A Naruto OneShot
Premise: Naruto becomes fed up with all the cold looks he gets from the villagers, so he becomes Hatake Arashi by using a face mask and dying his hair. With his new persona can he win over the villagers and, more importantly, Sakura-chan?
- Dec. 29, 2006: First Published
- Jan. 28, 2011: Cleaned up formatting
Naruto looked at himself in the mirror, not recognizing whom it was that stared back at him with wide eyes of surprise. His hair was dyed a dark tint of orange. Most of his face was hidden from sight as a headband (soon to be replaced by a Konoha forehead protector once he graduated from the academy) covered just his left eye and a matching ninja facemask concealed the whisker-like marks on his cheeks.
He had gotten the idea after seeing a really cool-looking jounin the other day walking down the street. Many ninjas, aside from ANBU, didn't wear facemasks anymore. In fact, it was actually sort of a rare sight nowadays, the reason which could probably be parallel as to why the 'hidden' villages were actually not exactly hidden. Thus the idea of a facemask had never really dawned on him until then. He had even imitated the masked jounin's way of dressing. He was wearing a green jacket, similar to his usual orange one, but he had cut the sleeves off so it would resemble the flack vests that jounin wore. The hair, however, he figured that he was too young for gray hair, so he chose a different color, his favorite color, orange.
'No one will know who I am... no one's going to hate me now,' he thought smugly as he exited his bathroom and made his way out the front door.
Honestly, he was a little nervous at first. What if people saw through him? Oh, yeah, he had to think of a name too. What was that masked jounin's name again? Hayate Karashi? Hatake Karashi? Hatake Kakashi? Yeah, that was it. "Hmm... I'll be Hatake Arashi then."
He walked down to the busy shopping district to test out his disguise. He walked up to a vegetable stand and inspected the cabbages (even though he really had no idea what was considered a good lettuce and what was considered bad).
"Welcome! What can I do for you, boy?" the owner of the stand said cheerfully.
"I'm... um..." Naruto started out nervously. He had never been addressed that way before, except by the Ichiraku Ramen stand owner. He took a deep breath and gathered up the courage that he was known for. "I want to buy some cabbage, but I'm not really good at picking them out!" he explained happily. There really was a plausible reason as to why he ate ramen all the time, and the fact that he loved it to death was only half of it. He didn't know how to pick out fresh produce and no one ever helped him. One time, the owner of a fruit stand even gave him rotting apples and charged him double for it.
"Here, this one looks really nice and fresh," the lady said with a bright smile as she bagged a crisp and leafy bundle of lettuce and handed it to him. "And just for today, I'll only charge you half price," she whispered with a smile. "Shhh."
Naruto's eyes (well, one eye considering the other was covered by his headband) brightened. "Thanks!" He handed her the money and ran off to the next stand, feeling a rush of excitement that his disguise was working. He was being accepted.
He spent the morning before class stocking up on food he usually was never able to buy. 'I'll be having a celebration feast tonight, hehe' he grinned as he dropped everything off at his apartment before leaving for class.
There was one thing that he dreaded though as he approached the school building. He would have to let Iruka-sensei in on his plan and hope for the best. No way would they just let some no-name 'Hatake Arashi' into the ninja academy mid-year. He now wished that he had treated Iruka-sensei a bit better.
He sighed as he entered the empty classroom. It was still early, so Iruka-sensei was the only one there, getting things ready for the day's lesson. "I-I-Iruka-sensei," Naruto managed to blurt out, getting the teacher's attention.
Iruka stared at the boy for a moment, not recognizing him as one of his students. But then he took a closer look at the one eye that was still visible and recognized the tide of emotion in that deep azure sea. Looking into those eyes was like looking into a blue-tinted mirror for Iruka. "N-N-Naruto?" he stammered.
Naruto was taken aback. "How did you know it was me!"
"I have my ways," Iruka replied smugly, proud that he had unraveled another one of Naruto's tricks. However, then he realized that it wasn't a trick. In the boy that stood before him, he suddenly saw himself, a younger version of himself, trying the change the harsh reality that surrounded him. Naruto had always resorted to acting like an idiot to get attention, but this was beyond anything he had ever done before. Naruto was desperate now and Iruka could see that.
"Iruka-sensei..." Naruto sighed, reaching up to take off the facemask.
"You can leave it on," Iruka said quickly, hoping he wouldn't regret it later.
"But no more fooling around. You have to work hard in class from now on to become a strong ninja," Iruka lectured. "In exchange, I'll go along with this... and maybe... I'll treat you to some ramen afterwards."
"Thank you, Iruka-sensei! I promise that I'll study hard from now on!" Iruka could tell that Naruto was grinning like an idiot behind that facemask.
"Did you decide on a name?"
Iruka chuckled as he pulled out his attendance sheet and added in his name. "Sounds like you were really taken with Hatake Kakashi... even copying his name to some degree."
"I've seen him around town a few times, but I really want to meet him!" Naruto exclaimed excitedly, brimming with gratefulness to the ninja that had inspired this transformation. "Do you know him, Iruka-sensei?"
"Not personally, but he's famous throughout the world as one of the strongest elite ninja. He's known as the Copy Ninja Kakashi, who has mastered over a thousand enemy techniques," Iruka explained. "You'll have to study really hard if you want to become like him."
"Yes, sir!" Naruto saluted gleefully. Not only did his idol look like a bad ass, he was a bad ass! "But I won't just become like him, I'm going to surpass him and become hokage!"
Iruka could only laugh.
By now some of the other students started coming in, glancing at the new student, or at least that was what they assumed, for a moment before taking their seat.
Once class started, Iruka introduced the new student as Hatake Arashi and also explained that Uzumaki Naruto would be taking a leave of absence for an unspecified amount of time. As the day progressed, Iruka was beginning to feel very proud with Naruto's progress. He still goofed off during class with some of the other boys, but he now took learning and training quite a bit more seriously. He could also tell that Naruto had been planning this for quite awhile, since he had now mastered all the techniques that he had been well behind on. He had probably been practicing the techniques all night the day before just to get them down perfectly for his new persona.
Naruto's mind was reeling that day with all the fun he had. It was a type of fun that he had never had before. It wasn't the type of fun where he did a prank or acted like an idiot and everyone laughed at him. It was the type of fun that he couldn't describe just yet. It was only the first day after all.
"Hatake-kun! Will you eat lunch with us?" some of the girls in their class asked shyly. They were normally part of the Uchiha Sasuke fan club, but this new boy had caught their eye.
"Huh? But I'm already hanging out with the guys," he replied, clueless, as he nodded towards his group of buddies. Kiba, Chouji, and Shikamaru had befriended 'Arashi' pretty quickly, since they were all a bit of troublemakers.
"Then... can we join you guys?"
'Yes!' Kiba cheered inwardly. 'Girls!'
