Author's Corner: This is probably something that I've wanted to do the longest. Even before I had seen Naruto I had a story something like this going around in my head, but I could never get it to stick to any group of characters. First of all, I will say that I think that Sasuke, Sai, Neji, Gaara, and Naruto would make a really interesting group of friends. Second, I think that Sakura was actually a good character once she grew up a little. Third, I actually really like Hinata. Finally, I think that Haku and Kimimaru really deserve a whole lot better then they got. So they are the main characters of this story.

Pairings: Naruto/Hinata Sasuke/Sakura Sai/Ino Gaara/Matsuri, others are up for voting.

Warnings: Blood, violence, alcoholic references, gambling, and many things that will contradict the manga, however, I will do what I can to make such things believable.

Disclaimer: Pryotra has no connection with the anime or manga 'Naruto' or any of its characters.

Of all the thirty-six alternatives, running away is best.

-Chinese Proverb

Hyuuga Compound: 10:34 PM

Hyuuga Hinata stood in horror as she watched her cousin stand in front of the elders. It seemed like the entire Hyuuga Head Family was there to see his punishment. For the six year old girl, the whole thing was overwhelming. She remembered the first time she saw the Cage Bird Seal activate when she was three. It had frightened her so much that sometimes, she would still have nightmares about it.

It wasn't like Neji had really done anything wrong, Hinata found herself thinking, he had only forgotten to address her as Hinata-sama. But it seemed that the elders would take any excuse to remind the Branch Family of what the Head Family was capable of.

Neji stood defiantly in front of the elders, headed by Hyuuga Hiashi, Hinata's father. His white eyes displayed only one emotion: hatred.

"You know the punishment for insubordination," Hiashi was saying coldly, "and you have seen if before."

Hinata's stomach clenched.

Neji's eyes found Hinata's and held them. She could feel the malice in his gaze, yet for some reason, she wasn't able to return it. Her father would have told her she was weak, he would have been angry that she looked at him with sadness, but it was impossible for her not to. Neji was the closest thing Hinata had to a brother, and strangely enough, he was the only one who truly understood the emotions she felt. That was why she couldn't hate him. Because he had felt the hopeless, frustrated anger that she had all her life. The anger that sometimes reduced Hinata to tears when she was alone after a training session had gone badly.

He was probably the only one who had known her feelings when she had been shuffled aside in favor of Hanabi, who now stood at her father's side with an unreadable face.

She looked sadly at Neji, wishing that she wasn't such a failure.

Maybe if she was strong, like she was supposed to be, she could stop this madness.

"Have you anything to say before the seal activates?" Hiashi asked.

"I have nothing to say to you, murderer!" Neji spat.

Hiashi's eyes narrowed, and Neji crumpled to the ground screaming and twitching.

Hinata felt bile rising in her throat. This was just like the time when she was three, and she had watched Neji's father writhing on the ground in pain. She felt hot tears coming to her eyes as she watched. Hinata didn't have to look around to know that the looks on the others faces were cold, hard, and completely uncaring. Her hands clenched into fists and she turned her head away.

Hinata knew she was weak, and she knew that she should feel satisfaction that her cousin was getting punished for his insubordination. She knew that Hanabi would never have felt the way that she did, and her father would look down on her further if she tried to stop him. She was too weak to be a true member of the Head Family. She remained unbranded simply because she would be more useless as a Branch Family member. She would be too weak to accept that way of life anymore then the one she had been born into.

But was it so bad to be weak?

The through sprang up in Hinata's mind before she could repress it. Was it so bad to be compassionate? Was it so wrong to be kind?

"No," Hinata whispered, so quietly that no one heard it, "I can't believe it is."

She remembered when, before he father had given up on her, she had been asked a question in her training.

"What would you do with power?"

Hinata had been unable to answer that question, but Hanabi, who had been there at the time, had piped up that she would crush everyone who was her enemy. Her father had seemed pleased with the younger sibling's remark, and angry at his oldest daughter's thoughtful silence.

