AN: I is not dead.
Although I will admit that this story almost was. Sorry for the long wait for the update, circumstances resulted in me halting my writing. Hell, I actually had given up writing entirely. I honestly don't know when you guys can expect another chapter, but I hope that you guys will enjoy this one.
ANBU Protect Their Own or Graduation Day part 1.
Fox marched back and forth in front of a crowd of his ANBU, all of who were standing at attention.
"Alright everybody, listen up. Tomorrow the nine prospective rookies are going to be given their final test in order to become Genin."
"I fail to see why we need to be informed of this information, sir. This all sounds quite routine."
"Excellent question, Hawk, would you like to explain?"
The ANBU nodded and stepped forward. ANBU code names were often given out based on characteristics. Wolf, for instance, never gave up on his prey and could track it to the ends of the earth if necessary. It was one of the reasons why he was so often put on Naruto's tail. As he had yet to actually catch him fairly, it was also one of the reasons why he got so frustrated with the blond. Lizard was a master of camouflage and received his code name because of a tendency to cling to walls when on assassination jobs and take out his target with none being the wiser. If anyone ever saw Cat with her claws unsheathed, then the name became self-explanatory. Horse…well, there were rumours, especially among the female members of the ANBU... Hawk was named for his tendency to always have an eye on things. He always seemed to see important events. Some speculated that he was a Hyuuga, what was known, however, was that he made an excellent information gatherer and could often be found in the company of Falcon, a female ANBU with the same dark brown coloured hair that shared the same tendency to always have an eye on things. Unfortunately, Falcon also seemed to have a more mischievous side to her than Hawk, as she often gathered photographic evidence of some of her fellows more embarrassing moments.
"This year the Hokage has instigated a new training regime, one that aims to make the younger generation well rounded shinobi instead of having a specific speciality."
"Bout bloody time," a voice muttered from the back.
"Quite," Fox said calmly, before his arm blurred. A meaty thud of metal impacting flesh was heard as the ANBU in front of the malefactor caught a large wrench in the palm of his hand.
"Nice catch Bear. May I ask why you felt the need to intervene?" Fox asked, calmly. Bear swallowed, while Goat, the one who had felt the need to open his mouth, plain out gulped.
"Sir, you taught us to always look out for our fellow ANBU. I saw an attack on a comrade and acted on instinct to prevent it."
Fox nodded, satisfied. "Excellent work, Bear. I trust there will be no more unnecessary interruptions?" Goat nodded.
"Anyway," Hawk continued, a little annoyed. "Problem is that not everyone likes this idea. Screen please." A large white screen came down from the ceiling and a picture was projected upon it.
"This man is named Mizuki. He's a Chuunin academy teacher and a bit of a problem."
"Threat rating?" Spider asked. Spider was another female ANBU. She had red hair and a gorgeous figure and was one of the foremost poison experts in all Konoha.
"Minimal. The problem stems from the fact that he's an informant to the civilian council. We've used that in the past, to feed them some false information, you know the drill."
The ANBU nodded. They were professionals. They did not need to be spoon-fed.
"I've had a bug planted on him since his attempted sabotage of Uzumaki's graduation test." Leather creaked in the room as several ANBU clenched their fists inside their gloves. Obviously, this was the first that they had heard of this.
Horse raised a hand. Unlike the others in the room, as the only rookie he was not quite as confident as the others to simply just blurt out a question. Fox gestured for him to continue, wishing that the others would follow his example.
"Sabotage?" Horse asked.
"He got Kyokan Koji to act as Naruto's opponent for the taijutsu portion of the test."
The ANBU who knew of the blacksmith winced. "Shinigami have mercy, he fought KOJI?" Lizard whispered. "How bad was it?"
"Actually, Naruto-kun won," Fox said casually. "Koji surrendered."
Lizard snorted. "Sounds about right. The only time that bastard ever goes down is if he chooses to go down."
"Anyway," Hawk interrupted, a slight edge to his voice. "Mizuki reported the situation to the council. They weren't happy. He doesn't know it, but Uzumaki is a target, make no mistake." Fox nodded and went on to explain.
"He's a Jinchuriki. That makes him, to their eyes, unstable. If he passes these tests, then he'll become a ninja on a team that is mostly made up of Konoha's clan heirs. That has the chance of making him more than just a reviled pariah. They are also aware that he's becoming more powerful, something that they've tried to prevent from day one. Then there are his interactions with Hyuuga Hinata, which could prove to be a large hindrance to their plans. They're afraid that he's having too much of an influence on the Hyuuga heir, which has the possibility of spoiling their plans to try and control the Hyuuga clan through her when she eventually takes over."
"Excuse me?" Cat asked.
"Hyuuga-san used to be shy, much more retiring than she is now; you all know that." The ANBU nodded. "The Hyuuga clan saw this and tried to toughen her up, make her less… 'weak.' The council saw this and decided to take advantage of it. Uchiha may be the 'Prince' of Konoha, but Hinata is the 'Princess,' or at least, she's supposed to be. The council encourages their contacts to treat her with all respect and kindness, so that when she grows up and takes control of the clan, she'll be more likely to sympathise with them, to vote in their favour. But then she started hanging out with the 'Demon-brat,' which has resulted in her not getting such special treatment anymore. I suspect that this is also a reason why Hiashi was often so hard on her."
"Bastards," Goat muttered. Fox didn't bother to correct him.
"There's also Anko to be aware of. If Naruto passes the test, she will be obligated to teach him and all the rest of the rookies. They're not going to want the 'Snake Bitch' to corrupt their precious clan heirs. Plus, well, they hate Naruto on principle, so there's that as well."
"Excuse me, sir? If I'm reading the situation right, then that's not at all what they want Naruto for," Horse interjected, his voice thoughtful, but tinged with disgust.
"Oh? Is there something you would like to say, rookie?" Fox asked, fingering another wrench.
"Oh, lay off him Fox. Let the kid speak," Cat interjected. Cat gestured to the younger ANBU to take the floor.
Horse seemed to shrink within himself, reluctant to stand out among the rest of the crowd. "Well Horse, what's your interpretation of the data?" Fox asked mildly, yet making it apparent that he expected the rookie to share his view.
"Well sir, it doesn't really change the situation, but I think there might be something you overlooked," Horse answered, resigned to his fate.
"Oh, and what is that?"
"Politics," Horse said, moving his mask slightly so that he could spit to the side.
A small rumble went through the gathered ANBU. What did politics have to do with this situation?
"Explain," Bear asked.
"You know, I became a ninja to get away from politics. Frankly, it's a more honest profession," Horse interjected, the grimace audible in his tone.
"Explain," Cat hissed.
"Yes ma'am," Horse said, quickly.
He stepped out onto the stage, causing Hawk to throw his hands up into the air in disgust and sit down.
"Alright, um, how should I put this…Fox-sama, you're thinking like a ninja."
"That's my job, Horse-kun." Fox answered, mildly.
"Right, um, of course, sir. Thing is, these people aren't ninja. They're politicians and they're thinking like politicians. We see Naruto and we see an unholy terror, the cause of our troubles, a worthy opponent and a comrade in arms."
The ANBU chuckled slightly but said nothing against Horse's observations.
"Right, but when they saw Naruto, they saw a Jinchuriki, Kyuubi, the object their hatred."