'How troublesome,' Shikamaru thought with a sigh.
"Sure!" Naruto said cheerfully as he split his chopsticks. Then he realized that everyone was staring at him. He would have to take his mask off to eat. They wanted to see his face. The girls were practically drooling in anticipation.
"Mmmm, that was good," Naruto grinned, as everyone who was in witness grew a sweat drop. Being able to slurp up an entire bowl of noodles in a fraction of a second came in handy after all. The girls were disappointed that they didn't get to see his face, but that only made them more interested in him.
"Look at them," Ino scowled.
"Don't they have any sense of loyalty to Sasuke-kun?" Sakura frowned, a bit annoyed by the new student. Though she did have to admit that she too was at least a little bit curious about him.
"Hmph, well, less competition for us then," Ino smirked.
By the end of the day, Sasuke wasn't the only one who had a herd of girls following him around. A ninja with a facemask, shrouded in mystery, was quite bad ass after all.
Elsewhere... "Naruto-kun, where did you go?" Hinata whimpered silently.
Kakashi stared at the strange kid. The kid stared back. They had bumped into each other coincidentally, and while Kakashi would normally have paid no mind, this time it was different. The kid was dressed just like him.
It creeped him out.
He immediately spun around on his heels and starting walking away. He walked a little faster when he realized that the kid was following him, but the kid merely matched his pace. Soon they had accelerated into a brisk power walk and ended up in the woods at the outskirts of the village. Kakashi sighed and then walked straight up a nearby tree, hoping the kid wouldn't (or couldn't) follow him.
"Wow... how'd you walk up that tree?" the kid asked in amazement as he climbed up after Kakashi the 'normal' way. Once he got high enough, he jumped up at Kakashi, so he couldn't get away, but was instead met by a log.
"Kawarimi no jutsu," Kakashi mumbled lazily as he reappeared higher up in the tree.
"That was cool too!" the kid exclaimed excitedly, climbing up to the top of the tree to meet Kakashi.
"All right, kid, what do you want?" he asked in his normal lazy-sounding voice as he put his book away.
"Y-y-you're Copy Ninja Kakashi!" Naruto stammered, still star-struck.
"I know who I am, who are you?" Kakashi sighed.
"Hatake Arashi!" Naruto exclaimed.
"No, really, who are you?" Kakashi grew a sweat drop, realizing that that name was too similar to his to be real.
"Hmm, as expected from an elite ninja," Naruto murmured as he took off his facemask. "I'm Uzumaki Naruto!"
'The kyuubi kid...' Then it suddenly dawned on him as to why the kid would don a facemask and change his name.
"Please train me!"
"I need to get strong enough to become hokage so that everyone will acknowledge me!" Naruto exclaimed, pumping a fist into the air. "Then I won't have to wear this thing anymore!"
'Such a naïve little kid,' Kakashi thought lazily. "Sorry, no."
"Why?" Naruto whined.
"Maybe when you become a genin."
"But I still have a year left at the academy before graduation!"
"Then maybe I'll see you in a year."
"But I can't wait that long!" Naruto moaned. "How about... if I prove to you that I can pass the graduation exam right here right now, you'll accept me as your student?"
"A simple bunshin no jutsu, no way," Kakashi rolled his eyes, knowing how easy the graduation exams at the academy were. "If you can take it another step further and do a kage bunshin no jutsu instead, then maybe I'll consider it."
"All right!" Naruto cheered triumphantly as he jumped up and down on the branch that they were sitting on. "Wait... what's a kage bunshin no jutsu?"
"Kage bunshin no jutsu!" Kakashi demonstrated and formed one clone. "Unlike the regular bunshin no jutsu, this guy is solid," Kakashi explained, knocking his clone lightly on the head.
"Cool! Teach me!"
He showed him again slowly and explained it as vaguely as possible. 'He'll never be able to do it.'
"You'll see, Kakashi-sensei! I'll make you proud!" Naruto exclaimed, putting his facemask back on before commencing with the training.
"Come find me when you finish," Kakashi said nonchalantly and left, book in hand, not expecting to see the kid in a long while.
Kakashi was right. He hadn't seen Naruto for weeks. "Well, at least he's out of my hair for now," he chuckled and went back to reading his book.
He should've been grateful for the new student. He really should have. 'Arashi' did cut the number of members in the Uchiha fan club nearly in half after all. But gratefulness was the furthest thing from the young Uchiha's cold and calculating mind.
Sasuke observed the masked boy at a distance during class. 'What's so great about him anyway? His ninja skills are only about average, and half the time I could swear his idiocy level is on par with that dobe Naruto.'
They had sparring scheduled for that day in class and Sasuke secretly hoped that he would be paired up with the masked student, so he could show off his dominance. Of course, he would never admit to that though.
"First up, Shino versus Shikamaru!" Iruka announced.
"How troublesome," Shikamaru grumbled, reluctantly getting up.
The first match actually turned out to be quite interesting, since Shikamaru and Shino were both intelligent type fighters, trying to out-predict the other at every move. The match ended prematurely however because of Shikamaru's short chakra supply.
"Winner, Shino! Good job, you two," Iruka congratulated. "Next up is Arashi versus Sasuke!"
The tiniest smirk appeared on Sasuke's lips as the girls in the class erupted into applause. Despite the facemask, he could tell that Arashi was pumped up for the match as well. 'Let's end this once and for all.'
"Bunshin no jutsu!" Naruto shouted. However, nothing happened.
Sasuke grew a sweat drop. "What is this?"
Naruto shrugged and then charged in directly as usual with the standard academy taijutsu style. Sasuke easily blocked the first attack, but was surprised that Naruto's fist had never made contact. "Bunshin!"
"Got that right, pretty boy!" The real Naruto appeared just as the bunshin disappeared; he had been hiding inside the bunshin the whole time, making it seem like he had never summoned the bunshin in the first place. He then sent a powerful punch right into Sasuke's gut, knocking the wind right out of him. Sasuke recovered as quickly as he could and salvaged his pride by landing a roundhouse kick across the side of Naruto's head, sending him sprawling.
"Heh, I get first hit bonus at least," Naruto chuckled as he dusted himself off. "And you thought I was an idiot for just charging in like that. You may be number one in the class, but I'm the number one ninja at surprising people!"
Sasuke just glared at him.
"Bunshin no jutsu!" Naruto smirked. Yet again, it appeared as if nothing had happened, but Sasuke knew better.
"The same trick won't work twice," he growled.
"Who says it's the same trick?" Naruto charged in just as he had before, but Sasuke focused less on the initial bunshin attack and looked out for where the real Naruto would attack. Then in the last second, he realized that Naruto had never summoned a bunshin, it was all just a ploy, and the initial attack was the real and only one that came, but it was too late. Sasuke went sprawling backwards from the hit, but recovered in mid-air and then sent shuriken flying in Naruto's direction as he put some distance between them.
