This story's been kickin' around my brain for a couple days since I started re-watching Shippuden. It kinda occurred to me that Sakura didn't really get to involve herself in some of the later fights... mostly because she didn't have some giant chakra construct like Naruto's Nine-Tail Transformation or Sasuke's Susanoo... So I wanted to give Sakura some big...thing... and the first thing that came to mind was Hashirama's Wood Golem... Then I thought of how Sakura could end up with the Mokuton... and the rest just sorta spawned from that... I have given absolutely zero thought to this story as a whole... so if I update it... it could be a while.

(Konohagakure no Sato)

Mebuki Haruno stood silently in Konoha's graveyard. The sun had vanished hours ago, and the stillness of the night was interrupted only by the subtle pattering noises of rain on stone. Although the source of the noise was not rain at the moment, but the sound of Mebuki's teardrops falling on the tombstone in front of her, splashing over the name carved into it.

Kizashi Haruno

At the moment Mebuki could only think how cruel the world seemed right now. Everything had been going so well in her life. She and Kizashi had been married nearly a year, she had been promoted to Tokubetsu Jōnin for her exemplary Medical Jutsu, and just last week while Kizashi was away on a mission, she had found out she was pregnant. She and her husband had been trying to have a child since they'd been married, and she was so excited to tell him when he came home. Unfortunately she would never get the chance. Kizashi's most recent mission had taken his life. Mebuki was shaken from her silence by a voice behind her.

"It's truly a tragedy." The low, somber voice said. Mebuki turned around and came face-to-face with one of the Konoha Council, Danzō Shimura. Danzō stood with his hands clasped over his cane, and his un-bandaged eye gazing toward Mebuki. He had an uncharacteristically sympathetic look on his usually blank face.

"Kizashi-San was a good man… and a loyal Shinobi. All of Konoha shall feel his loss… myself included." Danzō spoke slowly and deliberately. Mebuki was honestly a little stunned. All of her interactions with Danzō till now had been short and professional, but even then she never got the impression that he really cared about her… or anyone for that matter.

"Th-thank you." Mebuki managed to choke out as she got over her shock. Danzō took a few slow steps forward and stood next to Mebuki as he stared toward Kizashi's grave.

"I truly wish this wasn't the world we lived in." Danzō continued to speak slowly, but Mebuki chose to stay silent… mostly because she had no idea what to say.

"To die in service of Konoha… is an honorable death… a meaningful one. That's what we choose to believe." Danzō placed a hand on top of Kizashi's tombstone.

"I just wish it didn't have to happen at all." Danzō looked toward Mebuki, silently demanding her to respond. Mebuki took a moment to think before speaking.

"It would be nice wouldn't it? A world where men and women wouldn't have to worry that their spouses may not come home. Where parents didn't have to bury their children… But wishing for it isn't going to make it any less impossible." Mebuki spoke solemnly, though with an undercurrent of bitterness. Danzō looked toward her with an imperceptible glint in his visible eye.

"What if it wasn't impossible?" Danzō questioned. Mebuki narrowed her eyes minutely as she stared toward her husband's grave and unconsciously rested a hand over where she knew her child was steadily growing. She looked toward Danzō, and he was pleased to see that where before there was only empty sorrow, there was now a determined fire in Mebuki's eyes.

"I would do anything for a world like that." Danzō nodded and turned away, silently gesturing for Mebuki to follow him. As he walked in front of her, he failed to keep the satisfied smirk from his face.

'That boy from Orochimaru's lab was proof that the powers of the Shodai Hokage can be replicated… but it was incomplete… nowhere near the potential of Hashirama Senju. I believe Orochimaru made a mistake in his experiment.' Danzō thought to himself before turning to look at Mebuki, who still had her hand resting on her belly.

'He didn't start young enough.'

(9 Months Later – Hidden Lab) (One Month After Kyūbi Attack)

Danzō stared impassively at the recently made corpse of Mebuki Haruno. In truth he did feel mildly disappointed. In the short time that she had been in his possession she had proven to be a resilient test subject. He never anticipated that she would not survive the birth of her daughter. Though in the end it would not prove to be much of a nuisance. If anything it saved him the trouble of eliminating her later on. There was no way that he could let her live with all the information she had.

'With the amount of Hashirama's cells I used on my right arm and restructuring this girls DNA… I used all the cells I had access to. If this doesn't work… that'll be the end of it.' Danzō turned around when he heard the beeping noise from behind him. As he turned, one of his Root Shinobi walked up to him with a file in hand.

"DNA sequencing confirms that the experiment was a success. Hashirama Senju's DNA was been seamlessly integrated into the child's body. Congratulations sir." The agent spoke without emotion. Danzō simply nodded before taking the file out of his hands, and walking toward the small table where the now sleeping infant slept. Before he spoke next, he took note of the minute tuft of pink hair on the child's head.

"Mokuton Project… Subject Zero… Designation: Sakura." The Root Shinobi behind him silently recorded the information. As Danzō turned to leave, another Root Shinobi appeared on one knee in front of him.

"Danzō-Sama! Sandaime-Sama is approaching the area with a squadron of Anbu Black Ops!" The Root Shinobi informed loudly in order to address not only his master, but also everyone else in the room as well. Danzō continued to look on calmly, though internally he was furious.

'Dammit! This base will have to be completely abandoned… along with the research materials inside. I suppose at the very least, the experiment was a success. I'll have to make this whole lab look like Orochimaru's work.' Danzō thought as he looked calmly toward his subordinate.

"Initiate Hebi Protocol."

(One Week Later –Konohagakure no Sato)

In the Hokage tower we find a man in his mid-fifties sitting at a large desk, flanked on either side by stacks of paper. This man was Hiruzen Sarutobi, the recently reinstated Sandaime Hokage. The last five weeks had been spent almost entirely on the effort to repair the village from the damage done by the Kyūbi. Just a few days ago he had announced that the village would be taking on more missions now that the brunt of the repairs had been handled. The announcement was met with a massive influx of mission requests from the Daimyō of both the Land of Fire and the Land of Wind. This would've kept the old Hokage busy enough as it is, but his attention was currently focused on the file in his hands. Just a week ago, he and several of his Anbu Shinobi had raided what they believed to be one of Orochimaru's labs. The mission was classified as a failure when it become clear that Orochimaru had already fled, though he had left two things behind. The dead body of Mebuki Haruno, and what appeared to be her newborn daughter. Hiruzen had ordered the child be taken to the hospital in Konoha, and be given the most extensive medical check-up they could possibly preform. Konoha had lost enough children to Orochimaru's madness, and he would not allow him to harm any more if he could help it.