"We all know that," Wolf called out.
Horse nodded. "Right, right. Now though, things are different. When they look at Naruto now, they see Power with a capital P."
Silence took over the room.
"On the day that we got the first Orange Contract signed, Naruto was called before the council. When he was there, several things were revealed. His heritage, his mother, his prospective wealth and his clan."
Grabbing a piece of chalk, Horse walked over to the blackboard next to the white screen and began scribbling on it as he continued talking.
"Right now he's still a Civilian, which means, by law, that he's still a child; an independent child, to be sure, but a child nonetheless. Before his heritage and wealth were revealed the Council couldn't care less about Naruto, hell, most of them wanted him dead. Now, however, he's more useful to them alive." On the board horse had drawn a quick picture of Naruto with dollar signs and an Uzumaki swirl over his head, with the word civilian written underneath.
Horse took a deep breath. "We're ninja first and foremost, so we count power as individual skill, technique, jutsu. Yet we at times forget: money is power and a lot of money is a lot of power. I don't know how much you guys know about the economy, so I'll give you a basic rundown." He began drawing a couple of diagrams on the blackboard.
"Like every other nation the Land of Fire depends on ryo to run everyday life. The Global Domestic Product, or the GDP can generally indicate the financial state of a country. The GDP is the market value for all officially recognized final goods and services produced within a country in a given period of time. What one has to recognise is that…"
"HORSE!" Cat shouted.
Horse stopped his rant and looked over at Cat. "Yes?"
"Oh," he muttered, embarrassed. "Right. Sorry."
Taking a deep breath, he started again. "The economy is like a living thing, it lives in a delicate balance. Upset that balance and you can end up doing a lot of damage. Now, although there are many cities and towns in the Land of Fire, there are really only two financial capitals. The Capital, and Konoha."
"So, the Uzumaki were rich, filthily so. As a civilian, Naruto is still a child and therefore unable to legally take advantage of his prospective wealth."
"That's a good thing, right? Can you image what that terror could do with unlimited funding?" Goat interjected, jokingly. Several ANBU laughed, then thought about it for a while. A shiver of fear ran throughout the room.
Horse shook his head. "No, it's not a good thing. As a child, he is vulnerable. If he fails the Genin test, then he becomes a true civilian."
"So what?" asked Lizard, curious as to where this was all going.
Horse shrugged and continued. "If he fails the test, he won't be a ninja, nor will he be attending the Shinobi Academy. In other words, he will be strictly under the Civilian Council's jurisdiction as a minor. He's never been emancipated, no one cared enough before, but now, I'd bet diamonds to dango that the papers for his adoption would be approved within the hour of his failure. Naruto will be made to go through a forced adoption, thereby becoming the responsibility of one of the council, all perfectly legal. They would then have access to his funds."
"What?" Fox asked, his voice taking on the qualities of steel. A mild susurration ran through the crowd of ANBU and a trace of Killing Intent could be felt in the air.
Horse nodded. "The council is now aware of his wealth, or at least, his prospective wealth. If they can control him, then they can gain access to that, but they can't manage that if he becomes a ninja." Horse shook his head. "And if they gain access to that, then there's going to be all sorts of problems."
He began sketching once more as he carried on speaking. "The Uzumaki were thought to be extinct after Kushina-sama died. As it happens, Kushina-sama's death directly coincided with the Kyuubi's rampage." He turned to look at the others. "What do you think happened with the Uzumaki's money, hmm? That much cash, Konoha in desperate need of funds to begin rebuilding…do the math. Konoha can't give Naruto his money, because they've already spent it. They've invested it, used it wisely, for the most part, yes, but used it all the same. Look it up in the records, the distribution of funds has all been recorded. Naruto can't do anything about it; he's too young. However, a legal adult has the right to demand their money and if a member of the council adopts Naruto, they become his legal guardian, meaning that they can demand the cash owed to Naruto. If that happens Konoha will have to liquidate its assets in order to pay up. What assets does Konoha actually have?"
"Lots, that's why we have the civilian council, they take care of trade agreements and the like," answered Goat.
Horse just shook his head. "Konoha, as in the village itself, owns almost nothing in the way of assets. The money doesn't belong to Konoha; it belongs to the clans in Konoha, to the merchants in Konoha. The village itself gets most of its funding from the Daimyo, as well as a small percentage from every mission that it's ninja go on, not nearly enough to cover such a massive debt. So then, what are we going to do if the new guardian of the Uzumaki wants their money? Sell the streets? Sell the academy, maybe?" Horse asked, wryly.
"What about the mines of chakra metal?" Fox demanded. "Those belong to Konoha, don't they?"
The rookie scratched the back of his head sheepishly, a habit that a large number of ANBU seemed to have picked up. "Um, actually the mines are in what was once the territory of Uzushiogakure, so technically they belong to the Uzumaki as well, I mean, what other clan could use so much chakra to permeate entire mines of metal with energy? Which means that the leader of the Uzumaki could also ask for reparation for all the mining that we've done there for the last eleven or so years…" Horse shook his head. "We make a profit from the missions that our ninja do, but most of the money from a mission goes to the ninja who performed it and the little extra we make is taxed by the Daimyo. If we are made to pay up all the debt we owe to that clan, the only way we could do that is if we take a loan. Multiple loans."
"Which the Civilian Council would be only too happy to provide," Hawk muttered, seeing the point. "Why don't we get a loan from a bank?" Thinking about it, he answered his own question with a grimace. "Because they would be able to buy our debt and charge a greater interest on it."
Horse nodded. "Exactly. Either way, they'll lend us the money and at a high interest rate as well. We'd then spend all we could to try to pay back that loan and the interest at say, a monthly basis. If we didn't then the interest would hike up. To pay up, the most basic systems and institutions that people have come to depend on would simply disappear. We wouldn't be able to train more shinobi. The shinobi we do have will be forced to do more profitable, and therefore more dangerous, missions in order to bring in more cash. Power companies would stop operating. The police force wouldn't get paid. Grocery stores would run out of food. Retirement checks would stop coming. Of course, it would never really come to that. Instead, concessions would start to be made and we would be forced to make deals to keep on running. Understand? Right now, the civilian council likes to think that they have power. They don't. Not really. If they get control of Naruto as a civilian, by the time he becomes of age they'll be running the Village."
"Oh," Wolf said, faintly. "Is that all?"
Horse shook his head. "I'm afraid not."
"You mean there's more?" Lizard asked, horrified, before pausing and muttering darkly under his breath. "Of course there's more. There's always more."
Horse shrugged. "Naruto's the grandson of Uzumaki Isamu," he stated.
A cricket chirped in the silence. Horse sighed, rubbing his temples. "Uzumaki Isamu? The Daimyo and Uzukage of Uzushiogakure?" Horse sighed once again as none of his fellow shinobi seemed to understand. "Naruto's his grandson, his heir, meaning he is effectively the Daimyo of Uzushio, it doesn't matter that the Village doesn't exist anymore. After the destruction of Uzushio the nation was integrated into the Land of Fire. In a situation like this, as a civilian he would gain something rather annoying. Diplomatic Immunity. Basically, we can't do jack against him if he were a civilian. Not legally at least. He can't be arrested or detained. His residence can't be entered or subject to ordinary procedures, he can't be subpoenaed as a witness, hell, he can't even be prosecuted. And get this, any official family members? Same treatment." Taking a deep breath, Horse continued. "He's a royal, so when of age he can have direct access to the Daimyo, and if he's not, his legal guardian can."
