Graduation part 1.
Umino Iruka entered into his classroom with his friend Mizuki. He smiled gently at his excited students and stepped in front of the room. "Today we'll be having your graduation exam. If you pass, you will be able to become proud genin of Konoha. We'll begin with the written exam."
After Mizuki gave the students the tests, Iruka looked at the classroom clock. "You have an hour from ... now." The students flipped over their tests and began. Iruka watched his students carefully. This wasn't like the chuunin exam where you had to, or were expected to cheat. No, if any of his students were caught cheating, they would fail. Only those who had the minimum knowledge required or were skilled enough to cheat without being caught, would pass.
I hope they all pass, he thought. Well almost all of them, Iruka amended. He was, to say the least, conflicted with Uzumaki Naruto. Before the boy became a member of his class, he was so much more different. Even if the monster that was sealed in the boy killed his parents, Iruka could still chuckle when he performed one of his infamous pranks. And then, inevitably, he remembered the Kyuubi and the humor turned sour.
The last of Naruto's pranks Iruka could remember was almost a year old. Now, looking at the masked boy, quietly doing his test, it was hard to remember that face, the laugh and the pain hidden behind those blue eyes.
That blank mask made it easy to forget he was Uzumaki Naruto. But it also made it easy to think of the boy as the container and not the child he was. He disliked teaching the boy, but Iruka had his orders from the Hokage. Iruka didn't know what happened, but the Third had made it clear he would no longer tolerate any unfair action towards Naruto. Iruka was a good ninja and he respected the old Hokage. He'd done his best to behave normally towards the boy. He'd told the Hokage he would treat the boy fairly. Still, Iruka could not help but be a little cool toward Naruto, but he had never been unfair.
An hour later, the test was over. After gathering the tests, Iruka gave his class two free hours before the practical test.
Iruka and Mizuki were grading the students' tests in silence when Mizuki sniffed in disgruntlement.
"What is it?" Iruka asked.
Mizuki glared at one of the tests for a few seconds, then passed it to Iruka in silence.
"Ah," Iruka said. It was Naruto's test. And apparently he'd done well enough. It was nowhere near as good as Sakura's or Sasuke's, but it was well above average. It was a typical result for the blond boy. He'd been surprised at his results. Everybody knew he was bad at tests. In fact, he was supposed to be bad at every aspect of the Shinobi arts. The only thing he excelled at was his endless stamina and stubbornness. Of course all that changed when he was placed in his class. He'd become all of a sudden, the second ranked student. The only thing that kept him from becoming the rookie of the class was his relatively low test scores.
"I see," Iruka said neutrally after he finished looking over the paper. He returned it to Mizuki and continued with his own test.
When Iruka entered the class, Naruto was sitting patiently in his chair, between Ino and Hinata - the heirs to the Yamanaka and Hyuuga clans. The two girls were as calm as Naruto and despite his dislike for the boy, Iruka had to admit that the two girls grew up a lot. Ino used to be a fan-girl who trained little and cared more for her figure and dream of becoming the last Uchiha's wife than her future as a Kunoichi. Hinata used to have an even worse problem. She was painfully shy and had no self esteem. Needless to say, girls like their former selves had a low probability of becoming competent kunoichi.
"It looks like you all passed your written tests," Iruka said with approval in his voice. "If you pass the practical exam, you will receive your headband." Iruka paused a little and nodded at Shino. "You will enter the examination room, one by one starting with Shino, and do the replacement, clone and transformation techniques." Iruka smiled reassuringly at his students. "Good luck and do your best."
One by one, Iruka's students entered and performed their techniques. Finally, Naruto's time came. He entered the examination room and nodded politely at his teachers.
"Please do a replacement with that log," Iruka said.
Naruto performed the hand-seals needed for the technique and was replaced with the log in a puff of smoke.
Iruka nodded approvingly. It was a good technique, for a student. "Good, now do a transformation."
Naruto performed the hand-seals and the Third Hokage image appeared over Naruto after a puff of smoke.
"And now, the clone technique."
Naruto once again performed the technique's hand-seals. This time, the smoke was noticeably more evident and three clones of Naruto appeared around the student. While Naruto's other two techniques were better, his clone technique was still above average for a student. "Congratulations, Naruto. You are now a genin of Konoha. This headband is now yours."
"Thank you, Iruka-sensei," Naruto said politely. The new genin stepped forward and grabbed the last headband. For a moment, Naruto stood with the object in his hand, staring at it.
