July 2012 edit:
Hello and welcome to 'One Little Consequence' (OLC in my notes from now on). If your seeing this story for the first time I hope you enjoy, though I'll warn you ahead of time it will be mostly cannon rehash till chapter 5-6 (Sorry, I did add a few things and try to make it more enjoyable but I needed to cover this material for my story) after that it will be quite different.
Returning readers will find a few extra lines here and there but nothing drastic (tried to clean up a little of my spelling/grammar as well). I kept the 2 Flashbacks I had in there but WILL NOT be adding any more. Ever. I think. Probably. Don't quote me.
Aug 2012 edit:
NEW INTRO! Returning readers will find the second half mostly unchanged (once again, few lines here and there), but the first half is brand-new! Please let me know what you think. Also for a while there might be a few continuity issues with the future chapters (I'm working on that as we speak), but that should be cleared up soon.
Anyway, on to the story:
I do not own Naruto in any way, shape, or form.
"Touching is for buying customers only!"
An small blonde in an orange jumpsuit visibly cringed and glanced at the much larger shopkeeper across the small stand. Not seeing any compassion in the older mans eyes the blonde gave the black hoodie one last forlorn glance. With a heavy sigh he then hunched his shoulders and shuffling towards the door as inconspicuously as possible.
"That's right, get out of here you miscreant. And don't you come back!"
Grit teeth ground mercilessly together as the tips of blue sandal's reached the door frame. More jeers and taunts could be heard from the sparse patrons directed towards the boy. When the praise of the shopkeepers 'heroic' and 'dashing' acting started the boy visibly rocked, tiny hands vibrating with the effort to contain himself.
"Look! It forgot how to use the door." some random shopper called from a rack of sun-dresses.
"Would you just get out of my store you brat!"
"Do you think it understands us?"
"Why don't you just leave?"
"Yeah, leave and never come back!"
Shaggy blonde hair covered sky-blue eyes, eyes that didn't shed tears easily anymore. Slowly the small head turned to something hidden from the villagers by the wall.
"If they attacked me would you help me?" it's voice was tiny compared to the vast roaring of jeers and taunts from within the store.
"Would you, Crow?" as the boy whispered again the shops owner, filled with greater boldness by his fellow maliciously inclined clientele, stepped forward and grabbed his shoulder.
"I said I want you OUT!" a harsh smack of a heavy backhand against a tender cheek rang through the store. Afterwards a small gold and orange figure was launched into the dusty street, tumbling along the ground till it lost it's momentum.
"Crow, their hurting me." the boy pleaded, curling into a ball as the civilians of Konohagakure parted around him like water around a rock.
The owner of the store, filled with righteous satisfaction turned to re-enter his realm, only to freeze in shock at the black cloaked figure that crouched just beside the door. A bone-white mask shaped like a crow the only spot of color that could be seen.
"A-ANBU..." the man whispered in awe and fear.
"C-Crow..." daring to glance over his shoulder the shopkeeper felt horror at his actions for a moment, but it quickly passed as the subject was... It.
Blood dripped from split lips and tears stood out plainly on an expressive face with whisker-like birthmarks. Small hands stained red tried to stem the tide from their owners nose and lips, though it was a loosing battle and a few drops had splattered on the front of his jacket. It was the eyes that had invoked the shopkeepers momentary pity. Eyes that showed how deeply, irrevocably hurt the boy was by his actions. As the older man turned away his gaze once again landed on the silent ANBU who hadn't moved so much as a muscle.
The ANBU were the strongest arm of the Hokage, the mighty ninja ruler of Konoha. His 'Special Assassination and Tactical Squad' were hand-picked, many at a younger age then the blonde bleeding in the street. Once picked they were groomed to be the best of the best in a village prided for it's strength. This meant they were all equivalent to at least a jonin, the highest rank given to rank-and-file shinobi, in power.
There was always an ANBU with it, either to protect them from it, or to protect it from them. If the ANBU decided to kill the shopkeeper because of his actions he would, and nothing would ever be said about the matter after he filed his report. They were given the rights of judge, jury, and executioner in acting in the Hokages interests since the Shinobi police had been disbanded and only reported to the village leader. Most villagers never saw an ANBU, of those that did the percentage that lived was noticeably smaller then those that died. Since he was still alive the shopkeeper assumed he would be part of the former.
Emboldened by that reasoning the owner of the store sauntered back through the door, turning his head in the ANBU's direction for one last sentence.
"Make sure you keep him away from here in the future."
As his eyes returned to the front the man felt his bowels loosen as a white mask came into view, barely a hairs-width from touching him.
"Make sure you watch your words in the future." rough and gravelly the words filtered out from behind the mask. "I am not your watchdog. I care not for the boy, but do not mistake that apathy towards it as sympathy for you."
A crushing sensation landed on everyone in the store as the ANBU finished his sentence. Some having trouble breathing, others crying uncontrollably, and the owner felt a pounding desire to throw himself onto the ground and beat his head there till it exploded. For a full thirty seconds the pressure forced the civilians into the floorboards, then it dissipated like a bad dream. When the first to raise their head managed to look around the black-cloaked ANBU was gone. Nothing was left to signify they ever existed in the first place.
As soon as they were able the patrons evacuated the building, their shopping could be done in less memorable places. The owner merely watched with glassy eyes, lost profits forgotten in the sweet rush that came with the knowledge he had indeed joined the smaller percentile.
"I hate you." he couldn't see him, but the blonde knew the man was lurking in the area. They always lurked, even though everyone knew they were there, it seemed awfully silly to the boy.
"I said 'I hate you'." he stated again, louder this time. Once again his only response was silence.
Scuffing the dirt the blonde looked about the unused training ground again. A few battered dummies, a pair of lopsided targets tacked to a tree, and a small pile of aged and rusting ninja tools. All of it was his, and altogether it was probably the majority of what he owned. He had been replacing and cobbling together this little training area since he joined the academy, almost five years ago.
"Dog at least didn't let them hurt me..." the boy mumbled as he wiped an already red-streaked sleeve under his nose, wincing as the split skin on his lips voiced its displeasure at the contact. The bleeding had stopped quickly, but it was still tender.