"What would you do with power?"

Now the question had come back to her. Before, Hinata hadn't known what to think. She hadn't been aloud to have her own opinions, but she had never been able to simply parrot her father's thoughts. All she had felt was confusion and a frustrated feeling that churned in her stomach. Now, the words seemed to have more weight then they had even had then.

As she looked at her cousin, who was starting to twitch slightly, her answer came.

I would stop this. I would change the Hyuuga clan. I would help people who needed it.

The world stopped.

Hinata felt a gentle warmth in her eyes and closed them for a moment. When she opened them, the whole room looked different. She had activated the Byakugen before, and this was similar, but something about it was completely different. Hinata could not only see the Chakra system of her family as well as nearly everything around her, she could see a stream of Chakra that her father was forcing into Neji's seal as well as the Chakra that it was forcing itself into his brain. She could also see that the seal was only a physical sign of where an invisible layer of Chakra remained.

It was strange how she hadn't seen that before.

Hinata wasn't even thinking as she walked forwards. She didn't even notice the looks of surprise and shock that she was receiving from her family.

Hinata felt almost like she was watching other person as she calmly touched the stream of Chakra. At her touch, the Charka dispersed, and Neji stopped twitching. Hinata turned to her cousin and knelt down in front of him. Carefully, she traced the seal on his forehead with her finger. As she touched it, the seal vanished, and the layer of Chakra began to disappear as well.

"What are you doing?" Hiashi Hyuuga's voice seemed weaker then before.

Hinata looked up at her father, not really understanding why he was looking at her with such shock and…fear.

"H-healing him," Hinata said, "The seal is bad. It's killing him,"

"What did you do!" one of the Hyuuga cried out.

"I-I took it off," Hinata said, "I don't want to see him hurt anymore."

The silence in the room was complete until Hiashi stepped forward.

"You are not my daughter," he spat, "You have not only created a perversion of the families Byakugen, but you have broken our most sacred tradition. You're fortunate I don't kill you where you stand, but I see that you are too weak to be a threat. Get out of my sight. Since you care so much for the boy, he shall accompany you in banishment. I have no use for a coward who cannot understand his position. You are both forbidden to bare the name Hyuuga, and should I or anyone see you near the Hyuuga complex, we will kill you. You have until midnight to gather to leave."

Hinata stood trembling at the words of the man who had been her father. Tears sprang into her eyes as her sight returned to normal. She sat there, in shock while the rest of her former family left one by one, occasionally casting glances her way.

A touch at her elbow brought Hinata back to her senses. She looked around to see Neji, awake, shockingly, and looking at her with an emotion that she didn't recognize.

"Why?" was all he said, but his voice lacked the usual hatred.

"I-I couldn't stand to see it anymore…" Hinata mumbled, "I-I wanted to stop it. I-I…"

Neji shakily stood up and helped Hinata stand.

It was the beginning of a new world.

Uchiha District 10:39 PM

Uchiha Sasuke was not a happy boy. It wasn't fair that everything thing he did was either ignored or belittled or told some story about something Itachi had done when he was Sasuke's age.

It wasn't that he hated his older brother. It was impossible to hate the one person who acknowledged his existence, but he was so tired of having to compete with him. His mother and father barely seemed to know that they had another son. Every conversation was about Itachi. Itachi's missions, Itachi's successes, Itachi, Itachi, Itachi.

Sasuke sat on his bed and listened to the mumbles of the conversation from down the hall. His parents had given him something to eat early and sent him to his room while they entertained their guests. Sasuke was old enough to sit with company. Itachi had been shown off to guests since he had been three, why was Sasuke pushed off into a corner all the time?

Itachi was still out on his ANBU duties, and even if he were there, he would have just been roped into a conversation with their parents and guests.

Sasuke stood up and looked out the window. Rage coursed through him as he heard the sound of the conversation down the hall. He had often eavesdropped on the conversations, and heard what they said about him

"Don't you have another son, Uchiha-san?"