"No need to stare at it, genin," Mizuki said. "It's a headband. You usually put it on your forehead."
Naruto glanced away from the object in question and to Mizuki. "I am aware of that. That placement is however... unsuitable." Naruto opened his ANBU-style cloak, bend and tied the headband above his right knee. He stood up, and the headband was covered by the cloak. He nodded at his teachers for the past year politely. He could tell that they didn't like him, but unlike all of his former Academy instructors, they treated him fairly and never tried to teach him wrongly.
As he left through the door, he thought of his hidden skills. He wasn't the foolish, boastful boy he was a year before, but he didn't really enjoy hiding his skills. He would have liked to see the expression on the face of his teachers had he performed the three techniques without seals. He had mastered all of the techniques he knew like no other ninja and he was proud of it.
'But you understand that these skills must be kept discrete,' Kyuubi said in his mind.
'I know,' Naruto sighed. 'It's just that it still feels a little deceitful.'
'I understand,' Kyuubi replied. 'But the Academy results are relatively public for Konoha Ninja. It would be unwise to let them know your strengths. You know that most of Konoha can't be trusted.'
Naruto grimaced at the reminder that he wasn't liked by the villagers.
'It's not like it is treason,' Kyuubi continued. 'Every good ninja knows to hide their abilities. If it was wrong, Anko or the Hokage would have told you not to hide your skills.'
Sarutobi's secretary knocked at his door.
"Hiashi-sama is here to see you, Hokage-sama."
"Send him in."
The Hyuuga clan head entered and bowed. "Hokage-sama."
"Hiashi," Sarutobi sighed. "What is it?"
"My daughter graduated."
"Congratulations." Sarutobi replied. He had a suspicion of why the man was here. He just wasn't certain of the direction Hiashi's request would go for.
"And the boy - Naruto, also graduated."
"I think it would benefit both him and my daughter to be on the same team."
"Oh," Sarutobi raised an eyebrow. "What about the Inuzuka and Aburame heirs? Didn't you have an understanding?"
"It has been taken care of."
"I see. Very well, Hiashi. I will take your request into account when the teams are formed."
"Thank you, Hokage-sama."
Sarutobi's secretary knocked at his door half an hour later.
"Yes?" the Hokage asked.
"Inoichi-sama is here to see you, Hokage-sama."
"Oh, send him in."
The Yamanaka clan head entered and bowed. "Hokage-sama."
"Inoichi," Sarutobi sighed. "Let me guess. Your daughter graduated?"
"Uh... yes, Hokage-sama."
"I... well, my daughter would like to be in the same team with Uzumaki Naruto."
"Of course she does," Sarutobi said dryly.
Inoichi was silent for a few moments and the Hokage cleared his throat. "And what do you want me to do, Inoichi?"
"Well," he winced, "I uh... think she would do well if she were in the same team with Naruto."
"I think so too," Sarutobi said sincerely. "Now, do you want me to put her in the same team with Naruto?"
"And I'll trust I won't hear about this from your teammates? You three had their team planned from before they were even conceived."
Inoichi's eyes widened in realization. "Hokage-sama, if you..."
"Absolutely not," Sarutobi interrupted.
"But I didn't even ask you my question."
"You were going to ask me to take the blame," Sarutobi deadpanned.
"Ah... well. Ino won't be too mad at you if you tell her you couldn't rearrange the teams."
"But Naruto will, and I see him as my grandson. I don't think I'll take the fall for you, Inoichi," the Hokage chuckled.
"Very well. Then I ask you to put Ino in the same team with Naruto, Hokage-sama."
Sarutobi's secretary knocked at his door half an hour later.
"Yes?" the Hokage sighed.
"Mitarashi-san is here to see you, Hokage-sama."
"Send her in."
The Special Jounin entered and waved. "Hey, old man."
"Anko," Sarutobi smiled. "Let me guess. Your cute little students graduated?"
"And you'd like for them to be in the same team?"
"Heh," Anko snorted. "Like that is going to happen. I know you can't do that. Hiashi and the Ino-Shika-Chou trio would have a fit if you did. And the Hyuuga wouldn't be too pleased either."
"Indeed," the Hokage deadpanned.
"Yeah," Anko grumbled. "I was just wondering on who their Jounin Instructors are going to be." Anko's face saddened. "You know, they are so excited about finally becoming genin that I couldn't tell them - that once they have a Jounin Instructor, I won't really be able to train them without his approval. With the exception of Kurenai and Ibiki, I don't really have other friends. The other Jounin don't like me."
