Ok, first of all, the standard disclaimer.

I do not own Naruto, its characters, or its places. This is a fan work based on the Naruto Universe owned by Viz Media. This is a work meant to parody and entertain, and is covered under the fair use act, detailed at (AN: Can't get the site to allow the link to show. You'll have to look it up if you're curious.)

This fanfic is the Naruto storyline, as it might have happened if Naruto had been born a girl instead of a boy. It contains scenes taken directly from the anime, along with scenes I created. As the story goes along I will begin to stray further from canon, while still remaining true to the Naruto storyline. Some events that are critical to the Naruto story will not be changed. Other events may be rearranged, removed, or changed at my discretion.

I don't want to hear complaints about "That's not exactly how it happened in the anime/manga". I'm aware of that. I don't want to hear complaints about "You're just copying the anime/manga". I'm aware of that. I'm writing this story my way.

As for which pairing I'm shipping for... you'll have to wait and see, won't you? :-)

Enjoy the story. Comments and Criticism are welcomed.

Nine years ago, a nine tailed fox suddenly appeared. Its tails lashed out, smashing mountains and sending tidal waves crashing to the shores. The ninja rose up to defend their villages. One shinobi faced the nine tailed fox in mortal combat. He sacrificed his life to capture the beast, and seal it in a newborn baby. This ninja was known as the fourth hokage.

The third hokage wanted to protect the child, who by containing the nine tailed fox within herself would protect Konoha for all time. He let it be known that what the child held within herself was a taboo topic. He hoped that by doing this the child would be allowed to lead a normal life. He was wrong.

A blue eyed, yellow haired kunoichi in training stood apart from her classmates, watching them as they all played. She knew from experience what would happen if she tried to join in the fun. When she was younger, the parents of whoever she tried to play with would take their children home. When the children figured this out, they started to avoid her, since playing with her meant ruining their playtime. So she watched, lonely, as they played.

She sighed, and looked back to the tree she was practicing on. Her kunai and shuriken were stuck scattered randomly into the tree, not many of them within even the outer circle of the target she had painted on the face of the tree. She tossed another at it. Outer circle.

She felt ready to scream. "Why can't I hit it?!" She threw two more kunai at the circle, neither of which even hit the outer circle. She fell to her knees and pounded the ground with her fists in frustration.

"Noriko?" a familiar voice asked. She looked up.

"Hai, Iruka-sensei?" He was the only one that had ever been nice to her.

"Your kunai are getting closer," Iruka said. "It won't be long now until you're hitting it dead center." He rubbed her head. "You're getting better."

Noriko held her excitement in at having been praised. "Hai, Iruka-sensei. I've been practicing every day!"

Iruka gathered her kunai and shuriken for her and placed them in her pack. "Well, it's time to take a break. Come on, Noriko, I'll treat you to some ramen."

"Why do you try so hard, anyway?" Noriko and Iruka sat beside each other at the Ichiraku Ramen stand, as Noriko ate bowl after bowl of the noodles.

Noriko finished chewing and swallowing the mouthful of ramen she had before answering. "I want to become strong. I'll be the strongest, most beautiful kunoichi there is. Just watch, I'm going to be the hokage!"

Iruka smiled a little at his ward's bold declaration. "But why do you want to be the hokage? You'll have to be the best, and being hokage is a lot of work." He smiled as she paused. He knew how little she liked to do menial work. But then she shook her head.

"I don't care how much work it is. If I'm hokage, everyone will have to accept and respect me. I don't know why nobody likes me, but I'll show them all!" She stood and posed. "I'm Uzumaki Noriko, and I'm going to be the hokage!"

Iruka smiled at Noriko's statement, and patted and rubbed her on the head. "Alright, Noriko. Hurry up and eat." Noriko swatted his hand away and went about fixing her hair, before getting back up onto the stool and finishing her ramen. He smiled, but inwardly had to wonder at the dark path his ward had set foot on. He'd have to watch her carefully, to make sure she didn't get it any further into her head to force people to respect her.

Three years later

"Come on, Billboard Brow. Is that the best you've got?" Noriko taunted her opponent.

"Noriko, you bitch! I'll make you eat those words!" Sakura launched a spinning kick at Noriko, who easily ducked under it, following with a straight uppercut which laid the pink-haired kunoichi out.

"Not even worth my time," said Noriko, turning her back.