The reports from the Medical Shinobi he had assigned to the girl were all in the file currently in his hands. The child seemed perfectly healthy, and what's more she appeared to possess a noticeable amount of chakra. It wasn't overly impressive seeing as she was a newborn baby, but more than one would expect from a child not born to a Shinobi Clan. After this had been discovered they had run an even more extensive series of tests, and the results had shocked Hiruzen to his core. A DNA test had confirmed that she was indeed the daughter of Mebuki Haruno, and although they were fairly convinced that the father was Kizashi Haruno… the test was still preformed. At first Hiruzen had assumed that a mistake had been made so he ordered a second test, and then a third, and a fourth, and a fifth. Eventually he had to concede that the test was actually accurate. According to the girl's DNA her father was Hashirama Senju, but that simply wasn't possible. It was then that he recalled a separate incident involving Orochimaru, one in which several young children and infants had been used as test subjects in an attempt to recreate the Mokuton.

Once Hiruzen realized what had been done he immediately commanded all the Shinobi involved in the mission, and the events that occurred afterward, to gather in his office. Once gathered he had made it quite clear how important it was to keep this information secret. He told them, in no uncertain terms, that if the information was leaked he would be forced to assume that it was one of the twelve people in front of him, and he would be forced to treat them all as potential traitors. The message was quite clear, and Hiruzen was confident that his orders would be followed. His first thought had been to contact Tsunade and request that she return to the village, but even if he knew how to contact her, he knew she wouldn't listen. On top of that he also knew that placing Tsunade in charge of the girls care would draw unwanted attention, and he feared for the child's safety enough as it was. In the end it was decided that she would be placed in the orphanage under the name Sakura Haruno. It was impossible to know whether or not she would even possess the Mokuton. Hashirama's natural born children did not, so it was presumptuous to assume that this child would. Still… plans would have to be made in the event that she displayed even a hint of the Mokuton. Hiruzen let out a slight sigh before speaking.

"Neko!" Immediately after the call, an Anbu Shinobi wearing a cat mask appeared in front of Hiruzen's desk.

"Yes, Hokage-Sama?" Neko asked calmly. Hiruzen handed them the file in his hands.

"I need you to take this to Anbu HQ and place it in the secure vault." Hiruzen ordered firmly before stamping the file with a red stamp reading, CONFIDENTIAL: SSS: HOKAGE EYES ONLY. Neko nodded once, and took the file.

"Of course." They said, before disappearing in a small puff of smoke. Hiruzen leaned back a little once he was alone again, and pulled out his favourite pipe. He looked out the window toward the nearly reconstructed village and took a deep breath, letting the tobacco calm his aged nerves as the sight of his home brought a slight smile to his face. Despite the damage that they had recently suffered, he knew that Konoha would be fine. After all… Shinobi… are those who endure.

(Six Years Later –Konohagakure no Sato)

In a modest, three-bedroom apartment in a rather rundown district in Konoha… some rather loud knocking interrupted the calm of the morning.

"Naruto-Nii! Wake up! We're gonna be late!" Shouted a pink-haired girl as she knocked loudly on one of the apartments bedroom doors. She heard a few crashing noises from the other room and let out a sigh as she put her hands on her hips while tapping her foot impatiently. The door opened, and a boy stepped out of the room, running a hand through his spiky blonde hair as he did.

"Sakura-Nee we're fine. I'm already up, and we've got like two hours before class starts." Naruto said with a small amount of exasperation, though he found it quite impossible to really blame her. He was probably even more excited than she was for their first day at the Shinobi Academy.

"I know." Sakura said happily with a cheeky smile on her face. Naruto tilted his head and looked at Sakura confusedly.

"Then what's with all the yelling?" He asked. Sakura's grin widened a little.

"You're gonna make us breakfast!" She said simply. Naruto stared at Sakura with a raised eyebrow and a challenging smirk on his face.

"Oh am I?" He asked teasingly. Sakura looked at Naruto with wide eyes and a trembling lower lip. Naruto immediately felt what little resistance he had shattering almost entirely.

"Please?" Sakura said in the quietest, saddest, cutest voice she could muster. That was it for Naruto. He nodded dumbly, and started walking toward the kitchen. Sakura followed Naruto toward the kitchen with a victorious smile on her face.

"Okay Sakura-Nee. What do you want to eat?" He asked happily. He really had no problem with cooking for them, he actually rather enjoyed it.

"Well… since it's a special day… How 'bout ramen?" Sakura asked innocently, knowing exactly how Naruto would react. Naruto froze in his tracks for a split second before sprinting toward the kitchen. Sakura just giggled and shook her head a little as she watched Naruto speed his way through the kitchen with intensity and focus that would put Veteran Shinobi to shame. Her brother could really be a bit of a goofball sometimes… but that was just one more thing she loved about him.


In another part of the village, another young boy was getting ready for his first day at the Academy. Sitting on his front porch and strapping on his sandals was a boy with black hair and black eyes, a trademark of the Uchiha Clan. Just as he was about to leave, somebody else sat down beside him. It was an 12-year-old boy with the same black hair and eyes as the younger one.

"Are you excited for your first day, Sasuke-Kun?" The older boy asked calmly. Sasuke looked toward him with a bright smile.

"You bet Itachi-Nii! I'm gonna learn so much cool stuff! And when I'm done… I'm gonna be an even better Shinobi than you are!" Sasuke said excitedly, Itachi smiled slightly as he looked toward his little brother.

"I'm sure you will." Itachi said softly. Sasuke finished strapping on his sandals, and stood to leave. He took off at a quick pace, too excited to walk slowly. Everyone in the Uchiha district would greet him as he passed, and he would always respond with a smile and a wave. He remembered that his father had told him not to bother with acknowledging people who were below his station… but Itachi had told him that everyone deserves respect… and if it were a choice between listening to his father or his brother… nine times out of ten, Sasuke would choose his brother.