"Yes, but he is of no importance,"

That had been said last night, and even now the words hurt as much as they had when they were said.

Sasuke's anger was reaching its peak as he made his final decision.

"If you don't want me…" Sasuke muttered, "If I'm that unimportant…so insignificant…then I won't trouble you anymore…"

The action was mostly out of anger and desperation to be noticed. There was malice in it as well, and a desire to hurt his parents, but he hadn't thought out all the reasons. It was an act of passion, but it was carried out in a completely emotionless way.

Sasuke began to pack his weapons, some clothes, and money into a small backpack. He didn't have any plans yet on where he was going or what he was going to do, but he knew on thing.

Uchiha Sasuke was running away.

Unknown to him, there was a young man in ANBU uniform that was watching him slip out the window.

"Foolish otouto, what are you doing?"

It was the beginning of a new life.

ROOT Base: 10:22 PM

Sai had been taught well.

Technically, his name wasn't even Sai. That was just a name that, privately, he liked the sound of, and he had read that people needed to have names. He had chosen Sai on a whim, and no matter what, he had gotten into the habit of thinking of himself as Sai. It was as simple as that.

In all other regards, Sai was a near perfect example of a ROOT ninja. He never showed his emotions or thoughts about anything, and this time was no exception. He had returned from a mission only to be told that his brother was dead from the illness he had had for a while. Sai had accepted the news without a flinch, and had been allowed to return to his room.

Sai's room was as practical as it was possible to be. The only things other then the blank white walls were a bed and a small desk. Sai sat down at his desk quietly. For some reason the death of his brother made a strange feeling rise up in his chest.

He took out the small picture book that he had with him. It was an unfinished gift to his brother, but now he wasn't sure what he had been about to draw into the final page.

It was strange, he had never really had that much time with his brother, and technically, he wasn't really his brother, just another ninja who had been kind to him. The two of them were always separately training. Yet, somehow for all his ROOT training, Sai could feel a strange hollowness in his stomach that had nothing to do with hunger. He couldn't help the image of his brother that appeared before his eyes, or the dull feeling that Sai would never see him again.

Sai had never questioned anything that he was told before, but now, something was stirring in him. He had never thought anything against Danzo, but now, thoughts were rising up, and one was the most defined.

It's his fault.

Sai stared at the wall in total silence, then stood up. He needed to clear his head.

He would take a walk.

It was the beginning of a new way of thinking

Kohona Playground: 10:42 PM

Uzumaki Naruto liked to go to the playground after dark. For one thing it was kind of fun to play at night, since there was a forbidden element to it. For another thing, he didn't have to feel left out when there was no one playing in groups.

Naruto sat on one of the swings, and looked up at the sky. Actually, he was fairly content to be like this. In his opinion it was useless to cry about being along all the time, and you really couldn't miss what you never had to begin with. Besides, when he became Hokage everything would change. Naruto smiled brightly at the thought.

"YEAH! I'LL DEFINITELY BECOME HOKAGE!" He yelled for no reason. It was a habit of his.

Naruto didn't like silence. He had lived in it way too long, so he would break, no shatter, silence if it became too oppressive. That was where his habit of randomly yelling things for no reason came from. There was nothing more to it.

Something move in some bushes to Naruto's right, and he jumped off the swing. It was probably just the local Feudal Lord's wife's cat again. That thing had a long history of running away. Maybe if Naruto caught it he would be acknowledged as a full ninja and not have to bother with the Academy anymore. Just in case it was something else, Naruto picked up a stick that was lying on the ground. He edged close to the bush and gently thrust the stick into the bush.

"Come here, kitty," Naruto said in a sing song voice, "I'm just gonna take you home."

"Go away!"

Naruto stopped.

The last time he had checked, cats didn't talk.

Naruto had never been known to do anything that anyone asked of him, unless it was Iruka-sensei or Old Man Hokage, and he was curious. He poked through the bushes and blinked at the girl curled up in the bushes.

"Hi!" Naruto said cheerfully, "I'm Uzumaki Naruto, and I'm gonna be Hokage!"

