I lied in my sleeping bag, looking up at the ceiling.

I felt kind of weird. On one hand, I was extremely worn out after what happened today. But for that same reason, I couldn't sleep. I kept on thinking about it.

It all started during the Genin Exam. I was really determined to pass this time. I failed it two times before, but I had a feeling this one was going to be it. Everything was going well. I was able to make a perfect transformation. I was able to turn into a naked woman right in front of Iruka-sensei! But then I had to make a bunshin, and I couldn't make a proper one. Clones were always my weakness. I failed again. I was discouraged until Mizuki-teme told me that I could become a genin if I learned the Kage Bunshin, and I stupidly believed him.

So I snuck into the Hokage's Building, stole the scroll, and learned the technique. But it was all a trick. Mizuki just wanted the scroll for himself. He then told me the reason why everyone in the village hated me. It turns out that the Kyubi that attacked the village 12 years ago was not killed, but sealed inside of me. That meant no one saw me as a regular kid, but as the monster was responsible for killing many people. I thought no one cared about me until Iruka-sensei took a huge shuriken to the back to save me. He was the only person who consistently rooted for me. I made Mizuki pay for what he did by using the technique of the same scroll he wanted me to steal. Then Iruka-sensei even gave me his forehead protector.

I smiled to myself. I made my first step to becoming the next Hokage. Now I'll make every person who thought I was nothing recognize me.

Believe it!


"Kureiga, your lunch is packed!" I heard my mother yell from down the hall. My black eyes moved from my shoes and out the door of my bedroom. "Don't be late!"

"I won't!" I yelled back as I tied my shoes. I stood up before checking myself in the mirror of my dresser. I smiled slightly at the dark-skinned fellow staring back at me. Today was the day I could wear the uniform I bought the day I found out I graduated. I stood there, donning black pants, tucked into black, closed-toe boots. I also wore a matching vest over a matching short sleeved t-shirt. I also kept two pouches tied to my outer thighs, the right holding my kunai and and the left holding my shurikens. My parents thought the color was too depressing. I told them the color was perfect. It helped me blend in if I needed to hide in the surrounding environment, especially if it was a forest at night time. I wrapped my hitai-ite around my forehead, tying a knot behind my head and securing it.

"Kureiga Kazama, Genin of the Leaf," I said. I liked the way that sounded.

I ran my right hand through my short hair as I walked out of my room, grabbing my knapsack and fingerless gloves along the way, and down the hall. In the kitchen I saw my mother, waiting on me with a smile and a bento hanging from her fingers. I stopped in front of her, and she placed a hand on my shoulder.

"My my, have you grown," she said. "Look how tall you've become."

"I got that from you, you know," I said. I then half-smiled. "I guess I should thank my father for having a thing for tall women!" My mother sighed. She was rather tall, about six foot three inches. I stood two inches shorter than her. She had long hair and her skin was a little darker than mine. However, our eyes was an almost exact match.

"And I guess I should admonish myself for being attracted to such a smart-alec," she said. She then looked me in the eye. "Speaking of which, your father is out, getting some supplies for the shop. But he wanted to wish you good luck on your first day." I smiled. Then I felt a kiss on my forehead. I blushed slightly. "Now get going!"

"Hai!" I hugged my mother before grabbing the bento from her hands and making my exit. I stopped at the balcony of my home. I thought about walking, but I had a feeling I wouldn't arrive at school on time.

You see, my, dad runs a pastry shop. So, whenever I can, I helped out with the business by not only doing simple chores, but by making deliveries as well. I've done so for so long that many people knew me by name. I knew that I would be having many chats along the way to the academy if I walked.

I took a deep breath before I jumped towards the nearest roof. I then started running towards the academy, using the many rooftops of the many homes and businesses of the village like stepping stones across a river. As I did so, I looked below, taking in the many scenes of the morning. I saw a cat being chased by what looked like a team of ninja. I saw Kurenai-sensei and Asuma-sensei walking together, making me wonder if the rumors of them having a thing for each other were true. I saw Ino and Sakura arguing with each other, as usual. I even saw Gai-sensei on his morning run, making me wonder which one of his likely ridiculously high amount of laps he was on. After a few minutes, I was on the roof of the academy. I jumped from the roof and landed on the ground in front of the entrance. I took a deep breath as before walking towards the open door, pulling on my gloves as I did so. I didn't see that many students out, which meant that almost everybody was already inside of the classroom.

"Time to meet my team," I said, remembering that it was the day that the rookies were going to be assigned to teams. I walked down the hall before coming upon the door of my destination. I opened the door and entered the classroom where I learned a good amount of the essentials of the shinobi way. It had stadium style seats, allowing whichever instructor who was teaching that day to see everyone in the classroom, as demonstrated by the many pieces of chalk and erasers that hit the foreheads of many students who fell asleep. In the front of the classroom was a large blackboard, clouded by many marks left by erasers. A few feet in front of the board was a normal brown desk with a normal wooden chair behind it.

