Kyuubi was sometimes referred to as a kitsune. What if Uzumaki Naruto actually inherited one of the powers kitsunes were said to have? Meet Uzumaki Naruto: Shapeshifter.

"So, Naruto..." Asuma trailed off for a few seconds, deciding what to ask first. He recovered quickly – he may have been extremely shocked by this turn of events, but Sarutobi Asuma was a jonin-sensei, and one didn't get to that level without being having been conditioned to be merely fazed by events that would shell-shock normal people for hours. "Do you have any idea where this power of yours came from?"

"I only have the one theory, which is that I somehow gained it from the Kyuubi no Kitsune," Naruto admitted. He suspected Asuma had already come to that conclusion, but he was saying it for the benefit of his still thunderstruck teammates, Naboru Kaori and Kien Ichiro, both who hadn't said a word in the few minutes since Naruto had transformed into a primate. "When I was younger, though, I believed that I might somehow have yoko blood that had reemerged after several generations of dormancy, which I used to explain the whisker marks on my cheeks as well." Strange that he now had a yōkai for a father, as it were.

"Hmm..." The black-haired jonin took out a cigarette, and lit it up. Taking a few puffs to get his nerves under control, he continued. "I can see why you wanted us to keep it under wraps. How long have you had this ability for? Since birth?"

Naruto actually knew precisely when he had gained the power to shapeshift: that fateful day in the orphanage, when his body had grown hair in reaction to the cold water of the shower. It had turned out that that had beenthe same day that the soul fragment that his father had sealed away into his soulscape had merged with the Kyuubi, and the yōkai had given him its ability to shapeshift in the process.

But he wouldn't tell Asuma that. Naruto had pre-empted this whole conversation by revealing his skill, because he had a feeling he would eventually need to use it for missions outside of Konoha, and it would be best to show off now rather than have an awkward conversation later. Another useful benefit was that by coming clean instead of having someone catch him using it, he had established domination over the subject matter. Sarutobi Asuma would glean a few details from Naruto, and would not press him to find out if he had any more secrets. He would know nothing of Naruto's conversation with the Kyuubi no Yōko, or that he knew who his biological father was, or that the kitsune now considered Naruto his son, and Naruto considered him his father.

And so he told a half-truth. "I'm guessing it may have been as early as the sealing, but I'm not positive. The first time that I can remember using it was when I was five, though."

"Y-y-you can sh-shapesh-shift," Kaori stuttered from beside Naruto.

"Yes," Naruto said, turning to flash her a smile. "I can."

"Y-you can sh-shapeshift," Kaori repeated herself.

"N-Naruto," Ichiro started a nervous laugh, his belly noticeably spasming at each subsequent 'ha', before he regained some semblance of sanity. "I think you b-broke her."

"Well, it isn't everyday you learn your teammate can shapeshift," Asuma nonchalantly replied, extending his senses outwards to see if anybody had by chance eavesdropped on them. He was pleased to see there were none, and wondered if Naruto had done the same before coming to the Training Grounds. The genin seemed intelligent enough that Asuma expected he probably had.

"Y-yeah," Ichiro bobbed his head in a furious motion, his nervous laughs since having subsided.

"You...can...shapeshift..." Kaori repeated once more, before finally she seemed to regain her wits. "Why did you never tell us about this?"

Naruto just looked at her. "Uh, hello? Negative attention much? Someone would probably regard it as a bloodline and force me into breeding stock and make me start my own clan and then someone else would probably try to kill me for having such a powerful talent."

"R-right..." The strawberry blonde hiccupped, before adding, "I see your point."

"But, sensei," Naruto said, drawing the focus of the conversation back to Asuma, "I think this has to change your expectations for the team, right? I don't know what you were planning before, but I'm pretty sure you'll want to change the direction of the team."

"You have that right, Naruto," Asuma replied, stroking his black beard as he thought the possibilities over. He would have to find out what Naruto could and couldn't do with his shapeshifting, but already the opportunities were amassing in his mind. Chief in his mind was an infiltration and espionage team, but other possibilities were a team focusing on heavy assault, or even an assassination team. He broke out of his self-created reverie, and looked around at Kaori and Ichiro. "Needless to say, you two, your teammate's talent should be kept secret. Understood?" Getting a couple of quick nods, he continued, "Good, glad we have that cleared up."