As Sasuke exited the Uchiha District and turned to walk down the street toward the Academy, he caught site of two kids around his age. He figured that these two must have been going to the Academy as well, and decided to get a head start on making some friends. He sped up a little to catch up with them.

"Hey!" He shouted as he came within hearing distance. The two stopped moving, and turned at the shout. As he came up to them and caught his breath the two looked at him with a little confusion, but he paid it no mind.

"Are you guys going to the Shinobi Academy too?" He asked excitedly. Their confused looks immediately shifted into bright smiles.

"You bet! I'm gonna learn all sorts of awesome stuff, and once I'm the best Shinobi ever… I'm gonna be Hokage!" Shouted Naruto. Sasuke's smile widened.

"That's cool! Hate to break it to you though, but I'm gonna be the best the best Shinobi ever, and I'm gonna be Hokage!" Sasuke said challengingly but happily. If anything this made Naruto smile even more.

"Well you can both keep dreaming! I'm gonna be the best Shinobi ever, and I'm gonna be Hokage!" Sakura looked at them both with a matching smile. After a moment, all three burst out laughing and began making their way to the Academy with bright grins on their faces.

And just like that… the world was never the same

(Shinobi Academy)

As Naruto walked into the Shinobi Academy with his sister and his new friend, he took notice of all the other kids arriving. Naruto looked to his left at Sakura, and smiled as he always did. She wasn't his actual sister, but she was the only one who neither avoided or made-fun of him at the orphanage. In fact, she had been his best friend for as long as he could remember. When the Matron of the orphanage had decided to kick him out on his fourth birthday, Sakura had gone with him without the slightest hesitation. Their first stop had been the Hokage Tower to see Hokage-Jiji, and ask him what they should do next. To say that the old man was unhappy when he heard was an understatement. He had thought of simply forcing the Matron to take them both back, but unfortunately the orphanage was a private institution, as such he couldn't dictate which children they accepted or rejected. So he had done the next best thing he could. He had set the two up in a small apartment that could be afforded with a monthly stipend for the two of them, along with having enough money left for food, clothing and other essentials.

Naruto couldn't recall exactly when they had started to refer to each other as brother and sister, but they were both pretty happy about it. Like most orphans, they really just wanted people they could call family. Not everything was great though. It was at this point in life that Naruto started to take more notice of the looks he was given while walking down the street, looks of fear and disgust. Sakura had noticed the looks too, and they never failed to fill her with anger at the way they were treating her brother. As time went by the looks escalated to people throwing things at him, usually rotten food or rocks. The entire market district had apparently blacklisted him, seeing as the only people who were willing to sell him anything were the Ichiraku's, who owned a small ramen shop. The two of them had decided that Sakura would do the shopping for the both of them because they figured they couldn't survive on ramen alone.

The days they spent at the park were usually fun, and Sakura had managed to make another really good friend in Ino Yamanaka. Naruto had also made friends with two other boys named Shikamaru Nara and Chōji Akimichi. Naruto and Sakura were both aware that their friends were also joining the Academy today, and the thought filled them both with excitement. As the two entered their class with Sasuke in tow, they spotted their friends sitting together on the rearmost bench nearest the window. Sakura grabbed one of Naruto and Sasuke's hands each and ran up to take the bench just in front of them.

"Ino!" Sakura shouted happily when they arrived. Ino's matching cry of Sakura was accompanied by a big hug, followed immediately by a hurried conversation about what they did since last seeing each other.

"Hey Shika! Chōji!" Naruto's shout and jovial wave received a happy greeting from the chubby Akimichi, and what sounded like a cross between a grunt and a snore from the lazy Nara. Naruto's eyebrow twitched a little at the greeting from his lazy friend.

"Oi Shika! Wake up! I need to introduce you to somebody!" Naruto yelled. Shikamaru raised his head up off his arms, and looked at Naruto with irritation, but he did notice the black-haired boy standing beside him, and offered a slight nod.

"Hey. I'm Shikamaru Nara." He said tiredly before resting his head back down on his arms. Naruto sighed lightly.

"Well that's the best we're gonna get outta him. Anyways… this is Chōji Akimichi, Chōji this is Sasuke Uchiha." Chōji offered a smile and a nice to meet you, which Sasuke returned. Meanwhile with Sakura, and Ino, their conversation was coming to it's end.

"…And then Mommy showed me how to look after the rest of the garden. It's pretty cool how many flowers we have, you should really…" Ino trailed off as she caught sight of something over Sakura's shoulder.

"Sakura… Who is that?" Ino asked in an awestruck tone. Sakura looked over her shoulder slightly before turning back around.

"Ummm… that's Naruto… You've met him before Ino." Sakura said confusedly. Ino shook her head.

"No not him… Him!" Ino said while pointing a finger at the black-haired boy she'd yet to meet. Sakura looked back at the group of boys again, and finally remembered that she and Naruto hadn't arrived alone.

"Oh! That's Sasuke Uchiha! We met him on our way here." Sakura said happily. Ino looked at Sasuke for a few more seconds before her face fell into a strange smile, one that did not belong on a girl as young as she was. Sasuke immediately felt a disturbance in the air, and a shiver ran up his spine. He shook it off as nerves for his first day, but he couldn't deny that things were already going well with all the new people he had met. He heard a noise at the classroom door, and saw another few people walking in. One was a brown-haired boy with a white puppy on his head. One was another boy with a high collar and sunglasses blocking most of his face. The other was a timid looking girl with a thick grey coat, and pale pupil-less eyes. The kid with the dog on his head saw all the commotion at the back, and grinned wildly before approaching. The other two approached at a more sedate pace, and in the girl's case, with a lot of apprehension.

"Hey! I'm Kiba Inuzuka!" Kiba exclaimed excitedly, puffing his chest out a little. The white puppy on his head let out a little bark.

"This little guy is Akamaru! He's almost as awesome as I am!" Kiba said happily and with a slightly feral smirk. Kiba looked over his shoulders as the two other kids came to stand beside him.

"Oh yeah! This is Shino Aburame and Hinata Hyūga. I met them on my way here." Another round of introductions flew around the group of nine, and Kiba, Shino and Hinata sat down on the bench just in front of Naruto, Sakura and Sasuke. As everyone settled in and continued to converse with their new classmates, a man with short and spiky black hair walked through the door to the class wearing the standard Chūnin Flak-Jacket and carrying a clipboard.