The girl had short pink hair that was covering most of her face. One look at her told Naruto that she had been crying. She was hiccupping slightly, and the green eyes that looked up at him were red rimmed and somewhat unfocused. She sniffled a little and wiped her eyes. Finally, she looked up at him with fear.

"What's your name?" Naruto asked, with a huge smile that showed off the whisker shaped marks on his cheeks in full glory, "Why are you crying? Did your parents forget to come get you? Do you have parents? Is your hair real, or did someone get food coloring in it?"

"I…I…" the girl stuttered, "Leave me alone, PLEASE! I can't help my forehead being big!"

Naruto looked at her forehead with interest. It looked like a forehead.

"It's not big," Naruto said, a little disappointed, he had been imagining a forehead the size of Hokage mountain.

"It's…not?" the girl said, sounding confused, "but everyone says so…"

"It's not big," Naruto said, nodding to confirm his statement.

"I'm Haruno Sakura…" Sakura said softly.

Naruto was thrilled. He had never really have much of a conversation with anyone before. Mostly he just ran around and harassed the other kids until they let him into their game, but they didn't really like him that well. Naruto knew it, but hoped that he would eventually grow on them. Now, he was talking to another kid like it was normal.

Sakura straightened up from her ball and smiled shyly at Naruto, who grinned back.

The sound of someone talking softly brought both children out of whatever thoughts they were having. It sounded like someone their age, maybe a little older, and it was coming closer. After a while, Naruto could hear what the person was saying.

"…an apartment for the both of us. I'm not even sure if I'll be able to stay in the Academy now. I never really asked who was paying for it," the voice was definitely male.

"I-I think that it's standardized. I once h-heard fa-Hiashi-sama saying that it was a waste to spend money and time on children who will never be ninja," a soft, girl's voice said, she apparently had a bit of a stuttering problem.

"We'll have to speak to the Hokage. I know that he cannot intervene in clan matters, but he may able to help."

"Yeah!" Naruto broke in loudly when he knew the two could hear him, "the old man'll help you!"

He saw with interest that it was Hyuuga Hinata, a shy girl he knew in the academy who always blushed when she saw him, and Hyuuga Neji, a guy a year older then him that he didn't know much about.

"W-what are you doing out here, Naruto-kun," Hinata asked, looking like he was shocked by her bravery.

"Talking to Sakura-chan," Naruto said happily, already adding the familiar term to the girl's name, "What about you?"

"W-we-" Hinata began.

"That's none of your concern," Neji said bluntly.

"Why do you need an apartment?" Naruto asked.

"That's none of your concern," Neji repeated.

"You can use mine!" Naruto said happily, "It has lots of room!"

Hinata almost fainted at the idea.

Neji looked somewhat shocked that some kid he had only sort of seen as a person had offered to let him share his apartment.

"What about your parents?" Neji asked.

"Haven't got any,"

Neji looked somewhat surprised.

"N-Naruto-kun is an orphan, Neji-niisan. He lives on his own…" Hinata whispered.

Sakura was looking at Naruto with sadness.

"I live with my auntie," Sakura said, "My mommy and daddy are always away on…business,"

She said the word after a moment of thought, having to remember what her aunt said.

There was a sound of pounding footsteps and a black haired boy dashed into their midst and stopped, looking at the small group that had appeared with a bit of surprise. This was a very busy night at the playground.

"What are you doing here?!" the boy asked angrily.

"We could ask the same of you," Neji pointed out.

Naruto recognized the newcomer as Uchiha Sasuke, a boy in his year at the academy. They had never spoken with one another, mostly because Sasuke was at the top of the class and Naruto was the ever 'dead last'. Other then that, Naruto knew pretty much nothing about Sasuke, other then that he was a jerk with a ton of fangirls.

"That's none of your business," Sasuke spat.

"Everyone's saying that," Naruto whined.

"What are you doing here anyways?" Neji asked, looking annoyed.

