Hey, I actually got this one out at the time I'd hoped for! Hooray!

Compared to the last chapter, I feel the quality has taken a definite upturn. Hopefully, you all will too (though the reviews were positive, the last chapter garnered only six reviews, tying with chapter 10 for lowest; interestingly, that one also got positive reviews despite that). I like getting reviews.

Anyways, not too much really happens in this chapter; it's mostly a transitory chapter, setting up for the next story arc of a few chapters, though there are two things of real significance that happen as well; they're obvious, so failure to spot them should probably qualify you as an idiot, but I suppose one might be brushed off easily.

Alright, enough of that! Things to do, places to be, houses to clean, stories in need of updates, new fic to write even though I know I'm shooting myself in the foot by doing so…

Disclaimer: Standard disclaimers apply.


The gates of Konoha loomed before them, much to the relief of the four travelers (five including the pig). It had been just over three weeks since the invasion, but it was clear that things were settling back into a routine now.

They'd been hoping to just sort of slip in quietly without any ruckus, but the fact of the matter was that their group consisted of two members of the Densetsu no Sannin and an apparent blond prodigy who had seemingly soloed an out of control jinchūriki, contained the monstrous Kyūbi no Yōko, and unleashed a frickin' dragon on the invaders three weeks ago.

A few minutes later, they found that they had about as much luck slipping in without a fuss as Tsunade had at gambling.

That said, it was kind of amusing, at least, for Shizune. She couldn't decide what event had been the funniest overall, but for each individual, there was Tsunade sending an ignorant pervert flying, the horde of twenty-something women bolting at the mere sight of Jiraiya, and the horde of eager fangirls that had attempted to jump Naruto.

"Gah! I'd been hoping I wouldn't have to deal with this!" cried Naruto, clinging to the giant gates to keep away from the bulk of the fangirls below. Unfortunately, several of them were kunoichi who started running up the gates after him. "Damn it, I thought the actual kunoichi were more serious than this!" Naruto shot away from the gate and to a distant roof.

"Jiraiya, you didn't teach the kid his father's most well-known technique, did you?" questioned Tsunade lightly.

"I don't even know it myself, but if he can apply this speed to Shunshin, he could probably be faster with it than Minato," said Jiraiya jokingly, though he was eyeing Naruto with a hint of jealousy.

All that ruckus, though, and you would draw attention. To Naruto's greatest fortune, the right person's attention had been drawn, and as one kunoichi fangirl leapt after Naruto, she was suddenly knocked out of the air by a red blur, and then Sakura landed in front of Naruto, pink hair swaying in the wind slightly as she glared down at the fangirl hordes.

"Back off," she growled. To Tsunade's surprise, the fangirl horde did just that, bolting in all directions with cries of fright. Then, Sakura turned to face Naruto with a smile. "Welcome home."

"Yeah, I'm home," said Naruto as she pulled him into a hug. He wrapped his arms around her.

"So, who's the girl?" questioned Tsunade. Jiraiya smirked.

"That, my dear Tsunade-hime, is Haruno Sakura. She's Naruto's teammate and girlfriend, and has recently made it her goal in life to surpass you."

"Oh? That's a tall order…"

"Well, not to put too fine a point on it, but she's not even half a year out of the academy, participated in the main matches of the last Chūnin Exam where she beat a taijutsu specialist with a year of experience on her, and her training grounds are often littered with craters from her poking them."

Tsunade and Shizune's eyes widened.

"Wait, you mean she's developed my chakra-enhanced strength?" questioned Tsunade.

"Yep; she managed to piece together the core principles and apply them completely on her own. She broke two legs with a finger flick during the Exams. She hasn't perfected it to be even close to your level, but she's got the potential to surpass even you."

Tsunade stared at the rosette now talking to Naruto. The two were joined a moment later by a boy wearing sunglasses and a heavy coat, and… "Is that Kakashi?"

