Enter Uzumaki Naruto!

Graduation and the Eye of the Dragon Clan!

A forgotten or perhaps never recorded legend from long ago speak of fierce battles between several of the most prominent Shinobi clans in existence. Elite mercenaries for hire with strength unmatched for several decades. At some point, three of these unrivaled mercenaries marched off their battlefields to engage in repeat alliances and brotherly fighting.

It all started more than eighty years ago. The world was engulfed in a constant state of war and bloodshed. Typical of that, countries clashed time and time again in pursuit of ever increasing power and the expansions of their own respective territories. In those times, ninjas, a type of samurai who had forsaken all manners of honor and ethics to gain further power, were merely individual clans for hire acting as armed militia.

Each of which readily would fight for a country provided that the price was right. Among them, three stood out as the strongest by far. The Uchiha Clan, warrior elites with unmatched control over fire based abilities, unique chakra signatures and the much coveted Sharingan eyes. The Senjuu Clan of the Forest, masters of earth and water based manipulation further backed by enormous amounts of physical strength and chakra control. Then there was the Ryuuoh Clan, brilliant tacticians with mastery of hellish Ninjutsu techniques of unmatched destructive force, all backed by incredible speeds.

However, even among the three clans themselves, individual members were exceptionally gifted with a whole new level of talent. Of them where Uchiha Madara, the founder of the Uchiha Clan who broke power barriers with chakra that far exceeded any recorded limits. Senjuu Hashirama, the founder of the Senjuu Clan and only known member capable of using the scared Mokuton style of Ninjutsu. Then there was Vaugh Yeblin, the founder of the Ryuuoh Clan and only man successfully capable of summoning the uncontrollable Dragon Lord.

Each men of promising ideals and dreams bitterly waged contests against one another for many years to come. Then, though the reason was never made known, the three come together as a whole and gave birth to Konohagakure no Sato. Convinced that together they would strive under a peaceful existence, neither group had any idea how the actions of their leaders would affect the future to come. Neither save for those three historical men holding kunai behind their backs as they shook hands…

Konohagakure was a ninja village of the highest stature in the warm seasoned lands of Fire Country. More often than not, the Village Hidden in the Leaves had been hailed as both a mother of mercenary wunderkind and a home of glorified head hunters. Otherwise known most commonly as Shinobi. Depending on whom one listened to, many could argue that Konohagakure was by far the best Shinobi village in existence.

Not surprisingly, there are thousands of rumors surrounding the innumerous exploits of the Leaf and the vast array of clans that inhibit her walls. Most invariably involving the unexplained or outright unbelievable. Especially those of an elite among elites group residing beyond her walls yet still fully aligned with her. All of which are carefully guarded secrets in which none are ever available for comment.

Consequently, Konohagakure no Sato continues to be the focus of much wild speculation, ire, resentment, praise and intense debate worldwide. Idealized and vilified in equal douses of measure, the Leaf is perhaps one of the most fascinating and enigmatic sites of our times.

Naturally, for such a promising village to exist and strive under the weight of the dark secrets it carries just as much as the good ones, a certain sense of order must be maintained. Without that order, the entire foundation would have fallen apart at the stems. However, as is expected in anyplace where people may live, there are those who derive pleasure in healthy bouts of chaos just as readily as peace.

Commonly called the bane of Konoha and resident pariah, said person was currently up to mischief as usual. Dashing at above average speeds down the peaceful streets of the sun bathed village was a twelve year old boy with hair of the brightest blond. The young menace and prank loving terror was clad in a blindingly bright orange and blue two piece jumpsuit.

Since he currently had his jacket tied around his waist by the sleeves, nothing barred the plain black T-shirt he wore from view. Taking up residence atop his untamed locks of spiked feathery hair were a set of green goggles of a decent quality. The eyepiece that would have hid his shiny orbs of the brightest blue served as a very special symbolic meaning for the lanky child in question.

The bright eyes, and general addition to the loud color theme he seemed to favor, were rather complimentary companions to the vulpine stripes on either of his cheeks. Lastly, his choice in footwear extended to a popular set of sandals that were near universally worn these days.

Uzumaki Naruto was his name. The self proclaimed future Hokage of the Leaf, master prankster and ally of ramen chefs with super cute daughters everywhere. Just a simple minded, fun loving good guy really. To be completely honest, most people wouldn't have paid the kid much attention had he been someone else. However, this particular boy was not only notorious for his nonstop stream of pranks but also due to something that easily fell into the aforementioned darker secrets category.

It didn't help his case any that he was currently carrying a bucket of paint on his person with a grin that screamed naughty. Rather it just drew the disapproving eye of everyone nearby even more. Lastly, to complete this nearly comical treat to the eyes, a duo of flustered men where chasing after the kid.

Both men, who looked to be in their twenties, wore the standard issued apparel of the higher ranking ninjas serving the village. That being a set of navy blue pants with matching long sleeved shirts. Included were a pair of padded lime green jackets with several pockets embedded in the material. As something of a personal effect, they had applied several layers of bandage wrappings to their legs with small tool carrying pouches fastened to the wrappings.

The most important accessory by far were the addition of blue cloth secured to their heads upon which sat a shiny slab of metal with a leaf symbol carved in the exact center. These unique headbands differed from village to village and weren't so much for fashion as they were to signify one's alliances to the village in which they served. In this case, Konoha.

A nice effect that surely would give the wearer a sense of belonging. However, at the moment, the men were wishing frantically that the ordinary piece of metal had some special means of capturing misbehaving children instead.

The boy's jacket swayed in the breeze with each step he took and he couldn't help but laugh at the helplessness of his pursuers. It seemed that no matter how fast the men ran, the semi-developed ninja in training would always be quicker.

"Naruto you little troublemaker! Today is the day your mischief ends!" shouted one of the men huffing and puffing after him.

"Yeah! You're not going to get away with it anymore!" bellowed the other while brandishing a fist Naruto's back.

Not going to get away with it they say. Hah! These goons had a better chance of blindsiding somebody's grandmother than ever laying a finger on him. Thoroughly enjoying the attention, and ultimately the release his handiwork had net him, Naruto gleefully laughed some more before he leaped upon the rooftop of a shop in an impressive display of aerobics and leg muscle strength.

Naruto's pursuers followed suit and in a speedy blur of rapid motion the trio begun leaping from rooftop to rooftop. Feats made possible by Uzumaki Naruto since he was the future Hokage, dammit!

"Shut up!" replied the evasive boy to the men's treats as he leaped back to the ground with a laugh.

The men followed right on Naruto's tail and the potentially endless chase continued…

In the biggest building in Konoha by far, an elderly man was carefully practicing his calligraphy skills upon a large piece of stationery using a brush covered in ink. Lightly sucking on an old fashioned pipe as he worked, the senior was convinced that absolutely nothing would spoil his day. Sarutobi Sasuke was his time worn name. A man of completely gray hair with several age spots covering his still, in his humble opinion, handsome face. Beneath his brown eyes were stripes similar to those upon Naruto's cheeks. Coincidental? Perhaps.

The man was also ironically wearing a bright orange kimono with grayish brown kimono pants. Surely not every ninja in the village had such quirky taste in loud clothing. For cry it out loud the man was the Hokage! The professor and local Jutsu geek of the village. As well as the current caretaker of the multipurpose estate building in which he was currently working. He just happened to be wearing orange because he felt like it today.

Ah yes. The Jutsu geek. A title with a pretty nice ring to it.

Wanted to know about a particular combination of Jutsu or the elemental composition that made it up? Sarutobi was your man. If one where capable of asking the deceased Shodai Hokage how his Mokuton techniques worked, he would have probably shrugged and said something to the effect of 'fuck if I know.' Now, take this same scenario and add the Third to the question and you'll probably end up with an earful of theories and facts showing how the manipulation of water combined with the manipulation of earth would do so and so or such and such. All of which would be extrapolated in great detail with the Sandaime wearing a somewhat disturbingly gleeful grin on his face best pulled off by a bookworm.

Needless to say, the man wasn't known as the Professor for nothing being a Jutsu freak long before the Great Shinobi Wars started. Either way, it was utter foolishness to regard the man as a bookworm. The man was a vicious fighter after all with unquestioned wisdom and an uncanny talent of blending god knows how many disparate elemental attacks into a nightmarish whole.

Regardless, the room Sarutobi chose to occupy at the moment was a spacious study that he often frequented when he didn't want to be disturbed. The interior of the room was painted in a dull yellow that fitted the mood rather well. The walls themselves displayed several scrolls upon which words of great wisdom, written in Japanese text, silently hung. Most of the scrolls were written by Sarutobi himself with the purpose of passing on knowledge to those who willingly sought it wherever they went.

