by May Wren
Uzumaki Naruto was determined that he wouldn't fail the Academy's graduation exam again. Failing once was more than enough for him. He'd been practicing the stupid bunshin everyday since his last failure, and was sure that this time would be different.
In another world even with all of his practice Naruto would have failed for the second time. But in this world, Umino Iruka caught a cold and had to stay home the day of the exams. And, where he would have failed Naruto for his inability to make clones, the other Academy teachers passed him. They might not have been able to kill him themselves for fear of the Sandaime's reprisal, but they could certainly get him into the field unprepared and let an enemy nin do their dirty work for them.
Ibiki had always been a loyal shinobi of Konoha. He'd been proud of his home, his village, his fellow ninja, and his Hokage. And he had never before allowed himself to contemplate deliberately disobeying one of the Hokage's commands.
Of course, he'd never thought that his Hokage was losing his mind before, either.
But senility was just about the only way the Hokage could actually think this would be a good idea.
"You're assigning me a Genin team?" Ibiki asked incredulously. "Me? A Genin team?"
"You did apply to be a Jounin-sensei," the Hokage reminded him.
"That was… at least ten years ago. Years before I became… well, what I am now," Ibiki said, thinking back to when he'd been a newly appointed Jounin. He'd been so naïve then.
"But you never withdrew the application," the Hokage said reasonably. Ibiki shook his head.
"This can't be happening," he muttered.
"Meet the team. Give them the final Genin test. Perhaps they will fail. Or perhaps you will find that teaching the next generation will not be so onerous as you think."
Ibiki repressed the sigh and glare both.
Ibiki looked at the three brats he'd been assigned with dismay. Two of them were squirming under his gaze. The third—the blonde fox-brat—only grinned at him stupidly. He was certain they were all going to fail his test. But the Hokage had ordered him to give it, so give it he would.
"My name is Morino Ibiki. I have been assigned as this team's presumptive Jounin-sensei," he said. "While you may have passed the Academy's graduation test to become Genin, you have not yet passed my test to become my Genin. If you fail, you will return to the Academy for another year."
The brunette boy shivered, and the girl turned red. The fox-boy just narrowed his eyes.
"That isn't fair!" the girl finally exploded.
"You've been training to be ninja," Ibiki responded. "Very little about life as a ninja is fair. My test is for you to each acquire as much information about the other members of this team as you can and report back to me before sunset. You may not assist each other."
"Does that include you?" the fox-boy asked, head cocked to the side. Ibiki gave a crooked grin, very glad one of the brats had brought it up so he wouldn't have to hint at it himself. It would be less suspicious that way, though he doubted any of these brats would have been thought any of it fishy no matter how he'd said it.
"Technically, I suppose," he said, rubbing his chin. "As Jounin-sensei, I would be considered a part of the team. However, I don't think a Genin would be able to find any information about me at all. It's been classified for longer than you've been alive. I'll tell you what, though. If you're able to find three pieces of accurate personal information about me, I'll give you an automatic pass regardless of how good or bad your reports on your teammates are."
All of their eyes lit up at the idea of an automatic pass. Just as he'd expected them to.
"You may begin now," he said. He watched amused as two of them took off running.
"Well?" he asked the fox-boy, who'd stayed behind and was watching him with eyes narrowed in thought.
"Will you tell me about yourself?" the brat asked. Ibiki raised his eyebrows in surprise. "Well, you never said how we had to get the information," the boy protested. "And you'd know more about yourself than anyone else would, right?"
"Alright, brat," Ibiki said. "I'll give you three pieces of information: I live in the ANBU headquarters. I torture people for a living. I'm the first shinobi in my family."
"Are they all the truth?" the boy asked, sounding suspicious. "I didn't think anybody lived at ANBU headquarters."
"At least one thing I told you is the truth," Ibiki said, beginning to think that perhaps the brat was smarter than he looked. "And at least one thing I told you is a lie. It's up to you to figure it out. You can't always trust a subject to tell you the truth, you know." The boy nodded.