"Yup, he's Naruto's sensei," said Jiraiya. "The boy is his remaining teammate, Aburame Shino. Oh, and also, even though they're only a few months out of the academy, they've already mastered nature transformation for their chakra nature affinities."

As Tsunade and Shizune gaped, Naruto smiled at his teammates.

"So, I didn't really learn much," he said, "but I did get to come to terms with my parents."

"That's good," said Sakura, smiling at him. "So, who were they?"

"My mom was Uzumaki Kushina; turns out she was the host of the Kyūbi before I was," said Naruto. "My dad was Namikaze Minato."

"Wait, you're father was the Yondaime?!" said Sakura. "As in the same Yondaime that put that stupid fox in you?!"

"Yeah… long story there…" said Naruto. Then, another thought hit Sakura.

"Wait, that means that your dad taught Kakashi-sensei! And that Jiraiya taught your father too!" She glared down at the perverted hermit, who cringed fearfully even though he had no idea what they were talking about.

"What did you manage to learn in the time you were away?" asked Shino before Sakura could continue. Naruto smirked as Sakura's attention returned to him, and raised his right hand.

Within a few seconds, a compressed sphere of swirling blue chakra had formed in Naruto's hands. Kakashi stared at it with shock.

"That's Minato-sensei's Rasengan!" he said. "Jiraiya-sama taught you that in three weeks?"

"Eh, a week and a half, no shadow clones," said Naruto sheepishly as he released the jutsu.

"A week and a half? Are you serious?"

"Yeah, well… nē-san kind of taught me the core principles beforehand…"

That brought Kakashi up short.

"Ah, yes… we need to talk about that…"

"Oh? Kakashi-sensei, did Naruto tell you who his nē-san is?" asked Sakura.

"Not exactly, but it's something I need to talk to him about," said Kakashi. "Anyways, we should get Tsunade-sama to the Hokage Tower."


An hour later, after Tsunade had met with Koharu, Homura and Danzō (and barely restrained herself from slipping on her awareness of their involvement in the Uchiha Massacre), Naruto was pulled aside by Homura.

"Uzumaki-san, I have a letter here for you," he said, to Naruto's surprise. The others were all listening in, particularly Koharu, who hadn't been aware of this.

"A letter? From who?" questioned Naruto.

"It was from Hokage-sama, to be delivered to you in the event of his death after learning of your… heritage."

Naruto looked away for a moment before turning back to Homura and nodding, accepting the letter.

"Thank you, Homura-sama."

Homura gave a slight nod as Naruto pocketed the letter. Danzō eyed Naruto, noting every way that Naruto's cloak was like the ones worn by Itachi and Mai.

"There is another matter that should be attended to," said Danzō suddenly, drawing everyone's attention. "The final phase of the Chūnin Exam was interrupted by Orochimaru's invasion. However, there were several individuals who displayed at least some of the qualities necessary for promotion. After speaking to the exam proctors, I believe I have a solution to the matter, pending Tsunade-sama's approval as the new Hokage."

"Oh?" Tsunade eyed Danzō critically. She'd never trusted him, even before he started Root and she learned that his politics had led to the Uchiha Clan planning a coup, so it was fair to say that she really didn't trust him now. But, politics (and the way she wanted to stab him in the back) meant she had to play ignorant and not openly challenge him. "Let's hear your idea then."

Danzō nodded slightly.

"One duty expected of chūnin is to lead," said Danzō, "therefore a test of leadership would seem to be ideal. My proposal is that the selected chūnin hopefuls be assigned to lead a four-man cell on a C-rank mission, and then assess them after receiving reports from every member of the cell. Because of our current situation, these teams would need to consist solely of genin, but…"

"That does sound like a good idea," said Jiraiya, though it clearly left a bad taste in his mouth—he didn't like agreeing with Danzō on anything, even when the war hawk was right and agreeing was for the best. Much like Tsunade, he had to check himself so as not to attack Danzō in any way.

