Credit where credit is due, character and setting elements from the Naruto franchise and other miscellaneous sources are property of Kishimoto or their respective owners. No profit is being made on this work of fiction.


[Fool's Gold]

"Iruka, I really have no clue what to do," the silver haired man in a blue mask with a headband covered with the stylized leaf symbol head plate over his left eye mumbled, "I can't seem to teach him anything… and I can feel his resentment growing."

The brown haired man with a scar over the bridge of his nose frowned before sighing deeply, "Kakashi… I had similar problems when he was in my class. Naruto… he has special needs. If you tell him something it just goes in one ear and out the other. The trick is to show him, and get him to puzzle it out. As far as that goes he's brilliant, but totally unsuited for structured learning," Iruka said with a frown, "I know you have to keep the Uchiha boy contained and watch him carefully, but if you want Naruto's potential to go anywhere… you need to give him a more personal sort of attention. The few things he does know are mainly from the short opportunities I've had to give him just that."

Kakashi's one visible eye turned downward in a frown, "I'm so busy keeping Sasuke occupied and satisfied, that that isn't practical. He's already showing the signs of the taint, and anything he views as special help for Naruto would only make matters worse," Kakashi said in a sad voice, "It's so frustrating."

"I don't see why the council is so obsessed about retaining and resurrecting a clan of traitors. Itachi was the only good one of the lot," Iruka grumbled.

Kakashi leaned back into the chair and fiddled with the can of beer in his hand, "Public perception," Kakashi said, "I hate politics. Besides, Itachi didn't want him to know that the entire clan was as rotten as year old apples. It's the only reason I'm giving the kid a chance, out of respect for Itachi's wishes. I'm not sure how he'll react when he reaches Jounin level and learns of it or some older ninja breaks the truth of the betrayal toward him. He isn't nearly as stable as Naruto was."

Iruka winced and nodded.

"Beyond that, the civilian world views the Uchiha as some sort of clan of super-beings. If we want to keep the client base that perception offers we have to at least try to keep him contained," Kakashi said with a scowl.

Iruka just grunted as he got up and tossed his can in the bin before pulling another pair from the fridge for himself and his guest.

"So what will you do about Naruto and Sakura?" Iruka asked, trying to move away from the utterly depressing subject of the Uchiha clan.

"I'm only really concerned about Naruto here," Kakashi said with a grimace, "I'm not sure if Sakura even really wants to be a ninja for any reason beyond catching the Uchiha's eye. It's why they had her placed on the team, in hopes that she'd lure him into propagating the line. Inoichi put his foot down when they suggested using his little girl to do so. However the members of the Haruno clan are ignorant merchants who aren't nauseated by the thought, so she was ideal out of those who had the potential to pass."

Iruka nodded, "What do you think she'll do when he turns?" he asked hesitantly.

"You shouldn't say such things. But I'd say either suicide, retirement, betrayal or if something incredibly unlikely happens to give her a reason to be a kunoichi other than her fixation, repeated attempts to sway him back," Kakashi said.

"Ugh… can we just stop talking about anything related to the Uchiha clan?!" Iruka complained as he swigged hard from the can in his hand.

Kakashi ran a hand through his hair, "I wish I could just say screw it. If I knew the council wouldn't have my hide I'd throw him against some absurdly powerful opponent on the first C rank we take to get bumped off. Maybe drug out Naruto to keep him out of the fight," Kakashi said before staring at his beer can in shock.

Iruka grimaced, "You shouldn't say things like that… they could make a case for treason if anyone loyal to the old bastards heard it," he chastised and Kakashi rubbed the back of his head sheepishly.

"As it is now, I just can't give Naruto what he needs," Kakashi grumbled, "And every time I look at his face, I see sensei… just like every other damn ninja that doesn't buy the propaganda. I just wish the old monkey would come out and say it."

Kakashi held up his hand to stop Iruka's response, "I know, I know, he'd be in more danger than any sensei could protect him from. Iwagakure no Sato [the Village of Hidden Rock] would want to kill him, Kumogakure no Sato [The Village of Hidden Clouds] wouldn't rest until they 'rescued' him, and that's before we even get to the villagers. They'd take it as though he'd somehow cast some sort of demon spell on everyone important and our economy would shrivel and die in weeks," he said with a heavy sigh.

"So you're between a rock, idiots, and a soft place," Iruka said and Kakashi groaned at his joke.

"Well I don't know if I'd call Kumo soft, but incredibly sympathetic to outcasts and the downtrodden, yeah," he said with a shrug before looking at his beer and laughing, "This stuff is good. Where'd you get it?"

"Got five cases off a merchant from Kusa no Kuni [the Land of Grass]," Iruka said proudly.

"Maa," Kakashi said with an angry look, "It just frustrates the hell out of me, and that pisses me off to the extent that I want to just go off on a rampage," he said with a grimace.