Naruto quickly gathered his senses and jumped up out of the way of the swarm of shuriken flying at him. Then he realized his mistake; in jumping into the air, he sacrificed his ability to dodge any follow-up attacks.
"Katon! Goukyaku no jutsu!" Sasuke inhaled a large amount of air into his lungs and then spit out a blazing fireball, stunning everyone who was in witness of the feat.
"Kage bunshin no jutsu!" Naruto shouted out of desperation and suddenly a clone appeared right beside him and tossed him out of the way of the fireball before poofing out of existence. It was the only way he knew how to dodge something that large in mid-air.
"How did you dodge that attack?" Sasuke demanded as Naruto landed on his feet, virtually unscathed. The fireball that he had fired had blocked his view of what had happened. No one in the audience, except Iruka, seemed to know what had happened either because Naruto had only managed to keep the clone in existence for a split second. Despite training for weeks on end, he still wasn't able to maintain a kage bunshin for very long.
"A variation on the bunshin no jutsu," Naruto replied with a grin as he charged towards Sasuke for another attack. Sasuke quickly countered and used his superior speed to knock Naruto off his feet with a sweep kick. Naruto tried to recover, but Sasuke sent him sprawling with powerful missile kick.
"Maybe I'll try it again..." Naruto murmured as he slowly got back up to his feet. He charged in again, which Sasuke scoffed as predictability, but this time he leaped up into the air for an aerial attack. "Kage bunshin no jutsu!" Again, he only managed to keep the clone in existence for a second, but that was all he needed. The clone grabbed Naruto and swung him around mid-air right at Sasuke, effectively doubling the momentum and velocity of the flying kick.
However, Sasuke had already prepared himself for the attack and sent another fireball right at his assailant. "Katon! Goukyaku no jutsu!"
Naruto flew right into the fireball. His extra momentum caused him to pierce through it, though not undamaged, but his kick missed Sasuke by a long shot due to his altered trajectory, leaving him open to attack. Sasuke used the opportunity to deliver the finishing blow.
"Winner, Sasuke! Great match," Iruka applauded.
"I guess I still have a long way to go," Naruto sighed as he adjusted his headband.
"Kage bunshin no jutsu!" Naruto shouted at the top of his lungs. He had been getting very frustrated at the progress he was making with the technique.
Naruto spun around to find the old man hokage standing at the edge of the clearing that he was training in. "H-how did you know it was me?" he stammered, taking off his mask.
"I'm not the hokage for nothing," the Sandaime chuckled as he slowly walked closer. "I was just taking a walk through the forest when I heard you training. Impressive technique you have there."
"Yeah! Kakashi-sensei taught it to me!" Naruto exclaimed proudly. "But... I still can't really get it right."
"Still, it's a technique that should be completely beyond an academy student. Though keep in mind that being strong and fast and knowing a lot of jutsu isn't all that there is to being a ninja," Sarutobi reminded wisely, playfully mussing up the hair of one of the Naruto clones before it poofed out of existence. Naruto had managed to create one perfect kage bunshin, but any more than one came out deformed in some way. "I'm surprised that Kakashi has taken on a student though."
"Well, technically I'm not his student... but I will be once I master this jutsu!" Naruto explained.
Sarutobi frowned for a moment, knowing that Kakashi had probably taught that jutsu to Naruto thinking that he would never be able to master it. "Perhaps I may be of service. Kage bunshin no jutsu!" He created three clones with ease.
"Sorry, old man, but I have to master this technique by myself."
That response surprised the hokage. In fact, most of the things Naruto did could surprise anyone.
"I have to use my own strength prove to Kakashi-sensei that I'm worthy of being his student! Once I get training from Kakashi-sensei, then you'd better watch out, old man! Because I'll be taking over that office of yours when I become hokage!" Naruto grinned.
Sarutobi smiled. "I do hope that one day Uzumaki Naruto will become hokage... but as you said yourself, rely on your own strength, or else I might be forced to nominate Hatake Arashi as the next hokage instead."
As the hokage went on his way, continuing his leisurely stroll through the Konoha forest, Naruto looked on with a dumbfounded expression on his face.
"Okay, you kids can use this period for free study," Iruka announced, wearily eyeing the gigantic stack of ungraded papers on his desk.
All the students began to quietly snicker, knowing that 'free study' time really just meant 'goof off' time. However, the entire class immediately quieted when one Uchiha Sasuke suddenly stood up at his desk.
'I wish I could get them to quiet down like he does,' Iruka sighed internally.
Naruto suddenly felt a pair of very cold eyes glaring down at him, but just merely shrugged it off. 'Free study' time for him meant 'nap' time.
"Spar with me."
"Let me sleep."
"Afraid to get your ass handed to you again?"
Naruto immediately stood up and pointed out towards the classroom door. "Let's take this outside."
Sasuke smirked in anticipation as the two participants headed towards the academy training grounds, followed by the entire class. Even Iruka had taken some papers with him to grade while watching the fight.
It had been weeks since Arashi and Sasuke had their last sparring match. Every time the class had a sparring session, Sasuke would get unlucky and draw someone else, and ever since he had fought Arashi, no one else could quench his thirst for battle and power.
Sakura could see how excited Sasuke was, and it made her jealous that the only person that could get him that eager wasn't her. 'Sasuke-kun will just win again, no doubt about it. That'll show that Arashi who's boss.'
"Let's go!" Sasuke exclaimed, getting into his trademark taijutsu stance. Sasuke usually didn't say anything before matches, so this uncharacteristic display only served to draw the spectators more and more into the match.
"Let's get wild!" Arashi replied with a smirk, already bringing his hands up into a seal. "Kage bunshin no jutsu!"
Sasuke frowned, never having seen this technique before. 'Those aren't regular bunshin... I'll have to be careful,' he thought. Then he gasped as he suddenly found himself fighting against two solid Arashis.
Even if the hokage hadn't explained the jutsu at all to him, just seeing the proper way that it was executed had helped Naruto a lot. His kage bunshin was now a lot more stable than before.
"What now, eh, Sasuke-teme?" Naruto taunted as both him and his clone landed clean punches before the clone ran out of chakra and disappeared with a poof.
Sasuke grimaced as he got back to his feet. Fighting two opponents at once was not something he was used to. "You still can't beat me," Sasuke replied darkly as he charged in to engage in hand-to-hand combat once again.
As they exchanged a vicious series of punches and kicks, Naruto occasionally dropped shuriken and kunai on the ground. Sasuke was confused as to why he would just waste equipment like that, but he had his hands full with the battle to think about it too much.
Sasuke smirked as he slowly gained the upper hand. He was superior in both strength and speed after all. "This is it!" he shouted as his fist reared back for a sure hit.