"Hmm, who are the chūnin hopefuls anyways?" asked Tsunade.

"Nara Shikamaru and all three members of the Seventh Graduate Squad," said Danzō with a slight nod to Team Kakashi, taking them by surprise.

"Alright, I'll see about getting to work on that after we've got some other stuff organized," said Tsunade.


Not half an hour later, the three rookie teams were gathered at Chōji's favorite barbecue restaurant, though at least one of them had brushed rather close to death, as Ino had enthusiastically greeted Naruto by wrapping him in a hug… with Hinata opposite of him, squeezing the two together. Sakura had barely refrained from a show of strength as a way of telling Ino to back off, but it was not, to her own surprise, out of any sense of jealousy (despite knowing Naruto harbored some feelings for Ino).

No, Sakura's irritation had stemmed from the look of discomfort on Naruto's face, probably because of the fangirl horde from earlier.

After getting that little incident out of the way and making sure Hinata wouldn't pass out, everyone had sat down at a large table and quickly placed their orders.

"I still can't believe you managed to get Tsunade-sama to become the Hokage," said Ino excitedly. Naruto chuckled.

"Oh, it wasn't especially hard," he said. "Really, all it took was winning a bet; the real hard part had been what was going on at the end."

"What was going on at the end?" asked Asuma.

"Um… yeah, Tsunade-sama decided it was a good time to kill Orochimaru," said Naruto, immediately gaining everyone's full attention.

"So that bastard is dead?" asked Sasuke, sounding like he was torn between being eager and being disappointed—probably because he wanted to put Orochimaru down personally.

"Unfortunately no," said Naruto, shaking his head. "The damn snake slipped away at the last moment, along with that traitor Kabuto."

"That Kabuto guy was there too?" questioned Kiba.

"Seems like he's Orochimaru's lieutenant," said Naruto. He shook his head, smiling faintly. "Well, they may have gotten away, but they were definitely running with tails between their legs—Orochimaru was crippled, and I landed a Rasengan on Kabuto that took him out of the fight before I wound up unconscious myself. Shizune-san told me that they wound up bringing out the Snake Boss, so Ero-sennin summoned the Toad Boss and Tsunade-sama summoned the Slug Boss. By the time it was over, the damn snake should've been dead a dozen times over from Tsunade-sama's attacks on him. She said the last one should've liquefied his brains, and she's not really sure how he managed to survive it."

"You fell unconscious?" asked Sakura, not at all distracted by the rest of the story. She heard him say that and the rest suddenly barely registered. Naruto had the decency to look sheepish.

"When I hit Kabuto with the Rasengan, he managed to get in an attack of his own," said Naruto. "According to Shizune-san, he was trying to sever my heart, but I have massive regenerative abilities and two of the world's best medics were standing right there, so mostly it just wound up hurting like I'd been struck by a boulder."

Almost everyone inched away from Sakura. Judging from the expression on her face, Kabuto would be begging for death if she ever caught up to him.

"Anyways, what is that technique you keep talking about?" asked Sasuke quickly to divert the conversation away from what happened to Naruto. "The Rasengan, right? I think I've heard of it…"

"It was one of the most famous ninjutsu of the Kiiroi Senkō," said Kakashi, catching most of the rookies by surprise. "It was right up there with the Hiraishin, and he would even use them together for some of his most devastating assaults. It's an extremely powerful and difficult to learn technique that requires the highest levels of chakra shape transformation. Even I was surprised when Naruto told me he'd mastered it."

"Not bad," muttered Shikamaru before letting out a sigh. "But that's troublesome for me, because now I have to deal with this guy trying to keep up." He lazily pointed a finger at Sasuke as he said this, prompting a scowl from the Uchiha survivor.

"You haven't had to deal with me while I've been working on learning the Chidori," said Sasuke darkly. Naruto perked up slightly at that.