"I always hang out here at night," Naruto said in a tone that implied just how obvious he thought the fact was.

"Why?" Sakura asked curiously, but when everyone looked at her, she made a small 'meeping' sound and took a few steps back.

"Why not?" Naruto asked with a shrug, for the first time, looking a little more serious, "No one really cares,"

The silence after that was so complete that everyone was able to hear the soft sound of someone walking slowly towards them. A boy about their age wandered into view. He had black hair and eyes, like Sasuke, but his hair was cut short, and there was something about him that was…creepy. He was wearing a black ninja outfit, and he didn't seem to notice them. When he finally looked up and noticed the five children looking at him, he stopped and smiled.


They all just sort of stared at him.

"Is it usual to meet here?" the boy asked, looking at them like he really didn't know that a group of kids meeting in the dark was strange, "I'm sorry if I've interrupted anything."

"No, just a stupid talk about what we're doing here," Naruto said, he smile back in place, "What are you doing here?"

"I went for a walk," the boy said.

"A walk?" Sasuke repeated looking skeptical.

The boy nodded with that somewhat irritating smile on his face.

Even Naruto was looking skeptical now. He knew that most kids weren't allowed outside after sunset, in fact, this was the first time he had seen anyone out after dark.

Naruto was many things, but a complete idiot was not one of them. He knew perfectly well that there was something wrong with that explanation. Either this guy didn't have parents or he was lying.

Before Naruto could think of something clever to say, everyone stiffened as more footsteps and voices. This time they were the voices of two grown men. All six children looked at one another and plunged into the bushes. Naruto guessed for the same basic reason. They didn't want to get caught and in trouble for being out this late. Everyone knew that there was an unofficial curfew.

"I don't see why we couldn't have met in a more convenient location," the voice of the Sandaime Hokage, Sarutobi reached them.

"I apologize for bringing you out here, Hokage-sama, but I did not wish to be eavesdropped on," a cold, curt voice said.

Naruto noticed the boy who had just come stiffen.

"You know him?" Naruto asked.

"Sh!" came four responses, even Hinata had shushed him.

"Danzo-sama," was all that the boy said.

The speakers walked into full view. The first, an old man in long, white robes with a large hat, was the Hokage, a well loved old man who had taken back his position when Fourth died during the attack of the Kyuubi. The other was a man that Naruto had never seen in his life. Half of his face and his arm were wrapped in bandages, yet there was something about him that made Naruto uneasy. Although he seemed harmless, he emanated something dangerous and somehow, foul. Naruto didn't know how he knew this, but something told him that this man, Danzo, was a threat.

"Well, we've come here," Sarutobi said, sounding somewhat tired, "what was so important to ask me to come to a playground at ten-thirty?"

"Hokage-sama, you are growing old," Danzo began.

"I think I have ten more years left in me," the old man said with a smile.

"I don't think that is a good idea," Danzo said calmly, "As you grow old the Leaf's enemies begin to see a weakness. Sooner or later, there will be an attack, and you are aging, and even the best ninja cannot defeat time. There will be an opponent that you cannot defeat. I know that we have been rivals for the position of Hokage for decades, and that our ideals differ, but I feel that it would be best if you considered a new candidate for Hokage."

"You wish for my abdication and for me to proclaim you my heir," Sarutobi said, his voice growing cold.

"I feel that I am the only candidate," Danzo said calmly, "None of the young show the potential of the Fourth, and I am the most powerful ninja in the village besides you. I also have the experience necessary for a leader."

"I'm sorry, Danzo-san," Sarutobi said softly, "I can't consider that request at the moment, things are too hectic in the village at the moment for there to be a change in power."

"…I see…" Danzo said, and Naruto felt something, but before he could even think straight of what it was, he saw the Hokage stumble and fall on his back, blood shooting out of his mouth.

