" We welcome two new teachers to the academy this year, and I'm sure they will be great." said the headmaster of the ninja academy, gesturing to Mizuki and Iruka. There was a light applause for the welcome. " We have several issues to discuss for the new year, so let's get to it."
Despite the fact that it was a menial meeting, Iruka felt charged. The excitement of becoming a teacher at the academy practically radiated from him. He and Mizuki had worked so hard for this posting, and he was going to give it his everything.
" One side note," said the headmaster, brow furrowing. " There is a certain child attending this year, one Uzamaki Naru." A hushed silence came over the instructors, the unsaid words evident to everyone. The demon child. " We need to decide how we are going to…handle her."
" I'll take her." said Iruka, raising his hand. None of the other teachers seemed interested and he knew that taking a unpopular job was a way to make friends. " I'll probably not be a very good teacher, so she won't learn anything to dangerous from me." he said with a slight chuckle.
" While I am sure you are a fine instructor, that may not be a bad idea." said the headmaster, nodding his head. The other teachers were all looking to Iruka thankfully.
Iruka was trying to breath deep, is favorite calming exercise. It wasn't working. He'd spent a week getting all his lesson plans ready, making seating charts for his students, and looking forward to when his students arrived, but now his nerves had almost put him into a panic. With a sigh he walked over to the classroom door and opened it.
The first child to enter was a dark haired Uchiha, followed by girl with pink hair and a Yamanaka. A pudgy Akimachi, a Inuzuka and a small puppy, a timid looking Hyuuga, a Aburmae in a pint sized trench coat, and others entered. The demon child didn't seem to be present, but that didn't bother him much. Iruka directed them to the seats he had chosen for them and stood in front of the class.
" Hello, everyone. I'm Umino Iruka, one of your instructors for the next several years." he said, introducing himself.
" Hello, sensei." said the class in unison.
" I will teach you most of the time, but other teachers will take over from time to time. My friend Mizuki, for example, is better at taijutsu, so he will show you that. But, before we teach you anything, I want to have you all introduce yourselves."
The students went in order, front to back, saying their names. When they arrived in the back row, Iruka noticed that the seat he had selected for the demon child had been filled by a small girl. The girl was sitting and staring down, her face hidden by her long untamed golden hair. Her posture made the Hyuuga girl look confident and forceful. She was twisting something in her hands nervously, but Iruka was not sure what it was. The line of introductions came to her, but she didn't seem to notice, sitting in silence.
" Hey, its your turn." said the Nara boy sitting by her. She jumped as if stuck, looking towards the boy. The Nara boy stared back, but then opened his eyes in surprise and slid his chair away. " What is that?" he said, pointing to the thing in her hands. " and what's with your eyes?" Sensing trouble, Iruka walked to the top row.
He came to a halt near the girl, eyes wide with shock. She had a tail. A foxes tail. She was wearing what looked like a self made pair of pants to allow for it, and she was twisting the end of her tail end her hand. She was wearing a white t-shirt that was slightly too large for her, making her look even smaller than she was.
" Are you Uzamaki Naru?" asked Iruka, keeping his voice steady. She girl seemed to shrink.
" I-I am." she said, voice filled with terror. She didn't look up, avoiding eye contact.
" Look at me when we talk." Iruka said, feeling unkind. The girl looked up reluctantly, revealing her face. Her eyes were red with slit like pupils and there were black marks on her face that resembled whiskers. Iruka was stunned for a moment.
" I'm sorry." said the girl, looking downwards again. " I didn't mean to be bad."
" You weren't." said Iruka, recovering. What came out next surprised him. " In fact, you did very well."
The girl looked back up at him, obviously confused.
" I didn't hear or see you enter." Iruka said with a nerous smile.
" I tried…I tried to get in…without being noticed." said Naru in an apologetic voice.
" And you did a good job of it. I was even looking for you and I didn't see you." praised Iruka. " For a ninja, there is no skill more important then stealth."
Naru looked up at him, face full of wonder. Iruka felt ashamed of himself, wondering if the girl had ever received a compliment in her life.
