Author Note

Hi there and welcome to another chapter of Nidaime no Sairin.

Surprisingly so, I have received a lot of great reviews about the choices made from the last chapter. Even if only a few would have opted for him to have the Nidaime's sword, many of my readers understood where I was coming from. Indeed, I don't wish for Naruto to be a mere copy of the Second Hokage. Naruto has his training and techniques as a base of his education. It's up to him to make a legend for himself and even improve upon his work. Now, let's move on with a new chapter, one that shall cover many things that the readers had asked in the reviews and then some.

Oh, of course, I won't spoil it ahead of time, so let us move on with the chapter.

Nidaime no Sairin

Chapter 24 – Cursed Seal

Beta: Scheffinator

The team composed of Sarutobi Asuma, Hyuuga Hinata, Nara Shikamaru and Uzumaki Naruto is seen walking back to the Leaf after a successful but quite strenuous mission from Yuki no Kuni (The Land of Snow). With the rest of the Genin from Naruto's class getting the promotion to Chuunin, Asuma had presented his students with a purple set of earrings to symbolize their transition from shinobi in training to fully fledged adults. Well, Naruto was already promoted as a Chuunin for quite some time now, but Shikamaru and Hinata were only promoted a year and a half after the blond, but Asuma waited until all of his team were promoted to present them with the set of earrings. There were even talks amongst the higher-ups that Naruto had already earned the respect and reputation to become a Jonin, because of his skills.

In fact, the Hokage was considering it, together with the clan prodigies Shino and Neji, even if Neji had become a Chuunin not so long ago.

Sakura had officially become Tsunade's apprentice in the hospital, so her field work would have to be put on hold.

Back to the team, they all sighed in relief moments after crossing the gates to Konoha.

"Well, I'm glad we're over with this mission. How Koyuki-hime could stand living there, I don't know." Naruto sighed in dismay the minute the name came out from his mouth as both Asuma and Shikamaru snickered at him and Hinata blushed like bloody crimson. "Every time, Shika…Asuma-sensei?" The Nara heir merely chuckled, while Asuma decided to comment, while all three of them not checking to see the blushing look on the grownup Hinata, despite her looking down this entire time, after what happened in Yuki no Kuni, precisely between Naruto and the Princess.

The image of them kissing like that still made her cheeks burn.

"Sorry Naruto, it's just that few of us ever get the chance to gloat about making out with a princess, you know." Naruto groaned immediately afterward Asuma's comment, prompting both males to laugh even more.

"It wasn't anything like that, sensei, I was just playing a part in her movie." Though, if he was honest with himself, it was quite difficult to internally regret saying yes to the surprisingly enthusiastic princess's idea. When the mission started, she was bitter and did nothing but shun everyone out of her life, going as far as to betray them in the middle at one point. After the mission was over and her uncle was killed by a combined assault from his team, it was like she became a completely different person, especially around him. Hence why she had, strangely so, requested him for the part instead of Asuma-sensei, who, by the way, was still enjoying himself at the expense of his student…the bastard. And judging from his grin, Naruto knew that another tease would come.

"Oh, I wouldn't expect you to be so modest Naruto…I did remember the princess asking for you, directly. Who knows, perhaps, she used the movie as an excuse for what she really wanted to do." That comment made him blush slightly, though the most logical part of his mind dismissed it…however, like a Genjutsu, he took a second or two longer to recover from it, making Asuma and Shikamaru even more amused. There was simply no way that Naruto could say it wasn't an exhilarating experience. And the Princess did extend the act for more than Naruto thought it would, which only served for him to experience things. Returning to the task at hand of trying to defuse the situation of being the teasing focus of Asuma and Shikamaru, he did the only thing he could at this moment.

The only thing he could do right now was to turn to perhaps the only teammate who wasn't giving him a hard time for this.

"Hinata, please help me h…Hinata." When he turned to see his only female teammate, she had already bolted away from them, making the three males of the group look at each other, wondering why.

"Hmmm, strange. Well, you two can go and enjoy some rest or do whatever it is you please…I shall report to the Hokage."

Asuma soon shunshined away from Naruto and Shikamaru, before Naruto turned to his partner in crime, who at this point was already yawning and scratching his ear.

"Yeah, I had enough amusement for today. I'll be heading home, then, Naruto. See ya." Naruto snorted at the notion, seeing as the sun was about to set.

"Yeah, I didn't expect you of all people to want to do something tonight…goodnight Shika." The Nara heir had briefly waved goodbye with a smile, before casually walking towards his house with both hands inside his pockets.

Now, alone and with nothing better to do for the day/night, Naruto wandered around the village, searching for something to do, before doing the same as Shikamaru and resting for the day.

===With Kurenai===

The Genjutsu mistress of Konoha had just walked out of a tea meeting with her team and was seen roaming around aimlessly with nothing to do. It filled her with pride, knowing that her entire team had made it to Chuunin and thus became their very own shinobi and kunoichi in Konoha from here on out. Of course, being their sensei, she would still be around for advice and even on occasional missions, but they were now on their merry way to write their own history from here on out. She counted on Shino to be there for Choji and Ino as he had more experience as a Chuunin.