"Alright everybody! Take a seat!" He called out. He was pleased to see the class following his directions, but he knew that it would be much more difficult to get them to listen once the initial excitement of the Shinobi Academy wore off.

"Okay. My name is Kenta Kazuki. I will be your Sensei for the next three years… as such you will refer to me as Kazuki-Sensei." A round of nods from the classroom followed his words.

"Alright, now I'm going to do attendance. When I call your name, say here." Kenta looked down at the class list in his hand, taking notice of eight names in particular, one of which made him scowl, though he managed to hide his displeasure.

"Shino Aburame." He began, and he saw a boy wearing sunglasses and a high collar respond with here. The rest of the attendance list went much the same, until he came to the second last name on the list.

"Naruto Uzumaki." To the rest of the class, it seemed like nothing was different about this name, but a few had noticed the slight change in their Sensei's voice. Naruto and Sakura noticed because they'd heard others use the same tone of voice when saying Naruto's name. Naruto looked down at his feet, and let out a meek here, sounding so very different from his usually happy voice. Sakura didn't even bother to try and hide the fierce glare she was aiming at their Sensei. The other two who had noticed the tone were Sasuke and Shikamaru. Sasuke was completely confused. He had only known Naruto for a short while, but he didn't seem the type to incur any sort of anger from anyone. In fact Sasuke thought his cheerfulness was rather infectious.

Shikamaru however, was very intrigued. When it came to intelligence, Shikamaru was leaps and bounds ahead of his peers. It's part of the reason he was always so disinterested in things. It was frustrating, and kind of boring having to constantly deal with people who couldn't keep up with what felt like simple thoughts to Shikamaru. He knew he was smarter than them, but he really did want to have good friends. His father had once told him that intelligence can be intimidating, so Shikamaru kept a lot of his thoughts to himself, staring up at the clouds while he analyzed information and ran simulations in his head. This situation however, was just plain weird. From Naruto's reaction it seemed like this was something he'd dealt with before, and Naruto himself didn't know the reason for it. Sakura was clearly closer to Naruto than anyone else, and she looked about ready to run up to Kazuki-Sensei and knock his teeth out. No matter how Shikamaru looked at it, he could find no logical reason for their Sensei, who had most likely never met Naruto, to hold such ill feelings toward him. For the first time in a while, something had captured Shikamaru's full, undivided attention.

"Ino Yamanaka." The last name on the attendance list had shaken Shikamaru from his thoughts, and when Ino offered a here in response their Sensei began droning off the usual start of school speech, though it was slightly more patriotic what with it being a school for potential Shinobi, though the curriculum also included a standard education… Can't send idiots onto the battlefield after all. Shikamaru's attention however, had once again been lost, though not for long. Kazuki-Sensei walked around the classroom, handing everybody a stack of textbooks that they would use for the next year. However, he deliberately made sure to reach Naruto's desk last, even if it made no logistical sense, given their seating positions. When he arrived however, his hands were empty.

"Sorry Uzumaki. I guess we ran out." It seemed as if Kazuki-Sensei's emotions were getting the better of him, because this time he didn't even bother to hide the vindictive undercurrent in his voice. This time all nine of the students in the back corner could hear it, and they were all very confused. Kazuki-Sensei started walking away.

"It's okay Naruto-Nii! You can share with me!" Sakura spoke suddenly and loudly, making sure that their Sensei heard her. Kazuki-Sensei froze in his tracks for a split-second, and Shikamaru saw him clench his fist tightly. The rest of the day went by with nothing really interesting happening for Shikamaru, and before he knew it, they were being dismissed for the day. Shikamaru had spent the whole day trying to figure out what their Sensei had against Naruto, but he couldn't come up with anything in the slightest. As he gave a half-hearted goodbye to his now larger group of friends, he resolved to ask his father about it.

'Not like it'll help much… Every time I ask dad for help he's always so cryptic about everything.' Shikamaru thought with exasperation. Though he figured it couldn't hurt. Even if he didn't get much out of his dad, it would still be more than the nothing he had now.

(With Naruto & Sakura)

The two children were making their way back home and discussing their first day at the Academy.

"So what did you think Naruto-Nii?" Sakura asked lightly. Naruto shrugged.

"It was alright I guess. Class was kinda boring, but I liked meeting everybody. Sensei was a bit of a jerk, but that's nothing new." Naruto said happily at first, but a little disheartened toward the end. Sakura nodded her head and hummed quietly. Her face fell into a slight scowl at the thought of Kazuki-Teme as she had started to call him in her head. It was then that she noticed something missing from Naruto's form.

"Naruto-Nii… did you forget something?" She said suddenly. Naruto looked at her with a questioning gaze, and Sakura gestured toward his back. Naruto looked over his shoulder with a raised eyebrow, and suddenly his eyes widened when he noticed what was wrong.

"Aaah! My backpack! How could I forget my backpack!?" Naruto berated himself before running back toward the Academy.

"No need to wait for me Sakura-Nee! I'll catch up!" He shouted over his shoulder before rounding a corner, and disappearing from Sakura's line of sight.

"Honestly, he can be so scatterbrained." Sakura said with a fond smile as she continued on her way home.

Meanwhile, Naruto was practically sprinting toward the Academy. As he approached the back entrance he came to the Shinobi Academy Training Field, and heard some voices coming from the nearby trees. As he got closer he could start to make out what they were saying.

"Just cause you're a Hyūga you think you're better than us!?" A male voice shouted angrily.

"N-n-no… I-I…" The scared and timid reply made Naruto speed up a little bit, as he recognized the voice.

"Ha! This is supposed to be a Hyūga? She's just some stuttering weakling." Another voice sneered out. It was then that Naruto arrived in a small clearing, and saw something that made his blood boil. Hinata was cowering with her back against a tree while three boys, who looked to be a few years older than her, stood over her threateningly. That alone was enough to make Naruto mad, but what really pushed him over the edge were the tears streaming down Hinata's frightened face.

"Hey you jerks! Quit pickin' on Hinata!" Naruto shouted as he ran into the clearing and stood between Hinata and her tormenters. The three older boys looked a little surprised, but Naruto's arrival didn't deter them at all.