He turned around to look back at Naruto. "Now, you've rather surprised me, Naruto. I do need time to think this over, but I originally had you come here to display your skill sets. Just because you've shown me shapeshift doesn't mean you have shown me everything you can do. I've heard from the grapevine that you have some talent at stealth. Care to show me?"

Naruto nodded, before he seemed to...change, for lack of a better word. Where before he dominated Asuma's focus, now Asuma felt his gaze being repulsed, and he could feel Naruto's vast chakra store diminish down to the size of an ordinary genin's. While it wasn't perfect for undercover missions, it was still remarkable, and besides, most ninjas couldn't sense chakra in other people unless they were only a few meters away.

"No need to demonstrate actual steath to me, Naruto," Asuma wiped his brow, thankful that there wasn't any sweat on it. He still had his dignity. He looked at Kaori and Ichiro, who both had looked away. "Ichiro-kun, Kaori-chan, what you just saw is one of the more subtle techniques ninjas can learn and master. I believe your teammate instinctively learned this technique, as I don't think the Academy teaches it, and I think it would be too difficult to learn from a book."

The repulsive feeling Naruto gave off subsided and the two turned their heads back. Kaori's face was pale again, and she pointed at Naruto, "W-what was that?"

Naruto winced slightly, not really wanting to say that he used it to make people ignore him whenever he was out stealing. "I'm not sure, precisely, but it seems to make people ignore me."

"You're right about that, Naruto-kun," Asuma said, leaning on Naruto's shoulders. "You all learned about killing intent in the Academy, correct? Yes, you did? Good. What Naruto did is basically the inverse of killing intent. It's rather difficult to teach, though I can do it for you three, yes, you too Naruto, you need to learn how to consciously trigger it instead of instinctively or else it might fail on you at inopportune moments. But as I was saying, it's basically inverted killing intent. Instead of radiating bloodlust, you 'draw in' on yourself," He enunciated the words with air quotes, "To make people glance over you. I have enough talent in it that I knew Naruro was trying to repel me from looking at him, which is why I wasn't affected."

"That's...actually pretty cool, now that I think about it," Ichiro noted out loud. "I hope you'll teach that us right away, Asuma-sensei." His brown eyes were completely awake now, the excitement of the last few minutes having gotten him out of his previously bored state. "Does it use chakra at all?"

Asuma shook his head. "No. It's a shame that it isn't taught much in the higher levels of the shinobi ranks, either. The only reason I learned it was from my work with the Twelve Guardian Ninja. The 'Ninja' part of that title is a misnomer – sorry, that means a word or title that is misleading. Several of the Guardians weren't actually ninja, and one was even a monk."

He grabbed a cigarette from his vest before lighting it up again, and took a puff out of it before continuing. "And a couple of the ninja were from some of the really minor villages, places you've likely never heard of, such as the Village Hidden in the Woods. A lot of our training came from exchanging skills and techniques – the Daimyo likes strong bodyguards, and so much the better if we learned from each other. I learned several things from the others, some of which I bet nobody else in Konoha knows. I think I told you yesterday already, but in that manner you're lucky to have me as a sensei."

Asuma took another puff, before coughing for a few seconds. "But enough of that. Do you have any other talents you would regard as 'unique' or at the least unusual to show us Naruto?"

Naruto had to think about that for a couple of seconds. "Um, I ranked with Inuzuka Kiba in the Academy when they tested us for our senses of sight, smell and hearing, but I think that's probably Kyuubi. I have large chakra reserves and lots of energy all the time, but I think that's Kyuubi again. Other than that, nothing else. I had difficult using Bunshin in the Academy, for the kamis' sake!"

"Yes, your file did note that," the bearded man drawled. "I guess that's it for you, though you certainly surprised me. Kaori, what about you?"

The strawberry blonde blushed, startling both Ichiro and Naruto, who knew how rare a sight it was. "Um...well," She dawdled for a few seconds. Naruto was simply flabbergasted. In the length of time he had know Kaori, she had never been bashful. Shy she wasn't.

