"Naruto!" cried Iruka. "Perform the clone technique!"

"The clone technique?" asked Naruto. "I hate the clone technique!"

"You hate every technique," noted Mizuki. "Now, you need to produce at least three clones to avoid failing."

Naruto sighed, and clapped his hands together. "Clone technique," he calmly intoned.

Nothing happened. No smoke, no effects.

"Fail," said Iruka.

"But surely," said Mizuki, "he named the technique correctly, doesn't he deserve any credit for that?"

Iruka stared at Mizuki. "For naming the technique?"

Naruto stood in front of the two awkwardly.

"Naruto, get out of here, you failed," said Iruka, dismissively. "Naming the technique? Are you serious? Mizuki did you seriously go to the same ninja academy as I did? Did you, on your graduation test, walk over to your teacher, and say 'transformation technique'?"

Naruto stared at the two for a minute, before walking out of the classroom. Ah well, time to get back to begging on the streets. The academy was fun while it lasted.

"Naruto," said Mizuki, "I'm sorry Iruka was so hard on you. He just wanted you to be safe."

Naruto raised his eyebrows.

"You see," said Mizuki, "Iruka's parents died when he was young. He was taken in by his grandparents, and he always felt like people didn't pay enough attention to him. He sees a bit of himself in you, as a fellow orphan."

Naruto gave a non-committal grunt. To be honest, that sounded nothing like him. Oh well, Mizuki was getting him free food, so it wouldn't do to question him.

"Anyway, don't be so down," said Mizuki. "There's a secret alternative method to passing the academy exam."

"Really?" asked Naruto.

"Of course," said Mizuki. "You just need to steal the scroll of forbidden seals from the Hokage, and learn one technique on it."

Naruto nodded. That made sense. It was like a practice ninja mission, along with a test of potential.

That evening, Naruto, wearing his best clothes (read, average for most civilians), walked into the Hokage office. "Hello, Hokage-sama. I'm supposed to take this down to the archives, to make an additional copy of one of the techniques written here."

The Hokage gave a grandfatherly smile. "Well, don't let me stop you. And say hello to Hatuma for me!"

"Thanks!" said Naruto, with a friendly smile, as he walked out of the office in broad daylight, scroll in hand.

Naruto lay in the clearing, reading through the scroll once again. All of the techniques in it required chakra. This was a problem, because he didn't have any chakra. He didn't learn much at the academy, other than how to handle weapons, and cheat on tests. But those wouldn't help here unless… of course! He had to cheat!

Several hours later, Mizuki arrived in the clearing, finding an exhausted Naruto leaning against his scroll, shuriken thrown around the clearing. "Naruto…?" he asked.

"I did it!" panted Naruto. "I learned a technique!"

Mizuki smiled. "That's very impressive, Naruto. Can you show me?"

"Of course," said Naruto.

Naruto wound his hand back, spun around dramatically, and threw a shuriken at a tree, exclaiming "shuriken shadow clone technique!" As he threw the shuriken, the smoke bomb he had placed in the center detonated, and five shuriken flew out of the cloud, striking a nearby tree. Naruto had thrown four shuriken with his left hand a split second after throwing the shuriken with his right hand, and had concealed the action with a smoke bomb, giving the impression of a successfully executed shuriken shadow clone technique.

Mizuki nodded. "That's very impressive."

Naruto smiled. It appeared he had succeeded in his deception.

"Unfortunately," continued Mizuki, "I didn't actually want you to succeed. You see, this whole thing was a ruse, for me to steal the forbidden scroll!"

Naruto stared in shock. This was… he had cheated on the wrong exam.

He wanted to say something clever, maybe something deceptive, but the only thing that came out was a muffled question of "…why?"

"Haven't you wondered why everyone hates you?" asked Mizuki.

"Everyone hates me?" asked Naruto.

"You see it, don't you," said Mizuki. "The way they ignore you. Walk past you as if you aren't important. There's a reason for that. You see, Naruto… you are the nine tailed demon fox!"

Naruto stared at Mizuki. Mizuki wasn't lying. He seemed to genuinely believe what he was saying, despite how absurd it was. Naruto was many things, but he was quite certain he would've known if he was secretly a nine tailed demon fox. However, there was still a way to use this situation.

"So what now?" asked Naruto.

"Now, I kill you, sell the forbidden scroll to Orochimaru in exchange for immense power."

"You've got it all figured out, huh?" asked Naruto, deepening his voice.

Mizuki's eyes widened. "Nine tails?" he muttered.

"I'm impressed that you've seen through my ruse. To think I underestimated you so much," said Naruto.

"I can do this," said Mizuki to himself. "He's in a human vessel. He's weak. I can take him."

"But why would you?" asked Naruto.


"We both want the same thing, do we not?" asked Naruto. "Your theft of the forbidden scroll would weaken Konoha. Once I finish destroying Konoha, there will be less hunter ninjas after you."

Mizuki nodded, a thoughtful expression on his face.

"Now come here," said Naruto. "I'll give you a blessing, to ensure you can do your part."

Mizuki walked cautiously over to Naruto.

"Kneel." Ordered Naruto. Mizuki hesitated. "Power, beyond your widest dreams. Kneel down and receive my blessing. It is only natural to bow before a god, is it not?"

Mizuki, kneeled, a determined expression appearing on his face. Naruto bent down, as Mizuki continued kneeling, and stabbed him in the back of his neck with his kunai. Mizuki died in seconds.

Naruto fell back into a tree, leaning against it in worry. Someone had just tried to kill him. And he himself had just killed a man. And what was this business about being the nine tailed demon fox? Oh god, he had killed someone. The ANBU would catch him and throw him in prison. What to do…

Naruto spent the next couple hours arranging things in a way to make himself seem like the innocent party, but the ANBU failed to materialize. A couple hours later, Naruto came to the realization that it was very unlikely that the ANBU would randomly patrol through some obscure training ground. Naruto then turned his attention to Mizuki's corpse. His body had cooled, and his blood had dried. It was a rather disgusting sight. Naruto began looting his corpse. Kunai, more kunai, some high quality shuriken, including the one on his back. The real treasure, however, was the forehead protector, and the wallet.

The next day, when Naruto walked into the classroom, Kiba laughed at him, and told him that the only people allowed in there were academy graduates. "Oh yeah?" asked Naruto. "What's this, then?" he gestured to his forehead protector. Kiba had no further objections. The forehead protector really was the answer to all his problems.

Because Iruka was away, looking for Mizuki, who had gone missing that night, the substitute teacher who hadn't see Naruto fail shrugged, marked it down as a bureaucratic error, and quietly added Naruto to team seven.