Noticing the dark sky already, she frowned wondering if she should find either Anko or Yuugao for some late dinner or just head home for the night.

She kept on walking throughout the loaded streets of the village, until she saw Naruto also seemingly doing just like she was doing, just walking around by himself. The blond Chuunin has been going through many assignments since he became a Chuunin and as such, it's been a few months since they last saw each other. Yuugao had often told her about some of the times they got together to practice Kenjutsu.

"Hi there, Naruto." The person in question looked around at the mention of this voice, until he saw the Genjutsu mistress waving at him.

"Oh Kurenai-sensei, how are you?" The woman smiled as he approached to greet her.

"Fine, I just left from a meeting with my students. Now, I was just about to search for either Anko or Yuugao for some dinner. How about you?" Naruto nodded with a smile.

"Just came back from a mission with my old team and Asuma-sensei. Now, maybe have a quick dinner and then head home to rest." An idea came to mind just now. "Say, would you like to have some dinner then, my treat?"

"Dinner…" Kurenai then smiled at the offer. "Asking me out on a date, Naruto-kun?" She giggled as soon as the usual response to her tease came, with him blushing and trying to amend himself, though after Naruto's experience with the princess, he was really having even more trouble formulating words at this point. Oblivious at this point, Kurenai merely waved him off. "Relax, Naruto-kun, I was just kidding…you're indeed quite fun to tease." To that, he truly deflated. What about him that everyone enjoyed teasing him so much? "So, where do you want to go?"

"Ah, I am really craving for some ramen, right now." Kurenai, though, frowned at the idea.

"No, I happen to know you eat quite a lot at Ichiraku's." Naruto blushed but really couldn't say anything in his defense, as Kurenai pondered out loud with a finger in her chin and a carefree smile. "So, how about I suggest a different place?"

"Sure, what do you have in mind?" At this point, many of those he hung out with were fed up with ramen, much to his disdain.

"How about some sushi? I happen to know a nice place, near my house."

"Oh, okay, sushi is good too. Lead the way, then." Naruto then followed Kurenai as she wrapped her arms around him and pushed him along, giggling while doing so after he slightly protested.

Neither of the two saw that Anko and Yuugao had seen the entire thing and a visibly enthused Anko literally dragged Yuugao along to follow them and spy on them.

===At the Sushi Place===

"Wait a minute…you're telling me that you…and" The woman had to pause at the absurdity of what Naruto had told her. "Wow…"

As soon as they arrived at the sushi place, they ordered a tray each with some tea. Then, Naruto got to explain the types of missions he has been through since last time they spoke, the training sessions he had with Yuugao when he had the time and even the different bonds with the other Chuunin and Jonin from Konoha, when the story about the princess of the Land of Snow came up. Kurenai soon began to wonder about it. The young man next to her had truly grown up at this point. With the amount of training he does, this point more physical than chakra-wise, Naruto had grown taller than her and in terms of overall body development, Kurenai could no longer discern him from the other adults.

So, of course, that Naruto would soon begin to attract the attention of the female population, but…wow. Strangely, the image of Naruto and Princess Koyuki together invaded her mind and…lingered for a bit more time than she realized it.

"Yeah, Asuma-sensei is still teasing me about it." Kurenai turned to him, after she stopped that train of thought.

"So, tell me…when can I expect this movie?" Naruto was drinking his tea, when he choked and looked at her, accusingly.

"Oh kami, not you too…" Kurenai could only lift both her arms and smile.

"What…I'm a great fan of her movies, you know. Me and Anko have never missed one…oh, wait until I tell her that you happened to be in Princess Koyuki's new movie."

Now, Naruto was royally screwed. When Anko knows, she will never leave him alone.

"Ok, now, I'm seriously regretting saying yes to playing the part." Kurenai tilted her head humorously, but decided to change the subject.

"Okay, enough teasing for now, though I can't say on Anko's behalf…how about the Jonin prospects?"

Kurenai has of course heard the rumors that Naruto would receive the promotion soon. Yuugao told her that this rumor had even reached Naruto himself and Kurenai had an inkling as to who could have blabbed to him about it. Aoba was a fine shinobi and one of Konoha's finest, but he needed to seriously read the room before barging in and announce that the Hokage was considering Uzumaki Naruto and Hyuuga Neji for the next promotion to Jonin. While Kurenai wished to see Shino in that list as well, it's understandable, since the bug user has been doing more assignments for his clan lately. Naruto, for his part, just felt conflicted about the topic.

"I don't know…to be honest…everything is happening too fast. I've been Chuunin for two years now. I have worked with an excellent shinobi who's been Chuunin for ten years, before the talk of the promotion appeared."

"Who knows, Hokage-sama must hold you in high regard, but I'd imagine you'd be excited about it." He responded by shrugging his shoulders.

"I am…at least…I think I am. Huh, it wasn't long since we were having the same discussion about me becoming a Chuunin." Kurenai remembered that quite fondly.