The floor was made of highly polished wood that shone brightly in the sunlight filtering in through a nearby window. The normally cleared floor was also cluttered with several more blank scrolls as well as two large wooden jars filled with fine writing ink. One section of the floor rose in an elevated staircase that was covered in a velvet reddish colored carpet. Sarutobi himself was kneeling upon this carpet with his scroll carefully propped up against the wall upon a piece of canvas.

He had just completed his last expert stroke when a ninja of the Leaf, dressed like the other two who were currently chasing Naruto, appeared out of thin air it seemed.

"Hokage-sama, we have a problem!" urgently reported the intruding ninja in a annoyed tone the village in general reserved just for blond haired pranksters.

"What? Did Naruto do something again?" surmised the Sandaime Hokage with a knowing glance.

"Yes, he just vandalized the stone faces of the Hokages," replied the somewhat peeved ninja with a hopeless shrug.

A mere glance out Sarutobi's nearby window exposed, sure enough, four paint covered stone faces that stood as the pride of Konohagakure. Before the ridiculous makeover the statues underwent, each face proudly displayed the greatest Konoha ninjas that ever lived. Sarutobi's own face was among them forever preserving the days of his youth. Though currently there was a bright orange booger painted under his nose along with some rather tasteful pirate scars in the old man's opinion, thank you very much. Hell, it was better than the ridiculous clown face the boy had painted the last time he pulled this stunt.

"A monument to the greatest ninjas in Konoha reduced to a child's plaything," thought Sarutobi as he sighed in resignation to shorting out another of Naruto's pranks before chuckling.

The kid just wasn't going to give an old man a break. Sure Sarutobi could appreciate a good joke from time to time. Anyone would after years of dealing with the stiffs that served as his personal council. But, it was starting to get out of hand these days. That said, the Third couldn't help but to commend the boy. For Kami's sake, the child had not only scaled the rocky surface without the use of chakra but had done so in broad daylight weighted down by heavy buckets of paint. Add in the fact that he pretty much remodeled the entire structure without once being noticed until the very end and Konohagakure's bane had more or less screamed to the whole village that he was a real prodigy. Nothing like those arrogant brats who were called such simply because they had a little bit of talent using their bloodline limits.

The young man had skills. Sarutobi could already tell that Uzumaki Naruto would prove quite the asset to the unfair village he resided in one day. Surely in the near future…

The two men were still chasing Naruto, or so they thought.

"He went this way!" shouted one of the men as he and his partner rounded a corner.

Once the faint cry of the two pursuing ninjas faded completely, Naruto removed his camouflage covering. Clever use of a basic concealment tactic had allowed him to elude the frustrated ninjas with textbook perfection!

"Too easy," bragged Naruto to himself with a hearty laugh.

In his moment of victory, Naruto never saw the figure standing behind him coming.

"Hey, Naruto!" bellowed an enraged ninja with long brown hair tied in a gravity defying ponytail.

He had tan skin with a shallow scar running horizontally across his face. Like the other ninjas he too wore the same standard issued Jounin to Chuunin apparel.

Naruto jumped maybe a good five feet into the air in fright. At the same time he released a short lived scream of surprise before falling on his butt. Looking back up, the Jinchuuriki bore witness to the academically feared Demon Head technique that Iruka-sensei was infamous for among his students. His oversized cranium returned to normal size soon enough, allowing the scarred man to properly glare at his prank loving seito.

Getting over his initial Demon Head scare, Naruto's expression became a tad indignant at being caught so soon and from behind to boot.

"What are you doing all of a sudden, Iruka-sensei!?" demanded Naruto in annoyance once he recovered from his fright enough to fold his arms.

"What are you doing before class!? Not only did you miss most of the lecture, but you're pulling those stupid pranks again!?" countered Iruka with emphasis on the word you. "When are you going to learn how to use your talents in a responsible manner, Naruto?" the scarred instructor resumed in full lecture mode.

"Yah, yah, it's not my fault that the history of hand signs and their founders is the most boring class lecture on the planet!" started Naruto while staring sullenly at Iruka and picking his nose.

The blond was already tired of being yelled at. He had certainly gotten his fill of it for the day.

The boy's dismissive attitude towards the dreaded subject of 'studying' only served to summon a small vein in the schoolteacher's temple.

"Ugh, you're impossible, Naruto! The purpose of studying is not only to expand your knowledge but to supply you with a full understanding of your profession and the multitude of basic skills that makes it up. Simply knowing the origins of a given art is half of the battle and most importantly, it will allow for improvising on the field. Something you will have to do time and time again in order to survive."

Their was no way Iruka could explain it any clearer than that. The stated words were a lesson speaking strictly from personal experience. Something he had been trying to pound into the boy's head for three years now. Naturally the mother hen in Iruka was praying to whatever gods that existed out there that Naruto would miraculously listen to him for once.

For a moment, it looked as if a breakthrough were beginning to establish when Naruto scrunched up his face in contemplative thought. Sadly, the blond had pushed the crucial piece of information somewhere to the back of his mind, yet again, after deciding that all the thinking was making his brain hurt. Having nothing to say about the lesson, Naruto could only sigh at the punishment he knew was coming later. After picking himself up off the ground Naruto did the only thing he would willingly think of when in the presence of an adult. He made a break for it!

Iruka merely sighed at Naruto's stupidity and reached into his pouch. In one fluid motion, Iruka withdrew and twirled a long coil of wire above his head. Once he build up enough momentum Iruka hurled it at Naruto's feet, effectively binding his legs together. Before the retreating Naruto had any idea what happened, he fell flat on his face. Quickly Iruka pounced and proceeded to tie up the struggling blond with some rope he had on hand for just such an occasion. Once Iruka was satisfied he gave a sharp tug on a length of the binding material and Naruto, who pouted slightly, was escorted by Iruka to the academy…

The ninja academy was an aged building that had been build some fifty or sixty years ago. The exterior was painted completely in white with the exception of the front door, which was a fading red. Directly above the door was the Japanese symbol for Fire Country in which Naruto resided. Even higher above that was the familiar leaf symbol that honored the Hidden Village of Konoha not unlike how a national flag would. As far as Naruto could see, there were no windows and the only hint of a play area was an old wooden swing tied to a nearby tree.

Upon arrival Iruka immediately took Naruto to class, much to the blond haired youth's embarrassment. The classroom was, for the most part, plain with the exception of a few scrolls that adjoined the wall and a large chalkboard. The remainder of the room was filled with row upon row of tables perched upon steadily elevating platforms. These tables were filled with chattering students around Naruto's age that fell quite when the classroom door opened. The minute the class saw Naruto's predicament they all burst into laughter causing Naruto's cheeks to flush with heat. The humiliation didn't end there. Once Iruka got the class to quite down, save for the occasional snicker, he immediately pointed out one of Naruto's biggest regrets.

"Listen up Naruto, you failed the last final exam and the exam before that. You shouldn't be fooling around like that. If you have time to pull pranks then why not use that energy to further your ninja training and studies?" stated Iruka bluntly.

Never one to sit through a lecture, Naruto turned his nose up at Iruka's for coming rant. A vein begun to throb in Iruka's temple and he immediately tried a new tactic. Iruka turned to face the class with the danger signs of the fearsome Demon Head technique giving fair warning not to interrupt him.

"Fine then! We're going to have a review quiz for the transformation technique! Those who already passed will have to line up as well!" declared Iruka suddenly.

A declaration that may as well have been an order for the class to run a marathon in their opinion.

"WHAT!?" groaned the class in unison at the injustice of it all coupled with the bangs of heads slamming on desks.

A dangerous eye twitch from Iruka-sensei quickly brought about the rapid scrapping of chairs and shuffle of feet as the class hastened to follow their instructions. Once the students were properly lined up, Iruka undid Naruto's bindings so that he could line up as well.

"Alright then. Now do we have any volunteers?" asked Iruka with a clearly satisfied smile, earning Naruto several glares from his peers.

They were short lived and almost immediately, a hand shot into the air belonging to a cute girl with long pink hair and emerald green eyes. The girl was dressed in a rose colored outfit with a red ribbon tied on her head. She also was wearing navy blue shorts and open toed sandals. Her shapely legs and arms where the only things she didn't have covered in an effort to augment whatever sex appeal she thought she possessed.

"Haruno Sakura going!" stated the girl as she clashed her hands together with a frown of concentration to form a basic hand sign. "Henge!"