"That won't help," Iruka said sympathetically, "Cathartic, maybe, helpful, no."

"Just tell me what to do Iruka… you're the wise teacher guy. It's not like I have any other personal students of the Professor's educational program to ask, and I can't very well bother the old monkey personally, that would cause too many questions," Kakashi said in exasperation as he winged the empty can to hit Iruka in the forehead and elicit a growl from him while Kakashi laughed.

"Puzzles," Iruka said while rubbing his bruised forehead, "That's it… just show him something and give him hints, like puzzles. Maybe call in some favors, at least quiet ones."

"I'm not asking Gai," Kakashi said with a scowl.

"Not even for your sensei's son?" Iruka said with a tiny smile.

"You're a manipulative dick," Kakashi said as he cracked open the beer Iruka had brought him from the fridge, "Alright, fine. His taijutsu [Body Arts] skills suck anyway."

"Show him what fuuinjutsu [the Art of Sealing] can do," Iruka said with a smirk, "That's one thing that the Uchiha won't complain about you teaching him. As long as you stick to things that would interest Naruto and be useful, but seem useless in his little crusade to kill the only worthwhile Uchiha. You've got a Mastery of Fuuinjutsu, give it a go."

Kakashi grimaced, "That's the problem, and I've got no clue what will get Naruto's attention. And I'm sure if I tried to teach him fuuinjutsu he'd be so damned bored he'd lose interest in minutes."

"Just show him what it can do, and drop hints at the things behind it," Iruka said, "Don't go in depth and tell him to use his clones to practice it, that way it won't kill him when he starts puzzling it out by trial and error."

"Ooookay," Kakashi said, "That will clean up a few of the bigger holes."

"Analogies," Iruka said as his face lit up and Kakashi swore he hallucinated a light bulb above his head, "Use analogies. I have no clue how the hell things work in his twisted little mind, but even with strange as hell analogies he seems to be able to work out what you meant in the twenty minute explanation that came before. I couldn't get him to produce a Henge [transformation] until I suggested to him it was like changing clothes. How he went from that to performing the jutsu is beyond me."

Kakashi snorted.

"The biggest thing you're going to need to teach him is how to survive," Iruka said with a grimace, "Your only real option there will make him hate you. Your other two would find it funny though."

"Huh?" Kakashi asked.

"Go after him, all out, not like your little test, over and over and over for the slightest provocation," Iruka said with a snort, "It would break him of his head first approach if he gained the assumption that against any real ninja he'll always be facing a massive disparity in power. If only to stop getting smashed down immediately every time, he'll figure it out. The others will view it as him simply getting his, but you'll be teaching him the most valuable lesson he could possibly learn. Of course he'll hate your guts until he figures it out."

"I don't want him to hate me though," Kakashi said with one of the most genuine looks of sadness and hurt on his face that Iruka, or most people for that matter, were likely to ever see on him, "He's really the only thing I've got left… Even if he isn't sensei's kid… It's close enough that I can at least pretend, right? I don't want him to hate me."

"Would you rather he hated you for being 'mean' or hated you for leaving him weak?" Iruka asked and Kakashi looked like he'd been slapped.

"You spend too much time with the monkey," Kakashi groused, "Some snot nosed punk ain't supposed to talk like that."

Iruka laughed, "Hai teichou [captain]," he responded smugly.

"If I have Gai give him remedial taijutsu and he starts wearing an orange spandex suit you better have a healer on hand capable of curing a chidori [thousand birds assassination technique] through the chest," Kakashi said as he shook the can, which had disappeared noticeably faster than the last, over his mouth in hopes of dislodging the drop sticking to the rim of the opening.

"Yeah, yeah," Iruka said, "Even that could be an improvement over what he's already prone to wearing."

Kakashi just grunted as he went to the fridge and grabbed another beer without asking.

"Obito would be weeping right now. I'm training some kid that wants to kill the only other person since him to overcome the taint," Kakashi said glumly, "More than that, he's convinced that the almighty Sharingan will make him powerful by its own virtue, without considering the sheer amount of training it takes to properly use what it copies. Truthfully it's worse than the old Uchiha clan. At least they didn't believe their own hype."

"You seem determined to make yourself depressed," Iruka commented while peering at him over steeple fingers.

"Did you dye your hair blond and become a Yamanaka when I wasn't looking?" Kakashi retorted.

"Feh, you know what, forget it," Iruka said.

"Screw you Iruka," Kakashi said and the man laughed and leaned back in his chair.

"Stop bitching. It reminds me of when I served under you… Good times, good times."


"Ahhh!" the blond boy screamed as he flew out of his bed and into the air as he scrambled backwards away from the voice, "Kakashi-sensei? What are you doing here? It's…"

He glanced out at the pre-dawn light and then at his clock, "FOUR THIRTY IN THE MORNING!"