"The Chidori? Kakashi-sensei, isn't that your technique?"

"Yes," said Kakashi. "I actually developed it because I was unable to master the Rasengan myself at the time; it's a powerful technique, but has a number of drawbacks that the Rasengan doesn't, one of which is that it requires a lot of speed, so using it can result in suffering a tunnel vision effect that makes it very dangerous to use without the Sharingan to overcome it."

"What about the Byakugan?" asked Sasuke with a brief glance at Hinata. "Shouldn't it be able to overcome that limitation as well?"

Kakashi shook his head.

"No, I thought about that," he said. "When I got the Sharingan and was suddenly able to use the Chidori without nearly getting killed, I wondered if the Byakugan could overcome the weaknesses as well. It gets around the literal tunnel vision, but you're still moving so fast that it's hard to perceive enemy movements properly without the Sharingan."

After that, the subject of techniques was dropped, and the group drifted back to more pleasant conversation.

Naruto: Bloodlines

"Naruto-san!"

Team Kakashi had just left the restaurant when that call came to their ears, drawing their attention to Konohamaru's friends, Moegi and Udon, running down the street towards them.

"Hmm? Is something wrong?" asked Naruto.

"It's… it's Konohamaru-kun," panted Moegi. "He heard about Tsunade-sama becoming the new Hokage and got angry, so he locked himself in the Hokage's study and barricaded the door!"

"What? What the hell possessed him to do something stupid like that?!" demanded Naruto.

"We don't know," said Udon, straightening up. "But please, you have to come! Konohamaru-kun really looks up to you, so I'm sure you can convince him to stop before Tsunade-sama becomes annoyed enough to force the issue!"

Naruto had gotten to know Tsunade fairly well over the last couple of weeks. He suspected it may already be too late.

"Oi… alright, I'll talk to him," said Naruto, glancing at the Hokage Tower before making a chakra-enhanced leap to the rooftops. Sakura huffed slightly.

"That little brat is gonna get an earful," she muttered before leaping off after Naruto.


When Naruto arrived, it was to find that Tsunade was indeed just about ready to force the issue, which he guessed meant she'd probably gotten there only a minute before he had.

"Ah, could you guys please wait before busting the door open with ninjutsu?" asked Naruto politely and with a hint of nervousness—he was dealing with Tsunade right now. The two chūnin with her and Shizune—he could never remember those guys' names—glanced at each other before looking to Tsunade.

"There are important books and files in that room," said Tsunade. "You can't expect me to just let this go."

"Well, I'd like the chance to talk him down first…"

"Uzumaki-san, he doesn't seem willing to listen," said the chūnin with bandages across his nose.

"His friends seemed to think I could talk him down," said Naruto just as Sakura arrived. "Besides, you're gambling a few extra minutes against potential property damage, and while I know that your luck at gambling is atrocious, Tsunade-sama, mine is an entirely different story."

As he said that, Naruto thought back to the time he played cards against himself using shadow clones while out of the village; the lowest hand between five clones had been four of a kind.

"Alright, fine," said Tsunade with a slight shrug. "I'll be back in an hour." With that said, she started to wander off, Shizune following quickly after her. The two chūnin stepped aside as Naruto walked up to the door.

"Konohamaru, can you hear me? It's Naruto."

No answer came from the other side of the door. Naruto sighed in irritation.

"Konohamaru, I can guess at why you're doing this," said Naruto. "Now, you're probably gonna hate me for what I'm about to say, but I'm going to be blunt since I hear I'm very bad at being polite."

Sakura and the chūnins snorted at that, since Naruto was pretty much always polite since returning to become a genin.

"I'm guessing that you're angry," said Naruto. "You're angry at your grandfather for dying, at Tsunade-sama for coming to replace him, at the aides helping her to do so. I can understand being frustrated by that, but what you're doing is stupid. Your grandfather would be ashamed of you."