I walked down the stairs, passing a certain mass of orange. I then stopped in my tracks and turned towards that mass of orange, which was actually an orange jacket, belonging to the one person I've ever seen wear orange.

"Naruto?" I said questioningly, a little surprised to see him. He looked up at me with a scowl. "What are you doing here?" I had to ask. Last time I saw him, he was out on the swing set by his lonesome, looking on from the distance while all of the graduates were celebrating with their parents. My parents asked me if I wanted to invite him over for dinner, but I refused. It's not that I hated or disliked him. I just didn't feel right asking someone who failed the test to come with me to a dinner celebrating me passing. As far as I was concerned, doing that would have been the equivalent of asking a boy with no legs to walk with me down a flight of stairs.

"I graduated!" he said in an annoyed tone, pointing to his hitai-ite. "Can't you tell, dattebayo?!" I looked up at it and smirked.

"So you managed to become a genin," I said, a smirk coming across my face. "I must say, it took you long enough! But you know what? I'm glad for you." Before Naruto could respond, we both snapped our heads to the entrance to see two girls arguing. Specifically, it was Ino Yamanaka and Sakura Haruno, apparently continuing the argument I saw them having earlier. I couldn't quite hear them from where I was. Not that it mattered. It was a rare day in Konoha when the two of them occupy the room without arguing. After a small back and forth, Sakura walked towards our direction, waving her hands in greeting.

Naruto stood up from his seat immediately.

"Hi, Sakura-ch-" he started to say before he was immediately pushed aside so she could greet the person she was actually waving to: Sasuke Uchiha, who just happened to be sitting next to Naruto. I rolled my eyes as the pink-haired girl struck up a short, one-sided conversation with the loner before Ino and the other girls in the classroom started arguing with Sakura over who should sit next to him. Yes, you read that right: the group of girls were arguing over a seat that Naruto was sitting in. I couldn't help but roll my eyes again before Naruto was immediately on top of the desk in front of Sasuke, which immediately sparked a stare down. Things got tense as many people gathered around the two of them, urging Sasuke to "knock out that whiskered punk". That was quickly taken care of when a student sitting behind Naruto stood up, accidently knocking the orange-clad boy forward, which, in turn, caused Naruto's lips to meet Sasuke's. I walked over to Naruto before patting his shoulder as he coughed and complained about his mouth burning. Sasuke was having a similar reaction. Had I walked in at that moment, I would have thought they were poisoned. I laughed at the whole scene, finding it hilarious.

"I guess that killed a few fan girls' fantasies," I said between laughs. However, I stopped at laughing and Naruto stopped coughing. I felt it. He felt it.

"Killing Intent," Naruto and I both said at the same time as we both turned around and faced a crowd of girls. Girls that seemed none too happy about the scene they saw.

"Oh my…" I managed to mutter before Naruto and I received the mother of all beat downs. Halfway through it, I legitimately worried that I had seen my last day as a shinobi before I heard the voice of Iruka-sensei, telling the group to stop playing around. Up to that point, I had never been happier to hear my teacher's voice in my life.


I sat down at the desk, waiting for Iruka-sensei to assign the teams. I silently prayed for him to put me on the same team with Sasuke, or at the very least, a team other than Naruto's. I looked to my right, eyeing the said ninja, who, along with Kureiga, was slumped over the desk, their faces adorned with many welts. I was actually surprised he even passed. He does very little right, if anything. All he ever did was talk about ramen and becoming the next Hokage, and all he ever did was pull pranks and ask me out, over and over. I actually felt bad for any team that he was assigned to. I looked over at Sasuke and offered him a smile. He merely looked ahead. My smile grew wider. So mysterious!

My attention went forward as Iruka started announcing the teams.

"Now, this year, things are going to be a little different," Iruka-sensei started. "Odd as it, this is going to be the first time that there are going to be a four man team coming out of the academy. Usually, all teams that leave the academy are teams of three, but due to numbers of graduates this time around, there will be one team making that exception. That team will be Team 7. Now before I announce the teams, allow me to make one thing clear, just in case some of you…" I couldn't help but smirk as he shot Naruto a look. "…try to argue against your assignments. The teams are not put together by random. All of you have an ability that not only makes you fit to become ninja of the The Leaf, but to also supplement the abilities of your teammates, as well as make up for each other's flaws. Basically put, your very presence on the team will bring out the best of your team, and the presence of your team will bring out the best in you." He paused momentarily, apparently giving time for the information to sink in. What he said made sense. But then again, I tend to expect that from my instructors.

"Now, here are your assignments," Iruka said. "The first team is Team 7. The members are Naruto Uzumaki…."

My heart stopped.