"Oh look. The princess has a little boyfriend." The bully in the middle sneered, and the other two laughed along with him. Naruto just glared at them, nothing but anger and contempt on his face. His silenced seemed to really piss them off.

"Buzz off brat! This is none of your business!" The one on left growled while stepping forward a little. Naruto stood his ground.

"You made it my business when you started bullying my friend!" Naruto said with surprising ferocity, enough to actually make the three bullies flinch a little. Without waiting for a reply, Naruto ran forward and punched the middle bully square in the gut. He let out a grunt of pain, and hunched over. The other two didn't take kindly to this, and the one on the left kicked Naruto to the ground before swinging his leg again and again right into Naruto's stomach. Naruto tried his hardest to get up and fight back but there were three of them, and they were a lot bigger than him. Still though, he refused to cry out. Even as the three continued to beat Naruto's downed body, he refused to give them the satisfaction. Hinata had been frozen stiff this entire time, and when she saw Naruto taking such a beating for her sake it just her feel even worse.

"Stop it!" Hinata's shout surprised everybody, including herself.

"What!? You want some to!?" One of the bullies shouted as he stepped threateningly toward her. He stopped however, when he felt something grab his leg. Looking down he saw that it was the kid he had just been beating up, his whole body seemed to be shaking from the strain, but the kid still managed to glare up at him.

"If you so much as touch her… I'll make you regret it!" Naruto said fiercely. The bully looked down at Naruto and saw that, despite the injuries they'd given him, he still had the same defiant look in his eyes. He pulled his leg away from his grasp and turned to his friends.

"Tch! Come on guys. Let's get outta here." He said with a grunt. The other two looked slightly surprised, but they were getting a little bored anyways so they decided to just go along with it. As the three disappeared from sight, Naruto's vision started to blur, and the last thing he heard before falling unconscious was a distant shout from Hinata.


The next thing that Naruto became aware of was the powerful smell of antiseptic, and the sound of voices all around him, though he couldn't make anything out. As the sound began to clear up, he started picking up on the words.

"…They just decided to leave after that, but… but Naruto-Kun looked like he was in… in a lot of pain… so… so I just started shouting for help until someone came." Naruto recognized the soft, hesitant voice of Hinata.

'She's okay… That's good.' He thought to himself.

"You did the right thing Hinata. Naruto's going to be just fine thanks to you." Naruto heard the kind voice of Hokage-Jiji. It was then that Naruto started to slowly open his eyes.

"I think he's waking up!" Naruto heard Sakura speak next. He finally managed to open his eyes and adjust to the light in the room. The first thing he got was visual confirmation that he was in fact, in the hospital. The next thing he knew, his vision was filled with a familiar pink as he was pulled into a tight hug.

"Naruto-Nii you idiot! You had me so worried!" Sakura shouted before pulling away from the hug. Naruto could see that Sakura's eyes were red and puffy, like she'd been crying.

"I'm sorry Sakura-Nee." It was really all he could say. Sakura sniffled a little, but offered him a small smile just to show him that she wasn't mad. Before he knew it he was wrapped up in another tight hug, this time from Hinata.

"Naruto-Kun! I'm so glad you're okay!" She said happily. When she pulled away, he offered her a wide smile.

"I'm fine Hinata-Chan. More importantly, are you okay?" He asked softly. Hinata blushed at the smile and the affectionate way he said her name, but she manage to stutter out that she was fine. Naruto remained completely oblivious, but Sakura could see the way Hinata was looking at her brother. Sakura narrowed her eyes minutely.

'If you think you're good enough for my Naruto-Nii you've got another thing coming!' Sakura thought to herself with no small amount of possessiveness. Hiruzen saw all of these emotions play across the three kids faces, and had to hold back the laugh that tried to escape his lips.

'Oh Naruto… You have no idea what's in store for you.' He thought with amusement. He coughed slightly to get their attention before speaking.

"It's good to see you're awake Naruto. I was starting to get worried." Hiruzen said with a smile. Naruto turned and offered the Hokage a big grin.

"Ha! You know me Jiji! Nothin' keeps me down for long!" Naruto said confidently. This just made Hinata's face go even redder. Hiruzen saw Sakura narrow her eyes even more, and he chuckled lightly.

"Of course Naruto. How silly of me." He said indulgently. Naruto began recounting his story to Sakura, while Sakura smiled softly. She had heard the whole story from Hinata already, but Naruto seemed to be rather proud of his heroic actions, and Sakura was glad to see him happy. Hiruzen saw the smiling faces of the three kids, and fell into thought.

'It's nice to see him so happy. With the way the villagers treat him… I was worried. It still saddens me to see the village I love treating an innocent child with such disdain, but so long as he has people that he can call friends… I think he'll be just fine.' Hiruzen thought fondly. He offered a slight wave, and a soft goodbye before leaving the hospital.

'Now… on to less pleasant matters.' Hiruzen thought stonily as he entered the Hokage tower and climbed the stairs to his office. He asked his secretary to send word to Itachi Uchiha and the three Councilors before entering his office. He wasn't left waiting very long. The group of four entered his office, and they all waited patiently for the Hokage to begin the meeting.

"Sorry for summoning you on such short notice, but I believe that this matter cannot wait." Hiruzen spoke seriously. Koharu Utatane, Homura Mitokado and Danzō Shimura all sat a little straighter, but Itachi Uchiha, already being aware of this meeting's purpose, remained completely still.

"As you know, negotiations with the Uchiha Clan have deteriorated over the last few years, and I have been forced to deny the majority of Fugaku's requests, as they are simply not feasible." Hiruzen heard a grunt of contempt from Homura.

"That's putting it mildly. Wasn't Fugaku's last request that 50% of all mission proceeds go to the Uchiha Clan?" He asked bitingly. Over the last few years he'd lost what little patience he had for the Uchiha Clan-Head. Hiruzen nodded.

"Indeed. Obviously a request that we cannot grant… and Fugaku knows this. I had started to believe that he was simply testing the limits of his Clan's influence… pushing the boundaries to see exactly how much he could get away with. The truth however… is much, much more grim." Hiruzen said solemnly, and gestured for Itachi to speak.