Naru sat against the wall of the school during recess, watching the other kids play. The boy with the puppy came running by, laughing while the small dog followed him. She watched them run off. They moved so slowly. Why did everyone else move so slowly?
Even more confusing to her was the Iruka man who taught her class. He had seemed mean and scared of her like everyone else when he saw her eyes, but then he had said those nice things to her. The old man with the pipe and the strange robe that occasionally talked to her was like that. She liked him. He smelled bad from the smoke, but he was always nice to her and gave her some money. Everyone seemed to like him, probably because he was nice and gave them money too.
" Hey!" someone yelled. Naru began to twist the end of her tail again. She hated being alone. But everyone was scared of her eyes. " Hey, Naru!" She looked up in surprise. Walking towards her was the girl dressed all in white, the other blonde girl, and he girl with pink hair. " Why are you sitting over there?"
" I'm sorry, I didn't know I wasn't supposed to!" Naru said, leaping to her feet.
" No, no, I didn't mean that!" said the loud blonde girl. " Come over and join us!"
Naru blinked, not believing her ears. She knew the girl hadn't said what she though, no, hoped she had said.
" Why is your hair all messy?" asked the girl with pink hair. " Did your mom not have time to comb it?"
" I don't have a mom." Naru said, standing up cautiously.
" Oh!" squeaked the pink hair girl. " I'm sorry, I didn't know!"
" Hey, we could comb it for you!" suggested the blonde girl.
" You'd do that?" Naru asked incredulously.
" Sure!" said the blonde girl, taking out her comb. " You need to look good so the boys notice you."
" I don't want to be noticed." Naru said, looking down. " People just get afraid of my eyes when they notice me."
" Oh, come on. Your eyes aren't that weird." said Ino, trying to cheer her up.
" Yes they are. They're red and ugly." said Naru, feeling tears begin to form in the eyes she hated so much.
" Mine are worse." said the girl dressed in white. Naru looked up at her. The girls eyes were a milky white, making her look blind. " If I look too hard they start to hurt and I see things. My father says that they are weak."
" What do you see?" asked the pink haired girl.
" I see…though things…." said the girl in white, blushing. " Sometimes…I see though peoples clothes."
Naru, despite herself, giggled with the other two girls. The blonde one began to comb her hair. She almost cried out. She'd never hair her hair combed before, and even though some of the hairs got caught and hurt, it felt wonderful. The blonde girl took out a small mirror when she was finished with Naru's hair, holding it for her to see. Instead of the wild mass she was used to, Naru now had two long, pretty ponytails. Her hair shone brightly in the sunlight.
" Wow." was all she could say.
" Thanks. I'm Ino by the way." said the blonde girl. " This is Sakura and Hinata." she said, pointing to the other two. " I bet were going to become friends."
" Really?" asked Naru, reeling at the prospect.
" Sure!" said Sakura, smiling sweetly.
" I am sorry to interrupt." said a voice behind them. " Have you seen a bug with a green spot on his left wing and a red one on the right?" The girls turned and spotted the tall boy in the trench coat. " I lost him a few moments ago and am trying to find him before recess. My father says I need to learn to control them better, and if I lose any more he will be upset."
" A bug?" asked Sakura in disbelief.
" Do you have another we could compare it with?" said Ino in a mocking tone.
" I do. One moment." said the boy. A small black bug crawled out of the neck of the coat onto the boy's cheek. Ino and Sakura looked disgusted.
" I will try to find it." said Hinata. She closed her eyes, looking like she was trying to focus. She opened her eyes, which looked different. Unfortunately, she looked straight at Shino. She eeped, blushed, and shut her eyes. The boy did not understand why the girls began to giggle.
" Can I see the bug?" said Naru, holding out a clawed hand. The boy made a quiet buzzing sound and the bug flew over and landed on her palm.
" Don't touch it!" shrieked Ino. Naru held the palm to her nose and sniffed. The bug twitched, unhappy with the situation but staying put. Naru help her palm back out and the bug returned to the boy.
