Foreword: ... The number of back theories I put into all of this would take longer than the story itself to bother explaining. Needless to say, everything is plotted out to some extent whether it's shown or not. Just enjoy it for what it is: A set of 22 random glimpses into the world of Naruto. I tried to make most of them at least partially fit with the manga canon, but a few really take license with the series and branch into little micro-AUs.

Hope you enjoy it all anyway.

A little remembered fact is that, once upon a time, there were not Five Great Villages and dozens of lesser ones vying for power. There were not the Five Shadows; there were six. The Ho, Mizu, Kaze, Tsuchi and Rai Kage were all lines dating back hundreds of years, but they were lead in an almost democratic fashion by the Zenpan Kage. The Universal Shadow. For the longest time, this grand Kage held power over the lesser five, each one ruling his or her subordinates with a truly iron fist.

Then a pair of brothers, one named Kenzaimaru, the other named Namimaru, assassinated the Zenpan Kage and threw the once orderly world of the Shinobi into turmoil. In the ensuing power struggle, ancient traditions were lost, and the current Kage of the day were all either murdered by each other or by their would-be successors, most of whom were themselves murdered within minutes of their triumphs.

As a result, the Five Kage of today count their generations not from the hundreds of years ago when the Shodaime Zenpan Kage first solidified the Shadow Nation, but from when five leaders first cobbled together what would eventually become the Five Great Villages.
Konoha's history is markedly different from that of the other Big Five members. Where they were all formed from uniform Shinobi, each one bearing vaguely similar fighting styles and philosophies, Konoha was unusual from the beginning. Its Shodaime Hokage's specialty lay not in the fire for which his title was derived, but the wood used to fuel it. Its Nidaime had once been the potential successor to the Gojuusandaime Mizukage, his techniques specializing not in fire, but the water used to obliterate it.

Irony was never lost on their successor--studious of history as he was--that the two were brothers who conveniently became the first Kage in any village to give up their names and bear the titles instead.
Out of all five Hokage, only two have kept any parts of their birthnames. The Sandaime, Sarutobi, forsook his given name but maintained his family name. It bound him to his eldest son, his daughter-in-law and his only surviving relatives: His second son, Asuma, and his grandson and direct heir, Konohamaru. The Godaime did the exact opposite, but many would say she stopped believing in family the day she first laid eyes on her darling brother's mutilated corpse.

Out of all five Hokage, the Sandaime and Godaime are also the most sharply contrasted. Sarutobi took the title at the age of twelve--the youngest to ever bear the rank--and reigned over the Village for two terms; almost thirty years the first time, just twelve the second. He carried Konoha through two of the three Great Ninja Wars, and bore witness to both of his predecessors and both of his successors. Tsunade took the title at the age of fifty--the oldest to ever bear the rank upon receiving it--and has since seen Konoha through the turmoil of rebuilding. She prays nightly that she won't see another war, and hopes to live long enough to have met not only both of her immediate predecessors, but at least one of her successors.

At least one man, Danzou, doesn't think she's going to last five years.
When it comes to Bloodline Clans, Konoha is the only Hidden Village in the entire world to truly embrace its mutant freaks. This stems from the fact that its Shodaime cut a deal with both the Hyuuga and Uchiha clans during Konoha's founding: The Uchiha were recognized as being truly independent and the Hyuuga were allowed to commence the barbaric practice of Curse Sealings. The first Hokage was the originator of the Cage Seal, and every year, when most of the Village celebrates his birthday, the entire Branch Family wears solid black funeral clothing, fast from dawn to dusk and spend the vast majority of the day glaring daggers at his face on the Hokage mountain.

It's the one ritual that the Main Family has never been able to break.
The Uchiha Clan was born when the second son of the Hyuuga Clan's Head became stone drunk and, in one night, impregnated seven women; a military policewoman, two civilians and four smitten Jounin who were particularly weak to a certain kind of Genjutsu that only he knew. When the Head learned of this, two of the four Jounin were forced to abort and the remaining women sought protection from the Hokage. Needless to say, he granted it.

A few decades later, the women's children started having children of their own. The policewoman's sons--triplets named Uchiha since they were bastards and that was their mother's family name--joined the military police. The Jounins' children became run-of-the-mill ninjas and the civilians' children became civilians. A few generations ticked by and the families intermarried and the Uchiha descendents used their Byakugan for purposes other than what it was meant for. Toss on a few more generations and the Byakugan finally mutated into the red pinwheel that is the Sharingan of today.

