A/N: Okay, now that I've gotten through my assignments, and have enough caffeine in me, time to write!

(I don't own Naruto.)

Naruto woke up at 5:00 the next day. Sleep was fitful, after all, who wouldn't be excited to learn from one of the most legendary ninja to ever live?

"I wonder what he's gonna teach me first? Is he gonna teach me how to breathe fire? O-Or will he teach me that shadow-shuriken thing he did while presenting for the class?"

Whatever the case, Naruto was all jitters, as he buzzed around his apartment, doing the best an eight-year-old could do in tidying up. (Which amounted to shoving stuff under furniture, and hoping no one would notice)

Naruto liked his apartment well enough. It was home after all. He had a bedroom with a decent view of the hokage monument from his window. There was also a small balcony that he filled with random potted plants he'd gotten from wild spots around the village. A few posters of the hidden-leaf logo were plastered on his wall he thought were cool.

When he walked through the door from his bedroom there was a short hall with three doors. One led to a broom closet he filled with cleaning stuff, and his ninja tools, the other led to a small bathroom that needed cleaning, and on the side furthest from his bedroom was the living room. It consisted of a kitchenette, a table, some cluttered cupboards, a counter with a precariously balanced box TV, and a refrigerator that buzzed like crazy at night. Naruto spent a good amount of time trying to clean out his kitchen from the mountainous pile of empty ramen cups and then spent the rest of his morning watching his clock tick down to seven o'clock.

This left Naruto plenty of time to think about what The Hokage told him yesterday, "What did he mean about my mom keeping the village safe from threats like the demon-fox-spirit?" Who was his mom, anyway? Did she have super badass anti-demon techniques that he could be taught? Would he have to carry the same responsibility? Him? The screw-up? Why? What made him so special? Just yesterday, he was ready to leave, but if the Hokage was telling him another story, then why did it take him eight years to do so?

I wonder what she was like… Did she have these weird whisker things on her cheeks like me? Naruto was bullied relentlessly by them when he first got into the academy. It stopped quickly when the aggressors began to find their lunches coated in wasabi, or that their backpacks would spontaneously explode glitter in their faces, though. Once, Naruto even replaced a kid's entire kunai supply with rubber chickens when they called him hello-kitty and put a bow in his hair.

I wish I could've met her. She would've told me why I look like this.

It was strange. They were like birthmarks, except when he touched them, they felt almost as though they were carved into his skin. Groove-like, kinda. When he pulled on his cheeks, they felt… strange, tingly almost.

A small knock came at the door the second his clock hit 7:00. Naruto immediately slammed the door open, "Ready for training!"

"Uh, that's nice, kid. I've got a delivery for… Nart?" Naruto found himself looking up at a tall teenager in a post-ninja uniform with acne and glasses. His nose and cheeks were rosy from the cold morning air," Uhh… It's Naruto, and I didn't order anything." Naruto stated in confusion.

"Listen, kid, I've got like, a thousand things in this bag that I've got to deliver through town by noon. Just sign this, and I'll gladly be out of your hair."

"Ugh, fine…", Naruto grumpily scribbled nonsense on the paper the postman passed to him. They tipped their hat, then back-flipped off the balcony to the next rooftop where they quickly disappeared into the sunrise, tossing letters like shuriken into people's houses, and leaving Naruto alone in his doorway with a small paper parcel.

Weird, I never get mail. AND MY NAME AIN'T FRIGGIN' NART! What's a Nart anyway? And where the hell's Gramps? He's supposed to be here….

Naruto sat down at his table with a huff and sliced the package open with a kunai. He had a brief moment to stare wonderingly at a small red jar with an angrily glowing 封 etched into the clay, when-


The entire room filled with white mist,

"In the Future, you really shouldn't trust mysterious packages, young man. You never know what surprises may be left inside." the third hokage stated as he stood haloed in a swirling cloud of chakra-produced mist.

"What the-*cough, cough*, Oh, hey Gramps! You're on time!… why'd ya mail yourself to my apartment? You could've just walked."

"Ah. Good, you're asking questions. I like that in a student. Speaking of which, let me take a look at your homework." Hiruzen hopped off the table.

