Iruka looked at the defeated looking back of his favorite student as he left the exam room. Naruto wasn't his best student, far from it, but he was the one with the most spirit. He just never gave up.
As he let out a sigh he thought about Naruto's chance at becoming a ninja, never mind reaching his dream of becoming Hokage. He only had one more chance at getting his Hitai-ate.
While a child studying to become a ninja could take the exam as many times as they wished, and even become a genin long before their age mates, when they reached the age of 16 without having become a ninja, they were dropped from the program. The same thing happened to those who ended up in the genin-corps, having lost their test to be given a jonin instructor, when they reached the age of 20 without having been promoted to chunin.
As Naruto would turn 15 only a couple of month into the next school year, next year would become his last chance at becoming a ninja.
He really wished there was something he could do to help Naruto; his trouble with the clone jutsu just wasn't logical. He knew that his student had more than enough chakra to form the jutsu, not like some of the others who hadn't passed; they had far too little chakra, and if they couldn't even muster enough chakra to form an E-rank jutsu, they had no place as a ninja. They would only become corpses that way.
The only one he had advocated for to pass the exam, without passing the jutsu part, in his entire career had been Rock Lee. And that had only been because of Might Gai's promise of taking him as his genin and making him a great taijutsu user.
He promised himself to look through Naruto's exams results, to find out how he could help him reach his dream. After all; even though Mizuki had noted the results down as failed (in the written and taijutsu tests) and almost failed (in the weapon test) there had to be something he could do to help his young student overcome his shortcomings.
Yes… he had decided. When he went home he would be taking Naruto's written test with him, to figure out what he needed to teach Naruto, for him to pass the test next year. And, even if he knew that he was skirting the rules, he had some favors owed him by some of the jonins in the village. He would cash in on them to get a little help with instructing Naruto in taijutsu and weapon handling. Now he only needed to figure out why Naruto couldn't do the clone jutsu.
He would speak with the hokage tomorrow, he had never had a bad word about Naruto, and he might have an idea of what he was doing wrong in his teaching of his favorite student.
That night Iruka was staring bewildered at Naruto's written test. He couldn't find one single mistake… how in the world had Mizuki written this test down as a fail?
Now that he thought of it; Mizuki was the one responsible for teaching taijutsu, and when he last went to Ichiraku with Naruto, he had told him that he knew all of the katas now. But hadn't Mizuki…?
When he hurriedly found the notes for Naruto's exam marks he saw that he had been right.
Mizuki had noted down that Naruto apparently knew none of the katas, and used a highly ineffective style; which looked more like something he had picked up at a bar brawl than an actual taijutsu style.
And now, when he really thought of it, hadn't Naruto been the best shot in his class, apart from Sasuke, for the last half year. How did that match with this score of only 3 hits with shuriken and 4 hits with kunai, none of them bull's eye. There was something wrong.
As Iruka speed toward the Hokage tower, Naruto's written test and evaluation clenched in his fist, he heard some very worrying rumors; apparently someone had stolen the forbidden scroll from the Hokage's safe. As his journey continued he heard more and more mentioning of a name that was rather known to him: Uzumaki Naruto.
He adjusted his track, so he now had course toward one of the glades in the surrounding forest very well known to him, and to his old friend Mizuki, instead of the Hokage tower.
He really hoped he was wrong, but just to be sure…
As he came upon the glade, and laid eyes on Naruto, sitting exhausted leaning against a big scroll, his worst fear was confirmed.
Naruto had someway been tricked by Mizuki to steal the forbidden scroll from the Hokage. What story Mizuki had told the three times failed academy student, he didn't know; whatever it was had to be good. Naruto wasn't a genius, far from it, but he was normally too smart to be tricked like that.
As he entered the glade he was discovered by Naruto, now he just hoped that Naruto was willing to tell him what had possessed him to believe that following orders, which resulted in high treason, was a good idea.
Iruka sat in the Hokage's office. The only thing stopping him from hitting his own head against the wall was the medic-nin who was bandaging his wounds (he was pretty sure that the result of further hurting himself would be a long talking too from the woman, and he was far too tired to want to spend the rest of his night being admonished for being stupid).
The Hokage had just informed him of something he should have been aware of. Actually he had known it; he had just never connected the dots.
Naruto had far too much chakra compared to his chakra control to be able to perform most E-rank, or even D-rank, jutsu. If his control was compared to someone with, say Sasuke's chakra reserves, he wouldn't even have enough control to do the leaf exercise. The fact that Naruto had even been able to do the other two E-rank jutsus that were needed to pass the exam was a miracle. In fact; how had he done it?
He would need to have a long talk with Naruto tomorrow or… longer than first intended, as he also needed to teach him all the things that Mizuki was supposed to have taught him.
He was pretty sure that Naruto's taijutsu was as bad as Mizuki had described, or someone would have noticed the disproportion between the grade and the actual work during the test. The only thing he was sure of was that it wasn't Naruto's fault, but the fault of the traitor.
He had a week to get Naruto up to par in all that had been neglected… now that he thought of it; how many of his early teachers had been neglecting him too? He would need to make sure that Naruto was secure in all the basic. He at least owed him that… that and a big bowl of ramen; Naruto had after all saved his life, it was the least he could do to feed the bottomless hole he called a student and, hopefully, friend.
Naruto might be 8 years younger than him, but he quite liked the young teen, and hoped they would stay in contact when he was assigned a team. He might just, then he flicked his eyes toward the hokage, hiding a wicked smile, after all once a prankster always a prankster.
The next morning, late morning, but as it was before lunch time it was still morning, found Iruka in front of Naruto's apartment door.