A cloud of smoke enveloped her right then and there. When the smoke cleared, standing in Sakura's place was an identical copy of Iruka-sensei! Elementary and infrequently used in the field, the technique was indeed still impressive and not too badly executed by the pink haired girl.

"Okay, well done," commented the real Iruka with a nod of approval before he made a mark on his clipboard.

"I did it!" cheered the overzealous kunoichi as if the task had been something extremely difficult.

It probably was. Nonetheless, it was still rather bizarre to see an Iruka look-alike bouncing girlishly on the balls of his/her feet. Eventually, the transformed Sakura was once again enveloped in a cloud of smoke as she reverted to her original form.

The pink haired girl turned towards a boy in the audience with a cheerful smile.

"Did you see that, Sasuke-kun?" she asked happily.

The boy in question was a serious looking youth with spiky black 'duck butt' hair and black eyes. He was clothed in a dark blue open collar shirt with a half white and half red fan symbol on the back. He also wore white shorts that extended pass his knees. Added to the mix were white arm guards with blue edges and open toed sandals. The fan on Sasuke's back was an insignia for Konoha's Uchiha clan, a group of adept fire and Doujutsu users.

Sasuke didn't bother to answer or even acknowledge Sakura's question since Iruka begun to announce the next student's name.

"Uchiha Sasuke, you're next."

Wordlessly, Sasuke moved into position in full view of the class and performed the same simple hand seal as Sakura. Likewise the earlier results were repeated exactly, minus the creepy dance that no one should ever have had to see.

"All right," acknowledged the real Iruka with another nod of approval as Sasuke transformed back to normal and went to extend the pass line behind a irritatingly lovey-dovey Sakura.

The Uchiha boy's prominent scowl did not go unmissed by most of the class as he pointedly tuned out an oblivious Sakura's steady stream of ramblings and compliments. Save for a few dozen members from the female half of the group, anyone present would have testified to the Uchiha heir's stuck up attitude towards others. There was certainly a lot to comment on concerning the icy headcase, yet it wasn't as if voicing them would really do much about it either.

Mentally shrugging, Iruka surveyed his clipboard once more and after making some notes called out the next student.

"Next up, Uzumaki Naruto."

Before Naruto moved into position two of his peers standing near him begun to complain.

"This sucks," grumbled a boy with a long gravity defying ponytail.

The boy was wearing a net shirt with dark brown pants and a grayish colored jacket with green edges. This was Nara Shikamaru of Konoha's Nara Clan, a group of medical experts and shadow users.

"This is all your fault," chimed in a pretty girl with long blonde hair and blue eyes.

The girl was wearing a revealing one piece purple dress with a wide collar. This was somewhat remedied by several bandages wrapped around her legs. She also wore white arm guards with purple edges and open toed sandals. This girl was Yamanaka Ino of Konoha's Yamanaka Clan, a family of floweriest and mind manipulation technique users.

"Like I care," replied Naruto with an annoyed frown on his face.

Quickly Naruto strode into position to attempt the simple Jutsu. Just a single hand sign and amateurish chakra manipulation would do, right? Unfortunately nothing was ever simple or to be expected when Uzumaki Naruto was involved. After all, Shinobi strived on the unexpected and Naruto had it in bulks.

With a look of concentration Naruto's bluish chakra begun to swirl around him and he too vanished in a poof of smoke. However, rather than the Iruka form that everyone was expecting, Naruto assumed the form of a perky and gorgeous blonde haired girl with blue eyes. The girl wore her hair in two long pig tails and like Naruto had stripes on her cheeks. Naruko, as the creator had fondly dubbed his knockout counterpart lacked only a few things. Specifically clothing. However, as the smoke hadn't cleared yet certain well proportioned visuals remained hidden from sight.

Naruko gave a seductive moan and winked in Iruka's direction before blowing him a very sexy kiss. The act was all that was required to tickle the instinctive reactions of a typical male. Iruka's mouth dropped open in pure shock before a heavy spray of blood begun spurting from his nose. All of the guys in the classroom underwent similar bouts of nosebleeds, save suspiciously for one Uchiha Sasuke, while the girls merely blushed at the open display of their feminine anatomy. Naruto then transformed back to normal and broke up into crazed laughter.

"How was that? I call it the Dynamically Amazing Sexy Jutsu!" cried Naruto between laughter.

Iruka quickly stuck two Q-tips up his heavily gushing nose and seemed besides himself with fury. The ultimate horror of the true Demon Head Master Move was revealed in an instant, though the Q-tips ruined the effect.

"You idiot! Don't invent such a dumb technique!" screamed Iruka as loudly as he could while flushing at the fact that he had been turned on by a male wearing a very convincing illusion.

Naruto had a feeling the his punishment was only going to get worse after class was over…

"Damn it, Damn it!" groaned Naruto for what felt like the hundredth time that evening.

Iruka had been quite forceful with his punishment by ordering Naruto to scrub the paint job he did that morning off of the Hokage monument by hand. It had been three hours since he started and he still had two more statues to go. Luckily for him the paint was still wet or else the job might have taken much longer.

"You're not going home until you clean it up good," yelled Iruka from atop the statue Naruto was cleaning.

"I don't care, no one's waiting for me at home anyway!" countered Naruto a bit closer to home than he would've liked to admit to anybody.

It wasn't a secret that Naruto had been orphaned since birth but his lack thereof memories about his birth parents had always been a sore topic with him. Mainly since it reminded him how alone he was in this place.

Iruka gazed at the stubborn ninja for several seconds in silent contemplation before he spoke again, this time in a more gentle tone of voice.


"What is it now?" grumbled the still very much irked blond.

"Well, if you clean that up I'll treat you to some ramen tonight," replied Iruka while thoughtfully scratching his chin and looking at the boy as if to say 'what do you think?'

Iruka had said the magic word. At the mention of ramen, Naruto loudly cheered in happiness.

"All right! I'll do my best then!" promised Naruto with a large grin while resuming work with even more energy than before. His troubles momentarily forgotten…

It was nearing midnight by the time Naruto finished and true to his words, Iruka took Naruto to the most famous ramen shop in Konoha. Ichiraku Ramen was more like a small stand than a shop but the kami sent smell of ramen and barbeque more than made up for it. Inside Naruto and Iruka quickly took up seats at one of several stools in front of a bar. The top of the counter was laden with a cup full of chopsticks as well as a salt and pepper shaker and napkin dispenser.

"Good evening boys, what will you be having?" asked the shop's owner and chef, Teuchi.

A rather kind man who looked to be in his late thirties. Teuchi had graying hair and seemed somewhat chubby. He was dressed in a simple robe with baggy gray sweatpants and a sailor's cap. His smile was warm and cheerful as he awaited their orders. Particularly the round of his absolute favorite customer, Naruto. The ramen lord and two years defending champion of the yearly ramen battle royal! Depending on who one listened to, the stories of the ramen guzzling champ often hinted that he could even out eat an Akimichi. They wouldn't have been exaggerating.

Naruto immediately requested his favorite bowl, miso pork ramen with a boiled egg. Iruka simply ordered beef and garlic ramen with sour cream and a fried egg. The successful and popular chef quickly prepared the orders and had his super cute daughter, Ayame, bring out the bowls along with complementary glasses of water.

"Please enjoy your meal!" said Ayame with a golden smile of cuteness best pulled off by 'the girl next door.'

Ayame had light brown hair and brown eyes. Like her father she too wore robes. However, she was wearing plain white pants instead of the baggy gray sweatpants that her father wore. For Naruto, the super cute ramen mistress was pretty much a sister figure to him. Just as much as he was a kid brother to her. Though she often found it hard to keep up with the high speed delivery of his ramen-y goodness during the battle royal competitions, the two were a winning team for two years running.

Naruto took off his goggles and with loud cries of 'Itadakimasu,' the ramen loving duo begun to eat. Midway through the meal, Iruka begun to speak.

"Say Naruto, why do you vandalize the monumental stone anyway? Surely you know who the Hokages are right?" asked Iruka in reference to the freshly cleaned stone faces.

"Of course I do," replied Naruto before draining the broth in his ramen bowl.

After finishing up with a lip-smacking 'ahh' Naruto continued.

"In other word, those who carry the name of Hokage were acknowledged as the number one ninjas in the village right?" asked Naruto thoughtfully. " I hear that the fourth one is a hero who protected the village from a monster fox."

"Then why did you…?" started Iruka before Naruto cut him off.

