what must have been the thousandth time that day, Gai gave the teenager a thumbs up, "Most youthful Lavi-kun," was all he said before he resumed their fight.

Gai kept himself in the mid chunin area when it came to speed and strength. He wanted Lavi to get used to fighting a faster and stronger opponent but he didn't want to overwhelm the boy.

Lavi dodged a jab by sidestepping before he grabbed the back of Gai's wrist and placed his other hand on Gai's elbow and sharply turned. Gai, allowed the action and followed through.

A second later, Lavi had Gai in an arm bar; his hand placed at the elbow, ready to break it, or dislocate his shoulder. Gai was laying on the ground, unable to move from his position. After a couple of seconds, Gai tapped out and Lavi released him.

This was what his new style focused on; grappling, counters, and evading. Lavi knew he couldn't become a close range fighter so suddenly after years of being a long range one. However, he could develop a fallback in case anyone ever got close.

The style was called jujutsu; a style designed for grappling and takedowns. You could even fight an armed opponent with this style.

"Yosh! You've made excellent progress these past few months Lavi-kun! I think it's time for the next step!" Gai called out; causing Lavi to back step.

Next step? What next step? There was a level harder than this? Was that possible?!

"Now...lets see how you do against two opponents! Naruto-kun, let us fan our friend's flames of youth!" Gai commanded and got a cheer from Naruto.

"Yeah! Lets do this Lavi! I'm not gonna hold anything back!" Naruto called out; causing Gai to get an idea.

"I should hold back less as well! Doing so would only insult Lavi-kun's abilities! Yosh! I'll limit myself to low jonin level and take off my weights! How does that sound?" Gai asked a terrified looking Lavi.

The poor boy was so afraid that he couldn't speak; unfortunately for him, Gai took his silence as an affirmative. Two small earthquakes later, Gai was stretching his now free legs.

"Prepare yourself!" was all he said before he and Naruto charged.

One month until the chunin exams.

"Itachi? What are you doing here?" Naruto asked as he walked into his usual clearing, looking much worse for wear in recent months. It was early morning and he arrived the same time he always did but instead of seeing his nii-san for his ninjutsu and kekkei genkai training, he saw Itachi.

While he was happy to see his friend, he was puzzled.

"Ah, Naruto-kun, you snuck up on me," Itachi said as he closed the book he had been reading. The words were false, however they were nearly the truth to his surprise.

Naruto had been silent as a ghost as he walked and Itachi couldn't feel his chakra signature because Naruto was now unconsciously suppressing it at all times. Itachi truly wondered what kind of training Anko was making Naruto go through for the boy to be so adept in stealth.

As Itachi closed his book, which was several times too thick for someone his age should be reading, he realized he hadn't answered Naruto's question.

"As for why I am here, I will now be tutoring you in genjutsu," he said as the book vanished with a puff of smoke. He earned a confused look from Naruto before Itachi began explaining in more detail.

"Kakashi sempai asked me to help you with the art because you are very vulnerable to it. You are still unable to use any genjutsu because of your less than adequate chakra control; still being unable to perform the leaf exercise is a good example of this," he ignored Naruto's curses about the blasted impossible exercise, before continuing.

"While being unable to use genjutsu is a weakness, you are also unable to break out of most genjutsu as well. This is a problem that must be fixed because the chunin exams are only a month away and no one knows what type of shinobi will be participating," Itachi began to explain further.

"But you're the same age as Hana!" Naruto pointed out, accepting that genjutsu was one of his weaknesses but he was still confused why Itachi was going to be his teacher, "You're a genin like me," he added for good measure.

This caused Itachi to smile slightly, "I'm actually a chunin," he said and caused Naruto's eyes to go wide. He thought about telling Naruto that he was ANBU just to shock the boy but quickly dismissed the thought.

"WHAT? Since when?!" Naruto demanded, he thought Itachi was a genin! He was so sure that he was!

Itachi chuckled, "I was promoted in the chunin exams a few months before we had met," he explained before he held up a hand, stopping Naruto's questions, "I understand your shock but save your questions until after the lesson. I will answer them but we cannot stray too far from the topic,"

Naruto nodded and prepared himself for what his newest teacher had to say.

"Genjutsu are techniques that are employed in the same fashion as ninjutsu, requiring chakra and hand seals. However, the primary difference between the two is that the effects of genjutsu are illusory; instead of attacking the victim's body, like taijutsu or ninjutsu, genjutsu techniques manipulate the flow of chakra in the victim's brain, thus causing a disruption in their senses."