Naruto slouched in his seat grumpily, "C'mon, Gramps! I thought that we'd be doing some taijutsu training, or something, y'know… cool."

"Ah ah, I'm your tutor for school first, and a sensei second. Now your notes. Give."

Two agonizing hours of studying later…

If Hiruzen was a lesser man, he would have thrown the goggle-headed brat out the window halfway into explaining that it was CHA-kra, not CAT-ra. Since he was a man of logic above all else, however, he saw that the boy had a learning disability. Possibly Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. ADHD. The fact that Naruto would often space out in the middle of the Hokage's sentences, couldn't stop fidgeting while sitting down, or would often change the subject to wildly random topics clued him in.

"Sigh, Naruto…"

"Hn?" Naruto's face was deep into his scroll that was riddled with his sloppy handwriting, along with unflattering doodles of his teachers. He was in the process of condensing useful information and scratching out the random gobbledegook that he wrote down while he was bored.

"In the future, I'd suggest that you do some other secondary task to keep your right hemisphere in check while studying."

"What's that supposed to mean?"

"It means that while you're doing homework, or going over notes for a test, I suggest that you do something like chew gum, listen to music, or squeeze a stress toy to keep that monkey brain of yours from getting distracted."

"Okay, Gramps…"

"I mean it Naruto, I need you to pass next semester's exams."

"Okay, Okay! Jeez."

"Now, let's discuss how to keep that." He gestured to the faded bruises all over Naruto's face, "from happening again. We'll start with applying today's lesson to your fighting style."


"Information gathering, Naruto." Hiruzen corrected.

A squinty, fox-like expression overtook Naruto's face,"...There's a difference?"

The hokage began stroking his beard as he explained, "Yes, and no. You are copying information given to you freely by your sensei right now for the sake of passing your classes. This is Note-taking in a risk-free situation. What I'm going to teach you is note-taking in a dangerous situation, like when you are fighting an opponent. The essence of information gathering the shinobi way is taking useful data from someone trying to hide it from you." Hiruzen stood up and cracked his back. He then walked over and pressed a small note into Naruto's hand, "I have paid for lunch at your favorite restaurant today as a reward for your attention, and your time. You will take some time to rest your brain, then will meet me at the address in this note at 3:00 this afternoon."

"You know my favorite ramen joint? How? There's like, fifty-five different stands around the village!"

Of course, you'd know that Naruto. Hiruzen smirked,

"Information gathering is a useful tool for surprising your friends as well, my boy! Once you know someone well enough, you get to be pretty good at keeping them happy."

Man, the world would be better if everyone was like Gramps… Naruto thought.

"Speaking of the importance of information, I need you to keep our sessions a secret from everyone. I understand you may want to brag, but if you tell anyone that you are learning under me, not only will I deny it, these sessions will end.."

"WHAT?! Why?"

"I have people that would not take kindly to me teaching again. My students have a habit of causing this village trouble. "

"I can't tell anyone?"

"No one. Not until I say otherwise. Now, enjoy your lunch, and… keep that jar. It's a rather useful tool I made."

With that final comment, the Third Hokage disappeared into smoke with another *POOF*


Back at the Hokage Tower…

The real Hokage felt the memories of his shadow clone come rushing back into his head. It took some serious remedial work to get Naruto caught up with the current semester. Still, now that Naruto knew which section of the Bansenshukai (1) he needed to have down by the end of the weekend, he had a good feeling about Naruto's performance in school the next day.

Information gathering. Such a vital part of his role as the Hokage. His favorite jutsu, the Tomegane(2) technique allowed him to find Naruto before he could be taken in by the ANBU, or worse an enemy nation. One of his most useful techniques, the Kage bunshin jutsu also allowed him to keep various doppelgangers around the village to help out his citizens whenever necessary. Hiruzen's ability to sniff out relevant data for his missions, figure out techniques, or learn other villages' battle plans made him infamous for a reason. He had also gained plenty of information on the current movements of the land of stone that allowed him to keep them from trying anything untoward with the Waterfall village for years. For "The Professor" the old adage, "Forewarned is forearmed" could not be more accurate.

