The Art of Appropriation


Early that morning…

Naruto's eye twitched as he glared up towards the rows of students ogling him from the safety of their seats. Of course, he had nobody else to blame for his predicament but himself… and the nosiness of his teacher Iruka Umino, who was at that very moment scolding him the best way he knew how; by having him tied up and, after dragging him halfway across the village, sat down in the middle of the classroom floor as an example to the rest of the class. The message he was establishing was clear; anybody who thinks of messing with the village's monuments and landmarks will be severely punished.

The most outstanding accusation the jinchuriki was being blamed for today was painting the faces of the Hokage Monument in white, red and blue for the rest of the world to marvel.

As of right now, Naruto could still hear the waves of praises from his fans all around. People who were in sight of their beloved mountain were crying out in dismay and outrage, their resonance of obscene calls and questions echoing onto the school grounds and into the classroom itself.

Though this brought a tug of a smile to Naruto's lips, he still couldn't help but feel displeased at being caught by his teacher.

There was no arguing it, it had to be karma.

The sounds of impatient tapping filled the room and Naruto glanced to his left and up, where he found himself locked in an intense gaze from his teacher. The irate, brown haired, ponytailed Chunin had his hands balled into fists on his hips and the tightest of scowls in play, cluing Naruto into the amount of pain he was suspected to be put through in the foreseeable future.

The whisker-marked boy grinned sheepishly at the taller man shadowing him and slowly turned back towards the rest of the class. Some of the students were glowering at him, others were grinning in amusement, whereas those with mental disorders and/or brooding problems couldn't give a damn. However, most of these observations were based on the jinchuriki's own point of view, who merely chuckled away the various stares and the most prominent, aggravated glare he was receiving from Iruka.

"Okay… in my defense… I think Hokage-jiji looks way better with a nosebleed," Naruto exclaimed, earning a round of chuckles from the boys who had a sense of humor up in the stands.

"This is no time for jokes!" Iruka shouted suddenly, silencing the laughing offenders. All of his students jumped in their seats and the accused cringed at the sheer volume in the man's voice. "We ALL know exactly what you did, you little smart-assed brat!"

"I gave the past Hokages a makeover, big deal. That's nothing to get angry about. It's not like I poured a whole bottle of laxatives into your coffee this morning, sensei" the boy groaned in response, shaking his head to clear himself of the ringing. He then grinned proudly when said ringing stopped. "Besides… it was fun! Heh, I sure gave the other Chunin a good chase around Konoha this morning… you should have seen their fac-"

"IRRELEVANT!" Iruka roared, his head growing several times in size and startling the teens seated in the front rows. Unfortunately, Naruto was sitting right next to the raging storm and his hair ended up being blown and kept to the side.

Huffing, the Chunin calmed somewhat, but his eyes maintained that enraged, animated expression. "This is the eighth time this year you've done this! You skipped the early morning lectures and practice tests to pull another one of your stupid pranks! That was valuable time you could have spent studying for the final exams coming up in a month or so, and you've failed it twice. What do these little escapades of yours teach you that the academy doesn't?"

"That the Chunin chasing after me are second-rate chumps?"

"NOTHING! THAT'S WHAT!" the man screamed out again, intent on shooting the boy down before he took it any further. However, Iruka quickly suppressed any harsh words he was planning on throwing to keep his voice from growing hoarse. Instead, he resigned to rubbing the bridge of his nose and silently glaring down at the still smug looking boy. "Why can't you appreciate the time I'm using to teach you the stuff you need to know to become a shinobi, Naruto? Isn't that your dream?"

"Yup!" the boy piped with a nod. "My dream is to be Hokage, dattebayo!"

"Well… you're not going to get anywhere near Genin at the rate you're progressing at, so I suggest that you straighten up and start flying right from now on, before it's too late. Otherwise you'll be left behind for the third year in a row," Iruka stated and stepped forward some. "And I'll be damned if I'm going to be teaching you again next year. So I'll make this clear and easy enough for you to understand; the first thing you have to do is stop these ridiculous practical jokes." He grabbed the rope binding Naruto and pulled him to his feet, but left him tied up where he stood.