"So," Fox said, calmly, having heard enough. "Bottom line is, that if Naruto doesn't become a Genin tomorrow, we're all pretty much screwed."
Horse nodded. "Sir, yes sir."
A brief silence reigned over the gathering, before Goat broke it once more. "Well, shit." Although the others didn't share the tendency to bleat out the first thing that came to their minds as often seemed to be a problem with Goat, they couldn't help but agree with him.
"Thank you Horse. This conversation proved to be most illuminating." Fox stated calmly, before turning to Hawk. "What can we expect?"
Hawk turned to his clipboard. "A number of ninja from civilian families. Several clan members who don't like the idea of their clan heirs associating with the 'Demon Brat' and the 'Snake Bitch.' Narrow-minded fools. We can also expect a large number of Root."
"Remind me again, why do we put up with the cripple's attack dogs?" Fox asked, wearily.
"Plausible deniability, the fact that they have a couple powerful ninja and that uprooting them would cause a civil war, weakening Konoha enough so that we'd be easy pickings for any of the other great hidden villages," Lizard listed, ticking the reasons of his fingers.
"According to an earlier report, we can also expect Mitarashi-san to be trying to hinder Naruto's exam. Apparently, she really doesn't want to be stuck training so many brats," Hawk interjected.
"Don't worry. I've got that covered," Fox stated, calmly. "Isn't that right, 'Snake?'"
Anko removed her mask and crossed her arms from where she had been standing in the centre of the crowd.
"You know Fox-san. When you gave me a mask and a cloak and ordered me to follow you I didn't really know what to expect. And I promised myself that no matter what was said I'd still go after the Gaki's ass come sunrise."
Anko sighed. "Just goes to show that sometimes we are forced to eat our own words."
"So, what do we do, Fox-sama?" Cat asked.
"What do we do? We do nothing."
"WHAT?!" roared out the entire ANBU force.
Fox shrugged. "We don't have time to consult the Hokage and put together a mission. Even if we did, we'd be interfering with a Genin test and mobilising against a non-corporeal threat, fighting against ninja of Konoha. As ANBU, this is strictly against our oath. There's nothing that the ANBU can do."
"Yeah sure, good thing I'm not an ANBU," Anko muttered.
"Although…" Fox mused out loud. If you listened carefully, you could hear the wolfish, or perhaps foxy, grin in his voice. "You have all been under a lot of stress lately. Tell you what. Why don't you guys all take tomorrow off? You'll be on call, of course, but I'll see to the paperwork. Oh, and before you go, could you guys go and check the armoury? Some fool left it unlocked and I think Naruto might have got in. We're going to have to do a stocktake in a couple of days to find out what we still have, cause right now, we have no idea what he's taken. Make sure you lock it before you leave, understand? There will be a bonus in it for you if everything goes well."
"Yes sir, we understand," Wolf said, saluting their commander after he spoke.
"Good," Fox said, exiting the premises.
Anko turned to the ANBU surrounding her, a grin on her face.
"Your boss is awesome."
Naruto woke up early the next day, yawning loudly. Getting out of bed, he began getting ready for the day moving slowly in his still half asleep state. Five thirty was really far too unholy an hour to be awake.
"Come on, hurry up. You have a big day today."
"Because today is the day that you become a ninja. Again."
"That may be so, but you need to get up anyway."
"Gotahell," Naruto muttered, collapsing back into bed.
"Fine. Kyuubi? Hit it."
Naruto froze. He wasn't sure if he liked the sound of that. Two seconds later, he heard the whirr click of what sounded like a tape about to be played, then…
"Di-di-dee da-dee di-dodo. Dee-da-di-dee-doe…" a high pitched voice started singing inside his mind.
Naruto froze, his head shaking compulsively, trying to deaden the sound, unable to do anything to change the song.
"It's the hamster dance, do the hamster dance."
Outside, a plainclothes ANBU wearing a black bandana with a lizard motif held a hand up to his mouth, which was covered with a Kakashi style mask. "Lizard reporting in. Subject is awake."
"Copy Lizard. Anything else to report?"
"Yeah, we got three bogeys looking for an entry into the premises."
"Can you take care of it?"
"Nah, in fact, I think I'll help them get in. Through the front door of course." Lizard chuckled as he used the genjutsu that gave him his name, one that Jiraiya would have killed to know, becoming almost completely invisible as he stalked his prey.
A group of three Chuunin was making their way to Naruto's apartment building. Today their usual Shinobi accouterments included a bottle of chloroform and several wads of cotton. The way they figured, if the Demon-brat could just be made to miss the test, then not only would he be failed, but there was still the possibility that Uchiha-sama would still be passed. They wouldn't try to kill the Jinchuriki; the Sandaime took a rather dim view on that, hence the chloroform. However, as they were walking towards their destination, they agreed with each other that they could still have a little fun. After all, the Fox had a healing factor and would be unconscious. What no one knew couldn't hurt them, right? Chuckling darkly, the foremost one opened the front door and lurched backward, only just avoiding falling down into a large pit. The hole in the ground was shrouded in darkness, so deep that you could not easily see the bottom.
"What is this madness?" one of them muttered.
"Madness?" came a rage filled voice from behind them. "THIS IS KONOHA!" Lizard roared as he and two rock clones dropped their stealth jutsu and, as one, mule kicked the Chuunin into the pit.
Lizard nodded, satisfied. If he remembered right, the walls of that pit negated the effects of chakra, making it much more difficult to escape from. Turning, he was just about to leave when he saw something that made a large grin spread across his face. Reaching into his pocket, he pulled from it an airtight bag and slashed it with a kunai, allowing the scent of high-grade catnip to fill the air, before quickly throwing it into the pit. He watched for a while longer as Tora hurled herself down the pit after the catnip. Seconds later, the screams of pain drifted up to his ears.
Lizard sighed happily. Sometimes, it was the little things that made life worth living.
Grumbling underneath his breath, ignoring the sound of canned laughter that reverberated inside his head, Naruto reached his back window and simply jumped out. He rolled to break his fall, getting easily to his feet and ignoring the surprised looks of those who had thought they had just seen someone hurl himself to his doom. Please. Like that would happen. Now, what should he have for breakfast?
Toki looked on, flabbergasted at his good fortune. Here he was, wondering how he was supposed to get to the Kyuubi-kid and here he just jumped out right in front of him! This was simply too good to be true. All he needed now was a method of a quick getaway. His eyes widened: a manhole to the sewers, just the ticket. Creeping close by, he removed the top of the manhole and stood with his legs on either side of it. All he needed to do now was cast a lightning jutsu to knock him out for a couple of hours, jump down the manhole and he'd be home free. A smile spread across his face. Truly, this was his lucky day. The smile turned sickly when a small wooden dragon shot out from the hole beneath him. There was a distinct crunch as it bit down hard. Toki let out a small squeak and folded, his unresponive body falling into the manhole and down into the sewers with his legs clenched together, any thought of handsigns forgotten. If one listened carefully, a sound could be heard, a sound that was somewhere between a splash and a gloop. Seconds later, a man wearing a black bandanna imprinted with the snarling face of a wolf and a facemask hoisted himself out from the manhole and carefully covered the entrance to the sewers once more. Holding out his right hand, he concentrated, forcing it to start sparking with electricity. Using a roll of wire, he proceeded to weld the manhole shut, whistling merrily as he did so.