"I'm going to receive the name of Hokage one day and become greater than any of the Hokages!" stated Naruto with a wink. "Then I'm going to make everyone in the village recognize my powers! That was just my mark to tell everyone that."

Iruka nodded and accepted the idealized if childish explanation. It wasn't like the thought was impossible. Regardless, Naruto turned to Iruka with an expression that could only be described as sly.

"By the way sensei, I have a favor to ask."

"You want another bowl?" guessed Iruka.

"No. I was wondering if maybe I could try on that Konoha forehead protector?" asked Naruto hopefully.

"Oh, this?" asked Iruka while grasping the metal of the head guard. "No, this is proof that you graduated school and that you're a real ninja. You'll have to wait until you get yours tomorrow," declined Iruka with a kindly smile.

"Meanie!" moaned Naruto in annoyance.

"Is that why you took your goggles off?" teased Iruka between laughter.

"Hmp! I want another bowl!" demanded Naruto as revenge for Iruka's lack of cooperation.

Iruka only groaned at how hard this was going to be on his wallet and was just about to dig said item out when he noted the sudden expression of melancholy on the boy's face. Piquing the Chuunin's interest, Iruka shifted his position to fully take in the small boy besides him.


The boy seemed to stare past his empty bowl for the longest, worrying the mother hen in his sensei the whole while before sighing.

"Say Iruka-sensei, can I ask you to be honest with me?" inquired the sun kissed blond quieter than usual.

Warning bells sounded in Iruka's mind and though Teuchi was tending to a fresh batch of noodles, his posture had stiffened as well. Naruto was never this quite! Hell, quite and Naruto put together was an impossible equation and yet here the boy was defying expectations yet again! Naruto had not earned the title of number one unpredictable Shinobi in training for nothing.

"Ah, of course, Naruto. If I can answer your question I'll always try my best to do so, you know that," consented the brown haired Chuunin without the slightest hesitation.

Anyone else might've been unfair or outright lied to the boy due to complicated reasons and Naruto had picked up on that it seemed. The blond wasn't going to kid himself here. He had known for awhile now that most of his so called academy teachers had purposely been striving to sabotage his growth as a ninja. The most devastating method they could think of to do so was simply to deny him information and to never encourage him to take his potential that extra step further.

That was just it. While dense at times, the boy was fully capable of amazing feats of brilliance. As a result, his true potential was directly affected by the encouragement he was given. Something that Iruka himself could readily testify to and praise the boy for.

Simply put, anytime Naruto felt as if a teacher figure was going out of his way to help him, he would perform whatever task he was given flawlessly! Or at least make a real effort that would bear fruit. In contrast, if he received no encouragement at all he would either do poorly or not bother with the exercise at all in favor of thinking up new pranks. Likewise in any group assignment with his peers, he participated substantially if working with encouraging friends such as Hyuuga Hinata or Akimichi Chouji. It would go in reverse if working with discouraging peers such as Inuzuka Kiba or Uchiha Sasuke.

The whole deal was really simple. When people believed in him, he performed. As such, Naruto easily had the learning potential and talent to develop at unparallel rates if only someone would give him a chance and a little bit of direction. The boy was what many would consider a real genius and he would only continue to improve over time.

Iruka, while strict, openly acknowledged that and made sure that Naruto saw it too. The one true teacher in Naruto's life wouldn't lie. That the boy knew and believed with the depth of his heart.

Naruto nodded and proceeded to speak.

"Just how well suited am I to even be a ninja at this point? I mean, until just last year I didn't even know how to read before you took the time to teach me. I'm the dead last of the class this year and nobody other than you and the old man are even bothering to train me properly. Can I really do this, Iruka-sensei?"

To say that Iruka was speechless was an understatement. Flabbergasted was the most fitting word for hearing the walking well of merit and determination expressing self doubt. It only served to show that despise the inhumanly amount of scorn and vengeful wrath the boy suffered constantly, he did have a limit to how much he could take before he started to believe them. In other words, Naruto was still human.

Human. The truth of that word brought a sad smile to Iruka's face. The source was simply because he knew deep down that Naruto wasn't quite ready to become a ninja. It had nothing to do with his loud nature, choice in bright clothing or ability. For kami's sake the boy had pull off all sorts of off the wall pranks in a ninja village while barely ever being caught and done so while wearing bright orange! No, the problem Naruto had was simply that he needed a lot more work on his basic skills. They truly were a mess.

"Honestly, Naruto, if you would just put a bit more effort into your studies and really practice all of your basic abilities there's no doubt that you'll do just fine. I'm sure you're aware that the most important aspect of anything one might do centers around the basics. Once the basics are mastered than theoretically there is almost nothing you wouldn't be able to apply them to," the academy instructor explained.

Naruto simply nodded in acceptance of the explanation and shifted his gaze to meet Iruka's.

"I thought it might be something like that. In that case, would you help me work on my basic training?" the blond earnestly requested.

His determined gaze, that many women found too cute for their own health, had taken over his facials. Once more the scarred Chuunin nearly freaked out. It was even rarer for Naruto to willingly beseech training when he could've been working on his latest prank instead!

"Well sure Naruto, but are you feeling alright? This has got to be the first time you've ever asked for extra training outside of your usual skirmishes with Sasuke," pointed out the Chuunin while idly noticing Teuchi was beginning to relax just a little.

This got the boy grinning and chuckling.

"Hah, I'll beat Sasuke-teme soon enough, Iruka-sensei! That and I'll show everyone that I will become the best Hokage ever! If a little bit of extra training is all it'll take to get there than I'm game no matter what!"

For emphasis, the boy patted his muscle confidently. The results was a fond smile from his observing teacher and Teuchi as well, though as his back was turned no one could see it. Now this was sounding more like the Naruto they knew.

"Yeah. You most definitely will. And I'll be doing my best to help you get there," encouraged the school teacher.

At this, Naruto grew excited.

"Then you'll…?"

Iruka nodded.

"I can't say that I'll be free all the time but I'm sure I'll be able to work out something with Hokage-sama about additional basic training."

"Yay!" cheered Naruto excitedly, pumping both arms into the air. "Thank you, Iruka-sensei! You're the best!"

Iruka laughed a little at that.

"That he most certainly is," chipped in Teuchi himself, turning around with a smile of his own and two additional bowls of ramen in his hands. "For the training days ahead and good luck for your examination tomorrow, two bowls on the house."

If Naruto was happy before, it quickly multiplied tenfold in the form of a very pleased grin.

"Yeah! Itadakimasu!" exclaimed Naruto before taking the bowl and digging in with gusto…

Sarutobi gazed upon the rising sun with a smile of anticipation. Today was the day of graduation at Konoha's Ninja academy. A day that had been long awaited by every man, woman and child within the village. On this day, the academy graduates would become Konoha's new Genin level ninjas.

Suddenly, out of thin air, a Leaf ninja appeared. More specifically, a member of the ANBU Black Ops. A special branch of Shinobi that personally serve under direct orders from the Hokage himself. Elites highly skilled in the art of silent homicide among other things.

This one was dressed in a type of gray sleeveless armor with a small ninjato strapped to his back. Reinforced gauntlets and night black pants completed the standard code of dress. All save for one thing. A animal mask to tell one apart from another while at the same time upholding complete secrecy to the identity of the agent. In this case, a lion mask.

"Sandaime-sama, I've come to make a report," stated the visitor.

"Yes, what is it?" asked the Third Hokage.

"The hidden sect has prepared its' three most prized students to attend the academy's graduation exam," vocalized Lion while producing a scroll baring the Dragon Clan's insignia, which was two dragon wings with a fearsome eye peering between them. "Here is a detailed report of the candidates' skills and personal information."

"Ah, excellent," voiced Sarutobi as he took the scroll. "You have my gratitude. Dismissed," ordered the Third and in the blink of an eye the masked ninja was gone.

"It's been quite some time since new candidates from the Ryuuoh Clan took part in the graduation exam. They must be very exceptional students," mused the Hokage to himself while unfurling the scroll…

"We will now start the final exam," Iruka announced to the class. "If your name is called come to the classroom next door. The subject will be the replication technique."

Naruto's mouth dropped open with shock. Nervously he begun to fidget in his seat like a girl who hadn't used the bathroom in a long time. If there was any technique that he was absolutely terrible with, it was the replication.

"Will miss Domino Shishikura, come to the testing room please?" called Iruka sensei.

There was a few moments of silence before possibly the most beautiful girl Naruto every seen walked towards the testing room. The girl had black, waist-length hair which she wore in a ponytail. Her shining lavender eyes seemed to take on a pleasant, teasing look that complimented her perfect heart-shaped face. She was wearing a dark green jacket with a black T-shirt underneath and a pair of black shorts. Her clothing were fairly loose, but still failed to hide her generous curves.