"True…you were hesitant back then as well." She saw Naruto using his chopsticks to reach for a tuna sashimi. "But, now you can see that the worries you had back then were all for nothing, look how far you've gotten, Naruto-kun. If you're worried about promoting too fast, remember that Kakashi has become a Jonin even faster." Yeah, Konoha has indeed had its fair share of prodigies. Come to think about it, if Naruto remembered correctly, Sasuke's brother Itachi was also promoted as fast as Kakashi.

"I appreciate the vote of confidence, Kurenai-sensei." So, the dinner resumed as well as the conversation, while Anko was looking inside the restaurant. Yuugao, at this point, had already bolted, since she needed to report to the ANBU HQ.

The snake charmer couldn't listen much of the conversation, but she did notice how at ease the two were together, especially her friend. Anko couldn't help but giggle like a schoolgirl as she watched this storytelling unfold.

===Throughout the Village===

After splitting the check, Naruto and Kurenai left the restaurant and decided to take a stroll around the village.

At this time, only the drinking parlors and bars were open, so the streets were almost empty. The night was a bit chilly, but nothing too extreme and they could hear the soothing sounds of the many trees and lakes that surrounded the hidden village. Kurenai turned to Naruto and noticed the distinguishing facial features that were now presented before her, beneath the moon glow. It was no surprise to her that the young man had improved in the looks department. More angled facial features, the hair a bit longer and more spiky than before and his outfit…the same style outfit that she had picked for him together with Yakumo and Hinata, still fitted nicely with those deep ocean blue eyes of his. Overall, Kurenai found that Naruto's event with Princess Koyuki wasn't so surprising.

"Say Kurenai-sensei…" The woman hid her surprise well, when Naruto called up to her, though the thought of him and her kissing once more surged in her mind.

"Yes, Naruto."

"Do you happen to know why Anko is following us?" the question itself jolted Kurenai out of her musing, but Naruto was still smiling and not looking back.

Though, the slight spark in Anko's chakra at being caught was a dead giveaway for a sensor.

"How can you tell that she's following us? Oh, right…I forgot." Now, she was smiling as well as both kept on walking. "Who knows…I've been friends with her for many years and still can't figure her out."

"Well, she is gone by now, must have realized that she was caught and bolted." Kurenai saw him smiling and shared the humor.

"I can see you have improved your sensor skills…Anko is quite the infiltrator. She can sneak in pretty much undetected in most places." Naruto smiled. Feeling the water particles in the atmosphere around him has become easier than breathing.

"I have been training in extending my sensor reach through water manipulation…it's how I can use water Ninjutsu without a nearby water source." Kurenai did remember his preference for Ninjutsu.

"I see…and how's your Genjutsu training? I hope you're not slacking on that front…" Naruto smiled, as this time Kurenai chided him. "Kenjutsu training with Yuugao and all that talk about your Ninjutsu…I'm starting to wonder if you're no longer interested in illusions?"

"Don't worry…I have been practicing that as well, it helps my chakra control after the fox tampered with my chakra." Clearly that wasn't enough to placate the ever-sensei's pride and joy, so Kurenai responded by crossing her arms and turning her face with a slight pout and closed eyes. "I could give you a demonstration of my efforts, you know, perhaps that can ease your concerns, sensei." Soon, they were walking close to the village's famous onsen and both happened to look up to see a figure standing crouched on a rooftop and holding a monocular. At this point, it became publicly known by the women in Konoha that Jiraiya would on occasion spy on women, whenever he's in the village. Of course, it was Tsunade herself who told everyone, after she was peeped by her teammate, recently.

Kurenai, then, had an idea as she turned to Naruto.

"Well, you can show me by capturing him in a Genjutsu, then. If you can trap a Sannin in an illusion, then I will be satisfied."

Naruto saw the perverted Sannin's image more clearly now as they approached. Hell, they could practically hear the giggling echoing up in the clearing at this point and Naruto couldn't help but sigh at the man's behavior.

"Leave it to me, then." Kurenai observed with her arms crossed as Naruto went through hand seals, before his image shifted until he was no longer in sight. Kurenai only hmmed at the initial display, considering that he's a Chuunin now. But she wanted to see more than that. She noticed that his chakra output was well controlled, since she couldn't sense him nearby and the image displacement was well-coordinated. After all, what Naruto just did right now was catch her in a Genjutsu, making her believe that he wasn't there. There was no sound making as Naruto was reaching towards the roof, until he stood a few distance behind the unsuspicious sannin.

"Oh ohhhh, so many beautiful women…oh tonight's my lucky night…the material is just flowing for my next book."

Naruto had to hold the urge to sigh or else he would be discovered. However, he really wanted to just kick the guy and send him down to the onsen for the victims to take care of him properly.

Just then, an idea popped in his mind about a suitable little prank.

Going through hand seals, Naruto finished with the ram seal, starting with a low-level technique. In a fight, Jiraiya would brush it off as non-existent, but in a perverted moment like this…

Magen Narakumi no Jutsu (Demonic Illusion: Hell Viewing Technique)

"Hehehee, keep on bathing and helping your friend there…yes." Jiraiya kept on giggling and using his lecherous voice.