Naruto mulled over what the day would be like. He knew that he was supposed to be fighting Kakashi for his Genin graduation test, but that was only going to start in another three or four hours, so for the moment he was good. But he also had his kitties to feed and if he didn't turn up, then Sasuke and Sakura would be insufferable.
"So make a couple of clones to do the other jobs."
Naruto shrugged. Eh, why not? Crossing his fingers, he caused two Kage Bunshin to faze into existence, no smoke or sound to signify their presence.
A man wearing a bandana with a horse's head on it blinked. "Uzumaki's really come a long way with the Kage Bunshin jutsu. It's almost like it was made for him."
"That doesn't mean that you've been forgiven for teaching him that jutsu in the first place," a voice crackled over his radio. Horse sighed. "What's the situation?"
"Well," Horse grunted, scuffling slightly with the two Root ninja he had in a chokehold, one underneath each arm. "Right now I'm busy taking out the trash…"
"Hurry it up, will you?"
"Fine." With chakra-enhanced strength, Horse crashed the two ninja's heads together and allowed them to drop into unconsciousness. "Naruto's made two clones, the clones are headed east and west, he's maintaining his direction."
"Copy that." The radio switched off and Horse looked down at the two Root.
"Damn, I'm good," he stated proudly, hefting the two unresponsive bodies onto his shoulders.
"Don't get too cocky rookie." Horse shrugged as he turned to face Bull and the four Root that he was dragging easily behind him.
"Not cocky, I know I'm the rookie, but I'm also an ANBU. I've spent more time on Code Orange than fighting actual ninja, so this kinda reminds me that I am actually an ANBU, y'know?"
Bull nodded as he opened up the lid to a mostly empty dumpster. "Sure, I guess I understand," he said as he started throwing the Root ninja into the bin. "Feels good, don't it?"
Horse shrugged, throwing his own responsibilities in the trash and slamming the lid shut. He blinked when it didn't shut all the way, lifted the lid for a second to nudge the now slightly squashed fingers out of the way and closed the lid again. "I guess it does," he said, slightly uncomfortable. "It just seems as if this should be harder. After all, this is a lot easier than going after Naruto-kun."
Bull nodded. "Makes you wonder why we even bother trying to protect him, doesn't it?"
Horse shook his head emphatically. "No, there's an easy answer to that. Naruto's ours. If the people of Konoha want to try to hurt him, or sabotage him, then they'll have to go through us to do so." He paused for a moment then grinned. "Or at least get in line." Bull laughed, nodding his head in agreement.
A wide smile crossed Naruto's features as he came close to Ichiraku's. It was one of the few restaurants that opened so early in the morning. Teuchi was one of the few that always understood that ninja are awake at all hours. But that was not the reason for his smile. "Hinata-chan!" Naruto called, waving at the girl, who was sitting at the booth, Kiba and Shino on either side of her.
"Hello, Naruto-kun," Hinata answered happily waving back, pleased to see him.
"What are we, chopped liver?" Kiba grumbled sourly. Akamaru barked at him. "What do you mean, don't flatter yourself?" Kiba yelled.
"Naruto!" Teuchi called happily. He turned to Kiba. "Move," he ordered.
"What!" Kiba yelled. "You can't do that! I was here first!" However, Teuchi would not be denied. Visions of pale eyed, blond haired children eating staggeringly huge amounts of ramen were once more floating into Teuchi's view, throwing bills of ryo like confetti that rained down to the ground all around him. He fixed a glare on Kiba.
"My store. My rules. Naruto-kun is my best customer and you are sitting in his seat. Move." As well as the glare, Teuchi aimed a surprising amount of Killing Intent at the dog themed ninja. Kiba moved. Naruto waved his hands in protest.
"No, no, it's alright Oji-san, I can find another…"
"Naruto, sit down." Naruto blinked. Both Teuchi and Arlia had voiced the same instruction at the same time. Naruto sat down gingerly, before turning with a small smile to Hinata.
"So…how you doing?" he asked, waggling his eyebrows as he did so.
Hinata giggled at his act. "We're going well, Naruto-kun. We just came here for a meal before we go for our Genin test."
Kiba nodded, slurping up a noodle. "Yeah, it starts in a couple of hours, so we still had some time to kill. Hinata suggested that we go and get something to eat while we wait."
"Speaking of aforementioned demonstration of our skills for grading purposes, I must divulge that I find your presence here some cause for concern, Uzumaki-san. Why? For unless I am not recalling the appropriate timeframe, was your assessment not due to start approximately 9.5 minutes ago?"
Naruto pouted. "Come on Shino, you and I know each other, don't go calling me Uzumaki-san, my name is Naruto. Say it with me now. Nah-ru-toe."
Teuchi chose this moment to interrupt. "Naruto. Is what Shino said true? Are you late for your Genin test?"
Naruto waved him off. "Don't worry, Kakashi-sensei is going to be another two hours at least."
Teuchi shrugged, mollified.
"Besides, I've got a Kage Bunshin there just in case," Naruto continued. "Sure, they pop easy, but there shouldn't be anything attacking it so it's all good, right?"
A man sighed, taking of his goat emblazoned bandanna to scratch underneath it, swearing under his breath. "We've got twelve root incoming on our position. How the hell are two of us supposed to take out that many without Naruto's clone noticing us?"
"Three of us," Wolf said dropping next to them.
"My question still stands," Goat deadpanned.
"Where are they, anyway?" Wolf asked.
"Ask Spider," Spider said, gesturing to the third member of their party.
Spider, also wearing the combination bandanna and mask, which revealed a pair of striking green eyes, smiled, before pointing the root nin out. "Windows, third floor, fourth, from the left, there's six in there. We don't need to worry about them."
Just outside said room on the third floor, Anko held up three fingers to the woman wearing a mask and a cat bandanna next to her. "Ready Yugao? In three, two…one." Spinning around Anko broke the door down with a kick, Yugao right next to her. "Say hello to my little friend!" Anko yelled and as one, they fired their weapons, entangling their six targets in wire nets. Grabbing hold of the wires that trailed from the barrel of their netcasters, Yugao channelled an electric current through the metal, shocking them into unconsciousness. "I love this thing!" Anko exclaimed, holding the large net launcher to her face and rubbing her mask-covered cheek on it.
"Our problems are in the alleys, there and there," Spider continued. "Streets, there, there and there. Twelve on the ground level, we're gonna deal with them."
"So, how are we supposed to get them, when they're down there and we're on the roofs?" Wolf asked, more curious than anything.
In response, Spider opened her trench coat. Wolf simply stared, stars in his eyes. "Truly?" he breathed out.
Almost reverently, Wolf reached out towards what had been hidden by the woman's figure, his hand shaking as if he were about to touch the Holy grail and helped himself to the tranquilisers that Spider had secreted all about her person. Goat was next to try and arm himself, only for Spider to close her coat once more.