A knock came on his door, "Enter." Hiruzen said as he took off the wide-brimmed hokage hat.

In walked an old friend. Upon first looking at him, your first impression would be of a crippled veteran from the first shinobi war. His right eye was missing, and obscured by bandages. He needed a cane to walk, and his right arm was hidden behind robes that doubled as an improvised sling. Danzo Shimura. Not only was he Konohagakure's current ANBU Commander, but he was also one of the three people to have earned Hiruzen Sarutobi's deepest trust. Not everyone knew, but Danzo earned those scars from saving the Third Hokage's life from an S-rank rogue ninja.

"Ah. Danzo! Welcome. May I start some tea for you?"

Danzo sat on a small couch lining the office's wall by the window, "Something stronger. I have some grave news about our resident problem children, the Uchiha Clan."

Hiruzen lit his pipe, deeply wishing he had something stronger to burn.



With Naruto…

This jar is a tool? Huh. Neat.

Naruto tossed the little ceramic into his broom closet and began to make his way to Ichiraku Ramen (3).

… What? Free food was free food, and studying never failed to make the little blonde hungry. The Hokage had never taken him there, but Iruka-Sensei did after making him spend the weekend cleaning up the messes from his homemade glitter bombs. The Ichiraku family were probably Naruto's favorite people…ever, honestly. Ever since the chef Teuchi took him in from the rain, and warmed him up with a free bowl of Miso Ramen, it became his favorite place to eat. The chef's daughter Ayame was probably the only girl he knew that was never mean to him as well. Their special ramen bowls had the nutritional content of soldier pills, and Naruto never left the stand on an empty stomach.

From the outside, no one could tell anything special about the place. It was your typical ramen stand: A small open-air stand with its entrance blocked off only by some flaps with the Restaurant's names written on them. There were only six stools to sit on, and the main decoration outside was a paper lantern with the kanji for ramen,(楽) painted on it. There were dozens of similar joints around Konoha since Ramen was the Local favorite food, but Ichiraku tended to blend in with the market stalls surrounding it. It was also out of the way of most busy streets, which made it a perfect place for Naruto to hang out when he wanted to be left alone. "Hi, Mr. Teuchi! Hi, Ayame!" He saw a customer sitting at the bar wearing a police vest, "Uh… Hi, Mr. Uchiha!" The tall man let out an amused snort into his noodles, though when he saw the blonde's face, he scooted a few stools further down.

"Naruto! Welcome in, son! Get out of the cold! It's been a week, I was getting worried! Was just about to ask the officer here if he'd seen you around!" Teuchi was one of the only people who made Konoha feel like home. He had greying hair, squinty eyes, and a paper hat with the ramen shop's name. His apron covered the belly of a man who loved food. Naruto hopped onto a stool that was sat under a little heat lamp to keep the customers warm from the winter air, Upon seeing the blonde walk in, he immediately got to work in making Naruto's usual bowl of Tonkotsu Ramen.

"Haha, yeah. Sorry for spooking you, old man. Was just having a hard week is all." Hard year. Lonely life. Whatever, at least today the ramen was free!

"Hmph! I never understood why everyone gives you such a hard time kiddo. You're doing your best after all, right? Besides, you always clean up your pranks when you're asked. Speaking of which, Is that why you got those bruises?"

Ayame popped her head around the corner from the kitchen, "Bruises? What happened?" Naruto always liked Ayame. She was a pretty brunette in an apron who wore her hair up under a bandanna. In a way, she was the cool older sister he never had. "Ah, y'know. Got mixed up with some jerks who were pushing around a girl from my class."

Ayame's demeanor immediately went from worried, to interested," Ooooh. Was she cute? Were you her little knight in shining goggles?"

Naruto scratched the back of his head in embarrassment, "Does this look like the face of victory to you? Eheh, nah… I got my head kicked in. Literally. After my nose broke. She got really mad and the next thing I knew, those guys were screaming about how they couldn't feel their arms. It was kinda scary. Her eyes got all veiny and glowing. I've never seen her like that before." Teuchi slid a bowl of Ramen that was gushing steam into the cold air. Next to it, he plonked a frosty can of Kage cola for Naruto to drink.