Dog had been his second shadow, at least from what he could remember, and had probably been the best. All three others had only stepped in when things got out of hand, but were fine letting the villagers get harsh words or the occasional slap in on the boy. Dog still didn't do anything about their words, but the minute he had taken over the villagers had learned not too get touchy with the ANBU's blonde ward. It seemed Crow would be more along the lines of the other three, only slightly removed from the rest of the village that tormented him without pause. In that case the blonde knew exactly how to deal with him.
He would ignore him. Completely.
He had learned that from the rest of his shadows, Dog being the sole exception as he had at least let the blonde see him nearby most times, they would never play or talk with him no matter how hard he tried or loudly he cried. He instead ignored them to the best of his ability, which meant they might as well not exist at all.
"I'll get you back when I'm the Hokage! You won't be able to ignore me anymore then, stupid Crow. If I don't then I'm not Uzumaki Naruto!" feeling slightly better Naruto turned towards the dummies, it was time to get back to training!
"Right, first I'll do like a hundred punches, then a hundred kicks, then... then.. uh.." trying to remember the academy routine that his academy teacher Mizuki had him sit out more often then not the blonde scratched his head.
"Was it run the circle ten times or do situps? Or maybe sparring? Or..." sighing Naruto sat down and started scribbling in the dirt with a stick, trying to work out the rarely seen routine in his head.
Scribbled exercises eventually drifted into looping lines, which shifted into doodles, and soon Naruto was engrossed in drawing in the dirt. Hopping to his feet he started to shift about so he could expand the drawing, which was slowly turning into a rough interpretation of the Hokage mountain. Once he finished the basic sketch Naruto started adding doodles and swirls onto the 'faces' he had drawn. Half-an-hour later Naruto tossed his stick aside and eyed his masterpiece with pleasure.
"Totally looks more awesome this way. Old foggies look better with tattoos!" a few more minutes of admiring his work quickly exhausted Naruto's patience, the mostly destroyed list of exercises came into view and the boy slapped his forehead. Filing the idea away for later contemplation Naruto turned to face his 'acquired' training implements.
"Crap! Suppose to be training!" launching himself at the nearest dummy Naruto threw himself into a whirlwind of punches and kicks, even biting the dummy on one occasion when it seemed like a good idea.
Eventually his arms grew heavy, his knuckles and shins too sore to keep up his frenzied pace, and Naruto let his body fall into a heap before the smug dummy. Panting the boy ran a bruised hand through his golden hair and looked up at the drifting sun. Early afternoon on a Sunday, it had gotten terribly hot since he started his training. Shrugging out of his orange coat Naruto glared at the dummy for a moment before a rather sharp throb from his leg prompted a sigh.
"Boring..." he mumbled, it really was no fun training alone. At least at the academy, when he managed to stick around for the whole class period, there were other people to interact with.
Sure his classmates didn't really hang out with him outside of class, but at least they interacted with him at all. That already made them more important to Naruto then any of the civilians or teachers who couldn't seem to be rid of him fast enough. That of course brought him back to the most recent adventure he had shopping.
Today was one of the exceptional days, meaning instead of flat out ignoring him the civilians had decided to vocally mock him. Actually it was probably the worst day in a long time, as he probed his split lip. Physical abuse was rare, most people seemed to do everything they could to avoid him. Once in a while in October they were different, but even then it wasn't more then a few rowdy drunks getting a little pushy. His shadows showing up made people sober up and clear out even faster then his usual presence did too average people.
"I should get him back." the thought sparked a brief image of ripping the shopkeepers throat out, but Naruto shook that off and started scheming.
If there was one thing Naruto was good at, it was pranks. He had been doing them almost his whole life just to get something other then cold indifference out of the people around him. A stuck up merchant who acted too good to even breath the same air as Naruto quickly changed their tune after getting hit with a water balloon and then covered in flour. Then they were only too happy to chase him around till they collapsed huffing and puffing. It was the closest thing Naruto ever got to playing with another person so of course he made sure to do it often and always with a new twist, just to keep them on their toes.
Now the only question was how would he get this civilian back for his snobbish behavior?
For a full five minutes Naruto didn't move. Then a snicker that many would cringe at started to work it's way out of his throat. The chuckling soon grew into a full out belly laugh as Naruto threw his head back.
People would remember this day for a long, long time.
"As a ninja in training of Konoha, you are bound by the same rules as active shinobi. Most notable the fact that you are to protect the citizens of Konoha, not torment or abuse them with your power. To that end you are not allowed to harm citizens of Konoha. The only exception to this rule is the Hokage's ANBU, but even they can be punished for excessive use of their power. With that in mind make sure you never use your abilities on a citizen of Konoha, be that any taijutsu, ninjutsu, genjutsu, or kenjutsu you may learn through your career. We are the shield and sword of Konoha, not it's tyrants."
Words from the first day of academy, they always rang in his mind right before a major prank. He had never broken that rule, not once had he ever laid a hand on the citizens who ignored him. But the rule didn't specifically say he couldn't toss a double hand-full of mixed smoke and stink bombs into their home. Gleefully watching as the thick, rotten smoke billowed out the window he had jimmied open Naruto went and sat down just outside the front door to a certain shopkeeper's home.
As the older man shoved the door open and threw himself out into the fresh air Naruto smiled even wider as he pulled the thin line of ninja-wire that rested on the ground before him. The reward was a full bucket of glue dumping all over the coughing man, rapidly drawing his attention to the golden-haired prankster crouching almost in arms reach.
"Hi!" Naruto said with a cheeky grin.
"Y-YOU!" the man roared, spitting a glob of glue the man struggled to his feet and launched himself at the crouching boy.
"Opps!" with a sing-song voice Naruto easily evaded the grasping fingers and skipped off down the street. "Silly me, leaving that bucket of glue there, let me grab some water for you."
"Brat!" shaking some of the sticky substance from his clothing the beleaguered man struggled to catch up to his assailant.