"What gives?" he asked petulantly.
"Get yours from Wolf. You ain't coming anywhere near my chest."
Goat sighed dejectedly.
"What's a Kage Bunshin?" Kiba asked.
Naruto slurped up a noodle before answering enthusiastically. "It's my newest, oldest technique! The Kage Bunshin no Jutsu creates a solid clone out of chakra, when it dispels, any memories that the clone had are dumped into its creators mind and in the minds of any other shadow clone that he, or she, created."
Kiba blinked. "Sounds useful."
Naruto nodded. "Yeah, and the clones are reasonably intelligent too, and they can even do their own jutsu. All of this makes it one of the best clone jutsu there is."
"When did you learn it?" Shino asked, simply.
Naruto rubbed his head, sheepishly. "A couple of days after I spent a number of hours trying to avoid getting beat to a pulp."
Hinata blushed. "Father was a little bit angry with Naruto-kun," she provided.
Naruto stared at her, his eyes wide. "A little?! Hinata, he threatened to castrate me! With a rusty sword!"
"Don't be silly Naruto-kun," Hinata said, kindly. "Father would never do that."
Naruto breathed a sigh of relief. "The only sword suitable for such an act would be the family sword, and it is very well maintained. No rust to speak of," Hinata continued, blithely.
Naruto jumped once more, whipping his head around to stare at the Hyuuga heir, who had an innocent little smile on her face. For the life of him, he couldn't tell if she were serious or not.
"You know, I think she may have been hanging around my wife for too long," Shinigami mused.
"Not that that's altogether a bad thing…"
Wolf stared at the tranquiliser he held in his hand, to the twelve ROOT shinobi lying unconscious beneath them, each with a single dart embedded somewhere in their bodies, then back to the tranquiliser.
"Why aren't we funding this?"
Teuchi smiled as he heard Naruto and his friends laughing from the back of his establishment. Stirring the pot of Ramen one more time, he ladled a portion into four bowls. "You can come out now," he said, his voice quiet enough so his customers would not hear him. "I know you're there."
"Remarkable," a voice whispered, as the shinobi who uttered the words stepped out of the shadows. "A simple ramen chef detecting a ninja like me."
Teuchi snorted. "Wasn't always a ramen chef, son. Now, what do you want?" he asked, gruffly.
"Nothing much, I just want you to do a little doctoring of the Jinchuriki's food," he stated, holding out a small vial filled with a viscous liquid. "I'd normally do it myself, but with the children of three clan leaders at risk, two of them heirs to the clan…well I can't afford to make mistakes."
Teuchi frowned. "You want to kill him?"
The ninja shook his head. "Nothing so drastic. My employers just don't want him to pass his Genin test. They feel it would be best if he waited another year or two before going out into the world of Shinobi and getting himself killed. Surely, you understand."
Teuchi nodded, slowly. "What's in it for me?"
The ninja said nothing, simply threw a small bag, which Teuchi caught. He blinked, surprised at the weight of it, and opened the bag to see a large number of gold coins.
"With that type of money, you could finally get those upgrades you always wanted, Teuchi. Turn this stand into a full sized restaurant."
Teuchi nodded his head, slowly. "I could at that. Sounds like a mighty fine deal. What do you think, Ayame?"
With a start, the ninja turned around. "How 'bout no?" Ayame said sweetly, before throwing the contents of a boiling kettle at his face. Immediately, he lifted up his arms, hissing as the boiling water burnt him through his clothes.
"I second that notion," Teuchi said cheerfully as he swung an oversized frying pan like a baseball bat.
Conversation stopped as a loud clang filled the air. It was a good clang, with the oiyoiyoioioioioioinnnnnggggggg that is the mark of a clang well done. "Oi, Teuchi-ojisan, are you alright?" Naruto yelled.
"We're fine, Naruto, just taking out the trash!" Several more loud clangs and bangs were heard from the kitchen.
"Well," Ayame said, dusting her hands off, a satisfied smile on her face. "That takes care of that."
"Not quite," Teuchi disagreed, weighing up the sack filled with gold coins as wide as a large man's wrist. "Let it never be said that a man left Ichiraku's without being well-fed…"
Once Teuchi was done, he threw the unconscious ninja out into the alley behind their store. Ayame followed moments later, a broom in hand, sweeping a pile of dust sprinkled with enamel out into the alley as well. A few minutes later, Lizard released his camouflage jutsu, his eyes wide and traumatised. "I hope they sterilise their hands before serving anymore food," he muttered.
Deep in the Forest of Death, Naruto's clone trudged through the undergrowth, a sealed scroll in his hands. By now, it was relatively safe for him to walk through the forest. Sure, he still had to watch out for Anko, the scorpions, the giant spiders, Anko the giant leeches, the occasional Rodent of Unusual Size, the man eating plants, Anko, the lightning sand, the old traps, Anko…man, he really need to have another look at his definition of the word safe. However, the more dangerous animals hardly ever molested him any more. The last time he could think of was a couple of weeks ago, when he had to outrun a giant bear. The next day, his kitties had been unusually full, and Suji had been gnawing on a giant femur that looked as if it might have once belonged to an oversized bear. Trailing forty or so meters behind him was a ROOT Team, whose members were having a bit more difficulty traversing through the forest. Horse trailed a mere twenty meters behind the ROOT, keeping to the ground, while a ninja wearing a monkey faced bandana and a facemask moved silently through the trees above him. Horse grimaced as he felt something nasty squish underfoot. "Join the ANBU, he said. It's a man's life, he said," Horse muttered quietly. "If it's a man's life then how come the women are so much scarier?" Why were they following this clone anyway? Oh yeah, because they couldn't be sure that this one wasn't the real one. Bullshit. Three Naruto, one of them is eating Ichiraku, doesn't take a genius to work out which one was real. But Monkey was his superior, as was Bull. Bull had directed him to work with Monkey to follow this clone through the Forest of Death; he didn't come himself because, well, Bull wasn't exactly known for his stealth.
Hang on the clone was slowing down, maybe they were reaching their destination. Yet why would Naruto be traveling to a boulder scattered clearing?
Horse tightened his grip on his kunai, his eyes widening as beneath him a veritable pride of Konoha's Giant White Tigers seemingly arose from the ground. Not boulders then. His eyes darted from corner to corner. There were more than forty of the beasts, and those were just the ones that could be seen! Taking a deep breath, Horse forced himself to relax. It was just a clone down there; Naruto could not be harmed in any way. Despite that he couldn't help but flinch as the largest of those tigers let out a mighty roar.
"Yeah, yeah, Suji, quiet down, will ya? I know you don't like it when boss sends a clone, but he was kinda busy alright?"
The tiger chuffed disapprovingly and lay down next to the clone, seemingly waiting for something. Exactly what he was waiting for was son revealed as the clone withdrew a large scroll from his jacket and unsealed a small mountain of meat.
"Alright boys, dig in."
Horse watched in confusion as each tiger came to the pile, grabbed one piece of meat in their jaws, and moved off a small distance, settling down to eat. When they had finished the first piece, they immediately went back to the pile for a second. There was no fighting, or growling, just calm, deliberate action.
"Okay! See you guys tomorrow," the clone waved happily before dispelling himself.
"Well that was a waste of time," Horse whispered to Monkey.