"JIRAIYA!" The pervert's eyes bolted out of his sockets when he heard the all too familiar shrilling voice of Tsunade getting mad at him.

Turning, he was assaulted by the horrifying sight of the woman herself marching straight at him, with her arms threatening to sock him straight at the jawline and sending him flying.

"Tsunade…no..wait…I can explain!"

Memories of the time that her teammate sent him straight to the hospital after almost killing him with her bare fists, after catching him in the act a long time ago. He loved her like crazy, but that was not a moment he wanted to relive anytime soon, maybe after he is dead. It made him scared out of his mind and Jiraiya chose the best alternative right now, to scream, run and live to see another day. The image of a rather angry Tsunade shifted, revealing it to be a smiling Naruto instead.

Kurenai, then, appeared behind, having observed the Sannin bolting, scared out of his life.

"Did I hear him correctly when he mentioned Tsunade's name, while scared out of his mind?"

"Well, I guess she is the source of his worst nightmare." Kurenai looked at Naruto in surprise for a while, before sharing in his humor.

"Maybe I can spread the word to the women in this village that our hero Tsunade Senju of the Sannin was responsible for keeping Jiraiya away from them." Naruto nodded, while laughing.

"Oh, I bet she wouldn't mind."

===With Team 7===

The next day, another team walked inside the gates of Konoha, composed of Hatake Kakashi, Haruno Sakura, Inuzuka Kiba and Uchiha Sasuke. Like Naruto's team, Team 7 were all promoted to Chuunin at the same exam. The team had just returned from a B-ranked assignment near Wave Country. With the country now an ally of Konoha, Tazuna the leader, had once more called Konoha for assistance after it was reported that a group of missing-nin from Kirigakure were attempting to seize control over the country.

Kakashi in the end just allowed his team to run loose with the missing-nin as Sasuke, Kiba and Sakura were more than capable of dealing with them.

However, one thing the scarecrow Jonin noticed with dread was that while Sakura and Kiba dealt with their respective opponent with utmost efficiency, Sasuke's was far more messy than Kakashi wanted.

The now grown-up Sasuke Uchiha was wearing a similar style to the Chuunin standard clothing, with white pants and dark vest, with the Uchiha Clan Police Force's old signature. He had a ninjato strapped on his back as Kakashi realized that Sasuke had become quite skilled in the art of Kenjutsu as of late. The scarecrow Jonin noticed lately that Sasuke became fueled by anger in his movements. He has closed himself off from both his teammates and rarely socialized with anyone. As the team walked inside the village, Kakashi was busy reading his favorite book, while observing the team. While Kiba and Sakura were chatty enough, with Sakura petting the now grown Akamaru, Sasuke was walking in front of them, not bothering to socialize with any of them.

Kakashi found he couldn't complain much, considering the team's at least reasonable teamwork while on missions, but he worried that Sasuke needed more than mere teammates in the long term.

"Okay, everyone, you all are free to do whatever…I shall report to the Hokage." Kakashi then turned to leave, but he lingered a bit, to observe as Sakura attempted to call up to Sasuke, only for him to shunshin away from them.

"Sasuke…" Kiba just released a sigh at his female teammate, who still attempted, despite it all.

"Leave the bastard be, Sakura…he isn't worth it. Now, I have to go see my sister to see about Akamaru's injured paw." Sakura, for her part, frowned at Sasuke's last seen position.

"Okay Kiba, see you later. I guess I can stop by the hospital to see if Tsunade-sama has something for me." Kakashi then saw his other two teammates walk towards different directions, before leaving himself.

None of the team observed as four shadows observed them from a forest behind their location, before vanishing as well.

===With Sasuke===

After leaving his team, Sasuke soon walked closer to the clan grounds that belonged to his family.

Looking back to his life as one of the village's most skilled Chuunin, Uchiha Sasuke couldn't help but feel angry. Angry that he knew…he knew that he wasn't getting anywhere closer to reaching Itachi's level. Since he has been promoted, he and his team has been doing these so-called missions, which in his mind were nothing but chores…none of them came close to ever truly testing his skills. None of the assignments so far has allowed him to truly push himself…to see where he stands in terms of overall skills.

His so-called teammates also aren't much of a help. Kiba may be somewhat good in close combat, but to the fully evolved Sharingan, the Inuzuka just couldn't move slower. Sakura, ever since she was appointed as Tsunade's apprentice, has focused more on being a medic-nin.

No, none of his classmates could come close to pushing him, except for him.

Sasuke still remembered how fired up he became upon fighting against Naruto.

However, every time he demanded Naruto to fight him, the blond would only brush him off as if Sasuke wasn't worth his attention, which actually made him even more furious. Sasuke knew all the rumors about him…knew that the Hokage favored him for many assignments as of late, all for the purpose of seeing whether or not he has what it takes for the Jonin position.