The sound of shuffling reached their ears—oh yeah, that had definitely gotten a reaction.

"Your grandfather was the Hokage for a long time, but he was not the only 'real' Hokage, because that doesn't exist—the Hokage is a title given to the people we entrust to lead this village. Your grandfather isn't here to do that anymore, so someone else has to do so. This room didn't belong to your grandfather, it belonged to the Hokage, and it still does."

"Shut up!" shouted Konohamaru. "You're wrong! This is ojiisan's room and I'm gonna keep on protecting it!"

"Is that right? Do you know who your grandfather gave this room to along with the title of Hokage and who used it before your grandfather came out of retirement? Namikaze Minato; he died saving the village. Before it was your grandfather's, this study was Senju Tobirama's, and before it was his study, it was Senju Hashirama's. All of them used this study, but when they were no longer Hokage it was given to someone else to use, the new person to hold the title of Hokage."

"I won't let people forget ojiisan!"

Moegi and Udon arrived just in time to hear that part.

"I see. So, you're saying you've actually forgotten about the other Hokage… or rather, never actually knew about them since everyone else had forgotten about them."

Naruto could practically hear Konohamaru stiffening.

"What you're saying is that the names of Senju Hashirama, who founded this village, Senju Tobirama, who gave his life for his comrades in the First War, and Namikaze Minato, who gave his life to seal away the Kyūbi mean nothing to you. After all, they were all Hokage like your grandfather, but they're all dead. Since people are going to forget about your grandfather because he died and they no longer want to treat everything related to the Hokage as his exclusively, they've obviously all forgotten about everyone else who was ever Hokage."

Konohamaru didn't respond, so Naruto continued after only a moment's pause.

"Do you really think so little of the people of this village that you've convinced yourself they'll forget your grandfather just like that?" questioned Naruto. "If that's the case, you're a stain on your own clan, and never really understood a thing about your grandfather! So listen, and listen well you ignorant little brat! To be Hokage is more than just being the leader or most powerful person in the village, it's about being family to everyone in the village! The people of this village can no more forget any of the Hokage than you can forget your grandfather! Just because a new Hokage is taking up that position doesn't mean anyone has forgotten your grandfather and it doesn't mean that we don't all miss him terribly ourselves, but we have to move on, because if we don't, then your grandfather died for nothing! So I'm only going to say this once: you need to grow up Konohamaru, understand that you're being an idiot and move on; it's a choice between shaming your grandfather and making him proud. So what is it going to be?"

Everyone was staring at Naruto in open-mouthed shock, even Sakura. After a few minutes, the sound of movement on the other side reached their ears.

"Okay…" said Konohamaru, followed by another moment of silence. "Um… I'm not sure how to take all of this down."

Naruto blinked before smacking a hand into his hitai-ate.

"Oi," he muttered, verbally expressing how everyone around him was feeling. He stepped back a little, eyes closed. Sakura and the two chūnin shifted when they suddenly felt a faint spike of malevolent chakra. "Stand back kid, this is probably going to be a little noisy and violent."

Naruto waited a minute, gathering the Kyūbi chakra he'd called up in his hands before stepping forward, a clone flickering into existence and drawing Eldhi-Arc, raising it over Naruto's head and expanding it to act as a shield against the overhead traps.

A bunch of pans came falling down, clanging off Eldhi-Arc as Naruto began to push the doors open, surprised by just how much effort it took even with his Kyūbi-enhanced strength. He forced the doors all the way open and a mass of junk suddenly fell down from the ceiling. Naruto punched it, sending it all flying away, and began to release tendrils of Kyūbi chakra to cut up the wires and seals located about the room. Konohamaru was standing on the far side, gaping in disbelief, and Naruto noticed that he'd apparently just disarmed a kunai trap.

"Well, that was mildly bothersome," muttered Naruto, walking towards Konohamaru.

