Reap the Whirlwind
By Ozzallos

Chapter TWO

Iruka Umino sighed as the students around him chitter with excitement and congratulations, giving them their moment in the sun before calling the classroom back to some semblance of order. "Settle down! I'm sure the others would like to know their teams?"

The din dropped several decibels as anticipation gripped the students. Iruka smiled, and gave a nod to his counterpart. Mizuki chuckled and took the next team appointment for himself, reading the scroll aloud. "Team six will consist of-"

He never got a chance to finish. The door to the classroom was suddenly kicked open and a tagged kunai tossed just in front of their desk, where it stuck point first. The tag on the end burnt down even as the pair realized what they were looking at.


Iruka kicked the desk up for improvised cover on instinct as he screamed the order to his students. It exploded almost instantaneously, filling modest space with smoke and an all but deafening crack. As soon as he realized the concussive thump wasn't an explosion the instructor pulled a kunai for offensive action and signed a single handed jutsu. A high frequency sonar pulse pinged the room and localized all six invaders in spite of the smoke, and he prepared to engage when the lightest touch of steel found a home upon his neck.

"This is an official ANBU sanctioned operation Umino-san." An unseen female's voice whispered in his ear. "Please stand down."

And if it wasn't officially sanctioned, I'd be dead, Iruka reasoned and slowly re-sheathed his blade. The steel at his throat was likewise removed, and he jerked around, finding a cat masked ANBU nin in full body armor, katana in hand. The smoke was clearing and he turned back to the last known location of the other ANBU, finding all six with blades resting on some portion of the petrified Mizuki's body. The students were only now beginning to peek out from behind their desks with wide eyes.

"I would inquire as to an explanation, ANBU-san," Iruka requested with more calm in his voice than he was actually feeling at the moment. The cat shock trooper considered the request.

"Instructor Kuga is being taken into custody for high treason." She explained without going into detail. The students watching produced scandalous gasps.

"Iruka-kun! I didn't do anything! Tell- urk!" A kunai dug fractionally deeper into the front of his neck, silencing him immediately with the demonstrated threat.

"Ah, there must be some mistake," The classroom's home teacher attempted to reconcile the matter. "Mizuki-san has always been a professional for as long as-"

"We have ample evidence," The cat ANBU shook her head, and gave the signal to the others, who promptly yanked the former nin instructor up and bound his movements with a restraining seal. "Please direct any further inquiries to the Hokage-sama himself or the Team Seven instructor."

And that was it.

She stepped around him and led the team out, who in turn bodily dragged their whimpering target from the classroom without further discussion while every student eye watched them leave; half his class very nearly gaping in shock. Even the remaining instructor stared in disbelief for a moment before his professionalism reasserted itself.

"Ah... Ahem," Iruka put a hand to his mouth, clearing his throat. His student's wide eye stares were slowly drawn back to his person. He glanced down to his overturned desk and the materials scattered across the immediate floor with a sigh, singling out a half open scroll strewn at his very feet. He bent down to collect it, rolling through its contents before coming to the point former academy instructor Mizuki Kuga had left off at. "Alright then. Team Six: Igo Tabana, Nodoka Oiriko and Kendo Ichiha, your instructor is Hamaki Mimura. Report to training ground eight ASAP."

The normal exuberance that would normally accompany the proclamation was subdued to the point of nonexistence with the initial interruption, and the three newly minted genin shuffled out of the room with a minimum of fanfare. His eyes read to the next entry and he began to read it aloud, stopping short as he realized exactly what the contents were.

"Sasuke Uchiha, Hinata Hyuuga and Sakura..." Iruka stalled as he came to the next team number in sequential order; the very same one that had apparently something to do with ordering the hit on Mizuki himself. He ground his jaw down in silent frustration since even the would-be instructor's name had been omitted from the roster. His study flicked up to the three students in question, all of which had wide eyes while the rest of the class stared at them, undoubtedly contemplating their extreme misfortune as much as he was. The academy instructor coughed in a lame attempt to cover his own gaff.

"Sasuke Uchiha, Hinata and Sakura Haruno; Team Seven. Report to..." Iruka paused again, unable to believe what he was reading. "Ahem. Report to the top of the Hokage Monument and await further instructions."

Two females and one male remained rooted to their seats, either unable or unwilling to move in the face of such a bad omen. Even Sakura's blond rival remained silent, unsure as to whether she should curse the girl for being on the same team as Sasuke or cheer her poor luck. Their mutual instructor, on the other hand, shook his head in sympathy. "I would assume that means now."

It was an understandably tense walk to the monument.

Like her best friend slash rival, Sakura was ecstatic to learn she would be on the same team as the most sought after boy in the academy. Even better, she was now virtually unopposed with Hinata opposite of her. It was all but common knowledge the girl had no interest in the Uchiha, and while strange, it made for Sakura's incredibly good fortune...

...Fortune marred by the fact that their sensei apparently had no problems using the ANBU and extreme force to make people disappear. It was also the beginning of a disturbing trend in that it was the second time in less than two days she had witnessed a removal of another nin with her own eyes. And where the hell is the orange idiot, anyway? Not that she was horribly upset by the prankster's absence as it removed yet another irritant from her daily routine, but the absence was odd, especially given the unusual ANBU activities to date.

It all gave her the creeps, an emotion she tried to expunge through nervous conversation. "So... Do you know who our new instructor is, Sasuke-kun?"

The Uchiha's cool gaze flicked over to the pink haired girl keep pace with him for a fraction of a second before dismissing her entirely. For himself, the display of power caused the slightest wellspring of anticipation. ANBU activities sanctioned by the Hokage and their instructor? Potentially terrifying, yes, but also potentially fortuitous to be learning from somebody with that much pull and not afraid to use the power he was given. It would ultimately aid in his goal, and anything that did was tolerable...