"Hey! You can't do that to Sakura, you bitch!" Noriko turned just in time to dodge a straight punch from Ino, who over-extended herself not expecting to have missed. As she stumbled forward, Noriko planted her knee firmly in Ino's abdomen, followed by a chop to the back of her neck. Ino fell to the ground, unconscious.

"Feh. If the guys can't pick on me anymore, why do you two think you can?" She paused a moment to fix her hair, then left the unconscious Ino and Sakura in the alley the two kunoichi had cornered her in.

Some minutes later, as she walked down the market street of Konoha, she sighed, placing her arms behind her head as she walked. "And it was supposed to be a good day, too. Why can't my birthdays ever go right?"

"What happened this time?" A familiar voice asked from behind her. She smiled and turned.

"Iruka-sensei!" She rushed and hugged him.

"Oof! You're so much bigger than you were when I took you in. So what happened this time to ruin your big day?"

Her face fell. "Ino and Sakura, again. They're completely unreasonable. They think that just because Sasuke doesn't pay attention to them, he must be paying attention to someone else. And since that someone else isn't Tenten, it must be me. At least Tenten wasn't there this time, she's getting deadly accurate with her kunai."

"Oi. You didn't do any damage to them this time, did you? You remember what we talked about..." Iruka's expression darkened.

She held up her hands defensively. "No, no! No broken bones this time, I swear. Sakura's only going to have a sore jaw tomorrow in class, and Ino might have some stomach problems and a sore neck."

Iruka sighed and mussed her hair. "What are we going to do with you? I'm going to have to tell the Hokage about this."

She swatted his hand away and started fixing her hair before that sunk in. "Eh! No! Don't trouble old man Hokage with this! I didn't do any lasting damage to them, I swear!"

"Then what did they say to you that made you angry enough at them to knock them out?" Iruka looked at her levelly, and she started to cringe.

"They... er... told me my whisker marks made me ugly, and my seal mark made me look fat." She looked down at the ground, knowing what was coming next.

"You've got to get your temper under control, Noriko. Did they deserve to be punched out for that?"

"No..." she said meekly. "Please don't tell the Hokage! Please? I'll try to get along."

"Sorry, Noriko. You know I have to tell Lord Hokage when you cause any injuries." Noriko slumped, looking at the ground. "But, just this once, since it's your birthday, I'll tell him later. You can enjoy your birthday for no- OOF!" He had the wind knocked out of him and staggered back as she tackled him in a hug.

"Thank you, Iruka-sensei!"

Noriko returned to her apartment in a good mood. She knew she'd be in trouble with the Hokage tomorrow, but it was her birthday, and she had a present from Iruka-sensei. She rushed inside to open it and see what it was. She shook it next to her head to hear what was inside, and heard something rattling around loose. 'Hm, box in a box. Iruka-sensei's always doing this to me...' she thought, and opened the outer box. Inside was a small, vinyl gift box, the kind that might hold a ring or a necklace. When she opened the box, she found a pair of earrings, and a note. The earrings were beautiful, silver earrings with a small gem the color of onyx dangling from where the piece connected to the ears. She held them in her hands, and the gem colors began to shift.

Seeing they were no ordinary earrings, she read the note. It read:

I hope you like your birthday present. Since I took you in five years ago, you've grown to be a beautiful kunoichi, with incredible skill both in Taijutsu and with thrown weapons. I wish I'd had more time to help you learn to control your chakra, but I hope these earrings will help. They're chakra earrings, and help you become more aware of your chakra. I hope they help you.


Tears in her eyes, she put the earrings in and went to her mirror. She watched the earrings as the gems stabilized in color, one becoming blue like a sapphire, the other becoming red like a ruby. She focused, and found that with the earrings on she could feel her chakra pathways, and the amount of chakra flowing in them. She smiled, before taking them out and setting them next to her jewelry box. The colors faded back to black. She prepared for bed, and turned out the light before turning in. Tomorrow would be another big day.

Noriko rushed to class, not wanting to be late. Today was the day of the graduation exam. She stepped into the classroom, and the usual classroom antics were going on. Ino and Sakura were arguing over which of them got to sit by Sasuke, who sat with his eyes closed and looked like he wished he were anywhere but there; Shikamaru was sleeping at the back of the class, Choji sat next to him munching on chips, Kiba was playing with Akamaru, Hinata was sitting alone, and Shino watched over everything expressionlessly from the back. As Ino and Sakura noticed her walk in, they came to some unspoken agreement. Ino took the seat behind Sasuke, and Sakura took the seat beside him.