"Aaaah!" She cried out, before looking up again. "Alright, I passed the Academy test with fairly good marks. I can do all that stuff. But my kunoichi instructor once told me that kunoichi have less chakra than shinobi, so we had to rely on superior chakra control. That got me looking into chakra control techniques, and I can do a bunch of the common ones, like the leaf one, and some of the more esoteric ones, like balancing senbon on your fingertips. But, um..." She trailed off for a few seconds before she built up her confidence and the words came rushing out. "I looked into elemental chakra and I'm a water element. I tried some of the basic exercises where you aren't at risk of being able to hurt yourself and," Kaori took a deep breath, "And apparently I have a strong enough affinity that I can condense moisture out of the air with little chakra usage."

"Oh?" Asuma was interested as he took his cigarette out, holding it between index and middle finger as he looked at Kaori. "You have ambition, at least, to have tried that. Most jonin, for whom some practicing with the elements is mandatory, don't really bother to go beyond the basics. If you'd like, I can show you some of the exercises I know, though I can't really do them, as my affinity isn't for water. But, you know," He took one last puff out of his cigarette before extinguishing it, butting the butt back into a pocket in his flak jacket, "The Nidaime was able to create water out of thin air with the use of chakra. I don't want to shoot your hopes up, but perhaps that's something to set as a goal."

"Ah," Kaori blushed again, glad to have been compared to a past Hokage. "I'll do my best, sensei."

Ichiro pre-empted Asuma as he saw the bearded jonin look at him. Crouching down, he ripped a small clump of grass sprigs up, before he brought the index finger of the opposite hand up to the grass. With no external fuel source, the grass suddenly was on fire, which was quickly smothered out as Ichiro grasped his free hand over the burning grass, cutting off its oxygen.

The brown-eyed boy looked up at his sensei, and spoke quietly (though still loudly enough for Kaori with her average hearing to understand), "I'm not quite like Kaori, but I seem to be able to at least be able to generate an extreme amount of heat from my fingers without using handseals to direct and manipulate my chakra. I, um, burned my hands when I was young when I first discovered it and was playing around with it." A pained look crossed his normally static face. "The medic-nin scolded me for what she thought was playing with fire, and I didn't try it again until just last year now."

Asuma was suitably impressed. Each ninja had their own little talents or quirks that was semi-unique to them. For example, he had found that, although he had little affinity for water, he could still use it with ease as it was a fluid much like the air he could control with his wind element, while other wind users simply had no talent for water jutsus.

"Hmmm..." Asuma drawled out, resisting the urge for another smoke, before making a decision. "Well, I know your special talents and the like now, but I still don't know about your overall competency. I've read your Academy files, but that's all they are, files and records. To test your taijutsu skills and endurance, you're all going to spar me one-on-one." He couldn't help but smirk as he saw all three of his pupils gulp. Ah, the fun part of being a sensei.

Naruto groaned as he rubbed his abdominals, which were still burning even an hour after his test was over. "Let it be said that Asuma-sensei as a sadist."

"Amen," Ichiro responded, as he downed a nutrient bar, before taking out some bottles of water. "Water, anyone?"

"I'll take that please, Ichi-kun," Kaori said from her sprawled out position on the grass. The newly christened Noboru had been the worst off of the lot, as she had worn heavier clothing than the two males. As soon as her fight with Asuma was over, she had stripped most of her heavier clothing and was down to a bra on her torso. Wiggling her toes in the cool glade the three found themselves in, she grabbed the bottle out of mid-air before it would have hit her chest. Taking a moment of effort to reorient herself, she sat her upper body up, before opening the bottle up. After a quick chug, she coughed for a few seconds.

"You alright, Kaori-chan?" Naruto asked.

"I'm fine, just drank that one too fast," The strawberry blonde replied after coughing for a few more seconds, before drinking some more water at a more relaxed pace.