The Uchiha knew that Naruto was good…and he knew that Naruto was better than what he has shown so far. Only problem that still miffed him was this so-called air of superiority from the Uzumaki…looking down at him…just like him.

He wanted to fight against Naruto…to measure himself against the blond.

Naruto was someone he could use as a stepping stone to reach Itachi in the future.

He was about to make one more step before he stopped and placed both hands inside his pockets.

"Just how long are you planning on following me around? Show yourself."

The wind picked up after he said those words, before Sasuke heard someone chucking somewhere. Four shadows then surged out of nowhere, surrounding the Uchiha. He looked around, noticing that there were four opponents total, all of them having the sound headband. At this point, the cursed seal flared up in his neck, making his hand reach for it, with a painful snarl.

"Who the hell are you all?" All of them were wearing similar outfits, but one quick use of the Sharingan and he was able to pinpoint just about everything from these four, in terms of overall chakra capacity and skills.

With the exception of the red haired girl, all three males surged forward with plain taijutsu, but he was quick in facing them all, starting with the man with gray hair, followed by the one with multiple arms and lastly the fatso who tried using brute strength against him. All of them were quickly gathered in one place and Sasuke pushed forwards, with the intent of finishing these goons. He was surprised when he heard a flute playing and his footing became disoriented for a second. The one with multiple arms then shot what appeared to be a web at him, trapping his arms and dragging him towards the fat guy who was preparing a strong punch. Sasuke, though, quickly maneuvered himself in midair and with a quick use of his sword, slashed the web and dodged the punch from the fat guy. He was about to kick in retaliation when a hand grabbed his feet and started spinning him, until Sasuke was thrown towards the wall.

Once more using his agility, Sasuke flipped and landed his feet on the wall, before using chakra to propel him towards the enemies once more.

The tune reached his ears once more, but he had a few shuriken in hand to throw at the red head that stood at a distance, forcing her to stop playing.

"That is becoming quite annoying. So, please tell me who you are, before I start getting serious here."

The one with the gray hair laughed at the so-called bravado coming from the Uchiha.

"Hmm, Orochimaru-sama did say you were not bad…but I had to see with my own eyes." The name made Sasuke instantly narrow his eyes. "You may be good and all, but you could be better, Uchiha Sasuke. Your potential is wasted in this village."

"Hmmm, tough words coming from someone who's yet to lay a finger on me."

"Well, we shall see about that…" Sasuke then saw as black markings started spreading over the enemy's body, before he vanished in speed and appeared right in front of the Uchiha. Still, the Sharingan was active and allowed Sasuke to block. Even so, he was somersaulted straight towards a tree and his back smashed into it, drawing some blood.

Somehow, his speed and power increased out of nowhere.

"This power…is the strength of the cursed seal that Orochimaru has bestowed upon us. And you have it as well, Uchiha Sasuke. This village may have placed a seal on it to prevent you from using it, but we can break it easily. Imagine this strength at your disposal, Uchiha." Sasuke snarled at seeing the other three now showing the same cursed seal, but with different shapes. "I happen to know your true objective and you know you won't get it, staying pampered in this village."

"You know nothing about me!" This time, his cursed seal flared and the one with gray hair only smirked.

"I'll beg to differ. Everyone knows about your desire to kill your brother, Itachi."

"You shut up this instant! Don't ever mention his name in my presence." The nerve of these losers to mention his name.

"Face it, Sasuke, with the level you are at, you will never come close to beating Itachi. But with Orochimaru's guidance, you shall have the means to do so." The cursed seal then retracted from everyone as Sasuke stood at attention, waiting for a surprise attack, which never came. "We are not here to force you, this is something you have to decide for yourself. Cut ties with this stupid village and come meet us outside the village, before the sun comes up."

Sasuke was still looking skeptical about it all, though.

"What I have shown you is a mere glimpse of the power you can possess, Uchiha Sasuke. So, choose wisely." Those were his last words, before all four vanished in a dance of leaves amid the full moon. The Uchiha just observed them leave, before looking at his palm in deep contemplation. These four may be all losers in his mind, but they all presented a scenario in which Sasuke could benefit in the future, face his older brother and finally bring his family to justice.

Getting training from a Sannin as Orochimaru would definitely make him stronger. Just seeing how much Sakura has improved was evidence of that.

On the other hand, Sasuke didn't trust the snake Sannin. Giving that power of course came with a cost.

The memory of Orochimaru toying with him at the Chuunin Exams and then placing the cursed seal on him played on and on in his mind.

"Soon, you shall seek me out…it's in your blood!"

With one last snarl, Sasuke went back to his house, in deep thought.

All the while, one Hatake Kakashi just stood behind one of the trees with his arms crossed, observing it all, before deciding that he needed to talk about this to the Hokage, at once.

===With Naruto===

Later on, Uzumaki Naruto was seen going through a few sword katas, as instructed by Yuugao. It was a beautiful night overall and Naruto has chosen a secluded training ground for his late workout. The movement wasn't so strenuous as he still needed to rest somewhat, after his mission to the Land of Snow. Fighting those armors was quite the pain in the ass. Naruto's own techniques would be used against him, which forced him to sometimes overload his techniques, until the armors cracked under pressure.

