Partners For Life

Chapter 1: They Meet

Sorry for the delay, guys. Shortly after I posted that note, I got sick - and let me tell ya, constant diarrhea is about seven different kinds of not-fun.


Iruka sighed. "Alright Naruto, it's your turn. Show us your Transformation."

Naruto grinned, and held a Ram seal. "Transform!"

When the smoke cleared, his skin was much paler, and his hair, now black, spiked out in what he thought looked suspiciously like a duck's ass. The real Sasuke raised an eyebrow. "Well, they say that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery..."

Naruto turned around, let out a decidedly un-Sasuke-ish cackle... and mooned the rest of the class. Before anyone could react, his pants were up, and he was out the window. Half of the kunoichi in the class were unconscious under their desks, and the other half were edging towards the window, murder in their eyes.

Iruka facepalmed. "Sometimes, I don't know why I even bother to show up in the mornings..."

Sasuke glowered. They aren't THAT small...


Naruto grinned. Hehehe, I bet they never saw THAT one coming. Still laughing quietly to himself, he ducked into a small alley, diving into a trashcan that he'd prepared for this purpose. It actually had two lids: One was an ordinary trash-can lid, and the other was to keep the trash that people threw in out of his hiding-place. He'd excavated a bit underneath the can, so as to provide himself with shelter when Iruka or any of the other teachers were looking for him - They knew where he lived, after all. It wasn't much, but it at least gave him enough room to curl up and nap for a bit until his pursuers gave up.

This time, however, he was not alone. As he carefully replaced the second lid, he noticed a small, yellow fox, curled up on the floor. It appeared to be asleep. Gently, he nudged it awake with his foot. "Hey there, shorty. What are you doing in here?" He frowned. It said something that a disguise good enough to fool most chunin had been seen through by a common fox. Except, now that he looked at it, it wasn't exactly common. For one thing, it was bright yellow, and for another, it was less of a fox, and more of a... blob.

It yawned. "Looking for you, of course."

Naruto twitched. "A fox... That talks. What the hell?"

The fox scowled at him. "What, you've never seen a digimon before?"

"...A what, now?"

She sighed in exasperation. "Look, I'm gonna make it simple. I'm a digimon, and you're my tamer."

The orange-clad prankster frowned. "What the heck is a tamer?"

Viximon sighed. "A tamer is a human who bonds with a digimon, becoming their protector in exchange for the spiritual energy that they need to Digivolve."


She ground her teeth. "Honestly, don't you know anything? I'd've thought that you would at least know what Digimon are."

Naruto shook his head. "Nope, not a clue."

"Alright then, I'll start at the beginning. A digimon is a creature made of data, bits of information that are usually stored inside computers. When a digimon gains enough spiritual energy, either by absorbing the data of other digimon, or by drawing it from their Tamer, they can sometimes change into a more powerful form. This is called Digivolution. Any questions?"

"...What's a computer?"

Viximon groaned. "Seriously? You're joking, right?"

"Ehm... No?"

She rolled her eyes. "Nevermind, then. Will you be my partner, or not?"

Naruto scratched his head, puzzled. "What exactly does that mean?"

"Well, I'd fight for you, of course. It is a digimon's sacred duty to ensure that their tamer is not harmed."

He grinned confidently. "I can take care of myself. I'm gonna be a ninja soon, y'know."

She shook her head. "I have no idea what a 'ninja' is, but if you think that a guy like you could take on a champion, or hell, even a rookie, you're sadly mistaken. Digimon at the higher levels can unleash insane amounts of destruction."

The orange menace raised an eyebrow. "How much is 'insane'?"

Viximon grinned, knowing she'd won. "A mega-level digimon could probably wipe out this entire village with one shot."

Naruto's eyes widened. "Whoa. And if I help you, you could become one of those?"

She shrugged. "Maybe. If you get into fights a lot, then probably."

Naruto held out his hand. "You got yourself a deal!"

Viximon placed her paw in his hand, and she began to glow. Seemingly from nowhere, a computerized voice said "Digivolution, activated." She began to grow, pressing Naruto against the wall until he could barely breathe. "Viximon, digivolve to... Renamon!"

When the light faded, all he could see was black, as he felt something furry press against his face. Furry, and... Soft. He could feel her blush, as Renamon said "Ehehe... Umm, maybe I should wait till we get outside." With that, she glowed again, and became a small fox once more. From the dim light that came from a few of the camping seals he'd bought at the Academy store, he could see that her entire face was blushing bright pink.

Red as a tomato, Naruto lifted the twin lids, leaping out of the trashcan and into the alleyway. Viximon followed close behind him.

She closed her eyes, and glowed once more. This time, Naruto was able to see what was actually happening; Viximon's skin dissolved, revealing a latticework of green wires. "Viximon, digivolve to..." As he watched, the wires extended, stretching into a vaguely humanoid shape. A long, bushy tail extended behind her, and fur began to cover her frame once more. As it spread across her arms, revealing purple arm-warmers, she shouted "Renamon!"

She smiled at Naruto's awestruck expression, and then looked up, as two small orbs of light drifted down before her tamer, solidifying into a digivice and a crest tag, bearing a shield-like symbol. Naruto slipped the tag around his neck, and glanced at the digivice appraisingly. "What's this?"

Renamon thought for a moment. "I think that's a D-power - It's a device that allows a tamer to strengthen their digimon. That's what allowed me to digivolve. I've never actually seen one before..."

Naruto pocketed the D-power, and smiled. "Something tells me - "


The young ninja-in-trainined groaned. "Crap, Iruka-sensei's on to us. Run!"

As he dashed off, Renamon caught up to him. "I have a better idea." With that, she scooped him up, and they both vanished.

"Whoa! How'd you do that?"

She shrugged. "It's just something that Renamon can do."

Naruto frowned. "That's a weird way to talk about yourself. I thought your name was Viximon, anyway?"

Renamon shook her head. "Renamon and Viximon are the names of the In-Training and Rookie levels of my species, respectively."


Before she could say anything else, though, Iruka rounded the corner, and she flattened the two of them against the wall.

Iruka frowned. "I could've sworn I heard him around here somewhere..." His eyes narrowed. He knew that Naruto was nearby - that was definitely his wayward student's voice. The question was, where? The scarred chunin sighed. "I swear, Naruto, you're gonna give me grey hair before I'm thirty. Fine! I give up." His shoulders slumping, he walked off.

Naruto grinned, and made to dash away from the wall, but Renamon held him back. "Are you sure it isn't a trick?"

"Nahh, Iruka-sensei couldn't catch me in a million years." He pushed away from Renamon, becoming instantly visible, and dashed off, rounding the corner opposite of the one Iruka had turned... And straight into Iruka himself.

The older man smirked. "Caught ya." Before he could react, the academy instructor had his student over his shoulder, arms and legs expertly pinned.

"Hey, you said you gave up! That's cheating!"

Iruka twitched. "Ninja don't play fair, Naruto. Surely, you know that by now?"