He had had to find the address in Naruto's files, as he had never been here before. Something he felt a little ashamed about. After all he had visited the rest of his students homes, even the orphans, and he looked at the peeling and damaged door in front of him, and thought of the road here, which had quite frankly shocked him; he wasn't aware that such kind of living conditions existed in Konoha. If he didn't know better he would say that Naruto lived in a yakuza neighborhood, but as far as he knew; there was no organized crime in Konoha.
He waited a little while, and then knocked again; surely Naruto would still be home, after a night like that he couldn't imagine him not wanting to sleep in. suddenly he heard a crash behind the door, and the tired voice of his student speaking from behind the door, still some distance from it.
"SHIT… coming, coming, just wait a moment and I will be with you." And then in a mumble he knew he wouldn't have been able to hear, had he not been channeling chakra to his ears.
"I hope it's not the damn landlord.. I don't have the money for another rent rise, and I don't want to sleep in the forest again."
Iruka looked around himself once again; he couldn't imagine that Naruto would have any problems paying for this dump out of his allowance from the orphan act. Maybe if he went on a ramen binge every day, he was after all as close to a human black hole as possible, but Iruka knew that, for Naruto, it was a treat to go to Ichiraku, and cup ramen was the cheapest food you could buy… something seemed fishy here.
The door opened, and Iruka got yet another shock. It hadn't been a mountain of empty cups from cup ramen that had fallen, as he had believed. No the floor was filled with mountains of handwritten books and scrolls, a single shadow clone busy with re-stacking the overturned mountain that had fallen on Naruto's way to the door.
Then his eyes fell on Naruto, and it was all he could do not to squeeze him to his chest, yelling KAWAI.
Naruto was looking overly cute, standing in the doorway in an oversized red shirt, wearing a nightcap, which looked like some animal was trying to eat his head. It didn't help the overall picture of absolute adorableness that he was using one hand to softly grind out the sleep from his eye.
Iruka lost the fight with himself, and grabbed Naruto, pressing him tightly to his chest, easily avoiding the flailing arms of his captive.
When he finally let go of his young former student, he almost caught him once again, due to his big, confused eyes.
Iruka cleared his throat and made a motion, as if to ask if he could enter. Naruto just looked confused back at him.
"Naruto-kun… may I come in." finally some understanding seemed to seep into the teen's eyes. A hurried nod, and a hand on his arm pulling him in, and Iruka was standing in a room that had; maybe the most books outside the hokage tower or the libraries (primarily the public village one as there was probably more books here than in some of the smaller clan libraries).
"Uhmm… I need to go get on some clothing, can you wait for me in the kitchen." Naruto was pulling lightly on the bottom of his shirt; clearly uncomfortable with being so underdressed, and nearly naked, when he was having a visitor.
Iruka gave a distracted nod, and moved in the direction Naruto had pointed him.
Upon entering the kitchen Iruka was once again surprised. This time not because it didn't fit his expectations, but because it did. There was ramen everywhere. On the dining table he saw the only food in the kitchen which wasn't ramen; a bowl with brown bananas and a couple of really small apples. He thought back on Naruto's mumbling before he opened the door, but didn't want to connect the dots… didn't want to think that his fellow villagers could be so evil and mean toward a poor orphan.
It didn't take long before Naruto entered the kitchen, for once not wearing his customary orange jumpsuit, but rather a gray wife beater and an army green pair of shorts, high lightening his slightly, for a ninja, muscular body. He hurriedly put on a kettle of water, clearly preparing for tea; yet the tea he brought down form the cabinet above him wasn't something you would buy in the shops, but clearly the result of foraging in the forest surrounding Konoha.
"Want a cupa?" at Iruka's slightly stunned nod, he took down two cups. With a quick look into the cabinet; Iruka discovered that it seemed to be all he had, two cups, two bowls and two pairs of chopsticks. It didn't seem like he was used to guests; might explain his rather unusual actions since he opened the door.
"So…? What are you doing here Iruka-sensei? I hope you didn't get too hurt last night…! I'm sorry that I just left like that, but I really needed to find out what all that… you know with the Kyuubi… what it meant for me; now and in the future. And I'm really sorry; I should have stayed until I was sure that you were okay and… sorry; shutting up now."
One look at Naruto's ashamed and self-discriminating face, and Iruka was sold. It was only the table between them that stopped Naruto from once again experiencing what it feels like to be Iruka's favorite teddy bear.
"Don't worry Naruto-kun! I wasn't too hurt yesterday, and I'm almost fully healed today." That was a lie, but he was well enough to be able to fake it, that had to count for something.
"I actually came by to talk with you about your test."
"My test? What about it? I mean it doesn't really count for anything now… does it? You're not going to take away my Hitai-ate… are you? Iruka-sensei, I earned it fair and square, it would be really mean for you to take it back now!" Naruto's eyes were almost swimming over due to the thought of him not being a real ninja after all.
"No Naruto-kun, I won't take it from you… as you said you earned it fair and square. Even the Hokage agreed with my assessment, so it is yours to keep."
At Naruto's blinding smile, Iruka couldn't keep from smiling back. With all the bad luck in his life; Naruto deserved some good fortune… which was why he was here.
"Naruto-kun… yesterday after your exam I decided to see what I had done wrong in my teaching of you, as I couldn't understand why you would fail the exam as spectacularly as your assessment showed… and I discovered something."
At Naruto's beseeching look he took a sip of tea and continued.
He was quite ashamed that he hadn't noticed the discrepancies before, and felt that his students failure at passing years ago (maybe not the first time he had tried, but he should have been ready the second), was fully on his shoulders. Mizuki had been his best friend for years. That and he knew about how his hatred for Naruto had never let up; not like his own, which had slowly disappeared until he saw Naruto as nothing else but his beloved student.