"Good to see you too Naruto," Kakashi said with a grin, "Get your things on. I recommend you wear something lighter than your normal outfit. You'll sweat to death if you don't wear something light."

Naruto glared at him, "Is this another trick like the no eating breakfast thing? And where's Sasuke and Sakura?" he asked as he glanced around his room.

"No, it's not a trick, and neither of them need remedial taijutsu training like you do," Kakashi said with a smirk when Naruto glared at him. Iruka was right. Their ever more convoluted drunken conversation the previous night was proving useful. It seemed that goading him wasn't just fun, but a good motivator.

"What are you talking about?! Sasuke's not better than me, and Sakura gets tired so fast in spars," Naruto pouted.

"Who hits harder, you or Sakura?" Kakashi asked and Naruto winced in memory.

"Sakura," he said while rubbing an imaginary bruise on his face.

"Who knows more taijutsu counters, you or Sasuke?" Kakashi asked.

Naruto growled out, "Sasuke. I don't see where this is going."

"Who hasn't won a single taijutsu only match on our team yet, not including by waiting until Sakura's endurance ran out?" Kakashi said as his eye turned upward into a U-shaped smile.

"I hate you Kakashi-sensei," Naruto grumbled.

"Get dressed, I've managed to find someone willing to give you remedial lessons so you're not a liability in that department," Kakashi said as he walked out of his bedroom, "And don't forget to wear something light."

Naruto scowled at his doorway for several seconds before stripping down and pulling on a pair of his orange pants, before settling for just wearing the black t-shirt he usually wore under his jacket. He quickly strapped on his equipment pouch and walked out to the kitchen area outside his room where Kakashi was waiting.

Kakashi eyed him over before pronouncing him "Acceptable," before grabbing him by the collar and frog marching him out the door.

"EH?! Kakashi-sensei! Let go of me!" Naruto growled, swatting at him before the entire world seemed to lurch dizzily and they were suddenly in a training ground he recognized. It wasn't that far from his home. A loud and repetitive 'THWOCK' sound was coming from somewhere to his left.

"Ahah! My eternal rival! You have come! So this is your youthful student who wished to join our blazing taijutsu training?" an extremely loud voice cried out from right behind him.

Naruto naturally shrieked like a girl as he spun around to view the memorable figure of Maito Gai… then shrieked like a girl again.

Kakashi swatted him on the back of the head, "Naruto, this will be your new taijutsu instructor, Maito Gai," he said while trying to suppress his laughter, though his eye refused to stop twinkling.

"Eyebrows…" Naruto mumbled, unable to think of anything to say and Gai flashed him a toothy smile causing a blinding glint of light to hit him square in the eyes. As he winced and closed his eyes he couldn't help but wonder how it could be so bright when the sun wasn't up yet.

"I see my raging inferno of youth is so great you must avert your eyes! No matter, we shall stoke your own flames until you burn as brightly as the sun Naruto-san!" Gai shouted.

"Umm, Kakashi-sensei?" Naruto asked his teacher nervously and received no reply, "Kakashi-sensei?"

He looked to his right where his teacher had been only a moment before and realized he had disappeared. His face blanched as Gai waved him toward him.

"Naruto-san, we must test your growing skills," Gai said waving him toward him, "Please show me what you have learned."

"Uhh…" Naruto said dumbly.

"I assure you, you will not hurt me. I'm a trained taijutsu Master," Gai said comfortingly, unaware that that was not the reason for the reaction.

"Oooh-kay," Naruto said as he dashed forward and attacked Gai. As seconds passed with him wildly swinging at the air, Gai's smile dimmed and by the time Naruto stopped and was just growling in frustration it was a full blown frown.

"Why are you holding back?" Gai asked, more than a little upset that Kakashi had given him a student that would not give his best effort.

"Holding back? You eyebrow freak! RHAAAGH!" Naruto growled before trying once more to pound him only to receive more frustration.

"Why aren't you using chakra to enhance your blows? To increase your speed?" Gai asked with a confused face, "I told you that you wouldn't hurt me."

"Wha? Chakra to en-pants?" Naruto asked stopping to scratch his head, "What's that mean?"

Gai looked at him with wide eyes for a moment before whispering, "Oh dear."

"What's wrong?" Naruto asked looking around for some sort of threat.

Gai looked like he was struggling to come to terms with something before he spoke very carefully, "I think that my eternal rival was right to bring you here," he said, "You have a long way to go before you can become a proper taijutsu rival for my Lee, but I need to know if you have the determination needed, because it will be very hard. I will be teaching you everything, from the bottom up."

"What? Isn't my taijutsu any good at all? I mean I know you're a jounin and stuff so of course you're better!" Naruto protested and Gai shook his head.