"I think you're exaggerating a bit here, Anko." Sarutobi said kindly.
"Maybe," Anko shrugged. "But I'm not that far from the truth. I don't think that even those who don't hate me because of my ...former sensei, trust me. I hardly think they'd let me train them. Heh," the Special Jounin barked in fake amusement. "You know me and even you put restriction on what I was allowed to teach them... especially on the girls."
"Well, to be fair Anko, the first things you taught to Naruto were the exploding clone and the shadow kunai techniques."
"Sorry about that," Anko lied. "So is Kurenai going to be one of their Jounin Instructors?"
"I haven't formed the teams yet. Be patient, Anko.'
Sarutobi heard a knock at the door. "Yes?"
"Uzumaki-san is here to see you," the secretary said.
The Hokage smiled a little bitterly. The old Naruto would have ignored the secretary and barged in. "Send him in," the old Kage said.
Naruto calmly stepped in the office, glanced around, and seeing that they were alone, he relaxed. "Hey old man," Naruto said cheerfully. The blond boy casually took off the blank white mask he was wearing and gave him a small wave.
Sarutobi smiled at the casual act. Nowadays, Naruto showed his face only to those he considered friends. "Hello Naruto. I understand congratulations are in order."
"Heh, with all that I learned this year, it was actually pretty easy," Naruto said with a trace of his old bravado.
The Hokage's mood soured at Naruto's words, though he showed no trace of the emotion. Sarutobi knew that Naruto's lack of training had somewhat chilled the boy's disposition toward Konoha. Kyuubi had opened Naruto's eyes. The Hokage still didn't know if it was a good thing or not. On the one hand, Naruto had people he loved and loved him back now. He was more skilled than some chuunin. He had grown past his childhood pranks and ignorance. The best thing though, was that while the boy was now far more mature and a better ninja, he had not lost his humanity. The smiles he now had were far more sincere. There was no trace of that painful bitterness. His friendship with Anko and the Hyuuga and Yamanaka heirs
was strong. And his bonds didn't stop with only them. Through Ino, he befriended the Nara and Akimichi heirs. He was also on somewhat friendly terms with the Aburame and Inuzuka heirs.
The other side of the coin was that he no longer had the burning desire to prove himself to the villagers. Sarutobi had been sure that in the end, the old naïve Naruto would have proven himself to the villagers. Now though, Naruto appeared to care little for the villagers' opinion. But in the end, perhaps this was better. If they can't love him, they can at least respect his skill and power. His peers though, the Hokage was certain, would come to see him as a true comrade.
Sarutobi returned to the present. "Yes Naruto, your skills have grown considerably. I am proud of how Anko trained you so far,"
"Does that mean you're going to keep her as my Jounin sensei?"
"Ah, I'm afraid that won't be possible." Sarutobi sighed.
"Yeah, I know," Naruto sighed unhappily. "Politics. And I guess Hinata, Ino and I won't be in the same team. The Hyuuga elders would pop a few blood vessels if the daemon brat gets placed in the same team as their heir... despite their dislike towards Hinata. Frankly, I'm amazed that they didn't say much to Hinata about her friendship with me.
Sarutobi couldn't help but smile at Naruto's words. If only you knew, Naruto, the old man thought. Hiashi must have put quite a bit of pressure to the main family if they didn't bother Hinata.
"And Ino," Naruto continued, "said she talked to her father about being placed on the same team with me." Naruto stared in Sarutobi's eyes. "Did he?"
"Yes, he did," the Hokage nodded.
"And?" Naruto asked.
"I'm sorry Naruto," Sarutobi chuckled. "You'll find out when your other classmates find out."
"Okay," Naruto sighed. "It would have been nice if we were in the same team though."
After Naruto left, Sarutobi sighed to himself. He would have preferred to put Naruto in Kakashi's team. The man was one of Konoha's best Jounin and the Fourth's student.
Unfortunately, the last Uchiha would have to be one of Kakashi's students.
If Hiashi, Inoichi and Naruto wanted for Naruto to be in the same team as Ino and Hinata, he had to put them in the same team.
Out of all of the Jounin who would take a genin team, Kakashi, Asuma and Kurenai were the best to choose from. The other Jounin would be given the students who had few prospects as future ninja and would most likely, fail.
Kakashi was out of the question as a Jounin sensei because of Sasuke.