Naruto grumbled all the way back to the academy, and Renamon followed behind, curious despite herself.


What she saw at the academy intrigued her. This was no ordinary school, like she'd heard about humans going to; This was more like boot camp, albeit tailored to younger minds. The first things she noticed were the students in an attached training ground, practicing with throwing stars. Each student had a look of intense concentration on his or her face, as if their lives depended on the perfection of their art. Who knows... Maybe it does? In her musings, she'd nearly lost Iruka, and she scrambled to keep up as he leapt through a window, and into the building.

"...and that's why trying to skip out will get you nowhere. Honestly, Naruto, what were you thinking? The exams are in a couple of weeks - you have no time to be goofing around like this! Don't you want to be a ninja?"

Naruto scowled, doing his best to look undaunted, despite the fact that he was partially mummified in rope. "Of course I do!"

Iruka twitched. "Then why...!"

The young ninja-in-training looked down to the floor, and muttered something that Iruka couldn't hear, but sounded to Renamon like, "Why do you care, anyway...?"

His teacher frowned. "What'd you say?"

Naruto glared up at him. "I don't need this stuff to become Hokage! I can do it on my own, believe it!"

Iruka twitched. "Naruto... Do you realize how little sense you're making? These are things you need to know to become a ninja at all, let alone Hokage. What are you gonna do if you fail the final exam again?"

The orange-clad academy student flinched; It was clear to Renamon that Iruka had struck a nerve. "I'm gonna ace the exam this time! Believe it!"

The instructor pinched the bridge of his nose, and muttered something that sounded suspiciously like "Damn kids and their catchphrases..." With a sigh, he untied his wayward student. "Back to your seat, Naruto. We have some reviewing to do."

Over the next hour, Renamon learned much about her partner's calling. She learned that ninja were warriors who used an internal source of energy that they called 'chakra', which sounded rather similar to the spiritual energy that Digimon drew on to fuel their attacks and transformations. She also learned that Naruto was considered to be the dead-last in his class, though this seemed to be more from lack of effort than anything else. Throughout the lesson, there were several mentions of the title 'Hokage', though she was still unclear as to exactly what it meant. Finally, the lesson ended, and though she lost her partner in the rush of students leaving the academy, she soon found him again, sitting on a small swing in front of the main entrance. He looked rather depressed. Allowing herself to reappear, she sat on the branch that the swing was hung from, and poked her partner with a furry foot. "Moping?"

Naruto 'hmph'ed. "No."

She dug her back claws into the bark, and swung down hang in front of him, her tail providing balance. "Oh, really?"

He sighed. "It's that damn test... This will be my third time taking it. I do just fine, until we get to the Clone Jutsu. Then, I screw up."

Renamon frowned, and flipped off of the branch, landing on her feet in front of her partner. "Why aren't you practicing it now, then? It seems to me that if you had only one obstacle left keeping you from your goal, you should do everything in your power to remove that obstacle."

Naruto scowled. "It's not that easy. I've been working on this damn jutsu for three years, and I still can't get it right. The worst part is that I can't even figure out where it's going wrong."

She raised an eyebrow. "Ask your teacher to help? That is his job, isn't it?"

Her partner shook his head. "The teachers don't care. They never do."

Renamon thought for a moment. "Naruto... If Iruka doesn't care, why did he leave the rest of the class without a teacher, just to hunt you down? It sounds to me like he cares quite a bit."


The yellow vixen shrugged. "Just think about it, is all I'm saying."

Naruto leaned against the swing, closing his eyes wearily. Her eyes softening, Renamon wrapped him in a hug. At first, he stiffened, but he eventually relaxed, leaning into her furry embrace.

As she let him go, Naruto scratched the back of his head. "Thanks. I needed that."

She gave him a small smile. "Of course. That's what partners do."


Sasuke sighed, as he opened the door to his apartment. Damn retard... Now he's got the fangirls whipped up into a frenzy again. As he set his key on the ring by the door, a thought occurred to him, which caused him to smirk. Maybe I could encourage them to go chase him for a change, in revenge. For a moment, he stood there, as he contemplated the pros and cons of siccing his rabid fangirls on the class clown. Finally, he shook his head. Nahh. They'd never catch him, anyway. Say what you might about his intelligence, but the idiot knows how to run. As he set his pack down, and padded into the living room, he noticed that something seemed... Off. Closing his eyes, he concentrated, and discovered a faint source of chakra emanating from his living room. Drawing a kunai from his pouch, he slipped down the short hallway, around the corner, and rolled against the back of the couch. Lifting his eyes cautiously above it, he scanned the living room. Nothing. Frowning suspiciously, Sasuke peered down onto the couch...

"Hey there!"


In an instant, Sasuke was back in the hallway, back against the wall, and heart pounding. What was that thing? Slowly, he looked around the corner, to find a pinkish blob sitting on top of the couch, frowning.

"Oh, great. My partner is a wimp." Rolling its eyes, it bounced down off of the couch, and came to rest at Sasuke's feet.

The black-haired boy twitched. "Partner? I don't even know what you are, much less who you are."

"I'm Koromon, a Digimon. Next?"

Sasuke frowned. "A what? I've never heard of digimon. More importantly, what are you doing in my apartment?"

Koromon. "Geez, so touchy. Like I said, you're my partner. I gotta say, I'm not impressed."

"Get lost."

The pink digimon glared at Sasuke. "Nope. Like it or not, you're my partner."

"I'm warning you, fuzzwad. If I have to say it again, I'm throwing you out."

Koromon narrowed its eyes. "Bring it."

Without warning, Sasuke dived at Koromon, only to grasp empty air.

The pink digimon sighed, as she bounced on Sasuke's head. "Wimpy and slow. I really lucked out, didn't I?"

With a wordless growl, Sasuke flipped himself over, using his head to mash Koromon into the floor. Momentarily stunned, the pinkish blob was unable to keep Sasuke from grabbing it a second time. The dark-haired Academy student smirked. "Gotcha."

Koromon grinned, and blew a cloud of mildly explosive bubbles into Sasuke's face, causing him to drop her as he tried to clear his eyes. "Y'know, this would be a lot easier if you would just give up and accept me as your partner. I'm not gonna stop until you do."

Sasuke growled. "No way am I gonna lose to a little pink fuzzball!"


Sasuke panted as he lay on his back, Koromon sitting triumphantly on his chest. "Fine... We'll call it a draw."

"What are you, the Black Knight?"

The dark-haired boy raised an eyebrow, too tired to do much else. "Wha?"

Koromon giggled. "Nevermind. So, do you accept me as your partner yet?"

Sasuke sighed. "What, exactly, would that mean?"

"Well, basically, Digimon like me can draw on the spiritual energy of our partner to change into stronger forms - It's called Digivolution. You supply the spiritual energy, I supply the beatdown."

"So, you're like a summon?"

Having hung out around the Academy before she'd figured out how to get into Sasuke's apartment, Koromon nodded. "Not quite, but close."

"...Fine. I have to sign some sort of contract, right?"