"I told you that you would meet an opponent that you couldn't defeat," Danzo said softly, a small smile forming on his lips, "such a pity. I even thought to give you a chance to live. You've grown weak and stupid in your old age, Sarutobi, to allow a man who had always been a rival and enemy to speak to you alone. Don't worry about your precious village. It will be far more powerful under me then you or the Fourth could have dreamed. A pity really, that Rock nins were capable of making it past the ANBU to assassinate you…I will be the only candidate in the war to avenge you…"

Calmly, like nothing at all had happened, Danzo walked over the body of the man that he had killed, and walked down the path, disappearing in a moment.

Naruto mind felt like it had frozen. Nothing was coming out straight. The Old Man couldn't be dead…he was unstoppable…he…he was Hokage!

"Old Man," Naruto whispered.

The others stood in dead silence.

"We're lucky to be alive," the strange boy said softly, "Danzo-sama wasn't paying attention…we…we shouldn't be alive…"

"Old Man!" Naruto screamed, running over to the body of the old man, outside of Iruka-sensei, who had cared if he was alive, "Old Man…please…wake up…you can't die…you're Hokage…"

Naruto didn't feel the other children run up behind him. He didn't hear the whispered warnings to be quiet. He truthfully couldn't have cared less if Danzo came back and killed them. All that mattered was that the man he thought of as a grandfather was dead. Tears coursed down his face as he sobbed.

Slowly, the eyes of the Sandaime opened and took in the six faces looking at him.

"…you saw…"

They nodded.

"…take these…you must leave…take them somewhere safe…don't let him have them…" he gasped out, blood coming from his mouth, "Naruto…I…proclaim you…my heir…as it should have been…if the council hadn't forbade me…become a Hokage like none before you…"

Slowly, the Hokage raised his hands and preformed a series of seals. There was a small pop, and a group of scrolls appeared before them.

"These…can't be found by…Danzo…too powerful…take them…somewhere…safe…hold…secrets…Uchiha…Hyuuga…too dangerous…secret limits…Tenshi Byakugen…sealing…keep them safe…..stop…Danzo…Naruto…the Kyuubi…sealed…Naruto…

Slowly the old man's eyes began to glaze over. Naruto shook him as hard as he could, but finally, he straightened up, his eyes dull.

Finally, he became aware of his surroundings. Hinata was sobbing quietly into Neji while he supported her, looking shocked and frightened while unshed tears blurred his white eyes. Sasuke was staring with dull horror at the body. Sakura was sobbing loudly in fear and sorrow.

"I want to go home," she gasped between sobs.

"We can't go back," the newcomer said suddenly, "Danzo-sama will kill us if he knows about this, and eventually, he will know."

"Why are you calling that filthy murderer sama!" Naruto spat angrily, "who the heck are you anyways?!"

"Sai," the boy said, "I'm a member of ROOT."

"What?" Sasuke asked.

"It's not important," Sai said, shaking his head, "we must leave right now. Danzo will kill us all."

"Besides," Naruto said softly, looking at the pile of scrolls, "Old Man Hokage gave us an order. We have to take these out of here."

"I'm not sure," Neji said, "He was delirious. How are we going to project those scrolls? We're just academy students."

"I-I think that…" Hinata began, then she took a deep breath, "W-we don't have a choice."

Sakura sobbed out in fear.

"Mommy and Daddy…"

"Will lose their daughter anyways," Sasuke said bluntly, "Either you run and live, or stay and die."

"I don't care what you do, I'm gonna do what the Old Man told me," Naruto told them all, "he said get these safe, and I'm gonna do it as the Future Hokage of Kohona. And them I'm gonna come back super strong and kill him and become Hokage."

Naruto turned around, not looking behind him, gathered up the scrolls as well as he could and ran as fast as he could towards the gates.

Sai followed him without a second thought. He was raised to be Danzo's tool, but he didn't want to die. Besides, Naruto reminded Sai of his brother…maybe it was a gift…

Hinata paused for a moment and dashed after him. Her crush had changed to admiration.

Neji followed his cousin, not wanting to lose the family that he had just gained.

Sakura stood terrified, staring at the body and at the retreating figures.

