Brief AN: This stemmed from one of my Short stories that just wouldn't get out of my head. It's Intended as a one-shot, but God only knows if this is really the last you'll see of it.
UZUMAKI (Maelstrom): Prologue
Naruto bit back a moan as his arm snapped back into place, Kyuubi's power flowing through him, forcing his body to mend. Akatsuki had won. He was the last, and it was only a matter of time before he was found too. He may have kept the nine tails out of their hands, but it seemed it wasn't an issue any more. With the capture of the other eight Bijou, the Akatsuki had done the impossible, they had conquered death it's self, and the newly immortal were well on their way to conquering the world.
It has to be here, I know it's here somewhere
Naruto stumbled, and behind him he could hear the Trekidites baying for his blood. Pein had taken to his new powers in unexpected ways, twisting the forces of the universe, creating monsters from animals, demons from people. Faster, Smarter, Harder to kill, and all subservient to only one power. His own. Itachi was the only mortal left in the organization, the Kyuubi the only thing stopping them from becoming truly all powerful in this world. Shuddering Naruto forced his exhausted and burning muscles to move a little faster, he was among the ruins now, and they seemed to burn red under the twisted sky.
On the last day of the solstice as the final light dies seek you the balancer of all things, the one being that none escape. There you shall invoke his name, and there he shall answer you, and the deal shall be struck again, as it was of old.
Beware yea the deal, for what was lost cannot be regained and the deal once struck cannot be struck again. Beware yea, for only a hopeless fool would try to pay his price, and only a hopeless fool can change his flow.
Naruto sighed, wiping away the sweat that was burning his eyes
Beware... A fool I may be, and hopeless I am. So it's time to pay the price.
Abruptly Naruto stopped. Around him were twelve tallies scratched into solid stone, at the points of the tallies were twelve massive columns still proud for the millennium they had stood untouched.
Fitting... a sundial, One the size of a small village.
Trembling slightly from his exhaustion Naruto strode quickly to the center, to the print of a hand sunken into the solid rock. Behind him a Trekidite shrieked, from across the ruin another answered. Naruto chuckled grimly.
"To late boys, to late."
Taking a deep breath he risked pulling in Sage Chakra, the world's energy was twisted now, poisoned with Akatsuki's taint. Swallowing bile he pulled out a kunai and cut his right hand open down each finger, from nail to palm, working quickly to keep the Kyuubi from healing it. The demon, finally realizing what he intended, poured out it's power, trying desperately to delay him long enough. As horrifying as being captured by the Akatsuki was, what the little bastard had planned was just as bad for it. The nature chakra, even tainted as it was, was enough to hold back the demon's power, and by the time he broke though it, Kyuubi was too late. Without wasting a minute Naruto slapped his hand into the indent and recited
"Guardian of the forbidden path, hear me! Answer the cry of a wretched soul!"
For a moment there was nothing and then the dial glowed, a curtain of blue power raising out of the ground just in time to lock the mis-shapen forms of the trekidite out. It wailed it's loss, three mouths screaming discord, five sets of razor sharp claws tearing madly at the power that kept it from it's prey. Soon it was joined by a second of it's kind, and then a third, Naruto saw none of this however, heard none of it... in his mind a voice was speaking, a voice older than then mountains, deeper than the sea.
WHO ARE YOU TO COME BEFORE ME? WHO DARES INVOKE THE TREATY OF OLD?
Naruto shivered, even Madara, Pein, and all the Akatsuki together wouldn't have wielded a fraction of the power bearing down on him.
"I am Naruto, I am the sacrifice"
DO YOU KNOW WHAT YOU ASK?
Naruto bit his lip in frustration and more than a little pain. The taint of the nature chakra slowly seeping into his bones felt like raw acid
"I ask for a chance to change the past"
DO YOU UNDERSTAND THE CONSEQUENCES OF SUCH A REQUEST?
The burning of the taint became more pronounced, and with a start Naruto realized that it was resonating with something. This realization was distant however, a stray thought drifting across his mind.
"I understand what I ask. It is a cost I am glad to pay"
ARE YOU SURE?
With sudden wrench Naruto's attention was focused to the world outside the barrier again. The trekidite's were gone, the landscape seemed to pulse with a sickly light, and the spinning wheels of the Itachi's Sharingan met his stare as the world around him vanished.
"Naruto-kun, so nice of you to join me."
Naruto sighed as he took in the bleached landscape, and the red moon hanging in the sky.
"Itachi. You can't stop me."
For a moment a ghost of a smile flickered across the Akatsuki member's face
"I'm not here to stop you."
At the incredulous look on Naruto's face He sighed, and did something Naruto would never have expected of him. He dropped his dispassionate mask, and for the first time in years he let someone past his guard.
"I'm Dying Naruto. Have been for a couple of years now."
"Why Should I give a..."
It wasn't a forceful command, just a matter of fact rebuttal and Naruto, surprisingly, did just that.
"You don't know, You couldn't know, but I am, was, and always have been, an agent of Konohagakure Every mission where we met, every battle we've fought, almost all of it has been carefully orchestrated to give you the best possible odds of escaping me. Even now I could kill you."
Naruto started to scoff but was silenced with a glance
"You think in all the years I've been able to do this I've never improved it? I could leave you as nothing but a mindless husk. But I won't. You slipped up Naruto, you left the scrolls behind when you found out about this place, and you slipped again when you drew on sage chakra. Tobi... no... he was never really Tobi. Uchiha Madara is coming, and he knows."
"Oh sit down. Three days in a second remember?"
Naruto trembled a little, but did as he was told.
"There are things that were hidden from you. Things you must know if you're to have any hope of fixing this mess."
"First, I was under orders when I murdered my clan. They were plotting rebellion against..."
Suddenly Itachi fell to his knees and grabbed his head, Behind him a black spot appeared in the Tsukuyomi's moon, it grew rapidly, and through it reached a massive hand, solid black and nearly twice the size of a man.
Reality snapped back, and the first thing Naruto registered was the blood trailing down from Itachi's eyes, ears, and nose. The second was the creature clothed in crimson with his hand on the back of Itachi's head.
"So. You would betray me."
The creature's face swung toward him, and Naruto quickly averted his eyes to keep from being caught again. The distraction was enough however, and Itachi quickly burst into a flock of crows.
There was something dead in it's voice, as though the soul had long fled.
And a bolt of black ripped through the curtain of power that had been protecting him. He had no time to dodge, no way to counter without breaking pact, for a second Naruto was sure he had failed, then Itachi was in front of him taking the blow. As the energy coursed over and through him, Itachi managed to force out.
"Tell Sarutobi.. Blackbird shuffle... Save my Brother..."
and he came apart, it was no massive explosion, no grand crash and burn, one moment he was there, the next all that was left was a pile of bloody dust.
"DAMN IT! YES! I UNDERSTAND!"
There was a small silence, and then Madara fired another blot of black, time seemed to slow for Naruto, the attack was only half way to him when the world froze.
… THE TREATY IS INVOKED, THE PRICE SHALL BE PAID, FOR THE POWER OF NINE THE ONE SHALL RETURN.
In the background Naruto could hear the Kyuubi screaming, but it didn't matter, fire burned him, light caressed him, each nerve turned slowly to ash, and his voice mingled with the beast as it's power was drawn through him. The light surrounded him, The Kyuubi however wasn't so quiet.