"Aww…" Naruto groaned, giving the man a disappointed frown. "But they make every other day fun…"

"For you… not for others," Iruka smirked, strolling passed the youngster and over to his desk. Getting behind it, the Chunin yanked open the drawer and started pulling out random items, lining them up on top of the workspace for everybody to see. Those students who couldn't see craned their heads around others to get a better look. "Exhibit A; the apple you crammed full of worms and gave to Mizuki… and several other unfortunate teachers. Exhibit B; the stink bombs you simultaneously detonated inside every single classroom. Exhibit C; slipping factory adhesive glue into everybody's sandals during dojo practice…"

"Oh yeah… that one was great," Naruto laughed out. His good-natured outburst though had him on the receiving end of a wave of glares and killing intent thrown at him from the students seated up in the stands behind him.

"Exhibit D; rigging the dividers in the hot spring between the boy and girl sides to collapse randomly during the day… actually… props to that one Naruto, nice going. Oh… and Exhibit E; replacing all of the canned drinks in the academy cafeteria and Jonin lounge with urine samples swiped from the hospital." Iruka ended the last one with a groan and dropped the document in relation to that travesty on top of the desk. He then slammed the drawer shut. "That's not even the worst part…"

"How was that not the worst part?" A random student called out, sounding a little bit distraught, probably from memory of the previously mentioned prank.

"All of those so-called 'accomplishments' can be used to fill up my file three times over," Iruka marched over to Naruto and crossed his arms. He returned to glaring at the boy, only to see that he was still looking curious and perplexed. "To summarize your academy record for you, in brief; you're a terrible student."

The jinchuriki instantly dropped the clueless look and grinned. "Thanks…"

"That wasn't a compliment, idiot," Iruka replied and drew a kunai from his holster. With a clean slice, he cut the rope binding the boy who then stretched out in relief at being liberated from his chains. Upon watching the blonde flex feeling back into his limbs and midsection, the Chunin then held his hand out to him expectantly. "Don't think you're being let off so easily today, Naruto. You still need to face punishment for your actions. Empty your pockets…"

Considering his teacher's hand extended towards him for a few moments and seeing the impatience slowly growing in the man's eyes, Naruto eventually resigned to his fate. With a heavy sigh he reached into his jacket pockets and pulled out whatever items he had planned to do mischief with, and handed them over. However, while Iruka was expecting to be given packaged stink pellets or zapping paper, the Chunin held up one of three eggs the boy had on his person and had surrendered to him.

Iruka held the egg up to eye level and looked at it a little more closely with a raised eyebrow, wondering what the plan behind it was. Surely, the greatest prank-master in the village's history and modern-day class clown wouldn't be carrying around ordinary eggs. That was too simple for him, not his style… waaa-y below Naruto Uzumaki material. Iruka knew this from experience, which prompted him to throw a questionable glance down at his student, who had his hands in his pockets and was looking up at him apprehensively.

The jinchuriki shrugged. "Back ups…"

"Back ups?" Iruka parroted and looked at the two eggs he held in his lower hand, then back up at the solitary egg he held in his dominant hand. He sniffed it, checking to see whether it was expired or not.

This security action he undertook meant that he barely missed Naruto lowering his goggles over his eyes.

"What do you mean bac-" SPLAT!

Naruto laughed when he saw the egg blow up, point blank, right in front of Iruka's face, along with the other two he held at his chest. Those that weren't placed in line with the 'intended' target ended up staining the man's pants and vest in yellow goop. Ultimately, the young teacher was left standing stock straight in bewilderment, confusion, and covered in chicken mix.

Though the jinchuriki ended up catching some of the splash back from his secret weapons going off, it was still worth it to see his teacher pasted. The boy was holding in his guts as he continued bellowing out laughter in a doubled-over position, with the rest of the class shortly joining in when they realized what had happened.

Iruka, seeing both yellow and red, brushed his yoke stained hands over his trouser legs and wherever there wasn't any egg, before wiping the gunk off of his face in one fluid movement. Eyes narrowed, he then glared angrily down at the offender responsible.

The heat rising off of the teacher literally toasted whatever egg was still on his skin.

