A Naruto fanfic



Rating: T

Genre: Humor(...ish)/Adventure (maybe?)

Characters/Pairings: Tsunade, Sasuke, Naruto; [N/A]

Summary: Fairness is a nice idea, but tricky to actually work out in practice. Tsunade, however, at least intends to give credit where credit is due.

Tsunade glared darkly at the paper in her hands. It was a report on the matches from the final phase of the Chuunin Exams, including notes on the various candidates.

Since Sarutobi-sensei had kind of died before he could officially name his choices for promotion, it was up to the newly inaugurated Godaime to sift through the various notes and decide who would make the cut for promotion. She had to thoroughly examine the reports and build a mental picture of how each match had gone, and then from that decide who would make a good chuunin and who could benefit from some more experience as a genin.

While this was one of the least demanding tasks before her, still the Honorable Fifth could not help but stare at this particular sheet of paper like it had just personally insulted her mother.

Sasuke Uchiha is clearly already at chuunin level, and I would strongly recommend him for promotion.

Tsunade blinked, and looked back up at the summary of the Uchiha's match. She checked the notes accompanying it.

Displayed high taijutsu aptitude, including exceptional speed for any shinobi, let alone one as young as himself.

Showed good skill with shurikenjutsu.

Demonstrated an A-rank assassination technique, and managed to seriously wound his opponent.

She looked back, again, at the comment at the bottom of the paper, which recommended Sasuke for promotion. She reread it three times.

She groaned, and swore at Shizune for hiding her sake.

"What part of his match made the Uchiha look like good chuunin material?" she muttered, peering scathingly at another sheet which held a detailed play-by-play from Sasuke's fight. "Judging by these reports... all he did was attack his opponent head on."

She harrumphed, shaking her head at how easily some people were won over by the Uchiha name and a bit of fancy footwork.

"Even if I ignore how he wound up comatose in that hospital room..." Tsunade muttered, absentmindedly recalling the promise Naruto had extracted from her, and Jiraiya's own report on the scuffle. "...nothing in this report shows him demonstrating any of the qualities we're supposed to look for in chuunin."

The village's standards must have slipped a lot in Sarutobi-sensei's old age if even the ninja could be impressed by something like that match. While the format of the final phase of the Chuunin Exam wasn't technically the best for testing actual leadership abilities, a contestant's showing could still generally serve as a good indicator of their tactical aptitude and inclinations.

And these reports on Sasuke's match showed almost no strategy employed on the Uchiha's part. Most of the notes she had gone through basically amounted to a whole lot of gushing about the boy's physical prowess and combat ability, with no real critical analysis.

Tsunade scoffed.

"Seriously, I don't know what kind of Chuunin Exams this joker passed," she muttered, glancing at the paper which contained the recommendation for Sasuke's promotion, "but back in MY day, skill in a fight was one of the last things they actually tested for."

And this was very much true. She and her teammates had passed the Chuunin Exams themselves at such a very young age not because they had been good in a scrap, but because they had each demonstrated a firm grasp of strategy, and a fundamental understanding of the qualities necessary for chuunin squad leaders. Jiraiya lost his own match miserably, but he showed enough quick thinking and resourcefulness to convince the village higher ups that he was worth promoting.

She and Orochimaru had better showings than Jiraiya, in terms of the ability to fight and win their matches, but half of their success – again – had derived from clever strategies and deceptive tactics which enabled them to come out on top despite being matched up against enemies far stronger and more experienced than themselves.

Sasuke, for however well he might have done in his match against Gaara – who, judging by references to earlier phases of the exams, possessed some very formidable ninjutsu in his own right – had simply gone headlong into the fight with no attempts at strategy. Certainly, one could argue (and several of the commentators did) that the Uchiha had simply been biding his time until an opening for him to use chidori presented itself, but Tsunade came from an old and traditionalist school of thought.

A single high level technique. Even if it WAS an A-rank assassination jutsu known by only one other person, one impressive jutsu could hardly a chuunin make. Tsunade had seen plenty of Chuunin Exam contestants who had boasted inordinately advanced or powerful ninjutsu, but still fallen utterly short of the mark.

And Sasuke had apparently failed to even properly finish his opponent, despite going at him with such an efficient killing move as Kakashi's chidori. A more forgiving person might have said that this was simply a testament to the strength of Gaara's own defenses, but Tsunade saw it in a rather different light. Especially considering what she knew of how recklessly the boy had charged a certain S-class rogue ninja.

It seemed clear to Tsunade from the reports she'd read that Sasuke had barely been able to control his chidori. Which, in her mind, counted as another mark against the boy's promotion. She had seen this kind of mentality which compelled young ninja to try out cool and impressive new jutsu before even mastering them many times before over the years.

Almost invariably, those who possessed such brash and reckless temperaments wound up in early graves, dying senseless deaths trying to pull off a technique too difficult for them in a situation where they could have easily survived through the use of much simpler and more basic ninjutsu. Such people were the very LAST sorts you'd want to see as team leaders, which was precisely what chuunin were supposed to be.