At first, the Hyuuga responded by murdering the father of the seven bastards. Then as time went by, they began to ritually castrate or sterilize any second children, until the practice began to shrink their numbers and threaten their continued survival. When the Shodaime Hokage offered them the Cage Seal as an alternative, they took it without shame and they've been unflenchingly loyal ever since.
The first three Uchiha were named Tsukiyomi, Amaterasu and Susano. Each one specialized in a single field: Genjutsu, Ninjutsu, Taijutsu. An internal legend amongst the Clan tells that the three dots in the Sharingan originate from them.

Uchiha Sasuke's mother, the parent he takes after the most, was a direct descendent of Susano. His father, the parent Itachi took after the most, was a direct descendent of Tsukiyomi. Although both brothers know a great deal of their clan's history, neither knows about this irony. Even if they did, neither would care.
The Akimichi Clan are actually the most noble in Konoha. They descend from a long line of Samurai and Daimyo. The Yamanakas were originally their gardeners and house spies, and the Naras were once their gamekeepers and medicine men. Time and the life of Shinobi have worn down the original bonds of servitude and replaced them with friendship, but every now and then, Ino will jealously demand to know why Chouji receives gifts from Daimyo he claims not to know, Chouji will wonder why foreigners expect Shikamaru to be profficient with a bow and arrow, and Shikamaru will wonder why both of them have to be such a pain in the ass sometimes.

Then he'll smile to himself, correctly assuming that no-one is looking at him, and go back to sleep. It's too troublesome to waste quality naptime musing over the oddities of friends.
The Inuzuka Clan of Konoha and the Nekoteinei Clan of Suna do not get along. The feud predates any of the modern Villages and nobody really remembers why it's still ongoing, but it has something to do with one of Akamaru's distant ancestors confusing a giant black cat with a chew toy whilst an Inuzuka man and a Nekoteinei woman were trying be intimate on a kitchen table...
In terms of purity of style, Hyuuga Hinata actually is better than Hyuuga Neji. The distinction is visible because proper Jyuuken is performed with the entire hand; it has an effect similar to microwaving someone's internal organs. The 64 and 128 Hands of Hakke, when performed by a proper Hyuuga, will kill anyone well in advance of the finishing blow. Neji's self-taught variations, for all their precision, merely damage the tenketsu and leave the target relatively alive until the final blow.

Ironically, Hyuuga Hanabi is better than both of them.

A little known fact is that the Yondaime Hokage was what's now referred to as a Metrosexual. He not only knew how to sew and stitch, he was alarmingly good at it. He redesigned the ANBU uniform twice in six months, permanently solidifying the design and leaving it unchanged to this day. He also crafted the uniquely stylish trenchvest he wore upon becoming Hokage and spent most of his free time teaching others how to sew or repairing children's toys.

In spite of this fact, he was still one of the single most heterosexual men of his generation. One need only ask his eventual wife; they met during a sewing class.
Uzumaki Naruto did not live his entire life alone. Contrary to his own beliefs, he actually does have some semblance of an adopted family that predates his attachments to Team 7 and Umino Iruka.

His first few years were spent in the care of the ANBU. Every single one of them wore their masks around him at all times. Changing his diapers and singing him to sleep were Uzuki Yuugao's first assignments on the job. The song she sang to him was a melancholy tune of murder and hatred.

To this day, Naruto still finds himself compelled to want to hum the tune every time he sees someone in an ANBU mask.

The tradition of tying people to logs during Genin Tests dates back to the first generation of Konoha Shinobi. A Jounin named Namimaru began it by deliberately singling out a Genin named Sarutobi and pummeling him into the dirt during a test to snatch two bells. While none of his students actually succeeded, Sarutobi was the only one tied to the log. The experience humbled him beyond measure, and the speech Namimaru gave him afterward would eventually lead him to shed tears over the needless sacrifice of a pair of nameless Genin from the Sound, used as fodder in a Kinjutsu.