Noriko rolled her eyes at this. She didn't care about the two and their competition over Sasuke, she just wished they'd leave her out of it.

Something occured to her, though. For the two to have such enmity toward her for "stealing their Sasuke", there had to be someone spreading the rumor. And the only one she could see any reason for wanting to do so was Sasuke himself. Of course, if they thought he was unavailable, perhaps they'd stop pestering him. So he sicced them on her.

The thought made her angry, and she found herself walking to the front of his seat. She ignored the glares from both Ino and Sakura. "Sasuke, could I speak with you for a minute," she asked.

"Go away, you're as annoying as the other two," Sasuke said, nearly emotionlessly.

"Too bad. I've got a question for you," she said.

Sasuke opened his eyes and scowled at her. "Go ahead and ask, then. If it'll make you go away maybe I'll answer."

Noriko glared at Sasuke as she asked, "Everyone seems to think we're a couple for some reason. You don't have anything to do with that, do you?"

Sasuke looked at her and said, "Now why would I want anyone to think I was attracted to a kawaiikune otemba like you?"

Noriko slammed her hand down on the desk, and hardened her glare. Sasuke matched and returned it. This may have gone on for some minutes, were it not for someone trying to squeeze past behind Noriko, bumping her in the process.

The impact would have sent her sprawling over the desk, were it not for Sasuke being right there. Instead, it sent her into him. Their lips met, and both pairs of eyes widened and faces turned red from hair to neck as they realized what was happening.

Noriko reacted first, as she pulled away and started furiously wiping her lips. "Bleagh!! Oh my god, yuck! You kissed me!"

Sasuke was making his own motions of disgust at the kiss. "I kissed you? You're the one that jumped on me! Crazy annoying brat."

Both of them stopped as they felt killer intent from somewhere. Ino and Sakura both looked ready to spit nails, and they directed their glares at Noriko. "Sasuke's first kiss..." Ino started.

"Was supposed to be mine," Sakura finished.

That brought Ino's attention to Sakura. "No, it was mine!"

"You wish, Ino-pig!"

"Billboard brow!"

That would have started a fight between the two kunoichi, if Iruka hadn't entered the classroom right then. "Alright, students. Quiet down. I know you're all excited about your final day before you graduate. Find a seat, and let's get started." Noriko moved to sit next to Hinata, as usual. She gave a nod to the Hyuuga heir, who shyly returned it.

Ino and Sakura were still glaring at each other, and occasionally turning murderous glances on her. Iruka didn't fail to notice this, and asked, "Sakura, Ino, is there something the matter?"

Noriko giggled. "They're just being bitches about Sasuke, again."

Both Ino and Sakura glared at Noriko, but Iruka just nodded. "Well, to get started..."

Kiba slammed his fist down and yelled at Noriko. "Hey! Stop implying those two are illegitimate Inuzuka!"

Noriko smirked back at Kiba. "Who's implying anything? I thought I was being clear about it."

Kiba growled. "I'll have you know father was MUCH too terrified of moth..." Kiba cut off sharply as he realized what he was implying.

Noriko grinned. "They could be your distant cousins!"

"Enough, both of you," said Iruka. "Noriko, I know how you feel about them, but at least try to get along with them in classes, please? I don't know how I'm going to face the Hokage if I have to call in Jonin to break up a classroom brawl again."

Kiba glared at Noriko after being forced to withhold his cutting remark, and took his seat. Norika smirked at Kiba, and replied to his glare by sticking out her tongue and pulling down her lower eyelid.

"Noriko!" snapped Iruka. She jumped, and bowed to him quickly.

"Hai, Iruka-sensei," she said, and took her seat.

"Oh, and before I forget, the Hokage wants to see you, now. You're excused from class until you've seen him."

She drooped, knowing what this was about. She left the class, hearing the snickers of more than a few students behind her.

She stood before the Sandaime Hokage, staring down at her feet. He hadn't said a word since she entered, and the atmosphere was heavy as he sat looking her over, apparently deep in his thoughts.

Finally, he seemed to come to a decision, and spoke. "Noriko."

She almost jumped. "Hai, Hokage-sama!"

His expression softened, somewhat. "Relax, Noriko. Sakura and Ino didn't have any lasting damage done to them. I'm more concerned about you. You're not getting along with your classmates."