The bastard Doto's armor was even more advanced, forcing everyone's chakra to the brink, until his armor broke and then, only then, were they able to defeat him.

Because of this, Naruto had to hear the fox bitch about having to ease his chakra coils. Their relationship had slightly improved. Before, the fox absolutely loathed his very existence and wanted nothing to do with its jailor. Now, at least, they were on relative talking matters, but mostly the fox talking and Naruto having the honor of listening. And most of what the fox spoke about was to berate him for pretty much anything and everything that he did, said and acted so far in his life. But, it was an improvement, compared to what it was before.

The Uzumaki Chuunin soon stopped his workout as he heard familiar footsteps approaching. Naruto was surprised to sense Sasuke of all people approaching his late night training.

"How's it going Sasuke…great weather tonight for some training, wouldn't you say?" If the Uchiha was surprised that Naruto knew it was him, he didn't show it. The fact that this late at night, Naruto was still focused on training, showed Sasuke a good and positive image. Naruto was easily considered one of the best Chuunin in the village and Sasuke surprised himself by conceding that Naruto was perhaps better than him. It certainly allowed him to be more at ease with what he was pondering at the moment, after the altercation with Orochimaru's lackeys.

"You do this often?" Naruto looked at his fellow Chuunin in wonder at the question.

"What…training? Yeah, on occasion…it's not like I have people waiting for me at home, you know." Yeah, Sasuke knew and understood; better than most.

"I do…" Sasuke admitted to knowing next to nothing about the Uzumaki's life. Though, now that he remembered from the Academy, Naruto was an orphan just like he was. The only difference being that while Sasuke had a family and then lost it, Naruto never had one. It was quite tough and quite subjective to measure which life was the worst. However, Naruto didn't seem to suffer from the same illness as him. Naruto doesn't appear to be angry, often. He is not ruled by emotions like Sasuke normally does. Hell, Sasuke even felt a strange sense of peace, while next to him. Naruto, for his part, turned to study the Uchiha, wondering what he could possibly want, right now.

"So…is there something I can help you with?" Sasuke subtly nodded, while maintaining an eased breathing.

"I have to make a tough decision with my life, Naruto. One that I hope you can help me with." A look of wonder still remained in Naruto as he turned his face sideways, while observing the Uchiha.

"Okay, what is it?" Naruto had barely less than a second to widen his eyes in surprise, before drawing his sword and parrying Sasuke's sudden attack. Naruto had made the mistake of looking straight at Sasuke's fully evolved Sharingan and was caught instantly inside a Genjutsu. He felt his body catching on fire and kneeled on the ground. Naruto took a heavy breath as he released the illusion from Sasuke, while seeing the Uchiha a few meters away from him, with his sword posed to strike. Allowing a couple of seconds to understand the situation he was in, Naruto took an eased breathing and got up from the ground.

"I could ask if you had truly lost your mind, but then I'd be wasting my time, right." Sasuke blinked and another Naruto appeared next to him, before landing a powerful kick on his chest.

The Naruto he was observing almost a second ago simmered as if Sasuke was observing a distorted image.

"Indeed, I don't wish to talk." Sasuke then back flipped and Naruto noticed the number of shuriken hurling straight at him. He used his sword to block them all, before he saw Sasuke throwing a set of three similar shuriken, with metal strings attached to it. The shuriken's trajectory went around his position and Naruto advanced. Had he been standing still for more than a second, the metal wire attached to the shuriken would have skewered him. Using great agility, before Sasuke pulled the metal wire that would have become threatening, Naruto had reached the metal wire and slashed it with his sword, before advancing on Sasuke. Using a sequence of shunshin and random shuriken throwing, Sasuke was kept on the defensive and couldn't use the Sharingan to anticipate Naruto's position.

He couldn't tell if his Chuunin opponent would close the distance or use long-range techniques. His fully evolved Sharingan caught on to Naruto doing hand seals, fast.

Fuuton: Daitoppa (Wind Release: Great Breakthrough)

The gigantic gust of wind lifted a couple of trees next to him and Sasuke had to evade the technique, or else he would be catapulted. The technique wasn't new as Orochimaru had used a similar tactic. Naruto had then watched as Sasuke's body lifted from the ground and couldn't handle his technique. He stood at attention as he landed close to Sasuke's original location. Sensing the Uchiha's position, Naruto soon dodged Sasuke's sword that would have decapitated him and created some distance. Sasuke took the opportunity and went through hand seals.

Katon: Housenka no Jutsu (Fire Release: Phoenix Sage Fire Technique)

Naruto had to evade the small but no less dangerous fireballs that came at him in random directions. Sasuke took the opportunity and attempted to catch Naruto once more in a Genjutsu, but it wasn't enough to hold for long. Caught by surprise at the speed in which Naruto released the Genjutsu, Sasuke was caught by surprise as Naruto went through a quick series of hand seals, while water drops hovered around him.

