Title: Team One

Author: Joshua

Disclaimer: Naruto is owned by some Japanese company, both Manga and Anime and Movies. I don't own any of that, so I really don't care who does, I'm just writing cause I enjoy it. But seriously the primary owner is a guy by the name of Masashi Kishimoto and ever since he started focusing his series called "Naruto" on the character called Sasuke, everybody's been &itching about it and I've stopped watching it until they stop whining. Still, it's a good verse to write in and the fanfiction is turning out to be a lot more entertaining than the canon.

Summary: What if Naruto was not placed in Team Seven? What if he was placed in Team One instead?

AN: Quite a few characters that are more or less OCs, but are based upon certain fictional ninja characters from a multitude of other series, most notably Naruto's Teammates and Jounin-sensei. Kasumi is *based* off of the same character from the DOA Fighting Game/Anime/Live Action Movie series. Ryu is based off of every single fictional character that has the same name. Or he will be. Team One Sensei is based off a character from "Marvel VS Capcom" named Hayato Kanzaki and think of him as a Ninja Jedi, but the excuse is his "lightsaber" is powered by chakra instead of something else. BTW, I'm imagining Hayato's voice to be that of Scott McNeil, the actor that did Piccolo in the dubbed DBZ and DBGT series, just FYI.

AN2: This is *NOT* the Kasumi from latter DOAs and so forth. She's *13* for crying out loud, at least in this fic, so I'm not about to depict a girl that age wearing nothing but a blue kimono with strings at the waist, stockings, and her panties on display for all to see!

AN3: Ryu's appearance is mostly identical to that of Ryu Hayabusa of the Ninja Gaiden games, for this chapter.

AN4: Technique names were going to be done in English, but because of my use of proper Japanese use of names and so forth, I finally decided to go with the 'Subtitled' approach. So for the first chapter here, you'll see "Kage Bunshin no jutsu (Shadow Clone Technique)" and "shunshin no jutsu (Body Flash technique)" or just Flash technique for short. In "conversation" only English will be used, for simplicity of reading and writing.

Sound track:

"Team One Kicks Butt" - Daft Punk's original "Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger" from their Alive album.

"Shuriken Shadow Clone" - Nickelback's "Side of a Bullet" from their All the Right Reasons album.

"Team One Strikes!" - Within Temptation's "Stand My Ground" from their The Silent Force album.

"Chakra Fusion Finale" - Kevin Rudolf featuring Lil Wayne "Let It Rock".


"All right, all right, settle down, settle down," Iruka called out to the class.

The incessant chatter continued.

Taking a deep breath, Iruka then performed one of the few techniques he had enough experience in using that he didn't need seals to perform it. The lighting dimmed and the temperature dropped as Iruka's head grew to a ginormous size and he screamed loud enough to knock several students out of their seats.


Instant silence.

"Thank you," Iruka, now normally proportioned, calmly spoke. "Congratulations to everyone for passing the Academy Exams and congratulations for making genin! Now, as you all know, all ninja in Konoha are assigned to Teams, to balance and maximize the potential for our ninja forces. Which, of course means all of you have been assigned into three-man teams."

Seeing how quite a few became very excited by this, Iruka merely cleared his throat and continued.

"Understand, some of you may be hoping for some of your friends to be on your Team, and if that happens, great, but it doesn't always happen, and you may even wind up being placed with someone you rather wouldn't while the ones you did want to team up with went to another Team. So don't expect things to go your way just because. If you have a problem with being placed on a Team, or your future teammates..." Iruka paused to glare at them and invoked the demon-head technique to half its power, "... You can always quit the ninja program and go crying home to your parents!"

Complete silence.

"Now," Iruka was all smiles again, "I will call out the Teams and the number and when I call your name, merely acknowledge that you understand. So please don't make a fuss as it will just drag this whole process on longer and longer, all right? Good."

"Now then; Team One. Hayabusa Ryu, Tenshin Kasumi, and..." Iruka almost hesitated as he noticed something a little odd about the pairing he just read out, but it was all done by the Hokage himself, there was no mistake about it. "... and Uzumaki Naruto. Your Jounin Sensei will be Kanzaki Hayato. Team Two..." Iruka continued to read off the teams, not really noticing, or caring about the hearts he had just broken.

'I don't get to team up with Sakura-chan. sigh Oh well. At least Ryu isn't so bad, and Kasumi-hime never made fun of me or anything. Then again... she never really spoke to me before, and I always thought she was a snob because she's the princess of the Mugen Tenshin clan. Coulda been worse. shiver Could've been Sasuke-teme. Now THAT I would raise a stink over!' Naruto thought.

'I won't be on Naruto-kun's Team...' a quiet and timid Hinata sighed to herself in the back of the room.

'Uzumaki? Coulda been worse!' Ryu grinned to himself, before thoughts turning to his other teammate. 'Heheheh, Kasumi-hime's on my Team! Heheheh...'

'Hayabusa is a loyal retainer. He will not disappoint,' Kasumi debated her teammates silently. 'Uzumaki... Loudmouth, class clown, was rumored that he failed, but performed some service last night that automatically qualified him as a genin. Surprising. Could have been worse, I suppose. At least it's not... shiver Ayane.'

'NOOO!! *I* was supposed to be on Kasumi-chan's Team!! IT'S NOT FAIR!!' a purple-haired girl sitting just behind the Clan Princess fumed. Her name was Mugen Raidou Ayane, a sworn retainer of the Mugen Tenshin Clan of Konoha. She was also a bit... obsessed with the idea that she was and would be Kasumi-hime's Royal Bodyguard. Thus she was highly upset that she was separated from the one person she was duty-bound to protect, at least in her mind.

As the Teams were rattled off and the numbers began to thin, Iruka finally made it to the last few teams.

"Team Seven. Haruno Sakura, Mugen Ayane, and Uchiha Sasuke." Later on, once the teams were publicly announced, most everybody balked at that particular match-up, partly because it was a bit screwed up with two girls and one guy instead of the other way around, another because Sasuke was known as the Last Uchiha, but mostly because all three were known to have... volatile personality quirks. In other words, most knew right off it was a Team made to fail. And the following announcement just cemented it for most, "You Jounin Sensei will be Hatake Kakashi."

"Team Eight. Aburame Shino, Hyuuga Hinata, and Inuzuka Kiba. Your Jounin Sensei will be Yuuhi Kurenai. Team Nine is still in Active Duty from the previous year. Team Ten. Akimichi Chouji, Nara Shikamaru, and Yamanaka Ino. Your Jounin Sensei will be Sarutobi Asuma. That is all. We will break for Lunch and afterwards wait here for your Jounin Senseis to come by and meet you all. Class dismissed."

With that, the year's latest graduating class of the Konoha Ninja Academy exited the halls as students for the last time. The next time they entered this room, it would be as shinobi of Konoha.

One Hour Later

'Geez, all that trouble, beating up and defeating Sasuke, WHERE NOBODY EVEN SAW ME DO IT!, transforming into him, actually getting Sakura-chan to talk to me... and I'm beat by a lousy glass of expired milk!! Gotta say, my ninja career ain't starting off so great.' Naruto morosely thought to himself as he sat and waited with all the other Academy graduates for the Jounin Senseis to arrive.

Rather than place himself in his former seat, Naruto sought out, and of course asked to take the seat next to his new teammates. They silently agreed, for some reason both seemed a bit nervous, which confused Naruto. So what if it had taken him three times to pass the exam, and he did it via proxy in the end anyway? Nothing was going to get in the way of his dream! He was going to be a ninja, nothing was going to stop that, and above all else, he was going to be Hokage! He had absolutely no doubts about his future.

Unfortunately, for the other members of Team One, they were not quite so sure about everything.

"Team One," Iruka announced, "Your Jounin Sensei, Kanzaki Hayato is here."

Their first impression of their new sensei could be summed up in three words; Total. Badass. Ninja.

Hayato was a lean figure, standing just over six feet at rest, well weathered skin, dark brown hair and dark eyes, which shown from beneath his forehead protector that he wore low over his eyes. His attire was very form-fitting, the black pants allowing for absolute freedom of movement and tucked securely into his steel-toed boots. At his waist, on his belt, they could see a standard jounin weapons pouch and another holster that was longer and gave them impression of being some kind of weapons hilt. He also wore a skin-tight sleeveless black shirt over his torso, and oddly enough, over that he wore a ripped and torn tunic, the sleeves torn off and the lower half ripped away. As he stood there before them, he crossed his arms, seemingly annoyed, and they noticed the fingerless gloves he wore, coupled with basic ninja gauntlets, or forearm protectors.

"Enough gawking," he growled at them after a full minute, "Let's go. I don't have time for games."

Startled, all three of them jumped to their feet and obediently followed their new sensei out of the room, and then out of the building... then out into the village... then past the village... out of the village gates... and all the way to Training Area 11. Naruto was the only one not out of breath by the time Hayato finally stopped, though he'd started complaining about wanting to know where they were going back at the gates.

Once they got there, Hayato stood before them and looked them all over, seeing what he had to work with. The one that immediately grabbed his attention was the short blond kid with blue eyes, wearing an orange jumpsuit! Orange, for crying out loud!

Still, he was the demon-brat, as those on the Council called him, and not even two days ago did he learn and perform the Kage Bunshin no jutsu and defeat an experienced, though treacherous, chuunin. He was no doubt full of surprises and the dopey look on his face was probably as much a disguise as it was misleading to the kid's potential.

Next was the taller kid, who looked like he'd hit a major growth spurt recently as he was taller than he looked like he should be, and too thin for his height. He had black hair, hazel eyes and a sun-soaked complexion. Also, unusual for a genin fresh from the Academy, he was dressed like a serious shinobi, all in black with light armor, gauntlets, shin guards, and a full face helmet that fit around his newly acquired forehead protector.

Finally, he looked over the one that he'd been avoiding for last. Kasumi. Her pearly skin was absolutely flawless, her auburn red hair pulled back into a tight ponytail, and her brown eyes flashing with intelligence. She wore a kunoichi's tunic, bearing the colors of her clan proudly with a sky blue cloth, lined with cloud white seams. Her arms were left bare, though she had some shin guards over her legs along with a pair of white tights that covered everything, yet clung perfectly to her developing curves. On her feet she wore the standard sandaled boots, and at her waist she bore her symbol of the Leaf, which most normally wore as headbands to have the metal plate protect their foreheads, but she made it a very nice belt buckle in turn.

"All right, here's the deal," Hayato spoke to them, sounding gruff, serious, and apologetic too. "You all passed the Academy Exams. What that means, all that means is that you have learned the basic skills, E-Rank skills of being a ninja, and have the potential to become genin. That does not mean that you are genin yet."

"WHAT?!" Naruto yelled.

"Why didn't they tell us this already?" Ryu demanded to know.

"..." Kasumi was silent, as she began to suspect what this man was trying to tell them.

"There is one more test you must pass before you will truly be shinobi of Konoha. A survival test if you will. But before we get to that, I believe it is better if we properly introduce ourselves." Hayato sat down on a nearby stump, propping his arm on his knees as he adopted the Thinker's pose while looking at them.

"All right then, allow me to go first," he said after an awkward minute of silence. "My name is Kanzaki Hayato. This will be my first time as a Jounin Sensei... provided you pass my test. I am a career ninja, I am not patient, I am very good at what I do, and I do not believe in Fate, Destiny, or any crap like that. I do, however, believe in consequences to people's actions. Your turn whiskers," he pointed at Naruto.

"ALL RIGHT!" Naruto screamed, his excitement mounting. "I'm Uzumaki Naruto, I like ramen! I dislike waiting the three minutes for ramen to cook. My hobbies are trying out all of the different ramen flavors and of course, training! My dream is to one day surpass all of the Hokages and become the greatest Hokage ever!"

"Hard to beat that," Ryu muttered, then spoke up. "My name is Hayabusa Ryu, everybody just calls me Ryu anyway. I like pretty girls, I dislike emo-avenger-wannabes, and my hobbies are training and mastering the ninja arts. My goal in life is to become the most powerful ninja that I can possibly be. If that's stronger than everyone else, then so be it, but I don't like to compare."

"And that leaves you, Princess," Hayato turned to the lone kunoichi.

"I am Tenshin Kasumi, heir to the Mugen Tenshin clan of Konoha. I enjoy learning new things, helping people, and testing my own limits. I dislike cruel people, ignorant people, and politicians. My destiny says that I will become the new Head of the Mugen Tenshin clan, but before that... I want to help people and live my own life. My goal is to one day defeat my older brother and be recognized as a strong kunoichi by my clan."

"Who's your brother?" Naruto blurted out.

The other three ninja stared at the short blond, not sure if he was joking or not. Upon seeing the genuine confusion on his face, they realized that he really didn't know.

"Tenshin Ein Hayate is the current Head of the Mugen Tenshin clan, and is a very powerful jounin of Konoha. He is also my older brother and on the Konoha Council," she said this last to their Jounin Sensei.

"Wow, that's cool!" Naruto enthused.

"Good, well, now that we know each other," Hayato interrupted, "Let's get on with the test, shall we?"

He stood up and walked around the stump before standing up on top of it, his arms crossed. "Each Instructor does their own test, based on themselves and their method of teaching. So don't be surprised if some of your friends tell you that they had an easier test after today. You are going to fight me, in actual combat. Your goal, is to make me take this seriously. And believe me, you'll know when that is. You aren't expected to win, nobody expects a genin, of any class, to actually defeat a jounin in one-on-one combat. Nevertheless, you won't even last one minute if you don't come at me with the intent to kill."

Naruto's eyes went wide, and his mouth hung open in shock. Ryu merely nodded and readied himself. Kasumi scowled and looked pissed. She had finally worked out what this was about and what was going on.

Before she could call him on it though, Hayato went right ahead and confirmed it. "Something else you three need to know. As much as I don't believe in destiny, you three are not going to pass this test. Because I won't let you."

Naruto, even more surprised, shouted out, "What the hell is that supposed to mean?!"

"Quite simple really," Hayato answered. "This test, which all the new genin will undergo, has a 66 percent dropout average. Out of the nine teams that were assigned today, only three, on average, will actually go on to become genins this year. Everyone else goes back to the Academy for remedial training. Some even drop out after that."

"Stop trying to psyche us out, and let's get this over with already!" Naruto screamed, suddenly angry.

"It's not a 'psyche out', boy," said Hayato. "It is the facts. Another fact... I was chosen by the Hokage to be Team One's Jounin Sensei because of who was on it. If that person had been placed on another team, I would be that team's Jounin Sensei. The reason why... well, on the advice of the Council, it was believed that this person should not become a shinobi."

Naruto growled, his thoughts swirling around what Mizuki had revealed to him, and the reasoning behind the village's persecution of him, and jumped to the conclusion that Hayato was talking about him.

Kasumi and Ryu, however knew differently. Kasumi was the heir to the most influential clan in the entire Fire Nation, and her brother, despite being a ninja himself and having done his tour of duty, did not want anything to happen to her and most of the clan agreed with him. Ryu was a close friend of Kasumi and had trained with her older brother a few times and so knew the dynamic that went on between them. Hayato had been made their instructor so that no matter how hard Kasumi tried, no matter who she was paired with, she would fail to become a genin and they both knew there was little doubt that even if she were to get a second chance, if not Hayato, then somebody even stronger would be there to stand in her way.

"THAT IS BULLSHIT!!" Naruto roared, startling all three ninja.

Glaring with all the passion his abused soul could give, he told the jounin what the new reality was all about. "If you think, just because you're a jounin that you can talk to us like that, you've got another thing coming! I don't care what the Council says about anything! I am going to be a ninja, and I'm going to be Hokage one day! So no matter what you throw at me, I'll just get back up and throw it right back at ya!"

"Nobody can make another person's choices for them! Everybody in the world has the right to do what they wish and to go after their dreams! All they have to do is work at it and anything is possible! My dream is to be Hokage, and no matter who says otherwise, I WILL BE HOKAGE SOMEDAY!!"

They all stared at him, not really sure how to react to that. Hayato merely shrugged, as though he couldn't care less what some Academy graduate had to say to him. Ryu started grinning, and he couldn't stop. Naruto's little speech touched something inside him, his passion for power and the desire to test himself against someone stronger, all to find his own strength. Kasumi, who'd been very close to a bout of self-doubt and depression at her brother's desire to protect her, felt her spirits lift immediately. She grinned at her teammates and gave Hayato a glare of her own, steel-like determination filling her eyes.

Hayato snorted, but finally acknowledged that they understood the situation, though a bit unnerved how a few words from the loudmouth had bolstered the Princess's resolve. He briefly wondered what had happened to Ayane, who was originally supposed to be on Kasumi's team. He would have imagined that after his announcement, she would merely swear her allegiance to protect Kasumi right then and there, which probably would have kicked Kasumi over the edge and it would have been simple to end it right then and there. Now this loudmouth blond in an orange jumpsuit comes along... and turns out he'll have a fight on his hands anyway.

"Enough talk then," said Hayato as he recrossed his arms, "You have until sunset. Which is in about four and a half hours. Begin!"

The three genin vanished.

__________ - - - - - - - - - - * * * * * * * * * * 1 1 1 1 1 * * * * * * * * * * - - - - - - - - - - __________

First lesson of being a ninja. The key to being a ninja is stealth, able to hide and mask yourself so that you are like a ghost, a wraith, something that is there but not there. Those that cannot do even this simple skill often do not last long in the world of a ninja.

"Oi, Hayato-sensei!" Naruto yelled in a loud voice from directly behind the jounin. "What do you mean when we have to get you to take us seriously?"

"You're a weird one, aren't you?" Hayato asked the blond kid.

Naruto scowled, but just crossed his arms, waiting for his answer.