No...NO! I Shall NOT perish! It is his bargain, let him pay the price! My Foolishness may have been my downfall, but I will not go so quietly!
There was a massive shudder, and Naruto's screams became a howl! The agony of the Kyuubi's power flowing through him became the torture of his own being ripped away.
Bound together, we return together! For the price of ten two shall return!
The light was the purest agony, and it erased him atom by atom
SO MOTE IT BE.
With a final cackle from the Kyuubi, the light consumed them both.
Gasping for breath Naruto sat bolt upright in his bed, trembling with the flash of raw emotion and clutching desperately at the covers. After a moment he relaxed however, the horror imprinted into his mind fading from immediacy into the slightly less focused terror, The ghostly pain of his dis-assembly fading. Taking a couple of deep breaths he rolled out of bed and crossed the room quickly. Sitting at his desk he pulled a journal out of the lower drawer and began quickly writing down everything he remembered.
When he'd first started having these... Dreams? Memories? Whatever they were, when he'd first started having them he'd tried to dismiss them, but after a while his teachers had noticed the dark circles starting to form under his eyes. Most of them didn't like him much, but they were professionals first, and after the first week had reported to the hokage's office that he seemed to be suffering from a recent insomnia. Naruto had seen councilors, and healers, even a psychiatrist, before the matter had finally reached the Hokage.
Sarutobi, while a busy man, had taken time out of his schedule to visit with his favorite citizen, and Naruto had obligingly told him the bits of the dream he could remember. It wasn't until he mentioned the 'Blackbird Shuffle' that Sarutobi had really become interested though. Until that point he had assumed it was simply a bad dream, or (though he never mentioned it to Naruto) Kyuubi trying to break his jailer. After that comment though, the Sandiame had asked him to start writing his dream down in as much detail as he could possibly remember.
Naruto of course, had done exactly that. That had been over two months ago however. The scenes of destruction had varied only slightly in all those weeks, and had in fact become less pronounced recently. Tonight had been his worst flare up to date, and the dream had been nearly as vivid as the first time.
Naruto sighed as he re-read the journal entry, trying to scrape any additional detail from his fading dream.
"At least it helps neh? Probably had something to do with The assassination attempt."
"Bad dreams again Naruto-kun?"
Naruto started slightly at the unexpected voice.
"What are you doing in here again?"
"You were thrashing around worse than usual, I'd have woken you in a moment."
Naruto nodded, The ANBU had taken to waking him up early on, but had stopped doing so as the night terrors diminished.
"Thank you Mink-Chan, I think I'm alright now."
The ANBU nodded
"Want to talk about it?"
Naruto shook his head 'no'
"same dream, just more vivid. I think it had something to do with the assassination attempt on the Uchiha."
"Enough to inspire bad dreams in any of us."
"What was the final count?"
The ANBU was quiet for a while, as though contemplating whether or not to answer.
"I suppose you'll hear it around the village soon enough, Almost half of them. Most of the Higher ranked Uchiha were taken out early during the fire in their temple. If Itachi-san hadn't arrived with reinforcements when he did, it could very well have been as bad as you dreamed."
Naruto nodded and yawned.
"You should go back to sleep Naruto-kun. I'll take your journal to Mongoose in the morning."
"Thank you Mink-Chan"
Mink Nodded before fading back into the shadows and completely out of his senses. Yawning Naruto turned back to his bed, he had a couple hours left before class and he intended to make the most out of them.
- Two years later-
Naruto pumped one fist into the air as he proudly displayed his new Hitite. He had nearly screwed up on the Bunshin portion again, but thankfully most of them had turned out OK, and he had been able to hide in and amongst them while Iruka and Mizuki had shaken their heads at the dead looking ones. It was a narrow pass, but it was still acceptable as he had made better than twice the number of clones his classmates had.
Grinning ear to ear, Naruto did his best saunter down the road toward his apartment. It looked Hilariously cheesy on him, but nobody was about to tell him. A small prank on the effeminate trickster seemed only fair in the face of his occasional bit of mischief.
Naruto was so wrapped up in his possible celebratory prank, 'Painting the monument perhaps?', That he didn't notice Anko walking beside him until she cleared her throat loudly causing him to jump a couple of inches.
"Have a couple of minutes Nar..ru..to..kun? Hmm?"
"HEY! KNOCK THAT OFF!"
Anko snickered to herself, sneaking up on him never got old.
"Come on kid, I need a favor, and I'm willing to pay in Ramen."
Naruto cheered, and immediately raced off in the direction of Ichiraku's. Anko could only chuckle and shake her head ruefully before setting off after him.
"ahh... that's more like it."
Anko sighed and shook her head at the small piles of bowls stacked up around them.
"I don't know where you put it kid."
She had gone through three bowls of Ramen herself, but Naruto's seven had long since left her in the dust.
"When you're as awesome as I am..."
Anko rolled her eyes.
Naruto grinned, but didn't press.
Anko slurped out the last couple of noodles in her bowl
"What was that favor you wanted?"
Anko paused her slurping for a moment and lowered the bowl enough to look at Naruto over the edge of it. Only a moment though, as she tipped the bowl up and finished draining it before she bothered replying.
"You have some pull with Sandaime-sama right?"
"You mean old man Hokage? Dunno. A little I guess."
"I need you to request a specific Sensei from him."
"Huh? Why? And why would he listen to me anyway?"
Anko shifted uncomfortably for a moment before mock scowling at him.
"I just paid for Ten Bowls of Ramen, isn't that reason enough?"
Naruto shook his head 'no'
"For some simple Intel, or a specific person pranked this is more than adequate. You're not asking for something simple though. This is Big, and if I'm going to..."
He paused a moment before sighing
"You went and gambled against Ibiki and Shibi again didn't you."
Anko Scowled but said nothing
"You DID!" He sighed "Damn it Anko"
"I had two pair! How was I supposed to know Shibi had a damn full house!"
"I'll see what I can do, but you still owe me for this!"
Anko waved him off
"Can I ask why?"
"No clue to be honest. This is what they wanted though, so this is what they get."
"Alright. Time to go see Jiji I guess. Later Anko-chan!"
Anko watched the hyper blonde run out of sight
"You want what?"
"I'd like Hyuuga Hiashi as a Jounin Sensei."
Sarutobi puffed his pipe a little as he considered the request. Technically Hiashi was still considered an active member of the village's Ninja force even though he was on detached leave as he was mostly running his own family.
Naruto blushed and mumbled something, and Sarutobi chuckled
"I'm sorry, What?"
"I said my chakra control still sucks Ok? And..."
"Jiji..." Naruto shivered slightly "I think it's waking up."
Sarutobi's eyebrows shot up, but he didn't tense so much as a muscle otherwise
"Why do you think that?"
Naruto frowned thoughtfully. While it was true that he was doing this mostly as a favor to Anko he'd done his research, And Hiashi as head of the Hyuuga family was actually a pretty good match for his greatest weakness. A weakness he hated admitting, even though the old man had probably guessed.
"My chakra control is getting worse again. The exercises you gave me help, and the old stuff I weaseled outta your ANBU all those years ago help, but I'm overpowering them again. I almost failed the academy test again earlier today. Would have too if Iruka hadn't let me try the clones again."
"You didn't make enough the first time I take it?"
"The two I made the first time both looked dead. I upped it to ten just to play it safe, and they nearly didn't form."
