Konohagakure was a peaceful village. Actually, it was one of the most peaceful, not to mention strongest, villages in the elemental countries. It thrived well with its international commerce; as well as rebounding from both the Third Great Shinobi War and the attack of the Nine-Tailed Demon Fox eleven years ago, showing a strong front for all the world to see. Their resolve showed their enemies that they would not be broken; not by a demon and certainly not by them. Konoha stopped the demon Kyubi, when the Yondamie (Fourth) Hokage sealed it into a newborn child at the cost of his life. His final wish was that the boy, his youngest son, was to be treated as a hero.
Sadly, that wish was never fulfilled and, because of the attacks on the child, the newly reinstated Sandamie (Third) Hokage created a law that stated that anyone who spoke of what happened thirteen years ago would be tried for treason of the highest level and executed. The worst part was that even the boys' own brother was unable to tell him of the demon within him and of his legacy.
That very boy was sitting atop the Hokage Monument watching the sunrise. The wind was softly waving his bright blond hair and orange jumpsuit. His bright cobalt blue eyes scanned the village that he loved so much, yet hated him in return. The boy was Uzumaki Naruto, and today was the Genin Graduation exam, which he was currently late for. That was the last thing on his mind as his glazed over eyes began to water and tears leaked. "I'll help you find the person," he said sniffling, wiping his eyes before finishing with a deep resolve. "I promise."
"Promise what?" a voice asked from behind the child.
Naruto yelled in surprise, jumping into the air and almost falling off the mountain side. Luckily the person grabbed him before he fell, and set him upright. The voice belonged to a man that looked to be in his mid-twenties. Like Naruto, he had bright blue eyes while a scar traveled diagonally down his left eye, meeting at his cheekbone. He was in normal Shinobi wear: loose black pants taped at the ankles, blue sandals adorning his feet, a gray long-sleeve shirt covered by his Flak Jacket and hitai-ate holding up his black hair. On his neck, just barely visible were four comma-like marks making a circle pattern. "Hello, little brother." The man chuckled at the still shocked boy in front of him.
"Kaje-nii-san? What are you doing here?" Naruto asked, confused.
"Well, I came to take you to your Genin exam."
"Oh, shit I'm late!" Naruto exclaimed running off towards the academy. In a puff of smoke Kaje was in front of him.
"I'll take you!" He smiled devilishly while tossing a three-pronged kunai towards the village academy and grabbing the clearly nervous boy.
"AH-no, I'm not tha-" Naruto never finished as they arrived in front of the Academy in an instant. Kaje was still standing, laughing while Naruto struggled to get off the ground. After a few seconds, he got up and ran into the school with a rushed 'Later!' over his shoulder.
"Uchiha Sasuke?" Umino Iruka called. The young teacher stood in front of a large class, occasionally checking off a clipboard in his hands. The man was quite unremarkable, despite his jagged scar across his nose, yet, at the same time, gave off a friendly and caring aura around him.
"Hn…" a raven-haired boy in a blue shirt and white khakis replied as usual, his charcoal black eyes never leaving the window.
"Uzumaki Naruto?" Instantly, the door burst open and Naruto fell in. "You're late Naruto." Iruka sighed, though with a tone that suggested that this type of thing was normal.
"Ha-ha, sorry Iruka-sensei. I lost track of time, so Nii-san had to come get me…" He smiled widely, scratching the back of his head.
"Okay, well, take a seat while I explain the final part of the test." Naruto did so, climbing up the center aisle before sitting next to a pale, lavender-eyed girl named Hyuga Hinata. As he sat, the girl turned a shade of red that would make an apple jealous and began to tap her fingers together, all the while trying to burrow deeper into her beige jacket. 'Still looks cute when she does that...' Naruto thought, with a small smile; though he kept pretending not to notice, keeping his eyes mostly at the teacher giving out directions. His eyes then wandered to his 'crush,' Haruno Sakura; a girl with shockingly pink hair and clothing to match. He waved excitedly at her while whispering her name. As usual, she rolled her green eyes and, like most of the girls in the classroom, looked towards Sasuke with adoration in her eyes.
"The final test is simple," Iruka finally stated, catching everyone's attention. "When Mizuki-sensei or I call you into the other room, you will create three simple clones. How well you do on this portion of the test will be averaged into your scores over the last two days. Good luck!"
'Damn-it, I'm screwed…' Naruto thought, slamming his head onto the desk as the first person (one Aburame Shino) walked into the room, then come out shortly after with a Konoha Hitai-ate tied to his head. Naruto's chakra control had always sucked for some reason; reason being a very large fox trapped inside his body, and while the replacement and transformation jutsu were not a problem for him; the clone jutsu had eluded his grasp for quite some time. In fact, it was the reason that this would be Naruto's third attempt at the graduation test.
One by one, students went in and came out with hitai-ate a few minutes later until finally: "Uzumaki Naruto." Iruka called. Naruto got up and walked into the room with a deep breath. Upon entering the young man saw Mizuki and Iruka sitting at the table in the middle of the room. He smiled at the two before stepping in front of the table. This was his last shot at this. One more failure and he would have to be dropped from the shinobi program and live life as a civilian…'No pressure' he told himself mockingly.