"Well, at least you all have a fairly solid foundation to work from," Asuma said. The bearded jonin was still standing, with only a light sheen of sweat on his forehead from the exertion of three back-to-back fights, courtesy of superior body conditioning. "But enough of that, I've decided your schedule. Mornings will be a D-Rank mission. Afternoons will be training, with purely physical training every other day. On the other day, I'll start teaching you some basic meditation exercises along with some other stuff. You'll find meditation useful – Konoha afternoons can get fairly hot, particularly once you begin to exercise, so some of what it'll do for you are to be able to slow down your rate of sweating, and to reduce the sense of being hot so it doesn't bother you as much. Training your body can have other practical applications, like slowing your heart beat and breathing pace, always useful against people who have superhuman senses."

The three genin looked at him warily when he mentioned the physical training, but Asuma shrugged. "But enough of that, that's enough for today. I need to go make a report, though of course I won't tell or put down in writing your ability to shapeshift, Naruto. Meet me at the Hokage Tower tomorrow at eight hundred hours sharp. We'll pick up your first mission then. Got that?"

"Yes, sensei," came three uniform calls.

Ten minutes later, with Asuma having already left behind, Naruto got up from the sitting position he had seated himself in earlier. "Well, I'm out of here, unless either of you wanted to accompany me?"

"Oh? Where are you going, Naruto?" Ichiro asked, his ankles submerged in a small pond nearby.

"Well, um, I figured that since we're doing missions starting tomorrow, I should tie up the odds and ends with people who I've done some odd work for over the years," Naruto explained. "There's one flower shop, Kaori, it's owned by Ino-san's parents, and they maintain their inventory with a large garden. The mother hired me in the past a few times to help with maintaining the garden and I have a standing invitation to work there most of the year." A peaceful look crossed his face. "I figured I'd help them for one last day before we start our career as genin. If you'd like, you can come and help."

Ichiro wrinkled his narrow nose, "No thanks, Naruto. I've got some bad allergies to some flowers. I don't really want to risk it. Besides, I told Keisuke I'd meet him over the next few days, so I guess now is as good a time as ever."

"I'll go!" Kaori piped up, having made a dramatic recovery in the last ten minutes from her previously fatiqued state.

"That's alright, Ichiro," Naruto told his brown-haired friend, before turning to the kunoichi. "You're sure, Kaori-chan? It'll be tough work."

Determination was evident in her eyes, as she put back on her shirt and jacket and picked herself up. "I can handle it, Naruto-kun."

"OK," Naruto shrugged, as he started walking, keeping his pace deliberately slow so Kaori could catch up. Turning his should around, he threw out a "Goodbye, Ichiro!" at his lean-faced friend.

"Bye Naruto," Ichiro responded, before walking in the opposite direction.

Letting out a brief huff as soon as she caught up with Naruto, Kaori was quick to question him, "So what exactly do you do at the Yamanaka's garden? Pull out the weeds? Water the flowers?" She was curious, to say the least.

"A little bit of everything," Naruo explained, as the pair began to leave what was Training Ground 12 proper, and trees gave way to the outskirts of urban development. "Weeding, pruning, watering, cross-breeding, setting up plots for new flowers to be grown, and even picking some to be displayed in the shop."

Kaori was impressed. "Wow, the owners must like you to give you that much responsibility."

Naruto shrugged, "I guess. I like working with plants, I have some in my apartment, I always had a green thumb. When I was looking for odd work to make money, I found a request for help on a billboard and took it up on their offer. It took a while since I was only eight at the time but I guess they thought I was good enough to leave me on my own."

"Modest, aren't you," Kaori grinned as she lightfully hit him in the arm.

Naruto just shrugged, letting a vulpine-like grin onto his face. "Yeah, well..." He trailed off as he noticed they were just now getting into the housing-dense residential area of Konoha. "The Yamanaka Flower Shop is in the commercial area, so it's slightly northeast of here!"

Inside the Hokage Tower, over two dozen jonin were milling about in a large audience room the Hokage sometimes used for meetings. These jonins had finished testing their teams and had come to make their reports, as well as whether they had failed or passed their teams.

"So, most everyone here is now, I see," the Sandaime Hokage, Hiruzen Sarutobi mused. "Three of you are missing, with Kakashi being the obvious, but does anyone know offhand who the other two might be not here yet?"