Naruto sighed. He was glad that he'd gotten the full disclosure about why it was so hard for him to form the academy jutsu all those years ago. It would have sucked to fail because of the Kyuubi's power again.
Sarutobi looked mildly amused though it was only betrayed by the wrinkles at the corners of his eyes deepening a touch. His mask was the benign smile that had earned him the nickname 'Professor' instead of 'Butcher' all those years ago. The fact that he preferred to cripple his opponents rather than kill them probably helped too, but he swore by the smile.
"I can't order him to do this Naruto. Hyuuga Hiashi is a busy man, and while he's technically under my control, I won't order him to abandon his duties to his family just to train some Gennin."
Naruto's eyes narrowed
"You said 'order'"
Sarutobi actually chuckled a little at that, and the wrinkles deepened a little further.
"I did indeed. I make no promises Naruto, but since it was you, and since it's for this, I'll ask."
"Thanks Jiji! Your the best!"
"Is there anything else I can help with?"
Naruto's grin grew sly.
"Aww, come on! I didn't even get a chance to ask yet!"
Hiruzen Snorted softly
"No, but I know that look."
Naruto pouted for a second before smiling back.
"Ya alright, I kinda figured I'd get a 'no' on this one anyway, It would have been epic though!"
The Hokage said nothing as Naruto got a look of deep concentration before declaring
"I'm pretty much all out of Ideas then Jiji."
Sarutobi shook his head a little before gesturing to the door.
"Off you go then. I have to meet with the Merchant guild and draft a letter to a clan head."
Sarutobi watched as Naruto ran off, and carefully noted the slight scowl on the Merchant's face as the boy ran past.
"You know Anko put him up to asking don't you?"
Sarutobi's mouth barely moved around his pipe as he replied.
"Yes. I also know Naruto did his research before asking me, and his concern about his control was mirrored earlier today by Iruka's report on the graduating class. Hiashi could indeed help him if I can convince the man."
"Good morning Hokage-Sama"
Sarutobi felt a slight breeze at his back as the ANBU disappeared again before the Merchant could notice him.
"Team Seven, led By Hatake Kakashi; Haruna Sakura, Uchiha Sasuke, and Aburame Shino. Team Eight Led by... Hyuuga Hiashi? Just a moment."
The class broke out in whispers as a frowning Mizuki double checked his papers for a moment and then got up and left the room. They got quiet as everyone strained to hear what was being said just outside the door. Nobody had the guts to get closer to the door however before Mizuki came back in followed by their slightly amused principle.
"'Ahem' as I was saying, team eight, led by Hyuuga Hiashi Inuzuka Kiba, Uzumaki Naruto, and Yamanaka Ino. Alright, meet back here to be picked up by your squad leaders in exactly one hour. Class dismissed!"
An hour later the class had re-convened waiting for their prospective Jounin Sensei. Two teams had left early as the whole group had been there before the deadline, and exactly as the clock ticked over the One o-clock mark a white eyed Man opened the door. The remaining Gennin hopefuls shivered slightly as the man's gaze traveled over them and dismissed them out of hand. When he spoke his voice was soft but carried an underlying current of authority.
"Team Eight will follow me. If any of you are not here your team fails and you can remain academy students."
His piece said he turned and walked out of the room, his new team scrambling to keep up with him.
"I am Hyuuga Hiashi. I am the head of the Hyuuga clan. I am potentially your new Sensei. Until I decide different, that's all you need to know. Now, Starting with the blonde boy you will give me your name and a brief summary of yourself including your greatest strength and greatest weakness. If I feel any of you have not been truthful I will fail you all immediately."
All three Gennin swallowed before Naruto spoke up.
"Um... I'm Uzumaki Naruto, I'm an orphan and have been living on my own since I was eight. Um...
My greatest weakness is a tendency to charge into battles without assessing the situation. My greatest strength... I'm..."
Naruto hesitated, using the had on the opposite side from his teammates he gesture slightly toward his stomach to which he received a minute shake of the head.
"Hmm... My greatest strength is my refusal to give up regardless of the odds."
"Yamanaka Ino. My father is Inoichi and one of the lead interrogators for Konoha. My greatest strength is... Um..."
Ino floundered for a moment
"Genjutsu... and... My family techniques?"
Hiashi's face didn't so much as twitch as to whether or not he approved of her assessment
"My greatest weakness is... Ninjutsu I suppose."
"-Cough- Sasuke -Cough-"
Said Kiba as Naruto snickered in the background. Without glancing at him the Rapidly reddening Ino bashed him over the head. Kiba scowled at her as she tried to suppress a vindictive smirk before he picked up where she left off.
"Inuzuka Kiba and Akamaru. My mother is Tsume and my sister Hanna is the Clan's heiress. I'm excellent at Taijutsu, though my Genjutsu is pretty decent too. My weakness is... Um... Girls I suppose. Especially girls in trouble."
Naruto snickered again as Ino turned to berate him for being a Chauvinist. Hiashi however interrupted him.
"I see. Very well. As I have only a limited amount of time at the moment your test will be put off until tomorrow."
"Test! What test?"
"To see if you're actually worth my time to train of course. You didn't think that display you put on for your professors was enough by it's self to make you a ninja did you?"
Ino Began as Kiba and Naruto traded confused looks. Hiashi continued as though he didn't hear her.
"Of course not. Jounin are far to valuable to train every student that comes out of the academy. It would be foolhardy in the extreme. Only the exceptional groups will be hand trained by our elite. The rest will be sent back to an accelerated training program designed to make lifetime Chuuin. Those that aren't simply drummed out of course."
All three Gennin swallowed hard at that pronouncement.
"You will meet me at training ground thirteen at six o-clock tomorrow and I will give you your final evaluation then. If any of you are missing when I get there, you all fail. I recommend a good night's sleep and a decent breakfast, but what you do is your own business."
With that Hiashi disappeared with a quick shunshin.
"Wait... isn't Training ground thirteen the one on the edge of the old Uchiha complex?"
Ino and Naruto turned to stare at Kiba who, after a couple of seconds continued
"What? Just asking!"
"I think he's right."
Ino just shrugged however
"Whatever. I'm going home. You two losers better be on time tomorrow."
with that Ino turned and walked away.
"Hey! We're a team now. You guys want to get some Ramen or something?"
Ino didn't so much as glance back.
"I need to go console Sasuke-kun on being stuck on forehead's team. Maybe some other time."
Hopeful Naruto turned to Kiba who shook his head.
"sorry I have to go home and help in the kennel."
Most people would have missed the slight droop of Naruto's shoulders, but Kiba was a good deal more perceptive than most.
"I don't suppose you want to come help? I realize you probably have a bunch of other stuff to do today but..."
Honestly expecting the answer to be a prompt 'no' Kiba was already starting to turn when Naruto spoke up.
"You mean it?"
The question caught Kiba flatfooted. It was the quietest he'd ever heard Naruto speak.
"Wha? I mean... sure, if you want to. It's not like it's going to be exciting or anything. Just checkups, bath's, and some obedience training stuff, but if
you want to help you're welcome to..."
For just a moment Kiba could have sworn Naruto was someone else, his smile was soft and small, and there were tears glimmering in the corners of his eyes, but a moment later said grin stretched across his face again.
"Sure! What are teammates for right?"