" I'm sorry. I havn't smelled it over here." said Naru apologetically.
" Thank you." said the boy, turning and walking away.
" You can smell bugs?" asked Hinata.
" You can't?" said Naru, looking to Hinata in surprise.
" No. Nobody cam smell something like that." chirped Ino.
" Oh." said Naru. " I think that's like my eyes and ears then. I can hear really well and see in the dark."
" Cool." said Sakura. " How can you do that?" she asked.
" I don't know. I think it's like my tail and eyes and stuff." said Naru, twisting her tail in her hands nervously.
" I was about to ask about the tail." said Ino.
" I don't know why I have them but I do." said Naru, a pained expression on her face.
" And your fingernails?" said Ino, pointing to Naru's clawed hands.
" I tried to cut them, but I broke the files and clippers." said Naru, looking at her hands. " I have to be careful not to cut things."
" That's really cool." said Sakura. " I bet you don't need scissors to open things, do you?"
" No." said Naru, smiling slightly.
" Hey, this is probably going to sound mean…" said Ino, sounding nervous. " But why are you wearing those awful clothes?" The girls grimaced as Naru shrank visabally.
" The storekeepers get scared of my eyes and won't let me in." said Naru, beginning to cry.
" Then after school, lets go get you something!" said Ino. " I spend a lot of money on clothes, so if we go in with you they won't be able to turn you out!"
" Really?" said Naru excitedly. " I have money I could bring! I'd really like some new shirts and a coat!"
" And pants." said Ino, pointing at the poorly stitched trousers.
" They won't fit." said Naru, flicking her tail.
" My mom could alter them for you. She's really good at that." said Sakura, smiling sweetly.
" Recess is over!" called Iruka from the classroom door. Grinning widely Naru ran with the other students, going slowly so she didn't outpace them.
It had been a wonderful day for Naru. Iruka-sensei had been nice to her, the girls in the class had been nice to her, and she had a lot more clothes now. She arrived at her small apartment and raced inside, shutting the door quickly. She changed out the pants she had made herself and the t-shirt she had stolen, throwing them away. She opened the small dresser the orphanage had provided for the first time, finally having something to put in. Ino had forced the shopkeepers to sell to her and Sakura's mother had, despite looking afraid of her eyes, worked quickly and done a incredible job.
She had never spent much of the money the old man with the pipe had given her so she was able to afford a lot. Ino had protested her choice, but she now had dozens of wonderful, bright orange shirts. She loved the color. The pants and shorts she had bought were all similar colors. She couldn't help herself and tried on almost everything as she put them away. She now had plenty of socks and a new, nice pair of shoes. She had even bought herself a kimono, though it was pink. She put it on and walked over to the mirror, admiring the beautiful silk.
Ino had also showed her how to comb and pigtail her hair on her own. She began to practice, feeling pretty for the first time. She knew she was supposed to be training to be a ninja, but she wanted to know what it was like for once.
The next day, she was the first one to the academy.
When Iruka-sensei arrived he was surprised to see her in the classroom, but smiled at her nicely. The other students arrived shortly thereafter and the class began.
" Today we are going to begin working on the first technique I will be testing you on and later start with basic hand to hand techniques." said Iruka. " What is the most important thing for a ninja to be able to do?"
" Beat people up!" shouted Kiba.
" Well, that's good too, but not quite right." said Iruka with a laugh.
" Stay undetected." said Naru, speaking up carefully.
" Correct." said Iruka. " Tell me, if a man with a sword walked into the classroom right now, would you be scared and try to escape?"
" No! I'd attack!" said Kiba.
" Quiet." said Iruka. " You would be scared. But what if a friend of yours walked though the door? I don't think you would expect them to attack you. The Disguise Technique is one of the most valuable techniques for a ninja because it allows you to take any form, such as another persons appearance or a object. I was on a mission once where I escaped detection by turning into a rock and hiding for several hours. What uses can you think the ability to turn into something else?"
" Having no one know who you are." said Naru, sounding excited.
" Sneaking around." said Choji, munching on a bag of chips.