"That is not taijutsu," Gai said, "I would call it martial arts, but it is more like civilian bar brawling. Taijutsu is considered a ninja art for a reason."

Naruto quirked an eyebrow at that, "Why would that be? I mean it's just fighting," he said with a shrug and Gai looked horrified.

"Taijutsu is far different from combat as civilians understand it," Gai said, "The techniques used in it are impossible for even the fittest civilian martial artist to achieve. It is because of chakra that this is possible."

Gai grimaced, "Much like the majority of fuuinjutsu and ijutsu [Healing Arts] experts are civilians, the vast majority of taijutsu experts are ninja, monks, youhei [mercenaries] or samurai, though samurai and youhei favor the branch of taijutsu called kenjutsu [Arts of the Blade], which utilizes weapons, over the bare handed methods," he said, "This difference between simple martial arts and taijutsu is because taijutsu is inherently intended to be fatal. The different styles of taijutsu utilize chakra to move faster, strike harder, throw harder, or withstand blows that would kill a normal person."

"Wait… then how come I've never seen anyone using hand seals for taijutsu?" Naruto asked curiously and Gai resisted the urge to groan in frustration.

"Because when using taijutsu it's contained entirely within the body," Gai said.

"Whuh?" Naruto replied eloquently and Gai shook his head.

Deciding to go with Kakashi's advice he spoke once more, "Gather your chakra," he ordered and Naruto quirked an eyebrow before he put his hands together in a tiger seal and concentrated before he flew off his feet as the ground buckled beneath him and smacked his head on the ground.

"This is ridiculous," Gai said with a grimace, "You have no chakra control do you?"

"How do you control chakra? I mean doesn't it just do whatever it is chakra does?" Naruto asked back.

"Alright then, the first part of your taijutsu training will be…" Gai said while rubbing his chin as though puzzling out a particularly difficult problem.

When Naruto leaned forward expectantly to hear about the cool technique Gai was going to teach him, Gai gave him a dazzling smile with his thumb up and cried, "Tree climbing!"

The sound of Naruto falling on his face echoed over the training ground. He scrambled to his feet and looked at Gai like he was crazy, though not for the usual reasons.

"How does tree climbing help me become better at taijutsu?" Naruto asked and Gai shrugged.

"It's one of those mystical taijutsu training techniques that apprentices don't understand," Gai said, deciding it wasn't worth the effort of having to repeat himself in the future. He'd just distribute tips and let him figure it out as he went.

"Or we could use the old 'drop the six hundred pound rock on the student's hand until they learn how to withstand it and gain enlightenment'…" Gai suggested.

"Right, mystic training technique, sort of like the whole snatch the stone from my hand thing, tree climbing, got it," Naruto said quickly.

Gai shook his head over the reference to one of the worst taijutsu clichés ever before grinning once more, "The trick of this is to climb without hands!"

"WHAT?! Oh… mystical taijutsu training technique, gotcha," Naruto said, nodding sagely before looking confused, "So how am I supposed to climb it?"

"Your first hint is that you must push chakra out of your feet to stick to the tree," Gai said and pointed at the tree before pausing for a moment, "Naruto-san? Is there truth in that you have learned the most youthful of training techniques?"

"What?" Naruto asked, repeating his now most often used in Gai's presence phrase.

"The Kage Bunshin no Jutsu [Shadow Clone Art]," Gai said, "It is a wondrous technique that allows someone to burn their fires of youth hotter and faster and put more hard work into a single day. I only wish my Lee could use it."

"I'm not sure what you're talking about, but yeah, I know the Tajuu Kage Bunshin no Jutsu [Multiple Shadow Clone Art]," Naruto said and Gai blinked.

"Even better… wait, no one told you of the main use of this technique?" Gai asked in confusion.

Naruto looked sheepish, "Well, umm, I read the scroll, but it was just a lot of words and was really boring, all about that it was dangerous for some reason, but it's not really," he said with a shrug and Gai paled.

"Naruto-san," Gai said, "The Tajuu Kage Bunshin no Jutsu… can kill you if used improperly."

Naruto stiffened and went pale, before stammering out a whispered, "How?"

"The Tajuu Kage Bunshin requires even less chakra than the Kage Bunshin no Jutsu, and hence can produce even more clones, but this makes it far more dangerous as well. Those clones use up your chakra just as though it were you using, meaning that if you made ninety nine of them, and used them in a taijutsu battle, they would drain your chakra a hundred times faster than usual," Gai said and Naruto frowned.

"But I haven't felt any drain…"

"That is likely for two reasons. First you did not know that chakra use was essential to taijutsu and hence have not drained any during a fight before this, and second, with that many clones it is impossible to feel, even when you are on the verge of death from lack of chakra," Gai said somberly, "It is what makes that technique forbidden."

