Disclaimer: I don't own the Naruto franchise. I don't claim ownership of the Naruto franchise and I'm making no profit off this fanfiction work.

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Summary: AU. Naruto is able, driven and a true ninja genius. What will he accomplish? What will he fail to accomplish? An intelligent, genjutsu wielding, quasi-super-but-try-it, leader Naruto epic. Features strategic maneuverings, realistic combat and subterfuge. Naruto/?(Guess)

Characters and Romances: I have a weakness for unconventional characters so expect people like Tayuya, Yuugao and Anko to play interesting roles. On the romance front, my two goals are to keep relationships relevant to the story and to make them dynamic, complex and somewhat realistic. I'll try to avoid the deadly pitfalls of "true love" as much as possible. And please be aware that I have no problem with breaking up a relationship to advance the plot. There's a reason why I'm not listing a primary love interest for Naruto.

There will be some OOC and AU elements in this story. While Naruto is powerful, I hope to bring about his distinction by making him more intuitive and intelligent rather than just physically stronger. This story is also inspired by the works of Orson Scott Card, mainly Ender's Game and Ender's Shadow.

General Warning: This story contains serious, solemn, dark and potentially disturbing themes. Be prepared for adult innuendo, lots of backstabbing and un-heroic character deaths. I'm giving everyone fair warning now.

Editors: I want to thank all my editors, past and present, for their assistance. Their dedication help make "Genius of Konoha" what it is. Readers who enjoy this story should reserve some praise for these behind-the-scenes folks.

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Genius of Konoha

By Mrriddler

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Chapter 1: Catalyst

"The little brat should be waking up soon, Hokage-sama."

The old man briefly gave the attending doctor the evil eye. Sighing, he dismissed the seasoned medic-nin. Turning back to the hospital ward, the village leader was surprised to see the young child's face break into a small smirk as the other man left.

"Aw, old man, he wasn't that bad. He actually bothered to visit, unlike the other doctors."

The Hokage sighed once again. "I'm sorry, Naruto. The nursing staff was supposed to take turns looking after you."

Naruto's shining blue eyes dimmed slightly; his smile seeming a little forced. "It's ok, you know. I guess silence is better than insults. Do you think I should stop my pranks?"

The elderly Sarutobi found himself at a loss. What could he say? "Yes" would be a lie, but could he just answer "no?" He was especially unnerved when the boy's blue orbs seemed to pierce him for a brief moment with the intensity of an experienced shinobi, as if searching for something.

Then it was gone.

"Nah, I'm not going to give up that easily." The spunky little blond boy grinned, his exuberance back in full force.

"Great, then you can go now. The hospital has cleared you and I'm afraid I have to get back to work."

"Aw…" Naruto pouted, making adorable puppy dog eyes. The most powerful man in the village felt his defenses crumble.

"I have some ramen stocked in my office. Why don't you come with me and we'll talk while you eat?"

Naruto's response was enthusiastic: He jumped up, screamed "Yatta!" and proceeded to drag the Hokage back to work. It was a most amusing sight to the Hokage's trusted bodyguards, but most of the people on the street were, naturally, less impressed.

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The rambunctious little blond inhaled his noodles happily, seemingly oblivious to the world around him.

"Hokage-sama. The mission was successful. Here is the data you asked for."

Naruto paused in the middle of his meal to take in the appearance of the third person in the Hokage's office. His eyes widened when he saw the special mask that person was wearing.

"Thank you, Itachi. You have done very well."

The young man only nodded in acknowledgement.

"Excuse me, Itachi-san, but are you a ninja?" Naruto asked.

Itachi turned around in surprise to meet the child's curious gaze.

Sarutobi hid a smile. Who knew the loud-mouthed brat could be so sneaky? The Hokage once thought it was simply because he was careless. Then, he started receiving reports of how the pre-academy age boy managed to elude elite ANBU teams for hours at a time. The boy sure was something else.

"At ease, Itachi. This is Uzumaki Naruto."

"Ah, yes, Uzumaki. I've heard of you."

Naruto's eyes dulled a bit. Experience had taught him to be wary of people who knew about him before even meeting him.

"The ANBU squads are still talking about your exploits," Itachi stated in a neutral voice. This seemed to ease the young blond's mind as he bounced up and down in excitement.

The most recent Naruto chase was perhaps one of the highlights of his young life. A pint-sized child leading over a dozen shinobi on a two-hour long wild goose chase across Konoha was a rare sight to behold. In addition, the blond boy had managed to skillfully pit his pursuers against each other when they tried to corner him.

"I was told that you modified a water technique to cover an entire city block with mist. I wonder where you learned that?" The ANBU captain looked genuinely intrigued.