Suiton: Suidan no Jutsu (Water Release: Water Bullet Technique)

The water projectile technique hit Sasuke straight in the chest, forcing first blood coming from his mouth at the impact. Sasuke snarled at the fight not going his way and went through hand seals, before his hands burst into electricity. Slamming both hands on the ground, Sasuke had sent the electrical current fast at Naruto, who had to jump away. Naruto's eyes widened in surprise at seeing Sasuke appearing in front of him, with his sword drawn and about to thrust his sword through Naruto's chest. The Uchiha was sure of his victory, when he thrust the sword through Naruto's stomach, but he frowned once instead of blood, his sword was met with water as the Mizu Bunshin dissolved.

Landing on the ground and looking around, Sasuke wondered where the attack would come, when he heard it.

Suiton: Hahonryuu (Water Release: Tearing Torrent Technique)

Sasuke had less than a second, before his body was dragged by a powerful water current. The Uchiha looked quite surprised at the sudden appearance of this amount of water, enough to drag him below water, for cry's sake. Naruto merely observed the Uchiha getting dragged by the current, as he tsked in dismay. Looking to his left, he saw Sasuke lifted from below ground, using a basic earth manipulation escape. The Uchiha appeared winded, but Naruto saw that he had that look on his face…the Uchiha was enjoying himself.

"I take it that Sakura had taught you that, huh." Sasuke smirked, taking his time to recover some of his breath, while wondering just how much stamina his foe has to throw around as much Ninjutsu as him and not look winded.

"Yes, Naruto…this is what I wanted…this is what I always wanted from you!" The Uchiha was cackling like mad at this point, while Naruto just observed with a lifted eyebrow. "Just fighting you makes me feel so alive! You…push me like no other, before. I want more, Naruto. Fight me!" Sasuke vanished and Naruto blocked the opponent's sword with his own, now observing the mad look on Sasuke's face. The two danced in a Kenjutsu fight, while Naruto focused on his sensing capabilities, so as not to lock eyes with the Sharingan. If he did so, Sasuke would catch him in a Genjutsu and it would be the end of it. Something about this fight had convinced the Chuunin that Sasuke would definitely go for the kill, if he had the opportunity.

And he couldn't use Hayate's techniques, since Sasuke could copy it with his Sharingan. Yuugao-sensei would be quite pissed if she knew about it.

Soon, the speed and strength of Sasuke's technique intensified and Naruto remembered their previous fight in the preliminaries of the Chuunin Exams. The black markings had already spread throughout his body, forcing Naruto to call at least half of the fox's one-tail worth of chakra to compensate. Naruto needed to finish this fight fast and blocked Sasuke's sword, before pushing him with nothing but force, surprising Sasuke, despite him using the cursed seal. Naruto, then, went through hand seals and his hand glowed in white.

Fuuton: Senpuken (Wind Release: Whirlwind Fist Technique)

The rather short distance was enough for Naruto to advance and slam the whirlwind fist straight on Sasuke's stomach, shredding his wardrobe, Chuunin vest and even caused quite the damage to Sasuke's abdomen.

The attack was enough to take every bit of Sasuke's breath, until the pain was too much and he collapsed on the ground, unconscious. Naruto had released a sigh in dismay, at least relieved that he didn't have to use stronger and more destructive techniques against the relentless Uchiha. Plus, seeing the cursed seal active, meant that Kakashi-sensei's seal has weakened over time. As such, Naruto had grabbed Sasuke's unconscious body and thrown it over his shoulder, before using a shunshin towards the Hokage's Office.

===At the Hokage's Office===

As soon as Naruto appeared with Sasuke on his shoulder, he was about to knock, when he heard the Hokage and Tsunade shouting at each other, before Tsunade angrily slammed the door and stomped away. Naruto sweatdropped at the scene as he then observed the Hokage slumping on his desk, no doubt feeling the heavy atmosphere after whatever discussion had just transpired here. Calmly walking inside and closing the door to the Hokage's Office, Naruto had made his presence known with a sound of his throat.

"Ah, excuse me Hokage-sama, am I interrupting?" The senior shinobi looked up in surprise and noticed that Naruto was carrying an unconscious Sasuke on his shoulder.

"Nonsense, my boy…just that perhaps I have to reevaluate my choice for a successor." Naruto's eyes widened, before Hiruzen waved his concern off and turned to the focus at hand. "Now, care to tell me what happened?"

"Well, it might be better to call in Kakashi-sensei for this. Sasuke's cursed seal had acted up, while he demanded a fight out of me." Hiruzen sighed and got up from his chair.

"Sure, follow me, Naruto-kun and please bring Sasuke along with you." Naruto really had no option but to comply.

===Inside an Unknown Building===

In no time, Naruto and the Hokage had reached their destination and Naruto looked around to see just where he was at this point. It was a tall Building, that's for sure, but he couldn't see much else inside. Just a flat surface they were in with pipes on the ceiling. There was almost no light inside, but Naruto could sense hidden presences inside, such as his sensei Yuugao and three to four other hidden ANBU. Then, Kakashi made himself known, next to them, with both hands inside his pockets.