As the two boys walked away Hiashi let his Byakugan fade. Kiba had dismissed Naruto's moment of weakness as a trick of the light, but Hiashi himself was one of the finest readers of body language in the elemental Nations. That crack in the mask was either a very good sign or a very bad one, and only time would tell which way the boy would go. Sighing he turned and shunshin'd away again.
"I still don't understand why You've asked me to come out of retirement Hiruzen Yes the children have some potential, but you have a number of capable Jounin who don't have families to lead. Please don't try to flatter me by saying I'm the only one who can teach the boy to control his chakra either. There are any number of ninja in the village capable of helping him though the necessary exercises."
Sarutobi sighed and packed more tobacco into his pipe. Lighting it he took a long drag before replying
"There's more to it than meets the eye Hiashi, Even yours."
"Sure there is, Like that little wager with Anko and those other two."
Hiruzen puffed his pipe a few times without answering, His face completely impassive.
"So there's more than that even? You mean to tell me the gossip about him and the Uchiha has some truth it?"
Still unruffled Hiruzen took another long drag of his pipe before replying.
"Tell me Hiashi What do you remember about Danzo?"
Hiashi frowned a little.
"An old teammate of yours from the Second great war. You both served under the Nidiame Haishirama. Your platoon was cut off and surrounded and He was seriously injured when he disobeyed orders and tried to go back and help the lord Hokage. It effectively ended his career as a Shinobi"
"That's what's generally known yes. I asked what you know. Don't make me ask again."
Hiashi paused, there was something dangerous in his voice, something that didn't come out often.
"He formed a sect of ANBU known as ROOT. His plan was to form a force like the academy's Gennin washout program except a step or three higher. Teaching them enough to make them low level ANBU operatives. His squad took all the jobs that it would be... inconvenient... to have linked directly to our village. You had them disbanded after the second great war for unnecessary Brutality in their training methods."
Hiruzen face didn't so much as twitch, but the tightening on his pipe bowl and the slowly clenching muscle groups of his arms gave away enough that Hiashi knew he'd better not be done.
"A group that despite orders he never disbanded."
Sarutobi slowly relaxed those muscles again. It was the first time anyone had dared say it to his face even though everyone knew about it.
"Did you know that Uchiha Itachi went through his program?"
Now it was Hiashi's turn to carefully have as little a reaction as he possibly could.
"That makes no sense. The boy was far ahead of his classmates such training could only have stunted..."
Hiashi trailed off thinking of the emotionless youth he occasionally saw around town.
"It did damage him."
"It gets better. I ordered him to join it."
Hiashi's face carefully remained neutral though his mind was racing at a thousand thoughts a minute trying to put together the pieces he'd been
"That is of course your perogat..."
Sarutobi cut him off.
"He was given several very specific pass phrases in case of serious trouble, none of which was ever spoken aloud. Phrases that wouldn't come up in normal conversation. Starting about four years ago Naruto started having prophetic dreams..."
It took a while for Hiashi to believe him, it took even longer to convince him to do nothing about it just yet. By the time their talk was concluded Hiashi was completely briefed on Naruto's dreams, the 'Uchiha Incident' And the rate at which the boy could learn when pushed. As he walked away Hiashi couldn't help but feel a small measure of pride at the trust Hiruzen was showing by giving him this team.
Now if they can only get past the entrance exam.
It was an odd sight that greeted Hiashi when he arrived the next morning. All three of them were there of course, but he certainly hadn't expected to see all three of them climbing trees, Naruto doing so while balancing a kunai on his forehead. (Though the bruise showed it was a good thing the blunt end was touching him.)
Were Hiashi the type to laugh he most certainly would have done so as all three of them lost their concentration and immediately fell on their asses.
"I wasn't aware the Academy taught tree walking."
Naruto gave a self conscious smile as he rubbed both his rear and his forehead.
"They don't. I kinda got bored so I started practicing my chakra control, and then Ino and Kiba asked how I was sticking the tree like that and... well... I wasn't going to hold out on them. Bad practice if we're supposed to be a team right?"
Hiashi made no reply though the three would eventually be able to read him well enough to note the minute signs indicating surprise and approval on his face.
"Be that as it may, I hope you haven't worn yourselves out. This test will be strenuous. It will test your cunning, Your resolve, it will force you to call upon resources you didn't know you possessed in order to complete your objective."
Hiashi, despite his training and personal intent to not do so actually allowed a small smile to slip though at the focused looks of eager anticipation on his potential student's faces.
"There are two bell that look like this." So saying he held up a small silver bell on a string. "They are tied to the collar of a cat belonging to the fire lord's fourth wife. Your job is to capture said cat and retrieve the bells."
The look of shock and outrage on their faces would warm his heart for years to come.
"WHAT! What kind of test is that?"
Naruto and Kiba nodded, agreeing with Ino, and Hiashi actually smirked. He knew he was enjoying this far too much, but there was just something about these brats... He quickly schooled his face back into impassivity.
"Ah, but there's a catch. The only people who will pass will be the ones that bring me a bell."
There it was, the shock, the horror, the disbelief. It was actually somewhat refreshing to be working with people that hadn't been taught that it was safer to keep their emotions schooled to nigh unnoticeable around him.
Naruto was stuttering, Kiba outraged and quickly conferring in with Akamaru, and Ino looked as though she had been shocked into silence. Hiashi glanced at the sky.
"It's just after eight, I give you until Noon. That gives your four hours to locate, subdue, and return with the target designated 'Tora' "
"Can I use Akamaru?"
Hiashi glanced over at him "If I did not specifically forbid it, it is acceptable, we are Ninja are we not?"
Noticing the gleam in Naruto's eye Hiashi smiled a little and continued "That being said I forbid you to buy any bells of any sort from anyone here in town, Nor are you allowed to leave the city limits, or have someone else buy them for you. Additionally the cat Tora must be with you and unharmed or you fail."
"Does the target have any distinguishing marks? Aside from the collar and bells?"
Hiashi said nothing to Ino's question but produced a picture of the cat from inside his sleeves, showing it to the three Gennin
"Do we have any information on the target's preferred Locations?"
Hiashi had to admit, thus far he was a little impressed, True they hadn't thought to draw him aside and ask the questions where potential rivals couldn't hear them, but they were asking for Intel, something most rookie Gennin didn't think to do.
"The sushi stall in the market plaza, and the roof of the bathhouses seem to be where she is spotted most often."
"Does the Target..."
Hiashi Cut Kiba off.
"That is all the information I will give you on your target. You have more than enough to find it. Now go."
Immediately Kiba and Ino took off in opposite directions, Ino headed for the shopping district, Kiba for the bath houses. Naruto on the other hand...
"Didn't I give you a mission?"
Naruto smiled at him and bowed low.
"Yes Teacher, I had one more question however."
"I gave you all the intel I will reveal about the target."
"Oh, I know. It's about something else."
"May I have your bell?"
Hiashi was amused, He honestly didn't expect any of them to think of asking for the one he had shown them.
"If you can take it off me, You can have it. Be warned however, I will not let you take it lightly."
Naruto considered it for a moment, obviously sizing him up and eying the bell, to which Hiashi responded by deliberately clipping it to the sleeve of his shirt. Deciding it was foolishness to attempt to take it in a one-on-one fight Naruto sighed and shook his head a little as though in defeat before suddenly darting forward toward it. Hiashi lifted his sleeve just far enough for Naruto's fingertips to brush it and then shoved the boy past with his other hand. Naruto hit the ground rolling with the blow and came immediately to his feet, without breaking stride he continued forward toward the market calling over his shoulder as he did so.