Hayato shrugged and gave it to him. "I believe I already told you that you would know when I got serious, but to put it in simpler terms so you can understand; I have a specialized weapon that I keep on me at all times. It's not a kunai or shuriken or anything else any other ninja in the entire world has for that matter. If you put enough pressure on me, for even an instant, that I have to draw and use this weapon... you pass. If you don't get that to happen before sunset... you'll get sent back to the Academy. Although it might be possible that the one that does the poorest will get kicked out of the shinobi program altogether."

As he'd spoken, Naruto got more and more pissed off. Finally, with that last statement, the orange-clad blond had had enough. With a roar, he charged and tried to throw a punch, much the way a drunken brawler might do it to be perfectly honest. "LIKE HELL!!"

Hayato, who didn't even have to move, just reached out, caught the fist and twisted it around behind the kid's back, making him cry out in pain. Holding him like that for a few seconds, he finally said, "Look, your team is going back to the Academy regardless. The Council convinced the Hokage of this. But if you keep going on like this kid, you're going to be thrown to the streets faster than you'd know what to do."

Naruto snorted. "Big deal. Only reason I'm... not on the streets as it is... is because the Hokage got me an apartment after... I was kicked out of the orphanage. And weren't you listening earlier?" Naruto's muscles bunched and in a surprising display of strength and dexterity, broke out of Hayato's grasp and leapt away. "I'M GOING TO BE HOKAGE! AND NOTHING IS GOING TO STOP ME! KAGE BUNSHIN NO JUTSU!(Shadow Clone Technique)"

In a blast of smoke, there were suddenly ten more Naruto's before the Jounin Sensei.

"I'd heard you could do this technique, kid. Impressive, but not exactly making me sweat," said Hayato.

"Oh yeah? Well try this on for size!" they all shouted in unison, pulling out a pair of kunai and each throwing one of them while charging with the next.

Hayato sighed, standing perfectly still as all eleven kunai impacted on his body, which then exploded in a cloud of smoke revealing that the Narutos had only hit an ordinary log. "Crud! Replacement Technique!" the clones all cried, all of them starting to look around for the jounin.

Suddenly, the real Naruto yelled as he felt a tug and found himself buried up to his neck in the solid earth. Hayato appeared above him and said, "Doton: Shinjū Zanshu no Jutsu (Earth Release: Inner Decapitation Technique)."

The clones all charged forward, but Hayato moved with unerring speed, punching each clone once causing them to dispel, leaving Naruto alone. He glared impotently up at the jounin, who merely crossed his arms and stood there waiting.

"Fine, wanna play hardball, huh?" Naruto growled, drawing Hayato's attention.

"Just... gotta... reach... THERE!" he exclaimed, right before the ground around him exploded.

Hayato was already a safe distance away and rolled his eyes. Figures that a rookie genin would think blowing yourself up is actually a valid or commonly used technique for ninja. Idiot.

"Hey Hayato-sensei," Naruto asked from right beside the taller ninja, "Were you talking about me earlier when you said that you were hired to stop one of us from becoming a ninja?"

Hayato, however momentarily startled, did not immediately react to the young ninja's presence, instead slowly turning to glare down at him from beneath his headband. "Honestly? No. I was talking about Kasumi. Why did you blow yourself up, by the way?"

"What are you talking about?" the unblemished Naruto asked from beside him.

The smoke from the explosion finally cleared, revealing... a crater and nothing else.

"He's quick," Hayato muttered.

"Thanks—" the clone barely had time to say before Hayato's fist tore through its skull, dispelling it.

"My turn!" a voice shouted from above and behind the jounin, in the trees. A blur of black sped forth and half an inch from from impact, the experienced jounin vanished, leaving the newbie genin holding a kunai to land in a heavy crouch where he once stood.

Ryu dashed forward, aiming for Hayato's new location, striking out with blade and fist, only to have the older ninja casually dodge, duck and weave around the expert strikes. After a few moments of this, Hayato finally uncrossed his arms, only to lash out with a strike of his own, sending Ryu careening back into the forest, knocking the wind out of him.

"OK... that isn't gonna work," Ryu wheezed, trying to get his breath back as he picked himself up.

"Let's try again!" he exclaimed, getting back to his feet and charging forward, as he noticed a dozen more of Naruto's clones coming in from the opposite side of the clearing. 'Excellent, I can use that as a distraction to land some heavy blows!' he thought to himself.

Hayato sighed. This didn't even count as a warm-up. He'd been bored, so he'd accepted a "Classified C-Rank mission" from the Council, which turned out to be wasting one day fighting Academy Graduates and beating them up. Not exactly his idea of fun, or training.

Keeping his arms crossed, he kicked out with strikes so fast that the genin barely saw the blows. After, the clones had all been dispelled and both Naruto and Ryu had been knocked back, one on top of the other.

"So much for a distraction," Ryu grumbled. "Get off me, dobe!"

"HEY! That's what Sasuke calls me," Naruto commented as he stood up and helped his fellow ninja to his feet. Ryu, upon hearing this statement, froze and grimaced to himself.

"Uh, sorry. But you really are acting like a dobe if you think charging in screaming your head off is gonna work, even if there are a hundred of you, if Hayato-sensei sees any of us coming, we're splatter on the ground!" Ryu apologized. "Mind if I call you Naruto, instead?"

"Sure!" Naruto grinned enthusiastically. "Can... is it all right if I call you... Ryu?"

The black clad ninja merely nodded and turned to face the jounin once more. "Teammates should at least be close enough to call each other by their name, yeah?"

Naruto's grin nearly split his head, before he turned to face Hayato with renewed determination and screamed out loud, "YEAH! Let's do this!" The two, only peripherally aware that they were doing so, charged forward together, Naruto summoning another dozen shadow clones as they did so.

Hayato raised an eyebrow at this sudden development, briefly wondering if the two had banded together intentionally or purely out of convenience. Only time would tell. And maybe a few hard knocks from him too.

Naruto, honestly not knowing any better, just put his fist forward, about three steps before he was even close to hitting him, as did all his clones, while Ryu struck from around the clones that surrounded them, trying first for a heel kick to trip him up. Hayato merely raised his foot, jumped up, and then spun around with enough force to vanquish all the clones, send Naruto flying back, dodge Ryu's attack, and upon landing send the black-clad genin flying off in the other direction. All done with a single move.

"OK, not going to be easy," Ryu grunted as he got back to his feet.

"DAMNIT! Let's try that again!" Naruto screamed, already on his feet and creating more clones.

In the trees, hiding, Kasumi watched for several minutes as her teammates tried their best to complete this test, fighting their sensei as hard as they could until he finally admitted they had passed. She knew, she knew that he never would. He had all but admitted it to her. Her brother, who was on the Council, who advised the Hokage on specific matters, had ordered that she not be allowed to become a shinobi. It was insulting!

Naruto was right, she realized with startling clarity. No one, not even her brother, though he may even be the head of her clan, no one had the right to deny her what she wanted to do with her own life, especially becoming a shinobi!

Steeling her resolve, she palmed several weapons and awaited her opportunity.

It came sooner than she thought as the combination of Ryu and Naruto and his clones attacks got their sensei to turn around so that his back was facing her current position. Seeing that the window of opportunity would not last for long, she did not hesitate to throw the full spread of shuriken she'd palmed followed immediately by three senbon needles, those targeted for specific points on his body rather than just at the man.

Dodging another flying tackle/punch from the kid in orange, Hayato's senses warned him of danger. He didn't have time or opportunity to make the seals for the shunshin no jutsu, or Body Flash Technique. Since that required a couple moments to gather chakra and complete the technique, it meant he couldn't use it to avoid all damage here, so he did the next best thing. He jumped up really really high.

Ryu saw him leaping and tried to either stop him or follow after, but the jounin's power was too great and the black clad ninja couldn't quite keep up.

Naruto, on the other hand, had a different idea. Drafting two of his clones, those that hadn't been taken out by Kasumi's shuriken that is, grabbed him and using all the strength they had, threw him up into the air like a catapult. Hayato saw this and smirked, preparing to strike the dumb blond down to the ground. Right until he formed that damned cross-seal and suddenly there were another twenty shadow clones shooting right at him.

Moments later they collided mid-air, Naruto leading with a punch as always and the clones throwing each other for kamikaze punches that did little more than bruise, if any damage at all.

"Don't underestimate me!" he screamed into the older man's face. He tried to throw another punch, but taijutsu wasn't exactly his specialty and Hayato easily blocked the attempt, grabbing the boy's wrist to lock it in place.

"Don't overestimate yourself," the jounin growled back, his gruff voice sounding menacing. Then he twisted around mid-air, still holding Naruto by the wrist and used his solid body as a bludgeon to get rid of all the clones before throwing him straight down to the ground at full force. If he hit, there would undoubtedly be massive internal damage, possibly permanent.

"Naruto!" Kasumi shouted, running out from her hiding place with a running leap.

She felt terrible when her ambush had backfired and she'd wound up hitting his clones instead of her actual target, for a moment fretting that she might have hit the original. Thankfully, that had not been the case and she allowed herself a brief moment of relief. Right up until Hayato had thrown the young ninja towards the ground from a very considerable height. Even now, the jounin was only beginning to fall back to the Earth.

Acting rather impulsively for one such as her, she ran full tilt and judging the trajectory, she leapt as high as she possibly could, aiming for Naruto's falling body and where he would soon be, in hopes of catching him before he hit and possibly died. Just as she jumped, out of the corner of her eye, she saw Ryu do the exact same thing, seemingly acting in perfect concert with her.

It was odd, as they both caught their teammate together, and Naruto, almost like he knew they were there, twisted himself around suddenly and they grabbed each other's arms to arrest the other's movement and better absorb the energy from Naruto's rapid descent. During that moment when their hands clasped, all three met the others eyes and something insubstantial, yet immensely profound seemed to pass through them.

Using quite a bit of acrobatics, they managed to all land on their feet without any broken bones and injuries more serious than a very mild case of muscle strain. They turned as one to face their opponent.

"Impressive," Hayato had to admit. "Not really worth anything, but it was impressive. Maybe you three could join a circus after this as I have told you, you aren't going to be ninja any time soon."

"N-n-Naruto, I-I... I'm sorry, about..." Kasumi tried to apologize as she felt this was all her fault.

He glared at her and held up his hand to stop her from saying any more.

"Hayato-sensei already told me, he wasn't talking about me earlier. Your brother is trying to protect you, at least that's what he told Hayato-sensei, by keeping you from becoming a ninja," Naruto said. "I'm not as dumb as most people think. I know being a ninja is scary. I know it's dangerous. And I know it's certainly not easy, by any means. But I am going to be a ninja."

Kasumi flinched back, the look in her teammate's blue eyes filled with something she thought of only as a childhood fairy tale, something whispered about and then laughed at. Kasumi saw the Will of Fire in Naruto's eyes, and it both frightened and exhilarated her.

"I will become Hokage. And no one, nothing is going to stop me from fulfilling my dream. But, that's my dream. No one can take it away from me. What you're brother is trying to do, good as his intentions are, is take your dream from you. The question is... are you going to let him?"

Kasumi gasped, stunned as she realized the 'Dead Last' was right. In more ways than one.

"If you want to be a ninja, Kasumi-chan, then you have to work for it. Nobody is just going to hand it to you and say 'Enjoy!' Believe me, I know," he said, his eyes darkening with painful memories, right before snapping back to full intensity as he stared back into hers. "If you really want to be a ninja of Konoha, you have to fight with everything you have, because otherwise it's not worth having. No matter what anyone says, your brother, Hayato-sensei, even the Hokage or me and Ryu here. If you want to be a ninja, it's all up to you. No one else. So... Kasumi-hime, do you want to be a ninja?"

Ryu, who had been silent during this brief diatribe, looked back and forth between his two teammates. He wasn't exactly sure what all was going on, but he had an idea or two. He understood about Hayate-sama's overprotective big brother streak, and his objection to Kasumi-hime being put into danger by becoming a ninja, but would the man really go so far as to sabotage her chances by hiring their Jounin Sensei into intentionally failing them? He didn't like to think so.

Kasumi, on the other hand, knew exactly how far her brother and her clan were willing to go to keep her 'safe'. It chafed when she was younger, but now... now it was practically choking her. And here was this small, dumb blond boy with a fake grin and more depths than anyone could imagine, offering her the chain-cutters to free herself. It wasn't a key, a nice easy way of getting out, but it was a way out. A way to be free.

Kasumi grinned as she felt something fill her where she hadn't felt a loss before and she felt the infamous Will of Fire fill her and catch flame within her heart. She glanced at Ryu and saw him just standing there as though waiting for her to finally catch on. He and Naruto already understood what needed to be done, they'd just been waiting for her to understand. And she finally did.

"Let's do this," they all three swore together. They held out their fists and knocked them together for only a moment, right before dashing off to face their opponent once more, and pass their test to become ninja.

__________ - - - - - - - - - - * * * * * * * * * * 1 1 1 1 1 * * * * * * * * * * - - - - - - - - - - __________

(Play "Team One Kicks Butt!")

Hayato stood off to the side, silently observing this little genin powwow of theirs. He didn't really care. No genin could defeat a jounin in a real fight. In fact the whole genin test was supposed to be all about teaching the kids teamwork and the value of working together. Something which Konoha prized greatly as a Hidden Village. But then... Hayato was not here as the Jounin Sensei of some Academy Graduates. He was here on a mission, one paid by a high ranking clan and assigned by the Hokage in private, but a mission all the same. And a mission is a mission

The Council had suggested that the test he give to them was the one no one could win; the Bell Test. After all, it had worked at keeping Hatake Kakashi without a team for over six years now, and it was impossible for any genin to successfully steal the bells from a fully trained jounin. But Hayato's mission was more than that, so he'd changed the test. To one even harder and more impossible to defeat.

There were some jounins out there that could not handle him going all out against them, so the possibility that this team could even get him to get even remotely serious about fighting them was like saying he used Katon jutsus (Fire Release techniques) to swat flies. In other words, this test was designed purely to break their wills and get them all, but especially Kasumi to give up and quite being ninja.

When he noticed that they finally stopped their talking and turned to face him, he smirked and recrossed his arms, displaying an air of utter contempt... even as he privately felt a rising feeling of disgust with himself.

He did not have time for self-recriminations however, as all three of them were coming in on the attack, fast. He stepped back and uncrossed his arms as Ryu lead the charge with a flying kick, Naruto only a step behind him with a straightforward flying tackle. He ducked under the kick and rolled back, jumping over the tackle, taking the time to kick the blond in the small of his back as the genin flew under him. Naruto crashed to the ground, only to explode in smoke on impact, making Hayato wary.

It came from the back, raising his opinion of the short blond loudmouth from 'less than nothing' to 'almost nothing' as the real Naruto body slammed him from the back, driving him forward through the air, where Kasumi was waiting. Moving faster than the boys had showed they could, the clan princess jumped up and lashed out with her long legs, catching the off-guard Hayato in the head and knocking him back to the ground. He caught himself as he landed and kicked off into a three-point landing.

Smirking at them beneath his headband, Hayato chuckled.

Finally, he spoke to them, "Took you long enough. I thought I'd have to play with you guys all day, pretending to be your practice dummy while you took potshots. Seems you've got the skills. Let's put them to the test!"

In a flash of high-speed movement, he charged straight for their grouping as they just stood there, staring in shock. Until the last possible second as Ryu back flipped into a handstand and pushed himself away, Kasumi ducking the other way and leaping to get further distance. Naruto, however, did the exact opposite, and charged right back.

Surprised, although that's more like saying one is surprised the sun is shining because it's daytime, for only a moment, Hayato realized that whether intentional or not, the loudmouth's actions would force him to deal with him first before he could go after the boy's teammates. Of course, that's only a good idea if the one doing the distracting can actually delay the enemy.

That's when Hayato was uncomfortably reminded that teams look out for each other, even for the one doing the distracting.

Just as he was moving to hit Naruto and probably take him out of the fight for good, the too-familiar whistle of flying shuriken alerted the jounin of additional danger. Glancing out of the corner of his eyes, he saw that Ryu and Kasumi had both flanked him and each thrown a full brace of shuriken at him, this time at angles where neither could hit Naruto again.

Seeing more danger in the form of the weapons, Hayato shifted his guard so that he could deflect the shuriken, which hit about half a second before Naruto did. Jounin are used to thinking fast and it was hardly taxing as Hayato deflected the more deadly flying bladed stars and then turned his attention back to the tackling genin. Only to realize too late that he probably should have taken care of him first.

Naruto never held back on anything. His timing and forms were atrocious, but he knew enough about how to throw a punch. When he attacked, be it punch, kick, tackle, or whatever, you name it, he never held anything back. He always, always threw all his strength into every attack. Most wouldn't think a twelve-year-old could have that much strength, certainly not enough to do any harm to an adult ninja. But have you ever been hit by a hundred plus pound sack of cement, traveling at top human ground velocity? That's nothing to ignore, which Hayato chose to as he dealt with the shuriken first.

Naruto slammed into his Jounin Sensei's gut head and shoulder first, knowing he had to move fast if he wanted to avoid the counter-attack, and grateful to his teammate's for the assist. The blow had enough raw force behind it that Hayato had the wind knocked out of him and nearly coughed up his lunch too.

Naruto rolled back and jumped away, regrouping with the others while Hayato tried to catch his breath.

'Damn,' the jounin thought to himself, still coughing and wheezing from the blow, 'Kid's got a hell of a punch. Maybe I should have done the Bell Test instead? At least that way they'd be fighting each other too. Somehow though, I get the feeling they'd band together like this anyway.'

"Not bad," Hayato grunted after he stopped coughing. "Lucky shot too. Won't happen again."