"Oh, I wouldn't say so," Monkey answered with a small chuckle.
"Have a look at our friends from ROOT."
Curious, Horse looked around and had to stifle a chuckle himself at the sight of the ROOT team all caught up in a net trap about thirty feet off the ground. Below them were three, no four of the tigers, who were looking up at them and licking their lips. More tigers were on their way.
"Nice kitty?" Horse heard one of the ROOT ask. The tiger roared in reply.
Naruto spent a rather pleasant morning passing time with the new old Team 8, laughing and joking with the occasional flirting with Hinata thrown in. The root ninja, however, had a hellish time as anyone who so much as looked at Naruto funny was taken out swiftly, silently and humiliatingly. The ANBU, on the other hand, had a marvellous time reaffirming their superiority while testing out numerous weapons from the armoury that were usually restricted. The joybuzzer and tranquilisers were particularly popular. In fact, the entire stock of tranquilisers had miraculously disappeared, despite only a fraction of that number actually being used.
Yet all good things must come to an end and it was now time for Naruto to finally make his way to the training ground. Kakashi would be there in ten minutes and it would be wrong to be late.
"Goodbye everyone. I wish you luck on your graduation exam."
"Yeah, thanks man. You too."
"To acknowledge that we need luck would seem to be derogatory, as it implies that the only way that we could gain the documentation of true shinobi is by a twist of fate in our favor. Nevertheless, I thank you for the sentiment."
"Bye Naruto-kun, have fun."
"Heh, you know it Hinata-chan. See ya later."
"All units converge on me, I repeat, on me. Subject has finished breakfast and is on his way to the exam."
Whistling, Naruto jumped to the roof tops and began making his way to the training ground. About 200 meters behind him, two ROOT shinobi jumped forward, stealth forgotten as they charged forward blades unsheathed, hoping to get to the Uzumaki before something happened to prevent them from doing so. That hope was in vain, as they were quick to find out. In the middle of one of their jumps, a large panel of stone simply folded out of the wall at right angles directly in their path, causing them to imitate a pair of oversized bugs on a stone windshield.
"Nice one Wolf."
"Why thank you, Bull."
"Do we have any other hostiles still in the area?"
"Nah," there was a traumatized scream on the other end of the radio and what sounded like Anko shouting 'you made me drop my dango!' "We've got it handled."
Naruto reached the training area with no incident, none the wiser of what had been happening all around him. Shinigami however was almost impressed. The ANBU of this age were a lot more competent than the ones that he could remember.
Upon arriving to the training field, Naruto hi-fived his waiting clone, causing it to explode in a large poof of smoke. Noticing this, Sakura gaped, her mouth opening and closing a couple of times in a remarkable impression of a fish. Sasuke however, merely grunted, before staring out into the distance.
"You left us here with nothing but a clone," Sakura half screeched.
"Yep," Naruto confirmed cheerfully, before turning to Sasuke. "Hey Sasuke, how are you going."
"Hnn," Sasuke answered. Frowning slightly, Naruto reached into his kunai holder and withdrew a large, heavy stick that could not possibly have fit inside what it had just come out of.
Seeing it, Sasuke straightened out of his slouched position and looked Naruto in the eyes. "I am doing perfectly well, thank you Naruto, for asking after my welfare. I will admit to having slight jitters about our upcoming assessment and am a bit annoyed that our sensei is taking so long to actually show up. And how are you today on this fine morning," Sasuke said in a falsely cheerful tone, eyeing the emo-stick warily.
"What's the matter with you."
"SEEING SUCH A WELL TRAINED LITTLE UCHIHA, IT'S ALMOST ENOUGH TO BRING A TEAR TO YOUR EYE."
Sakura stared at Sasuke, flabbergasted, her earlier displeasure with Naruto forgotten. That was perhaps the most that she had ever heard Sasuke speak to anyone before.
"Maa, maa, it's so nice to see such cute little genin play nice with one another." Seemingly out of nowhere, Kakashi had arrived.
"You're late," Sakura chided…loudly.
Chuckling slightly, Kakashi walked past them and placed an alarm clock on a stump. "Okay, timer is set for noon."
"Seriously, you had an alarm clock literally on your person and you still get here late?" Naruto deadpanned.
Kakashi ignored him. "What I have here are two bells," he stated holding them in the air. "Your task is to take these from me before the time is up. Those who don't have a bell by noon get no lunch. I'll not only tie you to one of those stumps," he continued indicating the three training stumps in the centre of the field. "I'll also eat it right in front of you."
There was a loud grumbling sound that came from the stomach's of all three genin.
"Hang on, what the hell, why is your stomach grumbling? You just ate like six bowls of ramen!"
"OR WAS IT SIXTEEN?"
'Exactly,' Naruto thought. 'Only six bowls of the Food of the God's, it's a miracle that I still have the strength to stand.'
The Shinigami sighed, having given up trying to convince Naruto that no, ramen actually wasn't the Food of the god's and he would know. He tried, oh how he had tried and yet, in this, it was seemingly impossible to make it actually stick. Which was actually pretty impressive when you think about it.
"You only have to get one bell, but there are only two, so one of you will definitely be tied to the stump. And…the person who doesn't take a bell fails, so at least one of you will be sent back to the academy. If you want you can use shuriken and kunai. You won't exceed unless you come at me with the intent to kill."
"But," Sakura interjected. "You'll be in danger."
Naruto couldn't help it. He burst laughing. So far the meeting was progressing almost exactly the same as it had in the previous timeline and he could not help thinking about his first reaction to Kakashi's declaration that they needed to come at him with the intent to kill. He had laughed then too, but he had been laughing at Kakashi, confident in his superiority after seeing that Kakashi 'couldn't' dodge a blackboard eraser.
And so, he laughed, hiccupping slightly as he tried to get himself under control, then thought of Sakura actually thinking that she was a threat to Kakashi and burst out laughing once more. This bout of laughter did not last long, however, as Sasuke drew back his foot and landed a solid kick in Naruto's side, driving out all his air and killing his laughter in the same moment.
Kakashi blinked at the interaction between his prospective students. "Is there something that you find amusing Naruto?"
"Sh…she thinks that we actually have a chance…no, scratch that, she thinks that we have the advantage. Bwahahahaha-" Naruto's laughter cut off as if by a knife. "She somehow thinks that we actually have a chance of beating you, no, a chance of actually killing you."
"There's no need to laugh about it, Naruto."
"Oh, come on, Kakashi-sensei. You have to admit that it's a little it funny when you look at it that way."
Kakashi closed his eyes in the smile that, unbeknownst to the others, Naruto already knew so well.
"Maa, maa, I suppose that when you put it that way it is a little funny, Naruto-kun," Kakashi answered.
"He's an elite Jounin, Sakura-chan," Naruto deadpanned. "The only real chance we have of killing him is if by some miracle he has a heart attack and keels over while frothing at the mouth."
Sakura blinked, then stared at him. "That was…oddly specific."
"YES. YES IT WAS," the voices in Naruto's head agreed, before chuckling evilly.
"Don't encourage him," Sasuke muttered, his lips barely moving. "He doesn't need it."