"Losing all of your chakra will kill you?" Naruto asked in surprise.

"Yes, chakra is the essence of life itself. When life leaves the body, the chakra leaves with it, and when there is no more chakra, there is no more life," Gai said, "And because the normal sensation of chakra loss is spread out over so many only the most sensitive of ninja could feel its loss."

Naruto blinked, "But I've never run out of chakra before," he retorted.

Gai nodded slowly. Kakashi had told him that Naruto was a true prodigy of stamina, with a level of chakra somewhere in between his own and his eternal rival's, easily an A-rank chakra capacity, and at such a young and tender age no less.

"It is because you have an exceptionally large amount of chakra, and it is that virtue that makes it especially dangerous to you. Until you become sensitive enough to detect the loss in ever increasing numbers of clones you should begin with merely five. This means that you'll use up your energy six times faster than usual," Gai said.

"But how will that help me train?" Naruto asked.

"Because such a youthful training technique as that causes all things that you learn and practice to return to you when your clone dispels, allowing the hours of hard work you have put in as each clone to be completed more quickly," Gai said with a smile, before deciding to give him some encouragement, "If your chakra reserves are as large as I believe they are, you likely have twice as much as you would need for a full day of training. However our sessions are only four hours long and Kakashi-san has assured me that you can afford the majority of chakra in these lessons until you are caught up, so you can make five clones to practice with, thus allowing you to fit thirty two hours of training and hard work into our sessions!"

A large sweat drop appeared on Gai's forehead as he realized Naruto had stopped listening to him and was inspecting a wad of earwax he'd dug out of his ear.

"You can fit more training into less time as long as you have enough chakra," Gai said, "During our sessions use five clones to train, otherwise ask your sensei how many he wants you to use. Don't use more than you're instructed for now or it will kill you from chakra exhaustion."

Naruto seemed to understand that and nodded.

"Now, just channel chakra to your feet and run up the tree a few times before creating your clones to train with you," Gai instructed and Naruto nodded.

He put his hands together once more in the tora [tiger] seal and channeled his chakra, this time a lot less than before and pushed it out from his feet before running toward the tree, only to fall face first as the huge clods of dirt stuck to his feet tripped him.

"When you lift your foot you must release the flow of chakra from it or you will pull whatever you are attached to along with you," Gai advised and Naruto pulled himself up and nodded before making another run at the tree.

A loud 'CRACK' resounded across the grounds, followed by 'OOMPH!'

"If you use too much chakra it will buckle the bark outward in the attempt to pull it tight against your foot, and the force of it pulling inward and outward toward your foot will explosively throw you from the tree," Gai said as he pointed at the blasted bark where his foot had been, "But too little will not let you stick. This will help you master the first type of chakra control necessary in taijutsu, known as 'steady flow'."

Naruto nodded before a look of grim determination crossed his face followed by concentration as he tried once more, making it nearly four steps up before the force blew him off, though he was expecting it and landed safely this time. Ten more repetitions occurred with no progress and Gai spoke up.

"To control chakra… you must understand it. Make your clones to assist you and send one with me," Gai said and Naruto obliged before Gai led one of them away.

"So what's up? Are you gonna teach me a cool technique?" Naruto asked, bouncing around hopefully.

"I am going to give you the secret of this matter," Gai said, sitting down cross legged in what he hoped was a 'wise old sensei' pose. He could shutter the blazing lantern of his true youthfulness if this was the way to get through to someone with such a look of determination on their face. He seemed to respond well to things that were a bit clichéd.

"Really? Way cool!" Naruto enthused, plopping down on the ground in front of him.

"I will reveal to you the inner secrets of chakra, known only to those who have studied this," Gai said mysteriously and Naruto's eyes became the size of saucers with drops of moisture in them, something that made Gai rejoice internally at the youthful expression of his new student.

"Chakra comes from the intermingling of two sources of energy within the body. No one truly understands what they are, or why they are there. Only humans and certain other animals have both sources, while many other living things only have one," Gai said, "The first is known as the 'Third Eye' or the Kaimon [Gate of Opening], and is unique to things with at least some semblance of intelligence."

He tapped the top of his head to indicate the rough location of the Gate of Opening, then over his heart, "The other source is known as the Shimon [Death Gate], and exist in all living things, from the mightiest ninja, to the lowliest mushroom," Gai said, "The energy that emerges from the Gate of Opening is known as 'spiritual energy', and the energy that emerges from the Death Gate is known as 'physical energy'."

"Why are they called that?" Naruto asked in wide eyed wonder.

"No one is certain. They both always exist in equal proportions in a person. Spiritual energy can be grown however by meditative practices, by increasing the inner harmony," Gai said with a faint smile, "Physical energy is grown by taxing one's chakra stores to their limits repeatedly. Now because neither energy can grow without the other, even if your inner harmony is great, if you do not draw out your chakra enough to increase your physical energy to match the potential amount of spiritual energy, neither force can grow until you do."