To date, Sarutobi is the only genius of a team to be tied to a log during a Bell Test. Of his own Genin, a loud-mouthed runt named Jiraiya ended up hitched to the log after almost--almost--succeeding at snatching the bells on his own. Of Jiraiya's Genin team, an even louder runt with yellow hair ended up tongue-tied to a log by a thirty foot tall bullfrog after miserably failing at snatching the bells on his own. Of the Yondaime's Genin Team, a more polite, yet still loud-as-hell, runt ended up tied to the log after trying to help his teammates get the bells at his own expense.

The Fourth thought it would teach the other two to have a conscience and value their teammate as more than cannon fodder. He was wrong, but he still tried.

Hatake Kakashi's Genin are the most recent examples of the Bell Test, and they went little different from the ones before them. This time, the single loudest little prick in Konoha's history ended up tied to the log and left there for two days before busting himself out.

It was only when Kakashi woke up at midnight to find all of his Icha Icha books burned, and Sasuke woke up the next morning to find his clothes bleached and dyed pink, that any of them regretted it. Naruto gained two black eyes and Sakura walked away from the whole mess unscathed.
Out of all the Hokage to take the Bell Test, only one has not been tied to the log: Tsunade. Ironically, every single one who has been tied to the log either went on to become Hokage or had the distinct potential to become one someday.

Tsunade occasionally looks back on it and thinks that Jiraiya got lucky. Orochimaru went insane and only three of the people she's ever truly loved haven't died horribly, while she's left carrying on with those burdens and the added weight of Hokage. Jiraiya turned down the job and became richer than a small nation from drawing and writing porn.
Aburame Shino is actually more attached to his comrades than any other Genin in Konoha. He looks upon the other members of the so-called Rookie Nine as if all of them were family, whether they know it or not. He keeps pictures of them all, he tries to be available when he thinks they might need help and even though none of them have ever taken his hints that he's there for them, he likes to think he's got a good bond with everyone.

When Naruto returns and doesn't recognize him, Shino is hurt simply because he thinks of Naruto as a cross between the annoying little brother he always wanted to have and the potential suitor to the little sister he really does have.
Out of all of Konoha's current Jounin Elites, Sarutobi Asuma is considered the strangest. Kakashi is the coolest, Kurenai the most beautiful and Gai the most... Well, Gai-ish, but Asuma is still the strangest.

This is because he is not the best at anything. He is less than Kakashi at Ninjutsu, weaker than Kurenai at Genjutsu and completely inferior to Gai in Taijutsu. Where he shines, however, is that he is a true generalist, and the best that Konoha has had to offer since the days when his father was known as the Professor. He is second best at everything, so when Kakashi outdoes him at Ninjutsu, he simply beats the crap out of him. When Kurenai charms him with Genjutsu, he overwhelms her with Ninjutsu and tries not to set her pretty little head on fire.

When it comes to Gai, Asuma simply threatens to make him relive an incident involving a rubber chicken, a pink man-thong and nipple clamps. Gai usually surrenders on the spot, and no-one really wants to know why.
Out of all of Konoha's Jounin-Genin groupings, Yuuhi Kurenai is the closest to her students. Unofficially, she has become Hyuuga Hinata's mother, Inuzuka Kiba's second big sister and Aburame Shino's favored aunt. Where Hatake Kakashi unwittingly allowed his team to fragment and shatter into a billion tiny pieces and Sarutobi Asuma's team was literally born to work together, Kurenai has forged her team into the most flawless Genin trio that Konoha has. Shino is their brains, ears and knife, Kiba their nose, muscle and teeth, Hinata their eyes, conscience and self-preservation.

None of the three teachers of the Rookie Nine worry for their teams anymore. Kakashi has no soldiers to worry about, Asuma knows damn well that his brats can punch their way out of any mess they get themselves into and Kurenai knows even better that her family is too smart to get themselves into anything they can't get out of in the first place.
The girls in Konoha have always been known for their lack of perceptiveness when it comes to what men like. In no case is this more evident than when it comes to their assessment of Uchiha Sasuke. All of them mistakenly believed that he likes girls with long hair. This lead to girls like Haruno Sakura and Yamanaka Ino growing their hair to absurd lengths for Shinobi while Hyuuga Hinata mistakenly took on the assumption that since Naruto and Sasuke were exact opposites, Naruto would like girls with short hair.

The irony is that the reverse is true: Sasuke prefers girls with short hair and Naruto prefers girls with long hair. Only Hyuuga Neji ever actually figures this out, and when he mentions it offhandedly while being made to listen to a conversation amongst the girls, half of them stare at him as if he just made Hell freeze over and implode.