"Hokage-Sama… Councilors… I won't try to underplay my father's actions… He's forcing a plan to overthrow Konoha's command structure, and replace them all with Uchiha Clan members." Koharu, and Homura were shocked by Itachi's words. If Danzō was surprised, he didn't show it. Hiruzen just looked sad.

"You say he's forcing this plan. What do you mean?" Homura asked seriously.

"At this point, most of the Clan is unaware of his plans… and of those that are aware… many disagree with his views. However… to act in defiance of the Clan-Head… is a risk that few are willing to take." Itachi spoke flatly, giving away none of the unease he felt at the situation.

"Why are you willing to take such a risk?" Danzō spoke suddenly. The question was met with silence from everyone. Itachi was trying to think of how to word his answer, and the others were very interested in what he had to say. Itachi straightened a little, and looked the Hokage in the eye.

"My headband bears the symbol of Konoha… not the Uchiha." Itachi said resolutely. Hiruzen looked at Itachi with undisguised pride, but also with sadness. Koharu and Homura were impressed at the display of loyalty, and even Danzō felt a measure of respect forming for the young Shinobi in front of him.

"I think you can all agree that this situation demands our immediate attention." Hiruzen spoke clearly, and received nods in response.

"Our primary goal over the course of the coming months is to avoid civil war within Konoha. I would prefer to end this without bloodshed, but if it cannot be avoided… I will preform my duty as Hokage… no matter how distasteful I may find it." The other occupants of the room all nodded, acknowledging the Hokage's resolve.

"Perhaps we could discredit Fugaku somehow. Weaken his position within the Uchiha Clan… to the point where he can be replaced." Koharu recommended steadily. Itachi shook his head slightly.

"That would only push my father to desperation, and the end result would be the civil war we're trying to avoid." Itachi spoke succinctly. Koharu looked a little frustrated, but nodded in acknowledgment. If anyone here would understand not only the dynamics of the Uchiha Clan, but also the thinking patterns of Fugaku, it would be Itachi.

"Personally… I can't see this ending with zero bloodshed, but perhaps we could minimize the damage. If Itachi can identify the ringleaders of this revolt, the ones forcing the cooperation of the others, and eliminate them. Would the threat be neutralized?" Homura asked stonily. Itachi thought slightly more on his response to this.

"I can't be completely certain, but I don't believe that would work either. At the moment, Fugaku is trying to galvanize his conscripted soldiers. He's spouting off rhetoric about the plight of the Uchiha. He's attempting to convince them that the village fears the Uchiha Clan, and that it's only a matter of time before they strike first. I believe that making him into a martyr… would also lead to civil war." Itachi spoke calmly. Homura looked equally frustrated, but fell silent as he tried to think of another solution.

"I believe the solution to be rather obvious." Danzō spoke suddenly, and with barely concealed disdain.

"The Uchiha Clan must be eliminated in its entirety." He said gravely, though with no hesitation. Hiruzen looked toward his old teammate with shock clearly written across his face. Even Homura and Koharu were surprised by his callous words. Itachi remained still and silent as he thought about what Danzō said. As a Shinobi, Itachi could logically understand why such a plan would be brought up.

"That would certainly be an effective means to ending the threat." Itachi had to fight down the bile that rose in his throat when he said those words. The Council all looked at him in surprise. Once more, Danzō felt his respect for Itachi rise. Hiruzen could see that this was becoming more and more difficult for Itachi, and decided to intervene.

"I think that's enough for tonight. I shall take all of this into consideration, but this decision will require much more thought. Itachi… I want you to continue gathering information, and to maintain your position within the Clan. That'll be all." Hiruzen spoke to the room, indicating to everyone that he was done discussing this for tonight. Everyone left the office to return to their homes, though none of them would be getting much sleep.

(15 Months Later)

Things had been relatively uneventful at the Shinobi Academy since Naruto's first day. They were now a few months into their second year, and things had been going well. Since the first day, Naruto and Sasuke had been neck and neck for the top spot in class. Naruto was better at Taijutsu, but Sasuke was better with kunai and shuriken. They were about even when it came to stealth, but Naruto managed to always just barely exceed Sasuke's time on the obstacle course. The sticking point was always their academic scores and theoretical knowledge. Sasuke would consistently out preform Naruto in that aspect, though Sakura was definitely at the top as far that was concerned. Sakura was the best Kunoichi in class, without question. Her ability to absorb and understand information could put most of the Nara Clan to shame, and with Naruto and Sasuke being her best friends, she spent a lot of time training alongside them. The other members of their little group had taken that as incentive to train harder with their respective Clans, so as not to fall behind. It had taken a few months, but Kazuki-Sensei eventually came to regret how he had treated Naruto. After watching him train so hard, and spend time laughing and playing with his friends, he wondered how he had ever seen Naruto as anything other than the infectiously happy child that he was.

It really didn't bother Naruto anymore. The more time he spent with all of his friends, the less he cared about what everyone else thought of him. If they wanted to acknowledge and respect him, that was great… but if they didn't, Naruto wasn't going to lose any sleep over it. Shikamaru had tried to solve the puzzle that was Naruto Uzumaki, but after figuring out absolutely nothing for months on end, he decide to just let it go… for now. One development was that Sasuke had apparently gained quite the fan club, lead by none other than Ino Yamanaka. The only two girls in the class who seemed entirely disinterested in the whole affair were Sakura and Hinata. Sakura would freely admit that Sasuke was cute, but she had taken one look at the troop of harpies standing behind Ino, and thought better of it. Hinata however, only had eyes for our resident whiskered blonde. Over the course of the first year, the group had managed to break Hinata from her stuttering, though she would never be the most bombastic person. All in all, it was a good year.

The rest of the village however, was not as peaceful. Fugaku had managed to gain a lot of traction within the Uchiha Clan, and now had many willing participants in his plot to take over Konoha. Itachi had continued to supply the Hokage with information, and the Hokage had tried in vain to discover an alternate solution. As time went on however, it became clear that they would have to support Danzō's suggestion. Itachi had volunteered for the mission, on the condition that Sasuke be left alive. Hiruzen agreed to the request, but he knew that after tonight… Sasuke would never be the same.