"All I wanted to do was maybe pick up a new top. I'm gonna graduate in a couple days." the boy spoke, seemingly to no-one, even as he ducked out of the mans arms again. "Iruka was saying something about orange maybe not being the best color if I wanna make a good impression to my Jonin Sensei. I said he was crazy, orange is like the best color ever! Anyway, I was just looking around for fun."
"I... Don't... Care." the panting man shouted as he continued to swipe at the retreating figure before him, not noticing the growing crowd following them.
"So I go to a pretty decent looking store, you know, the kind where they have what you need if not what your looking for exactly right?" still speaking to no-one specific Naruto danced slightly to the left and right, always just out of reach.
"So I get in there, then notice I forgot my cute little froggy at home!" Naruto reversed his facing, holding up a frog wallet up before the mans eyes as he continued to stay out of the way of grabby hands.
"Fuck your froggy."
"So just as I realize this some big shot decides to get mouthy and yell at me then get all touchy." Naruto tucked his wallet back into his pocket, shifting his hands behind his head and smiling. "Funny thing was I probably would have come back and bought a jacket until he decided to make an ass of himself. Now instead I get to show everyone his true feathers." As the last word rang out Naruto crossed a trip-wire he had set up, dumping a large pile of multi-colored feathers all over the pair of them.
"But I'm not quite done there you see." Naruto smirked as he shook off the poultry remains. "See, now I'm gonna race back to your house, lock the door, then disappear while your walking around the red lantern district dressed as a chicken. Have fun!" With that the blonde zipped off down the street, leaving a sputtering, crying man covered in feathers and glue in the middle of the busiest street of the early evening.
"And don't forget people!" the blonde shouted from a corner, striking a pose. "I'm Uzumaki Naruto! Prankster extraordinaire and future Hokage! Believe it or feel like a jack-ass later!"
"I never break the rules Old Man." Naruto whispered as he turned away from the grumbling crowd, "But sometimes a guy has to get even you know?" ducking down an alley Naruto continued his swift pace, shifting around the garbage that littered the ground.
"I wonder what I should do tomorrow?" a stored memory popped into his head and Naruto felt a fresh smile coming on.
Naruto's first conscious thoughts didn't actually hit him until he had turned off his alarm-clock and started boiling water for his daily breakfast of instant ramen. His split lip from yesterday had disappeared, leaving his skin pink and healthy once again. Frowning at the water that refused to boil Naruto decided he might as well get dressed before breakfast. Walking over the closet in his bed-room Naruto yanked it open and studied the practically glowing row of orange suits.
The sizes varied, he hadn't thrown any out since he started buying them. Orange was a great color and lucky for him it was always cheap in a shinobi village, thus was in his rather tiny price range. Not that he minded standing out either, he actually liked the extra attention the bright clothing got him. Even though they were cheap he couldn't pick up new sets every week, add in damages from training or other mishaps and Naruto's closet was pretty bare all things taken into account.
Grabbing the biggest clean one left Naruto frowned at how small it seemed already. Apparently he was growing, even if he was still one of the shortest kids in his class currently. Tossing the orange suit onto his bed Naruto swept his sleeping cap off his head and shucked his night-shirt. Dragging on one of the black shirts he wore under the orange fabric the boy then grabbed the orange pants and dragged them on. They were short, the cuffs only just barely reaching the top of his ankle. The coat was no better, feeling rather tight across the chest and shoulders, on top of not quite reaching his wrists. Shrugging Naruto started back towards the kitchen, he'd have to do laundry soon.
Running a hand through his hair Naruto grimaced at the amount of dirt and feathers that were knocked free. Darting to the bathroom he shed his top again and rinsed his hair out as well as he could in the sink. Combing his fingers through the once again yellow hairs Naruto smiled back at himself in the mirror. The sounds of water boiling drew a growl from his stomach. Racing to the kitchen the boy quickly poured water into three instant ramen cups and stacked them. Snatching a pair of chopsticks in one hand and the stacked ramen in the other Naruto threw open his door and charged into the bright morning. Scarfing down ramen as his feet pushed him at a quick pace along the roof-tops towards the academy.
As he enjoyed the divine treat, that he had for almost every meal of every day, Naruto pondered what he would do in class today.
'Anything but chakra training would be awesome. Maybe we'll get to do taijutsu today? I bet I could kick Sasuke's annoying face in that! Heh, Sakura will notice that for sure, then she'll give up on that prick and we can date and I'll have a friend!' letting that thought play out a little further Naruto decided to ignore the fact that he didn't even know what a date was, except something that a guy and a girl did together. He was really hoping they did taijutsu training now, tossing the empty ramen cups onto a stall Naruto took off as the manager roared out in protest, flashing his trademark grin as the chase was on.
Ducking a diving through stalls Naruto left a trail of mayhem behind him, never directly responsible for knocking something over or causing people to run into each other. Sure he may nudge a watermelon a few inches to the right so the stall owner would trip over it as they tried to catch him, but he didn't throw it at them or push them over it. After a few minutes of wrecking havoc along main-street just to keep himself in peoples minds Naruto ducked down an alley, easily loosing the civilians in the winding back-streets and had just enough time to reach the academy doors before class started.
Waving at the silent shadow perched on the roof as the door shut behind him Naruto headed for the classroom as the bell rang. Remembering today was the day he was going to kick Sasuke in the face Naruto broke into his usual grin and practically ran over Shikamaru and Choji in his haste to get inside.
"Oi! Watch it idiot, you practically ran me over. So Troublesome" Shikamaru muttered, pushing himself back off the wall and resuming his slouching walk.
"Dang it Naruto, you almost crushed my BBQ chips." Choji added, grabbing another handful of the mentioned snack and glaring half-heartedly at the orange bundle of excitement.
"The bell rang!" Naruto practically shouted as he leapt completely over Ino in the front row to get to his customary spot in the middle of the second row on the left side. "You should be in your seats, idiots. And your chips are fine Choji, you got four other bags anyway!"
"That's not the point Naruto. You should be more careful where food is involved is all." Choji grumbled before breaking into a grin. "Your in a good mood today."
"Course I am! Today is gonna be Fantastic!" the blonde shot back.