Please not with him. Please not with him. PLEASE, NOT, WITH, HIM!

"….Sakura Haruno….."

I bowed my head in dismay. Why?! To my right, I could see Naruto cheering. Great.

"……Sasuke Uchiha….."

It was my turn to cheer. I then turned around and stuck my tongue out at Ino, who looked down at me in disbelief. "Take that, Ino-Pig!" She immediately flipped me the bird.

"…..and Kureiga Kazama."

"Oh, this should be fun," I heard him mutter, his voice laced with saracasm.

After all the teams were announced, we were dismissed for an extended lunch.

Kureiga Kazama

I sat outside, on the branch of a tree. On my lap was an emptied bento. I sucked on the tips of my chopsticks, thinking about the team arrangements. I thought about it up down, and no matter which way I sliced it, I couldn't help but feel like I got screwed.

I didn't want to be part of Team 7. Point blank. While Iruka's speech was very logical, a part of me wondered how much sake he was consuming when he put us together. Quite frankly, I didn't see how all of us could get along. I wasn't so fond Sakura, especially after the beat down I received, partially at her hands. Sakura, hated Naruto, Naruto hated Sasuke, and Sasuke didn't seem to like anyone. As far as I was concerned, you might as well leave an open flame near containers of kerosene. But there was nothing I could do. So, for the time being, I was sailing on a ship, waiting for the storm to hit.

After what seemed like an eternally extended lunch, I went straight to the classroom to see who my team leader was going to be. I stepped in and looked around. Apparently, all of the other teams left with their Jonin leaders, because Sasuke was the only one in the room. He looked outside of the window, apparently lost in thought. I smiled.

"Yo!" I greeted. He turned his head towards me for a few seconds before looking out the window again. I rolled my eyes, wondering to myself why I even wasted my breath, before leaning against the section of the wall nearest to the door. After a few minutes, Sakura entered the room. She passed by me and struck up another one-sided conversation with Sasuke. Naruto was the last enter. Almost immediately, I felt a wave of killing intent. I turned around to see Sasuke, who glared daggers towards Naruto's direction. I looked back at Naruto, who paused for a second before giving off a grin.

"How was your lunch, Teme?" he asked in a taunting tone. Sasuke merely narrowed his eyes before looking away. Apparently, something happened between the two of them during lunch, and the situation ended in Naruto's favor. Sakura looked at Sasuke before giving Naruto a glare of her own. Before she said anything, I spoke.

"So when's our leader coming?" I asked.

"He should be here any minute now," Sakura answered, pointing at the clock. "It's a good thing we all got here on time."

"Yes!" Naruto said excitedly. "The sooner, the better, dattebayo!"


A few minutes became an hour. The hour became two. I looked down the hall, losing my patients.

"Naruto, will you calm down?!" I heard Sakura say. I frowned slightly.

"Where is he?!" I groaned. "It's been two hours!" I then walked over to the white board and grabbed an eraser. I smiled, thinking of a prank. I grabbed a chair and partially opened the door a crack. I then laid it on top of the door, laughing to myself.

"Naruto, what are you doing?" Sakura said in an annoyed voice. I merely smiled at her.

"Serves our leader right for being late," I said.

"Do you really think that such a childish prank will work on a jonin?" Sasuke said. I opened my mouth before the door opened. I smiled as the eraser hit the head of an adult before it landed in his hand. The adult had silver-grey hair, and had his face almost entirely covered by a mask, and his hitai-ite covering his left eye, leaving one lone, black eye as the only visible part of my face. He still wore the usual uniform I seen jonin wear: black long sleeved shirt, green collared vest, and green pants. He looked at all of us.

"An eraser?" he said, as if he didn't seem to care. "My first impression of you guys... I hate you all." I scowled at him. "Meet me at the stairs of the academy." After a few hand signs, he disappeared.

"Oh, this should be FUUUUN!" I heard Kureiga say as the four of made our ways out of the door.


I looked down at the four genin in front of me. They seemed like a weird group, to say the least. I almost envied the other instructors. Asuma gets the second generation of the Ino-Shika-Cho team, Kurenai gets the heir of the top clan, an Aburame, and an Inuzuka. And I get… well I didn't know who I was getting. I had information on all of them, but I mostly knew about Sasuke and Naruto, but that was only because the former was the last of one of the village's most prestigious clans and the latter was notorious for pulling pranks, as well as for other things. I'd even go as far as to bet my entire Icha Icha collection that Naruto was the one who set up that eraser that hit me earlier. All I know about Sakura and Kureiga was that they were the most knowledgeable student and number one trash talker in the class, respectively.

"Okay, first things first," I said, breaking the silence. "I want each of you to say your name, your likes, your dislikes, and your ambitions or desires."

"What about you?!" Naruto yelled. That's just what I needed, another loudmouth. "We don't know anything about you. Shouldn't you be introducing yourself?"