"I'm sorry…Mommy…Daddy…Auntie…I hope I'll be back soon…I don't want to die…" she whispered as she followed the others.

Sasuke stared at the others, not really wanting to follow the 'dobe' since he knew that if he did follow it would be like assenting to his leadership. Finally, he decided that he didn't really what to be a leader anyways and that he was still more powerful then Naruto would ever be. Conflict resolved, Sasuke shot after them.

It was the beginning of a legend.

In the end, everyone held one scroll. The scrolls were huge, and everyone was surprised that Naruto could have held all of them for as long as he had. They all supposed that it had something to do with his excitement.

The six crouched in the shadows of a building, watching the gate cautiously. They were planning to make a dash for freedom, but the Chuunin guards didn't seem to be showing any signs of not paying attention. In fact, an ANBU had decided to drop by and was helping the two Chuunin on watch.

"This is just great," Sasuke muttered sarcastically.

"Shut up!" Neji hissed.

"Did you hear something?" one of the Chuunin asked the ANBU.

There was a quick intake of six breaths.

"No," the ANBU replied in a dull tone.

Naruto let go of the air and shifted a little. There had to be a way to get around these guys. They just needed to think of one. Maybe he could try to distract them. He had never tried anything on the guards, but there was a good change that things wouldn't be too much different. They would chase him, and eventually lose him. Maybe he would have time to get out of Konoha before they got back.

Just before he jumped up to do something that would have been considered either incredibly brave or incredibly stupid, there was a sound of wheels approaching. The group turned to see a covered cart moving towards them, two men were moving it up to the gates, and they were stopping frequently.

"This thing weighs a ton," the younger of the two complained.

"Yeah," the other agreed, "Tell you what, we're going to be traveling most of the night anyways, so let's get a drink before we leave to give us some energy."

"Yeah!" the first said enthusiastically.

Both men moved the cart into a corner and wandered off to one of the nearby bars. Naruto knew that they were almost always open. Even the ramen shop that he always ate at would eventually close, but these things seemed to be open all the time. Vaguely, Naruto wondered just what these 'drinks' that the adults had really were. He had more experience then most people with people who had too much of the 'drinks'. The people who lived below him always seemed to be having them, and they did the strangest things. They would laugh, cry, hug one another, punch each other for no real reason and…talk about their mothers.

"Hey, I got an idea," Naruto announced.

"What?" Sai asked.

"Those guys are leaving Konoha, right?" Naruto asked.

"Yes," Sasuke nodded.

"They have a big cart that's covered, right?" Naruto asked.

"Right," Neji had a small smirk as he saw where this was going.

"Well…" Naruto trailed off.

"W-we could hide there," Hinata whispered.

"Right," Naruto grinned.

Slowly they crept towards the cart. Naruto was sure that the sound of his own heart was going to betray him to the guards. It was so loud. Or what if he sneezed, or one of the others sneezed. Naruto stumbled a little, but before he fell, Hinata had grabbed the back of his shirt. It seemed like an eternity before they made it too the cart, and even longer for them to all pile into it. Naruto realized quickly that it was going to be a long, uncomfortable trip.

The cart was full of large, heavy looking vessels. There was barely enough room for the six of them to squeeze together, and with the scrolls, if one of them moved so much as an elbow, all the others were going to have to move, and someone would probably end up on someone else's lap.

The little group arranged itself as best they could in a circle with the scrolls in the center. No one dared to speak as the minutes dragged on, all of them were probably too afraid of being discovered, Naruto thought, since this really was the only change they were going to have to get away.

Somewhere in the back of his mind, he wondered just why everything was going so well. The whole thing had begun to have an unreal feel to it, like some sort of dream, but the words of Sai haunted him.

"We shouldn't be alive,"

Naruto suppressed a shudder.

After waiting in total silence for over an hour, the over-loud voices and somewhat dragging footsteps of the two men became audible.

"Man, that was great!" the younger man's voice was somewhat slurry.

"Konoha sake is the best," the other proclaimed.