"Damn it Naruto, stop being so loud!" Ino shouted as she turned around to face him. "You might bother Sasuke!"
"Your being way louder then me." the shorter haired blond pointed out as his hands slipped behind his head.
"SHUT UP NARUTO! No one wants to hear your stupid voice. Since when did you care about following the rules anyway?" Sakura roared from the other side of the room, Ino quickly noticed her rival was closer to Sasuke then her and practically flew out of her seat.
"Move, Kiba." she ordered to the boy as he sprawled over the desk-top, her voice overpowering Naruto's attempt to continue his shouted discussion with Sakura. Kiba's white puppy, Akamaru, looked at the girl from his perch on his owners head and yipped once before shifting to purposely ignore her.
"I said MOVE!" Ino pressed as she dragged on Kiba's arm. "Sasuke doesn't want to smell dog the whole day." her vigorous dragging finally managed to move the boy. However she somehow managed to drag him on top of her as she stumbled backwards, leading to the whole class, minus Sasuke, to make catcalls and whistle.
"Glad to see your all so enthusiastic today." Mizuki said as he strolled in, open folder in his hand. "Now if you could all take your seats we can get started." there was a couple seconds of scuffling before Kiba threw his arms up in disgust and slunk over to Ino's abandoned seat while the triumphant blond latched onto Sasuke's right arm, promptly followed by Sakura snatching his left in a death-grip.
"How can I take notes now?" Sasuke muttered in a dark tone, both girls immediately flushed red and dropped his arms like snakes.
"If your all done now?" Mizuki asked, looking directly at Sakura and Ino as the pair studied the grain of the wood desk-top in front of them. "Good, today we will be working on your chakra control." at this there was a chorus of moans, loudest from one orange-clad blond.
"But I'm suppose to kick Sasuke's butt in taijutsu today!" Naruto practically exploded.
"Like you could even touch him, dead last." Sakura scoffed, ogling her Sasuke again.
"I totally would! And then we can go out Sakura!" Naruto retorted.
"WHAT! No way, I'm totally devoted to Sasuke!" the pinkette sneered.
"Only cause he's the top in the class! I'm totally cuter then that goth!" snickers erupted from the males, again minus Sasuke, while Ino and Sakura practically shrieked in disapproval to Naruto's boast.
"No-one will be kicking anyone's butt today, Naruto. And we aren't addressing personal tastes in clothing." Mizuki stated. "How about you start us off with this practice."
Sticking his hands in his pocket Naruto made his way slowly to the front of the class, letting his displeasure be obvious to all. Reaching Mizuki he sighed and tried to listen to the instructions. Today was not going how he planned.
"Do your best, Naruto." the tiny dark girl hidden in her over-large beige jacket in the corner of the top row whispered, if it was loud enough for Shino (seated next to her) to hear he didn't show it. She noticed her index fingers were pushing together right in front of her chest and quickly hid them under the table. Glancing up Hinata checked to see if anyone noticed her breach in etiquette. Luckily everyone seemed focused more on listening to the instructions for the chakra training. Except for Shikamaru, but he was sleeping instead of paying attention to anything. Peeking quickly Hinata spied a few objects on the teachers table. A few pencils, and a small spool of thread.
"... So the objective of this test is to hold the object suspended." Mizuki placed the back of his hand over one of the pencils and lifted it away. The weight stayed firmly attached to the back of his hand as he continued his explanation. "Like so, we will be using the back of the hand so that I'm sure your actually holding it with chakra, even though channeling through the back of the hand is more difficult then through the palm. Alright, go ahead Naruto." the object dropped back to the table as Mizuki stepped back and let Naruto move closer.
A look of intense concentration formed on Naruto's face as he focused on gathering his chakra. After a few seconds he laid the back of his hand on a pencil and took a deep breath.
"Come on Naruto. You can do it!" Hinata cheered in her mind, causing a blush to creep out on her face. If only she could actually say it, that thought turned the slight pink into a deep red as her hands were suddenly in front of her with her index fingers touching.
Realizing she had stopped watching Naruto made the young Hyuga almost jump as she quickly focused back on the recipient of her silent affections. Naruto's eyes were drawn tight and a frown was plastered on his face as he tried again and again to imitate Mizuki's achievement with little success. Occasionally the pencil would raise with his hand for a moment, but inevitably would clatter quietly back onto the table before his hand moved more then half a foot. The snickering in the classroom grew into full blown laughter as Naruto continued to fail spectacularly at the task they had been practicing since their second year in the academy.
"Your trying so hard Naruto, I know you can do it." Hinata encouraged, her voice didn't seem to work while all the blood in her body was trying to crowd into her head. "Why can't I just say that! Why am I such a failure, I don't deserve to encourage Naruto. I should just disappear." the blush started to recede as her thoughts darkened. The image of her father and cousin standing before the rest of her clan staring at her with disgust and shame forced her head down as she stammered a quiet apology for her weakness and break in conduct. Shino didn't seem to notice.
"Right, good effort Naruto" Mizuki threw the compliment before shooing Naruto back to his seat, the student himself with his hands behind his head with a smile on his face as he complained about missing breakfast so that was why he couldn't do it. A wave of mostly well-meant teasing followed the grinning boy back to his chair before Mizuki continued.
"Lets move on. Sakura, would you kindly go next?" the pink haired student flipped her long hair, making sure some of it passed into Sasuke's line of vision no doubt, before making her way down to the teachers desk. Taking just a heartbeat to focus she effortlessly picked up the pencil, then the spool of thread.
"Excellent control as always Sakura." Mizuki stated in a friendly manner. " Try holding just the end of the thread."
Nodding Sakura narrowed her eyes as she focused on just the end of the thread, after a moment the rest of the spool fell away, unraveling as it traveled to the floor. Hinata realized she was glaring at the pinkette and the thin line of white thread that dangled from the back of her hand. Quickly she corrected her newest breach in conduct while offering another apology.
"I hope Naruto is ok." Hinata glanced at the boy in question, blushing a little as she admired how his shoulders threatened to burst out of his jacket. No other boy in the class dressed like that, and her blush deepened again as she realized who's shoulders she was thinking about.