"Fine," I said nonchalantly. "My name's Kakashi Hatake. I have many likes, and I have many dislikes. I also have a few ambitions. But I have no desire to tell you about any of them." Naruto pouted at that answer while Sakura tilted her head in disbelief. Kureiga rolled his eyes, muttering a few words to himself, and Sasuke… just sat there. "Now since you wanted to know some things about me, it's your turn." The blonde smiled while gripping his hitai-ite.

"I'm Naruto Uzumaki," he started. "I like pulling pranks and ramen. I hate the time it takes to prepare ramen…" It took all my willpower not to roll my eyes. I started to wonder if there was anything on his brain other than ramen. "…and for my ambitions... I want to become the best Hokage this village has ever seen."

Interesting, I thought to myself, smiling slightly under my mask. He sure did grow up, in a way. I then turned towards the black-clad ninja.

"I'm Kureiga Kazama. I like eating pastries from my dad's shop, developing my own jutsus, cracking jokes, and hanging out with friends. I dislike anyone who disrespects my friends and people whose bark is more dangerous than their bite. I wish to become the head of ANBU." My smile grew slightly wider. It wasn't every day I get two people with a high goal. I then looked towards Sakura.

"Your turn."

"I'm Sakura Haruno. I like…" Her eyes darted towards Sasuke, before continuing. "I hate… Naruto." This caused said boy to wince and Kureiga to rub the bridge of his nose. "And my desire is…" Her eyes darted towards Sasuke again.

"I'm Sasuke Uchiha," he started, either ignoring Sakura's stares or not noticing. "I have few likes and few dislikes. My ambition is to rebuild my clan… and to kill a certain man." This brought a look of surprise from the three other genin. I, myself, wasn't surprised, however.

"That's good for now," I said. "Tomorrow, we'll start our duties as shinobi." This brought a smile on the faces of three of the four genin. Sasuke merely raised his eyebrows. "However, we're going to do something special, just the five of us. We're having survival training."

"Survival training?!" Naruto yelled.

"We already had that in the academy," Sakura said, protest evident in her voice. I merely laughed under my mask.

"Along with every other kind of training," Kureiga added.

"Not this kind of training," I replied. "You never had training with me as an opponent. You see, there are 28 graduates, including yourselves..." I started laughing again. As the four of them looked at me, I managed to hold back the laughter, suppressing it into giggles. "Sorry, it's just that… you're going to freak after you hear this. Thing is, even though you graduated from the academy, out the 28 graduates, there's only going to be nine or ten of you that will remain genin. The rest will head straight back to the academy."

"WHAT?!" Naruto, Kureiga, and Sakura exclaimed in unison.

"What was all those years at the academy for?!" Naruto yelled. "Were they all worthless?! A waste of our time?!"

"I told you were going to freak," I said, chuckling at their reactions. "That all depends. If you survive tomorrow, it will be well worth the effort. See you tomorrow morning at the training area, nine o'clock sharp. Make sure you all bring ample ninja equipment. Oh, and don't eat breakfast. You'll puke." I performed a few hand signs before disappearing in a puff of smoke. I instantly reappeared on the roof and looked down at the four of them. From what I can see, Naruto seemed to have asked Sakura something, only for him to receive a nasty retort. She then turned towards Sasuke and said something to him. He merely walked away. Kureiga then said his piece, which was apparently another one of his wise comments as he was promptly responded to with a punch to the top of his head before she walked off after Sasuke. I had a feeling in my gut that they were going to have teamwork issues.

Unfortunately, as the next day came upon me, I wasn't prepared for the extent of their lack of team skills.

"Hey!" I greeted after landing on a post.

"YOU'RE LATE!" Naruto, Kureiga, and Sakura yelled at the same time. I merely smiled.

"Sorry, I got lost along the way," I replied coolly, receiving looks of disbelief, much to my amusement. I jumped down in front of them. "I hope you heeded my advice about not eating breakfast."

"Yeah, thanks a lot for that," Kureiga said irritably. "My mom made broiled fish this morning!" I ignored him.

"Now, we're going to start this special training." I reached into one of the pouches on my belt and plucked out two bells that were joined together by a thin piece of string. "This is going to be your test. You have until noon to take these bells away from me. Each person that grabs a bell passes this challenge, as well as getting the privilege to eat. There is only one condition. The bells must be intact, and in the condition they are in at this point. You're allowed to use any and all ninja weapons in all of your possession. But don't go after me the way you could come after an instructor. Come at me with the intent to kill."

"Wait a minute!" Naruto yelled. "There are only two bells! How are all of us going to pass is there are only two bells for the four of us?" The other three looked at me, expecting an answer.