As if sensing Naruto's stare, she paused in mid-stride and flashed him a gorgeous smile before entering the testing center. Naruto felt his cheeks grow warm and his anxiety was momentarily forgotten.

"Who was that? I've never seen her before," thought Naruto to himself.

Naruto remained in a stupor for several minutes wondering about the mysterious girl until he spotted her again. She emerged from the testing room with a huge grin on her face and in addition to that, she was wearing a shiny new forehead protector! The girl practically skipped back to her seat as everyone begun to applaud for her success. Naruto's nervousness returned in full after that and he grasped his face in dismay. The next student was called into the room but Naruto, in his foreboding thoughts, failed to hear the name of the candidate Iruka summoned.

"A touch nervous are you?" inquired a soft voice next to him.

Naruto turned towards the speaker to find it was a young girl sitting next to him. The girl had dark blue hair that was cut short and seemed a little spiky in appearance. Her peaceful blue eyes seemed able to probe the depth of Naruto's soul which unnerved the blond haired boy to an extend. Despise her piercing gaze, the girl had a serene air about her. She was dressed in a strawberry colored top with a white skirt. She was also wearing two pendants around her neck. One had a blue gem, the other had a green one. She smiled upon seeing Naruto grant her his attention.

"Who is she? I've never seen her before either," thought Naruto to himself in wonder.

Realizing he was rudely staring at her, Naruto hastily answered her question.

"Uh yeah, I guess I am a little bit nervous," admitted the blond.

The blue haired girl nodded before speaking.

"That's to be expected, honestly I'm a bit nervous myself," she said with a smile.

Naruto smiled back, easily recognizing kindness when he saw it, before he extending his hand towards her.

"Hey I'm Uzumaki Naruto. One day I'm going become the new Hokage," declared said boy as he introduced himself.

"Really? That will be great! I'm certain that you'll be able to do it. I'm Elaine Harime," responded the girl while extending her own hand and shaking Naruto's.

Naruto's grin grew broader after the introductions and he seemed quite pleased by Elaine's encouraging words. It was very rare to find someone who offered him any kind of encouragement. Naruto liked the feeling it seemed to bring.

"Yeah, you're right and I'm going to work really hard so that everyone will acknowledge my strength!" bragged Naruto loudly. "By the way where are you from? I don't think I've ever seen you before," asked Naruto curiously.

Elaine grew thoughtful for a moment before responding.

"I'm not really surprised, very few people from the village have ever seen me. Domino too for that matter."

"Huh? Why's that?" asked Naruto.

Elaine's expression grew troubled and she gazed at the floor for a moment before speaking.

"It's complicated, but lets just say I underwent some very special training when I was little and leave it at that," replied Elaine with some hesitation.

"Special training?" repeated a confused Naruto. "Why's she acting so weird, is there something she's trying to hide?" he silently thought.

As if sensing Naruto's thoughts, Elaine abruptly changed the subject.

"So Naruto, what do you plan to do after becoming Hokage?"

Naruto's brain when into overdrive after that. In all honesty, he had never really thought about it before. After racking his brain for a moment Naruto finally came to a decision and was just about to speak when…

"Uzumaki Naruto," came Iruka's long awaited call and with a feeling of dread Naruto rose to enter the examination room.

"Hm, lousy timing. Well, this is it. Good luck, Naruto!" said Elaine cheerfully.

"Thanks, Elaine," Naruto somehow managed to say through a cotton dry throat as he headed towards the testing center.

The first thing Naruto noticed upon entering the testing room was a table laden with forehead protectors. The sight only served to remain Naruto of his last two failed attempts and, if it was at all possible, made him even more nervous. Steeling his resolves Naruto stood before the examiner's table. Naruto's examiners turned out to be Iruka who gave Naruto a nod of approval before readying his clipboard. The second was a silvery-blue haired man with black eyes and a warm smile. He too wore the common ninja apparel of the two goons that chased Naruto before. His name was Mizuki.

"Go ahead when you're really," encouraged Mizuki with a kindly smile.

Naruto took a deep breath and closed his eyes in a frown of concentration. Like before, a swirling aura of bluish chakra begun to surround Naruto. He quickly made a hand seal.

"Bunshin no Jutsu!" cried Naruto.

There was a poof of smoke and when it cleared Naruto was standing in the same spot as before. However, laying next to him was a rather pitiful imitation of Naruto that looked more like a train ran over it several times. At that point Naruto begun to panic, especially at the sight of Iruka's twitching eyebrow and annoyed look.

"YOU FAIL!" roared Iruka much to the dismay of the blond youth.

"Iruka-sensei, his movement and stamina are good and he did replicate. Maybe we can pass him?" piped in Mizuki drawing a hopeful smile from Naruto.

If Naruto had any hopes of passing the exam, they were quickly dashed by Iruka's next statement.

"Mizuki-sensei, everyone is able to produce at least three replications. But, Naruto can only produce one that will merely be a bother. I cannot pass him," stated Iruka simply.

"I…understand," replied Mizuki before Iruka dismissed Naruto with a wave of his hand.

Naruto was crushed, and left the room feeling both dejected and angry at the harsh true of it all. He had failed for the third year in a row…

The happy chattering of all the new academy graduates and their equally happy parents seemed to go on for hours. Every single face in sight was lit with a smile that seemed to lift the mood of everyone present. Only one person remained oblivious to the contagious virus of happiness. Naruto sat alone on an old swing set beneath the shadow of a large oak tree. From time to time he would shoot an envious glance at all the students who were talking with their parents. Naruto knew that as an orphan he would most likely never get to experience that kind of happiness and love from any parental figure. Naruto tried to conquer up an image of the parents he never knew but it was no use. With a depressed sigh he resumed watching the crowd in silence.

"It could've been worse you know," came a soft voice from behind Naruto.

He quickly turned around to find Elaine standing behind him. Like everyone else, she was wearing a forehead protector.

"I guess you're right about that," replied Naruto as he resumed watching the crowd with another depressed sigh. "Congratulations," he said after a moment.

"Thank you," she said while leaning against the tree next to Naruto.

The two friends sat quietly like that for a while and Naruto begun to cheer up a bit due to Elaine's company. Elaine seemed to sense Naruto's uplifting sprit and choose that moment to speak.

"I wouldn't have figured you the type to mope Naruto. As a future Hokage, I thought you would've been inspired to train even harder," Elaine voiced her opinion with a smile.

Naruto considered her words for a moment before he too begun to smile.

"Thank you Elaine, you're absolutely right," acknowledged Naruto.

"That's the sprit. I believe in you, Naruto. You know you gave me confidence back there before the exam started," admitted the blue haired girl.

Naruto grinned at that before replying.

"I feel the same way. Your support really helped me out back then," he admitted honestly.

"I'm glad to hear that, Naruto. Which reminds me, you never answered my question from before. What do you plan to do after becoming Hokage?" asked Elaine.

This time Naruto didn't have to think about his answer.

"I'll make sure that nobody has to experience the same childhood I did," replied Naruto in a matter of fact tone.

Elaine's expression softened somewhat and she smiled again.

"Then I look forward to that day very much, Naruto," said Elaine before standing up straight. "I'm sorry but I have to go now. I'll see you around, okay?" she continued sadly.

"Oh, alright. Guess I'll see you later then," replied Naruto with equal sadness.

It never was easy saying goodbye to a friend. Elaine bowed respectfully to Naruto's back before turning and walking away. She took no more than five steps before glancing back.

"Naruto," called Elaine.

The blond turned to see what Elaine wanted. The girl unfastened one of the pendants around her neck and tossed it to Naruto who deftly caught it. The pendant in question was a shining blue gem encaged in a pure silver ring. The ring was secured to a chain that was also made of silver.

"A good luck charm, to help you on your quest to becoming Hokage," spoke Elaine in response to Naruto's surprised look before she resumed walking away.

"Thank you, Elaine," thought Naruto to himself before he fastened the pendant around his neck.

Naruto didn't know it then, but after that moment everything changed. For everyone. But most of all, for himself…

Iruka lay wide awake in bed that night as he gazed upon the full moon through the glass dome of his ceiling. However, Iruka was gazing pass the moon to his memories of the events of the day. For some time he thought of the disappointed face of Naruto after he had literally robbed the boy of his dream again. Iruka wanted to pass Naruto very much, but he knew in his heart that the boy just wasn't ready yet and that to pass Naruto now would have meant lying to him. Finally Iruka's mind wandered to the conversation he had with the Hokage earlier that afternoon after the exam…

Iruka approached the Hokage's office and quietly steeled himself for the lecture that the Third was going to give him. As expected, upon entry, Iruka found the Hokage reviewing the examination results for the academy graduates. Not wanting to beat around the bush Iruka spoke first.