"It was worth a shot. I'll see you later Sensei!"
And with that he was gone leaving behind an amused Hiashi
It was just over three hours later that seemingly at random Hiashi flickered his Eyes, the swollen temples pulsed only once, and shortly thereafter the slimmest of smiles supplanted his normal impassive expression. A second later Kiba and Akamaru raced out of the treeline. As Hiashi causally redirected their combined attack he felt the telltale buzz of a Genjutsu being used in his near presence. Increasing the chakra flow to his eyes only a minute fraction, they took on a mild and eery glow which which was only really noticeable in a darkened room, and the main reason his family's bloodline had been titled the 'evil eye'.
The Genjutsu didn't break, but he could now see through it as Naruto crept in from the right, even as Kiba launched another attack on his left side trying to keep him from noticing the Genjutsu. In the bushes behind him he could feel the third teammate's chakra fluctuating as she strained to hold the illusion despite his vastly stronger and more complex network. He carefully didn't nod to himself at their teamwork. It was rather impressive that Naruto had managed to get the other two to work together considering his rather abysmal reputation. Also. She had the cat, and Kiba had the bells. Technically those two had passed which meant that he had done something worthwhile enough that they were helping him fight to get his own place on the team.
Naruto's cry of triumph was short lived. He had darted in as soon as he was within striking distance, but instead of holding the bell as he had been sure he would, he was holding a whimpering Akamaru up by the collar.
Sighing, Naruto turned to look at the tree that a rather confused Ino was sitting under.
"Thought I had you Hiashi-Sama."
Ino's squeak of fright was mildly amusing as Hiashi replied from right above her.
"A decent attempt. Your stealth is above average."
It wasn't a question.
"It takes some skill to evade Jounin and ANBU wearing my jumpsuit, even when they are nearly wetting themselves with suppressed laughter and under orders not to so much as bruise me."
Hiashi nodded to himself.
"You still have nearly forty minutes left to get the bell from me."
"What makes you think I need it instead of one of the other two?"
Hiashi pulled his sleeve out of the way a full half second before Ino's hand flashed through the space the bell had been occupying.
"Ino has the cat, Kiba and Akamaru the bells. I can hear them as those three move even though you were smart enough to stuff the bells to keep it from being obvious. I believe the cat is eating your lunch at the moment Ino."
Ino quickly opened her pack and sighed rather sadly as Tora looked up with a sushi roll in her mouth. Closing the pack again before the cat could escape she shrugged at Naruto and Kiba.
"Well, I'll tell the Hokage that these two have passed. Better luck next year Naruto-san."
Hiashi activated his eyes fully as he turned around and watched the rapid and whispered conversation as he began to walk away.
Ahh... It was Naruto that caught the cat. He gained their support by handing over it and the bells.
"no No NO. It's fair! Look, of the three of us I need the most work, I don't deny that! Technically this is the first time I've failed as I merely didn't show up to the other two exams, plus I know that both Old man Hokage, and Uchiha Itachi are willing to vouch for me, I can probably swing being reserve if I have to. Worst case scenario they send me to remedial where I kick so much ass they have no choice but to promote me. You guys earned this!"
Hiashi had stopped walking about the time the argument had become audible.
Ino promptly ignored Naruto's rant and tossed him her bag much to the obvious displeasure of it's occupant.
"I should be the one failed. Naruto is the one who actually completed the first objective. I've done nothing truly worth passing."
she was shock a minute later when her hand reflexively shot up and caught the bell tossed at her by Kiba.
"Nope. I don't abandon my comrades like that. If you contributed nothing than I was an active obstacle. until you and Naruto showed up all I'd managed was to scare the target into running."
Hiashi's grin would have lit up his face had his students been skilled enough to see it for was it was. Instead what they saw was a small upturn at the corners of his mouth.
"Congratulations then on passing. The true test here was to see if any of you were the type to abandon your teammate's. 'Ninja work is cold and cruel. As Ninja we are forced to kill our hearts with blades of Ice again and again. Without the flame of compassion and camaraderie we would quickly become cold and merciless killers, no better than those we do battle with for the sake of the people we protect. This is the will of flame, and I pity the day it is ever absent in my nation.' These are the words of the Shodi at his inaugural address. To this day the 'will of flame' has been what sets us apart from other nations. It is this will that has caused us to flourish despite the hardships our city has endured. I will meet you here at Eight AM, do not be late, you wouldn't like the results."
With that he shunshin'd to a tree just at the edge of his vision's range and opened his bloodline, allowing the song of his chakra to sing through him he focused on the clearing. Where an excited Naruto was currently dragging his new teammate's away for 'The best food in the world! My Treat!'
Shaking his head at the mild look of outrage and resigned amusement on Ino's face when she found out it was Ramen Hiashi turned and finished the shunshin home.
Lets see if I can get enough paperwork done to slip away for a drink tonight.
Anko frowned as she looked around the bar, she'd already had a few, but all the instructors had shown up with the exception of Hiashi She sighed and tossed back another shot of Sake.
Looks like I'm going to be paying off that debt after all...
She Grimaced at the thought of enduring yet another wardrobe modification. If she'd had her own way she'd certainly dress a lot more conservatively than she currently did, She'd gotten a reputation for preferring women after all the Men she'd been forced to hurt for mistaking what she was looking for the last time those bastards had...
Suddenly a small hope blossomed in her chest. She wasn't much of a sensor, but she knew that Chakra.
"It had Better be worth the effort I'm going to have to make."
The bar went quiet for a moment to see what he was going to do. Anko went bright red and slowly released the head she had been firmly pressing into her rather ample bust.
Hiashi had gone stiff from the shock of Anko's exuberant greeting, but he allowed his expression to relax and a small smile to escape as he took in the sight of the brightly blushing Special Jounin. This it seemed was a signal for everyone else to go back to what they had been doing.
"Ah, Hiashi They impressed you that much?"
Hiashi endured the slap on the back from Ibiki as he and Shibi sat down across the table, bringing a fresh bottle of Sake and another glass.
"They have the makings of greatness."
Three sets of eyebrows shot up in surprise, and Hiashi hid a satisfied smirk behind taking a sip from his cup.
"They have the..."
"...Makings of greatness?"
Anko had apparently been struck completely dumb by the sentiment.
"Indeed. They'd begun working together well before I posed the 'who goes back' question. I suspect that Naruto was the instigator on that. Of the three of them his will burns the brightest. I suspect he will have a hard time with his first kill."
The other three nodded at that. They had all worked with and around the brat enough to know exactly what Hiashi was talking about.
A cup was slid across the table as Kakashi joined them.
"My brats only barely squeaked by. Sasuke is good, but he's struggling to get out of his brother's shadow, and he hasn't realized how much support Itachi gets yet."
"Tried to solo it?"
the fact that this was the first team Kakashi had passed wasn't lost on anyone.
"Indeed. Shino saved him from the headhunter. Sakura is..."
"Is? Asked a new voice.
"Kiri-chan! How's my favorite new Jounin?"
Kurenai frowned at the nickname.
"Annoyed that you still call me that Kakashi."