Asuma would have probably been the second best choice. The problem was though that he doubted his laid back son would be a good sensei for someone who trained like Naruto. Also, he doubted Asuma would allow Anko to keep training his team.
Kurenai though, would be the perfect sensei. She was also a friend with Anko, so the Special Jounin would probably be welcomed to help in the training. The only problem was that she wasn't as powerful as Kakashi or Asuma. She was however, the third strongest of all the Jounin sensei for the current batch of graduated Academy students. And thanks to Naruto, Hinata and Ino's training, she would not have to put so much effort in protecting her students as Kakashi and Asuma would need to put for their own teams. As a bonus, she had also specifically asked for Hinata to be one of her students. Like Kakashi and Asuma, she showed no dislike for Naruto, unlike many of his ninja.
Yes, Sarutobi nodded to himself. Kurenai is a good choice.
Mizuki smirked to himself as he grabbed the Forbidden Scroll.
It wasn't that hard, the man told himself.
In the end, this was better than his original plan to trick one of the new genin to get it. He had searched for a suitable patsy to steal the scroll for him, but he found none. Most of his students would have been unable to steal the scroll, and those who could, like the Aburame, Inuzuka, Nara, Uchiha, Hyuuga, Yamanaka and the daemon brat were unlikely to be tricked into doing it.
The silver haired traitor put the scroll over his back and went onto his escape route. He had fifteen minutes until the next scheduled patrol discovered the disabled security seals and sounded the alarm.
Mizuki snuck outside the tower without being seen.
He was sneaking through one of the more used alleys when two middle-aged civilian men entered it. Mizuki smirked to himself from the shadows. He had planned for this distraction, but he hadn't been sure if he would have the time to search for the proper targets. The two civilians would serve perfectly for his diversion.
The chuunin waited a few more seconds for the civilians to go deeper into the alley. Then, he cast a Genjutsu.
Mizuki stepped from the shadows in front of the two men. He waited for them to catch a good look at him. When he was certain that the civilians saw what he wanted them to see, he stepped forward and slammed a kunai in the heart of one of the civilians. His companion stared at his murdered friend for a second, and then opened his mouth to scream. A burst of killing intent froze the man. "Disgusting humans, I no longer have to hold back. Now die." Mizuki slammed another kunai in the chest of the second civilian. This time, the traitor was careful to hit a non-vital spot. "Rejoice, insect, for soon I shall end what I started. Konoha shall burn. I, Kyuubi no Yoko proclaim it." Mizuki slammed the man into a wall hard enough for him to lose his consciousness, but not hard enough to be endangered by the hit.
Mizuki wondered if he went over the top. No, he told himself. While what he did would sound unlikely to a reasonable and serious ninja, who had an above average intelligence, there were plenty of the other type of ninja. And even those who would think this was a set-up, would have to honor the threat.
A Naruko clone was serving a somewhat dejected Anko a double serving of dango. "Here you go, Anko-chan," the clone said with a cheerful smile, before turning her attention to Anko's companion. "Would you like anything else, Kurenai-san?"
"No, thank you," the Kunoichi answered. Kurenai waited for the waitress to leave before turning her attention at Anko. "This last year, you've been... happier," Kurenai said quietly, "But now... did something happen?"
"Not really," Anko sighed. "I'm not supposed to talk about it, but let's just say that I've been training ..." Anko searched for a term that would not disclose too much, "... a team."
"Hokage-sama allowed it?" Kurenai asked.
"Yes," Anko nodded, "but I can't really talk about it." The Special Jounin was about to take a bite from her favorite food, when a young chuunin rushed into the dango shop. "Every chuunin and Jounin is to report to the tower immediately," he said, before running out again.
Anko, Kurenai along with a few more ninja stood up and ran toward the Hokage Tower. When they arrived to their destination, there were already over fifty ninja, with more coming.
A few moments later, the Hokage appeared in front of them in a swirl of leaves. "The Forbidden Scroll has been stolen."
There were gasps among the ninja, but the Hokage continued to talk. We don't yet know..."
An ANBU appeared in a leaf Body Flicker before the old Kage and kneeled.
"Report," Sarutobi ordered.
"Two civilians were attacked, Hokage-sama. One of them was killed with a kunai through the heart, but the other received a non-vital wound and a slight concussion. The survivor gave us the description of his attacker. The civilian reported that his attacker was of small stature and wore ANBU-style clothes and had a white, blank, human-like mask. On his back, he had a large scroll. Also the witness said that the eyes behind the mask were blood-red and slited. Before stabbing the civilian, the attacker called itself... the Kyuubi no Yoko and swore he would burn Konoha."