"You wanted to see me Hokage-sama?" asked Iruka.

The Hokage quietly rolled up the scroll he was reading and took a long drag on his pipe. After exhaling the sweet perfumed scent, Sarutobi spoke.

"I'll get right to the point here, Iruka. I have been watching your interaction with Naruto for some time now. Admittedly, I fully understand how you feel at this point. Naruto grew up without the love of a parent just as you have. The boy has been starved for attention for as long as I can remember. In a way, he's a mirror image of yourself, Iruka. Thus he had to pull those pranks to get everyone's attention. Whatever the form, he wanted someone to recognize the value of his existence. Although he acts tough, Naruto is the one who is having a difficult time," said Sarutobi solemnly.

Iruka mentally kicked himself, the conversation was about Naruto. Hearing the words of the Third roused a memory from last night. A promise Iruka had made to help the boy truly improve as a Shinobi. To say the least, the timing had been perfect.

"Hokage-sama…" begun Iruka only to be silenced by the Third raising a hand into the air.

"I know, Iruka. However, before we address that, pray allow me to continue."

Although it was a simple request, Iruka treated the words of the Sandaime as an order and so nodded his consent. The Third eased back slightly in his chair and pulled open a drawer to rummage in for a moment. His hand came back out with a small black book which he neatly set in front of himself before closing the drawer and grunting slightly as his aging bones creaked with his movement.

One ready, Sarutobi clasped his fingers together on his desk and proceeded to speak.

"I feel that I must tell you this Iruka since you're the only person who has seen Naruto's potential just as I have. I'm sure you recall, but the cause of Naruto's need for recognition is due to the attack of the demon fox that lives within him. Furthermore, because of the nature of the fox's role in that incident, he has been shun and hated for it," continued Sarutobi.

Iruka did remember, only too well the lost everyone suffered during that day. Iruka could still recall the terror he felt as he gazed upon the fearsome monster that threatened everything he cared about. More so than that, he could still remember the despair he felt after his parents were killed right before his eyes. They had died trying to protect both him and the village. Even now, twelve years later the terror he felt at remembering that monster was very great.

Figuring as much, the Third's expression became thoughtful.

"In the long run, it can indeed be said that Naruto's dream might be tough for him," surmised Sarutobi after a moment of thought.

"Oh? Why's that?" asked Iruka, triggering a nod from the Third.

"As you know, only the adults that fought twelve years ago know that a nine tailed demon fox is sealed in Naruto. I made that fact absolutely secret and severely punished those who broke the rule. Because of that, the children don't know about it. That is the only hope Naruto has really. The Fourth Hokage wanted everyone to see Naruto as a hero, a living prison for the beast that nearly destroyed us," explained Sarutobi.

Iruka nodded being well learned in the tale. However, a certain scrap of information puzzled the Chuunin.

"A hero?" asked Iruka in confusion. "What's so heroic about living with a beast like that inside you?" he wondered.

Sarutobi nodded in confirmation before continuing.

"It's amazing really, the Forth choose a baby that just had it umbilical cord cut off and sealed the fox within him. Naruto became the container for the nine-tailed fox, but the adults of the village do not see Naruto as I do. There are even a few who believe that Naruto is the nine-tailed fox himself. The attitude of these people are being passed down into the children."

"Poor Naruto, I never knew," realized Iruka sadly.

"That is why I know Naruto can trust you, Iruka. You who like myself have never viewed Naruto as the Lord of Demons. So that Naruto can benefit just as much as yourself from that trust, I shall grant your request."

At this, Sarutobi finally opened the black book to reveal pages of old parchment with the official Hokage seal pressed into the pages. Seizing a waiting quill from its' ink bottle, the Third carefully crafted a note with special instructions concerning Naruto. Folding it neatly, the Third handed the official document to Iruka.

"See to it that Naruto receives this note and delivers it to a certain person," Sarutobi instructed.

Iruka caught the meaning behind his elder's words and nodded.

"I shall. Thank you very much, Hokage-sama," appreciatively voiced the man before bowing and turning to leave the room.

Soon, the scarred instructor would be able to keep his promise…

Iruka was jolted from his memories by frantic knocking at the door of his hut.

"Iruka-sensei!" came an urgent shout.

Iruka quickly got out of bed and opened the door to find Mizuki standing outside with a worried look on his face.

"What is it?" Iruka asked Mizuki.

"Please come to Hokage-sama's place. It seems that Naruto-kun carried the scroll of sealing out," said Mizuki quickly in a single breath.

"WHAT, the scroll of sealing!?" echoed Iruka in disbelief. "Naruto is dense but not even he could be that stupid."

Not wanting to believe the worse, Iruka quickly got dressed in record time…

Naruto had just arrived at the designated hiding spot which turned out to be a small shack in the middle of Konoha's forest. Immediately he plopped down next to a tree and opened the large scroll that he had stolen from the Hokage's manor.

"Lets see, the first technique is…Multiple Shadow Replication," read Naruto to himself aloud after surveying the scroll for a few moments. "What, I'm not good a replications!" whined Naruto to no one in particular.

Nonetheless, Naruto determination to fulfill his mission was all the motivation he need to start practicing the technique…

Mizuki and Iruka arrived in the courtyard of the Hokage mansion to find a large crowd of angry ninjas gathered. The ninjas seemed to be arguing amongst themselves about what to do with Naruto. A few begun to complain to Sarutobi, who was silently listening to the exchange between the mob.

"Hokage-sama, we cannot let this slide by as just a prank!" shouted one of many ninjas gathered at Sarutobi's palace.

"The scroll of sealing is something dangerous that the first Hokage sealed! If it's used in a bad way it can cause trouble for us all!" warned another ninja.

"Imagine how much trouble it would be if he carried the scroll outside the village!" piped up a third.

"Indeed, bring Naruto here," instructed Sarutobi after a moment of thought.

"Yes sir!" Chorused the group of mad ninjas before splitting up to search for Naruto at amazing speeds.

Once they were gone, Sarutobi returned to his office in silence. Upon arrival, he begun to rummage through an old chest in search of his crystal ball. Soon after finding it, he took a seat at his desk and slowly poured his chakra into the shiny glass. The crystal begun displaying the location of every ninja he dispatched to look for Naruto. While convenient, the Hokage ignored these images and focused on one ninja in particular.

Iruka seemed to move faster than the rest in a desperate mad dash to find the blond kid.

"Where did you go Naruto?" thought Iruka to himself as he raced across the rooftops of the village…

Naruto had collapsed in exhaustion after two nonstop hours of practicing the forbidden Jutsu. Needless to say he was confident that he had gotten the technique down. Just as Naruto was thinking of moving on to the next technique he heard the footsteps of someone approaching him. Naruto glanced up in surprise upon seeing Iruka breathing heavily from running around so much.

"Hey, Naruto," said Iruka in his most dangerous voice.

Naruto could only grin sheepishly at being caught so soon. Placing a hand behind his head, Naruto begun to chuckle. Iruka, failing to see the humor in the situation, placed his fist on his hips as he waited for an explanation from the blond youth.

"Oh man, I got caught already and I only learned one technique," went Naruto while grinning lamely.

Iruka surveyed Naruto with a look of surprise and increased respect.

"Not only was he able to carry out a scroll protected heavily by the Hokage himself, but he practiced here until he was worn out?" thought Iruka with semi-amusement. "Your potential is simply astounding, Naruto."

"Hey Iruka-sensei, I'm going to show you a great technique, so let me graduate if I can do it! If I show you a technique from this scroll, I can graduate right?" questioned Naruto abruptly, breaking Iruka's train of thought.

The boy was practically bouncing with excitement but something was bothering Iruka.

"Who told you that?" asked Iruka.

"Mizuki-sensei! He told me about this place and this scroll!" replied Naruto excitedly while indicating the nearby cabin.

"Mizuki did this?" thought Iruka in disbelief.

Suddenly Iruka noticed motion in the corner of his eyes. Acting on instinct alone, Iruka knocked Naruto aside. Quickly he turned in the direction of the movement and braced himself for impact. The raining wave of kunai passed quickly but several of them pinned bits of Iruka's clothing to the cabin wall. However, the real damage came from a lone kunai that planted itself firmly in Iruka's right leg. Iruka winced in pain while cradling his injured leg with his free right hand.