...Even if he didn't have a damn clue as to who that person actually was.

"How about you, Hinata-chan?" Sakura asked after it became obvious no conversationally useful response would be forthcoming from Sasuke. Much to her consternation, Sakura Haruno would come to realize that neither one of her teammates were the talkative sort.

For Hinata's part, the question jarred her from her own thoughts and she simply shook her head in response; returning to a topic similar to the one her pink haired teammate had considered, but occupying several levels higher in priority: Where is Naruto-kun? It actually occupied a slot marginally higher than scary ANBU nins hauling one of their instructors off to God knows where, since Naruto- Prankster that he is -never missed a day at the academy. Late, yes. Sitting in detention, yes. Even literally tied up on multiple occasions by Iruka himself, yes.

Absent? Never.

And missing the final test yesterday? Impossible. So much so for the young Hyuuga that she had immediately set out to find him after class and came up empty. Not at his dorm. Not pulling pranks. Not eating at ramen at Ichiraku's. It was as if her long time crush had simply disappeared from the face of Konoha, and it worried her to the point where she had informed Iruka, who expressed his own concern. He promised he would look into the matter, and she trusted him. Still...

The three hundred and eighty-eight stone granite stairs winding up to the top of the Hokage monument were negotiated in near silence. Attempts to break that silence- exclusively by Sakura herself -only met untimely demises as neither one of her teammates responded significantly to her chatter. The only upside to the ten minute ascent was that the view of the village was spectacular.

Sakura was again the only one to appreciate it, as neither of her comrades seemed interested. Sasuke was content in merely leaning on a rock outcropping, while Hinata seemed absorbed in other matters. The pink haired genin sighed to herself and enjoyed the view anyway. Below, the streets seemed to twist and wind in indecipherable chaos, save the fact that the trio had grown up here and that the chaos was anything but. From here she could see the academy and the very tower the Hokage himself resided in. She had never been up this high before and it was all quite stunning...

...for the first fifteen minutes.

Fifteen minutes stretched into twenty. Then thirty. Their instructor was no longer fashionably late. The pink haired female of the group sighed. He or she just wasn't coming. Her sigh was apparently Sasuke's signal as well, as the boy's own patience finally expired. The Uchiha pushed himself off the rock he had been leaning against and directed himself back toward the stairs they had ascended a half hour ago.

"Um, Sasuke-kun!" Sakura followed his movements and trotted over to his person. "Ah, shouldn't we wait and-"

"I have better things to do." Sasuke stated indifferently as he walked, Sakura trailing behind while Hinata stared indecisively. The pair neared the guardrail and steps when the shy girl finally found her voice.

"Um, shouldn't, ah, wait for..." her voice trailed off as the walking continued, while only Sakura spared her an unsure glance back, but kept pace with her teenage crush regardless.

"I'd listen to her if I were you."

Sakura blinked and spun around even as Hinata's own gaze snapped to the source of those words. Sasuke merely stopped and glance back. All three found the same sight- rather person -standing near the edge. The black haired Uchiha's face turned bland. "About damn-"


Sasuke blinked as he was overridden by his pink haired team member, who was now pointing to their new arrival with a quivering finger with no small amount of deja'vu riding along her emotion. It was the ANBU guy from a day ago! The one that looked eerily familiar! She studied his features and found them to be nearly the same as there first encounter- Blond spiky hair, blue eyes and the Konoha hitai-ite resting atop his forehead. He still wore a white trench coat, licked by orange flame embroidery. Below that was the dark blue body armor and cargo pants, ensuring Sakara that this was the very same person she had watched get surrounded by the ANBU.

Beyond that, he also looked damn familiar. She would almost have assumed he was the Forth Hokage, save the fact that he was dead, first off all. Second, his picture was in nearly every academy textbook in one form or another. This particular person shared many of his features, but lacked the sharp angles that defined the Yondaime's face. A brother? Cousin? Son? An errant train of thought theorized as the question presented itself. Sakura frowned for lack of critical information, and now that she thought on the matter, none of the text had ever expound on the Fourth's family in any real detail.

"Yes, me." The blond chuckled slightly, his trench coat swaying in the breeze as he confirmed the obvious.

"So you're our-"

"Byakugan!" Sasuke was interrupted again by the second female of their team as she activated her bloodline. Sakura blinked and watched the girl's eyes suddenly strain to stare at their new instructor, if not through. Hinata's own study lasted nearly a moment before she released the technique in favor of a gibbering gasp. "You're... you... you're... you can't be..."

Their instructor blinked and scruffed his blond hair, suddenly looking embarrassed. "Huh. Guess I should have seen that coming."

"Hinata? Hinata! Who is he?" Sakura's second call of the girl's name reluctantly pulled her gaze from the blond. The black haired girl's mouth opened and closed, as if broken and unable to produce sound. The frustrated Haruno's study snapped back to the man. "Who the heck are you?"

The blond grinned somewhat mischievously. "I'm Naruto Uzumaki, your new Team Seven Lead."

Sakura's mouth immediately snapped shut and stared at the man with a bug-eyed look. Sasuke had lapsed into rapid blinking and Hinata...

...Well, Hinata Hyuuga fainted dead away.

"Traditionally, we go through everybody's likes, dislikes and dreams as a team," Naruto Uzumaki smiled as he leaned against a tree some ways away from the edge of the monument while two of his three team members glared burning holes of death in him. The third member stared in wide eyed wonder, though the blond pretended to not notice any of them. "Of course, there's the fact that I already know your likes, dislikes and-"

"You're can't be Naruto!" Sakura blurted, shaking her head emphatically. "That idiot isn't any older than us!"

"Hmm," The team seven lead pondered, then shrugged. "Let's just call it a little accident that I'll tell you about some other time. Until then, Hinata, am I Naruto?" The girl simply nodded timidly with wide eyes. "The same Naruto from the last week?"