Quite frankly, Tsunade was of the opinion that Sasuke Uchiha was in need of a serious attitude adjustment before he could even be considered as a chuunin candidate. Promoting him now would only reinforce the kid's bad habits, and most likely fuel a false sense of superiority.

Maybe Tsunade's Senju heritage made her a tiny bit biased against young Sasuke, especially considering certain subtle and worrying similarities to a particular former teammate of hers. But with how much special treatment he seemed to have been getting almost everywhere else, Tsunade supposed it was only fair of her to balance things out.

Seriously, she had NEVER heard of match in the Chuunin Exams getting postponed. In her many years of experience, failure to show up on time automatically disqualified you. Punctuality was one of the most fundamental necessities in a shinobi – if a genin couldn't be trusted to show up on time to the stadium, how could they be trusted to finish time-sensitive missions, or carry out any kind of serious duty?

"Sarutobi-sensei really was getting too old to lead, letting himself get pushed around like that..." she murmured, reading an after-action report from one Raidou Namiashi.

Despite all precedent and protocol pointing toward Sasuke's disqualification, the late Sandaime had let himself be pressured by a foreign leader into compromising the integrity of the Chuunin Exams just to please a few fat aristocrats. And Tsunade couldn't help the slight shiver down her spine as she recalled that particular report, knowing full well that this "foreign leader" had in fact been Orochimaru impersonating the Fourth Kazekage.

For the Lord Third to have not even suspected this... he really had been slipping. It was depressing to think that the man she had once admired so deeply could have fallen so far with the passage of years. He had clearly been burned out and tired, only barely even able to carry out his duties as hokage.

With a sigh, Tsunade marked her final decision on Sasuke, before moving on.

This brat is a hundred years too early to be trusted with the responsibilities of a chuunin.

Five candidates from the Leaf. One was set for promotion, two had been firmly denied, and one didn't even get the chance to show their quality.

Twenty or so minutes after making her decision on the matter of Sasuke's consideration for promotion, Tsunade looked down at the reports on the last Konoha chuunin candidate.

Naruto Uzumaki

She couldn't help an amused snort as she read through the play-by-play of the rambunctious blond's match, from her recent familiarity with the boy finding herself able to quite vividly envision his fight against the Hyuuga prodigy.

As she would have expected, considering the boy's showing against such a high level opponent as Orochimaru's little hanger on, he had demonstrated no small amount of grit and determination in taking on an opponent who, on paper, seemed to be in almost every way his superior.

A pleasant surprise, however, came to Tsunade when she sat back and visualized the fight, analyzing the two contestants' strategies. As the fight played out, unfolding before her mind's eye, a shinobi as experienced as herself having no difficulty working from such detailed reports, she soon came to notice something very interesting. Especially considering the highly critical analysis most of the commentators had given the boy's match.

Frowning and slowly shaking her head, opening her eyes, Tsunade glanced down at some of the notes on Naruto's performance.

A very good genin, but still a little too headstrong and brash for chuunin consideration.

The fight was impressive, but Naruto's grasp of strategy is a little lacking.

I would not recommend this boy for promotion quite yet. Maybe with another year of experience under his belt, but not as he is now.

Tsunade cocked her head, staring at these papers. She looked back at the play-by-play, carefully perusing it and critically analyzing every stage of the boy's performance as described in the report.

After a couple minutes of this, she leaned back in her seat and gave a low hum.

Grabbing a pen, she decided to try and work through this on paper to see if there was something she was missing. She quickly scrawled out a basic break down of Naruto's performance as she understood it from the reports:

showed considerable aptitude with a jonin level technique (shadow clone jutsu)

firstly, employed above technique to engage opponent (who used hyuuga gentle fist) without putting self in harm's way

secondly, employed the same technique to trick enemy into attacking a clone (having one of his shadow clones hang back to make opponent think it was the original) and in the opening presented in this moment attempted a surprise attack from behind

demonstrated also ability to tap into his "other" chakra without any loss of control; showed greatly increased speed, strength, and reflexes while using this chakra

lastly, used this power boost to attack opponent. foe countered with kaiten, and both were flung apart. under cover of smoke from this explosion, candidate dug underground while leaving a shadow clone in his place. lured foe into believing they had won, before striking with a final blow from beneath.

Tsunade, having finished this, then took a metaphorical step back and carefully analyzed her own analysis. It was clear to her that, unlike Shikamaru Nara who had painstakingly plotted out every move of his own strategy, Naruto had been flying by the seat of his pants.

When his first strategy proved insufficient to combat his opponent, Neji handily countering the full frontal charge from the shadow clones, Naruto employed a variation of that strategy. While making it look like he was doing the same basic maneuver twice, he sneaked up alongside his own bunshin, purposely having one clone hang back in the same way he had during his first move.

Neji, thus tricked into attacking a shadow clone, thinking it was the real Naruto and hence believing that the clones would dissipate once he hit his target, left his back open. In the moment of realization when the clone burst, Naruto launched an attack from behind. Neji still managed to counter this, however, able to see the coming attack thanks to his byakugan.