"Hai, Hokage-sama. None of them have ever liked me, I've never known why."

"Hmm..." The Hokage closed his eyes, and smoke curled up from his pipe. He knew why she had trouble getting along with her classmates, and it wasn't entirely her fault. He'd hoped his mandate of silence would allow her to lead a normal life, but it seemed to have had the opposite effect.

"Noriko, you are a wonderful gift to the village. Has anyone told you of the significance of the seal on your stomach?" he asked.

"No. The other kids make fun of me for it, and nobody seems to like it when I show it, but nobody will tell me what it is, not even Iruka-sensei." she replied.

"Hmm... just as well. Suffice it to say that what that seal holds is the reason you are such a gift to the village, while at the same time the reason the village curses you. I don't want you grow up bitter because the village curses you for your gift. They'll come to see you for yourself in due time."

She didn't entirely understand what the Hokage was saying. "What does the seal do? I know a little about seals, and this one is far beyond anything I've seen anywhere else."

He opened her eyes to look at her. The girl was very intelligent, that much was certain. "That is an S-class secret. You may figure it out on your own before you are of a rank high enough to be told such information." He hoped telling her that much would delay any more questions about it until she was ready to know the truth.

"I understand, Hokage-sama." She was curious now, what her seal held that was such a high classed secret.

"Now, return to your class. I believe today is the graduation exams, correct?" She nodded. "Then go, and do well on your test." She bowed, and started to leave. "I believe this year's test is clones," the Hokage said from behind her, and she froze.

"Clones?" she said shakily. She slumped. She'd forgotten to wear her chakra earrings, and knew that was the only way she'd be able to pass a test like that. "I'm doomed," she said as she left to head to her class.

A few minutes after she left, it occured to her. "He let me off? He let me off!" then she thought of something else. "He told me something, but in the end he told me nothing." She shook her head. "Senile old fart." She took off for her class.

She stood before the judges, Iruka and Mizuki. One more time, she had to try one more time to produce a useable clone. She made the handsigns, and gathered her chakra. "Clone Technique!" she called out.

"Wait, Noriko! That's too much chakra..." It was too late. Noriko completed the jutsu.

In a puff of smoke, a clone of Noriko appeared, but all three knew something was wrong. It looked vaguely like Noriko, but it was glowing in blue chakra. "Noriko, get away from it!" called out Iruka, just before the clone exploded, sending Noriko flying to hit the wall with a thud. She slumped, unconscious.

Iruka and Mizuki were blown back out of their seats by the blast, and they both looked at each other. "Well," started Mizuki. "We could give her points for coming up with a new application of the cloning technique. A clone bomb."

"Mizuki-sensei, the other students were able to produce at least three viable clones. After three tries, Noriko's best attempt exploded. The amount of chakra she put into it, as well, must have exhausted her. I can't pass her."

Noriko awoke in the Konoha infirmary. She tried to sit up, but the nurse in attendance pushed her down. "Stay still, we don't want you to overexert yourself."

"Eh? What happened? I feel fine," Noriko said.

"You put too much chakra into a cloning technique, so much that the clone exploded. You collapsed from chakra exhaustion," the nurse replied.

"But I feel fine. I don't have chakra exhaustion..." she sat up, and winced as her head throbbed. "But my head does hurt where I hit it."

The nurse looked at her patient clipboard. "Hmm... used cloning technique with so much chakra the clone exploded. It looks like it should have been chakra exhaustion... Oh! Another note here. Patient was thrown against the wall by the force of the explosion and knocked out."

The nurse looked at her. "I'm sorry, you're right. You were knocked out by hitting your head against the wall, not exhaustion. Let me get you something for the pain."

The nurse left, and returned moments later with a pill and some water, which Noriko gratefully took. The nurse activated a medical technique, and scanned Noriko's head. "Well, you didn't take any real damage, besides some bruising where you hit the wall." She scanned the rest of her. "And your chakra levels look normal. I guess we can release you." The nurse handed her a few pills. "Take one of these if the pain gets too bad. But you shouldn't need them."

"Yes, thank you, miss. One question, though. Did I pass?"

The nurse gave her a pitying look, and without needing to be told, she knew.

Noriko sat against the tree, apart from the large group of parents and their kids, watching them sadly. She thought of all the effort she had put into learning to be a ninja, of the hours she spent practicing her taijutsu and throwing, and she didn't graduate because she had failed a ninjutsu. She sobbed quietly, hearing the congratulatory comments from the parents to their kids.