"Not... Not exactly..." She stuttered, unable to explain the difference in words. "Slightly different... Your chakra is more... refined?"

Naruto smiled brightly. "See?"

Sasuke looked from Hinata to Naruto, his face little more than a neutral mask. "I don't believe you."

"Then I guess we get to play the introduction game after all." Naruto stated, pointing at Sasuke first. "Sasuke Uchiha, last of the Uchiha clan. You like to train and take long walks. You dislike nearly everyone and everything else. You also have an unhealthy ambition to kill your brother, Itachi Uchiha and may get around to resurrecting the clan if you survive."

Sasuke's eyes widened, but the blond had already moved on to Sakura. "Sakura Haruno. You like trivia games and anko dumplings. You disliked me pestering you, the color orange and also harbor an equally unhealthy obsession for Sasuke-kun."

Sasuke turned to stare while Sakura's face turned nearly as pink as her hair. "I... uh... It's...

"Hinata Hyuuga," Naruto ignored Sakura's antics. Hinata's face likewise immediately pinkened as the Shichidaime's attention tuned upon her. "You enjoy pressing flowers and cinnamon rolls. You dislike seafood in most forms. Your dream..." The girl's eyes widened and she instantly found the grass at her feet far more interesting than the discussion at hand. Naruto sighed, wearily. "...Your dream, we'll talk about later."

"HEY!" Sakura yelped and latched on to something other than her own embarrassment; that being the embarrassment of others. "You can't just leave her out!"

Naruto looked at the girl twiddling her thumbs nervously, then turned back to Sakura. "Nah. The only reason we're doing this is because you didn't believe me. She does, so she gets a pass."

"Not fair." Sakura balked and Naruto shrugged uncaringly.

"Life isn't." He replied, motioning to Sasuke. "Ask your boyfriend there."

Sakura turned a healthy shade of pink once more as the title 'boyfriend' was applied to her person, prompting Sasuke to snort in disgust and composed his own counterattack. "And how about you, sensei? You haven't told us about yourself yet."

Naruto ignored the sarcastic edge applied to the honorific and shrugged. "Sure, why not? I'm Naruto Uzumaki, twenty six year old. I like pranks and ramen. I dislike traitors and stuck up bastards. I've already achieved one of my dreams and I will do anything it takesto protect my special people."

If this was indeed Naruto, his eyes held a solid core of ice that Sakura had never seen before. The intensity causde her to take an ever so slight step back and Sasuke merely watched warily. It was still impossible for this guy to be the idiot trouble maker, but that didn't make him any less dangerous if one was to challenge the veracity of his claim. Hinata watched, already well in awe of the man that stood over her. She already knew his likes and dislikes. She already knew his dream. She already knew...

...Hinata's thought process derailed. His dream was to become Hokage. It was something he had proclaimed from the roof tops since the very first day they had sat in the same class together. It was something anybody who paid any attention to Naruto would know by heart, save the fact that nobody ever did. Her mouth hung slightly open in stunned revelation.

And he had just claimed he had achieved it, if she wasn't mistaken.

He caught her wondering gaze and gave her a wink, causing the fiery blush on her face to renew once more. Naruto turned back to the group as a whole. "Now if I were a certain other ninja, I would tell you to come back tomorrow for a test."

"A test?" Sasuke's eyes narrowed on the blond irritably. "We already passed our test."

"I would also tell you not to eat for fear of puking your guts out, then use it against you as you resorted to desperate acts in order to pass." Naruto continued unperturbed. He turned specifically to the impatient Uchiha. "And it will take more than passing a weak academy exam to achieve your ambition, am I correct?"

Sasuke cocked his head curiously, then nodded.

"Then let's see if you've got what it takes," Naruto leaned off the tree and began to walk through the tree line and into a wide clearing. His team followed tepidly and the blond stopped in the center, his back still toward them. "Normally this test would be some team building exercise, though if you can't pass what I have in mind, there'll be no point in even that."

Naruto pulled a kunai from the ground and dropped it in front of him. The tip embedded itself into the grass and he finally turned around to face his students. "Your task is simple. Grab the kunai I just dropped. Sasuke will go first."

Both girls drifted off to the side to give the Uchiha room, who stared his new team leader down critically. If this was Naruto playing some sort of prank, it was time to give him a very rude surprise. Even if he wasn't, he wouldn't let something so mundane stand in the way of his goal. Sasuke shifted his balance for the initial lunge.

"Looks like you're ready." Naruto held out his hand, beckoning the Uchiha forward. "Don't keep me waiting."

The last Uchiha did not. He charged in at maximum speed, unleashing his own barrage of kunai in transit; all of which were promptly deflected by the single kunai appearing in Naruto's hand. It blurred, glinting sunlight as if it were a mere mirage, but sent every single last one of the twelve salvoed tumbling off into the dirt. That was okay by Sasuke, however, as they were merely a screen to ensure he would close to melee range where he would-


The blond man didn't move, but the air did as some form of chakra wraith swirled around him just as he closed within a meter, slamming into the genin like a solid stone wall. It was like a chakra roundhouse had just found his chin, and any forward momentum was instantly converted backwards, sending the boy tumbling back across the grass to create his own modest trench.

"Sasuke!" His pink haired team member squealed and rushed to his aid, kneeling down next to the object of her affection to ensure he was okay. She attempted to help the struggling boy up, who responded by shoving her away and returning to his feet under his own power. His legs flexed and he was once again sprinting forward, while the blond himself looked completely unconcerned by the display. More stars appeared in the Uchiha's grasp and he flung them forward and skidded to a halt just outside melee range as the instructor dealt with them.