"Are you gonna be here for the rest of the day, or are we gonna have to find you when we wanna give our reports?"
Ibiki grinned. This kid was definitely growing on him.
"I'll be waiting right here," Ibiki said. "You're only Genin, after all. Can't make this too hard."
Naruto shrugged and took off.
While he'd been questioning Ibiki, he'd also been memorizing his scent. So Naruto let his nose lead him. He'd never been able to figure out why, but his nose was kind of like a bloodhound's. He wondered sometimes if he wasn't related to the Inuzukas, but figured that was probably just wishful thinking.
He found the scent trail led him to what he knew was ANBU headquarters. Of course, it wasn't marked as such, and it was in a building remarkable only in its lack of remarkability. But there were too many shinobi around providing what was supposed to be discreet surveillance and security for the place to be anything other than the headquarters for something really sensitive.
Not to mention that he'd spent a not insignificant portion of his childhood there. He couldn't quite remember a time when the white-masked shinobi hadn't been a part of his life.
He pursed his lips, knowing they wouldn't let him in now without a good reason. And he doubted ANBU would think a Genin test was a good reason at all. So instead, he turned and headed to the teahouse across the street.
He plunked himself down at a table in front with a clear view of the building.
"Can I help you?" the shinobi already sitting at the table asked.
"A-hunh." Naruto nodded. "That would be great, Neko-chan. Could you tell me about Ibiki-sensei? He said he tortures people for a living, and lives in ANBU headquarters. But I think he's probably lying about living there, because nobody lives there."
"Of course nobody lives there… Wait, Ibiki-senpai told a new Genin that he's the head of ANBU's Torture & Interrogation Unit?" she asked, practically spitting out her tea.
"Well, kinda," Naruto said with a shrug.
"Hey, wait a minute, how do you know I'm Cat?" she said suspiciously. Naruto looked at her curiously, head tilted to one side.
"Why wouldn't I? It's just a mask," he said. Then he got up from the table. "Ja ne, gotta run, Neko-chan!" He gave a bright smile and a cheery wave and darted off, pleased he'd confirmed one truth and one lie of the three statements Ibiki had given him. He didn't notice the baffled look on Cat's face as he left.
He followed the streets surrounding the ANBU building until he picked up Ibiki's scent on an older trail. This time, it led to an apartment building not far away, and he followed it up to apartment 401. Naruto briefly debated the merits of breaking in, but decided that since Ibiki-sensei was a Jounin, it would probably take more time than he had just then.
So instead, he went down to the rental office. Peeking around the corner with a mirror, he found the landlord sitting at his desk with some papers. Perfect.
He quickly rigged a minor explosion in the street in front of the apartment building—small enough that it wouldn't cause any damage, but big enough that everyone would come running. He'd gotten very good at judging these things over the years. Then he snuck back as close to the rental office as he could get without being seen, and set it off remotely.
Sure enough, the landlord poked his head out of the office and darted towards the site. And Naruto exploited the opening. Nimble fingers made easy work of the filing cabinet locks as he looked for the records for apartment 401. He scanned and memorized the information without taking the time to process it, just as they'd been taught in the Academy. Then he carefully put the file back and locked the cabinet up and fled.
Naruto grabbed the pad from the carry-all strapped to his leg and began transcribing the information he'd memorized. He was pleased, as it seemed this particular landlord was quite detailed with his records. All for the better.
Then he began plotting his next move.
Ibiki scanned the reports two of the brats had given him. A full hour before sunset. The fox-brat had come back even earlier, but hadn't realized he wanted it written out. That he was still writing meant he was either making up more than the other two had, or that he'd actually found something. Ibiki knew which of the two he was betting on.
"Did either of you even make an attempt at the assignment?" Ibiki asked the two in front of him.
"Of course!" the boy protested. "But nobody will say anything about you at all. Nobody would even admit knowing who you were!"
"Yeah, it's like you don't have any friends. Even my mom said she didn't know you, and she knows everyone." The girl seemed mystified by that.
"Your assignment was to compile information on your team members. Where is the information about each other?"