"You said that about Kumo too," the first pointed out.

"Did I?"


"Who cares!"

There was a lurch as the cart began to move, both man swore loudly about the weight and the children sat, frozen with fear.

"Evening," a new voice called, "What's your business?"

"Leaving," the older man said, "We know it's not policy to let us out at this time, but we're kind of behind schedule, and we need to get going, our boss is gonna kill us."

"Your with that packing company right?" the voice of the second Chuunin asked, "Well, we've worked with you guys long enough to know that you're not up to anything. We'll just to the routine check and you can be one your way."

"I'll do it," a calm, young voice said. Probably the ANBU.

Sasuke twitched somewhat.

Naruto looked at him strangely, and noticed that his eyes were huge.

The flapped opened before Naruto could think of anything, and a uniformed man with a weasel mask was staring at them. All six stared back in horror.

The ANBU made a quick hand sign and a scroll appeared in Sasuke's lap. There was no bang, or any other sound to give away the action. Sasuke stared at the man with a kind of wonder.

"Good luck, Otouto," Naruto barely heard the whisper, "It's clear," the man said in a normal tone, "Proceed."

There was another lurch as the cart went back into motion.

"Night, and good luck," one of the Chuunin called.

It was the beginning of new day.

Uchiha Itachi walked quickly back to the Uchiha District. All in all, he felt rather proud of himself. He had no real love for his family other then his younger brother, and if Sasuke had finally gotten fed up with his treatment and run off with some friends, Itachi wasn't going to do a thing about it. Sasuke was the other member of the family who had even looked at him with love. The rest of his clan, including his parents saw him simply as a tool to gain more power. Even his best friend, Shishui sometimes looked at him with total jealousy.

He would say nothing to his clan, perhaps they would noticed that a valuable scroll that contained copies of the Uchiha's signature moves had disappeared. They would notice that before noticing that Sasuke was gone.

He turned a corner and was so caught in his own thoughts that he didn't see the figure of the man in the shadows.

"Uchiha Itachi?"

Itachi turned around.

It was the beginning of a nightmare.

Hyuuga Hiashi was not a cruel man. He loved his eldest daughter more then he would ever say. She reminded him so much of his dead wife with her gentle ways and quiet personality. It had broken his heart to disown her.

Neji would take care of her. He assured himself. There was nothing better that Hinata could have done then remove the seal from her cousin. He was strong and dedicated. Once he had something to believe in, he would follow it until he died. The counsel would have never let her be the new head at any rate. They would have passed over her and chosen Hanabi, who was better at hiding her feelings and behaving as they thought a Hyuuga should.

If only he had the power that people thought he had.

Hiashi's thoughts were interrupted by the door flying open.

"Hiashi-sama!" A head family member stood at the door, looking breathless, "The Hokage is dead!"

"WHAT!" Hiashi's cold mask faded instantly.

"He's been found at the playground, assassinated, all signs are of Rock nins. The counsel has called for an emergency meeting, but Danzo has already been nominated as the next Hokage."

It was the beginning of terror.

It was the beginning of Hakumei

Final notes:

About Sai: I like Sai, and I think that his character is somewhat neglected in the manga. Also, he is a little out of character simply because he is younger and hasn't gone through the same about the training as his older self. The reason he didn't kill the others and tell Danzo that he had killed all the witnesses is simple: Danzo would have killed him anyways. He wouldn't anyone, including his followers to know what he had done.

About Itachi: I had to have someone check the cart, since really, if they didn't it just wouldn't make sense. Also, remember, this is an AU and I already said that there would be some differences between this and the manga.

About parings: I am completely open to opinions when most of the parings, but I refuse to write any yaoi couples. The closest thing I can write is that "Lee" "Gai-sensei" stuff with a sunset behind them, so please don't ask.

The main characters who need a paring are:




Konohamaru (he's actually going to play a part in this story)


I'm open to most suggestions.

Please review and tell me what you think of this story, and whether I should continue it, and vote on the parings. All criticism and ideas are welcome.