"Look out!" called Konohamaru suddenly, just as Naruto sensed the danger. Before Konohamaru had finished his two word sentence, Naruto had already gathered all the Kyūbi chakra and formed a claw large enough to catch and crush the boulder that had fallen from above him.

"I assume you're at least top of the class when it comes to trap building," said Naruto lightly. Konohamaru was staring at him in open-mouthed shock, so he failed to notice as Sakura came in until she'd bopped him on the head.

"Ow! What was that for?!" he demanded. Sakura huffed.

"That was for forcing Naruto to come here and bail your sorry little ass out of trouble with Tsunade-sama," said Sakura. "We were having a good time before you interrupted it."

"But I didn't tell anyone to go get you!"

"No, but it's your fault anyway," said Sakura. "Come on Naruto, let's go. Maybe we can make a date of our remaining free time today."

Pretty much everyone just stared at the two genin in surprise as they left. However, Naruto paused long enough to throw some parting words.

"By the way, the five of you can clean up the mess or explain it to Tsunade-sama!"


That night, after an unfortunately rather short and fortunately uneventful date, Naruto sat at the dining table in his apartment with Sakura sitting across from him, sipping at some tea he'd made for them, but otherwise silent as they stared at the letter Homura had handed to him earlier.

Naruto knew he would have to read the letter eventually, but he wasn't sure he was ready for it. What was it that Hiruzen had written for him in anticipation of his death? Was the wound in his heart too fresh to be ready?

"Naruto… whatever you need, I'm here for you, okay?" said Sakura suddenly. Looking up at her, Naruto smiled before finally reaching down to the letter and opening it.

Naruto…

If you're reading this, then it means I did not live to see you learn of your heritage. To see you inherit your legacy. Or a great many other things. I have a family by blood and a family by my bond to the village, but you are a family as close as those by blood, and sometimes even closer.

I missed you during those years you were away, but I am glad to see how they have made you stronger. You are a fine shinobi Naruto, and one day, you will be a great Hokage. But that day isn't here yet; still, I have something to help you prepare for it.

Enclosed are instructions for you. Your parents have left a legacy for you powerful enough to topple nations. Even I do not know the extent of what they left for you, but I know it will allow you to show the world who you are.

Tell the world that the son of Namikaze Minato and Uzumaki Kushina has stepped forward. Show the world that you have inherited your parents' will. Become a Kage like none the world has ever seen.

I am proud of you Naruto, my grandson in every way that matters, and I know you will pull through.

~Sarutobi Hiruzen.

Somehow, Naruto managed to hold back his tears, but he couldn't hold back his smile. Sakura smiled herself on seeing that, figuring it was good news. Naruto lifted a small piece of paper that had been with the letter, reading it slowly before shaking his head.

"You should go home," he said softly. He smiled at her. "Be up bright and early; I'd like all of you to be there with me."

"Be where with you?" asked Sakura.

"The legacy…"

Sakura didn't know what to make of that, standing up and walking over to him.

"Hey, Naruto?"

"Hmm?"

"Can I stay here tonight? I'll send a clone to let mom know what's going on…"

Naruto looked at her, a little surprised. Then, he smiled faintly.

"Of course."

Smiling, Sakura gave him a warm, loving hug.


It was time.

To say this moment was one he'd been waiting for would be an understatement. Kakashi had been looking forward to seeing his sensei's legacy inherited practically since the day Naruto was born.

Naruto had gathered his entire team, as well as his godfather. They stood in the forest on top of the Hokage Monument, one that was host to a powerful genjutsu that made it easy to get lost if you didn't know exactly where you were going, and it was one so strong that even the Sharingan could not pierce it.

Before them was a small house, covered in seals. The wood doors bore a unique seal the likes of which Kakashi had never seen before.

"This must've been Kushina's work," said Jiraiya, eyeing the seal. "I've hardly ever seen such an impressive piece of work; it uses a powerful blood seal that requires the blood of two specific individuals to activate… or the blood of a child of those individuals. Easy way to be able to keep access to it, but make it impossible for anyone but your child to access it."