"There are a few ways to do this but the most common ways are to implant your charka into another being's chakra network, planting your chakra and creating an illusion on a physical object or eliminating or creating false images or senses.

"Genjutsu is a highly underrated aspect of the shinobi arts, even though it is one of the big three. The two main requirements for genjutsu are high intelligence and very fine chakra control. Most shinobi lack one or the other if not the willingness to use the art therefore there are very few genjutsu masters or even experts."

"I will be teaching you more about how to implement a genjutsu at a later date but for now we will be focusing on how to disrupt and break a genjutsu for practical reasons."

He took a deep breath, gathering air for yet another long speech.

"There are two main methods of dispelling a genjutsu; altering the flow of your chakra or a sharp physical reaction. I will explain them in order."

"To dispel an illusion with your chakra; you cease the flow of your chakra then expel it in a burst or send it to the affected area, which is normally the head, and it removes the genjutsu. For the first method; the larger the chakra burst, the stronger genjutsu you can dispel and it is the easier method.

However, this method can be rather wasteful for your chakra since it is impossible to gauge how much chakra you must use to dispel an illusion."

He paused for a moment and looked at Naruto clinically, "You use this method to disrupt the few jutsu that you can break out of. We will be fine tuning it until you're able to break out of everything below a B-rank. The side effect shouldn't affect you too much considering your ungodly chakra reserves that are still growing,"

Naruto's head was spinning from all the information but he managed to fire off a question, showing that he was slowly understanding what the elder boy was saying, "What about the other method,"

"The other method is most commonly associated with the sense of pain. While this provides problems in itself, a strong sense of pain or another physical reaction will override the genjutsu and dispel it," Itachi explained.

Naruto paused for a moment, absorbing the knowledge before slowly saying, "Okay...I think I got, when do we begin?" ha asked and earned a smile from Itachi.

"Why...we already have; you've been trapped in my genjutsu since the moment I closed my book," he said; causing Naruto to realize that he had a long way to go.

Four days until the chunin exams

The gates to the village were crowded; more so than Naruto had ever seen. There were twenty-five genin teams, themselves included, so that meant there were seventy-five genin here in addition to the families and sensei's of each genin.

There was a large crowd around the genin, all of them shouting good lucks to their children and wishing them well.

Naruto's team was no different; he saw dozens of Inuzuka's all cheering Hana off and more than a few Aburame's silently waving Lavi off. He had been assigned to team thirteen when Akito had been crippled and deemed unable for active duty.

Naruto was searching the crowd for a familiar face but he found none. Where was Kakashi-nii and Anko-nee? Where were all of teachers? Where were all of his friends?

Naruto felt a small wave of disappointment and sadness well up in his chest; were they not coming? Did they forget? No! They promised that they would see him off; they wouldn't break their promise!

Naruto searched the crowd, looking for someone before he was interrupted by a smoke bomb going off. At first he tensed, ready for battle along with all of the other genin teams, but when the smoke cleared; he found the familiar faces he had been looking for.

In the small opening that had been opened up with the smoke bomb stood all of his friends and family; Anko-nee, Kakashi-nii, Gai-sensei, Asuma-sensei, Hayate-sensei, Itachi, Sasuke, their mother and Itachi's friend, Ayame, Teuchi, Kurenai, and even Akito was there.

Anko was prancing around with a large banner that said, 'Go Naru-chan' while singing that if anyone could win the chunin exams then Naru-chan can. Kakashi-nii was holding the other end of the banner but he wasn't jumping around like Anko; he chose to give Naruto a double eye smile and a thumbs up. Gai was jumping around with Anko. Itachi and Sasuke were waving goodbye and shouting good luck, respectively. Ayame was screaming that even though he was small he could still win; her father was offering free ramen for a month if he won. All his other sensei's and Kurenai were all shouting good luck and wishing him well.

The last one he looked at was Akito; he was in a wheelchair with a brown haired girl behind him. He was sending Naruto a smirk and a thumbs up before he whispered something just for Naruto to see.

"Kick ass and take names,"

Naruto smiled so wide that his face hurt and tears sprung up in his eyes. He rubbed them away with the back of his forearm before sending his family a confident smile and a thumbs up; a mere moment before they were given the sign to head out.

Naruto was still waving goodbye and his family was still shouting good lucks to him; all confident that Naruto would do great and win the whole darn thing.

However, unknown to all of them; Naruto was participating in the chunin exam that would one day be called the Exam of the Red Sand. A chunin exam that was so bloody that of the one hundred and twenty-three teams that participated in it...

Not even a third of them lived to see the third exam.

The next chapter will be the first part of the chunin exams! Leave a review!