(Three Days Later)

The news had spread like wildfire. An entire Clan, destroyed in a single night by one of its own. When Sasuke's friends found out, they had immediately gone out into the village to search for him. Hours later they had all returned to the park empty handed, but then Naruto saw something.

"Hey. Is that Sasuke?" He said while pointing down to a nearby dock. The group turned to look, and saw Sasuke sitting on the end of the dock. On some unheard signal they all went down the hill toward him. Sasuke had been staring into the water for the past hour, not that he was even aware of how much time had passed, when he heard the sound of footsteps behind him. He turned and saw all his friends approaching him. He looked back to the water so they wouldn't see his pain-pinched face.

"What do you all want?" Sasuke asked harshly. Naruto ignored his tone, and walked a little closer to him.

"We heard about what happened. We were worried about you." Naruto spoke quietly. Sasuke wanted to turn around. He really did, but there was a little nagging voice in the back of his head.

'Cut them out.'

'You don't want to go through this again do you?'

'You shouldn't get attached to people.'

'They'll just die.'

'Cut them out.'

"I don't need or want your pity." Sasuke said caustically, hoping to make them leave. Naruto however just moved a little closer, and kept speaking softly.

"It's not pity Sasuke. We're your friends, and we're allowed to care about you." Naruto was standing just behind Sasuke now. Sasuke's face fell into a scowl.

'They're all liars.'

'Itachi said he cared for you.'

'Itachi said he loved you.'

'They're all liars.'

"Don't you get it? I don't want you around. Get lost!" Sasuke shouted, trying to keep his voice from breaking. Sakura came to stand next to Naruto, and then they both sat down on either side of Sasuke, each putting a hand on his shoulder.

"It's alright. We're here for you Sasuke." Sakura said with as much care and warmth as she could. Naruto and Sakura could feel Sasuke trembling under their hands. The rest of the group came closer.

"We're all right here Sasuke… and we're not going anywhere." Sakura said as tears started gathering in her eyes. Sasuke let out a few shaky breaths. His body was trembling like a leaf. He turned to Sakura and stared into her eyes, as if to make sure she was really there. His eyes grew wet, and he looked back into the water. The nagging voice in his head grew quieter and quieter, and when it finally fell silent… Sasuke finally allowed himself to grieve. Tears fell freely from his eyes, his body shook, and his anguished sobs echoed across the water.

(4.5 Years Later)

The rest of the school year after the Uchiha massacre had been very difficult for Sasuke. He had become prone to rather gruesome nightmares, though he never told anyone of this. It had become slightly easier when, at Naruto and Sakura's insistence, he had moved out of the Uchiha Clan-Compound and into their apartment. The massacre seemed to have a profound effect on all of Sasuke's friends as well. Ino had quite readily abandoned her fan-girlish tendencies in favour of being a supportive friend. She had also become much more dedicated to her growth as a Kunoichi, and would often spend time training alongside Shikamaru and Chōji. Chōji had been rather shaken up by the massacre, and one day he had come to school with a fire in his eyes that his friends had never seen before. When asked about it he had simply stated that he talked to his father, but he would never elaborate on it, so his friends decided to respect his privacy. Shikamaru had spent a lot of time thinking about the future after that night. As the heir to the Nara Clan he knew that the responsibility of protecting his Clan would fall on his shoulders some day. Though he remained disinterested in most things, he had taken to his training with a tenacity that surprised a lot of people. Kiba had taken the massacre as a personal betrayal, the entire Inuzuka Clan had. The Inuzuka viewed all of Konoha as its pack, and Itachi's actions filled them with anger. Kiba had immediately asked his mother and sister for more intense training, and they were more than happy to oblige. Shino had kept most of his feelings hidden, but he had confessed to Naruto that he found the event disturbing. Shino had taken to training with his father in both Clan Techniques and Taijutsu. Hinata, inspired by Naruto and encouraged by her friends, began steadily rising through the ranks of the class, and now found herself competing with Ino for the unofficial Second Best Kunoichi title. As far as personal growth was concerned though… Naruto, Sakura and Sasuke stood out above the rest. With Sasuke now living with them the three of them spent essentially every waking moment together, and a lot of that time was spent training. Along with their own growth, they helped each other along in the aspects that they excelled in. Sasuke would help Naruto and Sakura with using kunai and shuriken. With the training he had done to preform the Katon: Gōkakyū no Jutsu, he had a keen understanding of channeling and controlling chakra. He had introduced Naruto and Sakura to this as well. Sakura would help Naruto and Sasuke with theoretical knowledge and tactical skills. She also helped with chakra control when they found out that she was much better at it than Naruto and Sasuke were. Naruto would help Sakura and Sasuke with their stealth skills and Taijutsu, along with their basic physical development; strength, speed, endurance. As a result of this training, all three of them improved drastically.

The third year of the Shinobi Academy was met with a lot of excitement from the class. The summer had been fun. They spent some of their time training as usual, and the group of nine had spent a lot of time just hanging out together, having fun. It was a break that they all needed, especially Sasuke. When they arrived back at school the first day after summer break, they were all eager to see what this year offered. Sasuke had managed to heal somewhat, and though he was much more quiet and reserved than before, he did allow his emotions to surface slightly when in the presence of his friends. The third year of the Shinobi Academy is mostly about exploring the different types of Jutsu available to a Shinobi, and what exactly there benefits and drawbacks were. Taijutsu, Ninjutsu, Genjutsu, Fūinjutsu, Medical Jutsu, Kenjutsu, Clan Techniques and Kekkei-Genkai. The lessons were centered on taking a much more in depth look at all these things, and learning to understand the mechanics behind them. It was a productive year, and certainly the most demanding curriculum for the students so far. One thing to note… As the year went on, Hinata had started to find every excuse available to spend time with Naruto. Something that Sakura in particular took notice of. She no longer had any issue with Hinata's apparent affection toward her brother, but she was still very protective of him… and maybe just the teeniest bit jealous.

