I am not giving up on my main story, The Will Born in Fire but I am posting up the first chapter of another story that has been on my data stick for a few months now.
As needed, I do not own Naruto, its characters or the fact that lately the manga should be named Sasuke due to the lack of use on its title character. The story idea is mine but I am willing to share if someone else gets inspired by this.
The story is AU following events with Naruto failing the genin test for the third time.
The Sandaime Hokage looked at the thief with a weary eye. The boy before him just had his head down and stood quietly in the grip of a pair of ANBU. He could not believe it had come to this. Barely two days before, the boy in front of him had painted the stone faces on the mountain and now he was captured trying to steal the most valuable scroll in Konoha.
"What am I going to do with you, Naruto?" the aged leader slowly said. "Why would you betray me and all of Konoha like this?"
Uzumaki Naruto looked up at the disappointed face of the one man who was important to him in the entire village. "But Mizuki-sensei said it was a make-up test. He told me if I could bring him the scroll I would become a genin."
The Hokage narrowed his eyes at Naruto. "You mean your teacher told you to do this?"
Naruto nodded, "I couldn't make a bunshin so I failed. He told me to pass a make up test I would have to sneak in here and take the big scroll. If I could do that and learn one jutsu on the scroll and show him that I could do it and he would pass me. Did I do something wrong?" The boy looked up with tears in his eyes as he realized from the look in the Hokage's face that he had in fact done something wrong. He had betrayed the trust of his most important person.
Sarutobi looked at the blonde boy again and saw the boy was telling the truth. He could not simply destroy the legacy of the Fourth based solely on him following the commands of a superior. But he did need to know for certain that the real criminal was captured.
"Naruto, you will wait here with these ANBU. I will go check on something. Where exactly did Mizuki tell you to wait for him?"
Mizuki chuckled as he headed for the meeting point. There had been no alarm sounded so the means the demon had not gotten caught. There had been no sign of any traps being sprung so the demon had to have opened the scroll safely. All that remained now was to gather up the item and kill the demon. This would surely buy his way into Orochimaru's graces once more. He looked down from his perch to see the blonde demon sitting and reading the open scroll. He chuckled before leaping down near the blonde.
"Good job, Naruto. You got the scroll I see. Very good job indeed. Now, just roll it up and back away," Mizuki told the blonde.
"But Mizuki-sensei, I managed to learn a technique like you told me to. Does that mean I get to be a genin now?"
Mizuki laughed, "You actually believed me? Kami, you are a stupid demon."
"Demon? Why are you calling me a demon, Mizuki-sensei?"
"Haven't you ever wondered why people shun you, Naruto? It is because you are responsible for the slaughter of so many 13 years ago. You are the Nine Tailed Fox trapped in human form! I am going to take that scroll and kill you now. I will have revenge for my family!" Mizuki screamed out.
The blonde did not look afraid or upset at Mizuki's outburst. In fact, he stood up and looked very disappointed. "You should really know better than that, Mizuki. But I think we have heard enough, would you not agree, Hokage-sama?"
"Indeed we have, Iruka, Indeed we have." Sarutobi stepped out from behind the building along with a team of ANBU. The blonde 'Naruto' puffed with chakra smoke revealing Naruto's other teacher, Iruka. Sarutobi spoke again, "You are under arrest, Mizuki. If you resist, these ANBU will strike you down. Cooperate and you might actually be free to see your fiancée Tsubaki again one day."
Mizuki paused hearing his betrothed's name and surrendered quietly. Sarutobi sighed and stood next to Iruka as the ANBU led off Mizuki.
"Now comes the hard part, Iruka. I have to decide what to do with Naruto. I appreciate your help in this matter and trust to your silence. I know Naruto has become important to you."
"Yes, he is, Hokage-sama. I had been out looking for him since I could get away from work. I was going to treat him to ramen since he failed his genin test. He tried so had but he cannot seem to make a bunshin. I could even see the effort and I could have sworn I saw chakra around him right before he did a badly deformed clone," Iruka said.
"Wait, you said you SAW chakra around the boy during his test?" Iruka nodded affirmatively. "But for chakra to be visible like that would indicate …" Sarutobi trailed off his statement as he looked back toward his office. "Iruka, come with me. I want to have you there when I talk to Naruto again."
Iruka nodded and followed as Sarutobi leapt back toward the Hokage Tower.
The ANBU stood watch over Naruto as the boy sat in his misery. The woman in the Cat mask was familiar to Naruto as she had been one of his many silent watchers over the years. He had tried to speak to them on occasion but they always shook their heads at him and indicated they were not permitted to speak to him before falling back into the shadows.
She sighed softly behind her mask as this was not a duty she would have liked at any time. She could clearly see the boy had great potential but somewhere along the line, something had gone wrong. She could sense chakra from him at a level a chunin would envy. She had filed reports often enough about the pranks he had pulled and his skills in planning and evasion were easily chunin level. She assumed no one felt the boy was worth the effort. It really was a shame.