"Hmph. Mad was probably an understatement. Sounds to me like she got angry enough to awaken her Byakugan." The officer commented while dabbing his mouth with a napkin, "You'd do well to befriend that young lady, it sounds to me that she cares a lot about you if she awakened her bloodline at such a young age. Heh, trust me, I'd know." He pulled some cash from his vest, and put some cash on the counter for the Ichirakus. "Thanks for the ramen Teuchi. Your noodles never disappoint."

"You're too kind, Mr. Uchiha. Please, do come again." Teuchi bowed to the officer as he left.

"That must have been a rough night. Sorry you were brought down like that.." Ayame gave him a pat on the shoulder across the counter.

"Eh. Could've been worse. At least they didn't aim below the belt." Naruto joked. "'snot like I needed this face for modeling anyway. heh."

With that, Naruto dug into his lunch. Ramen was always Naruto's favorite food, but the way Teuchi made it rose it to a godlike level in the young man's eyes. The noodles were hand-made and had the perfect balance between an egg-like flavor and bouncy texture that all noodles should strive for. The broth was full of a rich, complex flavor at the perfect temperature for warming Naruto down to the bone. Each topping that Teuchi put on his ramen was of top quality. The soft-boiled egg, the juicy Chashu pork, the sweet corn, crunchy bean sprouts, dried seaweed, and the crisp green onions all blended in a way that never failed to make Naruto happy. Before he knew it, the bowl was empty. "Another bowl of the Tonkotsu, Please!"

Many bowls later…

"Bye Naruto! Feel better!" Ayame shouted as he left patting his stomach in satisfaction.

"Maybe try the gyoza next time!" Teuchi called after,

"Dad..." Ayame warned,
"What? The batch is going bad. Do you want to eat it?"

"The gyoza is soooo good Naruto, you've gotta try it!"

Naruto left, not even bothering to hide his laughter.

Man, why would anyone ever want to leave the village if those guys're in your corner? …Gods, I'm a moron.

Opening the note Gramps gave him, Naruto followed the directions to an old park in the Village's historic district. There he found a winding stone path led through some Red Torii gates. Upon passing under, Naruto felt a strange electric sensation pass over his skin, before fading away.


Down the path, Naruto found himself in a clearing that contained an abandoned, snow-dusted rock garden at the foot of a dilapidated temple. Decorating the garden was a large stone spiral in the center made of grey bricks. Off to the side was an old moss-covered statue of Inari surrounded by bamboo trees.

Sitting in the middle with his eyes closed was the Third Hokage. His hat obscured his face while a thin line of smoke trailed from his pipe. In his lap was a long bamboo staff.

"Ah, Naruto. You've arrived."

He didn't even bother looking up, instead seeming to be deep in meditation.

"How did you know it was me?" Naruto asked. The old man's face grew a tiny smile, "Simple, you are one of the few people who could even see the path to this temple"

Naruto's face got that confused look, "...How? It ain't exactly hidden, y'know."

"The clan that built this site were masters of fuuinjutsu, or, if you'd prefer, "the sealing arts". They bound a powerful genjutsu into this stone spiral-," he tapped his staff against the bricks, "-that keeps most people from seeing its existence. Only people with Dojutsu, and the two of us can find the path.

"Now…" The hokage stood up with his staff in his hand, "Let's discuss how you will fight the next time you are defending someone."

Naruto knew by now when his sensei was asking for him to fight. Immediately, his fists were up, and his legs were spread shoulder width in the stance he had been trained to take since he first began at the Academy.

Hiruzen gave an appreciative grunt, and began to circle Naruto, "When you strike someone, you must aim to incapacitate as quickly as possible. Wasting energy in a drawn-out conflict is the mark of an inexperienced shinobi. Any leaf ninja must learn to identify their foe's weakness and exploit it to its limit, while at the same time, obscuring their own. Tell me, boy, what weaknesses do I possess?"


"Too slow."

The next thing Naruto knew, he was staring at the sky gasping as the air was driven from his lungs by the butt of the Hokage's staff. Damn. I really should have held back on the ramen… Just like that, Naruto lost his lunch.