"I'm surprised you found out about this place," came a familiar voice.

"I see, so that's how it is…Mizuki," growled Iruka as he gazed in the direction of the voice.

Naruto also looked in the direction Iruka was gazing in to find Mizuki standing in a tree. Mizuki still wore his warm smile, but it seemed much more menacing than he remembered. As if sensing Naruto stare, Mizuki turned his head in Naruto's direction.

"Naruto, hand over the scroll," he demanded.

"Hey, what's going on around here?" asked Naruto with confusion evident in his voice as his gaze wandered back and forth between Iruka and Mizuki.

Iruka didn't reply at first and he closed his eyes in concentration. Iruka's breathing slowly grew more rapid as he loosened the kunai logged in his leg. Soon he was gasping for breath as the pain in his leg intensified. Finally he opened his eyes and with a quick jerk, he freed the sharp tool from his limb and tossed it aside. Iruka continued to breath for a moment before finally speaking.

"Naruto, don't let him get the scroll no matter what. That's a dangerous scroll that has forbidden techniques. Mizuki used you so he could get a hold of it!" explained Iruka while never taking his eyes off of Mizuki.

Naruto immediately dropped into a fighting pose as he growled angrily at Mizuki.

"I can't believe he tricked me! I should've spotted it at once!" berated Naruto mentally to himself at his own stupidity.

Mizuki smirked at the thought of crushing an insignificant insect like Naruto and brushed off his intimating glare.

"Naruto, Iruka is afraid of you possessing that scroll," instigated Mizuki.

Naruto was still letting the fact that Mizuki had betrayed his trust sink in and he didn't immediately grasp what Mizuki was implying.

"What?" said Naruto in confusion as he glanced at Iruka as if hoping to see the truth reflected in his face.

"What are you saying, Mizuki?!" demanded Iruka as he rested his weight against the cabin wall.

Iruka glanced at Naruto before speaking with a definite note of desperation in his voice.

"Don't believe him, Naruto!" begged Iruka.

Mizuki laughed openly at Iruka's helplessness before speaking again.

"I'll tell you the truth," decided Mizuki with a hint of malice in his voice.

"DON'T!" screamed Iruka as he realized what Mizuki was going to do.

Mizuki ignored him and begun speaking directly to Naruto.

"A rule was created after the accident that occurred twelve years ago," Mizuki begun.

"A rule?" asked Naruto in confusion once again.

"That's right, it's a rule that only you, Naruto, cannot find out about," continued Mizuki.

"Only me? What's that rule?" asked Naruto curiously.

"STOP IT, MIZUKI!" screamed Iruka in one last desperate attempt to hide the truth from Naruto.

Like before, Mizuki ignored Iruka and begun grinning evilly.

"It's the rule not to say that Naruto is a monster fox."

Time seemed to stand still and an eerie silence greeted these words as soon as they left Mizuki's lips. Naruto's eyes became as wide as orbs and his body took on the weight of a new found burden. He desperately stared at Iruka as if willing him to deny the truth of Mizuki's words. But, he found Iruka's head was bowed in shame. Never before had Naruto ever felt so betrayed.

"Everyone knew?" Naruto asked Iruka sadly.

To Naruto's despair, Iruka gave the slightest of nods to his question.

"That's right, everyone knows that you are the nine tailed monster fox that killed Iruka's parents and destroyed our village. You've been deceived by the village people all this time. Didn't you think it was weird for everyone to hate you so much?" chimed in Mizuki with an air of one who had pulled off the crime of the century without getting caught.

Something wet rolled down Naruto's cheeks and realizing he was crying Naruto grew furious. Naruto's bluish chakra begun to swirl wildly around him in his anger.

"DAMN IT, DAMN IT, DAMN IT, DAMN IT!" screamed Naruto.

The suddenly display of chakra seemed to excite Mizuki and he begun taunting Naruto.

"No one's ever going to recognize you! Even Iruka hates you!"

Mizuki reached to his back and unfastened one of the large shuriken. Gripping the hand guard carefully, Mizuki begun to rotate the massive star while taking aim at the enraged blond.

"Die, Naruto!" yelled Mizuki before hurling the oversized shuriken at him.

Naruto fell on his butt in fright and tried to crawl away from the incoming projectile. But, he knew deep down that there was no chance of escape from the deadly windmill. Suddenly there was a flash of movement and Iruka appeared behind Naruto.

"Duck, Naruto!" demanded Iruka.

Not one to be told twice, Naruto did just that. There was a loud sound of metal piercing flesh and Naruto felt something warm and sticky land on his cheek. Naruto glanced behind him to find Iruka laying on top of him. The shuriken was buried in Iruka's back.

"Why?" was all Naruto could say as he gazed on in horror at the thin trickle of blood dripping from Iruka's mouth.

For a moment Iruka said nothing, then in a raspy voice Iruka begun to speak.

"Because you're the same as me. After my parents died, nobody ever complimented me or recognized me. Being the bad student that I was, I screwed up a lot during class because I wanted everyone's attention. I couldn't get anyone's attention when I was a good student. So I acted like an idiot," said Iruka sadly.

For the first time Naruto saw real tears touch his sensei's eyes. Genuine tears of sadness and sorrow steadily flowed down Iruka's cheeks and dripped upon Naruto's face as he opened his heart up to the boy.

"It was tough right, Naruto? You were lonely, right?" Iruka begun to openly cry in front of the subordinate he trusted the most. "I'm so sorry, Naruto. You didn't have to feel that way if I had been more aware."

Naruto too felt the coming of tears at the honesty of his teacher. However, Mizuki soon grew tired of the touching moment between the student and his sensei and attempted to make his presence known again. With a snicker Mizuki begun to speak.

"Don't make me laugh! Iruka has hated you since the day you killed his parents! He just wants to get that scroll back!" bellowed Mizuki.

Mizuki's words hit home and Naruto distrustfully gazed at Iruka as he considered the possibility. Immediately Naruto broke away from Iruka and took off running into the forest.

"NARUTO!!" screamed Iruka desperately at Naruto's retreating back.

Mizuki choose that moment to jump out of the tree he was standing in so that he could chase after the boy. But figuring he had a bit of time Mizuki decided to taunt Iruka some more.

"Naruto isn't the type to change his mind. I'm certain he's going to take revenge on this village with that scroll. You saw it in his eyes didn't you? The wrathful eyes of the monster fox."

Figuring he had gotten his point across, Mizuki turned to chase after Naruto. Before the blue haired fiend could take two steps however, Iruka pulled the massive shuriken from his back and spoke.

"Naruto won't do that," Iruka quietly said before hurling the giant star at Mizuki.

With the greatest of ease, Mizuki stepped out of the path of the slow moving projectile and glared at Iruka.

"As long as I kill Naruto and get the scroll, I'm okay. I'll take care of you later," promised Mizuki before he gave chase to the blond kid.

"I won't let you!" was Iruka's final thought before he too gave chase…

"This isn't good! Mizuki told him the secret," worded Sarutobi out loud to himself.

The Hokage had been carefully observing the events that had come to pass with keen interest. Needless to say, Sarutobi wasn't pleased with the way things were going.

"Naruto is more unstable than ever. He might release the power that has been sealed," mused Sarutobi to himself. "He also has the scroll of sealing. As long as he possesses it, the possibility that he will unseal himself and turn into the Nine-Tailed Fox is very great."

The old man tiredly rubbed his eyes in contemplation before coming to a decision.

"If that should happen, Naruto must be executed," thought the old man before he resumed watching the events unfold in his crystal ball…

"I found him."

"Naruto!" called Iruka to his retreating student.

The boy glanced over his shoulders to see Iruka chasing after him in the trees.

"What Mizuki said back there was all a lie! Hand over the scroll to me! Mizuki is after it!" screamed Iruka.

The boy stopped running but instead of giving Iruka the scroll, Naruto landed a powerful punch to Iruka's guts. Iruka cried out in both shock and pain before he lost his balance and fell off of the branch he was standing on. Iruka landed flat on is back as Naruto gently touched down a few feet away. Naruto was gasping for breath from all of the running he did and fell on his butt while cradling the oversized scroll.

Iruka weakly climbed to his feet from the blow before in a poof of smoke Iruka transformed into Mizuki.

"Naruto, how did you know I wasn't Iruka!" demanded the furious blue haired male.

Naruto merely laugh before he too went up in smoke.