Koromon tried to shake her head, but as she had no separate head, ended up shaking her entire body instead. "Nope. Just hold on to one of my ears, and say you accept me as your partner."

Gently, Sasuke took hold of one of Koromon's ears. "I hereby accept you as my partner."

For a moment, nothing happened, and Sasuke began to wonder if he'd messed up something. Then, Koromon began to glow. As he watched, her skin peeled off, revealing what looked to be green wires underneath. "Koromon, digivolve to..."

As he watched, she grew rapidly, legs sprouting from underneath her to support her new weight. Arms grew out of her torso, which then separated itself into a chest and head, supported by a relatively thin neck. Claws formed on the end of her limbs, and a tail grew out of her back. Orange skin began to cover her legs, as her jaw extended, and she shouted, "Agumon!"

Sasuke raised an eyebrow. "From a blob, to a lizard? Interesting."

Agumon crossed her arms. "For your information, most digimon's in-training forms look blobbish. It's because they have yet to define their evolutionary tree. Once a digimon becomes a Rookie, however, their path is pretty much set."

"...Evolutionary tree?" Sasuke frowned, confused.

Agumon nodded. "Each digimon species has a path of evolution, or 'Digivolution Tree' that determines what they become when they digivolve. Koromon is my in-training form, Agumon is my rookie form, and I've never become one before, but I know that Greymon is my champion form."

The youngest Uchiha sat up, taking a moment to digest this. "How far does this 'Digivolution Tree' go?"

"After champion comes ultimate, then mega. So far as I know, that's the highest level any digimon can go to."

Sasuke opened his mouth to ask a question, but was interrupted as a ball of white light formed above his head.

Agumon crossed her arms. "Well, it's about damn time... I was starting to think they'd never get here."

Slowly, the light separated itself into two separate objects, a crest tag and a digivice. Sasuke slipped the tag around his neck, and eyed the digivice speculatively. "And this is?"

"A D-Power. It's what lets you transfer your spiritual energy to me, to make me digivolve. I think it can do other stuff too, but I've never actually seen one before, so I can't be sure."

"I... See." He turned the strange device around, examining it. He noted a channel running along one side, but dismissed it as unimportant. He shrugged. "Very well, then. Wait here."

As he padded towards the bathroom, Agumon frowned. "Where are you going? You're just gonna walk off after that?"

He turned around, and sighed. "I'm going to take a shower. I've spent all day training, and in case you haven't noticed, I stink. Wait here."

She blinked. "Oh." With a small shrug, she plopped herself down on the couch, using the remote to look for something good to watch.


Half an hour later...


Sasuke raised an eyebrow as he walked back into the living room, sleep robe wrapped securely around his body. "Godzilla?"

Agumon shrugged. "I find the carnage inspiring. Ohmigod, he just ate, like, three people at once! Godzilla-sama, you're my hero!"

The young academy student twitched. "I'm... Gonna go to bed. Turn off the TV when you're done."

She paused the movie, and craned her neck over the back of the couch to give him a curious glance. "Where am I supposed to sleep? Not on the floor, I hope."

Sasuke shrugged. "The couch folds out into a bed. Spare blankets are in the closet by the bathroom." He pointed in that general direction, and Agumon nodded.

"Good night... Partner."

"Yeah, yeah, whatever. Just keep it down."


Sasuke groaned and stretched, as he slowly rose into the world of consciousness. That was one helluva dream. Pink blob, giant lizard, godzilla fanatic... He shuddered. Naruto must've found a way to slip me some kind of drug. Yeah, that's gotta be - His eyes widened, as he felt the thin cord around his neck. Looking at the small plate that hung on it, he sighed. Okay, so it wasn't a dream. Which means... He closed his eyes for a moment, sending a trickle of chakra to his ears to temporarily enhance his hearing. Sure enough, he heard light snores coming from the living room.

Now fully dressed, he padded towards the living room. Agumon lay sprawled on the couch-bed, and by all appearances she seemed to be having a nightmare.

"N-no... Don't go... Don't -"

Frowning, Sasuke poked her gently in the arm, and only his ninja reflexes saved him from being burned, as she instinctively spat out a Pepper Breath. Rubbing her eyes sleepily, she glanced at the burn mark on the wall, and then at Sasuke. "Ehehe... Umm, oops?"

Sasuke sighed. "It's a good thing the walls are made of brick. What was that?"

"I thought you were... Someone else, for a moment."

Her partner raised an eyebrow. "Someone you don't like?"

Agumon's eyes narrowed, as she remembered a particularly unpleasant memory. "Puppetmon." She spat out the name, like it was an infectious disease. At Sasuke's inquisitive look, she sighed. "Puppetmon was one of the four Dark Masters, the evil digimon who took over our world."

"Your world?"

She nodded. "Yeah, I forgot to mention that part. I don't know exactly how it is that we got here - I don't even know how many digimon made the journey, or how many of those survived." She pulled her knees up to her chest, and rested her head on them.



Sasuke sighed. "Here, hop up."

Agumon slid off the bed, and Sasuke folded it up quickly, sitting down on the refolded couch. Agumon sat beside him, and sighed.

"No one knows where they came from, but one day the Dark Masters appeared in the center of the Digital World, and proclaimed themselves its rulers. They destroyed any town that harbored rebels... Including primary village."

Sasuke raised an eyebrow. "Primary village?"

She nodded. "When a digimon dies, one of two things happens: Either the digimon that killed them absorbs their data, or it floats away, and reforms into a digi-egg. Primary Village is where they reform - it's the hatching grounds for all newborn digimon."

The genin-to-be frowned. "That sounds like something he would do. So, these Dark Masters are the ones responsible for you being here?"

"Indirectly, yes. I didn't see any of it firsthand, but apparently a group of humans calling themselves the 'Digidestined' took on the Dark Masters, and won. The digital world was back to the way it should've been... For about five seconds. Then, something even more horrible woke up."

"There's always a bigger fish..."

Agumon sighed. "Something like that, yeah. Whatever it was, it was stronger than all four of the Masters combined. It started tearing up the Digital World like it was made of paper, and it sent huge chunks spiralling of into the void. This, I guess... Well, this is the void we spiralled off into. I'm not sure that all of the places that were torn off ended up here, though - I think it was just the island I was on, Angel Island." She shook her head. "Ironically enough, it was the one place in the Digital world free of the Masters' grip. Even if they were to team up, which they never do, I doubt that they could take on the Three Angels and win. The only thing that stopped the Angels from defeating the Masters themselves was the knowledge of what would happen to the island without their protection."

"If Angel Island was safe from the Masters, how come...?"

Her eyes darkened, and she stared at her claws, refusing to meet his gaze. "I didn't always live on the island. I used to live in the forest, which was part of Puppetmon's domain. My best friend, Biyomon, was taken by that sick bastard... She was a bloody mess by the time he was done with her. I watched her dissolve into data, in my arms..." She shut her eyes tightly, and a few tears leaked out.