His secretary spoke up from beside him. "Shiranui Genma and Fuchi Aoi, sir."

"Ah, no point in waiting for them, then," Sarutobi responded. "They probably got caught up in something or their test is taking longer than usual, we get a couple of stragglers every year." Clearing his throat, the jonin-senseis, who have previously been conversing with each other, turned their attention to the man they had sworn allegiance to as the leader of the village they were a part of. "So, another semester has passed, I see. I hope most of you found your teams to your liking – we still are recovering from the attack, even now..."

A slight wince at his memory of the incident from twelve years ago, but the Hokage continued on regardless. "Now, some of you know the drill already, but most of you don't. In your numerical team order from Teams One through Twenty Nine, give me a brief report on your team, including the test you gave them if any, and your own personal thoughts on your genin."

Time quickly passed as the first three jonin gave their reports, and the first team that Sarutobi was truly interested in came up. "Ah, Asuma-kun, how was your team?"

"Well, my team is made up of three orphans," Asuma slowly started. Given where he was at, it would have been disrespectful to smoke, so he had been staving off the urge for the last couple of hours. "Apparently, all three of them came from the same orphanage, and appeared to be close during the few hours I interviewed them yesterday, so I decided to pass them automatically." There were a couple of grumbles from a couple of purists, but the former Guardian continued on. "One of them is Uzumaki Naruto, the Kyuubi vessel." Given that not a single person present was under the age of twenty, all of them already knew of the Kyuubi's true status. "He's a rather interesting one, calm most of the time, but when he gets going he's very energetic. He has that kind of rare passion you'd wish everyone could have. Training him should be real fun."

"Interesting," The elderly Sarutobi stroked his grey beard. "But what of your other two students?"

"Ah," Asuma said. "Kien Ichiro, he seems to be fairly laid-back. I like him already, he just has this way of putting others at ease in his presence. He wasn't in the same class as the other two, but it looks like he'll be able to work well with them."

"As for my third genin, Noboru Kaori is fairly decent. She's one of those kunoichi who actually paid attention in the Academy, and is pretty much a blank slate as far as how her specialisation might go. She seems a bit shy and bashful at times, but hopefully I can get her confidence built up in the next few months."

"Now, I initially decided to set them up as a general support team," Asuma admitted, "But now, I'm leaning more to being a stealth-heavy team. Kaori and Ichiro would both need heavy work in that field, but Naruto already has a skill in that field: he seems to be able to instinctively use inversed KI."

There were several murmurs this time, louder than before. The older of the two family members looked at his son, curious. "Oh? Instinctively, you say? That's a rare talent to have pop up, though it obviously requires training to make better use of it. What about the other two? Did they show anything that you could build on?"

"Well," Asuma thought for a second, before proceeding, "Kaori and Ichiro both seem to have already had some small triggers with their elemental alignments, water and fire respectively. Nothing big, but it should make ninjutsu training for them easier. They'll need some fallback techniques if we do information-gathering or infiltration."

"Interesting," The Sandaime mused, repeating his words from earlier. "Anything else, Asuma-kun?"

"No, nothing Hokage-sama," Asuma responded. His father looked at him for a few brief seconds, seconds that felt more like hours, before continuing on to Team 5, and Asuma stopped himself from letting out a deep breath of relief that would have been suspicious. He had just bluffed his father straight to his face. He had promised Naruto that he wouldn't reveal his shapeshifting abilities, and it wouldn't have been a good thing if his old man had sensed his deception.

Kaori looked at the flower shop, its purpose evident by the array of bouquets in the windows. Following behind Naruto, she looked at one bouquet in particular, deciphering the arrangement of the flowers using her training from the kunoichi-specific classes. Glad to see her skill in that field wasn't rusting, she went inside the flower shop as Naruto held the door open for her.

Taking a whiff of the air inside, she found herself on a very short high as the intermingled smells of the hundreds of flowers and dozens of varieties was rather pleasant. Her high subsided, she followed behind Naruto again as he walked to the front counter, taking some chance glances at the merchandise exhibited in the green store.