"Because that's how my test goes," I deadpanned. "However, the better question is what makes you think that you, a genin, can question the teaching methods of a jonin. Especially a genin who was dead last in his class." I saw his eyebrow twitch. "Now we'll start at my sig-"

"Kind of harsh, don't you think?" Kureiga said, raising an eyebrow at Naruto.

"What did you expect from him?" Sakura replied, turning towards the black clad nin. "When has he done anything right? I'm even surprised he became a shinobi." Naruto's eyes enlarged and his eyebrows scowled in rage as he grabbed his kunai and rushed at me, killing intent radiating from him in abundance. When he came within striking distance, I immediately grabbed his wrist and twisted it around his back, causing the kunai he was holding to be pressed against the back of his neck.

"Like I said, at my signal," I said calmly, amused at the discovery of Naruto's berserk button. "But at least you got the killing intent part down." I released my hold on Naruto, and he backed away. I smiled at the four of them. "I'm actually starting to like you guys. Now, let the test begin!" They all disappeared. I walked deeper into the training area before finally coming to a stop at the training area's lake. I pulled out a book of Icha Icha Paradise and started reading it. Everyone was well hidden. I smiled. Because of this display, I was somewhat optimistic about their display.

But that squashed really quickly.

The first one to come at me was Naruto. The way he did it was rather stupid!

"Oi!" he yelled out. I turned towards him, eyebrows raised, my mask hiding the disbelief on my face. Apparently, it didn't occur to him that ninja's aren't schoolyard brawlers. "I challenge you!" I turned back towards the book, reading the next page. I then brought my hands out and deflected every single last one of his attacks, kicks and all. After a few seconds I ducked under one of his kicks, and crouched behind him. I brought my hands together, putting the index and middle fingers of each hand forward, as if I was pointing.

"This is lesson number one," I said as I gathered my chakra to my fingers. "Konoha Secret Technique…" He turned his head around, fear apparent in his face. I then rammed my fingers into his rear end. "One Thousand Years of Death!" He was instantly launched into the lake. I chuckled, shaking my head. Then some bubbles reaching the surface, followed by man more as Naruto crawled on the bank. "It's never good to take on a superior opponent head on like that. Pick your spots, catch him off guard."

"This isn't over," he said, his eyes looked up at me with his signature mischievous smile. "Not by a longshot, dattebayo!" Immediately, a seemingly infinite amount of clones jumped of the water and charged after me.

"Another head on attack?" I said dully before I feel arms and legs tightened around me. I turned my shoulder to see Naruto hanging on to me. "What?"

"Catching you off guard," he said. I was impressed, until he further spoke. "Now it's time for revenge!" I looked forward to see a clone, coming down on me from the air, fist readied. I narrowed my eyes, as the fist came in contact with me. Well, almost did. I casted one of the most basic jutsus a student could learn at the Ninja Academy: Substitution. I instantly switched places with a random Naruto. I then looked on with amusement as the clone inadvertently punched out the clone I used for the substitution. Afterwards, the clones, being made in the mold of their source, argued with each other, thinking that one of them was me. So, unsurprisingly to me, the argument degraded into a schoolyard brawl. I mentally put down a point against him. Eventually, the real Naruto was left, disoriented from the beating he inadvertently received at his own hands. I smiled as I decided to have fun with him.

I jumped into a certain tree next that was near him and dropped the two bells on the ground in front of it. Predictably, he spotted the bells after steadying himself. Smiling as if he walked into a restaurant that was giving away free ramen, he quickly rushed towards the bells, only to get his foot caught into a snare. He was instantly hung upside down. As he was hanging, I dropped in front of him, reading the next chapter, giggling to myself. I then looked at Naruto.

"Lesson number two," I said stoically. "Don't rush into a situation. Look underneath the underneath and look at every angle of a situation. You foolishly ran for the bells, not considering the fact that it just happened to be a little too convenient that the bells you just happened to be looking for were there for you to see. Never let your guard down. Not even if your objective is -" I immediately did a substitution technique. Naruto didn't know that yet, because the log was still henged. All he saw was a bloodied mean with several shurikens against my side, and one sticking out of my temple.

"Sasuke, you Teme!" the blond yelled out. "You went too far!" I left, deciding to check on the other two. I stopped at the top of the tree, a mere ten feet from where I met Naruto, seeing Sakura looking left and right.

"Where's is Sasu-kun?" she said out loud. I rolled my eyes. A point against Sakura. I decided to have some fun.

"Demonic Illusion: Hell Viewing Technuqe."

Sakura started to look around, seeing a swirl of leaves surround her. She had an extremely worried look on her face. After a few seconds, she heard a voice behind her, asking for help. She turned around to see Sasuke, with many weapons stuck to his bloodied body. I expected to her to run to "Sasuke's" aid. She, instead, fainted, starting to fall over. My genjutsu worked, just not in the way I expected. Inwardly, I wondered if I was too harsh.