Sasuke hesitated, at a loss for words. Give him a good, clean fight any day - he wasn't cut out to deal with emotional females, even if she was a lizard. Finally, he patted her head awkwardly. As he looked around the room, looking for anything, anything to take her mind off of her trauma, he noticed a clock. "Oh, shi- I'm gonna be late!"


Iruka sniffed, as Sasuke walked into the classroom, five minutes late and smelling faintly of sulphur. "Umm, Sasuke? Your hair's on fire."


Sakura huffed, as she sat heavily on a park bench. Damn you, Naruto! I swear, not a day goes by that he isn't doing something to piss off Sasuke. I mean, come on! What does a loser like that think he's doing, anyway? He'll always be dead-last, if he keeps this up.

A second voice spoke within her mind. But then he'll fail, and there'll be one less obstacle between us and Sasuke! Cha!

She giggled at the thought, turning bright pink. Well, yeah. Sasuke... She fought to contain a squeal. Shaking her head violently, she began to head back towards the Academy. Iruka-sensei's probably gonna be mad that I left class to chase Naruto - but honestly, somebody needs to beat some sense into that idiot! Oh, well. Class was almost over anyway - I should probably head home.

With that thought in mind, she stood, dusting off her dress. As she ambled slowly down the street, she took in the sights of the Hidden Leaf's market. "That's right, today is market day, isn't it?" People crowded around the various stalls, each hunting for a special bargain. Just about every type of commodity was sold here, from fresh fruit, to manga, to hand-carved wooden jewelry. Sakura smiled brightly as she saw a merchant she recognized. Briefly, she caught his eye, and he waved as she passed by. Pushing through the crowd, she left the main thoroughfare, slipping into a small side-street. It's a bit out of the way, but with all of the traffic on Market Street, it'll probably be quicker... Musing idly to herself, she didn't notice when a shadowy figure detached itself from the wall behind her, and she jumped as a knife pricked the back of her neck.

"Hey there, girlie. How about you come with me, quiet like."

Sakura rolled her eyes. Thinking fast, she substituted with a nearby trashcan, appearing behind the thug as he flailed about in surprise. With a swift kick to the back of his leg, she had him on his knees, and with another kick to the head, she knocked him out. "CHA!"

Feeling immensely pleased with herself, she turned back towards her home, almost tripping on a fuzzy orange blob. "What now?"

The thing rotated, and soulful brown eyes stared back at her.

"Aww, so cute!" She picked it up and cradled it close to her chest, careful to avoid the sharp horn sticking out of its forehead. "I wonder what you are, little guy? Don't think I've ever seen anything quite like you."

It grinned. "I'm Tsunomon, a digimon!"

She dropped the Tsunomon as quickly as she could. "Did you just... Talk?"

He winced. "That hurt..."

Sakura frowned. "Are you a summons, or something? You should probably get back to your partner - this part of town isn't all that safe, even for a cute little fuzzwad like you."

"But you're my partner."

"Wait, what? I never signed a contract..."

Tsunomon laughed. "Contract? There's no contract. Well, not a written one anyway."

As Sakura was about to answer, the thug behind her gave a low groan. She kicked him in the head again, and he was still. "How about we talk somewhere else?" She grinned sheepishly.

"Umm, okay." Tsunomon twitched.


Sakura sighed, as she locked the door behind her. "So, what's this about you being my partner?"

Tsunomon grinned. "Digimon destined to have a partner feel a strong pull towards their chosen human - that's how I found you."

She gave him a blank look. "And you chose... Me?"

"Pretty much, yeah. Hey, what's your name, anyway?"

Sakura flushed. "Sakura Haruno. And you're... Tsunomon?"

"Yup, that's me. Although, this is only my in-training form. If you accept me as your partner, I'll be able to draw on your spiritual energy, and digivolve, transforming to a form that's larger and stronger."

The pinkette raised an eyebrow. "What do I get out of this? I kinda need my spiritual energy, being a ninja."

The fuzzy digimon winked. "Well, you get me. It's a digimon's job to protect their partner, with their life if necessary."

She thought for a moment, weighing her choices. While it was true that she didn't have much chakra to spare, the drain on her reserves would likely benefit her in the long run, by forcing them to expand. That, and he was just so cute! She giggled. "Alright, what do I have to do?"

"Just grab my horn, and say 'I accept you as my partner'."

Gently, she laid her hand on his scythelike horn, and took a deep breath. "I... Accept you, as my partner. What now?"

He grinned, as he began to glow. "Digivolution. Tsunomon, digivolve to..."

She closed her eyes as the light grew brighter, almost blinding in its intensity.

Another voice called out, much deeper than the first. "Gabumon!"

When the light subsided, Sakura opened her eyes to find a small, lizardlike creature standing before her, wearing a pelt that looked like a wolf's. He gave her a thumbs-up. "Digivolution succesful. You can call me Gabumon, now."

She raised an eyebrow, noting his much-larger form, and the addition of functional limbs. "How'd you do that?"

Gabumon shrugged. "I just... Did. Once I have enough power, or certain emotional conditions are met, it pretty much happens automatically."

"Emotional conditions?"

He nodded. "Tales tell us that Fanglongmon himself altered the digimon destined to have partners, making it so that they needed to pass certain tests in order to advance. So far as I know, it was an attempt to keep digimon from going berserk with too much power before they're ready. And speaking of which..." He looked up to the ceiling, to where a ball of light was forming. As they watched, the ball of light separated into two objects, one pal-sized, and one considerably smaller. Gently, they floated towards Sakura, plopping into her hands as she reached for them.

As she examined the necklace, she noted the tag attached to it, engraved with a symbol she'd never seen before - a green teardrop. She looked to the Digivice, and frowned. "What are these?"

"The one that looks like a watch is your Digivice - It's what allows you to transfer energy to me. I don't know what that necklace is, but it's probably important."

Sakura smiled, and slipped the necklace over her head, tucking the tag into the collar of her dress. After giving the digivice another speculative look, she slid it into her kunai pouch. "So, is that as large as you get, or are there other forms?"

"Lots of others. Digimon forms are classed in terms of power into five levels - In-Training, Rookie, Champion, Ultimate, and Mega. Tsunomon is my In-Training form, and Gabumon is my Rookie form."

She sat on her bed, leaning against the back wall. "So, do you know what your other forms are, or what they look like?"

"I do know... One. My Champion form is Garurumon, the Iron Wolf. In that form, I'd be almost as tall as you, on four legs."

Her eyes widened. "That's... pretty big. What can you do, in this form?"

He rubbed the back of his head, embarassed. "Not much, really... I have an breath attack that I call the Blue Blaster. I can freeze things with it."

Sakura grinned. "Cool."

Gabumon facepalmed.

They spent the next few hours getting to know each other. Once her initial reaction of 'Squee! Cute!' died down, she discovered that the furry blue digimon was quite the intellectual, much like herself. He was particularly interested in the history of the new world he found himself in, and listened avidly to Sakura's tales of the Hokage and their exploits.

"The First Hokage sounds like quite the character. All of these massive trees, were made by him?"