After Sakura flounced back to her seat, obviously pleased with herself, the rest of the class began to rotate through the test. While most were able to at least hold any of the objects several (Kiba, Choji, and Shikamaru.) were unable or unwilling to repeat Sakura's performance with the spool of thread. Ino's nose was particularly high when she picked up both the pencil and thread at the same time, and Hinata was sure the blond was sneaking looks at Sasuke the whole time.
Finally everyone else had gone. Knowing it was her turn Hinata still waited for Shino to glide back up to his seat, using the extra time to sneak a few more glances at Naruto as he fiddled with a sheet of paper torn from his notebook. He was doodling something, though she could only see "Mega awesome Hokage" and something that looked like "Give me the hat Old man".
"Hinata." Mizuki called, drawing a startled squeak from the Hyuga heiress.
"Y-yes?" she asked, fingers pushing back and forth in her lap.
"It's your turn, Hinata." the teacher reminded.
"Oh!" Hinata exclaimed, turning a brilliant shade of red under her black-blue hair. Quickly stumbling to her feet the girl practically tripped down the stairs in her haste to reach the floor. Kiba snickered quietly as Akamaru woofed something only the dogs owner could understand.
"S-sorry." the girl apologized, bowing deeply to her teacher when she finally reached the desk.
Mizuki merely waved her towards the scattered objects and clicked his pen. Taking a deep breath Hinata focused on a mental image of her chakra network. The brilliant blue tubes and points of her chakra coils that only the Hyuga, with there bloodline limit the 'Byakugan' could actually see in reality. Pulling a small clump of glowing blue chakra from the center of herself Hinata forced it through the delicate network till it rested on the back of her hand. Lowering the appendage to the table she slowly started releasing the chakra, letting it drift around the pencil before she held it still.
"Please be right, I can do this. I won't fail this time, not this time." Hinata prayed as she slowly lifted her hand, sighing as the pencil remained glued to the back of her delicate skin.
"Excellent job." Mizuki mentioned without really looking up, the comment was still enough to startle the shy girl into dropping the pencil with a clatter.
Blushing furiously and hanging her head Hinata retreated before anyone could comment on her lack of control. Scurrying to her seat the timid girl tried to disappear. She was such a failure, how could anyone like her. Furtively sneaking a look around Hinata sighed as her mood hit an all-time low for the day, the whole class was so ashamed that they weren't even laughing or making fun of her. Staring down at the floor Hinata wished it would swallow her up.
The rest of the class passed in a daze, she remembered parts of the lecture. Naruto got up somewhere during the period and professed his love to Sakura while kneeling on the desk in front of her. Sakura was less then amused and made that rather clear to the dense blond, in a rather physical manner. Somehow that turned into a mini-brawl that dragged Ino, Kiba, and Choji into it as well before Mizuki was able to separate the exuberant children. Naruto's later attempt to sneak out the window was easily stopped and he spent the rest of the class period with a glower on his face sitting tied up on the floor. Even tied up however, the class clown managed to maneuver himself under Mizuki's feet and disrupted the class on several occasions.
When the lunch bell finally rang the blond started frantically rolling around demanding to be cut loose or he would "Die of hunger!" from lack of ramen. Of course his struggling to draw attention only prolonged the efforts to release him from the expertly tied knots. When he was finally freed (through the efforts of Mizuki, Kiba, and surprisingly Shino.) the boy practically threw himself out the window in his haste to leave.
Watching the retreating orange figures back Hinata sighed and rose to leave. In her daze the girl accidentally knocked over her school bag, and when scrambling to catch it disturbed Shino's supplies as well. Stammering apologies to thin air the fragile child bent down to start collecting the scattered papers, pencils, and notes. After a few moments Hinata had gathered the fallen items and was laying them out, sorting her own notes from Shino's, when the classroom door opened.
"Mizuki! Glad I caught you." Iruka, the scared senior tutor stated cheerfully. "I wanted to go over our team recommendations with you one more time."
"Sure thing. Let me see if I have the notes I was preparing." there was some shuffling before a happy cry as Mizuki continued. "Here they are! Now lets see. There is the obvious team of Shikamaru, Ino and Choji. Their parents made an excellent group and I don't see why they couldn't do so as well. Their abilities work far to well in tandem to not recommend they be placed together."
There was a grunt of approval from Iruka before Mizuki continued. "Then there is the Sasuke issue, the boy is practically doomed to have Naruto on his team unless the boy practically triples his scores on the written and weapon portions of the exam, if the boy passes at all. If he doesn't I'd recommend placing Kiba with him. Sasuke's scores are the best we've had in years and while Kiba fares horribly on written exams, he is one of the few students who could hope to keep up with him physically at this point. That would leave Hinata, Sakura, and Shino to form the last team, their scores are all very high in academics and acceptable in other areas."
Hinata's face fell, hidden behind the desk as her thoughts whirled. "I won't be on a team with Naruto." not that the young girl had really expected to be teamed up with him, that would be far more wonderful then she deserved. Besides, she didn't even know if he would want a failure like her on his team. Despite his low scores Hinata was sure Naruto was going to be a great ninja, if nothing else he never let himself be dragged down. He would always bounce back with twice the enthusiasm and determination every time he failed. Not like her, she would never be able to do anything like that.
"How about if Naruto passes? His test scores are finally in the passing range, he is physically capable of rivaling Sasuke, his only stumbling block will be the ninjutsu portion of the exam." Iruka questioned, snapping Hinata's attention away from her gloomy thoughts.
"If he passes? Well even with his physical prowress I suspect we'll need to assign Sasuke and the next highest overall student just to even out the teams. Naruto has never been... good at chakra control. Lets see... The team I would suggest at the moment would be Sasuke, Sakura, and Naruto provided he passes. Yes, I'd go with that unless Hinata manages to pass Sakura on their overall scores. Having two team-mates with blood-line limits might also help offset Naruto." Mizuki relayed his thoughts in very practical manner.