He repressed a grin as they froze, clearly looking horrified.
"Nothing?" Ibiki asked. "I thought not. All you had to do was find information on two Genin to pass. Instead, you tried to get information you were told was highly classified. And you failed. Information is the single most important weapon of a ninja. Wars are won and lost on the ability to acquire the necessary pieces of information for you village. You have failed my test. You may go."
"That's not fair!"
"I told you. Life as a shinobi has very little to do with what is fair. Now leave, before I recommend you be removed from the shinobi program entirely."
Even as they left, Ibiki could hear them complaining to each other, and making plans to see what their parents could do to fix it for them. He shook his head. Even the Hokage would not ask him to change his mind on this, much less two Chuunin.
"Are you finished making your report up yet?" Ibiki asked the remaining Genin.
"Hey! I'm not making this up! I was just trying to write nice and that takes me a long time!"
Ibiki refrained from rolling his eyes. Barely.
"Show me what you've got, brat. You can give me the rest orally."
"I just finished anyway," Naruto muttered, rolling up the scroll and tossing it to him.
Ibiki opened it and began to read. And read.
It was… probably the most detailed dossier that existed on him outside of the Hokage's personal office. It had his job title listed as well as his office location; his current address and three previous addresses along with the names of his neighbors at each; bank account information, including routing numbers; salary; and a genealogy that went back five generations.
And he'd put together similar files on what would have been his teammates had they not been failed.
"Any reason the information on the two Genin is less detailed than the mine?" Ibiki was careful to modulate his voice so as not to frighten the boy. Because what he really wanted to do was find some of the security folks and start screaming at them.
"Oh. Well, you know, they're just kids. So there aren't as many places to look for things. Because, you know, they haven't done as much stuff. So do I pass?"
Ibiki looked everything over again.
"Come with me."
He grabbed Naruto by the shoulder and used a shunshin to get them to the Hokage's tower.
"Hey!" the kid protested. "It couldn't have been that bad!"
"Just shut up, kid. Come on."
Nobody dared stop Ibiki as he dragged Naruto by the arm up to the Hokage's office. And when they reached it, they were ushered in right away.
"Ibiki? What is this all about?"
"I didn't do anything wrong, Jiji!" Naruto yelled, trying to jerk his arm out of Ibiki's grip. "All I did was what he told me to! And…"
Ibiki smacked the back of his head.
"Sit there. Quietly," he ordered. "Please read this, Hokage-sama."
He handed over Naruto's scroll, and watched as the Hokage's eyebrows slowly inched up his forehead.
"Naruto put this together?"
"It was part of his stupid test," Naruto interrupted. "And he said I'd pass no matter what if I found three things out about him. But he brought me here instead, and I didn't do anything wrong this time."
"Nobody is accusing you of anything, Naruto," the Hokage assured him. "We just need to find out how you were able to find all of this out."
"You didn't give him the information?" Ibiki asked. It had been a possibility, no matter how remote. He'd heard the Hokage had favored this particular brat, and if he'd wanted the kid to pass badly enough…
The Hokage shook his head even as Naruto narrowed his eyes.
"Are you sure I'm not in trouble?" he asked.
"Even if you managed to break into my office to put this together, I promise you will not be in trouble," the Hokage said. "It was part of a training exercise asked of you by your Jounin-sensei. You have my word you will not be punished for this. Now, will you tell us?"
"Alright," Naruto said with a shrug. "So, I smell really good, right? And I can follow folks backwards for a while, so I followed Ibiki-sensei back to ANBU headquarters. And I might have, kind of, maybe tricked Neko-chan a little bit."
Ibiki noted the Hokage had to hold back a snort. He didn't blame him. The idea of a Genin tricking an ANBU was ridiculous. That it was true was only more so.
"And that's how I found out Ibiki-sensei was lying when he said he lives at ANBU, but that he was telling the truth that he tortures people for a living, 'cause she might have accidentally said that he might be in charge of ANBU's Torture and Interrogation. And when I've been in there before, I know that that isn't on any of the above ground levels, so it has to be in one of the basements." Naruto paused and looked to the Hokage. "Am I still not in trouble?"