This time when they tried to break, he was moving too fast and the others didn't have time to flank him before he hit Naruto upside the head, knocking him to the ground and moved on to Ryu. The kid was clearly the most advanced of them in taijutsu, and it showed as they fell into the dancing pattern of striking, blocking, defending and attacking. Hayato, however, is a jounin, while Ryu, however talented, only just graduated the Academy. Five moves later, Ryu was knocked back and kicked away.

Hayato turned to find Kasumi, only to see her leaping right at him with a high-kick combo. He leant back to avoid it, only to have to raise his guard when the single kick quickly turned into an entire combination. There are many reasons as to why the Mugen Tenshin clan is one of the most powerful clans in the Fire Nation and Konoha in particular. Their specialized taijutsu style and family martial arts being only one of them.

For starters, the early forms focus mostly on kicks and counters. And from the way Kasumi was moving her long, and surprisingly powerful, legs against him, Hayato knew that she was very proficient in her family's style. Blocking as much as he could, he was steadily being driven back, step by step and blow by blow, in order to absorb the power of her kicks.

She threw combination after combination at him, only a very brief pause between the end of one and the start of another. Neither were under any illusions however, they both knew she could not keep this up forever and it would only be a matter of time before the jounin found the opening to counter-attack.

She decided to give him that, taking a full second longer before starting in on the next combination. Hayato took immediate advantage and threw a fast punch at her face to knock her back. Instead, still using her incredible speed, she shifted her stances in an instant and grabbed his wrist, pulling on it to throw him off balance while simultaneously cocking back a kick and slamming it full force into his chest, knocking the wind out of him, all inside of the same second. Ducking under his arm, while still holding onto his wrist, she jumped up, ran up his back until she was standing on his shoulders. She wasn't even standing there a full second before she started kicking her feet down, slamming five solid bicycle kicks to his neck and shoulders, driving him to the ground from the force of each blow.

With the final kick, she put twice as much force behind it, enough that she could jump off him and back away before he could counter.

Hayato was impressed. That actually hurt, doing some damage too. He felt the bruises already forming.

Faster than she anticipated, he recovered and was on his feet, dashing towards her with his fist cocked back for a heavy blow. Just as he was in front of her and throwing his punch, she squeaked in surprise, and then Hayato's blow landed... in Naruto's gut with enough force to send the orange-clad blond flying back to where Ryu and... Kasumi?... were standing with stunned looks on their faces.

Blinking in confusion, Hayato tried to figure out what just happened. When he did, he snorted and had to raise his opinion of the demon container yet again, from 'almost nothing' to 'absolutely pathetic'. Quite a leap when you think about it.

(Pause "Team One Kicks Butt!")

A few seconds earlier, Naruto and Ryu had only just begun recovering from the single-hit beatings Hayato had given them, and watched on as Kasumi royally laid into Hayato, actually getting him to retreat! Their amazement didn't last long though, as after a killer counter where the kunoichi actually drove the jounin into the ground, he got back up almost immediately, ready with a punch that looked like it would do a lot of damage.

Naruto didn't hesitate for a second, probably because he wasn't actually thinking as his body did the five seal combination and exerted twice the necessary chakra before he even knew what he was doing. A blur of motion later, Naruto had replaced Kasumi with himself and took the full force of Hayato's punch.

Ironic that it was enough to send him careening back to where his two teammate's now stood, Kasumi with a flustered and confused look on her face. Ryu just looked confused.

"How'd you do that?" he asked as he helped Naruto to his feet.

Groaning as he felt something pop back into place where Hayato had punched him, Naruto grunted before replying, "Kawarimi no jutsu (Body Replacement technique). Although, I guess I might call it the Saka-Kawarimi no jutsu (Reverse-Replacement technique) in this case," he chuckled, before wincing and clutching his chest. Something else popped back into place, but taking it's time as it did so.

"Naruto... why? I... I don't know... what to say..." Kasumi stuttered.

Naruto shrugged, still wincing, but breathing easier now. At least nothing had been punctured, just dislocated or mildly fractured.

"You don't have to say anything," Naruto replied. "Even if I turn out to be the worst here and get sent back to the Academy, I'm not going to let this guy just roll right over us! I want to be a ninja more than anything, but I'm not about to see my teammate's get hurt just for that. We all agreed, right? We're a team."

"Hey," Ryu added his two-cents, "we might only have been a team for a few hours, and I may not know blondie here that well, but I know you well enough, Kasumi-hime, to understand what is probably going through your head right now. So don't think we're going to let you blame yourself for us being here with you. If you don't make genin, then none of us will. There's no such thing as a two-man team, no matter what they tell us. It's all or none."

"So he lied," Naruto's eyes narrowed as he glared over at their Jounin Sensei.

"More like he wants us to work alone instead of together," Kasumi surmised. "None of us can take him alone. Our only chance lies in teamwork and unit cohesion."

"Huh?" Naruto turned a confused look on her.

"We have to work together, or we won't win," Ryu translated for him. "That doesn't mean once we start working together that we'll win at all, but if we don't, we definitely won't win."

"Right," Naruto nodded his head, turning a glare back at Hayato.

"We have each done our best to strike at him individually, and even then, we have hardly done him any damage," Kasumi continued. "We need better tactics. Ways of striking at him that will allow us to keep him under constant pressure."

"He's still playing with us," Ryu growled. "He might no longer be standing still and letting us hit him, but he's not even trying to fight us."

Naruto growled himself. "Like the playground bullies," he hissed, remembering.

"More accurate than you can know, Naruto," Kasumi agreed.

"So what do we do?" he asked.

"So far, we've been facing him on an almost one-on-one basis," she answered. "Let's try something different. Naruto, make as many clones as you can. Don't attack with them, just leave them on the sidelines, so that they can support us or distract Hayato-sensei for us as needed. And... please don't try that Saka-Kawarimi jutsu (Reverse-Replacement technique) anymore. We need you at full strength, and getting injured taking blows meant for us doesn't do the team any good."

"Or, if you do, do it with a Shadow Clone," Ryu added.

Naruto nodded and formed the cross-seal as he pushed as much chakra as he could handle and screamed, "TAJU KAGE BUNSHIN NO JUTSU! (Multi-Shadow Clone Technique)" The 'bamf' of multiple explosions was loud and wide-spread enough, with so much smoke that it was like the fog had just rolled in that Hayato paused himself before attacking. Caution telling him that he needed to wait and see what these genins had up their sleeves.

(Play "Team One Kicks Butt!")

When the smoke cleared, even Hayato was a bit stunned at the image presented. Over a hundred Naruto's now filled the clearing, some even having appeared in the trees on branches and hidden by leaves. Hayato knew he wasn't capable of taking out over a hundred shadow clones, but at the same time, it was logistically impossible for over one hundred Naruto's to get close enough to him to attack without getting in each other's way.

That, however, did not seem to be the plan, as those closest to him actually backed away and established a perimeter of about five meters on all sides. Curious, Hayato kept his guard up, only realizing a moment later that he'd lost sight of the original Naruto as well as Kasumi and Ryu.

Meanwhile, Kasumi was outlining a basic strategy.

"We need to keep up the pressure, not give him a moment to catch his breath. We also have to keep in mind that we're running out of time. We've already been at this for almost an hour. Which means we've only got about four hours left to defeat him," she told them.

"So, what do we do?" Naruto asked, trusting her.

"Hit and run tactics. We go in as fast as we can, we hit, then we get out of there, your clones or one of the others covering for the one attacking," Kasumi explained. "Go for his weak points. Ankles, knees, neck, elbows, wrists, ribs, the back. Usually just about any joint will be a good way to disable someone. Especially the blind spots; the back of the neck, the small of the back, between the shoulder blades, or the back of the legs. Don't get caught, and don't start a sparring match with him," she said this last to Ryu.

Ryu nodded.

"We have to keep this up constantly, never let him know where or from who the next attack will come from," Kasumi continued. "So, when neither of us or you aren't attacking, Naruto, have one or two of your clones also going in and attacking when they can. And keep a few ready for Replacements if you need to."

Naruto nodded.

"Let's go," they hit fists once more and scattered.

Hayato figured out the plan pretty easy. It wasn't exactly a strategic masterpiece by any means of the imagination, but that didn't mean it wasn't a good strategy all the same. Several key factors gave the genins the advantage in the situation, most of them originating with the knucklehead loudmouth prankster.

First of all, his uncanny ability with the Shadow Clone Technique made him unique, but it also allowed two strategic advantages; in open conflict, Naruto's ability to make so many clones was both intimidating and foreboding, as unless the enemy had a considerable force themselves, or the ability to cause massive destruction with a single technique, there was no way to clear the field so to speak. The second advantage was that with so many bodies filling Hayato's view, and the circle directly around him keeping an exact measurement of spaces between him and them, sometimes standing still, sometimes running in a circle around him, sometimes moving in opposite directions, it kept him from properly seeing the original genins, allowing them to strike from hiding more effectively than any Technique or skill with stealth could provide.

Secondly, whether through design or coincidence, Hayato's current position was in the middle of the clearing, leaving him out in the open while they could come and go as they please through the mass of bodies, retreating or approaching until it was too late for him to see or sense.

Third, he had a handicap and they knew it. He could quite easily wipe out all of the nearby shadow clones, but to do so while taking into account that Uzumaki Naruto could create so many and wasn't even winded by it, even after being injured, spoke more towards the boy's abilities than he realized. Which meant in order for the boy to begin feeling the effects or even a significant drain from using the technique so many times, Hayato would have to destroy most, if not all of them almost at once and then do it a few more times. And even then, Hayato suspected the boy would only need a few minutes to catch his breath before he could do it again!

Fourth, they had him pretty much surrounded, allowing for an attack to come from any direction, and he was not a Hyuuga.

Fifth and lastly, as demonstrated earlier, Uzumaki wasn't afraid to use his clones as launching platforms, giving himself and possibly the others the high ground in this, and potentially adding another dimension to this fight. Death from above and all that.

Growling to himself, Hayato almost said to heck with it all, but stopped from actually drawing his special weapon. The current situation was annoying, but using that weapon was still, by far, way too much overkill. He decided to wait and see what they would do next.

That's when it started.

At first Hayato thought it might be Naruto finally charging in with all his clones to dog pile the man, but that turned out not to be the case. Ryu emerged from behind a pair of clones, both who threw a kunai each at Hayato, forcing him to stay on the defensive while Ryu charged past, landing a solid blow to his right side, then running on back into the crowd of clones, who let him in, but maintained the space between them and Hayato. Not even a full second after Ryu disappeared, Hayato felt a powerful blow hit the small of his back.

He spun around with a counter, only a hair shy of hitting Kasumi, who was already racing back into the crowd. While he was turned that way, Hayato got a reminder of just how hard Naruto hits as the small blond slammed himself into the back of his knees and dashed back out of the way on all fours.

Grumbling, Hayato got back to his feet and said to himself, "So that's the way it's gonna be, huh?"

Before he could do any more contemplating, Naruto dashed right back out for a frontal assault. Hayato defended, only to find out a second too late that Naruto was the second-stage attack, not the first.

Ryu jumped up and twisted his body around so that he was using his whole body and used both legs to perform a whole body leg sweep on his Jounin Sensei, driving the man back to the ground. Even as he was coming back up, Naruto was still there and slammed his knee into the jounin's face, both genin disappearing back into the crowd, seconds after success.

Even as Hayato got back to his feet, seriously contemplating drawing his weapon now, Kasumi was already moving in and struck just as fast and as hard as ever. This went on for a solid fifteen minutes. Kasumi made sure they didn't repeat themselves, lest they fall into a pattern that Hayato could exploit in some way, so sometimes it was a double-team, sometimes it was one after another, sometimes all three of them got into it, but the order of who struck next always changed. A few times, Naruto even sent in clones instead of himself, and one right after the other, so that it might confuse him too.

During one of these times, the real Naruto and Ryu had ended up next to each other and were ducked down behind the clones so as to remain undetected. Ryu was taking the opportunity to catch his breath as he was not use to this constant stop and start running and high speed attacking. Naruto was also a bit out of breath, but he was grinning so he clearly wasn't tired at all.

(Stop "Team One Kicks Butt!")

"How do you think we're doing?" Ryu asked his teammate in the brief moment of silence.

"Are you kidding?" Naruto asked, keeping his voice down, "We're kicking his butt!"

"But he's still letting us. He's a jounin, and he told you about that special weapon of his. Until he pulls that out, we're no closer to beating him. Remember, we have to make him take us seriously!" Ryu pointed out.

"Oh yeah," Naruto grumbled. "Well... how are we supposed to do that? I've goaded the ANBU loads of times and they only ever try and capture me, not kill me. Well, as far as I know..."

Ryu observed as Naruto trailed off, but put his mind to the task of how to put enough pressure on the Jounin Sensei to make him go all out, even for a second. Or, at the very least, pull out his special weapon. Since he'd already pretty much told them about it, goading him and making derogatory remarks really won't do it as he'd be expecting that and hold back on using it just to frustrate them.

So, at this point, the only possible way would be to present enough of a threat, or annoyance, that he draws the weapon just to get rid of them. Ryu took a moment to look around them at all the shadow clones, most just standing there, waiting, tense, ready for action. He also remembered where Naruto had two of them throw him up like a catapult and how he then created a dozen more mid-air, all with the same speed and trajectory that he himself had, creating a shadow clone blitz.

Turning to the real Naruto, he asked, "Hey, why don't you have them helping us out? You've got enough of them."

"Kasumi said..." Naruto started to protest.

"Sorry, not what I meant," Ryu shook his head. "I mean, before, when you had them throw you into the air at Hayato-sensei, it was like you catapulted yourself at him, then you made a bunch more, all flying right at him. Well, with all these guys around, why not just throw one, two, or three clones at him at a time, doing the same thing, only have them like body slam him or the same thing you've been doing to him so far."

Naruto's eyes lit up as the idea appealed to him. "That would be kinda cool..." he started to say.

Ryu shrugged. "Think about it. I mean that, think about how to make it work. And remind me to show you the Shuriken Kage Bunshin no jutsu (Shuriken Shadow Clone Technique) after we're done here. It'd be scary if you and your shadow clones could do that one!"

"Shuriken Kage Bunshin no jutsu (Shuriken Shadow Clone Technique)?" Naruto questioned.

"Yeah," Ryu nodded and explained, "The Shuriken Kage Bunshin no jutsu (Shuriken Shadow Clone Technique) allows you to create a shadow clone image of a shuriken to attack an opponent. You can either throw a single shuriken and use the technique to create multiple shadows clones of it, or just a single shuriken and hide the other clones under its shadow. It's an A-Rank technique. I read a scroll about it and got my... well I got someone to show it to me. Still can't do it myself, but if you can do the Shadow Clone Technique..." Ryu got a thoughtful look on his face.

"What are the seals?" Naruto got excited.

"Here," Ryu then put his hands together and showed Naruto the seals while identifying them verbally. "Ram. Rat. Bird. Boar. Tiger. But you have to throw the shuriken first. Then you channel the chakra into the shuriken while it's flying and replicate its form by creating a solid chakra matrix. At least, that's the way it was explained to me."

Naruto sweat-dropped at the unfamiliar terms, but scrunched up his face in thought, incidentally all the clones immediately around them got the same look on their faces as they too thought it over.

"Hmm... So, basically, throw the shuriken as normal, while it's flying, and while you're doing the seals, send out chakra to create copies of it. Sounds easy enough! Eh... uh, what were those seals again?" he asked.

Ryu chuckled and showed Naruto the seals one more time. Then he realized that he needed to get back out there, as Kasumi and Naruto's clones had been doing most of the work for a few minutes now. In his wake, he left the real Naruto and at least fifteen of his clones sitting there practicing the hand seals over and over again. One of the clones was even taking out a shuriken, tossing it up into the air, and trying the seals, channeling chakra as he did so, letting the weapon then fall to the ground, where, unfortunately, nothing happened. Cursing, he tried again.

(Play "Shuriken Shadow Clone")

Meanwhile, Hayato was trying to thin the herd, so to speak. For the past few minutes, it had mostly been Naruto, or rather, Naruto's clones on the attack, but they'd been varying themselves. Going for his joints, his blind spots and general human weak points, a very different tactic than what he'd been doing from the start of the fight. He'd struck while he could, dispelling a clone at a time, but it wasn't making much difference.

Kasumi had snuck in a few more hits, and Hayato knew that he'd have quite a few bruises where she'd kicked him repeatedly by the end of the day. Then, Ryu came back with a vengeance, apparently having used those few minutes to rest up, and was making up for lost time by striking twice as hard and just as fast.

Growing irritated, Hayato tried once more to change his position, but the circle of clones kept up with him regardless, maintaining the open space of five meters, more or less. They were no longer just standing around either, all of them running in a constant circle and keeping in motion, and all of them, for at least two or three rows, were keeping an eye on him so as to match his movements.

Back with Naruto, he was still practicing the seals, getting progressively faster with them, always making sure he had them right before continuing on. Around him, his clones were a bit less patient as they were all already trying to channel chakra into the technique while they made the seals. One was still just tossing the shuriken up in the air, doing the seals while channeling chakra, and then watching as it fell. Another two were trying to see if horizontal flight would make a difference. A few others were trying to make shadow clones of stationary shuriken, while others just focused on learning the seals and channeling the chakra correctly. After all, it was the same as making shadow clones, right? Only with a shuriken instead of his entire body, so that should be even simpler, right?

One was even back in the forest where he created another five shadow clones, and each of them worked on target practice, throwing at imaginary targets on the trees, attempting the technique as it was originally intended, but all it resulted in was a single shuriken hitting the target. Well, sometimes hitting the target...