"Sounds right. So our team suggestions are: Shikamaru, Choji, and Ino for team 10. Sasuke, Naruto, and either Sakura or Hinata for team 7. Then Kiba, Shino, and whichever of the girls is left after balancing team 7 for team 8. Solid planning Mizuki, I'll start drafting the paperwork tonight." Iruka was about to leave when there was a shout from the playground.
"IRUKA!" the teacher's head snapped around and her raced to the window.
"WHAT!" he bellowed.
Kiba's voice drifted in through the open window, just loud enough for Hinata to hear. "Naruto's being an idiot again. He just splattered paint all over the Hokage mountain. Some chunin are chasing him right now."
"NARUTO!" Iruka roared, jumping through the window. "What the hell are you doing on school time! On MY time!"
Hinata went back to sorting the jumble of papers in her hands, wondering what kind of trouble Naruto would be in for the later half of the day with Iruka. When the stacks were finally separated the tiny girl placed Shino's papers back where she had disturbed them from and neatly placed her's back in her satchel. She got back up to her feet before a sudden epiphany hit her like a ton of bricks.
"If I get a better score then Sakura I'll be on Naruto's team!" The thought of spending every day with the blond-haired, blue-eyed, boy with whisker birth-marks however, catapulted the girl directly from consciousness to oblivion. Though before her mind totally shut down she felt something foreign, a sense of purpose and determination that had never been there before.
"HEY!" Iruka shouted as he landed on the roof-top where a pair of chunin had cornered the orange dare-devil on. "I'll take it from here."
The pair turned towards him for a moment before one of the two figures started to walk away. The other stalked up to Iruka, clearly in a bad mood.
"The brat needs to be taught a lesson about respect. Look what he did to the Hokage mountain!" the chunin raged.
Keeping down the urge to snarl and say things that might be taken the wrong way Iruka simply gave an "I'll handle it." and walked towards his student. Naruto was leaning against a stairwell door, arms wrapped around his ribs and a stubborn look plastered on his face.
"Come on Naruto. We'll clean this up after class." Iruka stated, waving a hand at the red designs that now decorated the giant Hokage faces carved from the mountain behind the village.
"I don't want to. Besides, its proof of how amazing I am. Who else could do that!" Naruto declared, turning slightly away.
"You should put all that enthusiasm into your homework instead of pranks Naruto. People look at your grades too you know." Iruka reasoned. "And painting all over the faces of the greatest ninja the village has produced isn't going to get you the right type of attention."
"But I'm gonna be a greater Hokage then any of them!" the boy shouted. "besides, they look way more cool like that." he added in a more quiet tone.
"Naruto..." Iruka sighed. "How about I take you out for ramen tonight?" the sheer joy that blossomed on the boys face almost made Iruka cry. Something so small shouldn't mean so much. He knew Naruto was mistreated, but it was never driven home quite so well except when his tiny offers sparked such a huge return.
"YEAH!" Naruto was practically dancing on the roof-top. "I hope class is done real soon, I can't wait Iruka!"
"AH ah ah. Not till we clean this up as well." gesturing back at the red paint Iruka folded his arms and looked down at the boy.
"No problem, I'll have it done in no time at all teacher." Naruto boomed, dragging a rag from one of his pockets he charged towards the giant red smears, fully intent on clearing them away as quickly as possible. Snatching the back of the boys collar Iruka sighed.
"We still have to go to class first Naruto." dragging the squealing, protesting child back to class Iruka couldn't help but smile. "Are you ready for the exam tomorrow?"
"I'm always ready, I'll ace that exam!" Naruto muttered, still trying to get away to clean up the paint that stood between him and his delicious ramen.
"Well then let me test you on the way back to the classroom, we've still got a few minutes before class starts." the older ninja stated.
"NOOOOOOOO! If we've got time for that we've got time to clean up that paint!" Naruto howled, prompting a laugh from his teacher.
"The paint isn't going anywhere Naruto. Humor me." Iruka pleaded.
The boy finally quit his attempts to escape with an exasperated sigh. "Fine teacher, ask your silly questions. Just know that your the one holding us up from getting ramen."
Shaking his head at how simple the boys mind was about some things Iruka started his questionnaire. Needless to say, Naruto was not ready for the exam. He would be lucky to get passing marks even. Iruka frowned slightly, pondering how to help his secretly favorite student.
"Hmmm, well you've gotten a few right Naruto. But how about you come study over at my house tonight?" Naruto put his heels down in shock, and Iruka was surprised to find he couldn't move the boy.
"Are... are you serious teacher?" Naruto asked, a look of shock plastered on his expressive face.
"Of course I am." Iruka replied. "We can go there right after we stop by Ichiraku's."
The chunin noticed something odd was happening to Naruto. There was a hungry, yet pleading look in his eyes that almost broke Iruka's heart. The boy seemed speechless and struck dumb, staring at Iruka like he was the Fourth Hokage re-incarnate.
"You... really mean that?" Naruto pressed, his normally boisterous attitude having vanished somewhere in the exchange. He seemed ready to break, fragile and so very, very small. Iruka couldn't help but curse Sarutobi's law. The law that isolated this unique and precious child from everyone. He couldn't help what he was, but that didn't stop the village as a whole from blaming him. That night, twelve years ago when a demon fox, the Kuubi, attacked. A force so strong it was considered a natural disaster, something that could not be fought, the only hope of survival was to pray that it somehow missed you. Hundreds of lives were lost that day, most notably the Fourth Hokage Minato Namikaze. It was the fourths sacrifice of his own life that kept the casualties in the hundreds instead of thousands. His efforts to seal the fox into the child standing in front of Iruka now all that saved the village from total devastation.
And for Naruto's sacrifice of becoming the container for the destructive energies that made up the Kuubi, instead of cheers of joy and thankfulness he received cold glares, carried the hatred from those who lost families and friends, and tried to become their shield even as they attempted to destroyed him themselves. He was a prankster and a troublemaker, but those times they chased and shouted at him were the only times he was acknowledged at all. A boy, filled to the brim with excitement, wonder, and curiosity who's only means of expression were crude jokes, wild boasts, and delinquent behavior.