Calming himself down, Naruto grinned happily at the Chunin. "How'd yah like that, Iruka-sensei? Cool, huh?" He then pulled out another egg he had hidden in his jacket pocket and held it out in front of him, as if it were some flag won in a king of the hill match. He showed the Chunin the utter brilliance of his device. "The hard part was getting the ignition powder into the egg, but it all worked out in the end…"


Approximately a few minutes later, the troublesome Naruto could be seen standing by the door inside of the classroom, with the one egg he had left placed precariously on top of his head and a bucket held in each hand. The metal pales that he suspended several feet off of the floor were filled to the brim with water, so that meant that if he had even a momentary loss of balance or a lapse in concentration he would spill some of the contents. In addition to balancing the egg on his head to prevent it from falling, he also had to content with the every growing weight of the buckets. The annoyed glint in his expression remained steadfast, as did his place in the room.

After seeing that Naruto was dealt with for the morning period and didn't look as though he would be causing anymore trouble for him, Iruka then carried on with his daily lectures and practices with his class, albeit a now foul smell wafting off of his clothes and a bit of egg still visible on his clothing. Since the overall tragedy would be difficult to wash out, he made a mental note to go shopping at the end of the day for a replacement uniform and set of clothing. However, he still had the first task of conveying the information he had on hand towards his students and the second punishment he had planned out for the resident troublemaker later in the afternoon.

The Chunin spent the next few of hours talking, reading off of preplanned notes and setting the students questions to answer at the end of every briefing. For Naruto, it was the study periods in which the students were engrossed in answering basic questions and materials that proved to be the most boring to stand through, as he struggled with the pales in his place of metaphorical isolation.

To pass the time, the jinchuriki positioned his punishment as an unconscious front while he focused on the blackboard and reluctantly read the information Iruka had written down. During the more longwinded study breaks, Naruto spent a few minutes reading the same paragraphs and theories over and over again, before eventually getting bored of that too and returning concentration to keeping the egg on his head straight.

Though it was apparent Iruka had placed him under this same timeout before, it was nonetheless a real drag. This particular sentence was normally administered to him during the first half of the subjects that he missed out on during his mischief runs in the morning, and ones in which Iruka was the tutor. On other days when he wasn't in trouble, Naruto would either nap at his desk or reluctantly do the work assigned to him to pass the time.

It was the normal routine. After lunch Iruka would be swapped out with Mizuki and time would tick by on course. And as usual, the young jinchuriki did the bare amount for both occupations undertaken within the academy; actual school work and standing at the side of the class facing the penalties for his actions.

When the bell for the lunch break mercifully rang some time after his punishment was dished out, Naruto remained resolute at the door as the students slowly filed passed him one after the other. Some of them tried not to look at him and his sorry state, others grinned mockingly when they passed, while the more brash ones had the nerve to actually throw nasty comments his way when they crossed.

"Nice going, dead last," Kiba exclaimed, with Akamaru yipping from his perch on top of his master's head. "Enjoy tidying up the place."

"Bite me, dog chow," Naruto shot back, the pair trading glares before the other vacated the vicinity.

Within minutes the classroom was empty, leaving only Naruto left waiting under his teacher's shadow and authority.

As part of the patterns of his normal punishment for offenses within and outside of the academy, Iruka assigned him to classroom cleanup first. Naruto swept the floors, emptied the bins, cleaned the chalkboard, and wiped down the windows and desks.

Afterwards, once Iruka had gathered his things together for his break he then dragged the boy up to the Hokage Monument so that he could clear up the mess he made of it.

It was to be a long and grueling process…


Early afternoon…

Iruka, sitting atop of the Fourth Hokage's stone head, blinked in surprise when he heard the bell to the Ninja Academy ring. In response, he looked down towards the village within the vicinity of the Hokage Mansion where he saw students and teachers begin to pour out of the building. The sound of that bell and the sight of the sun approaching closer to the other side of the horizon line meant that the day was ending, and that made the Chunin sigh.

A part of him was relived that the day was over while the other half was still dismayed that he wasn't quite done.

Looking down, he stared at the boy who has yet to finish scrubbing the paint off of the last Hokage's face.

Since the start of second period Naruto had finished cleaning the other faces and in spite of his constant groaning and complaining, was hard pressed into completing his task by his teacher. Bit by bit, the paint peeled away, revealing to the world the real expressions of the village's past leaders.

It was a breath of fresh air for Konohagakure and at least the monument could smile again.

"I won't let you go home until everything is as it should be," Iruka said, folding his arms. "I expect this cliff side to be spotless."