"You got a hundred percent on your written test; far from the failed it was marked at, and I have gone over your written test from the earlier years. While they were far from as impressive as the one you did this year, they should all have been given a passed grade…" as he saw Naruto's face become red in anger, he hurried on, as he knew he wouldn't finish if Naruto got a word in edge wise.
"That is not all; from your results this last year, I can only conclude that the records for your weapon test was faked… or did you in fact only hit the target with 3 shuriken and 4 kunai out of 10, none of them in the bull's eye?" at Naruto's silent shake of head, he continued on. At least it seemed like his young former student understood that he needed to stay quiet if he wanted to hear it all.
"Now the next thing is something you will need to work with. Don't worry I will help you all I can, but you need to take your defects in this seriously. Mizuki was your instructor in taijutsu… Mizuki is a traitor. I have good reason to believe that everything he taught you about taijutsu is wrong, if not plain suicidal to use. We will work on that for the next week, but you need to promise me that you will continue working on it after you have been given a jonin sensei. It is an important element for a ninja, and it could kill you if you continue like you are right now."
At Iruka's serious look Naruto swallowed enough of his anger to listen seriously. And when Iruka asked for his promise, he gave a solemn nod, with his hand on his heart. Whenever Iruka sounded like that, you have better sit up and take notice, because it would most likely save your life one day.
Iruka smiled relived at Naruto, and then his face took on a shameful mine. As he continued on; it was done in a shameful tone.
"The last thing is fully my fault. I should have known it, and yet it was only when I mentioned the result of the problem to the Hokage, that I got reminded of what I should always have remembered.
You have almost no chakra control compared to your reserves. That doesn't mean that your control is bad… it is pretty average. What it does mean is; you have uncommonly large reserves, at least for a normal ninja. I was told that it isn't all that unusual among your clan but…"
"Wait, wait, wait… iruka-sensei; I have a clan?" at Naruto's absolutely flummoxed yet deeply hopeful look, he just couldn't be angry at the young teen for interrupting him.
"Yes you do. You belong to the Uzumaki clan of Whirlpool… and before you ask; even if I knew who your parents were, I wouldn't be allowed to tell you.
According to the Hokage your parents had a lot of enemies, and if anyone ever found out who your parents were, they would want to kill you.
The Hokage told me that once you are strong enough to defend yourself; you will be told about them, and get your inheritance."
At Naruto's crushed, yet still hopeful, look Iruka took his hand in between his.
"Oh Naruto-kun… don't worry, I know the Hokage have told you that your parents loved you… and I know that anyone would have been proud of you. Your will of fire burns brightly, and your 'never give up' attitude are something any parent would have been proud of."
Naruto lifted his free hand, and removed the single tear that had escaped during Iruka's words. Then he gave a decisive nod, and smiled sunnily at Iruka. He would do his best to do his parents proud; the parents he would make sure to know of as soon as possible. He just needed to work even harder on getting stronger. The sooner he got strong enough, the sooner he would get to know his parents' names, get to hold what they had left for him… he might even get to see a picture of them.
This was his new goal. While he wouldn't forget about becoming Hokage, his more immediate goal was to become strong enough to see his parents' faces and know their names.
Naruto nodded to Iruka once again, telling him without words to continue what he had been saying, before he got interrupted by Naruto's wish to know where he came from.
"As I was saying; it is not unusual for an Uzumaki to have uncommonly high chakra reserves, and you containing the Kyuubi on top of that have made your chakra reserves even more so. It was a folly to think that you would ever be able to learn the common clone jutsu, at least when your control is less than what a medic-nin would need. I should have had you learn one of the elemental clone jutsu years ago instead.
As a matter of fact; I have no idea how you learned the replacement jutsu and the henge, as they need as little chakra as the clone jutsu… the replacement perhaps, as you learned that one years ago, when your reserves was much smaller, and when you have learned something once it is much easier to maintain that knowledge. But you only fully learned the henge two years ago. At that time you should have had too much chakra compared to your control to be able to learn something that requires so little chakra."
He send Naruto a searching look, hoping that his former student would have some sort of idea about what the reason could be for this confusing conundrum.
Naruto just looked confused at his teacher.
"What do you mean Iruka-sensei? The henge demands almost as much chakra as the shadow clone! Which by the way don't demand nowhere near what the scroll said."
Iruka send him an inquiring look.
"The scroll said that you needed to use half of your chakra to make a shadow clone… but it's more like half a percent of my chakra. I hardly feel the drain!"
They sat in silence for a couple of minutes; Iruka puzzling out the two confusing conundrums he had been given.
"I think… I think that you have much more chakra than I first expected. That half the chakra capacity of a normal jonin is only a half percent of yours… it sounds like chakra control will be one of the things we need to concentrate on the most, and something you will need to focus on for the rest of your life. Your chakra reserves must grow with an alarming haste, considering that only 5 years ago you were able to learn the replacement jutsu without all that much trouble.
But still… the henge shouldn't take that much chakra compared to the replacement or shadow clone jutsu… show me your henge! It seems like I will need to really figure out what you are doing… not wrong, but different. Use all the hand-seals."
Naruto got to his feet, and started going through the hand-seals.
Naruto henged into the mirror picture of Iruka himself.
"I don't understand… that shouldn't have worked! The correct sequence is Dog-Boar-Ram. How in the world you got something functioning, even if it demands much more chakra, out of it I don't know.
At Naruto's chagrined look he raised his hand to ruffle his hair in assurance, forgetting for a moment that it was only an illusion, and that Naruto's head would be much father down. When his hand connected to the illusions head, and proved that there was substance where there should be none, he got a shock.
Soon he was feeling his mirror picture up, letting his hands caress the body, and the weapons connected to the body. He removed one of the kunais from the belt pouch, and it stayed in form, even when not in contact with Naruto.