Coming up to the counter, she noticed there were two people there. One was the obvious salesperson, a woman just showing signs of mid-age years, with auburn hair, wearing some fairly professional clothing. It was rather obvious that she didn't work in the garden at the same time as manning the shop. In front of the counter was a taller man with an unusual get-up consisting of black pants and a red shirt with a black midriff shirt over top. Given the man's own auburn hair, she guessed the two were siblings or otherwise closely related, even if the stoic expression on the man's face differed far from the saleswoman.

The lady, noticing two people moving in behind the man, started speaking. "Sorry Fū, I will talk to you later. It looks like I have customers now." The man gave a short nod before turning around, only for the lady to start talking again. "Oh, Naruto-kun, is that you? What are you here for today? And who's your girl friend?"

Kaori blushed at the insinuation as she noticed the man named Fū turn around, startled, looking at her blond friend. Naruto answered for her, "Hello Yamanaka-san. I'm here to help with the garden, though I'm afraid this is likely my last time." Turning his head to look at Kaori, he motioned for her to come forward, which she did. "This is my friend and new teammate, Noboru Kaori."

"And I'm his friend who's a girl, not a girlfriend," Kaori added.

"Aw, way to be supportive, Kaori-chan," Naruto said, making a mock show of his body sagging in depression. "Kaori, this is Yamanaka Nozomi, who is Ino's mother. I'm guessing your her brother, sir?" He asked Fū.

The serious-looking man nodded, "I am, yes." He looked at Nozomi, "Sorry, sister, but I have to go now. Missions are picking up again now, so I'm picking up the slack for some injured people." Making a short bow, he started walking away.

"Bye now, Fū," Nozomi said, before turning to Naruto and Kaori. "So you're here to help with the garden, Naruto? What about your teammate? Have you had any experience with working in a flower garden or greenhouse, Kaori?"

"No," She admitted, "I don't really have any experience, beside the Academy kunoichi training in picking and assembling flowers."

Nozomi frowned for a couple of seconds, before brightening up. "Well, that should be sufficient enough if you're only planning to work here today. Naruto, you should stay with your friend and help her out for a while until she gets comfortable." She bent down behind the counter, fumbling for something given the noise she was creating, until she came back up with a notepad and pen, handing it to Naruto. "Here, notarise everything you do, and I'll pay you at the end of the day." Taking a keychain off of her neck, she took out a single key and gave it to Naruto as well. "That'll be for the greenhouse."

"Thanks, Yamanaka-san," Naruto gave a slight bow, before grabbing Kaori by the hand, "Come on, Kaori-chan, I'll show you the greenhouse."

Several hours later, the two walked out of the flower shop, skin and clothing covered in dirt and sweat and a little bit of blood as well, as Kaori had accidentally pricked herself on some thorns. The two started to make their way towards the residential area where the apartments they lived in were located.

"Well, at least you'll be able to go undercover as a flower gardener now," Naruto joked, counting through the small stack of ryo bills in his hands.

Kaori just stuck her tongue out, making him laugh out loud. She had enjoyed the work for the first couple of hours, up until she had gotten distinctly uncomfortable from the constantly high heat and humidity of the greenhouse, and having to kneel on her knees several times to pick out weeds.

"Don't ever change, Naruto-kun," She muttered.

"Huh? What do you mean, don't change?"

The strawberry-blonde was startled. She hadn't expected him to hear her, and as she looked up, she was uncomfortably aware of the cerulean eyes striking a peer into her own forest green. Twiddling her thumbs for a second, she finally spoke, "It's your presence." Seeing Naruto confused, she continued, "Just...being around you seems to make me feel at peace. You have a calming effect on people, sort of. Like, nothing ever seems to really touch you, and that carefree manner is liberating to the rest of us."

What Kaori wasn't expecting was for the mirthful look Naruto had on his face to disappear in an instant, before being replaced by a frown, as he stopped walking, with her stopping as well. It was honestly...frightening, even more so when Naruto opened his mouth, and slowly replied, "Kaori...I have weak moments too."

That startled her out of complacency. "We all do, Naruto. You just seem to recover from them faster than the rest of us, or else you hide it better. Look at...that incident. You were struggling for a week, but you've already seemed to turn around. If I had a revelation like that sprung on me in front of all my friends...I'm not sure I'd possess the will to keep on going."