Naruto scoffed and looked up, his expression conveying a deep sense of displeasure and annoyance. "Like I care, it's not like I have anyone to go home to," the boy replied harshly, before going back to work with his dulling rag. It was insanely difficult to scrub paint off of rock and even after trading hands several times his knuckles and fingers felt as though they had been sandpapered.

At least the platform gave him good traction. It had been a real brave effort for him when he had to scale the sheer cliff himself, armed with only a rope and a set of paints.

Iruka was taken aback at the response from his student and his gaze softened after a moment of thought.

In his blind annoyance, he had completely forgotten that Naruto didn't have any parents waiting for him back home and that he lived all on his own in a second story apartment downtown, with no neighbors, relatives or anyone to look out for him. Ever since the jinchuriki could live on his own he had to raise and teach himself.

This was information Iruka learned from Hiruzen back when he first took Naruto as a student in his class and needed to be briefed on his living conditions and upbringing, but he had completely forgotten about these facts when he had to focus on the whole body of students he was already tending to.

It was hard to concentrate when you had loud children and a troublemaking blonde under his wing to take care of.

Feeling abashed at his own austerity, the Chunin reconsidered the entire situation and the day earlier, before coming to the conclusion that he had probably been a bit too hard on the boy for just a few harmless pranks.

Well… most of his shenanigans have been harmless anyway. There was the one time when Naruto had brought a rogue, goliath wasp nest into class for show-and-tell that not even the Aburame could control, and then he threw it…

The man quickly shook the rather graphic memory out.

Trying not to get too far off track, Iruka surmised his thoughts; that he had been a little bit more unfair on Naruto then most others. With that thought in mind he decided to make it up to him.


The boy huffed and looked up from his work once again, hoping he wasn't going to get scolded for a second time. "What is it?"

Iruka rubbed his cheek and averted his gaze elsewhere, trying to make his next words as delicate as possible so to not deepen the boy's already emotional constipation.

It was quite clear that the youngster was beyond frustrated, but just didn't want to let it out in front of his teacher. He was pretty stubborn about such things.

"When you're done and everything is cleared up over here, I'll take you out for ramen tonight," the man exclaimed and smiled down at his student. "I'll buy…"

The man immediately saw a major improvement in his academy student's mood, in which the boy's face brightened up and a smile returned to his lips. Goggles flashing, Naruto ducked back down and began scrubbing away again, this time with more intensity and passion in his movements.

"Okay! I'll work a lot harder!"

The scarred teacher chuckled.

"Good to see there's always a spark inside of him infinitely burning…" Iruka shook his head in amusement and rubbed a palm over his eye. "Even though that spark often leads to a raging fire of mischief and practical jokes… he's still a good kid…"


Late afternoon…

"Why did you take me all the way out here, sensei?" Naruto asked, carrying a couple of packaged cups of ramen in his arms as he was led up the stairs of some building somewhere on the edge of the village, just west of the Hokage Mansion.

The Chunin he was referring to smiled and looked down at the boy from the top of the stairs he had already climbed, and waited for the youngster to march the rest of the way up.

"I want to show you something Naruto; something that might help you in your studies for the exams," Iruka exclaimed.

This earned a squint-eyed expression from the young blonde when he eventually reached his teacher's floor.

"Is this another boring lesson?" Naruto asked, getting the Chunin to sweat-drop and face-palm. "School's finished for the day. What's the deal?"

"Well, if you would just wait a few moments then maybe you'll find out," Iruka sighed and shook his head. The boy was too impatient for his own good. He had to hammer that out of the way somehow before the testing periods.

After shrugging off the premature words spoken out of term by the youngster, Iruka continued leading the way forward. "Come on, it's just over here."

Naruto jogged down the walkway to catch up with the older man and while he did so, he became aware of some strange but familiar noises coming from ahead. He slowed his pace and perked an ear to get a better link to the information, and attempted to figure out what the cause was. The nearer he drew the more prominent the sounds became until the echoing of clanging metal started coming in accompanied by grunts and shouts.

The blonde then stepped off of the walkway onto a low balcony. Perched at the very edge directly beneath the railing Iruka sat waiting for him, back turned and facing a wide, open field. He waved pleasantly for the jinchuriki to approach and when the boy came to stand beside him, the blonde's eyes widened when his attention fell onto the field in question.