Sakura nodded. "Yep. He wanted a place that was hard to reach, but Fire Country is mostly grassland, not exactly ideal for hiding a village in. So, once the village got started, he used his Wood Jutsu to grow a forest, and named the Senju's new home the Village Hidden in the Leaves."

Gabumon's eyes were wide. "Whoa..."

The young kunoichi-in-training giggled. "Yeah. The Hokage is almost always the strongest ninja in the village, and some of them have done some pretty amazing things. The Second Hokage was a master of water jutsu - even with no water nearby, he could pull enough water out of the air to summon massive water dragons, and even huge lakes, in the middle of a battlefield. The Third Hokage, the one in office now, is a master of all elemental ninjutsu, and it's said that he can even do two or three elemental jutsu at the same time."

"That sounds hard. Is it hard?"

Sakura rolled her eyes, a rueful smile on her face. "Yes, Gabumon. It's hard. Even most jonin, which is the level right below the Hokage, can only fire off two techniques really close together. The concentration, to do more than one at the same time..." She shook her head. "I can't even imagine. Of course, I don't know any elemental jutsu yet... Just the basics, like Transformation, and Substitution... And clone, although that one isn't terribly useful."

Gabumon raised a furry eyebrow. "You can clone yourself? How on earth do you do that?"

"Hehehe, wanna see? I've been practicing, 'cause the exams are coming up soon."

He shrugged. "Sure, why not?"

As she stood from the bed, she closed her eyes, and briefly formed a Ram seal. From nowhere that Gabumon could see came a puff of smoke, and when it cleared, there were three Sakura standing before him. The one on his left grinned, and put her arm through the clone next to her. "It's just an illusion though. It's good for tricking an enemy, but it can't actually do any harm." Channeling a trickle of chakra into her hand, she swiped it through the two clones, dispelling them.

"That looks really useful."

She frowned. "You think so? I mean, it can be used to make your enemy attack someplace where you're not, but my stealth skills aren't all that great, so they'd probably find me anyway."

He frowned. "Why not work on your stealth skills then? That sounds like it'd be pretty important, for a ninja."

Sakura blushed, her face heating up uncomfortably. "I have... Other things, that distract me."

"Like what?"

She bit her lip. "Well, there's this guy..."

Gabumon sighed, and shook his head sadly. "If you're expected to go out, and fight, and you don't train hard... You could die, Sakura. You don't want to know what happens, to the unprepared..."

Sakura frowned. "What happened?"

"I... Don't really want to talk about it, if that's OK. It's a very painful thing to remember." He stared resolutely at the floor, his foot-claws swinging listlessly off the edge of the bed.

The pinkette was spared from a reply, by her mother.


She groaned. "Oh, man, mom is gonna freak."

Gabumon chuckled. You're a lucky girl, Sakura, if that's your greatest trouble. I don't know for sure, but something tells me... Things are gonna get wild, and soon. With a small smile on his face, he hopped off of the bed, bracing himself to meet his partner's mother.


"Crap, I'm gonna be late!"

Renamon chuckled. "Calm down, Naruto. You still have half an hour before class starts."

Her partner beat his head against a nearby wall. "I am sooo not ready for this... My clone still sucks!"

He'd been going to Iruka for a week now, asking for advice on his worst jutsu. The academy instructor had been surprised at first, but had quickly agreed to help him... Not that it had done much good. As best as he could tell, Naruto simply had too much chakra to be able to perform the Clone correctly; Iruka theorized that Naruto would do much better with one of the more advanced, elemental clones, but academy students weren't allowed to learn those, as they required too much chakra. Well, too much for any academy student but Naruto, that is. Still, he had made some improvement. At least his clones wouldn't collapse on their own, now. They just sat there, looking vaguely green, until he dismissed them. Unfortunately, that was not enough to pass the test. He had to get the clones to look exactly like him, or he'd fail. And, having white holes for eyes was a pretty big mistake, unless you were a Hyuuga.

Which he wasn't.

That said, he knew the theoretical and taijutsu portions well enough by now. Maybe he could scrape by on those scores? It was unlikely, but he still had to try. Shouldering his backpack, he scanned his apartment, making sure he wasn't missing anything. He frowned, as his eyes rested on his goggles.

Should I...? No. Today's the day I become a ninja, believe it!

As he turned to run out the door, he ran straight into Renamon, almost knocking her over.

She laughed, and wrapped him in a furry hug. "Relax. You'll do fine."

He smiled softly. "Thanks... Rena-chan."

The yellow fox tensed, and then laughed. "Anytime, Naruto. That's... That's what partners do." She blushed, glad that Naruto couldn't see it beneath her fur.


Naruto practically vibrated in his seat, as he waited for his name to be called. Having a last name like his was torture, come exam day - even the Uchiha got to go before him. He scowled, as the pretty-boy stalked back into the room, proudly bearing his new headband. Of course he doesn't have trouble with the clone jutsu. God forbid their precious Sasuke-kun fail.

"Uzumaki, Naruto!"

The young academy student sighed, as he trudged towards the test room. He'd actually done quite well on the theoretical and taijutsu portions of the exam - He'd been sparring with Renamon all week, and as agile as she was it took all of his creativity to keep up; Afterwards she would help him study. Having someone who cared about his success meant quite a lot to him, and under Renamon's firm instruction, he learned more quickly than Iruka would've thought possible.

There's something to be said for one-on-one instruction.

Still, they'd only been at it for a week, and he was far from perfect.

He crossed his fingers as he entered the testing room, feeling the soft 'whoosh' of air as Renamon joined him. Iruka looked up from his desk, and smiled kindly.

I really hope he passes this time... He's actually been working hard recently. It would be a shame if all that effort went to waste. "Alright, Naruto, you know the drill. Substitution?"

Naruto nodded, and an instant later, had switched with a small log in the corner, set aside for that purpose.

Iruka nodded. "Good, good." He marked something on his clipboard, presumably a passing mark.

Mizuki crossed his arms. "Now, the Transformation."

At Naruto's evil grin, Iruka frowned. "A legitimate transformation, Naruto. Change into me."

With a small pout, Naruto formed a ram seal. In a poof of smoke, an exact replica of Iruka stood before them. With another poof, he was back to his normal appearance.

Iruka smiled. "Just one more to go. The Clone Jutsu."

An icy ball of dread gathered in Naruto's stomach, as he once again formed a Ram seal. C'mon, work... As his chakra began to flare up around him, he released the technique, hoping it would be enough.

"Well, at least they're standing up straight," Mizuki pointed out helpfully.

Iruka sighed. The clones were indeed greatly improved, but it still wasn't enough. The overall color was still quite pale, and their eyes were still a blank white - not good enough to fool even a civilian. "...Fail."

"C'mon, Iruka, can't you cut the kid a break? It's his third try, so you know he's worked for it. Anyone who didn't know he's not a Hyuuga would be fooled."

The senior instructor twitched. "Yes, aside from the fact that no Hyuuga would be caught dead in neon-bright orange."

"Well, yeah, there is that..." Mizuki sighed. "Tough luck, kid."