"Then why do I have so much chakra? I don't think I have that much inner harmony," Naruto said with a grimace.

"I must admit, it is likely due to outside causes," Gai admitted, "Your body energies are likely being stressed constantly, and your mind struggles for inner harmony even without your knowing, in order to ensure the wellbeing of us all."

Naruto's eyes widened and Gai gave him a smile of appreciation that instantly made him one of Naruto's favorite people, even if he looked really creepy… and sounded really creepy… and acted really creepy. Eyebrows. Naruto closed his eyes and shuddered briefly.

"However this harmony does not even mean 'inner peace' but merely one's ability to grasp some intangible property and nurture it. It is your 'you-ness' and exists independently of your frame of mind," Gai said while tapping his chin in thought, "Imagine a painting that as time passes its colors become brighter, it becomes more realistic and vibrant, more 'there'. This is why spiritual energy grows the most during youth, when you are becoming more 'you' than you ever were before."

"I get it… I think," Naruto said as his face twisted in concentration, "It's becoming more real, not my body or junk, but me, the part of me that is Naruto, and no matter if I lost all of my memories, would stay Naruto. It's that part that's becoming realer!"

Gai's eyes shot open in surprise, "Umm… yes! That is a remarkable way of thinking about it," Gai said with a bright smile, "It is because of this principal that you must find your inner harmony to control your chakra to its fullest, as the spirit controls the flesh, but the flesh is the vehicle of the spirit."

Naruto laughed happily and rubbed the back of his head, "So umm, what is physical energy then?" he asked and Gai frowned.

"Physical energy is your life force itself," Gai finally said.

"Oh! I get it!" Naruto shouted, "That's why if you run out of chakra you die! It's because your physical energy is gone so your body doesn't work, and your spiritual energy is gone so you're no longer real. Does the whole 'realer' thing mean that when you're low on chakra life doesn't feel as bright like a painting?"

Yes. In fact, it did feel less vibrant and bright. That was something Naruto was certain of. For the first time in his life he felt tired, not tired in the usual sense that exercise made him, something that went away quickly, or from not having slept. He felt tired in the sense that he felt like one of his orange jackets that had been washed too many times and the color had faded. He was low enough on chakra that for the first time he noticed it, really, really noticed it.

"Naruto you baka [moron]!" Sakura shouted as he approached, "You're even later than Kakashi-sensei."

"Shut the fuck up Sakura," he groaned out before his eyes widened in horror and his hands clamped over his mouth, "Oh I'm so sorry Sakura-chan, I'm just tired and it slipped…"

The sound of Sakura hitting him and then his body hitting a tree was deafening.

"Stupid Naruto… pretending to be all tired because he's late," Sakura growled.

"Actually he really is tired," Kakashi said with a smirk, "Though he's going to pay for being later than I was. I've turned him over to an old... friend... of mine in the mornings."

He caught the tangible spike of jealousy from Sasuke and quickly continued, "His taijutsu skill is so bad that it would be a danger to the entire team if I didn't ask for him to receive remedial lessons," Kakashi said, "My... friend... said he wasn't sure there was much hope, but that he'd try to at least turn him into less of an idiot, even if it killed him. I guess it's out of my hands now. I just hope Gai doesn't really kill him from exhaustion. WAKE UP!"

Naruto shot up in the air with a girlish shriek and Sasuke sniggered. He turned to glare at Kakashi until he saw the evil gleam in his sensei's eye.

"Naruto… start running, and fight for your life, because if you don't, you'll die. This is your punishment, Kakashi-style," Kakashi said with a cackle that was more accurately Anko-style before throwing a shuriken at him.

Naruto unleashed another girlish scream and bolted but Kakashi reappeared in front of him and batted him head over heels. Kakashi was there before he knew it and grabbed Naruto's incoming fist before raising a knee into Naruto's gut so hard it brought tears to his eyes and even Sasuke winced as the air exploded from him as he flew away.

Naruto struggled to his feet and put his hands together to make a few kage bunshin before hesitating, actually thinking for the first time in his life, or at least that's what it felt like considering the headache it gave him. He was fairly certain he'd done it before, he just couldn't remember when. With his taijutsu level more shadow clones wouldn't help against someone like Kakashi, and even if he had better ability, he didn't have enough energy. That was one of the few big things that had stuck with him from his morning's practice, though there was a surprising amount of other information, like paintings getting brighter, and the ominous sounding and way cool 'Death Gate' junk.

"Hesitation will get you killed," Kakashi growled as his fist slammed into Naruto's nose, spraying blood on the ground and Naruto slumped. Kakashi just grabbed his collar and dragged him back over to the group.