A couple stories below, just over a steel grated fence with razor wire lining the top, Naruto saw a wide, grassy pasture of some sorts littered with equipment, many of which he recognized from the academy. Training stumps, target dolls and regular targets, a kunai range and a weapons rack. What's more the field was at least three times bigger then the clearing the academy students used and despite the sun now starting to set over the horizon, it was still occupied.

Well, to be more precise, it was full.

Down on ground level within the clearing of the field, the boy saw shinobi of Konohagakure sparring it out. One pit had a couple of ninja clawing at each other with taijutsu with a square shaped ring of others kneeling on the sidelines and waiting for their turns. Another region saw lines of shinobi standing side-by-side with what looked to be a lead instructor, observing them as they went through the motions of some sort of style Naruto had never seen before. Furthermore, there were Chunin out on the side range away from the others throwing kunai, shuriken, and all sorts of other unique projectiles that had not been practiced at the academy, but reviewed previously in classes.

Naruto nearly collapsed at the sights.

"W-What is this place?"

"This is Training Field 2; The Chunin Field. This is where whole bodies of the Konoha Forces come to train in order to hone their skills as a collective group of many shinobi from different clans and backgrounds. It's big enough to support an entire platoon's practical needs and requirements," Iruka explained with a smile as he watched Naruto silently sit down beside him and lean forward for a better look. "This is just one of the fields in the village where large groups of shinobi can train at once, and one of the only areas you are allowed to observe. The fields where Jonin and ANBU train though are observation restricted to everyone."

"R-Really?" Naruto gulped, watching the sparring Chunin in the ring area strike out at each other with a variety of different attacks and grapples. It was beyond comprehension, they were moving at a speed he could barely keep up with. "M-Man… that's cool…"

"Oh yeah, it's cool," Iruka chuckled and turned back around to look down on the field. "This is a great spot where I can sit and watch my companions train. Sure… I'd go down there and lash it out with them myself for a bit, but I'm always busy… what with the academy, my responsibilities as a shinobi, and my students. I've only been down there a couple of times."

"S-So… is it always like this?" Naruto asked, looking over at Iruka to see him nod his head affirmatively to his question.

"Our shinobi forces are always active. We stretch ourselves thin with the number of missions the village receives, but no matter how many shinobi are deployed we always have reserves like these guys ready to be called up in case of emergencies, like for example, an invasion," the Chunin stated and nudged the boy in the side, pointing down towards the sparring pit. There, they saw the previous dueling ninja tag out and a new pair step in. Immediately after greeting each other they began to brawl, exchanging heavy and swift blows with one another that Naruto was sure he would be pulverized by if he took a clean hit himself. "The standard teams for shinobi are teams of three, but those teams are then assigned to platoons. These platoons are then given specific roles; attackers, defenders, support, ambush, specialist… all sorts. However, just in case you are wondering, there's always a platoon of shinobi down there training day in and day out. They even train throughout the night until morning to better adjust themselves to the conditions of fighting while it is pitch black."

"Okay…" Naruto nodded and glanced up at his teacher who pulled out the instant ramen cup he had brought with him. "So… we have a standing body of armed forces, who are now active… and then these reserve forces assigned to other areas around the village?"

"Yes. Good," Iruka smiled and patted him on the back. "Remember that one Naruto, it will be in your final written exam. You have to know these things in order to graduate…"

"And the jutsu as well?" Naruto asked enthusiastically, receiving yet another nod of confirmation.

"Yup. The most basic of ninjutsu you must be able to perform are the Bunshin, the Kawarimi and the Henge no Jutsu. From there, you can learn to use these techniques in conjunction with any other jutsu and will allow you to develop them to the point where…" There was suddenly a flash of light and a loud, earthshaking bang which caused the balcony Iruka and Naruto were perched on to rattle loudly. Surprised, they looked up to see a plume of smoke rising several stories into the air, only to dissipate on the wind moments later. It was a spectacular blast, one that Iruka had to point out to his student. "You can do something like that! A Fire Technique crossed with a Wind Technique, or a Fire Technique with a Replacement Technique. Until you've mastered two or more, you can then work on combining them."

Though the display was impressive, what his teacher said afterwards had Naruto's spirits plummet.