" Getting close to a target and catching them unawares, allowing you to strike when they are off guard and cannot realiate." said Sasuke. The other students looked at him in awe.
" All correct. I will be right back. I'm going to go get your disguises for you to practice with." said Iruka, walking outside.
" All right, teachers gone!" cheered Kiba. The dog on his head yipped happily. Before anything could happen, the old man with the pipe walked in. " Woah, the Third!" said Kiba, stating the obvious.
" I thought I'd come by and check up on Iruka. He's a new teacher, and I was wondering if he was having any problems." said the old man, puffing on the pipe. " Has anyone seen him?"
" He went to get us disguises." said Shikamaru from where he was trying to nap. The Third disappeared in a puff of smoke, being replaced by Iruka. Most of the students gasped in awe.
" That is the other two uses of the technique. First, you can assume the form of someone trustworthy to your targets and gather information." said Iruka walking back in front of the class. " Second, it uses chakra to transform you, so no disguise is necessary. Everyone come to the front of the class."
Iruka showed the students the hand seals and set them to practicing the motion while he explained how to focus on what you wanted to turn into. He then had them attempt to transform into him. Most of them were unsuccessful, but the Uchiha managed to partially change shape and to his surprise, Naru became a perfect copy on her first try.
" How did you do that?" asked Sakura jealously. Iruka suddenly remembered the stories for foxes transforming and tricking people.
" Some people have natural affinities for certain techniques." said Iruka, regaining the classes attention ad Naru changed back. " For example, some people can use fire techniques with greater skill than others, just because who they are. This is a example of this. Everyone had certain things that they are just better at than others and things they aren't as good at. The other teacher Mizuki is better at me at taijutsu, but I can use ninjutsu better. However, with practice, you can always improve and match others."
Naru smiled proudly as the other students looked impressed at her.
It had been months since the beginning of the academy and Naru had began to feel like she fit in. She had become good friends with the other girls in her class and felt truly happy. She had gotten her first report card a few weeks ago and while she was sad that she was unable to show it to her parents like the other students, she still felt proud.
She was easily the best in the class with the disguise technique, though she could barely produce a clone or manage the replacement technique. Her hand to hand skills her other strong point. Mizuki taught them that and he didn't seem to like her as well as Iruka did. She was much faster than the other students and had sharper senses, which gave her superior reactions. While she was the smallest girl in the class and not very strong, she could hit faster than they could. She took care to never use her claws, though she knew she would have to if she really fought.
She set out for class early in the morning. The sun had risen and bathed the village in a pleasant orange glow, which was why sunrise was her favorite part of the day. She noticed something was wrong, though. There were guards on every street and few villagers out. She avoided their gazes and made her way to school. Iruka seemed tense that entire day and Sasuke was absent, and she could hear rumors that something had happened to his family. The next day Sasuke had returned, but he seemed strange and angry. Naru heard that his brother had killed his entire family, leaving only him alive. Ino and Sakura, who bickered constantly about the boy, left him alone that day. After school, however, he walked up to her.
" Your parents…are dead, correct?" Sasuke asked coldly.
" I don't know. Nobody does. They're just….gone." said Naru, trying be polite.
" What is it like…being so alone?" asked the dark haired boy.
" Hell." said Naru sadly. " You see everyone else with their parents and it hurts. You wake up alone and it hurts. You look in the mirror and it hurts."
" Hn." said the last Uchiha before waking away, cold as ever.
Naru was now twelve and nearly a genin. So near to graduation she could practically smell it.
Unless that was Choji. She sniffed the air. No, definitely graduation.
She was standing in line with the other students, waiting to be called into the examination room by Iruka and Mizuki. She was nervous because she still had trouble with the replacement techniques and she couldn't make a clone that was decent, but she hoped her Disguise technique and other skills would be enough.
" Uzamaki Naru!" called Iruka. With a thumbs up from Ino, Naru entered the room.
" I think we can skip the disguise part." said Iruka, marking off the form. " You've gotten full points on that every time. Let's begin with detection."