Naruto's body hurt worse than it ever had in his life, and he felt faintly betrayed. Kakashi-sensei had never hurt Sasuke or Sakura like that, and it was just because he was late. Kakashi was late all the time! He was doing his best to hold back tears because he'd never hear the end of it from his teammates, but it was hard, especially with how washed out he felt at the moment.

Kakashi just watched him for a few minutes as the blood flow stopped and his bruises seemed to fade before his eyes.

'Amazing… so it heals him as well… or is that his own ability?' Kakashi wondered. He'd never seen his sensei take any damage before so he had no idea whether or not he had healed similarly, and the same applied with Uzumaki Kushina, the biggest and most blatant piece of evidence of his heritage, given she was the Yondaime's [Fourth Lord] only lover, which made Naruto's heritage rather obvious to any but the most blinded of ninja.

"Alright, listen carefully," Kakashi said, "Today we're going to cover more basics. I'm not sure that anyone but Sakura actually has every one of the Academy jutsu down pat, though I think Sasuke might. I'm going to go over each of them and check your ability with them and decide if any of you need… remedial training."

He made it sound so ominous that even Sasuke swallowed hard at the words.

"First up is the Kakuremino no Jutsu, an E-Rank genjutsu, and the first taught in the academy. It creates a local effect that renders the user invisible so long as they remain motionless and the enemy is within radius of the distance they can project the technique around them," Kakashi said, "The most basic of concealment techniques. Sakura, you go first."

"Hai, Kakashi-sensei!" she enthused and performed the snake and the rat hand seals before blinking out of sight. She remained invisible for several seconds before she moved and the motion broke the genjutsu.

"Perfect," Kakashi said, "Now you Sasuke."

Sasuke gave a smug smirk and disappeared before reappearing.

"Now you Naruto," Kakashi said.

Naruto was sweating bullets, "Umm, Kakashi-sensei… I'm low on chakra," he said nervously.

"This technique is the least chakra intensive technique in existence. It is why it's taught when children first enter the academy at eight, as even they have enough chakra to perform it often enough to practice it to a fine skill," Kakashi said and Naruto swallowed hard, "So let's see it."

Naruto made the snake, then the rat hand seal and stood there motionless as the technique went off.

'Success!' he thought before snickers broke out.

"You know you're still visible, right Naruto?" Kakashi said and Naruto grimaced and rubbed the back of his head.

"Yeah, I knew that, I was just messing with you," he said, "Okay, here I go."

He repeated his attempt and this time he didn't get any snickers. He got full blown laughter.

"Oh wow… I knew you were an idiot… but wow. You can't even do the most basic of the academy techniques," Sasuke said, actually wheezing with laughter.

Naruto forced his face to keep from breaking and managed to jerk it up into a smile. He wasn't going to give the bastard the satisfaction of seeing him cry. He could wait until he got home to cry.

"Yeah, well you weren't so hot yourself," Naruto countered.

"Actually, Sasuke's attempt was very good, and the distance he extended it was even farther than Sakura's," Kakashi said and Naruto bit his lip before turning away and shrugging.

"Feh, like it matters," he said, feigning lack of concern.

"I think that's enough of this for the day. Naruto… I want you to go practice this until you manage it," Kakashi said as he tossed him the scroll, "It's some hints on using the jutsu. Sakura, Sasuke, come with me, we're going to work on your taijutsu skills."

Naruto sat there alone with the scroll in his hands as his team walked away. He wanted to yell, scream, rage, anything, but truthfully he didn't feel alive enough to bother. He was being left behind again, like always. It was like the dreams he had every night, over and over. The faces changed but the dream was always of him watching the backs of people as they walked away, leaving him behind.

He punched the ground and was tempted to throw away the scroll, but he knew they'd probably keep leaving him behind until he learned in. With a heavy sigh he unrolled it. At the top was a note from his teacher.

'Naruto… with this jutsu you could have jumped away and hidden earlier rather than getting thrashed – Kakashi'

Naruto blinked at the words in surprise as he thought about it. If he could have used it to disappear earlier Kakashi-sensei wouldn't have bloodied his nose like that, at least as long as he stayed hidden, or until Kakashi figured out where he was. He gave a faint smile that his sensei was actually trying to help him and unrolled the scroll the rest of the way to read.

"Good morning Naruto-san!" Gai called out cheerfully as Naruto reached the training grounds.

"Hello Gai-sensei!" Naruto said, waving back in an attempt to at least try to show a fraction of the enthusiasm. And people called him over-enthusiastic and annoying.

"Are you ready to climb trees some more?" Gai asked and Naruto nodded slightly, "Alright, make your clones, this time you'll work with me. I saw how high you made it at the very end of our last session and I think you might be ready to start."

Naruto nodded and his clones were running off for the trees quickly.