"Kawarimi no jutsu!"
Sasuke's eyes widened in shock and pain as his fist connected with the sharp blade of a shuriken, with Arashi nowhere to be found. "So that's why he was just tossing kunai and shuriken around at random..." he snarled as he dislodged the shuriken from his bloodied hand. "You got lucky this time!" he exclaimed as he turned around to face Arashi, who was standing where he had previously dropped a shuriken.
"You may be physically faster than me... but how about now?" Naruto smirked as he formed hand seals. "Tajyuu Kawarimi no jutsu!" Naruto suddenly disappeared and reappeared at different spots in the arena, creating the illusion that he was moving at extremely high speeds, not unlike the Maito Gai School of anything-goes taijutsu style.
"Hmph," Sasuke scoffed. He already saw the flaws in the technique, but was still a bit miffed for not having thought up of it himself. "You're just wasting your chakra. And you can only reappear where there are kunai or shuriken on the ground, so I know exactly where you'll attack."
"Just because your brain knows, doesn't mean your body is fast enough to react!" Naruto smirked as he suddenly appeared right behind Sasuke and delivered a powerful aerial spin kick.
'Okay... so I've used the kage bunshin and kawarimi techniques... now if I can somehow apply the tree-climbing trick to this battle, I'll have used all three techniques that Kakashi-sensei had used against me! Then I'll be just like him!' Naruto thought excitedly. 'But there aren't any trees around...'
While he was still deep in thought, Sasuke had recovered faster than usual and sent an enraged fist straight at Arashi's face, sending him sprawling backwards. 'This is it!' Naruto's eyes widened in realization as he sent chakra to his feet to make him stick to the ground instead of being sent flying back even further. The much-improved traction allowed him to be able to turn on a dime and change his direction in a burst of speed, an agility that Sasuke had never seen before. Before he knew it, Sasuke was once again on the wrong end of a punch.
"Being strong and fast and knowing a lot of jutsu isn't all that there is to being a ninja!" Naruto smirked and repeated what the hokage had told him the other day, while pointing a mocking finger at the downed Sasuke.
Sasuke glared at him with a renewed hatred in his eyes. He took that statement as a personal insult to the Uchiha clan, who specialized in winning battles through the sheer power and variety of their jutsu collections, their sharingan.
"What would you know about being a ninja?" Sasuke sneered, getting up to his feet and dusting himself off. "You're just a goof off who hasn't suffered enough to know what it means to be a true ninja!"
Naruto's eyes flashed crimson fury for a split second, and Sasuke had caught it. 'Sharingan? Could he be... an Uchiha?' Sasuke's eyes widened in shock.
"The reason that I'm a goof off... is because I've suffered," Naruto replied darkly. "The strong move on towards the future... the weak brood on the past. I WILL become Hokage and protect even those who have wronged me!"
With that epic declaration, Arashi and Sasuke both charged forward, each radiating the absolute will to emerge victorious.
"I declare this match... a tie!" Iruka announced as the two boys lay flat on the ground unconscious.
"Kakashi-sensei!" Naruto called out in an excited voice.
Kakashi sighed as he put his book away. 'He's already calling me sensei...'
"It took me over a month, but I finally got it down!" Naruto exclaimed, jumping up and down in anticipation. "Kage bunshin no jutsu!"
Kakashi's eyes widened as three perfect shadow clones phased into existence. He even pulled up his sharingan just to make sure. It was mind-boggling that the kid had been able to master a jounin level technique in just over a month with minimum instruction. Had Kakashi given Naruto better instructions, he could bet that Naruto would've mastered it even quicker. "Impressive..."
"Now are you going to train me? Huh? Huh?" Naruto pleaded, even going as far as taking his headband off to show off his sad puppy dog eyes.
"But you said you would!" Naruto argued.
"I can even do that tree walking trick that you did when we first met!" Naruto added desperately and proceeded to demonstrate his ninja prowess.
Kakashi was surprised at this too. Genin would be expected to be able to run up to the top of a tree, but Naruto was actually walking. Kakashi had only demonstrated walking, so perhaps it had never occurred to Naruto that running would have been an easier feat. He really was a genius and an idiot at the same time.
"See? I've been training hard for the past couple months!" Naruto exclaimed.
"Okay... fine... I'll train you whenever I have time," Kakashi sighed in defeat.
Naruto swelled with pride and joy. "Yes! All right! You won't regret it, Kakashi-sensei!"
"Okay, the first lesson I'll teach you is..." Kakashi paused to think. He tried to think of an exercise that would be easy to pick up but take a long time to master, so that he wouldn't be bothered for another couple months. "During the tree walking exercise, did you notice what happened when your chakra output was too high?"
"Um..." Naruto put a hand to his chin as he thought back on his training. "Oh yeah! The tree cracked and I was propelled in the opposite direction."
"Exactly. So this time... instead of controlling your chakra, I want you to do the exact opposite and make it explode," Kakashi said.
"What do you mean?" Naruto asked, clueless.
Kakashi sighed. "I guess you're the type that understands demonstrations better than lectures." Kakashi gathered chakra to his feet and expelled it with great force, causing him to rocket up into the sky with insane velocity.
"Cool! You're flying!" Naruto shouted excitedly.
"Not exactly," Kakashi shrugged as he landed. "You can use that same concept to make you run faster horizontally as well. And also... to your hands." He turned to a large boulder and used a chakra-enhanced punch to make it crumble into a fine dust.
"That's so awesome!"
"You'll have to satisfy three requirements before I'll consider teaching you more," Kakashi said as he tossed a kunai up into the air and lodged it into the side of one of Konoha's tall outer walls. "One, you have to be able to jump as high as that kunai. Two, you have to break the academy speed record for running around the perimeter of Konoha. And three, you have to be able to crush a boulder with one clean hit. Come and see me once you've mastered these three applications of chakra."
"All right! I'll get right on it!"
Kakashi chuckled to himself at Naruto's enthusiasm. He was sure that those training exercises would take a long time to master. They were all high-drain chakra exercises, so chakra exhaustion would definitely slow down the training, giving Kakashi more time to himself... and his book.
"Look at him go!"
"That's his fourth time around!"
"That boy works so hard!"
"I feel safe knowing that Konoha's younger generation is so determined!"
Naruto felt proud as he made his runs around the perimeter of Konoha. He never got this kind of respect before he had donned the facemask and became Hatake Arashi. Before, people had even tried to sabotage his training whenever he trained in public. But now all that was all behind him.
Naruto blinked as a green-clad boy with extremely thick eyebrows stopped in front of him. "Who are you?"
"I am Rock Lee! And I have sensed the incredible burning of your youthful fire!" the one who would then be known as 'Thick Brows' exclaimed.
"Rock Lee?" Arashi's eye widened. "As in... Rock Lee... who holds the academy speed record for running around the perimeter of Konoha?"