After that, Neji appeared to dominate the fight with his superior taijutsu, even managing to seal up Naruto's tenketsu with the Sixty-Four Palms technique. Despite this apparent defeat, however, Naruto was able to draw on the fox's chakra and force the closed tenketsu back open. In the brief skirmish that followed, Naruto demonstrated physical abilities which well surpassed Neji's.

Then, after an attempted attack was just barely deflected by a desperate kaiten from Neji, Naruto executed one last ploy, under the cover of smoke and dust leaving a shadow clone in the crater where he landed, and secretly tunneling under the arena while his opponent gloated over their apparent victory.

Finally, Naruto succeeded in landed an attack squarely on Neji, ambushing the unprepared Hyuuga from below and finishing the match with one last punch.

It was no masterfully executed plan, but any experienced commander could tell you that the ability to improvise in a combat situation was one of the most valuable abilities a team leader could possess. Complex strategies which relied on the enemy making exactly the moves you predicted, such as the one Shikamaru had employed in his fight against Temari, might have seemed more impressive to the average layman, but in reality they were very difficult to carry off, and any one element out of place could bring the whole thing crashing down.

Naruto, in contrast, while by no means a strategic genius was still able to devise and employ a number of simple but effective tactics ranging from basic sleight of hand to careful misdirection. Some people would have said that Naruto only barely won that match, getting by on just the skin of his teeth. And they wouldn't have necessarily been wrong, either.

Neji was an exceptionally skilled fighter, and Naruto had been only barely hanging on near the end. In Tsunade's opinion, however, rather than counting against him this fact emphasized what tactical abilities the boy did have. One of the most elementary precepts of shinobi discipline was defeating technically superior enemies through quick thinking and teamwork.

A handful of the reports Tsunade had read criticized Naruto for repeatedly trying to tackle his enemy head on, which in her opinion completely ignored what had actually happened in that fight. She didn't even bother listening to those people.

More commonly, however, she saw criticisms of the fact that Naruto had kept throwing himself back into the fray even when it seemed like he was completely outmatched. And this was certainly a valid point – there were many times when a team's well-being had to be weighed against the success of a mission, times when prudence proved the better part of valor.

In her mind, however, she saw also the flip side of this: at many other times, the mission had to be put above one's own well being, or even the lives of one's teammates. There were many times when a team leader would be expected, even obligated to continue on against seemingly impossible odds. Sometimes the most important skill for a leader was simply the ability to convince their men to march determinedly to their own deaths.

And, keeping in mind how the boy had been able to ultimately inspire even a cold, hardened cynic like her, Tsunade had the feeling that Naruto would prove a natural at charismatic leadership. Honestly, despite what some of the commentators might have said, Naruto was in his own way just as qualified as Shikamaru to become a team leader.

Compared to someone as reckless as Sasuke, the only real risk of promoting Naruto, in Tsunade's opinion, was that he might very well become insufferably cocky over it. But she also trusted that Kakashi would be able to beat that out of him given a week's time or so.

Hardly anyone was a perfect chuunin the moment they were promoted. And considering the shape of the Leaf's middle and upper ranks in the aftermath of the Sand-Sound invasion, certain standards would naturally have to be lowered a little.

Not enough for Sasuke or Neji to rate a promotion, but Naruto could at least make the cut along with Shikamaru. And maybe there was just a little bit of nepotism behind that decision, but no one was completely unbiased.

It may have only been through her grandmother, but Tsunade was STILL part Uzumaki.

A/N: I've seen this sort of concept done a time or two before, but usually not too terribly well. And rereading through the last stretch of the Chuunin Exams arc, I noticed something Genma said to Sasuke before sending him after the Sand Siblings.

"You're already at chuunin level. If you consider yourself a Konoha shinobi, go do something useful."

Being fair, I suppose one could argue that Genma was referring solely to combat ability, or even just saying this to goad Sasuke into pursuing the Sand Sibs, but it still irked me a little after stopping to think about it. If you compared the showings of Sasuke and Naruto, looking primarily at strategy employed (which is allegedly one of the most important deciding factors in selecting new chuunin), you would find...

...that all Sasuke did was probe Gaara's defenses a bit, show off taijutsu that was, admittedly, at Lee's level, and use an A-rank assassination technique... to give his opponent a wound just a few steps above superficial, considering how, at most an hour or two afterwards, Gaara was able to pull off his full transformation anyways. It was impressive in terms of how much Sasuke had increased his abilities in just one month, but as far as qualifying him to become a chuunin...?

All he really did, strategically, was throw a few kicks and punches and shuriken. If Gaara hadn't been so unstable by that point as to almost immediately begin long, sloow process of his bijuu transformation, Sasuke would have never had an opening long enough to charge up and execute a chidori.

I'm not bashing him, though. I do kinda like Sasuke's character in a meta sort of way, even if he is often a massive prick. I just don't think it was fair of Genma to say that Sasuke of all people was already at chuunin level with only that short fight as reference.

And so this mild point of contention with the words of a fictional character led me to create this. Which I suppose to work as a mildly ranty one shot, or maybe as a lead in to a NON smut multi-chapter fic.

Updated: 10-15-14

TTFN and R&R!

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