Naruto barely heard them as he trudged out the door.


Renamon bit her lip as she watched Naruto moping on his swing, gazing sadly at the families of those who'd passed. "There's always next year, isn't there?"

He grunted, and if anything, his brooding intensified. "Next year, I'll be a year older than my classmates. Dead last, couldn't pass. They give you three chances, you know. You only have to pass one set of exams, and you're a ninja. But I... I couldn't even manage that much."

"Hey now, don't be so down on yourself. The reason you can't do the Clone Jutsu is because you have a lot of chakra, right? Having a lot of chakra is a good thing." She swung down, hanging on the branch by her toes, and looked into his eyes. "Work hard, and you'll get it."

Naruto growled. "What do you think I've been doing?"

Renamon leaned back, surprised. "I just meant-"

"Go away."

She fell out of the tree. As she dusted herself off, he could see that she wore a shocked expression. "What did you say...?"

He scowled at her. "I said GO AWAY! I don't need you. I don't need ANYONE."

She faded into nothingness. Unseen by him, she ran away from the tree, tears streaming down her face.

For a moment, he sat there, stewing. Then, he realized what he'd done. Ahh, crap. She didn't deserve that... Gahh! I'm such an idiot! As he rose up from the swing to go and find her, he felt a hand on his shoulder.


Mizuki smiled at him. "Hey, Naruto. You seem to be feeling pretty down - wanna talk about it?"


Naruto bit his lip nervously, as the old shack Mizuki had told him to meet at came into view. This sounds really, really risky. I wish Rena were here to help me... He sighed. After Mizuki's explanation of the make-up test, he'd gone searching for his wayward partner, hoping to apologize to her; but he never found her. So, with a heavy heart, he'd done as Mizuki asked alone.

And here he was, with a Forbidden Scroll. As he cracked it open, his eyes widened, his partner temporarily forgotten. Whoa... These are some really crazy jutsu. And this one - a shadow clone? Perfect! Even if I do somehow fail, I'll be able to ace the exam next time.

With that thought in mind, he got to work.


A Few Hours Later...


Naruto wiped the sweat from his brow, and closed the scroll. Hehehe... I did it! Now Iruka-sensei has to pass me!

Almost as if the thought itself had summoned him, the swarthy instructor landed on a nearby branch, giving Naruto his best death-glare.

His wayward student grinned. "Hey there, Iruka-sensei! Didja get lost, or something? I thought you'd be here a lot sooner."

Iruka frowned. Wait, what? Something isn't right, here. "Naruto, do you realize what you've done?"

Naruto nodded. "Yeah, I passed the make-up exam! I learned a technique from the scroll, so you have to pass me, right? That's what Mizuki-sensei said."

The academy instructor's face paled, as he realized what was going on. "Naruto, get down!"

As Naruto fell to the earth, a hail of kunai struck the shed behind him. "What the hell!"

Mizuki smirked from a nearby tree. "Well well, looks like the two idiots managed to find each other. Naruto! Give me the scroll."

Iruka growled. "Naruto! Whatever you do, DO NOT give him that scroll! There are seals in there that are forbidden for a reason - Mizuki is just using you to try and steal it."

Naruto glared at the traitorous chunin, who was grinning at this point.

"Tell you what, Naruto. In exchange for that scroll, I'll tell you the truth... You see, I know the reason why so many of the villagers hate you, why they look at you that way."

The young academy student's eyes widened. "There's a reason...?"

Iruka snarled at the silver-haired traitor. "That's forbidden, Mizuki! You know that!"

Mizuki plowed on, ignoring the other teacher completely. "That's right. You remember the story, of how the Fourth Hokage sealed the nine-tailed fox?"

Naruto nodded slowly. "Yes...?"

Iruka could only stare in abject horror, held in place by Mizuki's 'Monologue no Jutsu'.

The silver-haired man smirked. "Twelve years ago, the Third passed a special law, forbidding anyone to talk about this. You see, when the Fourth fought the fox, he couldn't kill the beast... No... He had to seal it, in a baby. When that happened, the fox destroyed the baby's mind, and took over. Naruto Uzumaki, you are the Nine-Tailed Fox!"

"What the hell are you talking about!?" Naruto shrank back, his eyes wide.

"Hehehe... That's right. You are the demon fox that attacked the village, and killed so many... Including Iruka's parents. Did he mention that? How amusing, that you dream to be Hokage, when it was the Fourth himself who sealed you up! All your life, you've been lied to, and now you know why." The traitor grinned, as he unlatched a shuriken from his back. "And yeah... Iruka hates you too. Why wouldn't he, when you made him an orphan? As a matter of fact, no one loves you, and no one ever will." Laughing maniacally, he threw the shuriken at the orange-clad blonde.

Finally managing to break free of the genjutsu, Iruka knocked Naruto over, expecting to feel a shuriken in his back.

To his surprise, he did not.

Mizuki stared in horror, as the giant shuriken stopped in midair, spun around once or twice, and sent itself back at him. As shocked as he was, he was still a chunin, and he dodged the projectile with ease.

Naruto, meanwhile, was staring with confusion at the face of his mentor. "Why did you...?"

Iruka sighed, and moved himself off of his student, facing Mizuki. "Because we're the same. I know what it's like, to grow up without parents, without love... Believe me, I know. I was also a trickster back in my day, did you know that? I just wanted someone to acknowledge me, as a person. It hurt so bad... And I know, you felt it too. I should've been there for you, and I wasn't. I'm sorry."

Mizuki growled. "Enough with the sob story, already! I don't know what kind of trick you used, demon brat, but it won't happen again!" With a puff of smoke, he substituted for a nearby branch, and threw his other shuriken. Iruka saw it in time to avoid fatal injury, but not enough to be completely unscathed; the shuriken had lodged in his shoulder, making his right arm effectively useless. Mizuki flipped down from the tree and drew a kunai, a sadistic grin on his face. "And now, demon... You die!"

Naruto scowled at the silver-haired traitor, as he set the scroll down, and formed a single handseal. "No, asswipe. You're the one that's gonna die. Shadowclone Jutsu!"

With a series of rapid 'pop's, several hundred Naruto clones appeared all around the clearing, each hell-bent on causing as much pain as possible to the rogue instructor.

Mizuki wet himself.

With a menacing grin, the original Naruto pointed at the object of his ire. "CHARGE!"

And then proceeded to beat the shit out of him.


A Few Minutes Later...


Naruto rubbed the back of his head sheepishly. "Heh, guess I overdid it a little."

Iruka smiled at his student, doing his best to ignore the twitching pile of goo his assistant had become. "What I don't get is, how that shuriken got deflected. I saw it stop in midair, turn around, and throw itself at Mizuki - Shuriken aren't supposed to do that."

The young academy student's eyes widened. "Rena-chan?"

The golden vixen sighed, as she materialized. "Yes, it's me."

In a heartbeat, Naruto was latched onto her, burying his face in her fur. What he was saying was muffled, but she got the gist of his apology. She smiled, and wrapped her arms around him. "I was never mad at you. Nobody can be perfect all the time."