"I see that you are trying to break my record!" Rock Lee's teeth pinged as he gave Arashi the Nice Guy pose.
"Don't get in my way. I'll break your record, you'll see," Arashi frowned.
"On the contrary! I will run with you! I want to see you break my record! I will be proud to know that the springtime of youth has spread!" Lee declared in a cheerful voice. "But most of all..."
Rock Lee's demeanor suddenly changed. "I want to prove... both to myself and everyone else... that hard work will defeat genius someday. You work very hard, I can see that, and it would make me very happy if you are able to defeat any genius you come upon."
"Yosha! But first, these!" Lee sat down and took off his leg warmers, revealing a pair of weights. "You can borrow mine for today, but I shall ask Gai-sensei to get you a pair as well tomorrow!"
"You always go around with these on?" Arashi asked, shocked at how heavy the weights were.
"Of course! And from now on, you shall as well! Oh, how the springtime of youth excites me so! Yosha! Let's go!"
A hidden grin crossed Naruto's face as he struggled to run with the weights on. 'This guy... Thick Brows... hard work will defeat genius someday... that's right, I'll beat Uchiha Sasuke for you. It's a promise of a lifetime!'
"Yes, sensei?" Sakura asked as she packed up her school materials to go home. Most everyone else had left, but that day had been Sakura's turn to clean up the classroom after school.
"Since he was absent today, could you take these homework assignments to Na—I mean, Arashi's house?" Iruka asked, handing a set of papers to the pink-haired girl.
"Um..." she hesitated for a moment. "Okay." Sakura, the diligent student that she was, couldn't possibly turn down a request from her teacher. Though of course, she really didn't have anything else to do. It's not like she had any friends to hang out with or anything. That thought made her sigh. On the surface, she appeared to be one of the more 'popular' girls in the class, but deep down she knew that she had no meaningful bonds with any of her classmates, not since her friendship with Ino had deteriorated anyway.
Soon Sakura found herself in one of the more rundown neighborhoods at the outskirts of Konoha. It was true that Konoha was a prosperous village, but it too had its share of poverty; unemployment was an inevitable fact of society after all.
'He lives in a place like this?' she wondered, slightly creeped out by all the graffiti on the walls of the crumbling buildings. 'Well... this is it...'
She knocked on the door and waited a few moments before being greeted by a slightly groggy looking Arashi. "Um... hello. Iruka-sensei asked me to bring these homework assignments to you," she explained quickly, before he got the wrong idea or anything.
"Oh, thanks, Sakura-chan," he said, and she could tell that he was smiling under that mysterious mask of his. "Do you want to come in? I was just about to make dinner."
"Um... I don't want to impose," she replied lamely.
"It won't be any problem, and it would be nice to have some company," he assured cheerfully.
Suddenly, Inner Sakura decided to make her presence known. 'Go for it! The only person Sasuke-kun pays attention to in class is Arashi, so maybe if you hang out with him, you'll be in Sasuke-kun's peripheral vision! Maybe you can even get him jealous!'
'I don't know...' Sakura furrowed her brow for a moment.
'It's not like Arashi is gross like the other boys in class! He's just not as good as Sasuke-kun, that's all! Just go for it!' Inner Sakura urged.
Sakura sighed. "Okay, dinner sounds nice."
"Great! Come on in! Sorry for the mess though," Arashi chuckled sheepishly.
"Messy? That's an understatement," Sakura raised an eyebrow as she looked around the apartment. "My parents would kill me if our house was in this state."
"It's okay, I don't have any parents to kill me," Naruto shrugged casually, as if it were the most normal thing in the world.
"You live alone?" Sakura asked, shocked.
"I'm a ninja. As Sasuke had said during our last match... a ninja's life isn't all flowers and sunshine," Arashi gave her a crooked grin under his mask. "Make yourself at home. I'll get dinner ready in a second."
As Arashi disappeared into the kitchen, Sakura took another look around and confirmed that no grownups lived there. She wasn't exactly sure how she could tell, but she just got that vibe from the childish nature of the apartment. It was a child's sanctuary, far away from the cold and harsh adult world. At first, the fact that the two top students in her class lived all alone and were completely self-dependent had made her feel very immature and foolish, but now she realized that, despite everything, Arashi was still a child too, perhaps Sasuke as well.
She smiled a little as she picked up the academy textbooks that were scattered around the floor and organized them on the nearby desk. 'This place really needs a girl's touch,' she thought, amused.
"Dinner's ready!" Naruto announced a little while later.
Sakura made her way into the small room that doubled as a kitchen and a dining room. What awaited her completely surprised her. She had expected just a simple dinner of perhaps rice and some instant food, but instead there was a complete dinner, not unlike what her mother would cook at home. It wasn't elaborate at all, but completely unexpected from an eleven-year-old. But then again, this eleven-year-old lived by himself.
"I've never prepared a meal for two, so I kind of got excited and went a bit overboard," he explained sheepishly. "I've been practicing the past couple weeks, so I hope you like it, Sakura-chan!"
"It looks delicious," she giggled. His cheerful attitude still kind of threw her off guard sometimes, but today she felt a lot more comfortable around him. Maybe it was because his image was so dark and mysterious with that facemask and all. Most would expect him to be another coming of Uchiha Sasuke, but instead his personality was a complete one-eighty from his physical appearance. It required some getting used to.
Then, Naruto suddenly realized his mistake. Inhaling his food like he did during the school lunch breaks would be rude, since he had been the one to invite her to eat dinner with him. He sighed as he took a kunai and slit a hole in his facemask for his mouth. He didn't like wasting things, since he wasn't exactly rolling around in money, but he guessed that buying another facemask would be worth the expense.
"Why do you hide your face?" Sakura asked curiously.
"Same reason I don't have parents... I guess..." he replied vaguely, trying to dodge the question.
Sakura nodded, seeing that he was uncomfortable with the subject. "So... what kept you from school today?"
"I... overslept," he replied sheepishly. "I started this new training routine, but I guess I kind of overdid it and went into chakra exhaustion."
"Wow, you must train really hard," Sakura said, impressed. "I don't think I've ever experienced chakra exhaustion."
"Well, I have to train hard and become hokage!" he said cheerfully. "There are a lot of genius ninja out there, but I'll show everyone that hard work will defeat any genius!" The training that he had gone through with Rock Lee had left a deep impression in his mind. "It's not fair... that there are ninja out there that work so hard and don't get the respect they deserve... while the genius ninja never have to work hard at all and are given everything to them on a silver platter."
"My hard work will make me hokage and then everyone will respect me!" he finally declared.
"That's quite a goal," Sakura smiled. She took in everything that he had said to heart, and for the first time ever, resented the genius Uchiha Sasuke, even if it was just a tiny bit.
