I don't own Naruto or any of the characters, settings, etc. therein. I guess I kind of own any characters that I make on my own partly, so I guess I own imaginary people. Go me.

Part 1: Always changing, Always moving

"I am more special than you," Sasuke gloated over him in his new form.

He kicked the practice log, again, and again, harder with each progressive kick...

The Chidori's scream pierced the air with only the sound of his own whirling Rasengan to dampen it...

His rhythm increased. He kept at a steady pace but his power was gradually increasing. He was both punching and kicking the log now, harder and harder, again, and again, and again...

The two forces collided, causing a massive charka backlash that resonated throughout the valley...

He was now pummeling the log. Small splinters seemed to move in slow motion off of it as he continued his relentless beating of the practice target. He was grunting with his movements now, attempting to add even a little bit more power into each and every shot...

They had aimed for different spots, Sasuke's chidori was aimed for his vital areas just above his heart, while Naruto aimed for the forehead protector, wishing only to knock his friend unconscious. The Chidori hit its mark, and Naruto remembered the last sound of his own breath leaving, in one long exhale, before darkness consumed him...

"Ahhhhh!" He let out a blood curdling scream before taking all the force he had inside of him and focusing it into a single puch that left a sizable dent in the log, going all the way to the middle. It was an amazing hit...and a huge mistake.

"AAAAAOOOOOOOWWWWW!" Naruto screamed before he collapsed to the ground in sheer pain. The shockwaves in his hand seemed to send the pain throughout the rest of his body, as he snapped back to reality.

It really was a nice day in Konoha village. The seasons had just begun to change, and the usual green of the forest had long gone into a golden-red hue that seemed to hug the village and leave a warm feeling in the hearts of everyone. But fall was nearing its end now, and the last of the leaves had begun to fall. Winter was approaching, and although the snow never was substantial here, Naruto hated seeing the life almost sapped from the village with the seasons. However, none of that mattered now, only the throbbing of his hand along with the stupid, unwieldy punch he had thrown consumed his thoughts.

"What's up Naruto, taking a break already?" said a very deep and almost taunting voice from behind him.

"Shut up Gai-Sensei, can't you see I've just broken all the fingers in my hand!" Gai-Sensei, he would never get used to calling him that. Naruto preferred 'That-weird-super-faggy-bowlcut-guy'. Oh course, he couldn't call him 'Thickbrows'. No, that was Lee's name.

'Lee,' he thought, 'never imagined I'd be on a team with him.' He watched Lee, almost lackadaisically as Lee methodically pounded on his own log. He was standing on his right leg, using his left for a series of rhythmic, rolling kicks on the log, causing a sizeable amount of damage on it. Naruto observed his own log. He had done quite a bit of damage to it. Large chunks were cut out of it, along with a sizeable dent to remind him of this day, as well as a broken hand.

However, Lee's damage to the practice target seemed much more organized that his own. Sizeable parts seemed to be missing from it, as the log took a very misshapen look, almost like an hour-glass with two large holes in the top of it. Lee continued to pound on the same spot, over, and over, and over, never ceasing, not even stopping whenever Naruto had screamed out in pain over his bad punch. He had been frenzied, almost possessed whenever he returned from the failed mission four months ago. Every training exercise consumed him, almost as if he was striving for something harder than he had ever been.

Naruto, while confident in his own ability to beat Lee, had to admire how much harder he worked than everybody else. However, even Lee was beginning to tire. He had been at the log when Naruto had gotten there, starting with basic punches. Whenever Naruto had left and returned after lunch, Lee was still going, except he was hitting right kicks, much akin to what he was doing now. He didn't know when Lee switched sides, or if he even left the log at all. Nevertheless, even Lee had his limits. Naruto could hear his breathing becoming more labored with each passing strike, and his normally green bodysuit had been so stained with sweat that it looked almost black. Naruto looked down with satisfaction to see that his own clothes were stained as well. Like always, he had worn his orange, training clothes, except these ones were different. This suit was the one he wore on the mission four months ago. He never did repair the gaping hole where Sasuke impaled him. Whenever they returned, that's when things began to change...

"WHAT?", said Naruto, "You can't be serious!"

Naruto looked up at his then sensei Hatake Kakashi. Kakashi was dressed in his usual Jounin garb, a black bodysuit underneath his green vest. His grey haired was placed in his usual spiky, and seemingly messy style, much like his personality.

"I'm sorry Naruto, but I'm going to have to disband team 7," said Kakashi.

Naruto simply couldn't believe it. Was he going to have to go back to the academy? Did he do something wrong? Was this about the failed mission? Questions seemed to flood his thoughts, but all he could ask was a simple, "Why?"

"Its nothing personal Naruto, I just feel that my talents as a teacher are not good enough to permit both you and Sakura the growth you two desperately need," said Kakashi, in his almost bored tone of voice.

"No Kakashi-sensei, you are an excellent teacher. We've learned so much from you," said the pink-haired girl next to Naruto.

Kakashi smiled. Even though his face was covered halfway, you could always tell when he was smiling.

"Thank you Sakura," he said "but I have other matters to attend to as well. Besides, I've found teachers that can help your growth much better than I can. Sakura, with the recent promotion of Shikamaru to the Chuunin squad, you will be part of Asuma-Sensei's team."

Sakura scowled inwardly at this. 'The same team as that pig Ino!" she thought.

Although Naruto was fond of Kakashi, he was also interested in who he would consider for himself. The last time Kakashi had given him to a different teacher, he wound up with that closet pervert Ebisu.

"And for you Naruto," said Kakashi, "Neji has recently been taken out of Gai's care so that Hiashi can train him personally. That means..."

"That you will be left in the hands of a more superior and much more gorgeous sensei!"

Naruto turned around to see Gai appear in a puff of smoke, in his usual pose, on the back of a large turtle. Gai sported his usual bowl cut and green bodysuit, with matching green vest, and decided making his entrance with a wide variety of poses would be most fitting.

"Wh-WHAT?!" yelled Naruto, "you're leaving me with Thickbrow's sensei? HOW IS THIS AN IMPROVEMENT?"

"What?" said Gai, almost in a state of shock, "Has no one ever told you of the many exploits of Konoha's Beautiful, Azure Beast. Why my name is known and feared far and wide as the deadly, determined, and devilishly good looking ninja master Gai!" He then ended this lengthy introduction with a whooping-crane pose complete with ocean background.

Naruto always wondered how he did that, but right now he was more concerned with the fact that he was going to be trained by this idiot.

"But all that is unimportant," said Gai, "for you see Naruto, with my superior training abilities, I will mold you into a fiery youth that will command the attention and respect of everyone in the leaf village and beyond! I promise." To which he ended with his usual thumbs up and shining smile combination.

"Really?" This was not an offer Naruto could turn down easily. Thickbrows and Thickbrows' Sensei were known for keeping their, good-guy-pose promises.

"Certainly," said Gai, "now, let us begin. THE CALL OF YOUTH, 500 laps around the practice range. Begin!"

"NOW?" said Naruto, "but, can't we get lunch first?"

"True men of youth earn their lunch," said Gai, "Oh, and you'd better get a notepad to write these lessons down, I can't stop to repeat all my pearls of wisdom."

Gai promptly dragged a kicking and screaming Naruto to the practice range.

"Oh well," thought Sakura, "I guess Ino's not so bad."