Steal pinged in response as Sasuke's hands flew through a set of well drilled seals. "Goukakyuu no jutsu!"

The last star tumbled away from Naruto's kunai and behind it an immense gout of flame erupted, obscuring the last Uchiha completely from view. Sakura gawked as the cloud of fire enveloped their instructor wholesale, torching the grass as it did. A quick glance over to her female counterpart revealed everything but amazement for the genius that was Sasuke Uchiha. Hinata watched with determination, as if the Hyuuga heiress knew something she didn't.

It was something she would find out momentarily.

The ball of fire curled around Naruto until Sasuke felt he had achieved sufficient density and cut the technique loose, dropping his curled hand from his lips. The flames died out and the stream of fire guttered, revealing a smoldering patch scarred earth and an untouched instructor standing atop green grass, completely unscathed.

Sasuke's cheek twitched as he took a wary step back. Naruto looked up from the nails he had been buffing, as if noticing the technique had expended itself for the first time. He looked around, then down at the burned ground beginning half a meter from his feet, then back up to Sasuke in dismay. "Is that it?"

Sasuke growled and killer intent washed over the clearing. Two kunai cleared his holster, one for each hand and Naruto's gaze suddenly lost all emotion. "So it's time for the avenger to make his appearance, hmmm?" The kunai twirled in the genin's hand as he began to circle the blond. Naruto shook his head. "I think it's time you realize just what that will cost you."

Sasuke's leg flexed for the initial lunge but he didn't even make it a step when Naruto suddenly disappeared from his position and reappear directly before the unprepared Uchiha, his fist already blazing upward for a sucker punch to the gut. Sasuke took the Jinchuuriki's blow without preparation of any sort and folded in half the moment it connected. His feet left the ground, and even through the gagging sensation that threatened to rack him the boy still had enough sense to grab at the attacking arm to pivot off the fist. He reached to stabilize his grip, only to have it seized within Naruto's right hand.

Sasuke snarled and retracted the arm, but it was rooted in concrete. Naruto snorted with contemptuous amusement and reverse the genin's arm back and skyward, spinning Sasuke horizontally off his fist and slamming him back into the grass. The boy coughed, struggling to gather a breath as stars inhabited his vision. They cleared after a moment of blinking and he found the blond standing over him. It was the twenty six year old adult staring down at him. Sasuke only saw a younger thirteen year old loser in his field of vision and snarled between coughs.

"First lesson," Naruto stated, releasing the boy. "There is always somebody stronger than you are."

"DIE!" He hissed and grabbed at one of his fallen kunai. The left hand snatched out to grab it even as he lunged upward to take a long slice at his instructor. Naruto dodged back fluidly and the younger nin was back up immediately after him, throwing the blade which was instantly caught edge on and discarded in kind. The Team Seven instructor dodge another tight combination, then slapped the next fist aside, breaching Sasuke's guard entirely and laying into him with yet another rising gut punch.

Air exploded from Sasuke's lungs once more and this time he didn't even see the open palmed strike inbound for the side of his face. The pain in his gut was instantly overshadowed by the nova of agony exploding across his face. Grass and dirt once again made the genin's acquaintance. This time it took ten full seconds for the white cloaked blur of Naruto Uzumaki to resolve itself into something worth casting a hateful glare at.

"Sasuke!" Sakura screamed, all but ready to run to the boy's defense.

"Second lesson," The blond paced lethargically around the Uchiha heir, having yet to work up a sweat of any sort. "There is always somebody faster than you are."

"You... You can't be the dobe!" Sasuke spat, the pain in his abdomen and face finally subsiding enough to allow him some form of coherent activity. He tensed and sprang, pulling one of his last kunai from his belt for a wild stab...

...And instantly found himself face down back in the grass with the weapon baring hand locked behind his back and no clue as to how he got there, save that Naruto's foot was pressing his face into the earth. From the sidelines, Sakura stared in shock, barely having resolved the blur that put him there in the first place. Hinata simply watched. She had been trained to that level of speed. Perhaps not to the extreme this Naruto employed it, but she could certainly see every move and it was all so perfect.

The slightest, almost nearly invisible smile graced her gentle features as Naruto knelt down to the prone boy's level, his right foot still grinding Sasuke's face into the grass.

"Pop quiz, little avenger," Naruto began. The words were laden with sarcasm, but the tone of his voice was flat serious. "If your opponent is stronger and faster than you, what do you do?"

"Get stronger and faster!" Sasuke growled after a moment and Naruto tisked him.

"Really? He's just going to sit down and wait for you to catch up?" The Uchiha suddenly found the pressure released from the side of his head and he bolted up to acquire his tormentor, who was now wandering around him. A heated glare tracked his every movement but this time, declined to engage the instructor. "I thought you were the number one genius this year? What happened?"

"You can't be an instructor!" Sakura railed against the treatment of her crush, finally gathering enough courage to take a single step forward. "You! You're a sadist!"

Naruto sniffed with slight amusement, then steeled himself for what was about to come next for the girl that he had considered one of his closest friends for the longest time. He ignored her and turned back to Sasuke.

"You have a certain man to kill and you need power to do it." It really wasn't a question but Sasuke nodded in spite of himself. Naruto continued in more serious tone. "I respect that since I have a list myself. If it isn't already obvious, I have that power."

The last Uchiha watched as Naruto raised his arm and opened his left hand. A blue sphere swirled into existence, pulsing with chakra and potential. Sasuke watched it with glittering eyes, realizing what it represented.


"This technique alone... There is little that will survive it. I'll teach you everything, Sasuke." Naruto promised, then clenched his fist to banish the technique. It disappeared, jarring the boy back to the present. "But I need to know how serious you are about this. You need to do something for me."

Sasuke's eyes flicked up to Naruto's cold blue ones. "What?"