Naruto blinked, then blinked again. A few more seconds passed, before he spoke again, " aren't feeling guilty on my behalf, are you?"

She grit her teeth. "I think I am. How is it you can keep on going forward, when...when you have something like that on your shoulders. barely seems to faze you anymore." Making sure to keep her voice lowered, not wanting to attract eavesdroppers, she continued, "You're doing all of us a service that you're not being acknowledged for, and yet it doesn't seem to bother you." She choked on a sob as she tried talking again, before sniffing.

Kaori was startled at the touch of skin on skin, as Naruto used his fingers to wipe away the tears on her cheeks. "Kaori-chan," He whispered, "Pretty girls shouldn't have to cry." She would have snorted at any other time over how corny he was being, but right now, it was an appreciated gesture. "You know," Naruto continued to speak in a low voice, "You're right, I am slightly bitter about the whole situation. But...we're orphans, Kaori. It's us against the world. I'm just choosing to make the best of the situation here, and letting it get me down isn't going to help."

Kaori continued to sniff, as Naruto grabbed her hand, and started pulling her along with him. The two proceeded to walk further into the apartment district, the silence only broken by more sniffing, as Naruto escorted Kaori to her apartment. "Kaori," He murmured, once they had reached her door. She turned her attention to him. "Shower, get some rest tonight. I'll see you tomorrow morning at eight at the Hokage Tower."

The green-eyed girl nodded, using her hands to wipe some of the tear streaks off of her cheek as she grabbed her key to open her apartment. "Thanks, Naruto-kun..." She trailed off, wanting to say more, but couldn't, and closed the door in the blonde's face.

Naruto just watched and listened as the lock clicked into place, before a heavy look settled onto his face. was a powerful thing. He could see how the Kyuubi had been changed by his merger with the Yondaime's soul, even just a fragment, if he had learned how to be empathetic to others. Speaking of which, he would be paying a certain demon fox a visit tonight in his sleep.

Blue eyes stared into blue, one set shining an ethereal light, the other only visible in the orange glow of the room.

"Neh, otou-san," Naruto asked the great fox demon, whose tail he was currently sitting on, "What...what do you think of them?"

The Uzumaki child was referring to his team, Team Four. In a process he still didn't understand, the Kyuubi was able to review his memories from a 'third-person perspective', much akin to an unknown observer. He didn't see through Naruto's eyes, something the boy was glad for as he found the idea slightly disturbing, and he didn't purview Naruto's memories from a first-person view. The blonde had taken advantage of that fact by not letting his new father see his memory of his most recent conversation with Noboru Kaori.

"The boy and the girl..." Kyuubi blanked out for a few seconds, the only sensation at the forefront of his mind being the idle stroking of his tail by Naruto, everything else having become white sensation over the years. Thinking was something still rather new to him, and using logic and rationality sometimes overpowered the bijuu. It was certainly a far cry from the centuries of mindless rage and bloodlust that were fading memories. "They can both be trusted, though you will need to ease them in before revealing your relationship with me, if you choose to ever. But they will support you. You would go far with them."

Naruto wrinkled his nose at that, before a solemn look appeared on his face. "I know." People were complex. Ichiro and Kaori had been accepting of him containing the Kyuubi, but to find out that he now called that same nine-tailed beast a father...he had no idea how they would react. That was one secret he doubted he would ever give up, even if the kitsune was encouraging him to tell a select few eventually.

"Your teacher, however..." The gigantic fox growled slightly, his hackles rising, "While he appears to be trustworthy, remember that he is still a jonin of your village. One does not get to that position without showing some loyalty to one's leader, and given he is the son of your Hokage, more so. You were right to trust him with your ability to shapeshift, however. It may save you in the future, and better to let those here know now than to have it sprung upon them unexpectedly on a mission."

Naruto nodded in response, having already realised as much, but reassured to have heard it in the form of the fox's wisdom. Following that, the two were at an impasse for a few minutes, silent as each were off in their own thoughts, until Kyuubi broke the silence. "Naruto...what do you plan to do?"