"That's incredible," murmured Sakura. Taking a deep breath, Naruto walked forward, biting his thumb and smearing blood on the seal. It glowed a bright, vibrant red before fading back to normal. The doors slid apart, revealing the inside of the house.

The building before them was a simple affair. Naruto stepped inside, and seals around the room began to glow, revealing a bed, albums, two shelves filled with books, and on a small table, Minato's signature tri-pronged kunai next to several scrolls. The rest followed behind Naruto, Jiraiya wandering over to the two shelves and pulling out a book and flipping through it. The Gama-Sennin let out a low whistle, drawing their attention.

"Unbelievable… this was one of Kushina's books on sealing," said Jiraiya, looking back to the shelves. "All of these are sealing books."

Sakura's eyes widened in disbelief.

"The Uzumaki Clan was renowned for unparalleled skill with fūinjutsu," commented Kakashi, looking at the shelves before turning to the table that held his sensei's kunai. Naruto was focused on the albums, cracking one open and smiling softly. After a moment of consideration, Kakashi walked over to the table and lifted one of the scrolls. It had a seal much like the one on the door, though on a small scale of course.

"Naruto," said Shino, drawing everyone's attention. He was standing next to a shelf with a pile of papers on it. "You may wish to see this."

Curious, the blond walked over, looking at the papers, and seeing one line written on it that nearly froze him in shock.

Today, I promised him my future.

Slowly picking up the pile, Naruto started reading, and quickly realized the papers were some kind of makeshift journal, detailing his mother's life from the moment she arrived in Konoha up to the night she died.

Somewhat numb, Naruto sat down on the bed to start reading, even though he knew he'd have to leave soon for his chūnin test mission assignment.


When it came time for them to leave, Naruto had decided to take his father's scrolls and kunai with him, as well as the papers for his mother's makeshift journal, asking Jiraiya to get them bound into a book, trusting that his godfather wouldn't shift through them beyond checking the dates.

When team seven arrived in the Hokage's office, they found teams eight and ten, plus Team Gai already there. Tenten seemed to be barely resisting the urge to bounce off the walls in excitement.

"You're late," said Tsunade, looking up from the book she was reading.

"Sorry, Tsunade-sama," said Kakashi lightly. "There were some… important matters that Naruto needed to attend to, and the rest of us stayed with him." Tsunade nodded slightly before focusing her attention on the group.

"I've heard good things about the twelve of you," she began, "which is why I've brought you all here today. Four of you are to be tested in leadership abilities as a final test to see if you're ready for promotion to chūnin. The rest of you will be assigned to them as the team they are to work with."

Tsunade looked them over, observing as pretty much all eyes focused on team seven. It was a bit surprising that they'd be the first ones everyone here thought of when she mentioned promotions.

"Naruto," said Tsunade, drawing his attention. "You're up first; your mission is to scout the border between Hi no Kuni and Kusa no Kuni. The mission should be C-rank, but there's a possibility it will move up to B-rank. If it looks to move above that, you are to return immediately with all members of your team."

"Yes ma'am."

Tsunade nodded.

"During the Chūnin Exams, Orochimaru infiltrated the village disguised as a Kusa nin; we don't think there's any significance to this, but we'd like to be sure, and as news of my return has not spread, most countries believe we still lack a Hokage, and therefore, this is still an ideal time to strike. Now, from the genin outside of your team, pick three to accompany you."

That was part of the test he realized—knowing who to bring along on a mission like this. Naruto quickly considered what he knew of the other genin before his thoughts settled on Sasuke.

We need to talk away from prying eyes and ears, thought Naruto. Besides, he's a perfectly capable shinobi, so having him on hand would be useful, especially since…

"I'd like Uchiha Sasuke, Yamanaka Ino and Hyūga Hinata," said Naruto. Quite a few of the genin turned to look at him in surprise, but the jōnin all seemed to be silently agreeing.