I was on the move again, looking for Kureiga. I came to a stop in a clearing. Immediately, part of the ground faded away, revealing some scraps of paper. My eyes widened as the paper started to explode. I quickly swapped positions with another log as the area I was occupying went up in flames. After the smoke cleared, Kureiga came out into the clearing, looking left and right.

"Did I get him?" he asked himself. I then jumped from the tree to the ground and ran behind him, grabbing a kunai from my holster.

"No, you didn't," I said before I brought the handle of the kunai against the side of his head, knocking him out. I shook my head, before pulling out my book again. "I was expecting better from you guys." I then performed a side step, dodging a shuriken. I looked up to see Sasuke looking up at me.

"I'm not like the rest of these so-called ninja," he said in an almost sinister way. "And that's including that Dobe." I merely cocked an eyebrow at him.

"Is that so?" I said. That was a point against him. "You don't have any bells in your hand. As far as I'm concerned, you're no better than any of them. And that's including the Dobe." I felt the killer intent radiating off of him. He then rushed at me and threw a straight punch at me with his right hand. I dropped my book and grabbed his fist with my left hand. He immediately twisted around with his fist still in my hand, turning his back towards me. He then jumped, flipping backwards and bring his left foot towards the top of my head. I brought my right hand up ward and used my arm to block it. I then looked down to see him trying to reach for my bells. Surprised by this, I immediately pulled his arm and tossed him away. I was actually impressed by the move. I then jumped away, putting distance between himself and I. I then narrowed my eyes as he slapped his hands together, performing hand signs before breathing in.

The Great Fireball Technique?! I thought to myself, my eyes widening. No genin should have the chakra reserves to perform such a jutsu!

He breathed out a huge fireball. I had nowhere to go except down.

I sunk down into the ground as if it was water. When I was completely submerged, I walked forward until I was underneath Sasuke. I then reached up and grabbed him by the ankle before pulling downward until he was neck deep. I rose up from the ground in front of him before crouching down and looking at him. "That was the Inner Decapitation Technique," I said to him before looking up at the sun. "And it looks like it's about noon." I headed for the trees, leaving him in his state. I headed towards the memorial park, the masked being the only thing hiding my disappointment. I expected personalities to clash. After all, you get that with most, if not all, teams when they are first are formed. However, I didn't think they would have this much trouble. I came to a stop, rubbing the bridge of my nose with the thumb and finger of my right hand before dropping to the ground. I then raised my eyebrow. I saw Naruto standing over three bentos of food.

I should have figured you be the one to be tied to the post, I thought to myself as I stealthily appeared behind him.


We all gathered around three posts. Naruto was tied to one of them as the rest of us sat down in the grass. Naruto was struggling to get free, Kureiga mouthing some words to himself, and Sasuke sat in his usual position: elbows on his knees, with his hands laced together in front of his mouth. In front of us was Kakashi and behind him was what looked like some kind of headstone with symbols carved into it. Kaskashi was pacing back and forth, as if he was mulling something over in his head. None of us spoke, though Naruto's growls could be heard in what was otherwise a silent moment. Finally Kakashi stopped and looked at the four of us.

"I made my decision," he said. "You will not return to the academy…" Kureiga looked up at Kakashi, eyes widened. Naruto smiled, happy he didn't have to lose his status as a ninja after just receiving it a couple of days ago. Even Sasuke smiled slightly. I sighed, relief filling me up. Kakashi then continued. "…because you all should quit as ninja!"

"What?!" Naruto yelled.

"Why?" I asked.

"Don't you think that's kind of harsh?" Kureiga added.

"No, I don't," Kakashi-sensei said with angry edge to his voice. "I would say that you all performed like first year academy students, but I'm sure first year academy students would have performed better. You all did horrible. You are not ninja. You're a bunch of punks running around with ninja tools. None of you deserved to be called ninja. None. Of. You."

In a flash, Sasuke rushed after Kakashi, kunai in hand. In the next second, Sasuke was on the ground, flat on his stomach, with his arm twisted around his back and the kunai he charged towards Kakashi with against his throat. Kakashi then released his arms, grabbed him by the shirt and threw against the post to the right of Naruto.

"Sasuke!" I yelled, crawling towards him.

"Insulted by being called a punk, and yet you just proved why you are one," Kakashi mused. He then looked at all of us. "I'm going to let you in on a little secret. There was only one way you could have all passed this test: Teamwork." We all looked at him with looks of confusion on our faces. "You all could have all gotten the bells if you had worked together."

"But there were only two bells!" Kureiga protested. "How was all four of us going to pass if there were only two bells?"

"That's, the whole, point," Kakashi said. "This whole exercise is meant to test team chemistry because it is designed to pressure members to act on their own. So, it didn't take long for you all to start acting on your because you all don't have any chemistry. You all not only showed a lack of trust in each other, but performed like people that should not be trusted by anyone.