The Hokage entered the meeting room followed by Iruka with some files. Cat nodded silently acknowledging Sarutobi's presence and moved to wait in the corner. Naruto looked up from where he sat and paled at seeing his primary instructor there as well. He flushed and tried to hide in his seat as Sarutobi sat and motioned for Iruka to sit as well.
"Naruto, what you told me earlier tonight was entirely correct. Mizuki himself did admit to telling you to come here and take the scroll. In this village, we do not lay the blame on the subordinates for following what they believe to be the legal orders of their superiors. Therefore, you are not to be charged with treason. You trusted Mizuki and he betrayed you. Naruto, I am disappointed in your actions but you have not betrayed my trust." Sarutobi smiled gently at Naruto. The boy smiled weakly and a few tears ran down his expressive face. 'Yes, he needed that reassurance. In spite of all his bravado, he is a fragile boy.'
Iruka opened the file with Naruto's name on it. "Naruto's grades in the Academy are definitely not the best, Hokage-sama. He has failed the exit examination three times now. He grades show him as poor in taijutsu, poor in ninjutsu, inadequate in genjutsu, poor on throwing weapons, inadequate in tracking and evasion, inadequate in stealth, poor in written work."
"Hmm, I thought Naruto was doing much better than that in his grades." Sarutobi glanced over at Naruto who wilted slightly under the glare.
"Begging the Hokage's pardon, "Cat spoke up. "Umino-san is incorrect in Uzumaki-san's ability in stealth, tracking and evasion. I personally have observed several of his 'pranks' and other ANBU would concur with me that for his training level, his rank should be 'outstanding'."
Sarutobi looked over at Cat, equal parts of concern and dismay at her information. "Are you sure, Cat?" he inquired.
"As I said, Hokage-sama, Uzumaki-san has shown outstanding ability in regards to stealth, tracking and evasion in his many dealings with the after-effects of his pranks. Normally, it takes a jonin or a half dozen chunin working in concert to corral him. We ANBU, who are assigned to observe him, remain away from such things as ordered by you. The sole exception to the trouble in capturing Uzumaki-san is Umino-san here. He can apprehend the boy on his own. We feel that it is a deliberate action on Uzumaki-san's part in those cases. There have even been cases where he has managed to elude his ANBU watchers for up to 5 minutes as well. He normally is quite aware of our presence nearby but rarely the exact location. We put that awareness to experience and some innate ability."
"Iruka, who is the person grading Naruto in the areas of stealth, tracking and evasion?"
"That would be Mizuki, Hokage-sama," Iruka responded.
"Cat, why is this the first I am hearing about such ability on behalf of Naruto?"
"It has been documented in many reports submitted by myself and others, Hokage-sama. We all assumed you knew and were not showing favoritism in regard to Uzumaki-san. His pranks cause ill-will for himself even if they are just attempts at attention."
Sarutobi frowned deeply and almost growled as he rose and stalked out of the office. He returned minutes later carrying several files, all labeled Uzumaki Naruto. He passed one to Cat and asked, "Is this one of your reports?"
Cat briefly scanned the report. It was regarding a prank by Naruto two weeks prior. "This is not the report I submitted, Hokage-sama. The general wording is mine but many details have been edited out and the amount of damage incurred has been altered. In this incident, only a single vendor's cart was touched, not a half dozen as the report states. There was no damage to the vendor's wares and this report states near complete destruction."
Sarutobi had a true frown on his face now. "Your reports all go through Koga-san, Cat?"
"He is one of Danzo's former Root members. It seems several people are trying to get Naruto into bad graces all over. But one rabbit might have flushed one another out for me. Danzo has a standing request to have Naruto assigned to his training program. I have consistently forbidden such a thing. The Fourth would roll in his grave if I did that to Naruto."
Sarutobi sighed. "Cat, round up several of the others who have filed reports on Naruto whom you trust. In the morning, I want you all to go over all of your past reports filed on Naruto in my office over the past two years. I wish to know the truth on what they say against what you actually wrote."
"Naruto, tomorrow we are going to have all of your skills re-evaluated by people I trust in all the areas not taught by Iruka alone. Be back here at noon tomorrow."
"I'll escort Naruto home and bring him back here in the morning, Hokage-sama," Iruka offered.
Sarutobi just nodded. The teacher led his student out of the building. "Come stay at my house tonight, Naruto. Things are going ot be bad tomorrow and keeping a close eye on you might be the best thing right now."
"Why are things going to be bad, Ikura-sensei?" asked Naruto.
"Because some people have done the worst possible thing to do in Konoha, they intentionally lied to the Hokage. It also looks like they did the second worst as well."
"What is that?"
"They put it in writing."
Notes: This story is one of the dozen or so plot bunnies living in my head since I began my main story, The Will Born in Fire. The story is a tangent out of the main plotline in the very beginning. Naruto gets caught stealing the Forbidden Scroll. I cannot recall this plotline ever having been used so I hope not to make a great hash out of it. Many more twists will occur in this one so be warned it will be an AU like all of my stories.