"Your reasoning?" asked Tsunade.

"The abilities of the Yamanaka Clan are extremely useful for scouting purposes in addition to infiltration and interrogation," said Naruto. "In addition, many Yamanaka inherently develop abilities as a sensor. For Hinata-san, her eyes are not as good for combat as Neji-san's, but I have heard praise for the considerable range she can see out too, and she is still a very capable combatant in the event things become dangerous. Finally, Sasuke-san brings an element of versatility to the team that is necessary when facing unknown situations." Tsunade nodded in approval.

"Then your choices are approved," she said, handing Naruto the scroll. "Good luck."

Naruto nodded, turning to his chosen team. There were odd looks in all their eyes, but Naruto mostly dismissed them as he checked the scroll for details.

"Alright, we'll meet at the main gates at eight o' clock sharp tomorrow morning," said Naruto.

"Understood."

"Alright, now, Sakura, for your mission, I want you to patrol our border with Oto no Kuni…"


In light of the more potentially combative mission she'd been assigned, Sakura had wound up choosing Lee, Neji and Kiba, the first two for their impressive combat ability, the latter two for their ability to detect oncoming danger, and all of them capable combatants. Tsunade had dismissed them afterwards, apparently planning to task Shino and Shikamaru with the same tests once Naruto and Sakura had completed their missions.

That had been hours ago—they'd headed for their training grounds afterwards in order to hang out, relax and get in a bit of training together before parting ways ago. It was evening now, and they were eating at Ichiraku Ramen before heading home.

"You just got back and already we're being separated again," said Sakura softly.

"This is often the hardest part of being a ninja," said Kakashi. He'd somehow managed to finish his entire bowl of ramen in the three-second span that no one was looking at him. "We all face it sooner or later, but it's also not uncommon for especially good teams to be kept together well into the time that all of them are jōnin. Show those qualities, and you won't have to deal with this sort of thing all that often."

"Will we actually be allowed to stick together if we all make chūnin?" asked Sakura.

"It would make sense," said Naruto, glancing at Kakashi. "It's known that we do work well together."

"True, although some work may need to be done on keeping everyone on equal footing," said Kakashi lightly.

"That is something to consider," said Shino. "Naruto has inherited a powerful legacy; Sakura and I must do what we can to keep up."

"Hmmm."

It wouldn't be as much trouble for Sakura as it seemed—Kakashi had already been approached by Tsunade about her. Jiraiya, it seemed, had started regaling her with tales of Sakura's abilities since sometime yesterday, and had successfully gotten Tsunade interested.

Therefore, it was finding a way to let Shino keep up that was the problem. But, Kakashi figured he'd worry about it at some later point—for the time being, they were still his students, and he wouldn't hand their education over to anyone else, not even to two of the Densetsu no Sannin.


Author's Notes: Like I said, not much goes on other than the setup for the next story arc and Naruto recieving his inheritance (it should be obvious that was coming from the chapter title). The only other thing of significance was Naruto's talk with Konohamaru, who he hasn't really interacted with much in this story so far.

So, yeah, I was kind of looking to change that. The lack of interaction is why he and his friends don't call Naruto "big brother", which is something I definitely want them to call him at some point. Naruto's big brother mentor relationship with them was something I enjoyed the few times it did come up.

Most of the characters get the short end of the stick, which sort of brings me to a major problem I have, and that is: I am not a very good romance author.

Ah well; Naruto picking Ino for his team will finally give me the chance to have some interaction between them, as well as show off some more interaction between Naruto and Sasuke.

Now, back to standard procedure: PLEASE REVIEW! Maileesaeya begs for them!


Jutsu Translation:
Rasengan – Spiraling Sphere
Chidori – Thousand Birds
Hiraishin no Jutsu – Flying Thunder God Technique