Iruka couldn't keep in his gasp at this new discovery. It was like a combination of the henge and the shadow clone jutsu.
As he looked up from the weapon in his hand, his eyes fell on the delighted face of his friend… former student… on Naruto, and he couldn't keep from smiling back.
"Naruto… do you know what this means?"
Naruto scratched the back of his henged neck.
"I… did something good?"
Iruka swung an arm around the shoulder on his young student turned twin, and gave him an amazed grin, partly to calm the worried youngster down, partly because he just couldn't keep it in.
"You did something very good! You invented a jutsu that is many times better than the normal illusion technic that the henge is… just imagine; being on an infiltration mission, someone becomes suspicious that you ain't who you said you were, and lies a hand on your head, to check for henge, yet your illusion holds, because it isn't an illusion, it's a transformation."
He gave the figure, looking like himself, beside him a noisy kiss on the cheek, and started fluttering around in the kitchen.
"We need to inform the Hokage so he can write down the jutsu. If it uses as much chakra as you say, it will probably be put in the forbidden scroll…"
At Naruto's reluctant look he calmed down a little; he could understand Naruto's reluctance in making something he had invented, and which he thought the young teen must have used a lot when he tried to get away from his pranks, public knowledge.
"Don't worry, just because the Hokage knows of the jutsu doesn't mean that anyone else will. You can claim it as a clan jutsu, that way no one but those you teach it to is allowed to learn it, at least not in Konoha."
Naruto looked down.
"That's not it… I just really don't want to go out there right now."
Iruka caught his eyes shortly, before they looked down again. Suddenly he felt ashamed. It had only been yesterday, not even 24 hours, since he had been told about his burden… been told why so many of the villagers hated and feared him.
Iruka stopped pulling on the hand he held in his, and took a step closer. At Iruka's sympatric look, Naruto dismissed the transformation; the kunai in Iruka's other hand disappearing with a puff of chakra smoke.
"I'm sorry Naruto… let's just stay in for today… I'm sure the Hokage will be there tomorrow, or whenever you go to deliver your registration papers."
Naruto answered Iruka's hopeful smile with a careful one of his own. At least he didn't have to go out right now. Just the thought of all those hateful glares, especially now, when he knew why they hated him… he couldn't bare it.
They stood in silence for a while; Naruto's hand in Iruka's, and his eyes turned toward the ground, both of them trying to find something to say; as Iruka was unwilling to leave. Suddenly Iruka remembered why he had come. He had promised himself to help Naruto with the things he obviously, or not so obviously, hadn't learned in the academy.
Soon he was busy questioning Naruto on everything from how to survive in the wild, and escape a rope, to how to infiltrate a noble's court.
There wasn't many thing that Naruto knew nothing about, but the number of things he had learned wrong, even if just slightly, was terrifying. If Naruto had went out in the field with this as his basis, no one knowing just how strongly he had been sabotaged, he would have been dead within a year. No matter how much his jonin sensei tried to help him.
And that was only if he was given a jonin instructor who didn't hate him for holding the Kyuubi… he might not even have the willing help of his sensei, either because of him not passing the true genin test, or because of bias toward him.
Iruka needed to help his young friend as much as possible, and he wasn't willing to stop just because he became a genin with his own sensei… the risk of future sabotage was to big.
They started from the bottom up, or rather that was Iruka's plan, until they both simultaneously remembered the shadow clone jutsu.
It took a little time to get everything in order, and instruct the different shadow clones, but soon Naruto was busy learning several different things at once.
He was learning tree walking, or in this instance; wall walking.
He was learning how to survive in the wild, only theory for now, but at least the more obvious of his mistakes was removed, and he finally got his questions answered about how to make different snares, how to make a smokeless fire and so on.
He was taught how to make different food than ramen, only from a cookbook, as Iruka was busy teaching the other clones different things, but at least he dared actually trying with someone there to stop him from burning down the apartment, or poisoning himself with the finished food.
An extra clone had been sent out to buy ingredients; wearing Naruto's version of a henge. Something Naruto would never have thought of; but upon discovering just how much he was normally overcharged, he decided that that would be how he shopped from now on.
The disguise also made sure that he wasn't recognized in the streets, sparing him from the hateful looks; that was the original reason for Iruka's suggestion.
Other shadow clones was learning different ways to walk, or reading up on different topics of conversation material; all in the hope that should Naruto need to do an infiltration mission, he wouldn't be discovered due to only knowing how to act, talk and walk like himself.
Naruto was showing a lot of promise in his development of the different masks, and gave Iruka a good idea of who to contact to help his young friend (because by now he demanded the right to call the teen his friend) dwell deeper into the work as an infiltration specialist.
If Naruto was good enough, he would be in much less danger during that kind of missions, due to his fantastic transformation technic. He would do whatever he could to keep Naruto out of direct fights for as long as possible. At least until he was much, much better with his taijutsu.
While his clones were busy doing that; Iruka had started the real Naruto on the academy katas. It didn't take long for Iruka to notice that the style didn't work very well for Naruto, but at least he was un-learning all those damaging stances and moves Mizuki had learned him. Better a style that wasn't a complete fit, than a style that actively damaged the user.
Even if Iruka could get Naruto up to par with his class mates on his own, at a much reduced time, Naruto would have been much farther along in his career hadn't it been for how blind Iruka was toward Mizuki's despicable and traitorous nature. As such he really owed Naruto the best help he could give.
Iruka had decided to contact Gai for taijutsu training; Naruto would at least be able to participate in the early morning training, he didn't know any other jonin who started training as early as Gai, and that would at least give Naruto a couple of hours of taijutsu training a day.