"Konoha has little room for second best." Naruto stated, turning back to the pair of girls watching the scene with no small measure of dread. "Eliminate the pink haired loud mouth and I'll know you can handle something this destructive."

"WHAT?" Sakura blurted, staring at her instructor with a horrified look. Even Hinata's eyes widened, her incredulous gaze flicking from Naruto to Sakura then Sasuke and back. Sakura spent several second gibbering before a coherent thought finally made it past the tangle of neurons to form a complete sentence. "You- YOU CAN'T DO THAT! There's no way Sasuke would ever take you... take you..."

No normal person would have considered such a request. No sane person would have taken Naruto seriously. Sakura's righteous indignation suddenly found itself looking into the eyes of Sasuke Uchiha and she lost the ability to speak. It wasn't what he was doing...


It was his eyes. He hadn't pulled any weapon. He hadn't even taken a step toward her. But she could see it in his eyes. He was actually considering the offer. Sakura was an intelligent girl and for the first time since entering the academy, her girlish dreams of romance were literally blasted away as she watched-knew -her crush was weighing the pros and cons of carrying out their instructor's order.

"Sa... Sasuke?"

Her voice came out so completely meek and timid that it almost broke Naruto's heart on the spot. He sighed, unable to carry the charade any further. "Sakura." Her glassy eyes slowly fixated on his person. "Now do you see?"

Sakura simply stared, her mind empty of all thoughts save the one Naruto had intended from the very beginning. Sasuke, on the other hand, was still considering the offer when a hand rested on his shoulder. He glanced up to the blond, who was shaking his head. "That isn't the right answer either."

The hand slipped off his shoulder as Naruto walked, standing in the center of their gathering. "Your goal is to gain power. To avenge your clan. But it doesn't work that way."

Sasuke grimaced. "I'll make it work."

"Only if the target of your vengeance is a complete and utter moron," Naruto snorted, though the emotion was completely lacking in sarcasm. "Something Itachi Uchiha was not... Is not. Worse, he has the same bloodline you do. He's not going to just wait for you to surpass him. How will you catch up?"


"Sakura," Naruto turned around, still finding the girl entranced by the horrific revelation that he himself had brought to light. "Sakura."

The snap of her fingers brought her back to the present, and she stared at him as if he had just told a little girl there was no such thing as the Tooth Ninja. "Sakura Haruno, first in class academically," Naruto resumed, ignoring the torn look. "What do you do when your opponent is stronger and faster than you, and that you have no hope of bridging that gap?"

It took a moment for her intellect to jump the gap necessary to provide a coherent answer after the truth she had been exposed to. "You... You retreat?"

Sasuke snorted derisively, ready to wash his hands of this entire farce when Naruto pressed the issue. "And what if you can't retreat?"

"You get reinforcements." She replied with a fraction more certainty. Naruto nodded and turned back to Sasuke.

"Do yourself a huge favor, Sasuke," Naruto turned back to the boy staring at him. "Assume your brother is out there sucking up every technique he can get a hold of with that Sharingan of his. He was an ANBU before you even graduated and all you know is some mid rank fire jutsu."

"Shut up." Sasuke growled, balling his hands.

Naruto shrugged. "He's stronger than you. He's faster than you. You won't catch up. That's your test. Think about it."

Sasuke's cheek twitched, but somehow he remained in place in spite of the obvious cauldron of resentment brewing. Naruto let him glare and turned to the others. "Be here, six am sharp. If you're late, you won't be happy."

With that final advisement, their blond haired instructor vanished in a cloud of smoke.

Sakura Haruno walked.

Her destination by and large didn't matter, nor was the fact that she walked alone a concern. The people around her simply didn't exist as she continued her listless transit down one of Konoha's main arteries. What did exist? Her child hood fantasies of the white samurai coming to whisk his kunoichi off her feet. They had, at least until the white samurai was abruptly eviscerated by the cold steel edged katana of reality.

She wanted to cry, but those tears had been used up on the walk down from the monument as she realized her white samurai in particular would do everything and anything achieve what had seemed to be something ultra-cool at the time: Avenge the family and clan. Sadly, the devil was in the proverbial details as she witnessed firsthand just what the Uchiha heir would do to make that happen.

Something bumped into her shoulder, and that something- presumably another pedestrian -apologized, but she was beyond caring. About anything. The young genin continued to walk as the scene replayed itself in her mind's eye. He would have sacrificed her. And for what? A technique! Anger tried to bubble up through the numb shell that had taken over her emotion, but it failed to achieve traction. Even worse, it was so painfully obvious in retrospect. All that hope. All that work. All that-

"Hey, forehead girl!"

-Fighting. Something brought her to a stop and she simply waited, not even bothering to turn around for the person that had once been her best friend and her bitterest rival. And over what? She thought bitterly as Sasuke's cold eyes flashed through her mind eye.

"Wait up, forehead girl!" Steps pattered from behind with the demand and she waited. Why, Sakura wasn't exactly certain. Misery loves company, the morose portion of her intellect whispered, and the rest of her agreed. This was misery that needed to be shared.

"Jeez, braniac, how many times do I need to..." Ino trotted up to her rival, her blond ponytail swaying as she moved to step in front of the girl and interrogate her concerning the full day of exclusive Uchiha access; at least until she saw the deadened expression on the pink haired girl's face. Dull eyes turned upon her, and Ino sucked in a stunned breath. "Sa... Sakura?"

"Ino." She replied simply and her rival instantly noted the lack of any form of pig suffix. The Yamanaka hovered around her and took the easiest conclusion available to her given the girl's absolutely shell shocked appearance.

"The Team Seven leader is that bad?" She theorized, earning a derisive sniff from Sakura for the suggestion.

"Yes." She stated in a flat tone, then resumed walking. Ino moved to the side and kept pace.