"Okay Naruto, make three clones and you pass." Mizuki said with a smile.
"Right! I got this!" Naruto yelled, putting his hand into the ram seal, and began to channel chakra.
'Too much…' both teachers thought as large a puff of smoke filled the area. When it cleared, there stood Naruto and…a dead looking Naruto. In fact, it looked like a crash test dummy form of him: pale and limbs flailing around the floor. Naruto's heart quickly sank into his stomach.
"I'm sorry Naruto, but you fail." Iruka sighed sadly, looking at the forlorn boy.
"He did manage to make a clone Iruka." Mizuki said, smiling.
"He failed to make three, and the one he did make looks dead." Iruka said. "A mistake like that could cost him or his comrades their life. I'm sorry…" The boy nodded sadly, and slowly crept out the door.
Outside a few hours later, students were greeted by their parents and congratulated.
"Look Ma, I passed!"
"I know someone who's getting their favorite dinner."
"I'm a man like you dad, right?"
"That's right kiddo!"
Naruto sat on alone swing away from everyone else watching them with sad eyes. 'What now…' he thought, glaring at the happy families. What made them so damn special? 'No…I shouldn't be like that…it's no fault but my own…I shouldn't have-'
"He just wants you to do well, you know?" Mizuki said, appearing next to him and cutting the boy out of his musings. The man sighed looking down at his student. It was quite a shock to see the normally happy child reduced to this forlorn figure.
"I know…" Naruto sighed. "Still, it feels bad that I tried so hard but still failed." He scowled a bit. "I don't have any other idea what to do…I took the exam too many times. Since I failed, I have to enlist as a civilian." He shuddered, thinking of the field day they were going to have now that he wouldn't be protected as a shinobi. While the villagers had ceased their yearly, sometimes weekly, mob attacks, the glares and barring from most shops stung like a bitch.
"I'm really not supposed to tell you this, but there is another way you can pass." Mizuki said, smiling. "But it'll be hard."
"Whatever it is, I'll do it!" They boy yelled excitedly.
"Good, follow me…" Mizuki said, leaping away, Naruto not far behind.
Later that night, Iruka was lying on his bed thinking of what Sandaime Hokage had said to him as they watched the new graduates with their families, as well as Naurto from the corner of their eyes. "He had to go through much of the same hardships as you." Sarutobi sighed. "His brother isn't around all that much, being ANBU captain in replace of Kakashi, as well as the council barring the man from any type of familial contact, so you're the closest thing to a family that boy has." Iruka was pulled out of his thoughts as a knock sounded at the door. As he opened it, he saw Mizuki with a worried expression. "Mizuki, what's wrong?"
Kaje leapt fast on the rooftops. He had a feeling that something bad was happening, and it involved Naruto. The Hokage had called many on-duty shinobi to search the village, and in passing he had heard mention of his brother, something that didn't bode well in his mind. As he was nearing the forest, he saw a small, slim figure appear next to him. "Hyuga Hinata," Kaje smiled. "What are you doing? I didn't expect you to be the kind of person to jump into action so fast."
"Ano…I heard that Naruto-kun is in trouble…and I-I want to help." The timid girl stuttered. "They seemed pretty a-angry with him…" Her voice was soft and slightly trembling, but not too obscured.
"Well, that's good of you. I'm sure he'd appreciate that." Suddenly, he felt a large amount of killing intent peak throughout the village. 'Looks like the others are getting restless…'
"Kaje-sama." Hinata said. "Ano...why are they so angry? Naruto-kun wouldn't do anything too bad…"
"I can't say." He sighed. "I'll lead them the wrong way, you continue to the forest, head to the old shack in the center. He should be there!" In a blink, he was gone.
"Demo…" 'What if I can't find him…NO! I have to try…' a small blush formed on her face. 'For Naruto-kun…'
Iruka landed in a small clearing next to an old wooden shack, panting heavily. He saw Naruto bent over breathing heavily as well. They young ninja in training looked up at Iruka and smiled like a kid who had been caught with their hand in the cookie jar. "Hey Iruka-sensei, you found me." He smiled, scratching the back of his head. "Darn and I only mastered one technique. I can't wait to show you it, and then I get to pass, right?"
"Who told you that, Naruto?" Iruka asked, clearly shocked.
"Mizuki-sensei," Iruka's eyes widened. "He told me about the scroll and this pl-" he could not finish as Iruka pushed him out of the way of the four kunai that pinned his teacher to the wall of the shack. Naruto quickly looked up towards the attacker.
Hinata landed in the bushes just in time to see her teacher being pinned to a wall of the shack where Kaje-sama said her crush would be. "Damn," the kunoichi heard a voice say. "I had it all planned out so well, too." She looked up to see Mizuki standing on a branch near her with two large shuriken on his back, his expression shifted from one of disappointment to pleased with what was in front of him. "Naruto, give me the scroll and you pass."