If he wasn't causing trouble he was ignored, the boy couldn't even buy clothing or toys. The shopkeeper's would either ignore him at the counter, or call the ANBU to take him away so that the rest of their customers wouldn't have to tolerate him. Those few shopkeeper's that would deal with him charged outrageous prices, anywhere from three to seven times the price any other citizen would pay. Iruka had questioned the boy half-way during his first year in the academy why he was lacking paper, pencils, and only had half the shuriken and kunai he was required to bring. It was one of his most shameful and yet happy memories of Naruto.
"I can't afford them Teacher." the blond student said quietly, watching his feet draw lines in the dirt.
"Surely your stipend from the Hokage is enough to cover the basic supplies for the academy!" Iruka had practically exploded, figuring the troublesome boy had squandered the money on sweets or that dreadful ramen he was always going on about.
"I've tried, but buying the rest of my school supplies wouldn't leave me enough to pay the rent." Naruto continued. "My whole last check went into what I have with me. It will take me months to save enough to get all the kunai and shuriken. I can barely get brushes and ink! Besides, I don't have parents to buy the things I don't have anyway." Iruka was flabbergasted at how this new student was outright lying to his face. The prices he was listing were incredibly unrealistic, even buying the most expensive kunai in the village wouldn't cost half the average stipend for a child Naruto's age.
"I will be informing the Hokage about this, Naruto, your dishonesty is unsightly. I also expect you to have the remainder of your required items by tomorrow. Dismissed." pointing towards the door Iruka quickly noted down that he needed to talk with the Hokage about Naruto.
The raggedly dressed blond walked out slowly with his head down. Raging about students and their pity plays Iruka got back to work. Later that evening on his way to the Hokage tower Iruka heard a disturbance in one of the smaller book stores.
"But I have to have this! I can't train without it!" recognizing the high-pitch cries of the student he had talked with earlier that day Iruka ghosted up to the entryway to investigate.
Naruto was standing at the counter holding the introductory book for academy students. The shopkeeper was leaning on the bar with a less-then-friendly smile with his hand out.
"And I told you that the book would be 1800 ryo." the slightly balding man behind the counter replied, still holding his hand out.
"But... I don't have 1800 ryo." the small blond replied, staring down at his feet.
"Then I can't sell you that book. That's too bad, now would you leave my shop already brat?" the man returned, crossing his extended arm over the other and staring darkly at the boy.
"Could I... maybe pay some now and the rest later?" Naruto asked, his obvious acceptance of the inevitably negative reply already showing.
"No, now get out already before I call the police." the man said without a pause, pointing firmly at the door. "I don't deal with 'your' kind."
Nodding the boy placed the book back on the large rack of duplicate items and shuffled towards the door. Iruka quickly slipped into the crowd and waited for the blond to start his slow march to the next store. Ducking into the store quickly Iruka grabbed the same book and walked to the counter.
"How much?" he questioned, laying the item on the counter.
"Sale on those today, sir. Only 800 ryo a book. Your kid accidentally drop theirs in a puddle already?" the shopkeeper said in a friendly manner as he started clacking away with the register.
"Thank you, that's all I needed to hear." Iruka said, barely suppressing his anger. Turning on his heel the chunin stalked out into the light and started looking for the distinctive blond-hair of his student.
"Sir! You forgot the book!" the man called from the counter, Iruka replied with a less-then-publicly-appropriate figure gesture as he finally spotted Naruto shuffling out of another store.
Pushing through the throng towards the small boy Iruka was reminded of his own dark past. His parents had been killed in the Kuubi's attack, and while he was loth to admit it, he may have been taking some of that anger out on the boy. His own struggles through the ninja academy were difficult, but at least he had received far more fair prices then this out-right robbery that seemed to follow Naruto. Catching up he dropped a hand lightly on the child's thin shoulder and winced as he practically leaped out of his skin trying to escape. World-weary, accusing blue eyes met his own as the boy vibrated, torn between the desire for contact and fear of rejection and pain.
Iruka was ashamed of himself to say the least. He was a teacher, fairly new, but no excuse to not look out for the children placed in his care. He had no reason to doubt the boy in front of him, he had done it without thinking, instantly assuming the worst from the boy who sacrificed the most seven years ago.
"I realized I still have some of my old academy things laying around." Iruka began, an idea fermenting in his mind. "Since I don't have much use for it these days do you think you could use them for me?"
Deep in those dead blue eyes something sparkled to life, like the tiniest spot of light at the end of a horribly long tunnel. Suspicion was painted all over the boy's face, and Iruka's temper grew blacker as he realized he wasn't the first to offer the boy something, but he was probably the only one who had meant it.
"Tell you what, lets go get some food. I'll bring what I have to school tomorrow alright? So you won't have to worry about what I said earlier. That sound good?" the boy gave a tiny nod as suspicion was buried, not extinguished, but hidden under disbelief. "Excellent, now where should we go eat?" Iruka asked.
The tiny boy's hand twitched, almost like he wanted to grab something, before he turned and lead the way to a small out of the way ramen bar called Ichiraku's. Pushing the cloth out of his way Iruka took one of the bar seats as Naruto clambered his way onto another. The owner came out of the back almost as soon as they were seated.
"Ah! Welcome back Naruto!" the slightly overweight cook cheered. "I'm glad you came back to grace my ramen bar! Keep this up and you just might be my best customer!" the mans enthusiasm seemed boundless as he quickly laid out menu's and chopsticks for the two diners. "Now what can I get for you today?"
Iruka quickly ordered a beef ramen and then turned to study Naruto as the boy's eyes haltingly covered the menu almost larger then his torso. He also made a note to test the boy's reading and comprehension skills the next day. After a few minutes Naruto laid the menu on the table and pointed to the miso ramen.
"Alrighty, one beef and one miso ramen coming right up!" the man stated as he swept the menu's into his hands and turned back to the kitchen.
Several slightly awkward minutes of watching Naruto fiddle with his chopsticks later the man returned, sliding two steaming hot bowls of noodles before the pair. Naruto clasped his hands and bowed his head for a moment before snapping the chopsticks apart and plunging them into the frothy dinner.