Kakashi's eyes grinned at her for him.
"How would you like an apprentice?"
She studied him warily
"My team didn't pass, but I don't think I need an apprentice as such. Your girl that bad?"
The other Jounin didn't miss the nearly invisible flinch at the question.
"She has great chakra control and is an excellent..."
"Cut the crap."
"She's book smart and obsessed with the Uchiha, if she keeps on as she's been going she's going to get herself and others killed."
"I make no promises..."
"Thanks Kiri-chan, You're a lifesaver!"
"So yours passed too eh Kakashi."
Asuma spun a chair around backwards and sat down. Already lighting up a cigarette. "Let me tell you about the plan that the Nara's brat came up with..."
It was bright and early the next morning that Hiashi showed up to greet his team only to find two of them half way up trees, and Naruto standing on the ground coaching Akamaru who was, rather surprisingly, also partway up the tree.
"You don't have enough chakra to your rear legs."
Akamaru's control slipped altogether, and Naruto was so surprised that the barely caught the falling Dog. A minute later there was two soft thumps as Kiba and Ino landed a short distance away, and Hiashi deactivated his eyes shortly after noticing they were already subconsciously re-enforcing their legs with chakra to absorb the impact.
"That was mean Sensei! Don't scare us like that!"
Hiashi's face didn't so much as twitch
"Then don't let yourselves be caught off guard like that. You may be relatively safe here in Konoha, but you can be certain that it is a cruel and nasty world for ninja once you leave our gates."
Ino blushed and looked down. Kiba and Naruto, who had been glaring at him shifted uncomfortably from one foot to the other under his flat stare. Hiashi held said gaze for a few seconds longer before allowing the corners of his mouth to twitch up slightly.
"That said I'm very impressed by your progress, especially considering the fact that you've only been a team for two days. How was lunch yesterday?"
Naruto's recitation was somewhat exaggerated, but it seem that the other two were content to let him do the talking, and only interjected when he got too outrageous. Hiashi nodded when appropriate and made a mental note get Naruto training in diplomacy as it seemed he was going to be the voice of the group.
"All right. First things first, we will do some endurance training followed by Genjutsu or Ninjutsu on alternating days. We will begin with ten laps around the field while I explain the implications of some of yesterdays daily news, and we will be having a discussion about those implications while you do your cool downs. Starting tomorrow you will each have a note worthy piece of information and it's implications which we will discuss. You will not repeat each others pieces of news. If you attempt to do so I will increase your workload until I feel the message has sunk in. Now follow."
Hiashi allowed himself the luxury of a small smile, one which his team instantly picked up on even though most wouldn't have. They had been his team for three weeks now, and were much more adept at reading both him, and the people around them. He was quite proud of the changes that had been wrought in that time actually. Naruto and Kiba had grown quieter but much more proficient. Ino had begun dressing more for effectiveness rather than looks, and they had nearly forty 'D' ranked missions to their team's name.
"I would like a 'C' ranked mission Hokage-Sama"
The reactions were obvious to the trained ninja in the room, and Iruka's eyebrows had shot up in a most unbecoming display of emotion when his student's only response had been a general straightening of the shoulders and poorly suppressed grins. They weren't there yet, but they were becoming quite adept for their age at controlling their reactions.
"The team's record speaks for itself Hiashi If you are sure they are ready I will of course trust your judgment."
His student's smile's brightened just a tad as Hiashi formally nodded. Iruka it seemed had been struck dumb if the pole axed expression was any indicator.
"Here you are Hiashi We've received a request from the importers guild to check out a certain route to waterfall. It seems that several guards have disappeared without a trace when they wandered too far from the caravan."
"As you command Hokage-Sama."
Sarutobi snorted. "as a friend, Hiashi Take care of yourself. This actually boarders on being a 'B' rank as it may be low level missing nin instead of bandits."
Hiashi only nodded however before dismissing his team.
Naruto ducked another branch as he flew through the trees, his face scratched in several places, and his clothes torn nearly to shreds. Landing in the designated clearing he whirled around, a pair of Kunai coming up just quickly enough to deflect the Tonto that flashed through the space his neck should have been. Grimacing he tried a fast one-two combo and then somersaulted quickly away as his opponent's blade left a burning trail in it's wake as, grinning, he pressed in for the kill. The evil grin never faded as the shinobi's head rolled away from his body a few seconds later.
Ino nodded. She too looked to have been badly treated, one of her eyes was purpling, and her shirt was being held together by a few threads and her fervent prayers. She didn't dare stop scanning the area long enough to fix it though.
"Good thing Dad taught me the basics of this after all eh?"
Naruto nodded, never happier that his teasing about her cutting off her own foot with the katana had been completely misplaced.
"Have you seen..."
Naruto didn't finish as Kiba limped out of the bushes at the edge of the clearing. Akamaru walking carefully backward, watching his master's back so Kiba didn't have to. Naruto watched him cautiously. He was fairly certain about Ino since she'd saved him but... He grimaced at the necessity. Knowing that it would alert any sensor types in his immediate vicinity he still brought his hands together and released a pulse of chakra anyway. He barely had enough time to drag Ino to the ground as 'Kiba' and 'Akamaru' instantly attacked with some form of wind jutsu, their cover having been broken by the pulse. Thankfully the real Kiba and Akamaru arrived just in time to distract one of the enemy ninja, the other however bore down on the two fallen Gennin without pausing. Acting on instinct Naruto grabbed the first thing that came to hand and executed a perfect rising strike removing the enemy's hands at the wrist, and most of his face with the carry through.
"Nice move. I didn't know you could use a sword."
Naruto pulsed his chakra again and was relieved when Kiba didn't so much as bat an eye.
"I can't. I have a couple of forms that I use for meditation and that..." he pointed to the remains of the Oto nin. "was reflex."
Ino stood up, immediately scanning the area for further threats, ignoring the fact that her shirt had finally given up the ghost and she was now clad in only a bra and her pants.
"Lucky reflex then. Either of you seen Sensei?"
both boys shook their heads. In another time or place they would have probably teased her about this, but they had long since had 'work mentality' and 'play mentality' drilled into their heads. Until they were officially released from the mission, they were strictly business.
"Not since he told us to run. Have you?"
It was almost cliché as Hiashi shunshin'd in and immediately collapsed. He was bleeding badly from several places, and looked like he had gotten into a fight with an ogre's club.
Kiba immediately dropped to his knees, trusting his teammate's to cover his back as he frantically but carefully began checking their teacher's wounds. The moment he got close to one of Hiashi's arms, his nose wrinkled at the pungent stench.
"He's been poisoned."
Kiba glanced at Naruto as he tied a tourniquet tightly around their teacher's upper arm.
"It'd kill me to suck it out."
"how long does he have?"
"a minute tops."
Naruto didn't even hesitate, and before Kiba could protest Naruto's new blade flashed through Hiashi's arm just below the tourniquet.
"Ino. Kiba. Grab him and move."
There was something in his voice, and Kiba didn't hesitate. Even knowing that Hiashi would probably bleed out before they could get back to help they grabbed their teacher and moved. Ino had tears running down her face as Naruto made no move to follow them.
Naruto glared across the clearing as a voice started chuckling, a moment later a second joined in, and then a third.
"You think you can stop us boy?"
Across the clearing from him emerged nearly a half dozen ninja, all of which had either a pair of musical notes or a scratched missing-nin headband bound to some part of their bodies.