"Naruto, you acted on your own and took on the target by yourself. That would have gotten you killed, which, in turn, would have crippled the team and its objective. You're supposed to be a ninja. Taking on enemies the way you tried to take me on does not get you honored. It makes you an example to future academy students on how acting in such a way is idiotic. Ninjas who died facing someone the way you have faced me don't even get their names carved into memorial." Naruto scolded at the ground below him.

"Sakura." I tilted my head. "You were so focused on Sasuke that you didn't even attempt to even go after the bells yourself. Sasuke is not the only person on your team, nor is he the objective. Tell me something. Were you there when Naruto got snared?" I slowly nodded. "Then why did you leave him hanging there to go look for Sasuke? You were more worried about a teammate that was far away than you were about a teammate who needed your help right there and then. If this was a C-ranked mission, or higher, he would have likely been dead by now." He then turned away from me as I lowered my head in shame.

"Kureiga, while I commend you for laying a trap and coming at me with killing intent, you were the only person out of the whole team who did two things wrong. Number one, you forgot the main condition of the test. The bells were to be taken while intact. And yet knowing they were on me, you decided to try and catch me in explosion. What if I was holding an important document that had to be taken and brought back? You want to become head of ANBU, right? To become head of ANBU, you have to be proficient in all kinds of missions, and what you just did would have resulted in the failure in many kinds of missions. If your stunt had worked as you planned, you would have automatically failed everyone in one go. Listen to your objectives. You can't be a good leader if you're not a good follower. Number two, you didn't tell anyone else about your little trap. What if it someone else? You could have blown away your own teammate. Just like Naruto you acted on your own, and because you didn't tell anybody, you could have been the first person who managed to actually KILL someone during this test." Kureiga looked down on the ground, swearing to himself.

He then turned towards Sasuke, who glared back at him.

"I'm going to tell you this now, for two reasons. Number one, I decided to give you all a second chance at this test. And secondly, I believe you should hear this, because I doubt anyone will say anything to last of the prestigious Uchiha clan. Just because you have the blood of a highly-regarded clan running through your veins and you are top of your class, does not mean you're superior to your teammates. Look around you. If this team passes, not only will they depend on you, you will depend on them. You acted as if they were obstacles that would have gotten in your way. You are no better than anyone else on your team." He then turned around walked away. "Take thirty minutes for lunch. And if any of you feed Naruto…" He trailed off, leaving the consequences to our imagination. In front of us were three bentos.

I looked up at Naruto, whose face was still. He didn't even move when his stomach started growling. I then looked over at Kureiga, who had a guilty expression on his face as he looked at Naruto.

"Here," I heard Sasuke say, and I turned to see him offer Naruto a bento. I stood and grabbed the bento from his hands, opening it and removing the pair of chopsticks that was inside of it. I grabbed piece of chicken between the two sticks and put it to Naruto's lips. Naruto shook his head.

"What about what Kakashi said?" he protested.

"We have a second chance of doing this," I said, giving him a small smile. "I want all of us to pass."

"Yeah, but… I tried to eat the food without getting the bells," Naruto said, his eyes downcast.

"True…" Kureiga said. "But then again, we would have probably done the same thing. I know I would have." Everyone looked at him. "What? We had to skip breakfast! 'Sides, I won't tell you won't tell."

Naruto then turned his head and grabbed the piece of food trapped between the chopsticks with the front of his teeth. "Arigato," he said quietly. I smiled at him again.

"WHAT DID I JUST SAY?!" I heard a voice behind me boomed. All four of us turned towards Kakashi, who seemingly exploded out the ground.

"What's your malfunction?" Kureiga quipped, earning a glare from our sensei. "Hey, you're the one preaching about teamwork a minute ago, and you're getting angry at us for bailing him out?"

"He does have a point," I added. "If we're supposed to be a team…"

"…then we shouldn't leave our teammate in dire straits," Sasuke finished.

Kakashi stared at us for a few seconds. Those few seconds passed so slowly that it might as well have been three hours.

"You pass…"

All of us looked at him, jaws dropped.

"You pass," he repeated. He then walked over to the headstone that we saw earlier. "This is the grave of a friend of mine. My best friend, to be exact. We were on the same team. Not too different from this, except there were only three of us. I guess you can say we were missing a Kureiga. He died at one point, saving a teammate in the process. I used to think ill of people who break the rules for the sake of someone else. But if there's one thing he taught, is that anyone who doesn't help their comrade in need is trash." He turned back to us. "You are all free to go. We'll start our duties tomorrow."

"Sweet!" Kureiga said as he walked after Sensei along with Sasuke and I.


All three of us turned around to see Naruto, still tied to the post.