Finally, the one that had been tossing the shuriken up in the air felt something shift, or rather, start to form. Frowning, he concentrated harder on what he was doing, and tried one more time, channeling the chakra as tightly as he could. This time, when he tossed the shuriken into the air, there was a brief shimmer and then a flicker right before there was a small puff of smoke and a light gray dull shuriken appeared next to the real one, both succumbing to gravity and falling to the ground.

Recognizing the signs, as when he'd first learned the Shadow Clone Technique, his own clones had been similarly malformed, he felt a renewed kindling of excitement. At least this time he hadn't half exhausted himself and been burned by chakra burns. Although, he did feel he was still channeling too much chakra into the technique. He decided to concentrate harder.

About five minutes after Ryu had first suggested the technique to him, Naruto had roughly twenty to twenty five shadow clones, plus himself, working on trying to make it work. He was still aware of the ongoing fight, but about every other minute or so, the real Naruto would create another thirty shadow clones to fill in the ranks of those Hayato had managed to take out, on Kasumi's orders in fact.

The whole reason she had him create so many shadow clones was so they could use the clones to hide and attack from every angle, and if they were limited by the starting amount, then eventually Hayato could wear them down until the strategy was no longer valid. So, to keep Naruto supplying their cover and additional support, she told him to rest and conserve his energy, only creating more clones when he no longer felt winded or drained.

He'd been confused at her mentioning chakra drain, but he'd agreed and taken a breather, where Ryu had also rested for a bit. In fact, Naruto was feeling perfectly fine once more, after having sat in the grass for several minutes doing nothing but practicing the seals Ryu showed him, and creating two more groups of shadow clones to fill in the ranks. So, he probably should have gotten back into the fight, but he wanted to figure out this technique first.

After all, if they were going to win this, they would need to really put some pressure on Hayato to get him to take them seriously. And what better way than a few new techniques to pull out of their sleeves?

Plus, he still had his clones going in there to support Ryu and Kasumi as they did the hit-n-run thing, so it wasn't like he was abandoning them.

After just over ten minutes of practicing the seals, having gotten it so he could do them by just thinking of the technique in question, and complete it under three seconds too, Naruto was about to get up and start the next step, channeling chakra and practicing the technique, when he looked up and saw his clones were all at least a few steps ahead of him. In fact, every single one of them were able to create at least one shuriken shadow clone in their various methods of trying it out. They were also just as fast as he was in hand seal speed for the technique too.

Blushing in embarrassment, Naruto stood up and was about to join a few of them when he and all the clones suddenly stopped and blinked. Turning around, they saw Hayato cutting a swath through the clones, apparently heading right for him, or more likely just trying to take out as many shadow clones as he could as quickly as possible. Naruto growled and created another thirty-five clones, and together, along with all the clones that had been practicing his new technique, all bum-rushed the jounin in effort of stopping his progress.

"Don't let him near the tree line!" Kasumi shouted, right before Hayato punched his fist through the face of the nearest clone, which happened to be the one that had been tossing the shuriken up into the air and then letting it fall down.

Naruto blinked, and then he and the others turned as they heard cries coming from the tree line and at least ten more Naruto's emerged, all of them throwing shuriken in efforts of stopping the jounin's progress.

It worked, for the moment, as Hayato was forced to jump back, where the chasing clones all tried to tackle him and basically dog-piled the jounin. All of those clones shortly after exploded in white smoke as Hayato forcefully dispelled them, growling in extreme annoyance as he did so.

Naruto stepped forward out of the new crowd and formed the cross-seal, creating another ten clones, even as the ten from the forest arrived to back him up. Hayato growled, very annoyed now.

"You know, I can see why the ANBU hate you so much now, kid. You are one of the most unpredictable knuckleheads I've ever heard about. Using the same technique over and over and over again is usually a sign of weakness in a ninja. But you just keep coming up with new and interesting ways to make it keep working," Hayato chuckled.

"It's really annoying though," he growled, right before he formed a few hand seals in a blur and the next thing any of them knew, there was a flash of movement and then a whole lot of explosions as shadow clones suddenly became endangered.

"Ninpou: Kyouhen Shunshin no jutsu (Ninja Arts: Flash Technique, Swift Assassination Style)," Hayato pronounced once the smoke cleared.

Naruto stood apart from Ryu and Kasumi, both who were hanging back with the last few remaining shadow clones, while their teammate stood before the jounin, coughing a bit from the smoke.

"Oh yeah," he shouted once he'd stopped coughing, "Well, let's try out my new technique and see how you like it, huh?!"

Ryu grinned, thinking that he knew exactly what 'technique' his teammate was about to pull off, but was surprised when Naruto didn't form the cross seal, instead pulling out a shuriken. Ryu's eyes went wide, thinking, 'No way... You have GOT to be kidding me!'

"SHURIKEN KAGE BUNSHIN NO JUTSU (Shuriken Shadow Clone Technique)!" Naruto shouted, then threw the shuriken at Hayato with surprising strength and accuracy, but the surprises were only just beginning as Naruto then flashed through five quick hand seals... and the single flying shuriken was suddenly ten flying shuriken!

"Holy shit!" Ryu swore.

Kasumi stared, her jaw dropping in amazement.

Hayato just cursed and back flipped, dodged, and blocked or deflected as needed, being forced to retreat in the face of that many weapons. He knew the kid had learned the Kage Bunshin no jutsu (Shadow Clone Technique) from the Forbidden Scroll a few days ago, but nobody mentioned him learning the Shuriken Kage Bunshin no jutsu (Shuriken Shadow Clone Technique)!

Having successfully dodged all but one of the flying projectiles, Hayato had to admit it, Naruto just went from 'pathetic' to 'not bad, not bad at all', which is the same level of opinion that Kasumi and Ryu were still at. Still, Hayato mused as he fingered the real shuriken, which he had caught, 'not bad' still isn't good enough.

He threw the shuriken back to it's owner, at roughly twice the speed, catching the genin off-guard, as it slammed home into the kid's upraised arm. Blood was flowing out, squirting in small jets even, right up until the shadow clone dispelled in an explosion of white smoke.

"What the...?" Hayato was definitely surprised this time.

"Holy shit!" Ryu cursed again. "Did he just do that?"

"Do what? I thought he was supposed to use the Replacement jutsu with the shadow clones still here?" Kasumi replied, a bit confused.

Ryu turned to look the kunoichi in the eye before saying back, "You don't understand. I just showed him the seals for that technique! I can't even do it myself yet! It's an A-Rank technique! And I just showed him the seals only and explained how it was supposed to work. And a shadow clone pulled it off! I showed it to him like... twenty minutes ago, tops! Twenty minutes!"

Kasumi's jaw dropped all over again in amazement.

Hayato, overhearing this, allowed a momentary promotion to 'impressive' in his opinion of Naruto. The tag stuck for a few more seconds as Hayato had trouble picking out the real Naruto amidst the remaining clones, entertaining the possibility the genin had even successfully hidden himself and all the remaining Naruto's were clones.

It didn't last long though, as pretty soon, another group of Naruto's showed up, this one with a definite leader however, who immediately went to stand next to Kasumi and Ryu.

"So, what do you think of my new technique, sensei?" Naruto smirked, overconfident and mimicking Hayato's earlier pose by crossing his arms. "In fact, why don't we show it to you again, just so you can better appreciate how awesome a Hokage I'm going to be someday!"

With that, all the clones bore feral grins, even the ones that had been around Ryu and Kasumi all this time, and drew forth what looked like all of their supply of shuriken, right before throwing all of them in Hayato's general direction. Moments later, with a flurry of hand seals and a loud cry of, "SHURIKEN KAGE BUNSHIN NO JUTSU (Shuriken Shadow Clone Technique)!" the air filled with flying blades of death.

After a really, really quick head-count, Ryu, Kasumi, and Hayato all determined there were roughly fifty to sixty clones, exact count coming to 57 clones plus the original, and then did some quick calculations. The average shinobi carried about ten shuriken on them as part of the standard weapons package, not counting weapon specialist, or unique weapons such as fuuma shuriken, or giant shuriken, and the like. Naruto seemed to carry twice that amount, and this carried over to his clones as well. So every clone in the group was pretty much guaranteed to have around twenty shuriken in his weapons pouch.

While the real Naruto stood calmly by his team, every single one of the 57 clones pulled out all twenty shuriken and then threw them in Hayato's direction, followed very shortly by them duplicating every single shuriken by a 10:1 ratio. The results of this simple mathematical equation is that in the blink of an eye, Hayato now had roughly 11,400 shuriken flying at him in a wide spread.

Hayato silently swallowed a bit heavier than normal and took a very deep breath. Naruto, in the space of an hour, had risen in rank, according to his Jounin Sensei's opinion, from an 'absolute nothing' to 'not bad' with an 'impressive' or two thrown in, and with this single technique and it's unique application, had been further upgraded to 'Dangerous'. It only lasted for a breath of a second, but to a ninja, there is no higher compliment.

"Am I awesome or what?" Naruto preened under the looks of ongoing shock his teammates were giving him, though he chose to interpret it as looks of awe rather than disbelief.

Ryu chuckled at Naruto's attitude and replied, "You're something else all right, Naruto. Something else entirely. What about that other technique I suggested you work on?"

Naruto's smirk lost some of the arrogance and took on a more serious tone as he nodded to his teammate. "Well, I wanted to make sure I understood this one first, but I figured out how to make that work too. Even worked out how to combine it with Shuriken Kage Bunshin (Shuriken Shadow Clone)!"

"I look forward to seeing that," Kasumi muttered, even as she stared back and forth between Naruto and the battlefield, where his clones' shuriken were still flying against their Jounin Sensei.

Seeing that he had mere seconds to either start dodging, blocking, or wait to be a pin cushion, Hayato acted as quickly as he could. Sure that the blond brat would have even more clones in the forest behind him, Hayato decided to make his defense here, rather than continue running. After all, it was time he showed these genins exactly what they were up against.

He moved quickly, throwing down four kunai into a rough diamond around him, he then opened the extra pouch that he had on his belt and drew the object held within, which looked to be nothing more than a bladeless sword handle. He charged his chakra, then he slammed it into the ground at his feet, chakra flowing out from the central point and creating a cross between the embedded blades. He quickly flashed through about twenty seals faster than most people can blink, and then he touched the center point, shouting only, "Raiton: Jibatate (Lightning Release: Electromagnetic Shield)!"

Instantly, a spark leapt from his finger to the central weapon, and just as fast, the chakra paths lit up and the four other kunai ripped themselves out of the soil and pointed straight up, the blades hovering steadily at knee-height around him. Hayato stood calmly over the center point, having pocketed the object he'd pulled once the technique was complete and looked up at the oncoming storm of shadow clone shuriken.

The trio of genin stood with looks of shock as they watched their "Jounin Sensei" just stand there waiting to be impaled with over several thousand shuriken. Then the impossible happened and they were there to watch it, as just under half a meter from Hayato's head, the shuriken started going everywhere but at him!

Some of them were simply changing trajectory mid-flight, others seemed to stop and then be repelled backwards, where they then encountered the other shuriken and further deflected the storm of metal blades. When finally the shuriken stopped, in an almost perfect circle, ending just half a foot outside of the still 'standing' kunai, was empty space while the rest of the area for several meters in all directions was covered with shuriken, some even cutting into each other!

"Whoa," Ryu stated, stunned.

"NO WAY! THAT'S CHEATING!" Naruto protested, loudly.

"That... was a very advanced ninjutsu," Kasumi corrected softly.

"Still not fair! I had him!" he complained.

"Too bad," Hayato spoke only loud enough for them to hear him, neither shouting nor yelling, "It was a surprisingly good effort. But now this little... contest is over. I'd rather complete my mission sooner than later."

Suddenly, he blurred away, and the three genins all tensed. They still didn't see it coming.

"Raiton: Jibasutangan (Lightning Release: Electromagnetic Stunner)," Hayato intoned, even as he held out both hands, his wrists flashing with bluish bolts of electricity and chakra. The bolts hit all three of them equally and wiped out the last of the clones, even as it sent each of the genins flying off in a separate direction.

"YAAARRRGGGHHHH!!" Naruto grunted in overwhelming pain as he landed in a heap.

"GAAAAAHHH!" Ryu cried out as he struggled to remain conscious.

"AAAAAAAAAHHHHH!!" Kasumi screamed, almost passing out from electrical shock.

They all lay where they landed, smoking, in pain, and trying to move. The most any of them could accomplish was a slight twitching of their limbs, though Naruto seemed to be able to move a little be more than his teammates could at the moment.

"Don't bother trying to move," Hayato told them, still standing where he'd attacked them. "That technique is a Lightning element technique, and what it does is that it arcs out in a circle around each of my wrists. That's important because of the way lightning works, when I punch or attack someone, the lightning goes through them and then down into the earth, shocking them along the way. When I put my wrists together, like I did with you three, then the amount of energy transferred through you is about double the amount. Normally it's around three to five thousand volts of electricity. Combined, it's closer to 10,000 Volts of electricity, enough to kill a man twice over. But by arching through the air instead of metal or even water, that 10,000 is reduced back down to the 5,000 amount, which is still enough to overload every nerve in your body. This test is over and you all..."

Hayato stopped speaking as he watched the nearly impossible happen. Naruto stood up.

"This... test... is... NOT... over!" he gasped, still a little crispy around the edges and a few of his muscles were twitching still, but Hayato's words had gotten him so angry that everything turned red for a moment before he found he could move again. Naruto figured it for adrenaline.

"I... told... you... I'm... going... to... be... HOKAGE SOMEDAY!" Naruto screamed, getting another 'jolt of adrenaline' before running straight at his Jounin Sensei. Along the way, he cried out, "Kage Bunshin no jutsu! (Shadow Clone Technique)" and created another few dozen shadow clones to help him out.

Hayato was as close to 'stunned' as he'd ever been. Even when he was a genin himself, there wasn't exactly a lot that could throw him. Scare him, terrify him, and outright make him want to retreat yes. But there wasn't much that could surprise him so badly that he was incapable of processing it. Seeing a fresh Academy Graduate use a jounin-level technique and the S-Class version of it as well, was pretty surprising, but he'd been told about it beforehand by the Hokage himself even. Seeing a twelve-year-old boy stand up after taking one of his own Raiton jutsus head on, and then still be able to move, let alone attack and use jutsu so quickly, was something else entirely.

Still, Hayato merely stared for all of three seconds before vanishing in a blur once more, followed almost instantly by a large number of pops and smoke filling the battlefield as all of Naruto's clones were forcefully dispelled yet again. How much chakra did this kid even have?

(Stop "Shuriken Shadow Clone")

Once the smoke had finally cleared, Hayato was mildly surprised to see that he was the only one in the clearing. "Impressive," he commented as he realized that the Naruto kid had used the clones as nothing more than a distraction so that he could retrieve his teammates from the battlefield and allow them time to recuperate. That alone would have passed this team. In normal circumstances.

Back in the woods, by the trees where his clones had been practicing their shuriken throwing, Naruto and two of his clones lay down the nearly-passed-out Kasumi and Ryu down against the tree trunks. With a nod, the two clones leapt up into the canopy, creating another ten clones each and spreading them around so they could spot Hayato approaching from almost any direction. Naruto wasn't sure why he had been less affected by the Jounin Sensei's technique than his teammates, but he knew they needed just a little more time to get past the effects. Besides, they trusted him, Ryu taught him a new technique, however indirectly, and Kasumi needed his help as much as he needed theirs.

Naruto was nobody's fool. He knew that he couldn't beat Hayato by himself, the fight so far was proof enough right there. In fact, the only times they'd ever made the jounin go on the defensive was when they worked together and attacked him all at once. As a team.

He wondered if any other ninja might be begging Hayato for a chance to become a genin by this point, even handing Kasumi up on a silver platter, so to speak. Mizuki-teme might have done something like that, and that right there was all the reason Naruto needed to never do anything like that!

Ryu groaned, starting to come around.

"Hey, Ryu, you OK?" Naruto asked once his comrade was sitting up.

"Not... really," the black-clad ninja muttered. "Feels like my muscles have all turned to jelly. Can hardly move. Where...? How did you get us out of there?"

Naruto shrugged, then pointed up, where Ryu saw a few shadow clones keeping a lookout. "Oh. You can still make shadow clones?" He nodded. "Whoa. How much chakra do you have? Never mind. How's Kasumi-hime doing?"

At that precise moment, the kunoichi gave a soft moan before slowly opening her eyes and looking around. "What happened?" she asked them.

"Hayato-sensei used some kind of ninjutsu on us," Naruto supplied the answer.

"And apparently Naruto has enough chakra left over that he created enough clones to get us away from the fight," Ryu added. "Whose to say how long until he finds again and finishes us off."

"C'mon guys," Naruto whined, seeing his teammates suddenly looked dejected. "We can take him! I know we can! We almost had him, if he hadn't pulled out that technique of his, I woulda made a pincushion outta him! Not to mention it was working! Kasumi-chan's plan to beat him, it was working! Now we just need to beat him, right?"

Kasumi and Ryu looked down, both feeling the weight of failure settle on them.

"Look," Naruto scowled, not willing to let this stop him, "we have until sunset, right? We can still do this. We can beat him! I know we can! I'm going to be Hokage and nothing is going to stop me, especially not some bully out to hurt Kasumi-chan!"

Blinking, the chestnut-haired kunoichi looked up, stunned.

Ryu also looked up, a bit of the fire coming back into his eyes.

"He's right," Ryu stated, drawing the looks of his teammates. "We can't just give up. There's no guarantee of second chances, and to Hayato-sensei, this is a mission given to him by the Council and Hokage directly. We have to get him to fight us seriously, and if we give up just as we get him to do that, then we don't deserve to be ninja in the first place. So I'm not going to give up. No matter what."

Kasumi slowly nodded.