"We'll finish you, then we'll finish them. Nobody escapes Orochimaru-sama."
"We all die someday. At least I'm going to die with honor."
All six ninja laugh uproariously, but none of them took their eyes from the boy.
"Boys. Kill him."
Naruto braced himself, knowing that he wouldn't survive but praying he was buying his teammates enough time. Luck however, seemed to smile on him as a second later the leader of his opposition arched backward, his face rapidly purpling as the garroting wire around his neck pulled taut. Naruto nearly collapsed in relief as the oto-nin's sure victory turned into a rapid route as the white masked ANBU mowed through them with hardly any effort. As a familiar face landed next to him Naruto turned.
"Mongoose. Why are you here?"
Anko lifted her mask and smiled at him, her eyes still darting around, looking for active threats
"Two days ago a survivor managed to make it back, and the guild immediately sent word that it was high level Shinobi attacking. We got here as quickly as we could."
"My... my team..."
"Don't worry Naruto-kun. We got to them in time."
Naruto smiled and collapsed to one knee with only the sword keeping him upright as the adrenaline left his system.
"I've entered you into the Chuuin exams. Lord Hokage is understandably concerned. As the leader of this new 'Sound' village has sent a missive explaining that there was a miss-communication somewhere that caused this 'misunderstanding'. He plans to send a team to show they mean no ill will."
Team eight frowned, Ino's hand twitched up briefly as though she was tempted to reach for the sword on her back, Naruto's hand moved left as though tempted to reach for his own. In the two weeks since their disastrous 'C' turned 'S' ranked mission all three had thrown themselves into blade studies. Kiba made no effort to hide his movement as he pulled out his trench knives and examined the edge of one of them before speaking
"Of course not Sensei It was just a misunderstanding after all... no reason for us to specifically target them."
Hiashi sighed internally. He had been afraid they'd respond like this... that and his missing arm was itching terribly and he had no way to scratch it.
"Naruto. Ino. Kiba." All three of their eyes widened a little in shock. He rarely called them by their given names, and never while they were on duty. "It has been a distinct honor to teach you, and I hope to do so for a great while yet, but you need to let this go."
All three faces darkened, and two pairs of eyes flickered briefly to the bandage covered stump where his left arm used to be. Naruto's however didn't waver from his own as he replied
"We will not Sensei We've discussed this amongst ourselves already, and I give you my word that we won't hunt for them specifically, but don't expect us to show mercy on them if we are matched against them during the test."
Hiashi sighed to himself again. It was more than he'd expected to get out of them, but much less than he'd hoped.
"Very well. Just be cautious, it wouldn't be out of line to slip some Chuuin in to try and finish what they started under the guise of a Genin team."
The three of them nodded as one and Hiashi allowed himself to relax, rather glad the discussion was over.
Naruto glanced at the other teams as his entered the room.
Kiri, Taki, Kusa... ahh... there's Oto...
Naruto allowed a rather dark and feral smile to slip out as the Oto Gennin with the odd device on his arm met his gaze
Just give me an excuse...
As though in response to his mental request the Gennin in question sneered at him.
"If it isn't the class losers and the weak fan girl."
Naruto ignored the Uchiha scion as he continued his staring match with the Oto Gennin.
"Hey! I was talking to you dobe!"
Naruto's hand twitched toward his sword again as Sasuke cut off his line of sight to the foreigner.
"You cute little newbies should quiet down. We're all on edge here and you're drawing attention to yourselves."
Naruto glanced at the silver haired speaker as the fellow leaf Gennin pushed his glasses back up his nose.
"and who are you?" Kiba's voice carried an undertone of threat to Naruto, but to the other Gennin it seemed merely neutral
"Maa... So hasty. I'm Yakushi Kabuto. This is my seventh Chuuin exam, and these are my Nin-info cards."
Kabuto went on to explain what they were and what they did before asking if anyone had any specific requests for him. Naruto, Kiba, and Ino all exchanged glances when Sasuke immediately asked for info on both himself 'to see if you're accurate' and Team eight 'To prove their still losers'. Sasuke's obvious pride in his team's 'C' turned 'A' rank seemed trouble waiting to happen as he smirked at the other assembled Gennin. You could almost see him swelling with pride at the mention of his bloodline activation. The information on Team eight however turned out to be an effective needle for his ego however.
"My my my! You survived a C turned S rank? And fought Orochimaru?"
All the Gennin in the room immediately stared at them, re-assessing their previous evaluations
All of team eight's frowns deepened however. There was something off about him. Kiba didn't like his smell. It may have been from the hospital, but he had some kind of very powerful snake venom on him, it smelled far to much like the wound his Sensei had received. Naruto had been suspicious before, no one who was nominally on 'their' side should be giving out Intel on them in a room full of foreign shinobi. Plus he could have sworn he heard the nearly silent start of an 's' right after Kabuto had said 'Orochimaru'. That type of sub vocalizing usually proceeded 'Sama' or 'Sensei'. 'san' usually started at a higher pitch. Ino tapped a finger on her chin as she studied Kabuto. She could have sworn the fact that their mission had turned 'S' rank was supposed to be a bound secret... in fact she distinctly recalled the Hokage forbidding them from telling anyone it had been anything but normal. Something was off here...
No, team eight didn't like Kabuto anymore.
Naruto Frowned as sat shirtless. staring at the marks on Sasuke's forearm, Their discussion about the Hyuuga houses after the preliminaries had led to a rather eye opening discussion about seals, and that had segued into this. Hiashi stood in a corner of the room, and Sasuke frowned at the Hyuuga seal masters in the other corner. Neither boy could hear them well, but the phrase 'lucky break' and 'Amputation' had come up far too often of either of them to be comfortable.
Both boys glanced away from the conferring seal masters as Ino Set a trey between them. Tempura and Ramen both steamed in the cool room.
"I hope you don't mind, but I bought you dinner."
Naruto Smiled and his thanks were low pitched but both easily heard and genuine. Sasuke didn't actually say anything, but the small quickly suppressed smile spoke volumes now that the other two could read him properly.
"What's the verdict?"
Naruto shrugged, and Sasuke's smile quickly morphed into a frown as The blonde replied
"About a third are arguing that they should amputate chibi's arm, a third think a suppression seal could do the trick, a quarter think they can redirect the source it draws chakra from which would turn this into a serious boon if we can figure out how to fix the mortality rate, and the rest think it's a problem with an Uchiha, and that the Uchiha should figure it out. Sensei's had to break up two fights already."
Sasuke actually snorted in amusement when Ino eagerly asked if there had been any serious damaged and had pouted when she found out only a minor stabbing had occurred. Naruto and Ino shared a small and secret smile that they'd gotten that much of a reaction out of the stoic Heir.
Sasuke stood as Hiashi walked over.
"Despite what our doctors think, this is your family's decision. The council has documents about the studies done to the only other person in the village to survive this branding."
Ino and Naruto both suspected Hiashi's choice of words was intentional, doubly so when Sasuke clenched both his teeth and his fist at the word 'Brand'
"I very much recommend that you not try to use this power source as it seems to have a corrosive effect on the human body, but it is ultimately your decision. We would like your permission to place a temporary seal over it until you've decided what you want done. Is this acceptable?"