"Hey, look at that one," she heard.

"It's that girl. I hear she's the only one who failed," another voice remarked.

"Serves her right."

"Imagine what would happen if she became a Shinobi."

"Isn't that the girl who actually..."

"Hey! We're not supposed to talk about that."

She bit back her sobs, holding back her tears, wanting nothing more than to cry out for all to hear, but knowing nobody there would care. Then she felt a presence beside her, and looked up to see the judge from her exam, Mizuki, kneeling beside her with a sympathetic look on his face. It was too much for her, and she hugged him, crying out, not caring who heard.

Sarutobi and Iruka watched from a distance as Noriko cried her eyes out against Mizuki, in heartbreaking sobs. "I blame myself for this..." Iruka started, but was silenced by a gesture from the Hokage.

"Iruka, we need to talk later," the Sandaime Hokage said as they both watched Mizuki leading Noriko to a less public area.

"Yes, Hokage-sama."

Later, Noriko and Mizuki sat on a roof overlooking Konoha. "You know, Iruka isn't trying to be mean or cruel."

"Then why only me? Why did only I fail?" Noriko had managed to control her sobs, but now they threatened to boil up and spill out again.

"He wants you to become stronger, as strong as you can be."

Noriko didn't reply, just looked over Konoha with tear-filled eyes.

"You know, neither of you have parents. Maybe he sees you as similar to himself."

"But I wanted to graduate more than anything." her tears spilled over and she sobbed.

Mizuki sighed. "I guess I have no choice but to let you in on a big secret."

Noriko looked up at him in surprise, the tears still streaming down her stained face.

Iruka lay on his bed, remembering his talk with the Hokage. "Iruka, I know how you feel. You want to protect her. She's like a daughter to you, and you feel bad for her because she's like you, she has no parents."

"Hai, Hokage-sama."

"However, you can't protect her forever. Her physical marks are near the top of her class, even the guys. Her failure to produce a clone shouldn't have held her back. Take Guy's student, Lee, for example."

Iruka had been ashamed by that. Lee did not have the capacity to use Ninjutsu or Genjutsu, but he had become a Taijutsu master through willpower and effort, and passed the academy graduation exam. Noriko wasn't nearly on Lee's level in Taijutsu, but she did have the capability to use Genjutsu and Ninjutsu, even if her control of her chakra was bad.

"Next time you see her, pass the girl. She needs to learn to fly, and caging her in the academy won't help her."

He was interrupted from his musing by someone pounding on his door. "Wake up, Iruka!"

He stood and answered his door, to see Mizuki standing there, a ragged expression on his face. "What's the matter?"

"Come to Lord Hokage's immediately. I heard that Noriko stole the Scroll of Sealing!"

Noriko held the scroll of sealing, hidden in a secluded part of the woods surrounding Konoha. "Let's see, which one should I learn? I guess I'll just start from the top."

She opened the scroll just enough to see the first technique. "Multiple Shadow Clone Jutsu?" She sighed. "Great. It had to be a cloning technique. Why is it always a cloning technique?" She began to study the technique from the scroll.

The crowd of Chunin and the few Special Jonin was restless. "Hokage-sama, the scroll of sealing is dangerous! We can't forgive Noriko!"

Another Jonin called out, "The scroll of sealing was sealed by the First Hokage! It would be a disaster if it fell into enemy hands!"

The Third Hokage nodded slightly. "Yes. Bring Noriko here at once."

"Yes, sir!" came from all of the Ninja present, before they all scattered to search for Noriko.

Hours later, Iruka finally located Noriko, laid out in the woods, breathing hard. Iruka could tell that she was near exhaustion, and saw scratches all over her, and various pock-holes in the ground around her.

She opened her eyes and looked at him as he approached. "I... I did it," she gasped out, smiling.

His anger at her evaporated as he looked at her confused. "What did you do?"

"I learned a technique!"

He looked down at her dubiously. Did she really learn a technique from the scroll of sealing? She was near the point of exhaustion, and he could see where she must have had a number of techniques explode on her.

"So, if I show you my new technique, you have to let me graduate from the academy, right?" she asked, excitedly.

Iruka became even more confused. "Who told you that?"