When Naruto returns two years later to find Sakura with short hair, Hinata with long and Ino with mid-length insanity that pretends its a ponytail and bangs, only TenTen is able to laugh about it. Why?

Because she's already figured out that if you want a man to like you, you need to make him like you for more than your hair. Someday, she hopes her fellow kunoichi will figure that out. Until then, she's just going to enjoy it at their expense. It's a perk to being the communal big sister.

A little known fact is that Kankurou actually tried to ask TenTen out on a date when he first visited Konoha as a newly minted Jounin.

The fact that Temari had to blast Neji and Lee through the side of a building with her fan to keep them from killing him, however, is very widely known.
Had Uchiha Obito survived, the world would be very different than it is today.

The Yondaime would still be dead. Naruto would still be hated by most of the village, but Hatake Kakashi would be the Godaime. Rin would have taught Shizune and Kabuto both the arts of medical ninjutsu, rather than Tsunade and the man that Kabuto lied to as his father for two decades. Umino Iruka would've had a co-conspirator throughout his childhood, and rather than stop at Chuunin, he would've hit Special Jounin by the age of twenty.

Mizuki would've died short of ever revealing to Naruto the truth about his demonic captive. He would've initially failed the Genin Test, but a roaring arguement between former friends and a subsequent fistfight that would've levelled a building would get him through anyway.

Obito would have taken in the newly formed Team Seven, and Sakura would have ended up tied to the log. Naruto would give her his food and the team would pass in the blink of an eye. Sasuke would not be the only Uchiha left in Konoha, and Itachi would genuinely hesitate about returning to capture the Kyuubi. Orochimaru would never manage to lock in the Cursed Seal on Sasuke's neck, the Chidori would die with Kakashi in battle against an equally doomed Orochimaru and Rin, not Tsunade, would become Rokudaime.

Naruto would still meet Jiraiya on a fluke. Jiraiya would still take him in, and ultimately, Naruto would gain his trademarks all the same. Sasuke would learn to rely on his own power, and it would take him further than any mere shortcut ever could. Sakura would still lag behind, but an under-the-table deal with Jiraiya would still leave her under Tsunade's guidance.

Mitarashi Anko would be half-normal, Yuuhi Kurenai would occasionally get giddy in Obito's presence and Hyuuga Hinata would be given so many peptalks by so many people that she would literally drag Naruto kicking and screaming to their first date.

Perhaps most differently of all though, there would one day be a boy with blond hair and milky white eyes--the son of a Hokage--demanding to have his 'bastard uncle' tell him about how the legendary Obito changed the world.

Not only would Sasuke tell him the whole story, he'd do it with wrinkles on his face. Every single one would come from smiling.
Neji and Lee recently came to an unspoken understanding. It came about when Neji noticed a strange 'handprint' on Lee's right shoulder, visible only when the Byakugan was activated. He only spoke of it because he noticed the same thing on Gai's shoulder a few days later.

Nowadays, whenever Lee acts like a total idiot and allows his teeth to sparkle and chops his hair into that obscene bowl cut, Neji doesn't smirk at him. He laughs.

He laughs out of a wretched sense of sympathy, because Lee thinks that being funny can help him stay sane even when he has the Death God's hand forever gripped to his soul.

Anko hates Shizune. She hates her more than anyone should hate another member of their own Village, and if given the chance, she would gladly murder Shizune in cold blood, lick said blood off of her kunai and then throw the body into the street while chanting 'DING, DONG! THE BITCH IS DEAD!'

In reality, the two have no prior enmity. What makes Anko hate her so deeply is nothing to do with a personal insult of any sort.

Anko hates Shizune for the same reason that she envied the Yondaime: Shizune was trained by one of the other Sannin.

Although most people never stop to think about it, Anko was the one who tipped off the Sandaime to Orochimaru's activities. She stumbled into his house one night, soaked in blood and screaming incoherently, wracked with sobbing and unable to even see straight. Prior to that, she had been Orochimaru's most loyal student, not to mention the only one that was still alive. In three years of accepting Genin, Orochimaru had never failed a single team, but none of his Genin other than Anko had ever survived more than three missions. He always claimed to have disposed of the bodies, stating that it was just bad luck and he would do better next time.

Only Anko had ever noticed him smile when requesting to tell the families of the deceased personally.