" Mizuki is hidden in the ceiling." said Naruto, focusing her senses and detecting the mans heartbeat. Her eyes were sharp and her nose was almost as good as Kiba's, but her hearing was the best. The ninja dropped down. " Good." said Iruka, marking the paper again. " He had rice and a egg for breakfast." Mizuki nodded in agreement. " Now we need to test your taijutsu."
After several minutes of sparring she passed the hand to hand section. She was almost as fast as Mizuki already and almost as strong as the boys, so she earned a lot of points. She managed to perform the replacement technique seven out of ten times, the minimum needed to pass that test. Finally, she came to the part she had dreaded.
" And now, make a clone." said Iruka, hoping the girl had been successful in learning the technique in the last few days. Naru formed the jutsu, but the copy that appeared was discolored, immobile, and only vaguely like her. She looked at him nervously.
" I'm afraid I can't pass you, Naru." said Iruka painfully. " If you can't create a working clone you fail that section." Slumping in defeat, Naru walked from the room.
She hadn't passed. All because of that stupid clone technique. Naru was seated on the top of the academy, watching the sun set over the Hokage's monument.
" I know your upset with Iruka for failing you," said a voice behind her. She turned and saw Mizuki walking that way, a unusually sympathetic look on his face. " But he care's for you a lot. He's just trying to keep you safe."
" I just…I really wanted to pass. I'm the only one who failed." said Naru, downtrodden.
" You got pretty close." said Mizuki, taking a seat. " You only needed a few more points. There is a way you could still pass, but it would be very hard."
" There is?" said Naru, blinking. " Did you come to tell me this?"
" I did." said Mizuki, smiling at her. " If you fail the test there is a extra credit assignment you can do. In the Hokage's office there is a scroll that he keeps locked in his desk for this occasion. It has a number of techniques on it that are some of Kohona's most difficult. If you can get in without being caught and learn one before anyone finds you, you pass. it's a simulation of entering a enemy base and obtaining documents. I'd suggest the ruined building east of town for a hiding place."
" Thank you, sensei!" said Naru, leaping to her feet and sprinting off. " Thank you so much!"
Had she turned she would had seen Mizuki smiling victoriously.
" Naru! Naru!" said Iruka, running though the woods. A small, partially collapsed shack came into view and he spotted the girl relaxing against the wall. He scroll of forbidden techniques lay near her. " Naru!" he said, running over.
" Iruka-sensei! I did it!" said Naru, smiling sweetly.
" Why, Naru?" asked Iruka, catching his breath. The girls confession of guilt was strange.
" The extra credit assignment Mizuki told me about!" said Naru, standing up. She noticed Iruka's confusion and explained. " I went and got the technique scroll Mizuki told me about from the Hokage's office so I could make up the points I need to graduate. I didn't get caught and I learned a technique, so I can pass!"
" Naru, that is a scroll of forbidden jutsu you are not allowed to learn until you become a jounin!" said Iruka. " There is no extra credit! Everyone in the village is searching for you because that scroll is incredibly valuable!"
Naru was about to respond when Iruka suddenly twitched, moving faster than she had ever seen him move. He pushed her to the side as a dozen kunai embedded themselves into the wooden planks.
" Mizuki!" shouted Iruka, looking into the trees. Standing on a branch was Mizuki, wearing a evil smirk and holding a gigantic shuriken. " What are you doing?"
" Obtaining the scroll for my master and doing the village a favor." said Mizuki, hurling the shuriken at Naru. She was paralyzed with fear and unable to move, but a moment before it struck Iruka leapt in front of it, blocking it with his body.
" You saved me." said Naru, blinking. Iruka coughed, spitting up blood.
" That was a stupid move, Iruka, saving the girl by sacrificing yourself." said Mizuki, dropping from the trees. " Naru, do you want to know the real reason you aren't allowed to read that scroll?"
" Don't…listen to him." said Iruka, dropping to his knees. Naru stood transfixed.