"Mizuki-sensei did! He told me about the scroll, and about this place I could train, and that if I learn a technique from the scroll that I have to be graduated from the academy! Can I show you my technique, so you can graduate m- aah!" The last exclamation came as Iruka suddenly pushed her to the side, and she was surprised to see a number of kunai hit Iruka.

Iruka winced in pain from his multiple kunai wounds. "I see how it is."

Mizuki stood on a branch of a tree overhead, laughing. "Noriko, give me the scroll of sealing."

Noriko looked confused, first at Iruka who stood with kunai wounds, then at Mizuki, his attacker. "What... What's going on?"

Iruka ripped a kunai out of his leg. "Noriko, don't listen to him, don't give him that scroll! It's a dangerous scroll, full of forbidden jutsu, and was sealed. Mizuki used you to get the scroll for himself!"

Mizuki just laughed. "Noriko, Iruka is only afraid of you having the scroll. After an incident 12 years ago, a new rule was created."

"Stop! You idiot, don't tell her about that!"

"A rule everyone but you, Noriko, knows."

"What is it, what rule?" Noriko had to know, even if Mizuki was acting strange.

"The rule forbids anyone from revealing that you are actually the Fox Demon! You are actually the demon, Nine-Tailed Fox Spirit who killed Iruka's parents and destroyed our village! He didn't graduate you because he hates you."

"That's not true, you bastard!" Iruka called out.

"Noriko, didn't you find it strange? Why did everyone hate you so much? Why couldn't you make friends?"

"No... it's not true... it can't be..." Noriko said. Both Iruka and Mizuki could feel her chakra rising, as she tried to deny the possibility.

"Nobody accepted you! Iruka hates you because you killed his parents!" He pulled a fuma shuriken from his back and began to spin it. "You're just a damn fox demon! You should die!" He released the large shuriken, and it flew unerringly toward Noriko. Noriko stood, stunned, as the shuriken threatened to end her life.

"Noriko! Get down!" called Iruka. He rushed to her, pushed her down, and covered her from the attack. The fuma shuriken landed in his back, and he let a cry of pain escape him. He coughed a few drops of blood, which landed on Noriko's face.

"Iruka-sensei, why...?" Noriko asked, more confused than ever.

"Because we're the same. After my parents died, nobody paid attention to me. I wasn't a good student in school. I was the class clown, because I wanted people to notice me. You're the same. I see you fighting, all the time, trying to be noticed, trying to be recognized, and I see myself, acting stupid trying to be noticed.'

"It's hard, isn't it Noriko?" Iruka's eyes were filled with tears, and they fell from his face to hers. "It's hard to make people notice you, so you have to fight. You knock out Ino and Sakura when they pick on you because you want them to accept you. Isn't it lonely? You're suffering inside, and you want someone to support you."

"I'm sorry, Noriko. If I had been there for you more, you wouldn't have suffered as much. I could have helped you learn the cloning technique, instead of you struggling with it, alone. You're like a little sister to me, family I never had."

Mizuki laughed from up on his perch. "Don't make me laugh! Iruka has always hated you, ever since you killed his parents! He's just saying all that to get the scroll away from you!"

Noriko looked away from both of them, her expression unreadable. Suddenly, she was no longer underneath Iruka, and was running deeper into the forest.

Mizuki laughed as he jumped down from the tree. "She is not the kind of girl to change her mind easily. She will take revenge against Konoha using the techniques on that scroll. Haven't you seen her eyes? Those are the eyes of a Demon Fox."

Iruka pulled the fuma shuriken from his back. "No... Noriko isn't like that at all!" He threw the shuriken at Mizuki, who sidestepped to dodge it.

"Pfeh. All I want is to kill Noriko and get the scroll. I'll take care of you later!" Mizuki took off into the forest after Noriko.

"I won't let you," replied Iruka.

Later, Iruka caught up with Noriko as she jumped from branch to branch in the trees through the forest. "Noriko! Everything that Mizuki said was a lie! Give me that scroll, quick! Mizuki is after the scroll!"

Iruka was surprised as Noriko suddenly charged in his direction, and used all her force of momentum to pummel him in the gut. He went flying back, and landed on the ground in a heavy thud.

Noriko landed a few feet away, breathing heavily, the scroll of sealing on her back. She unslung the strap on the scroll, and let it fall to the ground, herself joining it a few moments later as her tired legs gave way.

"It can't be. Why is it, Noriko? How..." There was a puff of smoke, and it was no longer Iruka lying there, but Mizuki. "...did you know I wasn't Iruka?"