One of the young and newly promoted tokubetsu jōnins of Konoha would be contacted as an instructor in disguises and infiltration. Something he was sure would save Naruto's life one day, in tandem with making his life easier in the village.
He hadn't been ignorant to Naruto's amazement and gratitude, at getting his ingredients at normal price. If he was in any way able to lighten Naruto's burden as the village's jinchūriki, he would do what he could to do so.
The next morning Iruka got up ungodly early. He would need to get to Gai before he started his morning training with his protégé Lee, as he didn't want anyone else to butt in before they had reached an agreement. If everything went to plan Naruto would soon get to know Lee, but for now; Iruka didn't have the patience for two yelling, overly awake green beasts of Konoha.
Of course he could have waited until after Gai's customary morning training, as he himself would be more awake and ready for yelling later in the day, but that posed the problem of interference from the mans other genin students. From what he remembered from Hyuuga Neji; he hadnt liked Naruto overly much, and thought him a looser, destined by fate to always be the worst at everything he did; an attitude reinforced by the blatant discrimination by the other teachers in the academy, and maybe even his own tendency to yell at Naruto when he goofed around.
Of course now he knew why Naruto always goofed around during class (as Iruka would have the class for most of the written lessons); Naruto was bored to death. He had learned the material years ago, and even if he hadn't; what was appropriate for ten and eleven years old to learn, was rather childish material for a 13 or 14 years old.
As Iruka stood at the gate to Konoha, waiting for Gai to start his morning run, with a cup of coffee in his hand, he couldn't help but dread the meeting he would be having later in the day. But one thing at the time was his thought, as he saw Gai coming up to the gate.
Even if Gai was used to waking early, and start training almost right away, he wasn't as excitable at this time of the day. Something Iruka found rather lucky.
"Gai-san, may I speak to you" for a moment Gai looked surprised, then he sent Iruka a blinding smile; it seemed like the only reason Gai wasn't full of energy this early, was that there normally wasn't anyone to direct all that energy at. Oh well, he wouldn't hold back his request just because he felt a little freaked out at the glare from Gai's teeth.
"OF COURSE MY YOUTHFULL COALLEGE. WHAT MAY I HELP YOU WITH ON THIS BRIGHT AND YOUTHFULL MORNING?"
The yell almost blew out Iruka's eardrums, and he started to regret waking up early to take care of this; but he was needed elsewhere later, so he would just have to grind his teeth and bare it.
"I would like to call in the favor you owe me. You see; like you once asked me a favor, to get your young student Lee through the academy, I now need a favor to prepare a former student, now turned friend, for his life as a ninja. I am sad and ashamed to say that he has experienced a lot of discrimination, neglegt and sabotage in the academy, and as a result; his taijutsu is downright suicidal to use. I would like for you to instruct him in a complementary taijutsu style, of course not the Goken, as I am well aware that that is your own style, but something that works for him… even if it's just the academy style.
And I thought, if you don't object, that he would get a lot out of joining your morning workout. A result of the sabotage is that he isn't as fit as he could be."
In the beginning Gai looked rater reluctant, as it didn't take him long to figure out what Iruka needed, but when Iruka assured him that he didn't want him to instruct his young friend in Gai's own style, which was reserved for his family line and his student and apprentice Lee, Gai seemed to light up again.
When he heard that Iruka wanted his young friend to take part in his morning training, he was ecstatic. One more youth of Konoha whose flames of youth he could help fan.
At the end of Iruka's little request, turned speech, he grabbed Iruka's hand and pumped it up and down, grinning excitedly at him.
"I WILL FAN YOUR YOUNG FRIENDS FLAMES OF YOUTH UNTIL HE CAN GO AGAINST MY YOUTHFULL STUDENT LEE WITHOUT BREAKING A SINGLE BONE; AND IF I CAN'T DO THAT I WILL BEAT MY ETEARNAL RIVAL KAKASHI IN A NO HOLD BARREL FIGHT, AND IF I CAN'T DO THAT I WILL…"
"That's fine Gai-san, just remember that he will be put on a team of his own this Monday. You will need to make sure that he can fulfill his missions and participate in training with his own team. While I know that your student Lee have become amazingly strong in a rather short time, Naruto won't be able to progress that fast, as he won't be your full time student."
"OF COURSE MY YOUTHFULL COLEAGE, I WILL MAKE SURE THAT HE CAN PARTICIPATE WITH HIS OWN TEAM." Then his head turned toward the side, where a dust cloud was getting closer and closer.
"MY YOUTHFULL STUDENT, ARE YOU READY TO FAN YOUR FLAMES OF YOUTH."
Soon Gai and his student Lee was nothing but dust clouds in the horizon; leaving Iruka with a headache and a half-empty cup of, by now, cold coffee.
Iruka massaged his temple and turned around. He would need to get Naruto up and sent to the Hokage before he could look for the next person he needed to talk to today.
After having sent Naruto to the Hokage tower (with assurances that if he just informed the Hokage that he wanted to keep his jutsu as a clan jutsu he wouldn't be forced to inform anyone but the Hokage, who would be writing it into one of the many scrolls hidden in the Hokage safe, about the specifics of the jutsu) Iruka went to one of the many dango places in the village, it was the most popular one for his target, and if he was lucky he wouldn't have to use the next couple of hours looking through the different once.
He wasn't so lucky, but at least he found her in the second one he was looking at.
There she sat, right next to the door; Mitarashi Anko, resident dango fanatic and infiltration specialist.
He took the seat across from her. He would need more than just the favor she owed he; it was a small favor, and what he wanted her to do was rather comprehensive and time consuming, but if he played his cards right, even if he had to promise her a rather massive favor in return, he could get her to do it.
"Hello Iruka-kun, I heard about the little deal you made with Gai-san this morning, what would you need for your young student from little old me?"