"No matter what, we don't give up," Naruto agreed. He struck his fist out in front of them. "We fight with everything we have. We fight for every single second that we have. We fight until we beat him. We don't give up. We never give up."

"Never give up," Ryu stated, slamming his fist into Naruto's and keeping it there.

Seeing how her teammates were leaning, Kasumi nodded firmly, and punched out with her own fist, connecting with theirs. "No matter what. We will become shinobi!"

(Play "Team One Strikes!")

"Well, you could start by learning the first lesson of ninja and embracing silence and stealth," a voice called out from behind them.

"Shit!" Ryu cursed, leaping to his feet, only to stumble and almost fall back down. Thankfully, Naruto caught him, but they were more or less sitting ducks as they all turned to see Hayato standing there on a high tree branch, arms crossed and a smirk on his face.

"Kage Bunshin no jutsu! (Shadow Clone Technique)" Naruto screamed the technique name as he almost threw clones out and putting them between his teammates and their opponent.

"Now would be a good time to try out that other technique I suggested, Naruto," Ryu grunted as he and the blond helped Kasumi to her feet and they all beat feet.

"I already did," Naruto growled back, "It didn't work!"

"No, throwing shadow clones at him. Literally," Ryu clarified.

"Oh yeah, that!"

"We need to get back to the clearing," Kasumi told them. "He can attack us from any direction here, and spamming him with shadow clones won't do us much good if they hit the trees more than they hit him."

"Then hang on!" Naruto told them before forming three more shadow clones, then having them grab both of them by the arms. A quick wind-up, before they could say anything, all three members of Team One were airborne and flying through the trees back to the clearing of the training area.

"ARE YOU OUT OF YOUR MIIIIIIIIIIIIII—ND!?!!" Kasumi screamed as she fell through the air.

"OK, this is kinda cool," Ryu said to Naruto, still mid-air with them.

When they finally topped their arch and started their descent, they had actually crested the canopy of leaves of the massive trees surrounding them. They could also see the clearing and it was pretty clear that they would be landing near the center. Provided they landed and didn't just fall to their deaths.

"Uh... I don't think I thought this through very well," Naruto mumbled as they began to fall.

"YOU THINK!!" Kasumi screamed.

After about five more seconds of falling to their potential deaths, Ryu suddenly shouted, "Quick! Naruto! Make more clones! But on the ground, then let's use Kawarimi!"

"You mean Saka-Kawarimi," Naruto corrected.

"WHATEVER!!" both Ryu and Kasumi screamed at him.

"Fine," he grumbled, making the seal and in a puff of smoke, three clones appeared fifteen feet below them, which only put the clones a couple of feet off the ground and they landed just fine. A few seals from the trio in the air later, and those clones were suddenly the ones falling while the three real-bodied ninjas were safely on the ground.

"Hey, I never realized shadow clones could be so useful! This technique ROCKS!" Naruto exclaimed once they were safely on the ground.

"And that's why you're not a very good ninja," Hayato commented. They spun around, each dropping into defensive stances.

"Y'know, that's starting to get really annoying," Ryu huffed.

"What? Him using the same technique over and over and over again?" the jounin dryly remarked.

"No," Ryu snarled, "You. Sneaking up on us and getting behind us all the time like that!"

"Too bad. You three might have figured out the whole teamwork riddle, but that doesn't matter. You still haven't passed my test. And you never will," he told them. After a moment, he started making seals and instantly the three genin broke apart and dashed off into different directions.

"Tajū Kage Bunshin no jutsu! (Multi-Shadow Clone Technique)" Naruto created about fifty more clones, then he cried out, "Hey Ryu! Check this out. Even figured out a name for it already! GO!"

Instantly the fifty clones were cut to one-third of their number as the first third were thrown directly at Hayato by the other two thirds and then the next group were tossed as high into the air as they could be thrown, while the remaining third surrounded the jounin and prepared to just run in and take advantage of any openings they could get.

"NINPOU: KAGE BUNSHIN nanseihokubatsu! (Ninja Arts: Shadow Clone Blitz)" Naruto and the clones all cried out as one.

Hayato was forced to abandon finishing his technique as he suddenly had full-force flying Naruto's coming at him from all sides. It certainly didn't help when the ones thrown up in the air decided to use the Shuriken Kage Bunshin no jutsu (Shuriken Shadow Clone technique) once more, adding another element to the newly coined attack.

With sure, decisive punches, Hayato worked to dispel the clones before they hit, but he still got hit by those that made it through his defense. Not to mention dodging the falling shrapnel that could kill him if he wasn't careful. The worst part of this new technique was that it came from all sides all at once and it didn't stop! In the back of his mind, however, he privately upgraded Naruto's threat level from a D-Rank mission not worth his time, to at the very most an extremely low C-Rank that was bringing out quite a few surprises.

"Oh that is awesome," Ryu had to say as he and Kasumi retreated to near the tree line.

"This... this isn't right," she said to him.

"Huh? What do you mean, Kasumi-hime?" he asked.

"Naruto is the one that is in the thick of this-this test! He's the one using all the ninja techniques, he even learned two new ones right before our eyes and he's the one that has allowed us to keep a jounin on the defensive for this long. It's not fair to keep pushing Naruto to the front like this!" protested Kasumi.

"Well, keep in mind that the last time we made him go on the offensive, all three of us got the worst of it, but Naruto..." Ryu argued.

"But Naruto got us out of there and more or less saved us," she interrupted him. "We need to be doing more! We can't just hang back and let Naruto do all the heavy lifting. We're supposed to be a TEAM for Kami's sake! We need to start behaving like one!"

Ryu was silent, but she could tell he agreed with her words.

"What techniques do you know?" Kasumi asked.

Ryu blinked, surprised.

"What does that have to do with anything?" he replied defensively.

"Because you showed Naruto, intentionally or not, how to do the Shuriken Kage Bunshin no jutsu (Shuriken Shadow Clone technique)," she pointed out. "Now for you to know that, you'd have to have been training in more than just the Academy-taught ninjutsus. So what else do you know, and can use in a fight?"

They were interrupted when Hayato yet again pulled a trick out of his hat, apparently taking a page out of Naruto's book, as he switched himself with one of the still-in-the-air clones to put himself where he needed to be and then finished his earlier technique.

"Raiton: Rakurai (Lightning Release: Chain Lightning)!" he called out even as he held out sparking wrists that once again lanced out to the nearest bodies. The difference being here that it didn't stop at the nearest bodies, but struck one clone, then lanced out to the next, and then the next, and the next, and the next, until finally the bolts of chakra-created electricity reached those on the ground and thus grounded the energy, causing more than enough damage to get rid of all the clones at once.

"Damnit!" Naruto cursed as he ran around and created another batch of clones. These did not attack, however, instead running around randomly, most just circling the jounin's position, even as he landed softly on his feet after a thirty-foot fall. Some of the clones, along with the original, ran in Ryu and Kasumi's direction.

Seeing this, Kasumi made some hand-signs, which Naruto thankfully noticed, and she, Ryu, Naruto and the clones with him all leapt up into the trees after throwing down a few smoke bombs, immediately masking their presence to the best of each owns ability. The three genins just happened to choose the same hiding spot so they could strategize.

(Pause "Team One Strikes!")

"This isn't working," Ryu said.

"We can still beat him!" Naruto insisted, but quietly.

"Using shadow clones as cover won't work anymore," Kasumi whispered, almost thinking out loud. "We need to work out a different strategy. Naruto, besides the Kage Bunshin no jutsu (Shadow Clone Technique), and the Academy basics, what other techniques do you know?"

"Uh... well, Ryu just showed me the Shuriken Kage Bunshin no jutsu (Shuriken Shadow Clone Technique)..." the blond blushed, scratching the back of his neck, almost in embarrassment.

"Ryu? You never answered my question the first time," Kasumi looked to the black-clad ninja.

He seemed almost reluctant, but finally he just nodded and answered, "All of the Academy basics, three different styles of taijutsu, a few Katon ninjutsus, Konoha Shunshin no jutsu, and some wire techniques. Now what about you, Kasumi?"

Ignoring the slight against her name, she immediately answered, "The Academy basics, my family's taijutsu style, and a few chakra control exercises."

"You're kidding," Ryu deadpanned. "You get me to tell you all the techniques that I know and can do, something that a ninja never gives up unless they're desperate, and all you have to offer in return is that you know nothing except what your clan taught you?!"

"What's a chakra control exercise?" Naruto asked. "And hey! Kasumi figured out our last plan, let her have a chance!"

"Quiet!" Kasumi hissed. "And for the record, I know all the Academy taught techniques, water-walking, tree-climbing, and leaf-floating. And I may have a few taijutsu techniques that might be of use."

"So," Ryu sighed, letting go of his anger, "what's the plan? Go all out against him?"

"That wouldn't do much for long," Kasumi shook her head. "He's adapted to everything we've thrown at him, and now he's started using ninjutsus. What about when he finally pulls out that weapon he told Naruto about? At this rate, we won't stand a chance."

"Guys!" Naruto tried to interrupt.

"We need to move," Ryu said suddenly, immediately grabbing both of them and throwing them off the tree, flashing away himself in the same move.

Several meters away, they regrouped. They all crouched down behind some bushes, still maintaining as much stealth as they could. Not even a leaf rustled as they settled in and even the surrounding wildlife remained unchanged.

"OK, what was that about?" Naruto asked, confused out of his mind.

"Hayato-sensei found us," was all Ryu said.

"How could you tell?" Naruto asked.

"I'll show you how to do it one day. When we're not being hunted by our sensei," he glared.

"Oh, right," Naruto blushed.

"There's nothing we can do," Kasumi almost moaned in despair. "That right there just goes to prove it, Hayato-sensei just too tough an opponent. No matter what we throw at him, or which direction we come from, there's no way we can beat a jounin!"

"Shh!" Ryu and Naruto both shushed her.

"Come on, Kasumi-chan," Naruto almost begged. "If we do our best, if we stick together, we can beat him. You said it before yourself. Never give up. Come on, never give up!"

"Kasumi... I'm sorry for ragging on you earlier, but I don't like sharing all my secrets all at once," Ryu said to her. "Guess I still haven't learned that whole teamwork lesson yet, huh? Well, I'm with Naruto, and I'm not gonna give up. But we won't stand a chance unless you're out there with us."

"Naruto may be able to create an army with ease, but that doesn't matter a thing if the person that we're both fighting for, won't fight for herself," Ryu accused. "Hayato openly admitted it. The Council, your brother hired him to be assigned as your Jounin Sensei, all so he could break your spirit and send you crying from the Shinobi program. Well, sending you home crying means sending the two of us back to the Academy for remedial training. And I think it's safe to say that I speak for Naruto and myself when I say that we really don't want to go back to the Academy. Again."

"So," he grabbed her face and forced her to look them both in the eye, her brown eyes welling up with tears, "if you're not going to fight for yourself... fight for us."

"And I'll fight for you, and Ryu-baka here," Naruto added with a wide grin.

"I'll fight for you and the dobe too," Ryu followed that up with a smack to the back of the blond's head.

"Guys... I..." she was suddenly choked up. Then her eyes hardened as she considered exactly what it was they were asking of her, and what her brother, the Council and Hayato were all doing. It wasn't fair, not only to her, but to her teammates. And that was something she would not stand for!

"We attack him from all sides, don't let up, use every technique you can, keep an eye on each other, and be ready to pull each other out of danger if you see something about to happen," Kasumi ordered, the fire lit up in her eyes even brighter than before. "And if this works," she paused, giving each of them a meaningful look, "we'll call this our Buntai no jutsu: Ikko Dageki (Team Technique: Team One Strikes)!"

"Break!" Ryu warned and they all flashed away.

__________ - - - - - - - - - - * * * * * * * * * * 1 1 1 1 1 * * * * * * * * * * - - - - - - - - - - __________

(Play "Team One Strikes!")

Hayato watched from his own hiding spot as each of the potential genins split up and did their best to mask their presence and hide. Of course he found them all immediately, though one stood out more than the others. Naruto, again, because instead of hiding, the boy seemed to be on the lookout for himself, searching out their opponent.

'Suddenly this is starting to look like a lopsided team, with those two depending on the unpredictable knucklehead. As... surprising as this all has been, I'm getting bored. Time to end this,' the jounin thought.

He smirked before flashing away, angling himself to intercept Kasumi at her hiding spot. She was, after all, the primary target of his mission here.

Almost as though they sensed this, he noticed how Naruto and Ryu both changed their own trajectories to intercept on him. Too bad they'd never...

Ducking down suddenly and twisting mid-air while leaping between two distant trees, Hayato cursed under his breath, even as he arched his body to rotate out of the way a second time, dodging first Naruto and then Ryu as they were catapulted on a ballistic course. That Naruto kid sure was getting fond of having his clones throw people around.

"No holding back now!" Ryu shouted to Naruto as he landed against a tree and immediately jumped off it, angling in on Hayato's back.

"RIGHT!" Naruto shouted back, going full out and spamming the forest with shadow clones yet again.

Kasumi, having heard the shouts, turned around to see Hayato aiming for her as Naruto and Ryu desperately chased after. Frowning in anger, she increased her speed and angled back for the central clearing of the training area, making sure to put as many branches and tree trunks in her sensei's path as possible

Ryu, seeing this, and having known Kasumi since they were both small children, had an idea of what it was she was thinking, but at the same time that Kasumi was an expert at thinking things through, she didn't have a very vivid imagination when it came to possible ways of making it work. Jumping up into the trees to get a better view, Ryu began to think of ways he could help Kasumi out and give them the advantage in this fight. While he was more of a 'doer' and preferred action, he could see the advantage of having a plan, and they desperately needed one right now!

Naruto, still chasing along as fast as he could move along the ground while directing his clones continued harassment of the jounin, had only three thoughts running through his head. First and foremost, he was SO going to kick Hayato-sensei's ASS!! Second, he had to protect Kasumi and watch his teammates backs! Third and lastly, he was remembering the times that he lead ANBU on a chase through all of the training grounds around Konoha, as well as when he just hung out after school, trying to relieve boredom. He'd visited Training Area 11 lots of times and during those chases, he sometimes managed to find nifty little ways of getting around the areas faster than the adults could, despite said adults being much faster than he was in a flat-out race.

So, when Naruto saw them coming up on a cluster of sycamores, he knew that the tight spaces between the branches left a very obvious path to follow, which sort of zigzagged and ate up a solid ten seconds of running time. He also knew of about five other ways of both circumventing that path and even shaving ten seconds down if those trees weren't there in the first place. He decided to take all of them.

Forming a cross-seal once more, Naruto himself took the shortest and fastest, despite it being the craziest route that ended at this really big tree that had a trunk over thirty feet tall before the lowest branches even started, which were equally big.

Ryu, looking down from above and cutting his time by putting more power in his jumps between branches, soon saw an opportunity, as the route Kasumi was currently on would take her through a copse of trees that ended against the surprisingly tall trunk of a big tree. If he could somehow get a signal to Kasumi without letting Hayato know, they might be able to catch him by surprise and blindside him somehow.

Smirking to himself as he figured out exactly how to do that, he even had the perfect technique to help them out in pulling it off. Unfortunately it took a heck of a lot of chakra to do, and he wasn't Naruto, so he had to make sure that he didn't miss.

In effort to throw off their sensei's senses, on his next jump, he intentionally released a large amount of chakra, as though building it up in order to catch up faster. After that initial burst, however, while he no longer tried to hide it as he might have done, he began to gather the necessary chakra for the technique to work, in hopes of saving precious time when they were all in position. He did start moving faster and jumping harder too, but for the icing on the cake, he threw a kunai right at the jounin's head.

Of course, he only glanced in Ryu's direction before deflecting the projectile with his gauntlet and doubling his own pace so that he began to really gain on the kunoichi now. Ryu cursed.

Kasumi was just short of panicking. Maybe she really wasn't cut out to be a ninja, maybe she should just stay at home and practice being the perfect clan head, or... or maybe even the perfect wife to a clan head...

Kasumi's eyes hardened and her steps increased in pace and her stride was more sure.

Yeah, so what if she was having trouble with this test? So what if her brother, Kami bless his soul, had hired her Jounin Sensei to make sure she never became a shinobi? So what if the entire Council and Hokage were in on it? So what if she was just running as fast as she could without any idea or plan on what to do next, or how to even win this fight! So what if she had a jounin that had some kind of super ninja weapon chasing her! So what if her only teammates were the Academy's "Dead Last" and Hayabusa "I Will Be The Strongest" Ryu! They were her teammates and they were counting on her! She was Tenshin Kasumi of the Mugen Tenshin clan of Konoha! And if anything could be said about a Tenshin, they were loyal to a fault!

Seeing the path the trees gave her opening up ahead, she decided to throw her pursuer off just a bit and pulled out a kunai for each hand. The everyman ninja tool wasn't her favorite, preferring the more easy to handle and far more accurate senbon needle, but they could also cut through branches just fine.

Passing between a pair of close-together trees, she sliced one of her kunai through the lowest branch, not slowing her down, but as it fell it would block the path for a precious few seconds. Seeing another opportunity, she sliced another branch apart and then another three after that, creating full blockades without breaking through the branches entirely. She had to make a couple odd turns herself so she wouldn't lose time, but she did hear Hayato following her and grunting as he came across her delays. Seeing opportunity for one last big one that might even get her home free, she threw both her kunai together with enough force that they tore through the right branch and sent it crashing to the earth... only a hairsbreadth behind her as she dived forward out of the cluster of trees.

She knew she didn't exactly have the time to sit and take deep breaths, and she was on her feet before she even had time to feel the dirt. A crunching crash from right behind her had her heart jumping up into her throat as she spun around between steps, and unfortunately tripped, but gathered her footing before falling. It did have the unfortunate side-effect, however, of making her stop running.