The Yondaime, by comparison, got the best teacher of any Sannin. Anko has met Jiraiya. In a lot of ways, she still has a little girl's crush on him; he represents everything that Orochimaru is not. He is aging, but he does so like a fine wine. He is perverted, but at least he's open and unashamed of it. He is a master, and although he is arrogant, he doesn't flaunt it for his own sick amusement. His methods are harsh, but they work, and ultimately: He just plain gives a damn.

Shizune, however, still lucked out. Out of all the people trained by a member of the Sannin, she is one of the only two who isn't insane, maligned or damaged for it. Her teacher's talents, like the Yondaime and Jiraiya, meshed with her own. Under Tsunade's care, Shizune matured into one of the finest medic-nins that Konoha has ever seen. She is pretty; a girl next door in a harsh and unforgiving world who somehow manages to maintain an upbeat smile and a goody two-shoes attitude.

She can live a normal life.

Anko cannot. She is pretty, but she is forever a bad girl and, according to rumors at least, a slut. She will die young and she knows it. Most people fear her or have yet to forgive her for being the only one of Orochimaru's Cursed Seal guinea pigs to survive experimentation. Her only close friend is a former social reject-turned-late bloomer, her only romantic prospects are all in her head and her only way to get any fun out of anything is by watching it bleed.

Bleed and die.

Anko can't live a normal life. Shizune can.

So when Anko and Shizune pass each other by on the street, and Shizune gives her that 'My life is perfect! How are you?' smile of hers, it's really all Anko can do to keep from punching her pretty little face in.

They are a broken mirror image of each other, and the glass has a tendency to cut very, very deep.
One day, in a Chuunin Exam, Hyuuga Hanabi and Sarutobi Konohamaru are going to square off in the finals. Hanabi will nearly cripple him with half-variations of all the techniques she knows; like performing Kaiten with only one side of her body, or using thirty-two hands a really freakin' mean kick. Then Konohamaru will shock the entire Village--and his opponent--by calmly, methodically doing six things.

First, he will ask her out on a date. The shock will stop her dead in her tracks.

Then, he will take out a ceramic bottle of sake when she irately turns him down. He'll get her to lay off long enough so that he can get a good sip of his grandfather's brew; dull the senses since he doesn't want the humiliation of actually surrendering.

Then, when she runs in to finish him off, he'll use a one-handed Seal and what little chakra he has left to hurl an alcohol-fuelled fireball at her. Hanabi will block it with a full Kaiten, then Konohamaru will throw the half-empty bottle at her. She'll block it with a Jyuuken punch, shattering the entire thing and spraying herself with sake.

Then, Konohamaru will smile prickishly and point out that she's wearing a thin, white shirt.

Then, the Blast Note he hid in the bottle will explode and leave Hanabi faceplanted into someone's empty seat up in the stands.

A few minutes after Shikamaru raises Konohamaru's hands in victory, Hanabi will stagger back down into the ring, topless, storm up to him and kick him between the legs so hard that bells will ring.

Then, she will calmly grab his collar, yank him up to eyelevel and viciously order him to wear something nice for their date.

Somewhere up in the stands, Naruto will laugh. Hinata will gawk. Neji will just look at his uncle and expectantly wait to be paid for winning a bet.

And Hiashi?

Hiashi's just going to cry like a grown man shouldn't. No-one will blame him.

Author's Note: WELL! o.o That was unusual for me. 22 random, pointless, ultra-short exercises in creativity; probably the only list-styled entry I'll ever put up.. Hope you enjoyed it!

And to give at least some clarification on a few things: Kenzaimaru and Namimaru were the Sho and Nidai Hokage. Kenzai means hard wood, nami means wave. Lotta backstory there, but I ain't goin' into it. Trust me: The world is a better place if I don't.

Uzuki Yuugao is the ANBU girl who mourned for Hayate. And I know I messed up at least a few things with the mythological Susano(Susano-o or whatever), Amaterasu and Tsukiyomi. I don't care. It just made for a convenient set of names to use.

The Nekoteinei Clan is based off one short view of a guy standing next to a huge black cat in the last panel of chapter 279 of the manga. It basically means something like Polite Cat, the opposite of Inuzuka(which means something like Rude Dog). I think.

20 is a semi-direct sequel to Death's Precipice. Go read it.

The Sh33p