The Third's Fourth Pupil
Prologue – Abandoned
"Naruto, what's chakra made of?" Iruka asked the boy.
Naruto Uzumaki had been distracted for most of the class, gazing affectionately at Sakura Haruno, lost in daydreams about his crush. Many students chuckled and turned to face their classmate, who seemed to snap back to reality.
"What? How am I supposed to know that, Iruka-sensei?"
"I talked about it just five minutes ago."
Nearly everyone burst into laughter at the dead last, who blushed faintly, frowned and did his best to ignore them. The only ones who hadn't made fun of Naruto had been Sasuke Uchiha, who was too busy being cold and emotionless, Shino Aburame, who no one had ever seen laugh, Shikamaru Nara, who was now awakening from his sleep and asking Choji Akimichi what was going on, and Hinata Hyuga, who had a slight blush on her face and looked at the blond with concern.
"Sakura-chan! Sakura-chan!" Naruto yelled, running towards Sakura with a huge grin on his face.
"What now, you baka?" The pink-haired girl asked, although she had a very good idea of what he wanted.
"I was just thinking… you want to come and have lunch with me?" He said, hopeful. Sakura only sighed at that.
"So I can get your food all over me while watching you pig out on it? No thanks." Ignoring the boy's sad and hurt look, she arrogantly turned her back on him and ran off to join Ino Yamanaka and a bunch of other girls from their class, who were circled around Sasuke, much to his discomfort, fighting for the right to feed him.
That day, Naruto had lunch alone, again, on his favourite swing, while Hinata spied on him from behind a tree. She had never minded watching him have lunch.
"Very good! Another bullseye!" Iruka said, writing the results on a piece of paper after Sasuke had thrown his last kunai. "That makes a perfect score… again! Congratulations!"
"Hn." The Uchiha mumbled, fans already gathering around him.
"Your turn, Naruto." The teacher instructed.
"Alright! Watch this, Sakura-chan!" He yelled as he stepped in front of the target, kunai at the ready.
His first throw was a total miss, as well as the second and the third, and most of the students laughed at him again. Angry, he got ready for a fourth one, moving his arm behind his head and launching the ninja knife with as much strength as he could. Which turned out to be a tad too much.
He lost his balance and let go of the weapon early. It flew straight towards Iruka, who dodged it right in time to have the sharp blade miss his right ear for a few inches.
The class froze, the laughter instantly stopped. That was not good.
A very angry teacher grabbed Naruto by his collar and dragged him back to the Academy building for punishment, ignoring the boy's struggles, protests and several apologies.
While the rest of the children resumed their interrupted laughter, Hinata picked up the kunai Naruto had used, to make sure they'd be returned to him later.
"Sakura-chan! Hey, Sakura-chan!" The Academy had closed for the day, it was already getting dark and the students headed home. Naruto rushed towards his crush, who had just turned left into a shortcut alley with Sasuke, unsuccessfully attempting to start a conversation with him.
"What do you want this time, Naruto?" She asked, her patience wearing thin.
"I was wondering if you'd like me to walk you home…"
Sakura thought about whether she should slap him or kick him for asking her that for the fifth time that week when she noticed she'd stopped walking and was losing Sasuke.
"No, Naruto, I don't, now leave me alone!" She graciously turned around and ran back to the Uchiha, who hadn't even noticed she'd stayed behind.
A few seconds went by.
"Sakura-chan?" Naruto repeated.
"I told you, I don't want you to walk me home, Naruto!"
"Sakura-chan… It's not that…" The boy whispered, so quietly she could hardly figure out what he'd said.
"Naruto, for the last time, I-" She was cut mid-sentence when she turned around and faced three masked, obviously adult shinobi, one of which, his face covered by the likeness of a lion, held a kunai to Naruto's throat. They were dressed in a mixture of ninja and civilian clothes, and although their masks were similar, they were quite obviously not ANBU operatives.
Sasuke seemed to detect the three men's presences. His expression the exact same as when he was walking home, one of perfect disinterest and impassivity, he took out a kunai of his own from his pocket and ran at full speed to confront his opponents. This seemed to amuse them. As soon as Sasuke was close enough, the one holding a knife to Naruto's throat kicked him in the chest with immense strength, causing him to fly onto Sakura, already unconscious by the time he hit her.
"You idiot!" Another of the men, one with an eagle mask, yelled. "You were specifically told not to hurt any other child! And what do you do? You go and kick the Uchiha kid! We're only here for the demon brat!"
While Sakura got Sasuke off of her, Naruto took advantage of his assailants' distraction to break free of the man's grasp and deliver a swift kick to his most treasured area, which had him rolling on the ground screaming in pain.
"Why you…" The eagle masked one said, punching the blond right in the nose before the latter could run, obtaining with much satisfaction a loud crack from the hit.
Meanwhile, the third man, one with a cat mask, helped his fallen comrade up. The three adult shinobi gathered around Naruto, who was helplessly lying on the ground, and proceeded to kick him as much as they could, laughing hard as they did so, clearly enjoying themselves.
"Sakura-chan… help…" The young blond pleaded between exclamations of pain.
But the girl was unable to move a muscle. She was too afraid to. When one of the adults decided it was getting uninteresting to kick Naruto's back he moved on to the head, hitting his temple with deadly precision, causing Sakura to go even paler than she already was, cold shivers running down her back. Somehow, Naruto managed to cling to consciousness, silently begging for her to help him with his eyes, his blood spilling all over the pavement.
Then Sasuke, who had been lying against a wall, coughed, and blood ran down his chin. The girl's eyes widened in surprise and horror.
"Sasuke-kun!" She shouted, and without a second thought she grabbed Sasuke and carried him away, towards the hospital.
Naruto was now alone.
That is, if you didn't count the three thugs beating the life out of him.
Suddenly, as his brain started to shut down, he heard a high pitched scream, followed by "Naruto-kun!"
The men above him spoke, but he could only catch bits, such as "can't hurt another kid", "he's going to die anyway" and "Run!"
Between blinks he was able to see a blue-haired, pupiless girl running down the alley, towards him.
He felt one of the men pick him up and hoist him over his shoulder. And then everything went black.
End of the Prologue