Noriko grinned at Mizuki, and in a puff of smoke, it was no longer Noriko sitting there, but Iruka. The scroll of sealing was a log. "Because I'm Iruka."

Mizuki stood. "I see. What's in it for you to protect the one who killed your family?"

"I'm not gonna let a stupid idiot like you get that scroll!"

"You're the idiot. Noriko is the same as me."

"The same as you?" Iruka questioned.

"Anyone can do whatever they want once they have the scroll. There is no way that that monster... that Fox Spirit, won't take advantage of the power of that scroll!"

"You're right..."

Noriko, overhearing the conversation from a place hidden in some bushes, heard that and bit her bottom lip to choke back a sob. 'I guess it was true all along!' she thought. 'Iruka-sensei never really cared for me at all!'

"...if she was the Demon Fox Spirit."

Noriko nearly gasped aloud and blew her cover when she heard that.

"But Noriko is different. She is an exceptional student. She may be violent and angry all the time, but she works hard. No one accepts her, but she knows the meaning of human suffering. She is not the Demon Fox Spirit. She's Uzumaki Noriko of the Village Hidden in the Leaves!"

Noriko felt like she could cry from happiness, and a few tears spilled from her eyes. Mizuki, however, couldn't believe what he was hearing. He pulled the last fuma shuriken from his back. "You are so gullible, Iruka. I was going to take you down later, but I've changed my mind." He spun the shuriken and prepared to throw. "Die!" Mizuki charged Iruka with the spinning shuriken in hand.

Iruka closed his eyes. 'I guess this is the end for me...' he thought.

Suddenly, in a blur, Noriko came out of her hiding spot and knocked Mizuki away from Iruka before he could strike. The fuma shuriken flew from his hand, and chopped down a couple of tree branches as it flew off into the forest. Iruka opened his eyes, expecting to have already been killed, and saw the thing he least expected. Noriko was standing before him, protecting him. "Noriko?!"

Mizuki stood up, from where he had been knocked to his knees. "You surprised me there, freak."

Noriko stood there, looking at him with a glare that could kill. "If you ever lay a hand on Iruka-oniichan, I'll kill you."

"Shut up! I can take care of a kid like you with a single blow!"

"Why don't you try then? I'll strike you back a thousand times for every one you land!" She held her hands in a sign and drew on her chakra.

"Let's see you try! Show me what you can do, Demon Fox!"

"Shadow Clone Technique!" called out Noriko, and all around there were puffs of smoke as dozens upon dozens of identical clones of her appeared.

'Noriko, how...' thought Iruka. 'Those aren't just images, but actual clones! That's an advanced Ninjutsu!'

Mizuki looked around at the over one hundred identical clones as they all shifted into battle stances. "What's the matter? Come on!" They all taunted him. "Weren't you gonna get me with one blow? Here!" He fell to the ground in fear, looking around at all the clones. "In that case... Here I come!" Mizuki screamed, as the clones all rushed him and started giving him the beating of his life.

Mizuki lay on the ground in a bloody, beaten mess as Noriko stood over him. She turned her back on him. "Hmph. That's what you get for trying to kill my oniichan." She walked over to Iruka. "Are you alright, Iruka-oniichan?"

"Yeah," he replied. Inwardly, he was thinking to himself, 'She really is something. Maybe it's true, maybe she will be the hokage.'

"Noriko, come over here. I want to give you something. Close your eyes."

She kneeled in front of him and closed her eyes, and felt something on her forehead. He wrapped something around and tied it behind her head. "Okay, you can open your eyes now."

She opened her eyes, and saw Iruka wasn't wearing his headband. She opened her eyes wide, and went into her pouch for a small mirror. She looked in the mirror, and saw she was wearing the leaf headband.

"Congratulations... on your graduation," Iruka said, smiling at her.

"But... but I thought..." she stuttered out.

"I was going to give it to you next time I saw you anyway. Your marks in Taijutsu and throwing accuracy are top notch. Your Ninjutsu isn't great, but as you've just proven, that's a hurdle you can overcome."

She just looked at him, stunned, and then at the same time the tears started flowing, she tackled Iruka in a hug. "Oof," he said. "Take it easy, I'm hurt."

She didn't respond, but just hugged him tighter, the tears falling freely from her face.

Author's Note: This is probably the only time I am going to insert scenes from the anime nearly verbatim.