"You're still not in trouble, I promise," the Hokage said. "Please continue with your story."
"Right. Um, then I followed the Ibiki-sensei-smell and went to his apartment. But I decided I didn't have enough time to try to get in."
Ibiki choked a bit on that, but managed to keep from coughing.
"But the rental manager was there, so I kind of might have created a tiny distraction…"
"Was this the explosion I got a report of?" the Hokage asked archly.
"It was a tiny explosion!" Naruto protested. "I made sure it didn't even make a pothole! And you promised I wouldn't be in trouble."
"Oh, you're not. I was just curious." Ibiki saw the Hokage was holding back a grin. He didn't know why, as the idea of the kid in front of him with explosives was somehow terrifying to him.
"Ok, good. Anyway, when the landlord guy went out to help, I snuck into his office and read the rental file. And that's where I got a lot of the information, since you gotta give rental references for your last residences, and income stuff, and since you have your rent taken right out of your bank account, I even got that. By the way, do you know that you haven't renewed your lease and it's gonna go to month-to-month next week? Because, you know, they charge you an extra ten percent when you're there out of lease."
Ibiki refrained from yelling at the boy. He could not, however, keep from grinding his teeth. Especially when the Hokage was no longer making any effort to hide how funny he was finding this.
"Um, guess you do," Naruto said, noticing how angry Ibiki looked. "So then I went to the Academy, because I had to get files on my teammates, too. And I know they keep all sorts of files on the students there, because the teachers are always showing me mine whenever I get in trouble. A lot of mine is blank—well, except for the trouble part—but I'm an orphan, so I figured kids with families would have loads more stuff. And they did. But then Tumi-sensei came in, so I had to quick hide it. And he was all, 'So they decided to make you into a messenger before you could do any harm, hunh?' And I was almost like, 'Nuh-un, I'm gonna be a Genin,' but then he was like, 'Glad the Hokage finally saw what a useless monster you are.' And then he gave me a big stack of files and told me to take them to the Shinobi Archive Center. So instead of totally kicking his ass I was like, score, because you can't get into the Shinobi Archive Center without a pass, and he had one right on top of the folders he gave me. And that's where I found all the rest of the stuff."
"I know my file there is completely blacked out," Ibiki said.
"Well, yeah, but it had your birthday. And there wasn't anything blacked out in Morino Idate's folder except for an older brother who just happened to have the same birthday. So, you know, that's just a little bit too much of a coincidence. And brothers would have all the same genealogical information. And neither of my teammates' information was blacked out." Naruto looked between the Hokage and Ibiki, chewing on his cheek. "So do I pass or what?"
Ibiki was officially a Jounin-sensei. He had one Genin, instead of the usual three. And he was still in charge of T&I.
Ibiki was not amused.
But, he supposed, what was done was done. He'd given his word, and Naruto had certainly earned his promised auto-pass. Now he just had to figure out what to do with the brat.
"So, what's this I hear about you getting a Genin team?"
Ibiki looked up from his desk to find Anko perched on the back of his visitor's chair, somehow managing to balance on it so that it didn't even wobble. She had some of the most amazing chakra control he'd ever seen outside of the medic-nin community.
"Not a team," Ibiki clarified. "Just one Genin."
"Oh? An apprentice?"
"No. The other two just failed. The last one… passed in a way I couldn't ignore so I have him for a year."
Anko eyed him curiously but didn't get a chance to ask.
"Ibiki-sensei? Ibiki-sensei? Are you here?" Naruto, bright orange jumpsuit and all, peered into the office. Ibiki couldn't think of any way he could look less like a ninja.
"Him?" Anko mouthed, eyes wide in shock.
"I thought I said I'd meet you at seven?"
"Um, yeah, but, you know, have you looked at a clock? It's eight thirty. So I came looking for you."
Anko started cackling, throwing her head back in laughter though the chair didn't tip even the slightest. Ibiki sighed and looked at the clock. He did always seem to get lost in the inevitable paperwork that came along with his position.