"Wait a minute Naruto." Iruka interupted the boy. "Your suppose to say 'thank you for the food' before you dig in." once again the deep blue eyes regarded him with suspicion, begging not to be hurt but expecting the cruelty to come regardless.
Slowly putting his hands together again Naruto repeated the phrase, and immediately glanced around as if expecting someone to attack him. Iruka felt a wrenching sensation in his chest at such a terrified habit from what should be an innocent and inquisitive creature. Satisfied nothing ill had happened Naruto resumed his interrupted meal. Iruka almost forgot his own until the boy finished and looked pointedly at it. Startling slightly the chunin quickly preformed the ritual and began to eat.
"Well I'll be, you finished that one faster then the last Naruto!" the cook was back. "How about another?" his grin grew even wider at Naruto's hesitant nod.
Before Iruka was even half-way done there was a second bowl warming the table in front of his student, with a tall glass of tea chilling nearby. Naruto made sure he said thanks for the food before beginning to eat. After a moment he looked over at Iruka and then back at the glass of tea, the question obvious on his ever-expressive face. Mouth full of noodles, surprisingly good noodles he had to admit, Iruka nodded and the child quickly took a long drink. The rest of the meal past uneventfully but the cook called Iruka before they could leave.
"Wait right there, Naruto." Iruka said before returning to the counter.
"I'm not a man of... flowery words or hidden meanings." the cook said quietly. "And as glad that I am the boy found someone else who doesn't seem to want to beat him to death, I'm questioning your reasons."
Iruka considered his words carefully for a moment before replying.
"I'm an instructor at the academy and Naruto is one of my newest students. I was rather rough with him the last couple days, but that was before I discovered how... outrageous some of the village's behavior towards him has been. I... had a... similar situation growing up and now that I understand what he is going through a little better I intend to do what I can to rectify my earlier coarseness. Though now I fear I have to ask your own reasoning for being more open-minded then the majority of our village." slightly winded from the long speech Iruka fixed the cook with his gaze.
"My name is Teuchi, I came here to Konoha with my daughter Ayame from Amegakure. The constant warring was far to dangerous for me to raise a child in. I only wish I had left before my wife..." emotion was vivid on the mans face, and easily heard in his trembling voice. "I hope my daughter will forgive me... But back to Naruto. I set up shop here last year. While Konoha is very prosperous starting a new business is... difficult. Naruto was one of my first customers, and somehow having him around made some of my more... vocal critics hesitant to stick around. I can't see why anyone in their right mind wouldn't want such a charming boy around, especially when he has done so much for them at such a terribly young age. Needless to say, such a special boy will always be my best and most welcome customer." Teuchi ended with a smile and a twinkle in his eye.
Nodding to himself Iruka had to agree. He had only really spent a few class periods and this afternoon with the boy, but even he could tell that the constant degradation of Naruto was excessive in the least.
"I'm glad you've been there for him." Iruka said as he turned to leave.
"I'm happier that the boy's heart is big enough to take everything that has happened." Teuchi returned. "And with you looking out for him too I think he'll achieve his dreams." waving the cook returned to his product while Iruka stepped out to comfort the lonely child who stood, waiting for him.
"A bigger heart then anyone could guess." Iruka thought as he smiled down at the boy.
"I'll walk you home, Naruto." He said, noticing the boys hand twitch again before he nodded and started walking.
Pondering the significance of the repeated motion Iruka fell in step with the child as they wandered through the village. Walking down the dusty road Naruto led him through several twists and turns, sometimes on a main road, sometimes an alley. Once he even clambered up to a roof to cross where there was no alley. Finally they reached a shabby, run-down apartment building and the boy turned to him again, only this time there was a smile warm enough to melt rock shining from his face.
"Thank you Iruka. The noodles were delicious. I'll be sure to come to class on time tomorrow." the smile faded slightly as Naruto's gaze drifted down to Iruka's hand. His own small one twitched again and Iruka suddenly realized what it was.
Kneeling down the scared chunin reached out his large fingers and grasped the small, warm digits of his student. The shock and wonder that spread out on the boys face was simply too much for Iruka to take. Pulling the boy close he held him as Naruto started to shiver, then sniffle, and finally to cry. Gently rocking the boy back and forth in the dirty street Iruka was reminded of how much he had wished for someone to do the same after his own parents were taken from him.
Shaking the memories from his sight Iruka got back to the task at hand. Smiling that warm heartfelt smile that only Naruto seemed able to drag out of him he extended his hand. Here, hidden on the rooftops of their beloved, ignorant Konoha he took the boys hand again.
"Yes, we'll study all night and I'm sure you'll pass the exam with flying colors." Naruto's smile, the real smile, not the mask he used in class, was something that still filled the older man with wonder.
Naruto will be slightly smarter. SLIGHTLY! He will never beat Shikamaru in Shogi, but he may trip him up with an unorthodox move from time to time.
Keep an eye on these end notes as I'll use them to cover questions I receive that I think might be asked by a large portion of my readers.
You probably noticed I don't use many Japanese words or suffixes (Iruka is called 'Teacher' instead of 'Iruka-sensei').
Basically I'm going to do 99.9% of this story in English (Sensei will be used for Jonin instructors, but will not be used as a suffix. Example; 'My Sensei is Kakashi'. not 'Kakashi-sensei'.) because I dislike finding random Japanese words (Kawaii, gomen, nani) here and there in fanfics (Your character speak Japanese/German/Italian/ect? Then it should be complete sentences. Have another character translate or send readers to google translator (not advised) but please don't butcher both languages.). I also do not feel comfortable writing the rest of the suffixes (-san, -chan, -kun, -sama, ect.) so I won't make -sensei the lone exception.
All techniques will be in English as well for similar reasoning (They shout the technique in their own language, so since we understand them talking there isn't really a reason the technique needs to be in a different language. Unless the person doing the technique is using a different language to confuse other characters or meet a requirement of the technique.
Hope this doesn't make anyone stop reading (just semantics really)!
Thanks for reading (remember, it gets newer after a few chapters, slow development!)