"Can someone cut me down?" he pleaded. Kureiga chuckled as he pulled a kunai and walked towards him.


I was on my thirteenth bowl of ramen at the Ichiraku Ramen Bar.

"Jeez, Naruto," Kureiga said. I stopped in mid-slurp and looked at him. "How much ramen can you put away?" I shrugged and continued eating. "Don't tell me you eat this stuff all the time." I swallowed the last bit of noodles before nodding. I looked at him. He was on his second bowl of ramen and second cup of tea.

"Of course!" I said, smile spread across my face. "It's the perfect meal! Nothing can be any better than ramen!"

"HAH! Wanna bet?! I mean, I like ramen, too, but come on. You should come over to my house and try my parents' cooking."

I stopped for a second, thinking of the possibility. I shrugged. "Maybe." I didn't think that would happen though.

"As a matter of fact, you almost did."

"Really?" I said, my eyes narrowing in confusion.

"Yeah," he said before taking a sip from his cup. "When we all graduated, my folks noticed that you were all by yourself, and they wanted to ask you to join us. I refused though. Not that I don't like you or anything. I just didn't feel right celebrating me passing the exam while you failed, you know?"

I looked at Kureiga, my eyes wide. I then narrowed my eyes.

"You're not from Konoha, are you?"

Kureiga chuckled a little.

"I am from Konoha. My parents aren't, however. My dad's a pastry chef. Before he moved here, he was a travelling chef, going from place to place, gathering recipes while selling his own creations out of this cart he used to travel around with. Then one day, he ended up in this village in the Land Of Wheat. It's this place east of the Five Great Nations. He was there to get a recipe for this dessert." He stopped and looked up at the ceiling in thought. "I think it was for Pumpkin Cream Puffs." He then shrugged his shoulders and looked at me. "But anyway, he stopped at this restaurant to eat. That's when he got served by this waitress. This waitress happened to be my mom. They fell in love with each other and married some months later. Eventually, she became pregnant with me. So my parents looked around the world to look for a place where he could open up shop and support the family. He found this place a few days after this big disaster." He then tilted his head. "Why'd you ask?"

"No reason!" I said quickly. I then hopped off the stool. "I got to go. Have to be ready for our first day as ninjas, dattebayo! See you tomorrow!"

"Likewise," Kureiga said with a nod. I waved at him before walking off.


I narrowed my eyes behind his back.

"That was odd," I said out loud.

"He's not well liked in the village," I heard a voice said. I looked up to see Teuchi, owner of the establishment looking at me from behind the counter, teapot in hand. I raised an eyebrow. "As a matter of fact, many hate him."

"Hate him?"

"Uh-huh. A lot of the adults in the village have a grudge against the boy."

"What did he do for them to have a grudge against him?" I asked, raising my right eyebrow. "I mean, the worst I've seen him done is pull a few pranks, and all of them were harmless."

"Law prohibits me from telling you." He brought the teapot near my cup before tipping slightly. I watched as warm tea poured down into the cup. "I'll let you know this much though. He doesn't deserve the scorn he gets from this village. A lot of people can't separate who he is from the past he reminds them of. And because of that, he gets mistreated by a lot of the villagers. They mock the boy and speak ill of him. Business owners would either take advantage of him or just outright refuse his business."

"You don't seem to hold that grudge," I commented. "If anything, you seem pretty fond of him."

"I'm one of the few who doesn't. Truth be told, I almost fell into this village's way of thinking. But one day, about seven years ago, right before closing time, I saw him walking down the street. At first, I ignored him. But as he got closer, I got a better look at him. I never saw such a pathetic sight. He was walking down the street, clutching his stomach, his face struggling to hide the pain he was in. I couldn't, in good conscious, let him stay like that. So I invited him in and cooked him all the ramen he could handle. As you can see, it was a lot of cooking." I chuckled at that statement.

"I can see that," I replied. "With a customer like him, I think you're set for life." I stood up and nodded at him in thanks. "I best get home. Thanks for the meal. It was greatly appreciated." He returned the gesture before moving to the back of the shop. I stood up from the stool and walked out into the streets. I looked left and right before I took the latter direction. I was really unsettled about what I just heard. I was so unsettled that I didn't even bother taking the rooftops home. I didn't know the village hated him so much. But then again, I never hung out with Naruto in the past. Only time we've talked was at school, and the worst I've seen done to Naruto was a flying eraser or chalk to his forehead. But that's all I knew. I didn't know where he lived, didn't know what he does outside of school other than pulling more pranks and eating ramen. All in all, I knew next to nothing about the Naruto outside of school grounds.

Some questions still remained in my head. Why do the villagers hate him, and why did law prevent people talking about it? I shook my head, feeling a headache coming on from pondering the information.

"Oy, something tells me I'm going to have one interesting experience with Team 7," I said to myself.

I decided to leave the issue for another day.