Once dinner was over, Arashi walked Sakura home, even though she had insisted that it wasn't necessary. She was pleased nevertheless; it was the first time anybody had ever walked her home after all. Once Naruto got back to his apartment, he noticed something that he had been too preoccupied to notice before.
His apartment was spotless.
Lately, Hatake Arashi had been coming to school less and less frequently. And even when he did decide to show up, he always seemed worn out. Kakashi's training, in addition to Rock Lee's weight handicap, was really taking its toll. He usually chose days where Iruka would focus on physical conditioning to skip out though, so that he wouldn't miss out on academic material that he was expected to know. Iruka could see that Naruto really was working beyond an academy student's limit, so he never admonished him for skipping class.
Iruka was covering mission tactics that day, so Arashi had decided to show up, much to the girls' excitement. They had been waiting for him to show up, for they had a devious plan in mind.
Hinata was greatly startled. It wasn't every day that someone would call out for her. "Y-y-yes?" she stammered nervously as some of her classmates approached her.
"Your eyes have x-ray vision or something like that, right?" Yuffie asked excitedly.
"Um... you could say that," Hinata replied hesitantly.
"Cool! Then, you could look underneath Arashi-kun's mask, right?" Kasumi added. "Tell us what he looks like!"
Hinata started sweating and twiddling her fingers. "Well... usually the byakugan is used for looking at chakra coils or extending peripheral vision... but fine-tuning it to look through just clothing," her blush swelled at the implication, "it requires a lot of chakra control that I don't have..."
"Aw, but could you try anyway?" Himawari pleaded.
Hinata sighed in defeat. "Okay..." she replied weakly. "Byakugan!" She turned towards where Arashi was sitting and could see his chakra coils clearly. The strange thing was that his chakra coils was nothing like she had ever seen before; he had a reservoir of strange red chakra in addition to the regular blue chakra that she was used to.
"Well, do you see it?" Yuffie asked.
"Just a second." Hinata tried manipulating the amount of chakra in her eyes until the chakra coils got fuzzy. She furrowed her brow in deep concentration, fine-tuning the amount of chakra in her eyes until she got it just right.
Then she fainted right then and there, her face redder than it had ever been before.
"Does that mean that Arashi-kun is REALLY hot?"
"Yeah, Hinata-chan never seemed interested in guys before, so for her to just faint like that..."
"Oi, Hinata-chan, snap out of it!"
"So this is the youthful Arashi that Lee has been telling me about!" Gai chortled cheerfully, slapping Naruto on the back. "Lee tells me that you two have been training together lately!"
"Arashi-kun, this is Gai-sensei," Lee introduced in his usual jolly manner.
"Um... nice to meet you." Naruto grew a sweat drop at seeing how similar the student-teacher combo was. Then again, he could say the same about Arashi and Kakashi as well.
"Arashi-kun dreams of becoming hokage someday!" Lee explained. "We will both prove that we can become great ninja through hard work!"
"As expected of Lee's training partner! What beautiful and passionate youthful fire!" Gai cried.
As this somewhat ridiculous banter continued between the two beautiful green beasts of Konoha, any other ninja would have sighed and looked away in disgust, but Naruto wasn't just any other ninja. He was a lonely one, and he looked on, with his usual forced smile covering up the small bit of jealousy welling up in his eyes.
The next day, Arashi was absent from school again. On these types of days, Sakura would stick around after class for a bit and Iruka would ask her to deliver homework to Arashi's house. At first, she would always make an excuse to herself for staying late, whether it was help cleaning up the classroom or starting on an assignment or anything of that sort, in order to convince herself that Iruka was just picking her for delivery duty because she was conveniently available.
However, lately she had finally resigned herself to admitting that she actually wanted to go see Arashi, and usually volunteered once class ended. "I'll take these to Arashi-kun."
"Thanks, Sakura," Iruka said with a smile, handing her a small stack of papers.
"No problem, Iruka-sensei. See you tomorrow."
Sakura quickly made her way to Arashi's house used the spare key that he had given her to open the door. Sometimes, on the days that Arashi skipped school, he was too bedridden to answer the door, so he had given Sakura a spare key for whenever she delivered homework assignments to him. It was a completely innocent reason to have the keys to a boy's apartment, but the fact that she had it (and that most other girls would kill to have it) still made her blush a bit.
"Arashi-kun? I'm coming in," Sakura announced. She looked around a bit, but found him nowhere in sight. "Hmm, maybe he went out to train."
She placed the homework assignments on the kitchen table before starting on cleaning up the place. Arashi, despite all the praise and attention he garnered from the girls in class, was actually a very messy person, so Sakura had put it on herself to clean up the place every once in a while. She actually liked to do domestic stuff like housework, so she didn't really mind. She was pretty sure that the Uchiha were big on tradition and things like that, meaning that a domesticated housewife was probably preferable for Sasuke.
She sighed at the thought of the dark-haired class genius as she started washing the dishes that were piling up in Arashi's sink. Earlier that day had been Sakura's latest attempt to ask Sasuke out on a date, but, as usual, he had turned her down. Her only solace was that he had also turned down Ino and the rest of the girls in the class as well.
After doing all the dishes and straightening out the kitchen and living room, she plopped down onto the couch and let out another depressed sigh. Usually Arashi was around to listen to her rant about her problems, but not today she had nowhere to vent. Though, still, just being inside Arashi's house, his sanctuary from the harsh outside world, made her feel at ease and she soon fell asleep.
Kakashi looked up from his book to find Arashi standing before him. "Finished with the training I gave you already?" he asked in surprise.
"Um... no, not yet," Naruto replied sheepishly. "I was just wondering... you know... if you can at least just supervise my training."
Kakashi raised an eyebrow and shrugged. "There's nothing to supervise. The training exercises I gave you are all very straightforward."
"Yeah... but still..."
"I have missions of my own to complete too you know. Don't expect me to hold your hand during training," Kakashi sighed.
Naruto's shoulders slumped a bit with disappointment showing in his single visible eye. After seeing the relationship between Gai and Lee, he desperately wanted Kakashi to really accept and acknowledge him. "You're right," Naruto grinned, immediately masking his disappointment with his usual cheerfulness. "I guess I should go back to training then."
"Huh? What is it, Kakashi-sensei? I have to hurry up and train!"
Kakashi smiled a little, the way he did with his one visible eye. "Don't push yourself too hard. Why don't we take a ramen break? My treat."
Naruto paused for a moment, letting the proposition sink in. Then his previous disappointment was replaced by a real cheerfulness, not just the mask. "All right! Ramen!"
For the first time ever, Naruto took his time with his ramen. It was supposed to be bonding time with his new teacher after all.
"Sakura-chan?" When Naruto got home, he was surprised to find his pink-haired classmate fast asleep on his couch. "Sakura-chan? Wake up, it's already pretty late."