"What...What did he do?" The blond pressed, almost afraid to ask. Heck, her first day hadn't gone nearly as bad as her rival's, and she was wondering exactly what their instructor did to put her in this state.

Another dead laugh fell from Sakura's lips. "He showed me."

Now Ino was starting to get annoyed. "Showed you what, billboard head?"

Sakura stopped again, and Ino lurched to the side in order to avoid running into her. The girl looked at her, then down to the sidewalk as a single tear crept down her cheek. "He showed me who Sasuke really is."

It just kept getting stranger and stranger the more Ino asked, and she struggled to connect the dots. How was knowing who the hottest guy in the academy really was such a bad thing? And damn you for getting the chance! She growled from her thoughts. An edge of bitterness slipped into the next question. "Oh yeah? And what's Sasuke-kun really like?"

The girl's head slowly rotated up, and those dead green eyes locked on to hers. That alone sent a shiver down Ino's spine as Sakura held the gaze.

"He's a monster."

Ino blinked, not having at all expect that response. "He's a...?"

"Monster." Sakura repeated the word with more force and with it, the dam of emotions broke. Flames began to flicker within those dead orbs. "He's a beast. A self-centered beast. Sasuke-kunis somebody who will use you and discard you like so much trash in order to achieve his ambition."

"Hey!" Ino balked with the sudden vitriol embedded in the familiar usage of Sasuke's name. "You can't talk that way about-"

"I don't know why we didn't see it earlier." Sakura laughed in a self-depreciating manner. "The way he treats everybody? The way he discounts others as unimportant? It looks so cool from the outside..."

"You're nuts," Her blond companion boggled, rolling her eyes. "Your team leader broke you or something. Did Sasuke dump you? Is that it?"

The pink haired genin suddenly giggled. Her blond counterpart frowned, as it wasn't exactly the laughter of the sane. "You want him? He's all yours."

Ino blinked again, returning the stare warily. "What, you're just giving up? You're forfeiting him to me?"

"If that's what you want," Sakura's voice seemed to regain a measure of its former life. "Me? I don't want anythingto do with the bastard. Hell, I don't even want him on my team since he'd sooner slip a knife in your back to get what he wants than help you."

"You can't be... serious?" Her rival gaped, completely unsure of where she stood with Sakura or even Sasuke for that matter.

"As serious as he was about killing me for special instruction," She replied, causing Ino to suddenly halt. Sakura continued walking with another derisive laugh. "He's yours for the taking... If he doesn't take your life first."

Ino stared.

Sakura kept walking.

Where Konoha was alive predominantly during the daylight hours, certain districts only opened their doors at night. Being a Ninja was a twenty four hour career and as a matter of fact, a fair portion of that profession was best left to the twilight. Infiltration. Assassination. Basically the bread and butter of being a shinobi in the first place. As such, the civilian populous endeavored to accommodate their night owl tendencies, which meant certain sectors of Konoha stayed open around the clock…

…The Tokaiyo District for example.

This particular hub of evening activity was the heart and soul of Konoha's food district. Anything from yakitori to pork buns could be acquired, and normally at all hours of the night. Not all of the vendors and restaurants were open well into the morning hours, but many were open late. Iruka Umino assumed that was one of the reasons he was now sitting on a bar stool at Ichiraku's ramen. The reason whywas sitting there was a different matter entirely, since ramen wasn't his first or second choice in cuisine. Regardless of his culinary disposition, he nursed a bowl of barbecue pork ramen and waited.

Why? Because the note told him to.

Iruka fingered the note that he had set beside his bowl of ramen, and it now bore the occasional splatter mark from the slurping of his noodles. Regardless, the message written on it was still quite legible.

'I would like to meet with you in person to discuss team seven and Naruto Uzumaki. Meet me at Ichiraku's at eight PM. -Team Seven Lead'

Of particular concern was the mention of Naruto, who had been absent for the last two days and had missed the exams entirely. The troublemaker had all but grown up in his care, and while the noisy blond was a lot of things, a drop out wasn't one of them. The meeting place hadn't gone unnoticed either, and Iruka wasn't certain if the request was a foreboding portent or fortuitous in nature.

Iruka picked at the noodles and waited, glancing at his watch on occasion to ensure he had the time correct. He was a bit early, perhaps due to the anticipation. Five until eight.

"Seafood Ramen!" A voice piped as somebody mounted the stool beside his. Iruka's head jerked up as the lilt sounded eerie familiar. Even if it was deeper in pitch, the wild crop of blond hair owned by the person now sitting next to him was more than enough to cause a second look. The Academy instructor tried to make his observations as covert as possible. The man sitting beside him could have pulled off being the Forth himself in the right light- Even an older Naruto, both of which were weird coincidences by themselves.

Coincidences were never kind to ninja.

"So, how's the new team," He asked out of the blue, playing on a hunch. The newcomer glanced over and smiled.

"Pretty decent. Got a lot of rough edges to..." The blonde's reply trailed off as Irukas gaze narrowed on him with a knowing glint. The stranger smiled weakly with the fault. "Eh, what team?"

"Let's start with what you know about Naruto Uzumaki," The instructor's voice was dead serious, almost bordering on dangerous as he pushed the hand written note across the counter. The blond nin looked at him, then the note. The clueless look only persisted for another moment before imploding entirely with a tired sigh.

"Dammit, that's not how I wanted to start this," The man complained, but Iruka's stare continued to bore into him. "Alright, Naruto's fine. I think."

"You think?"

The nin winced as the qualifier was repeated back to him with a sharper edge. His voice dropped to a more conspiratorial level. "Alright, what I'm going to tell you is an S-class Secret. It's also completely unbelievable."

"Okay..." Iruka's left eyebrow arched skeptically.

"What if..." The blond paused, taking another moment to compose his thoughts. "What if somebody you knew appear from the future?"