"That's because I'm Iruka," said the real Iruka once the smoke cleared.

"I see," said Mizuki with new respect for his fellow ninja. "Tell me Iruka, what good is there in protecting the one who killed your parents?"

"I'm not going to let an idiot like you get that scroll," Iruka said instead of answering Mizuki's question.

"You're the idiot, Naruto is the same as me!" countered Mizuki.

"Same as you?" questioned Iruka in mild confusion.

"Correct, you see anything is possible with that scroll. There's no way that Naruto, the monster fox, won't use its powers," explained Mizuki.

"Yeah, you're right. If he was a monster fox," said Iruka with emphasis on the word if.

Mizuki raised his eyebrow in a quizzical fashion before Iruka continued.

"Naruto is different. He's an excellent student that I've always recognized," Iruka paused to smile as he remembered Naruto's good qualities. "He's earnest, hardworking, clumsy and no one has bothered to truly try to acknowledge him. Yet he also knows the pain of others. He's no monster fox, he is Uzumaki Naruto of Konoha! The future Hokage!"

Mizuki's expression was one of both pity and disbelief at what he was hearing but it soon turned to anger. Mizuki reached behind him to retrieve his last shuriken.

"What an idiot. You know Iruka, I said I would kill you later but I take that back. You can die now!" Mizuki yelled before charging at Iruka.

The distance was closing fast and Iruka slowly closed his eyes in preparation for his fate. Mizuki was practically smiling in victory before he spotted an orange blur out the corner of his eye. Unable to turn in time to defend himself, Mizuki was rewarded with a knee rammed into his chin. Mizuki flew back several feet, head first while the giant shuriken went flying into the treetops. Mizuki cried out in pain after he landed and Iruka opened his eyes at the sound.

"Naruto!" gasped Iruka in surprise.

"Damn you!" moaned Mizuki while rubbing his smarting chin.

Naruto stood to his full height and for once even Mizuki was a bit intimidated by the power the boy seemed to radiate.

"Don't lay a finger on Iruka-sensei, I'll kill you if you do!" growled Naruto savagely.

"He must have been listening to the conversation," realized Iruka. "Naruto, you've come to protect me." Iruka smiled in pride at his student.

Mizuki was still a bit unnerved but quickly started trash talking anyway, convinced that it had just been a lucky fluke.

"Talk while you can punk! I'll finish a kid like you in a flash!" Mizuki shook a fist at Naruto.

Naruto changed his stance and formed a cross using his index and middle fingers on both hands.

"Try jerk! I'll do a thousand times more damage back to you!" shot back Naruto.

"Why don't you try if you can you monster fox!" countered Mizuki heatedly.

"Kage-Bunshin no Jutsu!" yelled Naruto before several clouds of smoke appeared all around him.

When the smoke cleared, Mizuki and Iruka looked on in amazement to see the clearing filled with Narutos.

"Naruto, you've used the Shadow Replication?!" Iruka's amazed look turned into a thrilled smile.

To have learned such a high level technique on his own in just a matter of hours and to be able to use it on such an enormous scale utterly smashed any doubts that the kid had what it took to become a legend. Each of the copies were actual bodies fully capable of carrying out the inevitable action of kicking Mizuki's skinny arse to the moons!

Mizuki didn't know which way to turn. Everywhere he looked there was a Naruto. There must have been a least a hundred of them.

"What's the matter? Come and get me!" chorused all of the Narutos in unison.

After spinning around so much, Mizuki fell flat on his butt as he lost balance. He took on an expression of pure terror, when he realized he was completely outmatched. By the dead last of the class no less.

"If you're not coming, we're coming!" said some of the Narutos as they all started cracking their knuckles.

"Lord save me!" was Mizuki's last thought before the army of Narutos pounced.

In the darkest corner of Konoha's forest a sissy girl's scream could be heard…

Mizuki's face was a bloody pulp and several of his teeth were missing but other than that no severe damage had been inflicted. Still Naruto couldn't help but sheepishly grin while rubbing the back of his head.

"Maybe I hurt him too much!" said Naruto between laughter. "Iruka-sensei, are you alright?" asked Naruto after turning his full attention on his teacher.

"Yeah," replied Iruka.

Iruka could only smile proudly at his student.

"What a guy, he really might surpass all of the Hokages," thought Iruka with amusement.

Iruka groaned slightly as his back gave a painful throb, but his smile didn't waver.

"Naruto, come here for a second. I want to give you something," requested Iruka.

Curiously, Naruto stepped forward to see what Iruka wanted to give him. Mizuki unconscious form remained forgotten in the wake of the rising sun. Once Naruto got close enough Iruka spoke.

"Close your eyes, Naruto."

The mob of ninjas had returned to the Hokage mansion after an unsuccessful search of the village.

"Did anyone find Naruto?" asked one of the ninjas once everyone was present.

"No," replied several of the ninjas in defeat.

"Damn, this isn't good," complained another.

Suddenly a deep voice spoke over the crowd.

"There's no need to worry anymore," announced the Hokage, who arrived unnoticed in the square.

"Hokage-sama, what are you saying?" questioned one ninja in shock.

Sarutobi merely smiled at the question and gazed in the direction of the forest.

"He'll come home soon," was all the elderly man said…

"Sensei, are you done yet?" asked Naruto impatiently with his eyes shut.

"Alright, you can open your eyes now," replied Iruka.

Slowly Naruto opened his eyes and squinted in the light of the rising sun. Once his eyes adjusted, Naruto noticed that Iruka wasn't wearing his forehead protector. Also Naruto's goggles were grasped in Iruka's hand. Realization dawned on Naruto before Iruka spoke.

"Congratulations, you graduate," said Iruka with a smile.

Naruto's mouth opened in shock and for the longest he stood flabbergasted before Iruka.

"All right, let's celebrate. I'll treat you to some ramen," said Iruka before without warning an orange blur tackled him to the ground.

"Iruka-sensei!" cried Naruto happily.

"Ouch, that hurts, Naruto!" moaned Iruka after landing painfully on his back with Naruto hugging his waist.

Still Iruka smiled despise the pain and begun to playfully wrestle with Naruto. All the while Iruka's thoughts remained on what he wanted to say to his former student.

"Naruto, I was going to lecture you on how it gets harder from here on as a ninja, but I'll keep it until we get to the ramen shop."

Hey hey hoo everyone! This is your host and writer Aninene the Legendary Fox Demon speaking. I hoped you guys enjoyed my first attempt at writing a Naruto Fanfic. Hopefully the end results many many months from now when the story comes to an end will be worth every keystroke. I'll try my best to make this one of the best fics you guys have ever read. I'm also looking forward to all of the awesome reviews and seeing how my writing skills improve down the road.

For your convenience and my own personal fun, the development of Naruto and most characters will be displayed in a special ranking system as shown.

E Rank - Not Worth Mentioning

D Minus Rank - Amateur Genin Skill Level

D Rank - Mid-level Genin Skill Level

D Plus Rank - Elite Genin Skill Level

C Minus Rank - Novice Chuunin Skill Level

C Rank - Seasoned Chuunin Skill Level

C Plus Rank - Elite Chuunin Skill Level

B Minus Rank - Rookie Jounin Skill Level

B Rank - Advanced Jounin to ANBU Skill Level

B Plus Rank - Elite Jounin to ANBU Vice Captain Skill Level

A Minus Rank - ANBU Captain Skill Level

A Rank - Badass Shinobi

A Plus Rank - Extreme Badass

S Rank - Kage Level

Sub Levels U, OM and G Ranks - Ultimate Ninja

Simple enough, right? There will also be something I call a Focus Gauge but I'll explain that later. Okay, here's a quick question to help you guys get started with the reviews. How did I do with the introduction of two of my special characters? It was pretty tough coming up with a way to include them this early in the fic without throwing the original story off so I hope I did an ok job. Even now I'm already planning how I want to pull off chapter two. I can't wait to get started.

Now on to the disclaimer. I do not, have not and will not ever own any part of the anime Naruto. The only characters that are mine and mine alone are Domino Shishikura, Elaine Harime and a few others that I'll introduce later on. All Naruto characters and elements beyond that belong to Bandai and its creator.

See you guys in chapter two and don't forget to review! Ta ta now.

Very Important!! Copyright 2008 Aninene the Legendary Fox. This may be not be reproduced under any circumstances except for personal, private use. It may not be placed on any website outside of FanFiction or otherwise distributed publicly without advance written permission. Use of this fic on any other web site or as a part of any public display is strictly prohibited, and a violation of copyright. Plagiarism will not be tolerated!