The technique itself was fairly simple, but it was not native to Konoha. Also, normal mist techniques were notoriously easy to dispel, which was why genjutsu specialists and others schooled in stealth, concealment or evasion almost never used them. Yet, those in the chase reported that it took them almost five minutes to get rid of Naruto's unusual mist. So how did such a small boy know it and put it to such effective use?

In response, Naruto scratched the back of his head, suddenly looking bashful.

"I… uhm… I saw this guy being chased a few months ago and saw him do that cool technique. I was close enough to see it so I tried to learn it myself."

That made sense. There was a Kumo shinobi who was chased and apprehended by ANBU for espionage a while back.

"I didn't remember exactly how he did it, so I tried it out. I'm sorry. It was an accident. I didn't mean to hurt anyone." The little child looked up with tearful eyes.

The Hokage moved quickly to placate the boy. "No one's mad at you, Naruto. It was just very impressive, wasn't it Itachi?"

"Indeed. An accident, you say?"

Naruto nodded innocently. Both Itachi and the Hokage just stared. One simply did not modify a technique to be a hundred times more effective than the original by accident.

"That was still very good. You are certainly an interesting child, Naruto," Itachi remarked.

"Ah-huh. I want to be a strong ninja just like you. I trained all day today. Until I got hurt, that is."

The Hokage nodded in thought. 'So that was what he was doing.'

The normally stoic Uchiha allowed a small and very brief chuckle. To the surprise of both people in the room, he removed his mask, revealing the famous Sharingan eyes, and bestowed upon the blond a bemused smile.

"Keep training, Uzumaki-san. Maybe one day you can be. By your leave, Hokage-sama?"

The Hokage nodded as the renowned ANBU member left.

"I'm going to be just like Itachi-san and join ANBU one day." The blond boy firmly stated.

"My boy, Konoha ANBU include some of the very best shinobi in the village. It functions as our primary line of defense in times of emergency."

"Then I'll be the very best! Even better than Itachi!" The force and conviction in Naruto's voice surprised Sarutobi.

"You won't be if you keep hurting yourself. What did I say about training alone? The doctor said you most likely fell from at least three stories up. What were you doing, Naruto?"

"I saw some guy teaching some kids to climb up trees so I tried it myself. What else can I do, old man? It's not like anyone else will help me." The boy sulked as he crossed his arms in front of his chest.

Sarutobi sighed, not for the first time. The young blond wasn't entirely correct. There were skilled shinobi willing to aid the neglected boy. Unfortunately, they were all providing other vital services to the village. It would be impossible and extremely improper for them to take on another student.

In the end, the distance between Itachi and Naruto would not be defined by their abilities, but by the tools made available to them. Itachi had the resources of the mighty Uchiha clan behind him; Naruto had nothing but the barely concealed contempt of the village. Sarutobi felt distressed at not being able to do anything about it.

"What about your friends? You were so happy last week." The Hokage almost kicked himself for asking as Naruto's face fell.

"I… they… well, they don't like me anymore, I guess," Naruto mumbled, sounding distinctly unsure. If there was one thing Naruto was not, it was being unsure.

Sarutobi looked at him in shock, not knowing what to say. A profound sadness filled the elderly leader. It was one thing for the adults who had suffered under the Kyuubi to treat the boy with open hostility, no matter how unfair it was. But to have that malice passed on to the children…

"Whatever. Thanks for the ramen. I'll be off then," Naruto stated as he sprang to his feet. The boy seemed to have recovered his energy despite losing his enthusiasm.

"Naruto, wait!" Sarutobi knew what he was going to do was highly unusual, but he simply couldn't condone the wasting away of this talented child.

"These are instruction manuals for some basic ninja techniques that academy students and genin first learn. One of them has information on the tree climbing exercise you attempted. I know you sometimes sneak into the ninja archives to look for information." The Hokage had been impressed that the young boy managed to move around the secure facility undetected.

Naruto looked shocked at the revelation before becoming embarrassed.

"It's ok. I'll see if I can get you normal access to those archives. I can't stop you from training, and these aren't perfect substitutes for actual practice. However, I think they'll help you. If you have any questions or want someone to look over what you have done, please feel free to come to me, Naruto."

Naruto seemed to beam at the man's sincerity.

"Sure thing, old man! Don't worry, I'll be the greatest ninja and become Hokage one day!"

Sarutobi laughed. "Oh? And what of your promise to surpass Itachi-san?"

Naruto thought about the puzzle for a moment before smiling, "I'll take Itachi's job first and then take your job, old man!" Satisfied with his brilliant plan, the blond boy scurried out of the Hokage's presence wearing a stupid grin.

The Hokage couldn't stop smiling the rest of the day.

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Behind the closed doors of his apartment, Naruto pored over the scrolls, starting with the one on tree climbing. Apparently it was a chakra control training exercise, which was exactly what he needed. His chakra control was nothing if not atrocious.