The blonde looked up. "What do you mean, otou-san?"

The fox eyed his adoptive son, before speaking again, his deep voice reverberating through the room, "I have some inkling of what your plans were for years before your treacherous sensei revealed my presence." The tail that was holding Naruto up in the air came closer to the Kyuubi's body, until his head and Naruto were only a few meters away. "You wished to obtain the unique skills that the Ninja Academy could teach you, get some more training as an official shinobi so that you could train yourself, before striking out on your own and slowly gain political and financial power in a country without a hidden village, using your shapeshifting powers to 'cheat' part of the process, correct?"

Naruto nodded numbly, surprised that the old fox somehow knew all that. He took a sigh, before speaking up, "My plans haven't changed, otou-san. How I'll go about doing them will be trickier, though. I have you inside me. I doubt this village would let me go like they might let a nameless genin go."

"Hohoho," the Kyuubi chuckled. "And what about your parents, your biological father especially? You don't feel any attachment to the fact he was Hokage, giving his life up for the village?" The bijuu was throwing out every loose end he could think of. He would support Naruto in his endeavours, but wanted the boy to be absolutely sure of what he wanted first.

"A little bit," Naruto slowly admitted."I suppose there's the whole concept of honouring one's ancestors as we were taught to, but I never knew my heritage until now." He shrugged. "Nothing attaches me to my parents except for my mother's name and my inheritance, and you." Kyuubi had told Naruto his own personal history the night before, of how he had been sealed away in two Uzumaki females before him, including his own mother, Uzumaki Kushina. However, the fox had been amazingly tight-lipped about what had happened twelve years ago that caused him to escape his last vessel and attack Konohagakure. Naruto had decided not to press him for details.

"I see," The orange-furred entity murmured, his long rabbit-like ears twitching, "Know that I will support you, Uzumaki Naruto, every step of the way through whatever journey you take." He slumped from his standing position on his front legs, sitting down, keeping care not to knock Naruto off-balance from his tail. "I see you as my own now, and I will nurture you as proper. Be careful in your dealings, and if you ever find yourself in dire need of support, I am always here."

"Thanks...tou-san..." Naruto said, giving the tail he was on a hug. It was a rather poor proxy for a real hug, but given the size of the chakra entity that was the Kyuubi no Yoko, it was the best he could it was still reassuring, and so was the hug the fox gave him back in the form of its tail completely curling around Naruto's chest and giving a light squeeze, as the blonde sank back into his body's state of deep sleep.

This along with the next chapter are both fairly tame overall, basically dealing with the overall growth of Team 4. I found myself enjoying the last scene between Kaori and Naruto in this chapter. One of the advantages of using an O.C. is being able to shape his or her character as required throughout the story, as well as not being confined to predefined character traits like how Shikamaru is 'lazy', Choji eats a lot, Ino and Sakura are loud and fangirls, etc. I certainly would be hard-pressed to get as much emotional depth out of a conversation between Naruto and any of the main four kunoichi.

One reviewer noted that 'kitsune' just means fox in Japanese. I realise that, but kitsune in the English lexicon more connotatively refers to the Japanese myth versions of foxes, ie. Demon foxes/yokai, and encompass nogitsune as well.

Another of my motives for having Asuma as a sensei is out in this chapter. If you haven't already figured it out since it was pretty much flat-out stated, Asuma worked along with eleven other Ninja. One of them was a monk, so they obviously weren't all Konoha ninja, so I imagine some of the others were also from other professions, such as a samurai, though they were mainly ninja.

Just an FYI, if you think I'm overpowering my characters again in this chapter, I'm trying not to. Rather, I think that each ninja probably has their own little talent that makes them different from others. For example, in the manga, Sakura had freakish strength. It's up to the individual as to whether they expand on the talent or instead look elsewhere to specialise.

Lastly, I'm not too sure when the next chapter will be done. I'm working on a couple of one-shots, one of them being another femNaruto/Kyuubi fic (no smut), one of them being for a SNES game called Terranigma. Depending on which suits the mood most, Chapter 6 may take a bit to get out. Plus, doing consecutive 7k+ chapters can be tiring.