"Naruto, don't give it to him!" Iruka wheezed, pulling one of the kunai from his shoulder. "He tricked you just to get the scroll! That our village's most prized scroll; it has our most dangerous techniques inside it."
"You did what!" the whiskered boy growled at the silver haired instructor while the unseen lavender eyed girl narrowed her eyes.
"He's right about that…" The silver haired chunin said with a slight chuckle. "Hey…Naruto…Do you even know why the villagers hate you so much?" He asked, with a malicious smile appearing on his face.
"WH-what are you…" the man's' smile deepened as he stealthily reached for the large shuriken on his back. Before the boy could react, Mizuki threw it at Naruto. Shocked by the sudden attack, the boy crouched and closed his eyes in fear, waiting for the end.
"No, Naruto!" Two voices yelled. The sound of metal hitting flesh was heard and when Naruto looked up, Iruka was leaning over him, the shuriken in his back. Looking past his scarred and injured teacher, he saw Hinata in front of both of them in the standard Hyuga fighting stance, her Byakugan activated.
"You won't touch Naruto-kun." She said bravely, her voice more threatening than even she imagined it could be. 'I won't let him hurt Naruto-kun or Iruka-sensei any longer!'
"Iruka-sensei…Hinata…" Naruto whispered.
"Heh…you won't be saying that when I tell you about the law." Mizuki smirked.
"What law?" she growled carefully watching for any sudden movements.
"How nobody, not even that idiot brother of his, is to speak of Naruto," He grinned. "Or more specifically," He ran at her, at speeds she couldn't quite follow. "What's inside of him!" he kicked the girl in the head, sending her sprawling into a tree, while Iruka pushed Naruto away from the group in case of a consecutive attack. Mizuki looked directly at Naruto with hate in his eyes. "You have the Kyubi sealed inside of you-NO! You ARE the Nine-Tailed Fox!"
Two sets of eyes widened. Iruka slumped to the side of Naruto, shuriken removed and on the ground, and looked at Naruto, then to Hinata. Her reaction surprised him, not that she was scared, but angry and glaring at Mizuki. Even as she struggled to get up and help her friend. The teacher turned to look at Naruto who had his head down and shoulders slightly shaking.
The other shuriken was thrown at Iruka, and then suddenly spun off into the woods, knocked away by Naruto who suddenly appeared in front of his teacher, kunai drawn. 'I didn't see him move!' the three thought. Laughter resounded throughout the forest. It wasn't a cackle, nor was it the laughter of an insane man, but laughter of someone who had just been told a secret that he had known for a while. Naruto lifted his head, glaring at the traitor, eyes as cold as steel, while an intelligence not seen before sprung forth. "Tell me something I don't already know."
"WHAT!" Said traitor gasped.
"And if you try and touch my friends again…" Naruto snarled, glaring up at the traitor with hooded eyes. "I will kill you!"
"Ha! What can you possibly do? I'll kill you before you even move!"
Naruto continued to glare at his former teacher, making a cross with his fingers. "Kage Bunshin no Jutsu!" Instantly, thousands of Narutos, each with a large fox-like grin, filled the area around Mizuki and the others. "If I'm a demon as you say, then you should be scared."
Hinata activated her Byakugan and gaped. "They're a-all solid," she whispered in awe. 'So m-many Naruto-kun's…' she thought blushing as she moved to assist Iruka.
"What's the matter Mizuki-sensei" One of the Naruto's mocked.
"Thought you were going to kill me?" Another said.
"If you won't attack, we will!"
"NO!" Mizuki howled as the clones closed in on him. His girlish screams could be heard throughout the nighttime air.
"Kaje," Sarutobi sighed as he closed the connection of his crystal-viewing ball. "Tell me why I shouldn't execute you right now for breaking my law to the young Hyuga heiress."
"Technically I did no such thing." The man said. "I just…pushed her in the right direction. What she heard from there was out of my hands." He smiled, glancing up from his kneeling position. "Besides, Naruto needs a friend and I think she'll be good for him. Make him come out a little more."
"Be that as it may, you will be punished for your manipulations." The old man said narrowing his eyes at the young man in front of him.. "I think a mission outside the village-undercover- is in order." the man continued, taking a small amount of pleasure as he watched the young man's smile fall. "Now I believe it's time you retrieve your brother and his friends. We…I have a lot of explaining to do." He sighed slumping into his cushy chair.
"Yes, sir!" Kaje replied before disappearing in a puff of smoke.
The Sandamie Hokage sighed once more, massaging the headache that was already forming. Leaning back into his chair, he let out a puff of smoke from his pipe. "This is going to be a long night…"
Man it is good to be back! After two plus years of no updates (frankly, life caught me by surprise) I feel like I needed to get back to doing something that I enjoyed doing. A big thank you to my beta Ohiogal593 for all her help and suggestions. I doubt this story would be half as good without her.
Reviews, comments, questions and flames are MORE than welcome!