"Alright now, please focus your chakra," Gai said with a grin and Naruto complied, managing to at least hold it somewhat steady.

"Now I want you to stop pushing it outward, but instead push just a tiny, tiny, tiny amount into your legs," he said and Naruto did as he said, making his legs feel really funny and he tried to take a step or two to get rid of the feeling. However the attempt caused his leg to fly up wildly and sent a spike of pain through him as it cramped and he fell over.

"I said tiny," Gai said, "But I think you get the point of this exercise. By adding chakra to your muscles it does the same thing as it does to the tree, it pulls them together, harder than you otherwise could."

"It hurts," Naruto winced as he massaged his hamstring.

"It hurts because the chakra within them is damaging them, much like the micro-tears civilian weight lifters get when they exercise. However, these tears are not because of the contraction itself," Gai said, "Chakra also holds your muscles together while at the same time strengthening the contraction, so they aren't truly tearing. It's more like poisoning."

"Wait, chakra is poisonous?" Naruto asked, that being the only thing he got out of the description.

"Umm, think of it like a fuse and electricity," Gai said, "Do you know how that works?"

Naruto nodded. He'd had to replace more than a few fuses in his apartment before.

"It works fine with a normal amount of electricity, but when too much goes through it, what happens?" Gai asked.

"The fuse melts!" Naruto said, "So when I use too much chakra my muscles melt."

"Close enough," Gai said, "Now when I called your chakra reserves stamina the other day that wasn't exactly true. Yes, they are the limit of your total possible stamina, but true stamina has to do with how much damage your muscles have taken from using chakra."

"So you damage your muscles whenever you use taijutsu?" Naruto asked with a frown.

"No, only when you're forced to push beyond your limits," Gai said, "That's why I likened it to poison. When you take low amounts of poison over and over, and slowly increase the dose, what happens?"

Naruto's face lit up, "Oh! I know this!" he cried, "It's immunities! You reach the point where even really high doses of the poison won't kill you. So you build up immunity to your chakra poison, which melts your muscles like those acidic poisons Iruka-sensei showed us!"

"Very good," Gai said, "Now as long as you're using less than what your immunity can handle without taking any damage, you won't feel any pain from it and can keep going at that level until your chakra runs low. However it's often necessary to increase it beyond that level and accept the pain and damage in order to go beyond your normal limits."

"And that's like normal exercise, because your muscles get damaged and hurt," he said and Gai nodded.

"Eventually the pain becomes too much to push through and your body refuses to accept any more chakra until you've rested long enough for it to heal up," Gai said, "The higher you amplify your body the quicker this occurs."

"Umm, won't stronger muscles mean your bones would break?" Naruto asked curiously in a rare display of incredible insight.

"Yes, but chakra can reinforce that as well, it's also used to reinforce the skin so it doesn't split open from the force of your strike," Gai enthused.

"So chakra can reinforce everything on the body, cool…" he said as he thought about it a moment and decided to try something, "What about… FLARGLE!"

An ear splitting scream broke the air and Gai's eyes went wide with fear as Naruto clutched his eyes.

"Trrr… uff!" he screamed, over and over again as he thrashed on the ground. Gai didn't wait a second longer and scooped him up before moving toward the hospital at the highest speeds possible. Perhaps they could still save his sight if he got there in time.

"EYES, CHAKRA ENHANCEMENT! INJURY!" Gai shouted as his body smashed through the sliding door without slowing.

Half a dozen medics burst into the room at the pronouncement, but their pace slowed when they realized who was in his arms.

"What are you doing?!" Gai shouted, "Hurry!"

"We've got to make a thorough check before we can do anything," one of the healers said, "So we know what's really wrong. It might not be what you think, but rather something… else."

Gai snarled at the woman and she leaped back in fright. Naruto's voice had finally cracked and the screaming became noiseless and his arms came down, due to the pain passing the point where he could coordinate his movements any more. What Gai saw horrified him.

Naruto's eyes had power bleached entirely white, but were surrounded by a visible aura of blue chakra. However dancing through that blue were streaks of angry red that seemed to be corroding the eyes themselves, causing the lens to bubble and hiss.

"I'm going to get Hokage-sama!" Gai shouted.

"There's no need for that. We've figured out that it is in fact due to chakra enhancement," the woman said with a far too happy smile as she and three others took up positions around him and performed hand seals before placing them on the ground. A chain of seals spread from each of their positions to his eyes and the power cut off instantly, leaving Naruto gasping for breath.

The woman took a flashlight and shone it in his eyes a few times before trying unsuccessfully to hide her smirk from Gai, "His pupils aren't responding," she said, "And his retinas have burned away. He's completely and irreversibly blind. Such a shame."

[AN: Sorry about the lack of linebreaks in the first posting. This is the first time I've used this site to post my hobby fiction, so please bear with the occasional formatting errors.]