The fourth year of the Shinobi Academy was like the start of a new era. Mostly because their class would be moving on to the advanced curriculum, and as such, would be learning from a new Sensei. Iruka-Sensei had proven to be a kind and understanding teacher, and was quickly liked by all nine of them. This year was when the Shinobi Academy began teaching the students how to utilize chakra, and although the nine friends had a bit of a head start on their classmates, the lessons were definitely worthwhile. They learned all about Chakra Control Exercises, and began to learn how to preform what were often called the Basic Three… the Henge no Jutsu, Kawarimi no Jutsu, and Bunshin no Jutsu. These Jutsu were considered essential for a Konoha Shinobi to be able to preform, and the group of nine picked them up fairly easily… with one exception. Naruto had absolutely no difficulty preforming the Kawarimi, and he actually exceeded his classmates with the Henge… but when it came to the Bunshin, it was like he'd hit a roadblock. Naruto failed to preform the Jutsu over and over again, and the end of the year was approaching. So Naruto decided to ask Iruka-Sensei for some help after class one day. Iruka asked Naruto to preform the Jutsu, and when he did Iruka told him he was using too much chakraway too much chakra. Naruto had been distraught. He was using, quite literally, the smallest amount of chakra he possibly could. Iruka had been perplexed for a few seconds until the proverbial light bulb clicked on over his head. Whatever Iruka-Sensei had apparently figured out, he decided not to inform Naruto of it. Iruka had simply said that he would speak to the Hokage, and told Naruto not to worry about it. Hiruzen had gone to Naruto's apartment later that evening with a small scroll in his hand for Naruto. The scroll contained the information on two Jutsu… the Kage-Bunshin no Jutsu, and the Tajū Kage-Bunshin no Jutsu. From the conversation with the Hokage, Naruto was able to determine that he simply possessed too much chakra for the basic Bunshin. Even when compared to the other two basic techniques, the Bunshin used a miniscule amount of chakra. The Hokage had said that at this point in Naruto's development, the amount of chakra control required to preform the Clone Jutsu simply wasn't a realistic possibility. Naruto had gone into class the next day, and Iruka-Sensei almost couldn't believe it when he saw his student preform an A-Rank, Forbidden Jutsu… flawlessly… after a single night of practice. Iruka tried not to throw around the word genius too often as he thought that it disregarded all the hard work a person had done, but he was starting to believe that the term might apply to Naruto Uzumaki. As the fourth year came to an end, Iruka honestly couldn't wait to see what happened next year.

The fifth year at the Shinobi Academy was a whirlwind of activity. The standard curriculum had been covered, and now every single day was solely devoted to developing their skills and knowledge as Shinobi. Iruka could honestly say that he had never seen a closer group of friends than his nine favourite students. He could also say that he had never seen such a talented group of kids before. His assumptions about Naruto were proven quite accurate when he noticed that his growth rate had seemingly skyrocketed over summer break… to an almost frightening degree. Looking at the group now, Iruka could already see where they were going to end up, no matter what the test scores said. He knew that the Ino-Shika-Chō was a very well tested combination in the previous generation, and the Hokage would certainly like to recreate such an effective team. His next observation was that Hinata, Kiba and Shino working together would be able to form probably the most effective tracking unit in all of Konoha. He then looked to the last three. Looking at Naruto, Sakura and Sasuke, he couldn't help but be reminded of another legendary team of Konoha Shinobi. He couldn't help but smile when he saw the three of them together. Sakura was almost always smiling, and always engaging with them. Naruto would smile, joke and laugh, practically radiating happiness. And Sasuke seemed much more at ease around them than anyone else, his face falling into a smirk every so often as he teased Naruto about one thing or another. He couldn't help but laugh when Hinata would take the seat next to Naruto, sliding as close as she could to him until his entire face was bright red. Evidently, Ino had been teaching Hinata about boys, and she was putting those lessons to good use. This of course just gave Sasuke more ammunition to tease Naruto with. If Iruka had to describe the groups fifth year at the Shinobi Academy with a single word… he would have to pick… perfect.

Their sixth and final year had gone by much the same as the fifth, though with the addition of Iruka's friend Mizuki as a co-instructor. Iruka thought he had seen Mizuki throwing strange looks toward Naruto, but he ignored them for the most part, as Naruto didn't seem bothered by them. As time went on however, Mizuki's attitude led to a falling out between the two, and at this point they were no longer friends… just co-workers. Of course, Naruto's friends definitely noticed the looks, and they were none too happy about it. Over the years as they all grew closer as friends, Naruto had sort of ended up as the de facto leader of the group. None of them could quite pinpoint when it exactly happened, maybe it was a different time for each of them. All they knew was that the only one who didn't seem to notice… was Naruto. As the year went on, Mizuki found himself almost constantly on the receiving end of a fierce glare from at least one of Naruto's friends. Naruto had been really touched by their behaviour, though he told them they didn't need to worry about it. Sasuke's response of I don't need your permission to hate the prick, still had Iruka cracking up sometimes. He looked out fondly at his class, and was very pleased with the progress they had made over the years. It was quite possibly, the best thing about being a Sensei at the Shinobi Academy. Iruka stood up, and cleared his throat.

"Attention class." Iruka said neutrally. When his students simply continued chatting with another, his eyebrow started twitching rather violently.

"Listen up you brats!" Iruka shouted at the top of lungs. He was pleased to see his students fall into silence as they looked expectantly toward him. He took a small breath before continuing.

"Before I dismiss you for the day… I just wanted to remind you all that you'll be taking your graduation test tomorrow." Iruka paused here to gauge the students' reactions before continuing.

"I just want you all to know that… pass or fail… I'm proud of each and every one of you… and I'm glad I had the chance to be your Sensei." The students all smiled at Iruka, and he was glad that he had manage to say that while he had the chance, because immediately after he finished speaking, the bell rang signalling the end of the day. Iruka sat down at his desk as everyone filed out of the classroom, and some of them offered him a goodbye as they left. Mizuki departed shortly after, leaving Iruka alone in the quiet classroom. After a few seconds he took a key out from his pocket, and reached down to unlock one of the lower drawers of the desk. Pulling out the contents, and placing them on his desk, Iruka found himself looking at two long boxes filled with Konoha headbands, each one neatly lined up and leaning back into the next. He ran his fingers over them slightly, and sighed softly.

'I wonder how many of these we'll be left… after tomorrow.'

I hope you enjoyed that first chapter (kinda an introduction chapter and not everyone likes those)... If you have any constructive criticism PLEASE TELL ME... I want to improve as a writer and I can't do that if I don't know what I'm doing wrong. Anyway... yeah... so... bye?