"Right," Ibiki said. "I was going to put this off until later, but since you're here, you can start filling these out." He grabbed a thick stack of papers from the top of a precariously balanced pile and shoved them at Naruto.
"What are they?"
"I work in ANBU, kid. And that means any student of mine is going to be exposed to a hell of a lot more classified shit than your average Genin. So your security clearance needs to be upped."
Naruto sighed and looked it over. "I bet I gotta use my good writing, too, don't I?"
"Of course. Or you'll have to do it all over again."
Naruto wilted a bit, and Ibiki strangely felt better.
"Wait here for me when you're finished. Do not come looking for me—there are areas in ANBU HQ that will get you killed for trying to explore. Understood?"
"Yeah, yeah," Naruto muttered, pulling a pen off Ibiki's desk to start. "Stay away from the pits and the dungeons and the dragons. Got it already."
"Good. Let's go, Anko."
He watched as she somehow tilted backwards off of the chair, landing on her feet without so much as rattling the chair, and wondered how she did it. Anko only grinned and followed him out the door.
Naruto found the paperwork far more challenging than he'd expected it to be. The first part had been easy enough—it was mainly signing various agreements, consent forms, and procedural acknowledgements.
But then there was this other part which made no sense at all. It didn't even seem to have anything to do with him. If anything, it looked like a half-finished evaluation of a clerk in the Hokage's office. He'd tried to ask Ibiki, to make sure that he was supposed to fill it out, but he'd just been told to finish everything he'd been given. And with the regulations on this sort of thing fresh in his mind from having to sign all of those stupid forms, he couldn't imagine Ibiki-sensei would have been so careless with somebody's evaluation.
The only thing Naruto could think of was that maybe this was an exercise of some sort, kind of like the team test had been.
So he did his best, using his dreaded good writing, to fill in what he could about the man. He'd certainly met him often enough when he'd been running (mostly tame) through the Hokage Tower when he'd been younger.
Then he brought it all to Ibiki-sensei. He glanced through it, then froze when he came to the end, beginning to read carefully.
"Where did you get this, gaki?" he asked. Naruto scrunched his nose.
"It was in the stupid papers you gave me," Naruto protested. So nyeh, he added mentally, not quite brave enough to add it aloud.
"Did you make this up?"
"Nah." Naruto shrugged. "I used to follow that guy around a lot when I was a kid. He worked in the Hokage Tower then, and he wasn't very nice to me. So I might have, maybe , sometimes, occasionally played a tiny little prank or eight on him."
The look Ibiki gave him said he wasn't buying it.
"We're going to have to teach you how to lie better," Ibiki said. Naruto gave a mental cheer. He'd always sucked at lying.
Seeing Naruto's elation, Ibiki frowned. A shinobi should not show his emotions so openly.
"… We're going to have to teach you a lot of things."
After a year, Ibiki wasn't sure how he felt about handing Naruto off to some other Jounin. On the one hand, T&I was no place for a twelve year old. On the other hand, Ibiki had just gotten him to the point where the brat was actually a useful shinobi.
And he really didn't want to deal with Anko's complaining when the brat was gone. Turned out, she'd gotten a little attached to the kid after he'd asked her to help him with chakra control.
On the third hand (which Ibiki had often found himself needing while dealing with Naruto), it turned out that a Naruto who was trained in the Shinobi mind arts was a complete pain in the ass.
"You ready for your new team?" Ibiki asked him. Naruto shrugged.
"It'll be different."
Which, Ibiki supposed, was true enough without giving up any information at all.
He was so proud of his little protégé.
"Who's your Jounin sensei?"
The entertainment factor of Kakashi trying to wrap his head around the insanity that was Naruto tipped the scales in favor of sending his little hellion off into the world.
"I'll have to wish the poor bastard luck," he told his erstwhile apprentice. "Now get outta here."
Naruto grinned and gave him a flippant salute before disappearing.
Ibiki went to ANBU headquarters to make a bet on how long before Kakashi broke.