"Well, I hate to interrupt the bonding time of such cute little Genin, but the clock, as they say, is ticking. We will begin on go." Sasuke and Sakura looked serious As they readied themselves to move quickly while Naruto clasped his hands together and stretched them out in front of him, cracking his knuckles.
The others nodded.
"Are you sure, I mean, its not as if you'll have any shame in just leaving now, that way, we don't have to-"
"Get on with it!" Naruto yelled.
"Yeah, get on with it!" Sasuke and Sakura yelled.
"But I'm enjoying this scene," Kakashi pouted.
"GET ON WITH IT!" Kyuubi and Shinigami yelled, remaining, unfortunately unheard of by everyone save Naruto.
The ground beneath Kakashi's feet exploded violently as soon as the word 'go' had passed Kakashi's mask. At virtually the same time, Sasuke and Sakura had disappeared, hiding within the trees. Naruto, of course, was the one who detonated the explosive.
"Well, that was surprising," Kakashi mused out loud, his form momentarily hidden by the smoke. "If I had been just a couple of steps to the right that might have really done me some damage, you know?" he finished as the last of the smoke dissipated, revealing Kakashi standing a small distance away, his uniform ruffled, but otherwise unharmed.
Naruto merely smiled. "KAI!"
Kakashi's single visible eye widened as he ducked down to the ground, avoiding the kunai that shot towards him from the seal on the ground.
"You trapped the training ground, didn't you?" Kakashi asked, half admiringly.
"You basically told us exactly where you'd bet testing us," Naruto answered, blithely. "It'd be kind of stupid of me not to make sure that I had prepared the ground before hand, wouldn't it?"
"True," Kakashi agreed.
In the trees, Sasuke and Sakura winced.
"You seem to be fairly well versed in seals," Kakashi noted while standing on the side of a tree, so as to avoid the ground around it, which was sparking with electricity.
Naruto snorted. "Hardly," he sighed, before muttering 'katsu' absentmindedly, causing the tree that Kakashi was standing on to explode violently. "At this point I wouldn't even consider myself an apprentice." That statement caused Kakashi to actually pause for a moment, the smoke still gently wafting off his singed chuunin vest. "Excuse me?" he asked incredulously.
"I had hours to prepare the battleground," Naruto said bitterly. "All I could do was make a few traps that are barely an inconvenience to you."
"I'm not exactly the average ninja," Kakashi stated dryly, standing still for the moment, as Naruto wasn't setting off any traps while he was talking.
"Yeah, but I'm supposed to be an Uzumaki," Naruto answered, somewhat dejectedly. "Supposedly, if you gave even an apprentice Uzumaki hours to prepare the battleground then it was almost suicide to go against them in a straight fight."
"Not entirely," the Jonin interjected. "You'll find that those who focus on exotic arts, such as seals or puppetry will often neglect the Shinobi basics, allowing an opponent to take advantage of such a gap in their education."
"Yeah, well isn't it the sensei's job to teach them such things?" Naruto asked dryly.
"True. Ergo, lesson one. Taijutsu." With that, Kakashi shunshined up to Naruto and immediately sent a crescent kick his way. Alarmed, Naruto held up his arms in a block, yet the force of the kick still sent him into the air to crash down violently into the ground a couple of meters away. Kakashi followed him immediately, his hands moving in a blur as he attacked Naruto, who moved desperately to defend. Despite his attempts however, he could not avoid everything. Approximately one in every five blows went through his guard to at least land a glancing hit on his body. That may not seem like much, but with the number of blows Kakashi was throwing, Naruto was well on the way to being overwhelmed.
"NOW, I'M NOT MUCH OF AN EXPERT ON THE WAY THAT GLORIFIED MONKEY'S FIGHT, BUT I MUST ADMIT, AFTER SEEING NARUTO HOLD HIS GROUND AND EVEN DEFEAT MULTIPLE ANBU IN HAND TO HAND COMBAT, I THOUGHT THAT HE WOULD HAVE BEEN A LARGER CHALLENGE TO KAKASHI."
Shinigami shrugged. "He's still young, and hasn't got nearly the same experience that Kakashi does in fighting in hand to hand. Besides, Naruto's style is designed to quickly build up momentum in the fight and then take out the enemy as soon as possible. It's a dirty method of fighting, and can be quite effective, as could be seen when he did take on ANBU. But remember, when it came to fighting Hiashi, the taijutsu specialist, he got the shit beaten out of him. Thing is, Kakashi's stronger, faster and simply better than Naruto when it comes to close quarters fighting. The kid's got no chance to gain the initiative; no chance to build up momentum, which is why he's getting his ass kicked." The tone between the two immortals was quite matter of fact and intensely annoying to Naruto who could not help but hear everything that they were saying.
What they were saying was true, however, which meant that Naruto had to do something to change the status quo. Fortunately, one of his clones had just popped to inform him that the last piece needed for his plan had just been put in place.
Abandoning his defense, Naruto dropped a pair of smoke bombs and accepted a punch to the gut. The force of the blow would have made most people puke, but Naruto was made of stern stuff and was able to hold enough air in his lungs to wheeze out a single word. "Henge."
There was a silence in the air as the smoke slowly wafted away. Kakashi knew that something had been done to him. He could tell by the way it felt like something was riding right up his…
Blinking, he held up his arm in front of his face. His eyes widened. With growing horror, he glanced down at his chest and took a look at himself. "What did you do to me?" Kakashi whispered. He was not entirely sure how, but Naruto had somehow changed him in the midst of battle. Instead of his respectable shinobi wear, he was now wearing a jumpsuit exactly like the one that Gai seemed to never take off. Apart from one thing: instead of being a monochrome green, this jumpsuit had apparently been coloured by a colour blind, tie die enthusiast, stoned hippy. It was completely covered in all the colours of the rainbow and more. It did, of course, come complete with orange legwarmers. But worst of all, it sparkled. He was standing there, sparkling in the sun like some sort of skankpire in that heresy known as Nightfall. Breathing erratically, Kakashi managed to calm himself down. His teeth clenched together, he gritted out "well, at least it can't get any worse."
"HOH, MY ETERNAL RIVAL!"
For a moment, Kakashi was sure that his heart skipped a beat. Either that or he froze like a rabbit in the headlights, for next thing he knew Gai was standing right in front of him, gripping both of his shoulders as manly tears streamed down his cheeks.
"I READ YOUR CONFESSION, ON HOW YOU HAD CAST ASIDE YOUR HIP AND COOL WAYS AND HAD DECIDED TO EMBRACE YOUR SPRINGTIME OF YOUTH!" Gai said/yelled, excitedly.
"TRULY THIS IS A MOST CIRCUMSPECT DAY!" Gai's mini me joined in from next to his sensei. "WHEN YOUR ETERNAL RIVAL HAS FINALLY SEEN THE LIGHT OF HIS OWN YOUTH!"
"Gai," said Kakashi, his tone of voice somewhere between bewildered and horrified.
"Gai," Kakashi responded, his voice now sounding more warning, yet flavoured with overtones of scared shitless.
"KAKASHI!" Gai answered emotionally, his tears falling anew.
With that, the two clad in green bounded together, embracing each other in their arms as they drank deeply from their own fountain of youth. In the background, waves crashed upon a sandy beach as the sun set below the horizon, bathing all in its golden light. And in the centre of that embrace, surrounded on all sides by extreme male youthfulness, was Kakashi.