"Hmm? Arashi-kun?" she asked groggily, rubbing the sleep out of her eyes. "You're back."
"C'mon, I'll walk you home," he offered, holding out his hand to help her up to her feet.
"You don't have to, you know," she replied, though that was what she always said and he always ended up walking her home anyway.
"So... how was school?" he asked as they took to the darkened streets of Konoha.
"Hmm... I got rejected by Sasuke-kun again," Sakura let out a weak, forced laugh.
Arashi stuffed his hands in his pockets and stared up at the stars. He still failed to understand the dark and brooding boy. He thought that, maybe now that he was popular, he could now understand the Uchiha's position, but that wasn't the case; in fact, he was more confused than ever. "You really like him, huh?"
"Yeah..." she let out a long sigh. "I don't even know why... I just do..."
"If you needed a reason to love someone..." Arashi trailed off with a soft laugh.
Sakura smiled. "Yeah, you're right. Love doesn't need a reason, huh?"
"I'm sure Sasuke will come around someday," Arashi assured. "I'd like to think that I'd take off my mask only for the person who I believe will accept me for who I really am... so... maybe Sasuke will take his mask off for you when he comes to realize that you really do have feelings for him."
Sakura giggled. "So you do have a romantic side you after all."
"I do?" he laughed, scratching the back of his head.
"So... is there a girl you like?" she asked as they reached her house.
"You," was the blunt and straightforward answer.
She blinked and took a moment to process that one word. "No... really, who do you like?" she asked with a smile.
"Really, I like you."
"C'mon, seriously, who do you like?" she asked, playfully punching him in the arm.
Naruto looked at her with defeated eyes for a moment, knowing full well why she kept refusing to believe his confession. "Ino-chan is kinda cute," he replied jokingly, putting his mask of cheerfulness back on.
"Really? You think Ino-pig is cute?" Sakura giggled. "Good luck with that!"
"I'll help you out with Sasuke any way I can," Arashi turned around to leave. "See ya."
The next morning started out very strange.
Naruto stopped to see Hinata standing nervously by the swing that was in front of the academy. "Oh, hey, Hinata-chan!" However, he suddenly stopped when he realized that she looked like she was about to cry. "What's wrong?"
"I... I'm... I'm really s-s-sorry," her voice was cracking from trying to fend off the tears that were threatening to flood. "They made me... they made me... I'm really sorry!" With that, she ran off in tears.
"What was that all about?" he wondered out loud. He ran off after her into the school building, but as he made his way through the hallways of the school, he was getting strange looks from everyone and they would avoid him like a plague.
'What's going on?' he wondered. Then it hit him. 'Hinata!'
He suddenly broke into a sprint and barged into the classroom, but he was immediately pelted by dozens of dusty chalkboard erasers. The girls were glaring at him angrily.
"Get out of here, NARUTO!"
"I can't believe I was all over him!"
"What were we thinking?"
"How could we have ever left Sasuke-kun's side for HIM?"
Naruto stared in horror at the scene that was before him. He then gave Sakura a desperate look, but she looked confused and unsure of how to react and refused to meet his gaze. Then there was Hinata quietly sobbing in the corner of the room. He was sure that the girls must have pressured her into using her bloodline limit to find out his identity.
"Get out of here, Naruto!"
"Yeah, nobody likes you!"
He ripped off his mask, clenching it in his fist angrily. "You shouldn't have dragged Hinata-chan into this!" he shouted furiously. That threw most of the class off guard. The fact that he didn't try to defend himself and that the very first thing he said was in defense of someone else was surprising.
"It's your fault for deceiving everybody!" the girls retorted in recovery.
"You brought it on yourself!"
"Everybody hates you, Naruto! Just admit it!"
Naruto ground his teeth together as tears started spilling to the floor. He had finally experienced a normal life, a life where he wasn't hated by everyone around him. He had finally been accepted and acknowledged and he loved it. But now it was all falling apart right in front of his eyes. He couldn't take it anymore. "FINE! I HATE THIS VILLAGE ANYWAY!" Naruto screamed and dashed away.
"What's going on? Where's Arashi going?" Iruka asked, clueless, as he entered the classroom.
"Naruto! Not Arashi!"
Iruka's eyes widened in shock, realizing what must've happened. 'No... Naruto...' He badly wanted to go look for him, but he had a class to teach. He decided to scold the students and go look for the boy later.
"This is too much for a twelve-year-old..." the Hokage murmured to himself, shaking his head sadly as he watched the scene through his crystal ball. "A child shouldn't have had to go through what he's been through."
The next day, Iruka was shocked to find a note of withdrawal lying on his desk. He had failed to find Naruto the day before, but now he feared the worst, that he had run away from the village.
He made the announcement of Naruto's withdrawal shortly after class began. He held his anger in check as the girls in the class began cheering at the 'good news.'
Suddenly Sasuke got up and walked towards the exit.
"Sasuke, you should've gone to the bathroom before class," Iruka scolded.
"I'm not going to the bathroom," Sasuke replied darkly. "I'm leaving."
Suddenly the classroom quieted.
"You can't leave!" Iruka stated firmly. "Class is in session!"
"Naruto left," Sasuke huffed. "I withdraw from school as well then." He snatched Naruto's withdrawal letter from Iruka and then signed his name below Naruto's.
"But why? You're number one in the class! You can't just drop out!" Iruka argued.
"That dobe was number two," Sasuke shot back as he spun around to leave.
"Sasuke! Come back!" Iruka shouted but to no avail.
"What are you doing here? To make fun of me?" Naruto huffed angrily as he went back to training.
"Fight me," Sasuke merely said.
"Huh?" Naruto stared at the dark-haired boy incredulously.
"I didn't like you as Naruto and I didn't like you as Arashi. Which name you go by doesn't change the fact that you're the only person worth fighting," he replied as he got into his fighting stance. "The only way I'll get stronger is if I fight strong people."
"Is that so?" Naruto grinned. "Fine... but on one condition."
"You have to give Sakura-chan a chance. One date, that's all," Naruto smirked, his head cocked to one side.
Sasuke frowned. "Why should I agree to such a condition?"
"Hey, you're the one that wants to fight me," Naruto taunted, egging the Uchiha on. "I'm fine with not fighting you."
"Fine! One date!" Sasuke growled. "That's a small price to pay for strength!"
"Now you're talking! I'll kick your ass this time! I'm stronger than before you know!" Naruto grinned as he got into the fighting stance that Lee and Gai had taught him.
"Bring it on," Sasuke scoffed. He could feel it, that excitement, that tension, that feeling that only fighting a strong person could bring him.
"Take this!" Naruto used his chakra to rocket himself at Sasuke with a speed that Sasuke had never seen before. He quickly put his arms up to block, but Naruto's chakra-enhanced kick still sent him flying backwards until he slammed into a tree.