" They are afraid that you might use it to break the seal on the demon contained in you. The demon fox that the Forth couldn't defeat and trapped within you." said Mizuki, walking closer. Naru looked down at her claws, understanding for the first time. " The Third ordered us to keep it a secret, but everyone knew. Even Iruka. And everyone hated you because of this. You're a monster, Naru."
" She is not." said Iruka, struggling as he pulled the large shuriken from his back. He was in massive pain and barely able to move. " Mizuki, you know her as well as I do and know she isn't a monster."
" Did you know, Naru, that Iruka volunteered to take the demon child into his class as a favor to the other teachers? He told them he was going to hold you back and not teach you anything dangerous. Anything that could make you a threat." said Mizuki, twisting Iruka's words. Naru looked at Iruka, betrayal flashing in her red eyes. In a blur she had grabbed the scroll and ran off.
" Naru!" cried Iruka as the girl ran, but she paid no heed. He began to call out again but was silenced by a kick from Mizuki.
" The little monster won't come back. She's going to run until she's tired, and then I will kill her and take the scroll." said Mizuki, drawing a kunai.
" She's not a monster." said Iruka, struggling unsuccessfully to stand. " She's a little girl that's been mistreated by the village for something she has no control over. She's a kind, good person, Mizuki. She makes sure to be careful with her claws so she doesn't hurt people, helps whenever she can, and treats people fairly. She's more human than either of us."
" You may be right," said Mizuki, raising his arm to strike, " but soon she'll be dead."
If Naru hadn't had her excellent hearing, she would have missed Iruka defending her, but thankfully, she heard every word of the kind teachers speech. Skidding to a halt, she turned and raced back, realizing that though he had once hated her, he hadn't for a long time. A moment before Mizuki's attack connected she delivered a flying kick to him, knocking him flying.
" Stay away from Iruka-sensei." said Naru, landing. " Or I will kill you."
" Ha!" said Mizuki, leaping to his feet. " I get to kill you earlier that I expected!"
Before he could charge Naru forced her hands together, focusing her chakra and blasting open the First Gate. The normally slow world became nearly still for her and she ran forwards as fast as she could manage, leaping in a kick. The force of the blow was amplified by her speed and Mizuki was sent into the air from the impact, but she landed and lunged again, delivering another strike that increased his velocity further. Hit after hit turned Mizuki into a human missile, and when her chakra reserves were finally tapped and the world sped back to its normal crawl, Mizuki was send hurtling into a tree, splintering the bark as he was embedded nearly a foot into the trunk. Naru stood, panting for air, as Iruka walked over.
" Naru…" Iruka said, trailing off.
" I found something called the Inner Eight Gates on that scroll and learned how to open the first one." said Naru tiredly. " I didn't think I could do the Lotus because I'm too small to grab and hold anyone, so I learned the Chrysanthemum instead. It said it was weaker but I still think it works really well."
" Naru, that is one of the most difficult techniques in the world!" said Iruka, amazed. " Did you read everything about it?"
" Well, not everything." said Naru, smiling nervously.
" Well, you should know that you should not use that unless you have to. It tires out your body and chakra because it removes the limits of how hard you can push your muscles and how much chakra you can use as once." explained Iruka. " It allows you use techniques like the Lotus and Chrysanthemum, which are powerful, but costly. The Chrysanthemum is weaker than the Lotus, but it doesn't hurt you as bad."
" I'm sorry I caused all this trouble, sensei." said Naru, looking to the ground shamefully.
" It's not your fault, Naru." said Iruka, putting a hand on the girls shoulder. " Mizuki tricked you. We'll just go back and explain what happened and everything will be okay. One thing first. Close you eyes."
Naru did, wondering what Iruka was planning. When he told her she could she opened them. Iruka was standing before her, his forehead protector missing. She realized that he had put it on her forehead.
" You proved yourself, Naru. I'll make sure you pass." said Iruka, smiling at her proudly. Naru couldn't help the tears that formed in her eyes and leapt forward, hugging him tightly.
" Naru…my back…" he rasped. Naru let go immediately. " Actually, let's go to the hospital first."
" Okay, sensei." said Naru, grabbing the scroll and helping her teacher towards the village.