Not that it would make much difference as Hayato was only ten feet in front of her. For a ninja, that might as well be right in her face.

"Well, I must hand it to you," Hayato mocked her in his gruff voice, crossing his arms with a smirk, "your evasion skills are top-notch. For a genin. Shame."

Seeing something behind him in the distance, Kasumi kept her eyes locked on the jounin, pulling out a handful of senbon and readying herself. "Yes, it is. That we cannot talk you out of this action. And, that we have to kick your ass so hard!"

She threw her weapons with full force and calculated accuracy, using the motion to spin her around and she ran right for the large tree directly behind her. Hayato was silent, save for the clangs as he used his metal reinforced gauntlets to deflect or block the slim throwing needles, resuming the chase at his standard pace. He might have thought he was starting to get old if this young girl could outrun him, until he recalled that part of the Mugen Tenshin style of taijutsu was the emphasis on kicking power, which meant a lot of running and just plain strengthening the legs.

At this distance though, whatever lead she got for herself wouldn't do much good as he caught up in an instant. He figured she was heading back for the clearing, to get more room, maybe even bring in some of Naruto's clones to help her out. Oddly enough, he noted that instead of angling around the big tree in front of them, she was running right for it. That's about when he felt the chakra spike from right behind him.

He watched with half an eye as Kasumi ran up the tree trunk, clearly using the Tree-Climbing technique in this case, while the rest of his attention turned to the genin behind him. Ryu had just finished a series of hand seals ending, Hayato noticed, with the Tiger seal. Fire ninjutsu!

"Katon: Ryūka no Jutsu (Fire Release: Dragon Flame Technique)!" Ryu cried, even as he finished drawing a deep breath and then letting it go in a giant stream of orange-red flames, the head expanding to look exactly like a dragon!

Hayato cursed and crossed his arms in front of his face the moment the technique hit him, driving him back to the tree trunk. The impact, and continuing flames rocked the tree so badly that Kasumi felt her tenuous hold on the trunk begin to falter. Knowing that she couldn't count on going any higher or continuing the technique past this point, she decided to take a chance and go for it!

Taking only one more step up, she used it to kick off and launch herself from the vertical platform, sending her flying back, mere inches from the top of the fire technique that still continued to hammer their Jounin Sensei. She really hoped that it ended soon, as she felt gravity begin to take hold.

During the second that this happened, Naruto saw it all, processed it, and was already in action.

Two Naruto's, both clones most likely, swung down from opposite trees, getting just close enough that they could grab Kasumi by the shoulders and hips and send her higher into the air, where another Naruto, the real one, caught her and pulled her onto the branch of the tree he was standing on.

Ryu silently cursed himself and praised Naruto to Kami Himself as he watched all this happen. He'd only learned the technique a month ago, able to do it without flaw a week before the Academy Exams, and hadn't had as much time to practice it unfortunately. He was able to keep the technique going for about six seconds at full blast, and he knew that he would need every bit of it to do any damage to Hayato at all!

The excuse about not practicing came in that he couldn't shut it off until the technique completed, even if he wanted to, he was locked into action until the chakra he'd gathered was expired. He was just glad that it didn't take more, because if this hadn't worked, he would've been in big trouble. As it was, he hoped that Naruto had more than just a last second rescue up his sleeve.

Hayato had been under his share of fire. Figuratively and literally. Ryu could make it pretty hot, and he had to admit, he was caught by surprise, but jounins don't become jounins by letting surprise get the best of them. He didn't have time for a technique or anything, so he just endured, focusing all of his chakra, all of it, into protecting him from the heat and the flames.

Ryu could certainly make it hot, but Ryu was still only a genin, and thankfully he only had to endure for a few seconds instead of several minutes! When the flames finally died down and the technique ended, Hayato quickly pulled his chakra back under control and looked himself over. Other than some soot marks and a little smoldering and feeling like all of his clothes, especially his boots and his gauntlets, had come hot out of the drier, he didn't see himself as injured in the slightest.

Oh sure, he'd had to use a surprising amount of chakra to survive, but it wasn't like he was facing another jounin here.

That's about when Naruto reminded him that a team of genin still sometimes gets lucky, and with the blond, you really can't predict what will happen next.

"Shuriken Kage Bunshin no jutsu (Shuriken Shadow Clone Technique)!" several voices cried out at once as about six clones revealed themselves from the surrounding foliage.

Hayato only had time to react, first with a Replacement technique, then physically as the clones found him immediately, almost like they knew exactly where he would arrive. That was supposed to be his shtick in this test!

Thankfully, it was close quarters, so, the clones didn't try any more Shuriken techniques, but that didn't mean they weren't up to making 'suicide runs' and more or less dog-piling him, while still going for his basic weak spots, showing that the genin could learn at the very least. He did his best in dispelling them before they could reach him, but they were adapting. Going low and then rising up for a brutal headbut to the torso, or twisting around his fist to punch at his armpit or elbow joint, always hitting with enough force that they ended up dispelling themselves anyway. It still left bruising and reminded Hayato how sore he was getting.

Finally, all of the clones seemed to have vanished, and Hayato took a moment to let out a gasp and catch his breath. If nothing else, Naruto could certainly help in training for fighting multiple opponents at once... Uh, not that the kid would get a chance as he wasn't allowed to pass them anyway! Right?

He was distracted from this internal musing as Kasumi and Naruto landed on either side of Ryu, who was still recovering slightly from pulling off his high level technique. Together, the three genin looked at each other, then at Hayato, before sharing one last look and readying themselves.

"Ready?" Kasumi cried out.

"READY!" Naruto and Ryu both shouted back, the latter looking re-energized.

"Buntai no jutsu: Taijutsu: Ikko Dageki (Team Technique Taijutsu Team One Strike)!" they all shouted.

Hayato didn't really know what the hell that meant or what it was supposed to do, as they all pretty much just bum-rushed him. At least that's what he figured. Right up until they actually started.

Kasumi was the first to strike, moving in with rapid blows to his torso, all of which he managed to block with his arms. Unfortunately, this distracted him from Ryu coming up along his left side and sweeping his legs out from under him just as Kasumi switched from punches to kicks, and landed one against his ribs with enough force to send him flying back against the tree. At least he would have, if Naruto hadn't been standing there waiting and the moment the jounin was close enough, the smaller genin slammed an uppercut against the small of Hayato's back, full force as always.

He felt it, but he'd been hit harder, and that wasn't what had Hayato so worried, because the blow sent him flying up into the air. Twisting himself around, Hayato sought some sort of purchase so he could gain control of his momentum. There was nothing.

Which left him completely open for another five seconds, more than long enough for Ryu to come up underneath him and leap up with an upper cut of his own, shouting as he performed the high level taijutsu move, "Shoryuken!"

Ryu twisted mid-air after his rising uppercut had sent Hayato even higher, slowing his descent enough that he could boost Kasumi's own leap as she jumped up to make her own attack. She inverted her body and split her legs wide, and then began to spin, bringing her closer to the mid-air Hayato. Just as she got within range, she exclaimed, "Spinning Bird Kick!"

What followed, Hayato would remember for a long time, as the young girl's long legs kicked him hard enough to send him even higher into the air, only spinning now, and then she managed to land another six hits, all with a single move!

Spinning freely now, and thoroughly bruised, Hayato was still reaching for any kind of purchase at all, he was certainly high enough now, which is right about when he caught sight of what was waiting for him at this height.

"... Shit," he cursed, as he already knew what was coming next.

"Kage Bunshin Nanseihokubatsu! (Shadow Clone Blitz)" all of the Naruto's cried at once, even as more than half of them were thrown through the air to impact with enough force to break bones. Hayato did his best to defend, using the clones themselves to control his fall, but they were moving fast enough that he couldn't do that very often, or for very long as they dispelled just after impact. Unfortunately, a few did get through, but only glancing blows so nothing was a direct hit. He did get a lot more bruises though.

Naruto himself jumped high into the air, high above the falling jounin. Forming the cross-seal, he focused his chakra and his intent as two clones formed on either side of him. Grabbing each other's arms, they reeled back and the next thing Naruto was aware of, he was moving faster than he'd ever been able to do on his own, straight for Hayato, who was facing the ground and the last of the Shadow Clone Blitz. He did sense something though, so as the last of the immediate threats were taken care of, he twisted in the air again, and only had enough time to blink in surprise, right before the real Naruto crashed into his gut.

Naruto liked to vary himself, just so his opponents would remember him if not for the fact that he didn't really have much professional taijutsu training. So, he started with a headbut to the gut, followed by half a dozen punches and right around the time they were less than ten feet from the ground, he threw in a bicycle kick to drive the jounin into the ground faster, and to allow him to jump away before impact.

A massive dust cloud erupted as Hayato crashed into the forest floor, blocking the view for a few seconds, but the genin were feeling pretty good about themselves at that moment, as they had managed to actually land some solid hits on their Jounin Sensei. Even if it was only because they'd caught him at a weak moment and caught him by surprise. But hey, that's what ninja are supposed to do!

(Stop "Team One Strikes Back!")

The dust cloud slowly settled, and despite whatever they had been expecting, they were all shocked when they heard Hayato's deep chuckle echoing from within the remains of the smokescreen.

"Not bad," they heard him say, "Not bad at all. Pretty good in fact."

The dust finally dissipated and they saw the tall jounin standing there, bruised, battered, and even still smoldering a little, but smirking at them as always. "You've demonstrated teamwork, a versatile knowledge of ninjutsu, and adequate stealth and taijutsu skills. At the very least, you have taken advantage of my taking it easy on you and not only landed a hit on me, but injured me, however minor that injury may be. Anyone else would take you as genin right here and now. Sadly, fun as it might be, we don't have that option. I've been given a mission. So you've just been wasting your time."

"Like hell we have!" Naruto growled.

"If that truly were the case, you wouldn't have even let us try in the first place, and my brother would have paid just to have you show up, give us an impossible task with a much shorter time limit, and failed us within the first hour," Kasumi agreed. "By letting us take it this far, it showed that you really are testing us, and we have until sundown to prove ourselves to you."

"Maybe I was just bored," he commented.

"If that were the case, why give us till sundown? Why not just an hour or two?" Ryu challenged.

Hayato looked out over to the western horizon, then smirked.

"Well then, perhaps we'd better hurry this along," Hayato said. "I estimate you only have about an hour or so left, maybe a little more. And I really don't want to take anymore of those hits, I'm going to be black and blue enough as it is. So..." he reached down to the unique holster at his waist. He opened that cover and slowly pulled out what looked to be an ornate katana hilt.

It was an off-white color for the most part, except the base, that held a brilliant blue gem, and the pommel. Where the guard was supposed to be, four prongs arched up and seemed to point at each other like some kind of claw, all pointing towards the center.

"This is a weapon that only I have," he told them. "The only other weapon that comes close to doing what it can do is the Second Hokage's Raijin, with the exception being that unlike that weapon, only I can use this one. It is called Sutamasurao, the Star Gladiator, and here's why."

With that said, he took the hilt in both hands and concentrated before channeling chakra into it.

A snap, like what's heard when a lightning ninjutsu starts to form, sounded followed by the slow hissing of an electrical current being generated and then a steady hum, like that one could sometimes hear around the generators of the power plant. All three genin stared in amazement, wonder, and just a little apprehension.

Hayato stood before them holding a bright chakra-blue energy blade, and a deadly serious face. "Now then, let's see just how good you guys really are," he laughed.

__________ - - - - - - - - - - * * * * * * * * * * 1 1 1 1 1 * * * * * * * * * * - - - - - - - - - - __________


"Yeah!" Ryu agreed.

"Konoha shinobi do not live by double-standards," Kasumi accused him, standing her ground with her teammates. Hayato saw that whatever opportunity he had of breaking her spirit were long past as she was fully committed to her actions, and her teammates.

He laughed at them.

"You're half right, Naruto," he said while still chuckling, his chakra-blade still activated but held at his hips for the moment. "I gave you a hint about this weapon as an example of what it would take to get me to take you all seriously. You resisted the easy route of mocking me and taunting me about drawing it out, instead focusing on putting enough pressure on me that I had no other choice. That's a good attitude to have."

"But," he growled, no longer laughing, "you also overlooked that I made the condition that I must respond to you three as though you were a serious threat. This," he held up the ignited chakra blade, "is a weapon, but it's one that I control. I can modulate how much chakra goes into it, so it's not just on or off, but can be focused in a number of different ways. I could stun a jounin with it just as easily as I could give a small shock to a toddler, and I could slice through solid stone, cleaving the Hokage Monument in half just as well as use it to bat a pebble from my face without leaving a mark on the stone."

"Right now, it's set so it won't do more than sting you if it touches you. To get me to take you seriously, I have to channel enough chakra into this that I start swinging it around at full power, maybe even use a few techniques with it, also at full power, before I'll ever consider you three a credible threat," he explained to them.

Realizing they were pretty much back at square one, just with less time, less chakra, and less stamina than before, adding in the fact that their opponent had just upped the stakes even higher, Team One looked each other in the eye as they briefly reevaluated their decision to continue this... test.

They looked back at Hayato after three seconds, their expressions set in stone almost.

"I still say it's cheating," Naruto grumbled, right before all three genin charged the armed jounin.

Hayato, while surprised, couldn't really say that it was unexpected. Smirking, he made a single horizontal swipe with his chakra-blade, the energy sword passing through all three of them.

"AAAHHHHH!!" they screamed as the Lightning chakra shocked them and sent them flying back from the discharge. A few bolts of energy flashed across their bodies for a few moments, but they quickly dissipated.

"Told you," Hayato taunted them.

A low growl suddenly got his attention and he saw Naruto glaring at him, the blond boy's eyes were slitted and the pupils colored red, right before reverting back to their natural blue as he glanced, concerned, at his fellow genins. With a wild flip, he was suddenly on his feet and charging right at him, screaming, "Kage Bunshin no jutsu! (Shadow Clone Technique)" and leaving a string of clones behind him.

Hayato took another slow swipe at him, only for the kid to duck under it at the last second and skid along the forest floor before coming up inside Hayato's guard with a leaping uppercut. Silently cursing, the jounin did his best to minimize the damage by turning with the blow. It had enough force behind it still to knock him back a few steps, but thankfully that was it. Then the clones joined in.

Hayato was getting really tired of this and put some actual effort into dispelling the clones. A single strike, that was over within a single second, and they all vanished in a cloud of smoke, and Hayato cursed himself again.

"You're getting annoyingly good with that jutsu, Naruto," he growled out as the smoke dissipated. As he expected, all three genin were nowhere to be seen. Sadly, either the blond hadn't heard him, or was getting smart enough to know not to react and give away his position. Hayato was betting on the former.

Back in the clearing, on the far side from where they had left their Jounin Sensei, Kasumi and Ryu were both still recovering from their latest shock, while Naruto admitted that he still couldn't feel his fingers and toes and was only just getting feeling back in his torso where the blade had struck.

"I'm getting really sick and tired of being shocked like that," Ryu grumbled quietly. They all knew Hayato was hunting for them now, so they had to be quiet.

"He's a Lightning-type," Kasumi pointed out the obvious. "If we do pass this test and become genin, he'll still be our Jounin Sensei, and whose to say that during our training that he won't zap us like that even more than he has so far?"

Making a face, Ryu grumbled, "Suddenly, I'm not to sure about wanting to pass this test."

"Yeah, well, he's still a jerk, but at least we'll be ninja," Naruto argued the point.

Ryu shrugged and nodded. "True."

"You do realize that he's just toying with us. Even I can handle a sword better than what he just threw at us, so it's kind of obvious," Ryu said. "How the hell can we even begin to block something like that? If he gets remotely serious, there's no guarantee that we'll be able to dodge it. Naruto, you got real lucky you didn't get shocked again."

"Neh," Naruto shrugged, "The ANBU used swords against me all the time when they were chasing me for a prank or two. Took me a while, but I finally figured out how to best dodge a sword and get away. Used to I had to use smoke bombs, but shadow clones are much more handy for that now!"

"OK, so maybe blondie here can keep dodging, and a glancing hit or two won't hurt him much given how he's recovered from the last few shocks, but what about us?" Ryu asked Kasumi.

"There is... something... maybe..." she said, thinking out loud. "That weapon of his, the blade is nothing but manifested chakra. That we can see it and the other effects it can be used for are probably a product of the weapon itself, but basically it's nothing but chakra."

"Yeah, so?" the boys said together.

Rolling her eyes, Kasumi quickly explained her idea. "When using ninjutsus, chakra is chakra. What really makes the difference are things like element-type, form-manipulation, or if it uses weapons or just raw chakra. When it's same versus same, then the only thing that matters is which ninja has more chakra and can put more of it into the technique."

"Right, so... what?" they were both lost.

"I know this chakra-control technique, where you use chakra to hold a leaf to one part of your body, usually the forehead, and keep it there, no matter what happens, for as long as you can. There's also one where you use chakra to float a leaf in the palm of your hand and keep it steady and floating the same distance from your skin for as long as possible," she explained.

"Yeah, I think Iruka-sensei tried to teach me that first one once. It was boring," Naruto commented.

"Well, through a combination of those techniques, we might be able to defend ourselves from Hayato-sensei's weapon," she told them.

"How?" both boys immediately asked.

"Channel and focus your chakra into your arms, or whatever part of your body that is about to be hit, and sort of create a shield, or better yet," she held up her forearm gauntlets, "armor made up of chakra to defend yourself against it."

"That... really won't do anything, it would just be regular chakra pouring out of your body then," Ryu pointed out.

"True," Kasumi admitted, "Against actual threats, like ninjutsus, weapons, and physical blows, this wouldn't work at all. But against Hayato-sensei's chakra sword? All we have to do is defend against the chakra itself and it's the same as wearing heavy armor to defend against a real blade!"