"This is the high-tension battle I've been looking for," Sasuke grinned, almost maniacally, as he studied the chakra burns on his arms. "Don't hold back! I need to get stronger!"
"You're not the only one!" Naruto returned the grin with another powerful kick. Sasuke was ready for it this time and ducked. He counterattacked with a quick elbow, but found that his target was no longer there. He quickly spun around and blocked the incoming attack from behind. "You're fast," Naruto grinned, "to have seen that one coming."
"Faster than you," Sasuke retorted as they went at it again. Sasuke sent Naruto flying straight into a tree with a powerful missile kick, but was surprised that Naruto had managed to recover by sticking to the tree and standing horizontally on its trunk.
"Where did you learn all these interesting applications of chakra?" Sasuke grinned as quickly caught on and raced up the tree by gathering chakra at his feet.
"Bastard! You mastered it already?" Naruto wailed as they engaged in treetop combat. "It took me weeks to get up to that height!"
"That's why I'm better than you!" Sasuke scoffed as he tossed a vicious combo of punches at Naruto, unwilling to admit how difficult running up the tree really was for even him.
Suddenly a shower of shuriken separated the two fighters and interrupted their match. "What was that for?" Naruto demanded angrily.
"Three-way battle royal! Every man for themselves!" Kiba declared. "Tsuuga!"
"Now this is interesting," Sasuke smirked, jumping out of the way of the vicious tornado spin attack. "Fuuma shuriken kage fuusha!"
"Don't forget about me!" Naruto used the chance to attack Sasuke, while his attention was diverted.
"This is very interesting indeed," Sasuke grinned as he just barely managed to block Naruto's attack, realizing how much more difficult it was to fight two opponents at once.
Naruto was about to send follow-up punch, but found that his body wouldn't budge. "Huh?"
"Suddenly it's a five-man battle royal," Shikamaru grinned, his shadow having captured Naruto. "Kage mane no jutsu, success!"
"Ah!" Naruto's eyes widened as a gigantic bowling ball came crashing towards him.
"You're open! Tsuuga!" Kiba went straight towards Shikamaru, forcing him to release his jutsu, allowing Naruto to just barely escape Chouji's attack.
"Katon! Goukyaku no jutsu!"
"Kage mane no jutsu!"
"Kage bunshin no jutsu!"
"You're all crazy... for withdrawing from the academy like that," Naruto laughed through a mouthful of ramen.
"You're the one that started it," Kiba shot back, pointing his chopsticks accusingly.
"Think how strong we'll be if we do this every day," Chouji said cheerfully as he thoroughly enjoyed his hearty meal after such an intense training session.
"It's better than what we do at the academy," Sasuke agreed stoically. They were all heavily bruised and bandaged after that battle royal, which was a far cry from the posh academy sparring matches.
"It's troublesome," Shikamaru muttered, staring up at the clouds and lazily picking at his noodles.
"So you all dropped out of the academy?" Teuchi, the owner of the Ichiraku ramen stand, asked curiously.
"Yup," Naruto chuckled. "Even though we can't become ninja anymore, we can still be mercenaries or ronin."
"Doesn't really matter as long as we're stronger than any other ninja," Sasuke huffed, thinking about his brother, Itachi.
"Right! Then everyday at the same spot!" Naruto grinned. "We can even get Gai-sensei and Kakashi-sensei to train us!"
"Kakashi is your sensei?" Teuchi asked in surprise. "The famous Sharingan Copy Ninja Kakashi?"
'Sharingan?' Sasuke's ears perked up.
"Yup! Kakashi-sensei is so cool!" Naruto replied in pride.
Sasuke grinned. 'Dropping out of school was really for the best after all.'
Naruto sighed as he arrived to an empty home. He had gotten accustomed to having Sakura deliver assignments to him and maintaining the apartment, but now it was a complete mess like before the Arashi days. He tried to convince himself that she didn't visit him because he was no longer in school, so there weren't any homework assignments to deliver, but he really knew that it was because his secret was now out.
"It was nice while it lasted," he sighed as he plopped facedown onto his couch, where Sakura had often fallen asleep. "Still smells like Sakura-chan..."
"Sasuke-kun is back!"
"Really? It's Sasuke-kun!"
Sasuke fought the urge to groan as he made his way through the familiar hallways of the academy. He, along with Naruto, Shikamaru, Kiba, and Chouji, hadn't stepped foot inside the school building for weeks. It was almost graduation though, so Sasuke figured he should ask Sakura out now while she was still an academy student otherwise he would have trouble finding her if she was out on genin missions.
The pink-haired girl looked up from her homework to find a pair of sharp dark eyes staring straight at her. "S-S-Sasuke-kun?"
"Date," he muttered simply, stuffing his hands into his pockets. This caused the entire class to quiet.
"Huh?" Sakura couldn't believe her ears. "What?"
"Let's go out on a date," Sasuke suddenly looked up at the ceiling to avoid her gaze. "You always wanted to, right?"
"I... but... it's so sudden!" she stammered, blushing furiously. She had asked him out and had gotten rejected so many times that she never actually had thought about what she would do if he had actually accepted, so this situation was very different for her.
"Don't get the wrong idea," he muttered. "I'm only doing this because it's part of my contract."
Sakura's face fell. "Contract?"
"Naruto would only agree to be my training partner if I agreed to give you a chance. One date," he explained darkly.
"So... is there a girl you like?"
"No... really, who do you like?"
"Really, I like you."
"C'mon, seriously, who do you like?"
Sakura now realized that Arashi, or rather Naruto, had not been joking that one night, it was an obvious fact that Naruto liked Sakura after all. 'But then... why would he corner Sasuke-kun into dating me?' she wondered, completely confused.
'He wants you to be happy, you idiot!' Inner Sakura screamed at her.
"So, today? I'll pick you up at five."
Sakura's heart started beating faster at the thought of going out on a date with the Uchiha Sasuke. She blushed and started twiddling her fingers in a Hinata-like fashion.
"Is that okay with you?"
"No," she said, suddenly standing up and causing all the girls in the class to gasp. "I'm sorry... but I can't date you... at least, not until I find Naruto first." With that, she sprinted out of the class.
Sasuke sighed as he sat down in Sakura's seat with his feet up on her desk, smiling a bit as he stared up at the ceiling. "I've been rejected."
She banged on his door, but got impatient and used her spare key to barge in. She found him asleep on the couch, much like the way she would fall asleep after cleaning up his apartment. "Naruto..."
She made his way over to his side and put a gentle hand on his whiskered cheek, causing him to stir. "Sakura-chan?" he murmured groggily, wondering if he was still dreaming.
She gave him a soft smile. "Come back to school, baka."
Author's notes: Honestly, I don't really like Sasuke very much, but I did my best to put my bias aside and write his character from a neutral perspective as much as possible.