Anko tensed and almost growled. Kurenai glanced at her in concern, but said nothing.
Sarutobi heard dangerous mutters among the ninja. He let out a burst of killing intent that silenced the ninja. "You will spread out and search for anything suspicious. The civilian was likely put under a Genjutsu to throw us off the track of the true thief."
"Hokage-sama," a Jounin protested. "We all know who it was."
"The daemon has awakened," someone else said.
"Silence," Sarutobi hissed. "I will have someone else follow this possibility, unlikely as it is. Anko, Kurenai, remain. The rest, spread out and do not concern yourselves with this Kyuubi story."
After the ninja left and only Anko and Kurenai remained, the two Kunoichi approached the Hokage.
"Anko, I want you to take Kurenai with you and go to Naruto's place. I want you to check that he's really there. If he is, protect him and bring him to the tower. If not, find him."
"Yes, Hokage-sama," Anko said. "Uh... he has a clone nearby. Should I talk to it first?"
Kurenai raised a curious eyebrow at Anko's words, but said nothing.
"Yes," Sarutobi said. "Dismissed."
A mystified Kurenai followed Anko back to her favorite dango place. They entered, glanced around and Anko nodded at Naruko. The waitress nodded and went into the back of the shop.
Anko and Kurenai went outside, and went behind the building.
"What's happening?" the waitress asked.
Kurenai was glancing between Anko and the clone suspiciously, but she still kept quiet, trusting her friend.
"Someone stole the Forbidden Scroll," Anko said. "A civilian was killed and another survived. The survivor described his attacker... who apparently dressed like you. He also had slitted, blood-red eyes, called itself the Kyuubi no Yoko and threatened to burn the Village.
Naruto's eyes narrowed. "I see."
"Did..." Anko begun.
"Of course not!" the waitress said.
"I believe you," Anko nodded. "The Hokage asked us to find Naruto and bring him to the tower. He told the ninja to not seek you specifically, and that he'll have us check on you, but you never know."
"Should he come now?"
"Yes," Anko nodded. "We'll meet you half way. The faster you're with the Hokage, the safer you'll be."
Naruko made a hand sigh and a clone of itself appeared without even a puff of smoke. "Anything else?" the new clone asked.
At Anko's shake of the head, the clone disappeared.
Naruto had just dismissed his training clones when one of his worker clones dispelled.
'This situation is dangerous,' Kyuubi said in his mind. 'Be careful. Konoha nin might be trying to kill us.'
'But I didn't do anything wrong. And you heard what the old man ordered.'
'Just because the Hokage said something, it doesn't mean that all of his ninja will obey. Do not tell me that you forgot that the Fourth wanted you to be seen as a hero. With the killing of a civilian, we are at risk. And if the thief is not caught, the suspicion you are under might linger.'
'Then, we'll catch him,' Naruto replied.
'Are you sure? It might be dangerous.'
'It will be safer, long term if we catch him.'
'Then I suggest you summon the trackers.'
Naruto nodded and bit his finger. "Summoning technique: Gray Hunt." A hundred gray small foxes appeared all around Naruto. These particular foxes had little to no combat power, but they were the best trackers of the fox summons.
"Someone stole a large scroll that contains Forbidden Techniques. The thief killed a civilian, wounded another and framed me for his crimes." Naruto created a hundred clones, who knelt and shape shifted into copies of the foxes. This would have been easier if I could change into birds and fly, Naruto thought.
'Well, you did master the change into a fox,' Kyuubi told her container. 'You can try birds next. It will be harder to learn to change into other things than foxes. The change into foxes was helped by my presence within you. Unfortunately, other shapes will be harder and you'll need to master these forms on your own.'
Naruto nodded and turned his attention back to the summoned foxes. "Find the thief."
The summons and the clone foxes paired and ran into the dark.
Naruto started tree hopping toward the Hokage Tower. A few minutes later however, one of his clones dispelled.
'Mizuki,' Naruto thought on the new memory he received. The chuunin was only a short distance away. 'Do we go after him, or do we wait for Anko?' Naruto wondered.
'I doubt we have anything to fear from Mizuki,' Kyuubi said. 'I'm more worried about ... loyal Konoha nin.'
Naruto created a few clones to continue forward and meet with Anko, while he turned toward Mizuki.
Author's Notes: It's been some time since I last updated. I'll try to do better with the next chapter.
Published: January 7, 2011;