'Thanks to that damn fox…' Naruto cursed once more. The demon fox's more potent energies wreaked such havoc with his budding chakra pathways that it was difficult learning any kind of control. Since making that discovery one fateful night, he had often wondered why he had been thus cursed. The sarcastic responses courtesy of one particular demon did not help.

'Stop your whining, you miserable mortal.'

Naruto cursed the bastard leech once again. There was no love lost between them and it was a miracle that they had reached any agreement. Then again, they had no choice. The two could not be separated without risking the deaths of both host and parasite.

Upon that discovery, the Kyuubi had raged for hours before disappearing from Naruto's mindscape for weeks. When the creature finally returned, it was far more docile – not subservient, but at least not trying to mentally break him for its own twisted amusement. Clearly, the demon had no interest in a brain dead vessel.

Still, Naruto did not understand why the fox was adamant about keeping all this secrecy.

'Are you that stupid? What do you think the beloved citizens of this village would do to you, to us, if you revealed me to them?'

'I am not you, you fucking bastard.' Naruto could feel the fox demon's demented laughter.

'Have you learnt nothing? It doesn't matter what you are or are not. It matters what they think you are. And you know what they think you are already.'

Naruto frowned. It had been hard at first. His young mind refused to believe anything the foul beast said. In a perhaps brilliant gamble, the Kyuubi did not push the issue but instead allowed him to think it through. How he hated his tormentor's words:

'When you have thought everything through, you will understand why things are the way they are. Why no one wants to be with you. Why you are alone. Why the Hokage alone bestows some semblance of kindness upon you.'

He hated how true its assessment ended up being.

'Is Itachi supposed to be another weapon? An older model?' He mused. Naruto did not believe that a weapon was all he was supposed to be, though he had come to believe that it would be a component of what he would have to be. Surely, he could not lead a peaceful civilian life. Naruto was also rather pleased with how well he played the wide-eyed youth card.

Dark laughter greeted him.

'A weapon of the Uchiha clan? Maybe. That's a disaster waiting to happen. Remember my warning: Loyalties are always conditional. Your esteemed Hokage's kindness extends only so far as the safety of the village is ensured. If he thinks that I have taken you over even briefly…'

'Then my life is forfeit.' Naruto could sense the demon nodding its gigantic head.

'I don't understand why you even bother with this village. If it was me, I would have–'

'–burned it down with everyone in it. Yes, I know. You've told me a million times. As for why… I don't know… maybe because, despite everything, it's still my home.' Naruto answered with surprising maturity. It was clear that he had thought about it for some time, though he didn't know why he was saying it to the Kyuubi. In the past, he'd always just shrugged the question off. Maybe it was because, for whatever reasons, he felt he owed it to the bastard trapped within him for the rest of his and its life.

'People like those friends of yours?'

Damn that bastard! That hurt. That really hurt. The Kyuubi seemed to realize as well as it suddenly became unusually silent. For a moment, Naruto wondered if it was actually thinking of apologizing. But nope – it was a demon after all.

'Do whatever you want. Just don't get yourself killed while I'm resting.' The demon hissed before disappearing back into its domain, most likely not to be seen in a long while. Whenever the Kyuubi came out, it took weeks if not months for it to recover, which made Naruto wonder why it bothered. Was it lonely being cooped up in there by itself?

Naruto snorted. Whatever sympathy he might have had for the trapped demon was destroyed by its malicious assault. His mind unconsciously drifted to thoughts of losing his latest friends, which quickly killed what was left of his good mood. This was not the first time and it certainly would not be the last. He had even come to expect it after learning about the Kyuubi, but that did not make it any easier.

A ninja passage floated to the top of his mind. 'Of all the interactions shinobi may make, friendships prove to be the most volatile and the most dangerous. Only a friend can stab a true shinobi in the back, and not even the greatest of our kind is able to defend against such an attack.'

The problem ultimately wasn't his friends or even their parents. Naruto had seen several adults that had been pleased to watch their children play with "the nice boy." No, the problem was the other children. While Naruto was able to disregard the constant stares, whispers and sniping from the shadows, his young friends couldn't. In retrospect, the end result shouldn't have been very surprising. He had long observed and recognized the power of peer pressure. Still, he wished those relationships could have ended on better terms.

"Nothing to do about that. Now to see what I should do for this tree climbing exercise."

The blond boy really did not like to read, preferring instead the hands-on approach. At the same time, he was reasonable and fairly intelligent. Having tried the latter method and found it lacking, it seemed logical for him to try the former. He just hoped he wouldn't fall asleep again.

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AN: So, what do you think? Be gentle with me. It's my first time with Naruto fiction.

Please be sure to review. Thanks.