"I'll tell you what I saw. I noticed that your arms were focused on protecting your head from more harm, as would be natural for someone who had received as much cranial trauma as you had. By keeping your defense firmly focused around your face, you left your midsection open. One jab was all it took to knock you down. Also, an opponent that has spent alot of time eating will be sluggish. Remember, the hungry predator is the most dangerous. Only fill yourself when you know that you won't be fighting. Now stand up, and cover your weaknesses."

Naruto forced himself to suck in a deep gulp of air, and kicked himself back on his feet in a swift move, wiping the excess vomit off his chin.

They didn't know it at the time, but both of them were thinking the same thing,"Huh. He really is tough for his age."

"Good. Now again. And focus this time, or the next strike will have some force behind it."

"We'll see who will be losing their lunch next, old man!"

Unfortunately, it was Naruto.

They trained until the sun set, and Naruto's knuckles bled. By the time he walked into class the next day, Naruto had accumulated some new bruises, and had some bandages on his face, with a wide smile that was all the brighter for it.

Someday soon, I'll be the strongest ninja to ever walk out of this classroom.

Sasuke sure wasn't there to argue the fact.

A/N Part 1: I'd like to end this with a quick explanation of my thought process. I really don't want to make Naruto god-like.

I believe that Naruto is a better character when he's falling short of something. Something that makes him so lovable is that he's a ninja wannabe with big dreams and a depressing past that he wants more than anything to rise above. He represents that part of us who is looking for connection, and trying his best to be good at something. It is why it can be so electrifying to see him master a new technique, or make a lasting bond with somebody who was a foe, or heel to him before.

Another thing: I won't be writing this story in the same way that I'd write a Shounen Battle-anime. I'm writing similar to how I would write a fantasy novel/ D&D campaign. I want to flesh out the lore. I want there to be more mythological creatures in the world than just the tailed beasts. (The movies kinda expand on this, but not really.) I want to make interesting towns with interesting people, and interesting histories as well! I want each one of the Elemental Nations to feel as though they have their own distinct cultures and philosophies. I want the world to feel as massive and mysterious as it did when we first picked up the manga/ started the anime, and Kakashi said the words "In this world, there are people younger than you, yet stronger than me."

A/N Part 2: Welcome to the Ninja-facts portion of the chapter! In this section, we will be covering trivia about the Narutoverse, and fun facts about the history of ninjas in our world! If you find that I put a number next to a word, or statement, then you can check the bottom of the page for what I wrote about it down here!

The Bansenshukai (萬川集海, translated "Sea of Myriad Rivers Merging") is the Real world's most complete collection of Ninja techniques from various clans that have survived into the modern era. Written in 1676, the Bansenshukai in this story is a compilation of non-classified clan techniques that concern assassination, infiltration, espionage, and survival that any Konoha ninja should know. The "myriad of rivers merging" are the founding allied clans brought together by Hashirama Senju. It is a textbook that every Academy student needs to study. On graduation day, Sakura Haruno will have it memorized by heart.

Tōmegane no Jutsu (遠眼鏡の術 ) Translated, Telescope technique, A-rank Jutsu, Supplementary: By peering into a crystal ball, the user can see the current activities of anyone whose chakra signature they know. Users can view subjects from any location, regardless of distance or potential obstructions, making it ideal for intelligence gathering. The Third Hokage uses this technique to monitor the villagers of Konohagakure and thus maintain public order. After the time skip, this technique isn't seen again until the movie, "Road to Ninja" when the crystal ball is used by Obito, though the movie doesn't seem to be canon. The Shoton/ Crystal release user Guren also seems to use a similar technique in the non-canon Three-Tails filler arc.

Ramen Ichiraku (ラーメン一楽, literally meaning: Ramen is the Best Pleasure) is not only Naruto's favorite restaurant, it was Masashi Kishimoto's as well! The location in Konohagakure gets its name from a real ramen joint that the mangaka liked to eat at while studying in college. (Sadly, according to the reviews from real-world Naruto fans, it's not that good by Japanese standards..)