Her tone of voice and whole visage said that she didn't want to help, and he understood why; like Naruto she wasn't well liked in the village, and most mothers had told their children to keep away from her. But that would be the reason for why it would work; letting Anko, who normally didn't feel sympathy or compassion toward anyone fell like she was alike to Naruto might be the only way he could get her to willingly spent time with a teenager.
"My young friend is a former student, one who I accedentely let down, one who have been sabotaged at worst and neglected at best by the other teachers at the academy. I think you know him; if not by visage then at least by name…"
At Anko's disinterested look he hurriedly continued.
"His name is Uzumaki Naruto; maybe the only one in the whole village who are more disliked and discriminated than you."
Now she looked interested; not by much, but as long as he had her attention, he could get her on the hook.
"Actually he just discovered something yesterday. When he use a mask, he get his groceries at a fair price, and they aren't actually half rotten… I have him working on walking, talking and acting like different people, but you know me; I never was all that good at the whole espionage and infiltration thing. Sure I can teach him the absolute basis, but have the capability for doing so much more."
Now Anko started to look really interested, although she hid it beneath a tiny layer of disinterest. But he had seen her eyes, there was definitely intrigue there.
"We actually discovered something interesting about his henge. He cant do the regular henge; uses to little chakra, and some asshole taught him the wrong hand seals, but his version is actually better.
It uses a heck load of chakra, and I doubt anyone but him would be able to use it in more than an emergency, but his version is a honest to god transformation."
That made the woman in front of him loose her mask and sit up in attention. No one had ever made a real transformation before.
Sure a lot of people had tried, and there was some very good versions of the henge out there, but a real transformation was more than just a solid illusion, if someone got hit in an area they didn't physically have, they wouldn't feel pain, if it was an illusion, but they would if it was an transformation.
Iruka nodded solemnly to Anko.
"I held his transformed kunai in my hand (it disappeared when he dropped the transformation), and I promise you that he felt my hand connect to his transformed head."
Then he gave Anko a slightly superior, but still beseeching and slightly apologizing look.
"He is with the Hokage right now, getting it written down as a clan jutsu."
But even though Anko looked hopeful, and like she would steal Iruka's young friend if she wasn't given him to train, she was still unwilling to do it for nothing.
Iruka held back a sigh of relief, he didn't care what he had to pay for this favor (not to say that he wouldn't argue no matter what she demanded, he couldn't just give her something, she would realize that it was worth much more to him and take advantage), he was just relieved that she wanted anything to do with Naruto.
"The favor I owe you and free dango every time I teach him, and a favor owed to me." That was her first offer, now he needed to tell her what he was willing to pay.
"The favor you owe me and one plate of free dango every time you teach him."
He expected her to come with another demand, she wasn't known to give in easily, but she surprised him by holding out her hand, diabolic smile stretched over her face.
Well that was easy. He just hoped he wouldn't come to regret it.
As he saw Anko leave the store, smile a mile wide on her face and the fingers on one of her hands caressing a kunai; he thought that he might… or at least Naruto would.
After his meeting with the Hokage to register his jutsu Naruto did his best to stay out of the public eye for the rest of the week, and as the tutoring he had been informed that he would be getting from two of Iruka's friends wouldn't take place until after his team placement, he found it rather easy (especially as most of his days was spend going over the basis with Iruka in his apartment); but as Saturday came upon them, he knew that he would need to get his picture taken and hand in his ninja registration. And no matter how much he wished for it to be different; he would have to do it as himself.
As Iruka would spend the day going over his last suggestions for team placements, and argue with his colleagues and the Hokage when they didn't agree, he was left to follow his own pursuits for the day, as soon as he had delivered his registration papers to the hokage.
"I am very proud that you have taken your registration serious, and not made a joke out of the picture… quite frankly I expected something like war-paint or for you to pose ridiculously."
The Hokage was smiling happily and proudly at Naruto. It was about time that he grew up, and with him becoming a ninja now it was double important.
Naruto looked a little shifty around; truth be told he had intended to paint his face so he looked a little more scary. Nothing like say kabuki face paint, but something like red eyeliners and strengthening the birthmarks on his face with black paint. But Iruka had sat down with him, and informed him that if a client ever wanted to specifically request him, he would need to look like himself, or they wouldn't be able to recognize him. This was followed by a long speech about how it was important to look professional and grown up on the picture, which wouldn't be retaken until he had reached chunin. But even then, it was the first part that made him agree to take the taking of the picture seriously.
Naruto adopted a serious face and answered his surrogate grandfather (also known as the Hokage of the leaf).
"Of course jiji. Being a ninja is serious business. I have to take things seriously from now on." Then he gave the Hokage a cheeky grin.
"That doesn't mean that I won't pull pranks any more though… they are great training exercises."
The Hokage just laughed well natured; he wouldn't be Naruto without the pranks, and he had seen some much more destructive coping mechanisms of some ninja's. If Naruto could keep his mind stable by pranking the citizens of Konoha, then it was worth the hassle.
As the Hokage opened his mouth to dismiss the young man in front of him, the door banged open and a small figure charged in with the yell of "I'll beat you old man."
In his shock Naruto released a shuriken, which pierced the young boys long red scarf, making him choke and fall over.
Seconds later, while Naruto still sat in shock and the Hokage was rubbing his temples, a man in black, wearing sunglasses came running in after the runt, yelling for 'the honorable grandson'.
"HOW DARE YOU ATTACK ME? DON'T YOU KNOW WHO I AM?" it was the small boy with the overly long scarf who had entered to attack the Hokage. Naruto didn't understand what his problem was; he should be grateful that he had averted his hit from the original target of the boy's neck, upon discovering the age of the attacker. He could easily have killed the young boy, after all; protecting the Hokage was the job of every shinobi of the village.