"Yeah, but you said it yourself," Ryu reminded her, "It's Lightning element chakra."

"Won't matter," Kasumi assured him. "Stop the chakra, and it won't even touch us."

"Of course..." she hesitated to say, but continued anyway, "There's the same problem with chakra versus chakra techniques. Whichever ninja has more chakra and can channel more of it usually emerges the victor."

"And we're facing off against a jounin," Ryu sighed.

"Uh... how do you do that chakra armor thing?" Naruto asked, embarrassed and rubbing his neck.

At that moment, Hayato appeared on the other side of the clearing.

"Ryu, go," Kasumi ordered. "I'll show Naruto how to do this so he can defend himself. Distract him!"

"On it," Ryu acknowledged and leapt to his feet, charging the jounin at full speed.

"Quick, Naruto, you need to learn this now!" Kasumi dragged him back into the woods.

Meanwhile, Ryu entered close range as Hayato charged to meet the genin.

"They say genin are inexperienced and tend to have more guts than brains, but this is just plain outright stupidity," Hayato taunted Ryu as he slashed out with his chakra blade. They both expected it to phase right through Ryu's body once more shocking him back into unconsciousness, except when he raised his arm to block... the chakra blade stopped cold, like a sword hitting heavy armor.

That is, until it edged forward and a bolt of energy still shocked Ryu, but thankfully it was enough warning and not enough power to damage him in anyway and allow him the opportunity to leap back.

"Hn," Hayato grunted, taking a step back and looking back and forth between Ryu and his sword. "Took me over a year of constant use with this thing on missions before I figured out how that could happen. None of my opponents ever seemed to catch on. I hit you three with it once and you figure that out in five minutes? I don't think so. How did you do that?"

"Blame Kasumi," Ryu chuckled, rubbing his arm where the blade had touched, which was still numb. "She was the one to work out that since the blade of your weapons is just solid chakra, our own chakra might be able to work like armor against it if we layer it against our skin. Turns out she was right. Now I just have to work out the bugs."

"There is no such technique as chakra armor, boy," Hayato growled, adjusting his stance. He now looked ready to fight, with his knees bent and spaced apart, and Sutamasurao in the ready position. "But, I suppose it makes sense. If anyone, it would be someone of the Mugen Tenshin Clan to figure out the weakness of my weapon. They have this annoying habit of being able to analyze a technique with just a look. Heh, there was a rumor that once there was one of the Mugen branch that had mastered that ability to such a degree that he could perfectly copy any technique he saw, before it was even fully performed, rivaling even the mighty Sharingan."

"Besides," Hayato growled and amped up the power going to his sword from 'tingle' to 'taser', "no armor is perfect, as was just demonstrated."

"Like I said," Ryu adjusted his own stance and increasing the output of chakra to the field he'd surrounded his body with, "there are a few bugs to work out. And I don't think of this as chakra armor, but more like extra padding at a kendo match."

Hayato frowned and growled slightly at Ryu's mocking tone. Then he charged, no longer just swinging like some rank amateur, but a real swordsman. He kept to a very basic kata he used almost daily in his own training, but it was several steps up from the way he'd been attacking so far.

Ryu, where it was just plain stupid to do so, avoided blocking where he could, focusing on dodging and not getting hit than putting his new defense to the test so soon. Unfortunately, those opportunities were closing fast and he found himself blocking more and more. The first few times, he could block the chakra blade no problem, even rebuffing it back from the hit a bit, but the jounin recovered too quickly for him to take advantage of that. After that though, it started to get harder and he began to feel a sting each time he was forced to come near Hayato's weapon.

Keeping in mind his already low chakra and how his defense seemed to be sucking it up faster than his Dragon Flame technique, Ryu knew he needed to change the dynamic here some how. That's when he saw the opening, and before it could close on him, he took full advantage.

Dropping into a roll, rather than retreating once again, Ryu went in under Hayato's defenses and came up on his right hand side, where he quickly rose up in a fast rising kick, which he then pulled in after connecting, thereby accelerating his spin allowing him to slam another three successive snap kicks to the jounin's torso, knocking the older ninja off his feet. Unfortunately, he didn't stay down.

Jumping back up, Hayato made an upward slash that Ryu just couldn't dodge or even hope to block and he was driven back by both the force and the pain. Hayato compounded the damage by swinging another two swift strikes against the genin, sending him flying.

Ryu did his best not to cry out, but he couldn't quite manage it, grunting as he hit the ground, feeling like his muscles were made out of jell-o sat on a big drum. Still, he knew he couldn't drop his guard. The jounin wasn't taking it easy on them anymore, he couldn't afford to be knocked unconscious.

Putting his hands against the ground, he pushed himself up, and then twisted his body and pulled his legs up, spinning on his head with his legs flailing out, one of which turned into a kick that kept Hayato back, and buying himself enough time to flip back up onto his feet. Landing in a ready position, Ryu blessed Kasumi to Kami and anyone else listening for coming up with the chakra-defense technique. It was probably all that kept him from being KO'd right then.

"Hn," Hayato grunted, "Not bad. Looks like I'll have to give it a little more juice."

Hayato grasped the hilt of the chakra blade with both hands and channeled a bit more chakra into the weapon. The blade brightened and sparked a couple of times, still humming at the same strength. Ryu gulped, knowing he'd have a much harder time of it now. Hayato smirked as he raised the power level from 'taser' to 'nasty shock' and charged the genin, swinging the chakra blade with sure swift strikes.

Ryu, not wanting to test his chakra defense against a higher level just yet, opted to dodge and retreat rather than to block or even deflect at this time. He had to buy more time for Naruto to learn the technique Kasumi was trying to teach him. Heck, if he learned an A-Rank ninjutsu in half an hour, he could definitely learn a chakra-control exercise even faster, right?


Jumping as high as he could, Ryu flipped over his Jounin Sensei and ran for as fast and hard as he could before skidding and sliding to a halt on the grass, twisting his body around and narrowly avoiding another slice that was only centimeters above his head. Knowing he couldn't stay on the defensive forever, Ryu moved in and sought for any opening, no matter how small or minuscule for him to take advantage of.

Sweeping his feet low, Hayato jumped over the kick, but that was exactly what Ryu wanted him to do, as he paused the sweep halfway and immediately cocked his leg back and landed a direct hit to the jounin's lower torso, knocking him back off his feet and to the ground once more. Both of them were on their feet before the grass even had time to be pressed down.

They both charged each other once more, Hayato swinging his weapon, Ryu throwing a few kunai out ahead of him in hopes of getting past the older ninja's defenses. Hayato easily swept them out of the way, switching the chakra blade from 'shocking' to 'solid' and then back to 'shock' once the kunai were no longer a threat, then locking it against Ryu's last kunai, which the genin had apparently channeled chakra through as Sutamasurao did not pass through it and hit him.

Still, they both knew that he couldn't keep it up for long, and Ryu wasn't going for a brute force confrontation, just a way to get close, close enough to take full advantage of his sensei's position. Switching his clash for a hold, Ryu clearly caught Hayato by surprise, especially with the next few moves.

"Sorry about this, sensei," was the only warning he gave as he grabbed the older ninja by the neck, pulling him down and putting Ryu inside his defenses, right before slamming a two-hit uppercut against his chest. Ryu was still channeling chakra throughout his hands and arms when he did this, so Hayato was more than just lifted off the ground, he was sent flying straight up into the air.

Charging chakra into his legs and whole body now, Ryu leaped up into the air and actually body-slammed the jounin mid-air, right before kicking him in the face that had the dual-bonus of inverting his body's position to the ground and grabbing a hold of his arms and legs to keep them from moving and twisted them so they began to rotate at a very high speed as they fell back to the ground. All with a single move and within the space of a heartbeat.

There was a heavy thud and clods of dirt and grass flew as the two slammed into the earth, Ryu averting injury by pushing Hayato further down and upon impact, pushing even harder against him so that he would be able to jump free. Back-flipping a few more times to put some distance between them, Ryu felt like gloating just a bit and announced, "That's my Izuna Otoshi. Came up with it myself when I first became a ninja and spent my entire time at the Academy perfecting it. I like to think of it as my signature move."

Hayato slowly and deliberately pulled his head out of the ground and then picked himself up. He stood to his feet and dusted the soil from his clothes and out of his hair. He gave the genin a steady look in the late afternoon light and said straightforward, "Still needs work."

Like a light switch, his face shifted from calm indifference to ninja-cold and Sutamasurao was reignited with a growl as the jounin charged forward.

"Shit," Ryu cursed and focused more on getting away for the moment.

Hayato came in swinging, aiming to hit this time as Ryu began diving away from the suddenly fast strikes. It was all the genin could do to keep moving, forgoing his defense as he focused all his energy, and chakra into helping him not to get shocked again. Diving away like a rabbit running from a snake any time that he felt Hayato swinging at his back, he went in the opposite direction as fast as he possibly could.

They kept this up for about another ten or fifteen minutes, Ryu unable to turn and counter-attack, as Hayato didn't give him the opportunity, but they both got a very nice workout in speed, endurance, dodging, and chasing. Hayato even went at the kid full speed sometimes, but apparently Ryu had been training his reflexes quite a bit as every time Hayato came in with blurring after-images, Ryu used shunshin to get away. But only barely, and Hayato was on him like a rabid wolf before he could get far.

Finally, Hayato cornered Ryu against the edge of the woods, and they both stopped long enough to catch their breaths. Although, in ninja terms, that means that Hayato stopped attacking twice every second and Ryu stopped running away. Ten seconds of standing there staring at each other, their breathing still heavy, though not as fast as Ryu tensed in preparation to resume the chase, but thankfully Hayato wasn't swinging just yet.

"So," Hayato said out loud, and Ryu could tell he was speaking to someone behind him, "what exactly have you two been doing for these past few minutes? Setting up traps?"

Ryu turned his head as far as he could and still keep the jounin in sight. He caught a flash of orange and blond hair out of the corner of his eye and almost breathed a sigh of relief, even as Kasumi answered Hayato-sensei's question.

"No, actually," she replied. "I've been teaching Naruto a new trick. He's a very fast learner. When properly motivated that is." That raised some eyebrows from the other two ninja, but she quickly corrected their thinking.

"Not that, perverts! I'm sure Ryu has already explained my idea about how to properly defend against your weapon, Sensei. As you probably know, Naruto's chakra control is not the best around, so while Ryu distracted you, I made sure that our teammate could properly defend himself. And he surprised me yet again. I hope you're prepared to fail your mission, Kanzaki Hayato, because I promise you, we will not give up until we all three are ninja of Konoha!"

"ATTACK!" Naruto shouted and dozens of shadow clones dropped out of the trees and pretty much began spamming Hayato like ants on food. While the jounin was distracted by the clones, the real Naruto and Kasumi came up to Ryu and helped him recuperate.

"Hard to believe we were in Iruka-sensei's class only a few hours ago, huh?" Kasumi commented to her teammates. Naruto grinned and Ryu chuckled and nodded his head.

"Whoever said being a ninja was easy deserves to meet this guy," Ryu added. "He's hardcore, all the way. Are we sure we want him as our Jounin Sensei?"

"Heck yeah!" Naruto said instantly.

At their surprised looks, he continued, "I mean, a Jounin Sensei is supposed to teach us all about being a ninja, pretty much help us be better and stronger ninja, right? Well, Hayato-sensei will have to do that for us, after we win this test of his. Which means that he'll teach us and help us to be like him."

Ryu began to grin, and Kasumi had a twinkle in her eyes as she began to catch on. Naruto nodded as he noticed this and then they all said it together. "Total Badass Ninjas!"

"Shall we?" Ryu offered his hand in the direction of their opponent, still being slammed by clones.

"We shall," Kasumi said back with a grin and a short bow.

"Let's," Naruto grinned, turned to face Hayato, who'd just finished the last of the clones, and finished with a shout, "DO THIS!"

__________ - - - - - - - - - - * * * * * * * * * * 1 1 1 1 1 * * * * * * * * * * - - - - - - - - - - __________

(Play "Chakra Fusion Finale")

All three genin charged forward, keeping the pressure on Hayato as he'd only just dispelled the last of Naruto's shadow clones, and now he had to deal with two refreshed and one already warmed-up ninja. Ryu lead the charge as Naruto covered them with a spread of shuriken kage bunshin to keep Hayato from retreating, and Kasumi put him on the defensive by casting out senbon needles, aimed for his eyes and other sensitive areas. Hayato deflected all of the lethal projectiles with quick swipes of his solid chakra blade before adjusting it back, and by that point, Ryu was less than three feet from him, Naruto and Kasumi right behind.

Leaning back, Hayato quickly did a hold move of his own, by surging forward and striking the chakra sword halfway through the middle of Ryu's chest, halting his momentum and picking him up off the ground. Kasumi and Naruto froze when they saw this, and Ryu just stared, his eyes wide open in shock.

"NOOO!!" Kasumi screamed.

Not bothering to give a response to this drama, Hayato merely slashed his blade up in a fast motion, which had the benefit of casting Ryu off of the blade and flying through the air to crash on the ground behind Kasumi and Naruto. Both genin only cast a glance at the body of their teammate before acting. Kasumi immediately went to Ryu's side to check on him, while Naruto turned to keep Hayato busy.

"You... BASTARD!" the blond screamed, throwing himself forward, almost making the hand seal as an afterthought as ten shadow clones appeared out of thin air, all of them going for Hayato and baying for blood.

Naruto went low while all his clones went every other way to go, each angling for the general human weak points, and at least four going for the man's arms to catch and hold them down for the others. Not that Hayato just allowed this. He struck with quick stabs and fast slashes, attacking and dispelling the shadow clones as fast as he possibly could, while keeping an eye on the real Naruto, who slipped in under his guard while he was getting rid of the four that were after his arms. Naruto then swept his leg, hard, against Hayato's leg joints, knees, ankles, feet, he wasn't really aiming, and if he missed, he spun his body around to sweep with the next leg and over and over again until he hit the right spot and Hayato went down.

Much as the jounin would've loved to have taken the real one out right then and there, the best he could do was either block with his shin or thigh, or step back to avoid the hit, as the moment that he tried to use his weapon on the real Naruto, one of the clones would go in for one of his high spots, namely his head, neck, and arms, and force him to either deal with that threat, or be hurt worse than blocking leg sweeps. Naruto wouldn't give up though, and they kept up this little dance until Hayato finally got a lucky hit on a few of the clones and he got an opportunity to strike at the real Naruto.

Unfortunately, the moment he did so, driving the chakra blade straight down through the blond's head, there was a poof of white smoke, revealing the leg-sweeping Naruto was a clone, or...

"Kawarimi," Hayato whispered, his eyes widening in realization.

He spun, even as Naruto, with a fresh batch of clones, were already a foot away and kicking, punching, head-butting and body slamming, less than a second from impact.

Kasumi quickly checked Ryu over, confident that Naruto could distract their sensei long enough for her to get him back up on his feet at the least. She was amazed when she saw no wound. No blood, no gaping hole, no cut, not even a scratch or burn mark from the lightning chakra! Breathing a sigh of relief, she pulled out something from her weapons pouch and waved it under Ryu's nose. The young boy gasped and coughed and was sitting up instantly.

"Oh Kami, what... what is that stuff? No, never mind, I don't want to know," he coughed, waving the air under his nose away. Slowly, Kasumi helped him to his feet.

"That," she informed him, "was ammonium carbonate, aka smelling salts. I thought you were dead for a second there. Good thing I remember Hayato-sensei bragging about how he can control the intensity of his weapon. Unfortunately for him, I think Naruto forgot. How are you feeling? Numbness, any of the symptoms from before when he stunned us?"

Ryu shook his head, testing his limbs and making sure he could move okay. "No, I feel OK actually. I had stopped using that chakra defense when I had to concentrate on running rather than blocking, but when you guys showed up, I started using it again, and I think that's what made the difference. Worst injuries that I feel are from the fall when he threw me off. Just... give me a second and I'll be good to go."

"Well, thanks to Naruto, we might just have more than a second or two," she remarked.

They both looked back over at the battle and were surprised with what they witnessed.

Hayato was blocking, holding his weapon before him in a defensive posture, and it was the only thing he could do! It was feasibly impossible! No genin ever has matched a jounin in terms of power and skill, even with all the luck in the world. And while Naruto certainly had no amount of skill, Hayato was finding out the hard way that the preteen had lots of power.

Naruto and his clones were punching, kicking, and just plain slamming themselves against him as they performed his stupid little 'Kage Bunshin Nanseihokubatsu (Shadow Clone Blitz)' technique all over again, but all it really did was signal to everyone in hearing range that him and ALL of his clones would swarm their target like bees on honey, ants on an anthill, and even mosquitoes to an open bloody wound! It didn't help that they'd gone from just throwing themselves at him to aiming for specific spots, and there would always be a few in the Blitz that sought to disable him in someway, grabbing his arms, taking out his legs, stuff like that.

What made it worse though, was that Hayato knew that he could end the whole thing right then. He could even kill all three genin, or just knock them out so they'd sleep for three days straight, or also stun them so they were conscious but completely paralyzed and unable to move for the same amount of time. However, to do even one of those things, to even begin preparing the techniques or the chakra required to do it in the fastest, or even the slowest method available to him, would prove one thing beyond all else.

That he was taking them seriously.

Which meant that they would pass the test, according to the rules he'd outlined when they began this little exercise. Which meant that he would have to accept them as his genin and become their jounin sensei. Which would mean that he would fail his mission, no matter how much he disagreed with it.

He wasn't there just yet.

There was something to this Blitz technique Naruto was using though. Numbers only counted if what made them up were worth anything, but at the same time, even a whole lot of something worth next to nothing could still be worth a lot. Given the proper direction and training, Naruto could lead his clones like a general with his own personal army. Or, he could go with his current direction, the wild natural way of doing things, and swarm an enemy so they can't move, can't defend, can't attack, can't do anything but be consumed. It certainly held a lot of potential.