Ino nodded slightly to herself. Hiashi was truly the master at guiding people into seeing his point of view and then letting them think it was their own Idea. Truly she still had much to learn. Naruto on the other hand winced at how easily Sasuke had been played, and how easily he would have fallen for the same thing a mere couple of months ago. Sasuke made a show of thinking it over, but the slow clench and unclench of his fist let the other three read him like a book.
"That would be acceptable Hiashi-San."
Ino and Naruto both frowned at the fact Sasuke apparently considered himself their Sensei's equal.
"Thank you for your hospitality."
sparing a glance at Naruto's Navel which no longer showed the Seal he had seen imprinted on it, Sasuke walked toward the remaining seal masters leaving the other three to quietly converse as Naruto re-dressed.
"I want to kick his ass."
Ino nodded at Naruto's sentiment, and Hiashi cracked a cold smirk
"You need to beat my nephew first."
"Can you train me?"
Ino looked askance at their teacher, but Naruto nodded.
"I expected as much. Family secrets?"
"there are enough people who have figured out counters to our style already. I have no intention of picking it apart for you, student or no."
Naruto nodded again.
"Fair enough. Plus you need to train Kiba how to survive that sand girl. Wind trumps fire after all, so his knives will be difficult to utilize properly."
Ino scowled slightly and looked away. She was still smarting from losing to the puppeteer in the prelims.
"I've arranged for you to be tutored by Mitarashi Anko. Your Ninjutsu should be adequate for the challenge, but you'll need a better Taijutsu if Neji manages to get close.
"Can't Juken a sword now can you?"
Hiashi Snorted softly
"You might be surprised. True, I suspect that Neji doesn't know how. But I'd really rather you not maim him."
"How about I just put him in traction for a while? He was rather harsh to Sakura after all."
Hiashi looked at him askance out of the corner of his eye before changing the subject.
"The Sannin Jirayia has asked to train you for a while after the exams regardless of your showing."
The comment elicited a rather obvious gape from Naruto. A lapse Ino fully intended to tease him about for weeks to come.
"I... But... Sannin?.. Me?.. Why?.."
"He's heard of your recent interest in seals as well as the ease you seem to have in learning them. He intends to push you on it as Konoha hasn't had a proper Sealing apprentice since Minato."
Naruto smiled as understanding dawned.
"Ah, That makes sense. I thought it was... You know."
Naruto glared at her. He had told his teammates about his seal and his burden shortly after they had finished Helping team7 to the tower, and while they had both been shocked, neither one begrudged his keeping it a secret as long as he had. It didn't stop Ino from teasing him though.
Hiashi Frowned as he looked down at the the squirming white snake he currently had immobilized
"Tss... I will Kill you and pluck your eyes out! I will breed your mongrel children off to mud farmers and dung shovelers and then experiment on the corpses of their chil..."
Orochimaru's 'Ultimate' form didn't get a chance to finish the thought as a chakra scalpel split it's head in half.
Hiruzen sighed and gave Hiashi a slightly reproachful look
"We could have at least tried to get some information out of him."
"My hand slipped is all, I was of course only trying to immobilize him, I'm not quite as proficient with only one arm as i thought I guess."
The third shook his head and picked his hat back up.
"You realize that Ino is in contention for Chuuin after your team brought to light Kabuto's treachery don't you?"
Hiashi cut his eyes toward the Hokage.
"What a coincidence that the biggest threat to both my team and Daughters died in such a tragic accident."
Sarutobi matched his flat tone perfectly as he replied
The corners of Hiashi's lips quivered as he ruthlessly suppressed a grin, and seeing it Hiruzen turned away so he wouldn't have to take official notice of insubordination.
"Come Hiashi, we still have a village to defend."
Hiruzen allowed himself a rueful smile at the the laughter in Hiashi's 'Yes Hokage-Sama'
Naruto started down at the Gaara's black ringed eyes and tried to decide what to do with him. On one hand he was an enemy, On the other He was a fellow sacrifice. Neither boy flinched, nor broke their stare as Temari and Kankurou landed a good ten yards away from them, especially as Sasuke, Kiba, Ino, and Hinata landed behind Naruto a moment later.
"Don't Hurt him! Please!"
Naruto Ignored her, his eyes trying to read Gaara's mind, trying to sift through his soul.
"Why should he listen you backstabber?"
peripherally, Naruto was aware of Ino and Temari's verbal battle, as well as Sasuke's satisfied smirk and Shikamaru's calculating gaze, but Naruto's focus was taken up wholly by the boy in front of him. After a moment Naruto crouched down and bopped him on the head. Not hard enough to hurt, but certainly enough to make the other boy blink in shock.
"Get sane. You come after my precious people again and I. Will. End you. Do you understand me?"
Temari stared in open shock at the fact that the blow actually landed, and surprisingly Gaara's lips turned up a fraction in their corners.
"Will... you validate my existence?"
Naruto's smile was also nearly unnoticeable, but Gaara saw it, and he understood Naruto's quiet reply of.
"I see you brother."
Nothing more needed to be said, and after a long couple of seconds Naruto stood up and backed away.
"Take your brother and go. Remember we were merciful when we had no reason to be."
Kankuro looked ready to argue, but a swift elbow to the ribs had him helping as she gingerly picked up their youngest sibling and vanished into the trees.
"Should you have done that?"
Naruto shrugged and turned to Shikamaru.
"They were no longer a threat, and they are the closest thing Suna has to royalty. If they tell anyone at all what happened here what do you suppose will happen?"
Shikamaru merely sighed and began the walk back to the city.
Ino's face scrunched a little as she stared down at the small symbol stitched into the underside of her bag.
Kiba snorted, and Naruto put on a dignified and somewhat wounded air as he replied.
"I craft seals."
Ino and Kiba both smirked
Naruto reached for the bag which Ino quickly pulled out of his reach.
"No, No, I like it! It's just..."
She bit her bottom lip as Kiba snickered out.
"You'll make some lucky girl a great wife someday."
Naruto sat down with a huff, but presently a small smile graced the corners of his lips as well. More than one person could play that game after all.
"Yes well, I still can't compete with nurse Kiba-chan over there."
Now it was Kiba's turn to look affronted
"I'm a medic-nin, not a nurse."
"Mmm Hmm. Childbirth procedures start some time next week don't they Nurse Kiba?"
Ino opened her mouth to throw a little fuel on the fire, but both Kiba and Naruto immediately covered it with their hands. They really, Really didn't want to know. The girl had gotten Scary after her month long internship with Anko-Sama. Ino just pouted, far to used to their behavior to even comment any more.
AN: Or is it?
I apologize right up front. I know it doesn't really fell like a definite finish, I know it doesn't cover Akatsuki at ALL. But frankly, It's finally out of my head, and hopefully I can go back to my other stuff now. It was fun to write, and I now have another Massive plot device out of my head as well as the (apparently Mandatory) DifferentTeam!Naruto story out of the way. I hope you enjoyed it.
No I don't intend to continue it in any way, shape, or form. Yes it's very bare bones, especially considering my other stories. Yes there is a very very slim chance that I could pick it up again at a later time as a separate one-shot.
-Breathes a sigh of relief-
There, I think I covered most of it.
Hope to hear from you!
PS. Went back and edited various names and corrected spellings. Thank you for the help. Also, it was mentioned that I didn't explain the buildup or consequences of the ritual that Naruto did. Check my one-shots for the full explanation please.