"DO I LOOK LIKE I CARE YOU SUICIDAL LITTLE BRAT?!" he yelled back while lifting the boy with the back of his shirt, giving him a carefully regulated hit on the head. No reason to actually hurt the kid after all. He then released the stupid child, turned toward the Hokage, and did as Iruka had instructed him to do when there was other people present in the Hokage's office (it was the best he could do, as even Naruto's respect for Iruka couldn't make him act professionally when it was just him and the Hokage, and yes he did know about the ANBU, but as they had been present for most of his life as his guards, he viewed them more like shadows than like fellow ninjas) and bowed to the Hokage.
"Well jiji, gotta go… people to do, ramen to eat. See you later." The black clade man was staring with an open mouth at the disrespectful words to the Hokage, while the young boy was rubbing his smarting head. The Hokage himself almost swallowed his lungful of smoke; he hadnt thought that Naruto was that developed yet… 'people to do' indeed. At least now he knew why Iruka was spending so much time at the young teen's apartment.
He was rather relived at his favorite chunin teacher's restraint; at least he had waited until the youngster's graduation. But then again; Umino Iruka had always been a sticker for the word of the rules, if not the meaning of them. He had to be a little flexible to have become such a good prankster after all.
Naruto just send the harking Hokage a questioning look but, upon not receiving an answer to his unsaid question, he left.
Iruka had handed in his recommendation for teams, and while three of them was rather contrary to what most of his colleagues had recommended (he had already had a rather long discussion with them) he was ready to defend his choices.
As the Hokage laid down the last page of the list, he turned toward the young teacher, and asked about them.
"Could you tell me why the last three teams have been recommended as such? I would have expected a Ino-Shika-Cho team as their fathers made such a good one!"
Iruka nodded shortly and started his sales speech.
"While the old Ino-Shika-Cho team was a good one, and have a long list of completed missions as proof, I wouldn't recommend it for this generation. While Shikamaru and Chouji have a strong friendship, and would likely work very well together, it isn't so with Ino. She is domineering and would browbeat her teammates to do things her way, even if that isn't the best way. Furthermore; she has a strong dislike for her father's teammate's sons. Plus I don't think that their talents match up. While it is true that they have the same clan technics as their fathers, the rest of their abilities are much different. Shikaku was willing to be a leader of his team, while Shikamaru just wants to go with the flow, and then there is the fact that Shikamaru strongly dislikes women. Having a mother with such a strong personality have affected Shikamaru much stronger than what could have been expected. He finds women 'troublesome' and want as little to do with them as possible… I wouldn't be surprised if he turned out gay."
The last part was mumbled, but the Hokage still heard it, and send Iruka an amused but still chagrining look, resulting in red ears for the teacher. He cleared his throat and continued.
"While Chouji is a strong fighter like his father, he doesn't have the same flair for ninjutsu, and absolutely no talent for genjutsu, this would again change the working dynamic of the possible Ino- Shika- Cho team. And Ino… Ino is a fangirl, and if she wasn't capable of using her clan technics I wouldn't even recommend her for the 'sure pass' teams. She has no talent in taijutsu, is bad at using throwing weapons and is to outspoken for infiltration missions. She is altogether a bad fit with the boys… but… if we make the teams like this; we will have an infiltration team I believe will become one of the best in Konoha's history, an assult team that, with some training, will be able to take down most jonin, and a capture and interrogation team that could become the new bar for hunter-nins in the village. I really believe in this setup, and just for the record, I believe that more than just the top three will pass, with the right teachers we might even get a 50% pass this year."
The Hokage looked at the team setup once again, spent a couple of minutes going carefully over them, and with a nod he stamped the list APPROVED.
Then he turned toward Iruka once again.
"Now what are your thoughts on jonin teachers for the teams?"
Iruka sent the Hokage a beaming smile, that had been easier than he had feared, and his colleagues had made him think.
"For team one I think that jonin Fujimoto Takashi would…"
"HEY KID… stop following me. I've got no money on me so you can stop your wannabe bandit act."
Naruto had had just about enough of the very, very bad stalking going on. He had been followed since he left the Hokage tower, and he was feed up. People was looking weirdly at him, well more weirdly than usual, due to his little shadow, and he really wanted to go home. Something that he couldn't as long as the kid was turning all that attention toward him. He didn't want anyone to know where he lived.
They had figured it out once before, and on his birthday a mob had turned up on his doorstep. It had resulted in him getting introduced to the hospital staff, something he could have been without, and never have missed. But as said before, he wanted to go home.
The kid ignored his words and kept on sneaking after him, and he used those words in the simplest of its uses. The kid was holding a blanket, painted to look like the fence he was standing in front of; a good idea, if he had held it in the right direction. And that was only the last in a long line of bad disguises. Before that there had been a square stone, and a disguise like a grown man, with beard and everything, quite good if you didn't consider that the one wearing the disguise was only 110 cm. it was getting on his nerves.
As he entered one of the many parks of the village, it hurriedly emptied. Where before there had been mothers with their small pre-school age children, there now only was him… him and his embarrassing shadow.
He turned on the spot and yanked on the soft, red scarf that was sticking out of a bush, bringing with it 'the honorable grandson' who had tried to attack the Hokage in his office.
"What do you want kid? You're cramping my style! Don't you have something better to do than follow random ninjas around the village?"
The kid got a sheepish look on his face upon finally getting confronted with his target, then he straightened up, and pointed a finger at Naruto, all the while yelling into his face… eh; stomach.
Naruto just looked confused at his little wannabe student… what in the world did he want him to teach him? Just as he opened his mouth to ask this, in his mind, quite reasonable question, he was interrupted by the kid again. At least he had stopped yelling.