"I wouldn't believe them." The instructor stated in a flat tone that advised his conversational partner that he wasn't in the mood for games.

"Exactly!" The nin slapped his fist in hand. "But he's going to insist, because it's important. You'd ask him to prove it, right?"

Iruka just stared, his patience wearing thin. "Who are you?"

"In the second year of Naruto's academy instruction he pulled a prank on you," The nin ignored the question. "So embarrassing you would never tell another living soul."

The instructor began to pale and he repeated his question with trepidation. "Who are you?"

"I can tell you what that prank was if you-"

"NO!" Iruka blurted, violently waving the suggestion away. The ramen bar's small staff turned around to stare and he chuckled nervously. That same nervous countenance turned back on the blond, whispering, "Is this blackmail?"

"Blackmail?" The man blinked. A crafty smile then appeared on his face. "Uh, no. Well, maybe. If you buy my dinner tonight."

"Done!" The scared nin agreed too quickly for his own good, though it was enough ease of mind to allow him to return to the subject at hand... Or rather the lack of one. "What's going on here?"

The question prompted another belabored sigh from the stranger, who had decided this wasn't going the way he thought it would, and tried a different tack. "Do I look familiar to you?"

Iruka weighed the question for a moment as to its intent and answered forthright. "You look like you could be relative of the Namikaze clan. The Fourth's brother. Something along those lines, except that he was an only child with no living relatives."

"He had a son." The blond stated and watched the academy teacher's puzzled reaction.

"He did? But, the records..." Iruka puzzled, staring. "I teach history at the academy, and that's not in the text books."

"That because his birth was connected to a horrific event." The strange nin explained. "Such that the Hokage ordered the record sealed and that it not be spoke of in the hope that Yondaime's son would grow up to lead a somewhat normal life."

"Your age is wrong for that." Iruka began to rapidly blink as connections were made. "You're suggesting that Naruto is...?"

"It's not a suggestion," The blonde smiled. The instructor's eyes glazed over with the implications.

"But that's..." He was stunned. All that prejudice against the Fourth's own offspring was nearly heresy. "But what does that have to do with you?"

The man's mischief returned as he circled back to his first question. "What if somebody you knew appeared from the future?"

An indefinable pit began to fill Iruka's stomach, and he parroted his response in a flat tone. "I'd... ask them him to prove it."

The nin in the white trench coat folded his arms with a smug look.

The instructor shook his head. "You can't possibly be suggesting..."

"And not only can I tell you about that prank all the way back my second year, but I can absolutely say your punishment was so embarrassing that Iwould never admit to it." His partner coughed with a tinge of embarrassment.

"That's impossible." Iruka stated, though no closer to certain factual ground than before.

"And that's what the Hokage said," The man becoming known as Naruto Uzumaki chuckled. "I hear he isn't in the habit of giving teams out to the insane."

"You... can't..." A number of questions suddenly vied for his attention, all of them equally improbably in nature. "It's just..."

"Let me help," Naruto decided. A steaming bowl of seafood ramen slid in front of him and he happily broke the chopsticks apart. "Yes, it's possible. No, I don't know how yet. Yes, I am and no, I don't know what happened to the thirteen year old 'me'."

Iruka watched the blond as he took his first bite of ramen with as much gusto as the Naruto of old. If he looked just hard enough, he could see they were the same person, separated by a decade or so of age. It was still impossible, of course, which would be why he'd pay the Hokage a visit personally tomorrow. Still there were questions, especially concerning where he himself fit into all of this.

"Assuming you are Naruto," Iruka pushed the hypothesis forward neutrally. "You said all of this was an S-Class secret. Why are you telling me?"

The shrimp poised at Naruto's lips paused, and the blond took a deep breath, placing it back into the broth. His blue eyes never left the bowl. "Because you're one of my special people. You deserve to know."

Iruka cocked his head, barely able to tie this man with the troublemaker. "I am?"

"Yesterday, I should have taken the exam," Naruto turned on him, any playfulness completely gone now. "I would have failed. Hell, you know how I was."

The instructor merely nodded. The Uzumaki reminded him a lot of his own childhood when it came right down to it. Attention and getting the attention was everything, and everything else took a back seat to that.

"My taijutsu would have been barely passable." The blond continued. "I did a bit better in throwing. But I absolutely flunked the henge portion. You had no choice but to fail me." Iruka listened even while the back of his mind balked at the fact that nobody in Naruto's class had failed yesterday, even if the troublemaker himself was absent. "You failed me but Mizuki offered me a second chance to retake it."

That grabbed the teacher's attention. "But he wouldn't have the authority to-"

"He didn't." Naruto shook his head. "He was using a gullible student with low self-esteem and desperate to prove himself to steal a scroll of forbidden techniques from the Hokage's archives."

"But we've always been good friends..." Suddenly the arrest earlier today clicked for Iruka.

"A lie." Naruto clicked his chopsticks against the ramen bowl's rim. "But because of it, because of you..."

The academy instructor watched the emotions play across Naruto's face. "Because of me? What did I do?"

"I owe you everything." Naruto smiled warmly. "Let me tell you about that night."

And he did.

At that same moment, two people stood before the Hokage in his office, though neither one of which knew exactly why they were there.

The first was a female of approximately 160cm sporting a long mane of nearly indigo hair. The shape of her physique was about the only way one could tell her gender, since the rest was swathed in body armor and combat fatigues. Her face was likewise obscured by a reinforced mask denoting a cat, advising anybody who cared to look of her ANBU operative status.

The second was definitely male and his face was also obscured, if not to the extent of his female counterpart. One eye lazily wandered the room in study while the second was fully obscured by a hitai-ateangled down across it. The white haired man was also clad in full anti-ballistic armor and fatigues, but unlike the woman, did not sport the length of a katana across his back.