Uh... Not that Hayato even cared, as the genin was going back to the Academy in about... forty-five minutes to half an hour. Right? Right, of course. Who cares about the potential of some washed out Academy student, right?

Finally, Naruto ran out of clones, and it was just him attacking. Before he could conjure up some more, Hayato took another step, a baby one though, to being serious. He channeled the necessary chakra, and used one of his personal kenjutsu techniques; Rasetsuzan, developed solely with the use of Sutamasurao in mind, but used at one quarter of it's true power.

Dashing forward at pretty close to his full speed, (Hey, he didn't want to be accused of going all out for a genin!) Hayato slashed with his chakra sword in a practiced pattern, moving fast enough that he took all three genin by surprise, and landed some nasty hits on the blond troublemaker. His first hit was the straight, vertical slash that went from the crown of the short blond's head, to out between his legs. He then moved the blade and performed an upwards slash, diagonally from the boy's left hip to his right shoulder, followed by a horizontal cut through the torso from right to left, then a downward slash from the left shoulder to the right hip, back up to the right shoulder and down diagonally back to the left hip, and then another horizontal slash from left to right this time, only to finish it up with going from the right hip up to the left shoulder. He took half a step back, and the blurred into motion again, striking with a vertical slash and charged for a thrust to the center of the boy's torso.

Of course, Naruto was screaming in pain throughout all this, Hayato grunting with each slash, as while he held back a great deal of his strength, the evidence of his control was in that he controlled exactly how much force went into each attack, demonstrated than the young genin wasn't shredded into meaty chunks, only hit by blows from a lightning element chakra blade.

He wasn't allowed to complete the thrust though, when Ryu came in from the side and Kasumi took a note from Naruto's book and paid him back the favor by using Saka-Kawarimi (Reverse-Replacement) to pull him to safety and put her in the line of fire. Unfortunately for Hayato, Kasumi's chakra control was a lot higher than both Naruto and Ryu's, as she caught the chakra blade between her palms and, with it at it's current level, held it steady with no pain or painful side effects. Hayato growled in annoyance, then pulled back as he was facing Ryu's very powerful kicks if he remained deadlocked with the clan princess.

"This is starting to get annoying," Hayato growled at them. "Care to explain why it is you won't just give up? Even if, and I do stress the word if, you manage to pass this little test of mine, the Council will never let the heiress to one of the most powerful and well-known clans in all the Hidden Countries become a ninja when her own family are the ones saying that you can't cut it! Give up already and save us all the bruises and hassle!"

"No," Kasumi quietly replied.

"That's it? Just 'no'? None of that 'we will never give up' and 'we will be ninja' crap from earlier? Do the smart thing, Princess, and just go home and lick your wounds. If it'll make you feel better, I'll even recommend the boys here get re-seeded into some of the other teams. Naruto was supposed to be on Team Seven with Copycat Kakashi even. Hokage changed it at the last minute, probably because the kid learned the Kage Bunshin no jutsu (Shadow Clone Technique). Ryu was spotted for an ANBU slot. Would've meant another five years of training for him, but he would've been one of the elite. If you just give up already, I can make sure that that will still happen. Naruto too. Quite frankly, this mission has been more trouble than it's worth, and I'm tired of fighting kids that I keep letting hit me!"

Kasumi shook her head this time and repeated, "No."

"Selfish little bitch, aren't you?" he sneered at her.

"Don't... you... dare... say that... about... Kasumi-chan!!" a growling voice, carried by the wind, said.

All three of them turned to see Naruto, his orange jumpsuit scuffed, torn, burned, and dirty, with his yellow blond hair waving in the evening air, and his hard blue eyes glaring with an intensity that was actually impressive by ninja standards. He was hunched over, and cradling his chest while one arm hung limp, but he was on his feet, when he should've been laid back for at least a few minutes, if not a full hour!

Scowling, Hayato channeled enough chakra into his weapon that an adult jounin would be KO in an instant if it touched them unprotected, no matter what. It still wasn't full power, but he was starting to wear thin on patience.

All three genin stared and gulped silently when they saw the chakra blade glow brighter for a few seconds before flashing once and returning to the same hue it always had. They still had little doubt that their Jounin Sensei had just upped the stakes another level.

Naruto wasn't through impressing them yet though.

"I've heard that kind of crap... all my life, Hayato-sensei," Naruto told them. "Just give up, it's easier. Go home kid, you'll never succeed. Why are you being so selfish, everyone else is suffering because you won't quit! You are not worth it. You're trash. You're weak. You're pathetic. You don't deserve to live, demon!"

The blond stood there, quivering, his head bowed and his eyes shadowed. Then, slowly at first, a visible aura of chakra began to surround his body, the grass around his feet flowing out from the central point where he stood, blown back by an unseen wind. The blue-eyed blond lifted his head and even Hayato was taken aback by the raw emotion and power this kid was exuding.

"I made a decision to become Hokage. So that people would recognize me for my own accomplishments and would see me for who I really am. I decided that I would become the strongest ninja in the village to protect people and so that everyone would know my name. Not kid, or brat, or demon. My. Name. Is." His aura pulsed and his fists clenched as he ground his teeth together. The amount of chakra he was broadcasting was absolutely phenomenal, especially when you take into account that he's been fighting and using high-level jutsus for almost five hours straight. An unnatural wind blasted around the young genin's body as he screamed out loud, "UZUMAKI NARUTO!"

All three of them ran straight at Hayato as fast as they could, and they were on the offensive.

The jounin did his best to discourage that tactic, attacking right back with precise, powerful slashes from his chakra blade, but they did not retreat as they did before. Instead, whenever he swung it in one of Naruto or Ryu's direction, they actually tried to punch the chakra blade. The scary thing though, was that when Naruto punched it, he not only blocked it, he actually managed to deflect it.

When he swung it at Kasumi, either Ryu or Naruto were there in a flash and deflected the blow just enough for Kasumi herself to dodge or counter with a strong kick to Hayato. Hayato tried to retreat when that happened, but that soon became impossible as Naruto and Ryu were always there with another attack for him to avoid, so he took to blocking more than he probably should have. If he hadn't though, what happened next might never have been discovered.

None of them were sure exactly when it happened the first time, they just knew, that with all four of them in the thick of it, attacking, blocking, defending, and countering as best they could, at some point Kasumi, Naruto, and Ryu kept finding that when they defended against Hayato's chakra blade, at certain points their chakra seemed to... well, merge for lack of a better term, better enabling them to deflect the blade and allow for a counter attack.

Kasumi was the first to realize it and her overactive mind began to analyze this strange, instantaneous phenomenon. After another solid minute of fighting, and seeing it happening more and more between the three of them, most times only between two of the three, but in rare instances it happened with all three's chakra. Before her mind was overwhelmed with the possibilities and potential of these seemingly random occurrences, she refocused on their more immediate task. It wouldn't matter what it meant if they didn't win this test, and soon, as they all saw how the sun was inching its way much closer to the horizon.

Finally, she figured it out just enough that she believed she had the timing of it down, now she just had to communicate it to the others without stopping or retreating.

"Guys!" she cried out. "Defend and counter together!"

It was just vague enough that Hayato wouldn't know immediately what she was telling them to do, and it was simple enough that both the boys would increase and synchronize their timing enough so that this... chakra merging would happen more and more often. Kasumi, despite feeling like she should drop any minute now, redoubled her own efforts and followed her own advice.

Hayato, when he heard Kasumi's shout, channeled another ten percent of his chakra into his weapon. He wasn't really sure how it was these genins were doing it, but they were actually going hand-to-hand with him and putting some real pressure on him!

If it hadn't been for Kasumi coming up with that surprisingly simple defense to his unique weapon, this would have been over an hour ago! Then again, if it hadn't been for Naruto, Kasumi probably would have given up before he ever had to draw his weapon in the first place! And then there was Ryu, who was more than a pain in his own right, and fit in perfectly with the other two!

He had no doubt that he could cut through their little chakra defenses as easily as a real sword cut through real armor. Put enough force and energy behind it, and the sword can break through any armor. The thing that was beginning to puzzle him though, was that there were moments, very brief moments, where he was aiming to cut in between them and slice through, but instead he had actually been rebuffed!

It always happened when he sought to attack between two of them, and they defended together at the same time. Although there had been brief instances where the third came up to aid and it was suddenly all three of them defending together, and he felt quite a bit of force pushing his chakra blade back. It was almost as if...

No. Just... no, it was completely impossible! It had never been done! Ever! It just wasn't possible!

Then Hayato noticed how every time he attacked now, all three of them would move to defend the one he attacked, no matter which one or in what position. Now, when they blocked, he began to feel that repelling force even more often now.

No. Way.

Hayato tried to step back and evaluate this new information, but they, especially Naruto, wouldn't let him, constantly moving to attack and defending together every single time he did. Finally, he had no choice, as he charged another special technique.

"Engetsu!" he cried as an energy wave exploded from the blade of his weapon.

All three genin were driven back, cast to the ground with fresh bruises and a couple new electrical burns.

Breathing heavily, Hayato tried to understand what was happening here. This was just supposed to be a classified C-Rank mission, hired out by the Council and with special permission from the Hokage. Three days ago, the lists for the Teams were decided, and Hayato had been approached only that morning with the mission, which he had accepted, however reluctantly. Then, there was the mess with Uzumaki Naruto breaking into the Hokage Tower and successfully getting away with the Forbidden Scroll, only for it to be discovered that Mizuki, a Chuunin Teacher at the Academy, had been behind the entire thing, and the Dead Last of the class, who had been about to repeat the last year of the Academy for the fourth time, was passed onto genin status for having a hand in stopping Mizuki and learning the Kage Bunshin no jutsu (Shadow Clone technique).

A day later, the new team manifests are released, and traditionally the Dead Last and the Rookie of the Year are put on the same team with a third, usually a kunoichi, and that was expected to happen with Uzumaki being put on the same team as the Uchiha, who was going to Team Seven under Hatake Kakashi. Instead, Uzumaki went to Team One, and Mugen Ayane, who had been previously slated on the original listing to be on Team One, now went to Team Seven.

Then today, Hayato challenges Team One to an impossible challenge, provoke and then survive getting a jounin to go full out against them. They weren't supposed to pass, they weren't supposed to learn the lesson of teamwork, they were supposed to fail. Instead, Uzumaki actually inspires the primary target to fight anyway and now look at them!

They had natural teamwork, and a dynamic that just wouldn't stop! And now this?!

Hayato had heard of, in mythology mostly, how a few special ninjas were capable of actually merging their chakra, so that even though they were individually weak, they could pull off techniques that would make all five Kages quiver in fear and awe. But those were just stories, it could never happen in real life... right?

In the very brief breather they all had, they all glanced over to the West and noticed that the sun was just now beginning to touch the horizon, and with every passing second, it dipped lower and lower. In the East, the night sky was already coming out and the stars were visible by now. Team One knew they were running out of time, but Hayato's patience was at an end.

"Enough of this," Hayato growled, mostly to himself to shake off the strange ideas of fictional myths. "I'm going to finish this once and for all!"

"Got that right!" Naruto growled right back. "Ready guys? Let's END THIS!!"

Kasumi and Ryu said nothing, only nodding in eerie sync with their teammate and rushing forward as he did. Hayato, seeing this, poured about 89 percent into his weapon. Any higher and he would risk permanent injury to one of them, and above ninety percent, well let's just say that when he was on a mission and used Sutamasuraothat he started out at above ninety percent. In other words, he'd fail his mission, and as much as he'd love to follow Kasumi's earlier suggestion to fail them just to succeed his mission, he was a man of his word. If he was pushed hard enough to get truly serious... Well then, he'd cross that bridge when he came to it.

"Shiden!" he cried as he charged the three genin.

All three launched punches, which just so happened to connect with the down-coming chakra blade. There was a shock wave of pure force that went out from the impact, but the more amazing thing was that they were maintaining prolonged contact with the lightning-chakra blade, where before they had only very briefly slapped it aside, or managed to push it back and away from them. In fact, that was exactly what they were trying to do, but Hayato was putting on the pressure now, using his muscle strength and body to keep them from pushing his weapon back, locking them together.

The sun was a quarter below the horizon now, deepening red and dark orange. Ryu noticed this and pushed every scrap of chakra he had into his hand and adjust his hold so that both hands were now pushing against Hayato's oncoming chakra blade. Naruto and Kasumi quickly mimicked him, giving them the proper leverage now, but they were still at a significant disadvantage, especially when the blade began to cut into and through Kasumi and Ryu's defenses.

Naruto, seeing this, glanced very briefly at the horizon himself and felt the pressure rise. He didn't care where it came from, or what it came from even, but he pushed everything he had and wrapped his own chakra around Kasumi and Ryu and then started to push back against Hayato even more. He refused to lose and he absolutely refused to fail his teammates.

The sun was halfway down now, only the orangery red top shown through the trees, turning the sky a myriad of colors, highlighting the clashing blue auras that danced amidst the clearing of Training Area 11.

Kasumi felt Naruto, somehow, wrap his chakra around her and Ryu's allowing them to no longer worry about the blade cutting into them, and giving them better leverage to push back even harder. But this wouldn't result in anything, she knew. They were running out of time! At this rate, the only thing that would matter would be who ran out of chakra first, and despite Naruto's seemingly limitless supply, Hayato was a jounin!

No, their only chance, and it had to be soon, was if they pooled everything they had together and then the same way a counter attack works, draw the opponent in with the energy of his own attack, in this case Hayato pushing against them, and then push back with an even stronger burst of energy!

"Guys," she whispered, sounding more like a hiss with the way they were all struggling, "We've... only got... one chance... here. When I say... pull all your chakra together, and then... we'll all push back together. OK? It... it's our only chance..."

"I'm with you Kasumi-hime!" Ryu shouted, his chakra flashing over his body in a blue aura.

"When you say, Kasumi-chan!" Naruto cried, settling his stance. Kasumi's body flashed with the same blue aura that her teammates were filled with, her chakra blazing to a level that she'd always been told was dangerous, potentially lethal. She didn't care.

"NOW!" she screamed. And then the impossible happened, right before Kanzaki Hayato's eyes. If he hadn't been there to witness it, he never would have believed it, even as he stood there and watched, he still couldn't quite get himself to believe it!

Kasumi, Naruto, and Ryu's chakra-infused forms began to blaze with power, right before they began to flow into one another, seemingly without end, merging and becoming one. It didn't stop with just their chakra flowing together and forming a new shield though. As Hayato watched, the chakra gathered in their hands pulled back for just the barest inch, fusing into a stronger and more powerful form of energy, much like chakra itself is a combination of physical energy and spiritual energy, their chakras mixed and came out stronger!

Something even stranger happened though. It lasted for only an instant. A single instant and then it was gone, just like that. An eye blink lasts longer than this did, but Hayato still managed to catch it, and very quickly realized what it was. During this instant of time, his chakra blade, which was composed primarily of Lightning-Element chakra, flashed a blinding white, the white of a true lightning strike in fact. At the exact same instant that this happened, that chakra around each of the genins' fists flashed a different color each. Around Ryu's hands, was a bright burning red aura. Kasumi's hands were blazing a deep cool watery blue. And Naruto's fists were surrounded and clenched by a clear flowing yellow-gold aura.

Fire. Water. Wind.

All three combined, in a single instant, combating Lightning? Oh, shit!

The instant after that specific instant, there was a massive explosion and all four ninja were blasted away from the central point of the blast, which had been where they'd been attacking each other. It was in the space of time after this that Hayato slowly stood up and gathered himself that he looked down and saw that Sutamasurao was still active in his hand, and that in the instant before the explosion, was the same instant that he had channeled 100 percent power into his weapon.

Hayato looked up at the sky and glanced at the Western horizon. He watched as the last rays of the sun finally dipped below the horizon. Smiling, he shook his head and looked over to see three suddenly depressed genin, who were looking back at him like they wanted to rip his guts out and smush them under foot. He started to laugh, and once he started, he found it very difficult to stop.

"What's so funny?" Naruto demanded after about a minute of this behavior.

"Sorry kid," Hayato said after regaining control of himself, "I just got the joke the universe just played on me. Damn, but I hadn't wanted a genin team so early in my career. I only got promoted to jounin a few years ago! But still, if anyone, I suppose it's good that I have the best."

"What are you talking about?" Ryu asked.

"I'm talking about you three being at the Academy tomorrow morning, bright and early at 7 AM. My genin team will be the best damn team if I have anything to say about it, and it just so happens that I do. That means I am going to train you three into the ground so hard that you come out on the other side of the planet by the time I'm done with you!"

The three stared at him, dumbfounded for a few seconds, before Kasumi asked, "Are you saying what we think you're saying?"

Hayato nodded and added, "Now, given how late it is and everything, we'll pick up with actual training tomorrow. Like I said, be out in front of the Academy tomorrow at 7 AM. And just to clear up any more questions you have at this moment; yes, you passed. At that last second, right before that explosion, you pushed me to the breaking point and I actually had to go all out to match you. Congratulations. You three are now Genin Team One of Konoha."

"YYEEEEEAAAAAAHHHHH!" Naruto crowed so all of the Hidden countries heard.

"YES!" Ryu exclaimed, just as loud. Kasumi was crying with tears of joy.

"You earned it," Hayato acknowledged their celebration. "I wasn't kidding about tomorrow."

"Hai, Sensei!" all three dutifully snapped to attention.

"Good," he nodded, then turned away, and sweat-dropped, saying to himself, "Now I've just got to explain to the Council and the Hokage why I failed my mission... Oh boy."

End Chapter One