He grinned. "Hey, Iruka-sensei! I'd like you to meet - " He broke off at Iruka's horrified look. Naruto frowned. "What?"

Shakily, Iruka pointed with his good arm. "Is that...?"

Renamon's eyes widened, as she realized what he meant. Then, she began to laugh quietly. "No, I'm not the demon. I didn't even know that such a thing existed, until Mizuki's little speech. Only one tail, see?" She tickled Naruto's nose with her tail for emphasis.

Iruka let out a tired sigh.

Naruto bit his lip. "Iruka-sensei, about the fox..."

"No, Naruto, you're not the fox. Mizuki was only half-right - when the Fourth sealed the beast inside of you, he made absolutely certain that its prison kept it from interfering with your mind. At least, that's what we've been told."

At his student's dismayed look, Iruka smiled. "But, from what I've seen, your personality makes it absolutelyclear that you're not the demon."

The orange-clad child frowned. "How's that?"

Iruka grinned. "Well, you're not smart enough, for one thing."


Renamon and Iruka both laughed.

Iruka scratched his nose, and then grinned. "Hey, Naruto. C'mere, I want to give you something."


The Next Morning...


Naruto was practically walking on air as he entered the classroom. Today's the day, today's the day! He was a genin, Renamon wasn't mad at him, and Iruka had openly admitted that he was one of his favorite students; Life really didn't get much better than that. I wonder who my teammates are gonna be? Oh, god, I hope it's not Sasuke... Then again, me and Rena would be practically forced to prank the hell outta him. Forced, I tell you!

He paused for a moment, trying to figure out who he was talking to, but then he shrugged. It wasn't really that important - every ninja went at least a little crazy. Right?

With a sigh of content, he settled back into his seat, for once not bothering to try and sit beside Sakura. From an adjacent desk, Shikamaru raised a sleepy eyebrow. "Hey, Naruto, this room is for those who passed. What are you doing here?"

His only response was a grin, and a middle finger.

Rolling his eyes, the spiky-haired boy decided that he'd much rather take a nap than figure it out.

Naruto practically vibrated in his seat as Iruka ambled slowly into the room, holding a clipboard. Deliberately taking his time, he sank into the little-used chair behind his desk, and sighed. Noticing the hostile glares that many of the recently-graduated genin were giving him, he grinned. "Oh, right! The team assignments. Ahem."

As the various teams were called out, Naruto began to sweat. The list of people besides Sasuke who could end up on his team were dwindling. Finally, Iruka announced Team Seven.

"Uzumaki Naruto,"

Not Sasuke, not Sasuke...

"Haruno Sakura..."

Yeah! Not Sasuke! Not Sasuke, not-

"And Uchiha Sasuke."


Naruto glared at Iruka, who smirked right back. There will be blood.

Heh, just try it kid. I dare ya.

Defeated, Naruto groaned as he slumped onto his desk.

Sakura, meanwhile, was in the middle of freaking out. OhmigodohmigodohmigodSASUKE! Squee!

Sasuke simply resumed his brooding, though, to be fair, at a slightly higher intensity.


An Hour Later...


As the second-to-last team left the room, Iruka looked up from his paperwork at Team Seven. "Well, have fun waiting for your new sensei. He's probably not going to be here for a while, so you should probably use this chance to get to know each other better."

As their ex-instructor left the room, Naruto sighed, and took off his jacket. "Is it getting hot in here, or is it just me?"

Sakura rolled her eyes. Please. As if I'd ever fall for - is that what I think it is? "Hey, Naruto... Where'd you get that necklace of yours?"

Naruto's face heated up. "I, uhh... Found it." Since he'd learned about what lay inside him, he'd been rather reluctant to reveal his partner's existence, especially since she was a fox as well.

The pinkette frowned, and pulled out her own necklace. "Naruto, you're a terrible liar. Who's your partner?"

"...Renamon. And yours?"

She smiled. "Gabumon."

Both of them turned to Sasuke, who sighed, and pulled out his own crest tag. "Agumon."

Sakura giggled. "We all have partners? That is so cool! Hey Sasuke, what does yours look like?"

"...You're not gonna leave me alone unless I tell you, are you?"

She and Naruto shook their heads in unison.

Sasuke sighed. "Fine. Like Godzilla, but waist-height, and orange."

The pinkette raised an eyebrow, somewhat disturbed. "Umm, okay. What about yours, Naruto?"

"Well, she's standing right behind Sasuke."

The raven-haired boy literally jumped out of his seat, as he spun to face Renamon.

She waved. "My, someone's jumpy."

Sakura giggled, despite herself.

"How the hell did you sneak up on me?"

Renamon grinned, and faded into invisibility. "Like this, of course." When she reappeared, she stood next to Naruto, her hand on his shoulder.


For the next hour or so, they sat silently, each pondering on what the future might bring.

My teammates have partners as well... Interesting. If they're as strong as they say they are, the Digimon will be a valuable asset to our team. It might even make up for the fact that I'm on a team with Naruto, of all people. Sasuke sighed. Honestly, what the hell were they thinking, putting me on the same team as that guy? His partner might be good at stealth, but Naruto himself is dead-last... And Sakura isn't much better. Blasted fangirls...

Occasionally, Sakura would glance slyly over at Sasuke, and grin goofily. OhmigodohmigodohmigodSasuke! I totally lucked out!

Naruto's thoughts, however, were slightly less team-oriented. Should I have beef ramen tonight, or pork...? I think I'll have pork - Rena-chan likes the beef better.

Eventually, the blond snapped out of his dinner-related musings long enough to look at the clock. The excitable blonde twitched. "Did someone mess with the clock, or has it really been two hours since our sensei was supposed to show up?"

Sakura sighed. "Yes, Naruto, it really has been two hours."

"That's just not right." Naruto crossed his arms, and eyed the doorway speculatively.

Sasuke knew that look. "Hn." I hereby deny any responsibility for whatever is about to go down.

As Naruto picked up a dusty eraser, Sasuke smirked. "Surely you can come up with something better than that."

Sakura facepalmed. Oh, no, don't encourage him...

The orange-clad genin shrugged. "With no materials, there's not much I can -" His eyes widened. "Oi, Rena-chan!"

The golden vixen materialized before him. "Yes?"

"I need ya to go and get some stuff for me." Reaching into his kunai pouch, he withdrew some coins from gama-chan. Leaning in close, he whispered something that neither Sakura nor Sasuke could hear.

Renamon grinned. "Back in a sec."

-A Few Minutes Later-

Naruto grinned as Renamon ducked through the window, carrying a mess of wires, a shaker of some kind, and... a merengue pie?

"Ohh, yeah, that's the stuff." Quickly, he went to work, attaching wires to the ceiling in a complicated pattern. Turning to the pie, he sprinkled a whitish-colored powder on top.

Sasuke nodded appreciatively. Itching powder, probably. Smart move, making it white - against the pie, it'll be practically invisible. Whoever it is might actually eat some of it.