Both nins waited as the Third Hokage of Konoha finished applying an elaborate set of brush strokes to the parchment at his desk, then signed through a series of quick seals. The symbol he had just painted glowed bright blue briefly, then dulled back to that of regular ink.

"We may now proceed," The Hokage nodded as his eavesdropping countermeasures powered up. He looked up at the pair with a matter of fact expression. "Our intelligence arm has brought to light a grave threat moving against Konoha. You have heard of Akatuski, of course."

Both of his subordinates nodded as the name was beginning to increasingly filter into their mission roster as of late. "Recent intelligence has discovered that the organization is little more than a shill; a cat's paw in a greater scheme to systematically weaken Konoha's ability to respond to crisis. Instead of waiting for that scheme to bear fruit, we will be taking the fight to them." The Hokage crooked a smile. "Specifically, you will be taking the fight to them."

"If Akatsuki is little more than a diversion, who is the real target?" Yugao Uzuki asked from behind the anonymity of her ANBU mask.

"There are several," The Hokage explained, and retrieved a booklet from his desk drawer. "This is a special bingo book of your targets. The person at the very top of this list, however, is Madara Uchiha. Apparently, he intends to take over the world, cliché as it may sound."

Kakashi's single visible eyebrow rose at the audacity of the Uchiha's intention. "And Konoha is the first stop on that ambition?"

"More accurately, we stand the best chance of resisting it," Sarutobi nodded, pushing the olive green covered bingo book across his desk toward his operatives. "That, and he harbors a deep resentment for us. The nine tails incident was no mere accident."

He could only imagine what was going through their minds now, but continued nonetheless. "Your three man unit will have multiple objectives. First and foremost, eliminate everybody listed in that book. You will be given a free hand in the methods you wish to employ to accomplish this mission. Your second objective will be resource denial."

"Resource denial?" Yugao questioned, earning a nod from the Third.

"Part of the Uchiha's overarching plan is to collect Jinchuuriki nin in order to achieve his primary goal." The white haired village elder outlined as he himself had been told. "In fact, he already has a number of them in his possession. If we can keep him from obtaining the rest, his plan fails by default."

"So does killing him." The kunoichi stated plainly.

"He's intelligent, resourceful and powerful." Sarutobi advised as he reached for his kiseru sitting idly in a tray. "We are exploiting any avenue that will checkmate his ambition. To that end, we are also seeking allies... Anything that will shore up our odds. I have dispatched messengers to recall the Sannin as we speak."

"We're expecting that much excitement, hmm?" Kakashi wondered out loud, now thoroughly intrigued by what he had originally assumed was a disciplinary briefing. He had been passed over as a team instructor, and now the reason why was becoming quite evident. Recalling living legends, however, spoke as to just how serious the man sitting before him was.

"And more." The Hokage replied bluntly. "Again, the Kyuubi incident thirteen years ago was merely the tip of the iceberg. Our sources indicate that he has been planning this for a very long time."

"You mentioned a three man team." Yugao pointed out. Again the Sandaime nodded, rising from his desk to walk around the two nin's to his door.

"This mission, its targets and objectives are well above S-Rank," The old man advised as he passed them. "In fact, we will be likely violating several treaties by engaging in such. Regardless, you may use any means necessary to eliminate this threat."

He opened the door. "You can come in- Oh, for God's sakes."

Both Kakashi and Yuago turned to find the man's serious attitude completely blunted by the dismayed look on his face as the third member of their team sauntered in. Once again, Kakashi's eyebrow arched at the blond bombshell that walked into the room with an all too cheery expression on her face. Like her counterparts, she too wore the full body armor and fatigues of a combat nin, though her fashion also sported a black trench coat licked by orange embroidered flames. Finally, her hitai-ate hung loosely around the curves of her waist as if it were a belt itself.

"Must you really?" Saurtobi shook his head in clear disappointment.

"When you say it like that, definitely!" The woman chirped, causing the elder to pinch the bridge of his nose in frustration. "Besides, if the enemy does find out, they'll still think I'm pinned down here in the village with a team."

"But like this?"His motioning made it clear to the pair of nins waiting that 'this' was apparently all of her, which in turn only confused them further.

"And you even said we can't possibly keep it a secret forever." The blond kunoichi added. "Beneath the beneath, Jii-san."

Sarutobi let a labored sigh slip. A curious Kakashi inserted himself into their side conversation, pointing at their newest team member. "You look somewhat familiar."

"I've seen her before, too." Yugao confirmed, sizing the woman up. The long, blond pig tails stretching down her back were ringing all sorts of bells in her brain, but was unable to pinpoint where they were originating from.

"I'm sure you have," The Hokage grumbled as he returned to the seat behind his desk. His attention returned to the pair. "Her presence here is an S-class secret in itself. I'll allow her to explain the details, but she will be instrumental if your mission is to succeed."

Both nins turned to the grinning girl and Kakashi lead the way. "Miss...?"

"I'm Naruto Uzumaki…" She replied. Kakashi blinked. Yugao did as well, though her reaction was largely concealed by her mask as the young woman's appearance suddenly clicked. "…And we'll be kicking some ass together."

Author's notes-
Had this about half finished when ch1 was released. Hopefully it sates some of the rampant speculation that I encountered going in. Don't worry, I get around to explaining most of it... Just not right away ;) Expect Ch3 to take a bit longer since I don't have anything preloaded for it.

Where's Naruko? I can't find Naruko. You listed her but she's not there. FOR GOD'S SAKES, MAN, WHERE'S MY SWEET NARUKO?

Matches; Definitely no creepy 26yr old Naruto and 13 yr old genin of your choice ships.

Team Six; No idea. Never listed or addressed in canon, so call it author's license.

No, really. He's a nice guy.