Inside Naruto's mindscape, Kyuubi, being somewhat more familiar with this phenomenon, was lying on the ground with his front paws pinning both his ears over his eyes. Shinigami, who, being assured that after looking after the realm of the dead for so many eons would not find the sight too taxing, had not taken any precautions, was busy dry retching in a corner. Naruto, who had witnessed the event in the reflection of a kunai so as not to be petrified, frowned. "Well, he's keeled over and is still frothing at the mouth, but I'm not sure if he had a heart attack or not."
"WHO CARES? HE'S UNCONSCIOUS. GRAB THE BELLS."
Being very careful not to look at the light, Naruto stripped the bells from Kakashi's unmoving form.
"Thanks Gai-sensei," he said, cheerfully, before turning to walk away.
"Actually, I think he did actually have a heart attack."
Naruto felt his own heart rise up into his throat. "What?"
"He's at the gates of my realm right now."
"KAKASHIIII! NOOOO!" Gai shouted out in denial. "LEE, QUICKLY! PERFORM COMPRESSIONS OF KAKAHI'S CHEST!"
"HAI, GAI-SENSEI!" Acting rapidly, Lee started pressing down on Kakashi's chest. Gai, on the other hand, pulled down Kakashi's mask and tilted his head on its side to allow the foam to drain out. Naruto absently noted that he was wrong about the buckteeth – Kakashi was in rather pretty man, complete with beauty spot. Naruto continued watching in horror as Gai manipulated Kakashi's head into the proper position, lips parted and then leaned forward with his eyes closed and his mouth open.
"By the way, I was only joking. He really only fainted."
Naturally, it was at that moment when Kakashi regained consciousness. He saw the sight above him, but too late to do anything to prevent his fate.
The muffled screams and flailing of limbs did, however, clue Gai in to the fact that his friend was not, in any sense of the word, deceased. A sound highly reminiscent of a toilet plunger becoming unstuck resounding in the area as Might Gai came up for air. Kakashi immediately rolled onto his side, spitting profusely.
"KAKASHI-SAN! YOU'RE ALIVE!" Gai and Lee yelled as one, overjoyed.
"Kill you," Kakashi muttered.
"Eh?" they asked.
"Kill you," he repeated, as perhaps the thickest Killing Intent since Kyuubi and Kushina Uzumaki filled the air. Slowly, Kakashi raised his headband, revealing his Sharingan eye, which was swirling in his rage, slowly changing to a pinwheel formation and back again. Naruto gulped. His sensei was staring directly at him.
"Well, I can see where I'm interrupting things. I'll just leave you and Gai-sensei alone to have some privacy," Naruto apologised, before departing the scene with as much speed as possible.
"AUUUGGGGHHHHH!" he screamed like a little girl.
"AAAARRRRRRGGGGHHHH!" With a bellow of inarticulate, immeasurable rage, Kakashi followed close after him.
In the trees, barely a hundred meters away, Falcon turned to Hawk, from where the two of them had been hiding since the early hours of the morning to make sure that nothing did not go according to plan. "Please tell me you got that?"
Hawk turned to his partner, who could make out his shit eating grin even through the mask he wore to hide his face. Hawk patted the video camera he held in one hand lovingly. "Every single moment, in high definition."
Hiruzen watched through his crystal ball as Naruto once again did his utmost to avoid being buried in an early grave by one of Konoha's shinobi. He was, however, highly surprised when he witnessed the last Uchiha willingly go out of his way to save Naruto from an untenable position. Kakashi had finally cornered Naruto when Sasuke swung by, literally, using some impressive skills with ninja wire, grabbed Naruto by the back of his jacket and swung up into the trees, leaving Kakashi howling his wrath to the heavens.
"Well, that's it then." Fox leaned back in his chair from where he had been sitting on the edge of his seat. "Kakashi's going to have to pass them. If the Uchiha joined in the girl is sure to follow. All three working together means that they pass the bell test."
"Normally in this test the prospective team is meant to work together to defeat their new sensei."
"Well that was never going to happen, no way no how. Now they're working together so that they can all survive, which is truer to reality anyway."
"I suppose you're right," Hiruzen said with a smile, lighting up his pipe and taking a couple of puffs.
Placing one hand behind the back of his head and stretching out his legs, Fox took a long pull from a bottle of sake, enjoying the burning feeling as it went down his throat. Most people would say that it was far too early for alcohol, however his duties meant that he had to take the night shift. He hadn't slept for 36 hours and was getting to bed as soon as he got home, so this was really more of a nightcap. "Don't you know Lord Hokage, I'm always right," Fox stated smugly.
A silence reigned in the area for a moment before Hiruzen broke it. "So Fox. How did you kill Ivan?"
Fox snorted. "It's really been bothering you hasn't it?"
Seeing the look on his superiors face, Fox chuckled. "Fine, I'll tell you. You remember how you got your food inside that fortress?"
"Yes, we had one large supply drop which we brought inside and tested thoroughly for poison. Ivan, however, insisted that we include certain luxury items. As I recall, we found that you had poisoned a bottle of particularly fine sake that Ivan would have taken for himself. Not only that, but you tried to take advantage of his peanut allergy by replacing one of the bottles of cooking oil with peanut oil. Finally, and this one I thought particularly clever, you laced his personal supply off borsch with leopard whiskers." This particular method had impressed Hiruzen because it was one that was virtually unheard of. The whiskers themselves are not poisonous, however they do not dissolve in the stomach and they are sharp. If eaten, they pierce the stomach wall and cause cysts. These cysts then become inflamed and lead to peritonitis. It would have been a slow, painful death and unavoidable without a medic nin experienced in surgery.
"I knew you'd catch the first two. Wasn't sure about the last, but it was also meant as a distraction."
"Yeah. I knew you'd be suspicious if I didn't try anything with the food, so I had to do something and if it worked, well I wouldn't be complaining." Fox paused for a moment. "Actually, I would be complaining. That would simply be too easy."
"So how'd you get him?"
"Would match the symptoms, yes, but so would a host of other disorders. Plus, with chakra it's fairly easy to check for and there was no arsenic in any of his food, nor on his clothes. We even checked the pages of his books to make sure he wasn't getting a contact poison!" The Hokage said, sounding more than a little bit frustrated.
Fox smiled, secretively, enjoying the situation to its utmost. "As you know, arsenic is a contact poison, provided that it is applied to an area of the body where blood flows closely to the skin. In that supply drop was a box, a box containing three items that Ivan thought absolutely essential to maintaining his calm. A box of tissues, a volume of Icha Icha Paradise and a large tub of Vaseline."
Comprehension dawned on the Hokage as his eye began to twitch. "You don't mean…" he began, not sure whether to laugh or cringe.
"Yes," Fox confirmed, sounded quite satisfied. "Ivan the Butcher was slain, quite literally, by his own right hand."
Author's Note: And done. To be honest, I wan't entirely happy with this chapter. I did actually think of just scrapping the thing and starting over. However, considering that that would have been the fourth such rewrite I decided to post it anyway. I also added the reveal of Ivan's assassination method at the last minute as well. Figured it was better than leaving you wondering how it happened for another period of time. Anyway, read, enjoy, review. Hope you guys liked it and see you next time.