"Should I even ask, Naruto?" The Chuunin merely shrugged his shoulders, trying to placate whatever responsibility he had in Sasuke's state right now.

"Saying he started it would be quite juvenile, wouldn't it?" Hiruzen chuckled, before turning to the scarecrow Jonin.

"Perhaps, after meeting with his guests, Sasuke had decided to pay a visit to Naruto." Kakashi hummed in acknowledgment as Hiruzen continued. "Problem is that in the midst of their fight, Sasuke ended up using Orochimaru's cursed seal."

"I see." Kakashi said with a sigh in dismay. But then again, Kakashi admitted to underestimating the effect of his prodigy's emotions. "Then, I shall reapply the Fuja Hoin (Evil Sealing Method)." Hiruzen nodded as Naruto placed the unconscious Sasuke on the ground, before he saw Kakashi take charge and draw the many lines of seals for the sealing technique. He studied the line up of seals formed by the scarecrow Jonin, looking around for items to help the Jonin sensei. Taking some steps forward, Naruto observed the line up of Kakashi's sealing drawing, earning curious looks from both Hiruzen and Kakashi.

"Perhaps, I could add another layer of protection, Kakashi-sensei?" Kakashi's eyes widened and Hiruzen smirked, remembering just who first taught Naruto. "Your technique represses the evil aspect of the cursed seal, but fighting Sasuke, I learned that perhaps there is a trigger to the cursed seal's activation. Sasuke's own negative emotions flared the cursed seal into existence. Allow me." Then, Kakashi and Hiruzen observed as Naruto's finger glowed black as he then drew another sealing sequence that went around Kakashi's design. The scarecrow Jonin was caught speechless, observing Naruto growing before his very eyes. Hell, his eyes only saw another blond doing the same thing, a long time ago.

It took a total of five minutes for both sealing designs to finish, before Kakashi and Naruto turned to Hiruzen for approval.

The Hokage nodded and Kakashi started going through hand seals, before placing both hands on Sasuke's cursed seal.

Fuja Hoin (Evil Sealing Method)

Kakashi's sealing drawings then moved from the ground, towards Sasuke's body, crawling on his skin, until it formed a formative drawing around the cursed seal.

The scarecrow Jonin then observed as Naruto went through a long series of hand seals, before doing the same thing over Kakashi's own design.

Fuja Akui Hoin (Malice Sealing Method)

As soon as Naruto's technique finished, a second sealing ring formed around the cursed seal. Naruto wiped the sweat from his forehead at the level of focus he needed to uphold for this technique. Focusing on much of Tobirama-sensei's scroll on Fuuinjutsu these last months, Naruto had rarely been able to practice this much. And keeping the technique active like this took a lot of his chakra coils, so of course the damn fox now screamed inside his mind, bitching about having to ease his chakra coils. At this point, the Sannin Jiraiya appeared with a knowing smirk on his face.

"Oh, that was quite impressive, gaki. Since when were you able to do that?" Naruto had sensed the pervert's presence a couple of minutes ago and smiled.

"After seeing you seal Itachi's black flames in our mission to find Tsunade, I had decided on another side project of learning Fuuinjutsu." Jiraiya crossed his arms, looking quite impressed, both at the kid's skills in Fuuinjutsu and the kid's ability to come up with a cover story for Kakashi's sake.

"I see…well, color me impressed. Though, your previous attempt at capturing me in a Genjutsu failed quite terribly."

"Wh…" Jiraiya laughed quite loudly. Naruto, for his part, really believed he had succeeded yesterday.

"Please, kid, you're at least decades too early in managing to capture a Sannin in a Genjutsu. I just decided to go along, seeing as you were showing off for Kurenai…props for that, by the way." At this, Naruto blushed at what the pervert was implying.

The white-haired Sannin was even ruffling Naruto's hair playfully, while teasing him about finally having female interests.

Hiruzen, then, turned to Kakashi, who merely nodded and understood his follow-up mission to capture Orochimaru's goons, together with Hiruzen's best ANBU team.

Author Note

Ok, that's it for now. This chapter was tough to write. I had most of the chapter already planned, but as I wrote, I had decided on a couple of changes. In the end, I believe I managed to use many different parts of both canon and even the movie of Princess Koyuki's mission to the Land of Snow. Princess Koyuki was Naruto's first let's say romantic involvement. Something for him to understand this notion as he grows up. I have another idea in mind for a follow-up in this regard, but I shall keep it a secret for now.

Plus, regarding Sasuke's cursed seal, I had already decided that I wouldn't do the same thing as canon.

Now, Sasuke is counting on Naruto to grow and become strong enough to handle Itachi, using his own skills for that.

Lastly, about Tsunade…it's the same idea actually. Her being Hokage is pretty much done multiple times, so I had decided on another path for that. Two choices are still in my mind, aside from her, that Hiruzen now must choose from.

Well, many changes occurred in this chapter, so please tell me what you think.

Next update: Avalon Bond