"You have to be a really strong ninja for grandad to have called you in to defend him from me… I want you to teach me, so I can become strong enough to take down my grandfather… so teach me."
Naruto spent a couple of seconds looking weirdly at the noisy little brat, before asking the obvious question.
"Why do you want to beat the Hokage…? Your own grandfather at that"
Naruto had expected the kid to want a playmate or something like that, not a teacher that would make him the strongest in the village. Not to mention why did he chose Naruto for that? It was rather well known in the village that he had had the dead last placement in his class, and even if he had been the rookie of the year; he wasn't even a real genin yet, you would think that the kid would have chosen a jonin or something like that. Anyway he already had a teacher, or nanny, it was hard to tell what that weird sunglass wearing man had been.
Suddenly the little kid looked really down.
"No one ever calls me by my name… it's always 'honorable grandson this' 'honorable grandson that' never Konohamaru… I want to become the Hokage so everyone will see me, not the shadow of my granddad."
Naruto slowly raised an arm, moving it toward the boys head, and hit him with his clenched fist.
"You idiot… you don't become the Hokage by bringing down the Hokage in a sneak attack, if that was the case I would be the Hokage by now. The Hokage is the strongest ninja in the village; you would have to prove that in a scheduled fight, even then… just proving that you are stronger won't make you the Hokage. The Hokage is smart, he have to be to take care of all of the politics that comes with the position, and there's no way you will ever become the Hokage with an attitude like that! Being Hokage is being the greatest servant of the entire village. You serve the people, and even then; do you hear anyone call the Hokage by name? You would just change out one title for another.
Who is teaching you this shit?"
"But Ebisu-sensei told me that he would teach me the shortcut to becoming the Hokage."
Konohamaru's voice was whiny and his eyes a little watery. Apparently no one had ever told him what being the Hokage meant.
"Shortcut… SHORTCUT; there is no shortcut to becoming the Hokage. Everyone in the village have to trust the Hokage to be doing what is best for everyone… he is sending people out on suicide missions and writing the laws… would you trust some snot-nosed brat to send you on a mission you didn't know if you would return from…? To lead you in war? Shortcut indeed.
I think I will be having a talk with jiji about your teacher… if that is the kind of things he is teaching you, you will never become a ninja, never mind Hokage."
At Konohamaru's shocked face he explained.
"If you take the easy way out when you train to become a ninja, others will explore the weaknesses that come forth by not training with all your heart. For example; if you use chakra to boost your speed while training, instead of say weights; what will you do when you run out of chakra doing a fight, or when you run from an enemy much stronger than you? It would mean your death, and no teacher at the academy would ever let someone using shortcuts become a ninja."
By now Konohamaru had a look of understanding on his face, which soon turned into anger, then sorrow.
"But how am I getting anyone to recognize me then?"
This time, when Naruto lifted his hand toward the young boy's head, it was to ruffle his hair. He had been in that position himself… hell if it hadn't been for Iruka he would still be there. Apparently you didn't have to be hated and feared to be overlooked and your existence to be ignored.
"Tell you what Konohamaru I'll teach you a couple of things; it isn't a shortcut, because you will have to train in them often, but it's an aid… an aid to become the strong ninja I know you can become… after all; you're Sarutobi Konohamaru."
The smile Naruto gave was matched and overcome by the one on Konohamaru's face. Finally someone who saw him… him and not his grandfather's shadow.
That evening, when Iruka and Naruto was finished eating (a stir-fry as they were saving Ichiraku for after Naruto's team placement), Iruka turned toward Naruto and looked at him, really looked, and saw a young man ready to become a ninja. He hadn't seen that before, so he had held back on his advice, but now he could see it, and as such he decided to help his young friend reach his dream.
"You know; there is one more test you will have to pass to become a jonin track genin!"
Naruto's suspicious look was understandable, he had after all just been cheated by Mizuki into almost committing treason, but still; it hurt.
"Your jonin-sensei will give you a test… the tests are different, but will all test for the same thing; what is the thing that was taught as being the most important thing for a ninja of the leaf in the academy."
At Naruto's questioning look Iruka smiled in apology.
"Sorry; I'm skirting the rules as it is… I'm not allowed to tell you what the test is about… doesn't mean I can't help you though."
After Naruto had sat thinking for a couple of minutes, still not giving an answer, or even a shot at one, Iruka decided to be a little more specific. He just needed to tell Naruto not to mention his help to anyone.
"It was either mentioned or outright told in every single lesson, be they in theory or praxis."
That was apparently what Naruto needed to find the answer, as he yelled it out, with a triumphant look.
"TEAMWORK… everything can be achieved with teamwork."
Then he sent Iruka a questioning look, to see if he got it right.
Iruka was smiling, but he had to held his head back from nodding in agreement.
"Sorry Naruto; I can't tell you if you are right or wrong… I have helped as much as I can; now the rest is up to you."
Then he got to his feet, it had gotten late already, he had to get home; they both had to be up early tomorrow.
"Good luck tomorrow Naruto, and remember that you have to meet with Gai-san at the gate at four am, and that you have a meeting with Anko as soon as you have finished your first team meeting."
On the way out he reminded the younger man that he shouldn't tell anyone about the help he had gotten from Iruka, as while he had held to the words of the rules, he hadn't really kept to the spirit of them.
He didn't really think he would get into trouble, as the Hokage knew how he operated, but better safe than sorry.
As they parted in the doorway, Iruka let a hand softly caress the chin of his young friend. Silently and out loud he once again wished him good luck with his team. At least Iruka had done what he could to maximize the possibility for Naruto to get a jonin-sensei, and a team he could work with.
Only the future would show.