Carefully slotting the pie into his wire contraption, Naruto stepped back to admire his work. "Yeah, that should do it."

Renamon laughed. "And now, we wait."

Almost as if on cue, they heard a soft set of footsteps approaching the door.

Naruto rubbed his hands together gleefully. C'mon, c'mon...

A gloved hand appeared, sliding the door open. "Hello, te-" SPLAT.

As Kakashi stood there, covered in pie, his face itching like crazy, he came to a solid conclusion. "I hate you all. Meet on the roof."

As he left the room, Naruto grinned, and gave Renamon a high-five.

Sakura giggled, and Sasuke smirked.

-On The Roof-

Having wiped himself clean, and having removed the itching powder with a minor medical jutsu, Kakashi stood waiting, his arms crossed. With a resigned sigh, he sat on the edge of the roof. "Alright, team. Since we just met, I think we should take this opportunity to get to know each other better. Things you like, things you hate, that sorta thing." And when I figure out which of you set up that pie trap, i will make sure that you regret it.

Sakura frowned. "Shouldn't you go first, to give us an example?"

"...My name is Kakashi Hatake. That's really all you need to know. I'd tell you more, but then I'd have to kill you."

Her eyes widened. "You're joking, right?"

He smirked. "Maybe. Your turn, pinkette."

"Sakura Haruno." She bit her lip. "Please don't kill me."

Kakashi sighed. Jeez, I didn't think she'd take me seriously. "And you, oh Dark One?"

"Hn. Sasuke Uchiha. Please do kill Sakura."

"HEY!" Sakura huffed.

Sasuke smirked.

Not waiting for an invitation, Naruto grinned. "Naruto Uzumaki! I'm gonna be the next Hokage, believe it!"

Kakashi eye-smiled. Not a chance in hell, kid. "That's nice. Tomorrow, all of you are going to meet me at training ground 3, at 8 o'clock sharp. Got it?"

All three of his genin nodded.

"Good. Tomorrow is the real test - the one that determines whether you become active genin, or simply go back to the academy for more training. Oh, and make sure not to eat anything beforehand - I wouldn't want you throwing up all over the training field."

Sakura paled. "But, didn't we already pass the test to become genin?"

Kakashi chuckled. "You passed the first test. The second is left up to the individual instructor. Prepare well, munchkins." With that, he vanished into a puff of smoke.

Sakura glanced over hopefully at her crush. "Hey Sasuke, do you wanna - "


She deflated.

Naruto, for once, kept his mouth shut.

-At Home-

Naruto sighed as he sat on his balcony, watching the sun set over the village.

Renamon slipped through the doorway, two cups of instant ramen steaming in her hands. It wasn't her favorite thing in the world, but hey, it was food. Handing one of the cups to Naruto, she sat on the rail, her feet hanging off the edge.

"Thanks, Rena-chan."

She nodded. "Something wrong?"

He shrugged. "Just thinkin', is all."

"What about?"

"...Sakura. She's never gonna like me, is she?"

Renamon's eyes turned downwards, watching the villagers as they ended the day. "She's not the only girl in the village, you know."

He sighed again. "I know. But, with me being who I am... what I am... There's no way I'll find a girl who'd go for me anyway."

She frowned. "That's not true. Surely, as large as this village is, there's at least one girl who'd accept you despite the fox." As I do.

Naruto closed his eyes. "Maybe."

-The Next Day-

Naruto yawned as he strode into the small clearing, working the cricks out of his neck.

Sakura twitched. "You're almost two hours late!"

He shrugged. "Sensei isn't here yet, is he?"

"Well, no..."

Naruto grinned. "Then I'm not late."

From behind the young kunoichi, a white-and-blue-furred creature peeked out. "Hello, I'm Gabumon."

Renamon bowed slightly. "Nice to meet you. I'm Renamon."

From underneath a particularly shady tree, Agumon waved. "Yo. I'm Agumon."

Naruto jumped, as Kakashi appeared behind him. "Who are these? Come to watch you fail, have they?"

Renamon crossed her arms. "I am Naruto's partner. When he fights, so do I."

Agumon and Gabumon nodded.

Kakashi shrugged. "Alright, then." I gotta say, that was unexpected. Then again, I can use this... Yes, that'll make an excellent modification. He held up two small bells. "Your objective is to grab one of these bells, before time runs out. If one of you gets one, and your partner has one as well, you become my apprentices. Everyone else, fails."

Sakura spluttered. "Hey! That's not fair. That means that at least two of us are going back to the academy!"

The cycloptic jounin eye-smiled. "Sakura, ninja don't play fair. If you haven't learned that lesson yet, you don't deserve to be one."

The pinkette subsided into a miserable silence.

Kakashi tied the bells to his belt, making sure to keep an eye on his students as he did so. "If you don't give this everything you have, you will fail." Almost casually, he reached behind him and grabbed Renamon's arm, tossing her into the river. "Nice try. But you'll need better stealth skills than that to sneak up on a jounin."

She surfaced quickly, glaring at the grey-haired ninja. Wincing, she climbed up onto the bank. "I think my arm's dislocated..."

Naruto growled, and launched himself at his new sensei, hurling several kunai as he did so.

Kakashi's eye widened. Impressive speed, for a genin. He caught Naruto's arm as the boy reared back to deck him, and noticed a slight flicker in the boy's eyes. Interesting. I didn't think he'd be able to use its chakra so soon... It's only a little, barely noticeable, but it's there. He must be quite close to that partner of his. As he casually tossed Naruto over one shoulder, he yawned. "Next?"

Sakura sweat-dropped. Oh, no... There's no way I could take on Kakashi-sensei, even with Gabumon's help. He's just too strong! I'm gonna fail...

As her shoulders slumped, Gabumon laid a furry paw on her arm. "Think, Sakura. What do you think the test is about?"

She bit her lip. "Getting the bells?"

Kakashi raised an eyebrow. Well, this is unexpected. Their partners might actually be smarter than they are.

Gabumon shook his head. "You think he expects a single genin and their partner, to beat him? That's not feasible, and I seriously doubt that that's the true goal of the test."

Her eyes widened. "You mean...?" She looked over at Sasuke, and he nodded grudgingly.

Much as I hate to admit it, the yellow midget has a point. Kakashi's had years of experience over us, and who knows how many hundreds of jutsu he's learned in that time. We may not even be able to beat him with all three of us, but if we show that we can work together, we may not have to. Although, working with these two will probably do more harm than help.

Immediately, they leaped into the underbrush, intent on finding their third teammate.

Kakashi gave a low chuckle. Well, it seems I might actually pass these three. Of course, that doesn't mean I can't have a little fun with them first.


Two Hours Later


The three genin and their partners lay in a panting heap, as Kakashi looked on with an amused eye. "Sad to say, none of you got any bells."

Sakura groaned.

Kakashi completely ignored her, as he finished. "But, you did work together... So, you pass."

It was a mark of how tired he was that Naruto couldn't even manage to scrape together a victory dance.