"Hmm…" The boy looked away with a discomforting expression crossing his face, as he deeply considered his own arsenal of skills he had acquired so far. His teacher didn't fail to notice the sudden change in his tone. "I know how to do the Kawarimi and the Henge well enough… b-but… but I haven't been able to create a descent Bunshin yet." He lowered his head some more, his hands clenching and eyes becoming overshadowed with disappointment. "This sucks! If I can't do the Bunshin I can't pass!"

Iruka's look softened and he placed a hand over the boy's shoulder, hugging him in encouragement. "Hey. It's alright, Naruto. Don't take it so hard. It's not the end of the world…"

"It will be for me if I can't pass the stupid practical tests!" Naruto huffed and looked away sharply in frustration. "I can't control my chakra well enough to produce a descent, working clone. They always end up either unconscious or they just die on me the moment I create them!" His growing anger at his inability to perform the technique made his voice tremble with irritation. "Why do I suck so much? Why do I fail at everything I try to accomplish… why am I a dead-last…?"

The Chunin sighed, continuing to brace the boy's shoulder while he turned and glared off to the side. Their attention was no longer set on the fields or the other amazing spectacles around them.

Iruka had brought the boy here for a reason and he was darned if he wasn't going to get through to him tonight. He had to break him out of his current funk and get him back on track. If there was any hope of the youngster succeeding in his career as a shinobi in the future, even if he's lost it in everyone and everywhere else, then he was going to be that hope for him.

He knew he should have helped him out like this a long time ago.

"Naruto…" Iruka shook him and forced him to look back up at him. He then gestured out towards the training camp. "What do you see out there? Who do you see out there?"

The boy frowned and looked up. He examined one pit after another, eyes scanning the flat ground and its occupants before craning back up to his teacher. "Chunin training with each other…"

"Exactly. Every one of those ninja down there had a dream and an ambition. They probably still do, and they all worked incredibly hard to get where they are now. Many of them had failed the academy graduation exams in the past once or twice, but in the end after working even harder, they managed to pass… and here they are. Those challenges that they faced as academy students and as Genin are years behind them. But today, they are combating new challenges and negotiating other obstacles, including their own limitations." Iruka balled his fist and then jabbed it out in front of him, showing Naruto a sign of absolute confidence and strength. "I remember what a wise shinobi once told me; that 'hard work and perseverance in the face of great adversity, and the will to never give up, will help you get to where you want to go.' You can accomplish anything if you put your mind to it."

"Who told you that, sensei?" Naruto asked, finding the statement a bit odd.

"A man named Jiraiya… it's been years since I last saw him though," Iruka looked down at the boy and smiled. "After my parents died when the Kyuubi attacked the village and I was having a hard time coping, he approached me. Apparently, he saw me wandering around the streets looking upset and wanted to cheer me up. He sat and spoke with me, just like how I'm speaking with you right now. He took me here and showed me this place…"

He patted the wooden platform they were on, illustrating the scene before gesturing out over the horizon. Both their eyes scanned the trees and rooftops beyond the field's gates and fences, along with the sky now turning into night. "I wasn't a good student back in the academy and the other kids always made fun of me for having no parents. In order to try and fit in with everybody else, I always fooled about and made jokes to get attention, making me the class clown. But all those tricks I spent time pulling meant I sacrificed learning valuable lessons of a shinobi. However, what Jiraiya said to me that day set me straight and thanks to his encouragement I was able to work harder and become stronger then I ever was before, and now I'm here."

Iruka saw the look of awe written on Naruto's face and after seeing that immediate improvement gave him a light tap on his nose. Though the boy fussed over the friendly gesture, he quickly returned attention to the grinning Chunin.

"Do you hear me, kiddo?"

Naruto nodded his head furiously and grinned. "You were like me, Iruka-sensei?"

"Y-Yeah… I guess I was…" the Chunin chuckled and rubbed the back of his head sheepishly. He then shook it off and returned to a casual expression with a beaming look still in play. "But you get what I'm saying to you?"

"To work and study hard, right?" the jinchuriki asked heartedly and in a very energetic manner. This earned another bop to the nose.

"Not just that," Iruka said and then poked him in the chest. "You have to stop taking things so easily and start focusing on your studying and your training. I know you have a lot of potential bottled up in that thick head of yours, so start opening it up." He then pointed back down to the field to where the line up of Chunin was practicing their taijutsu in formation. "Remember, they started off from the academy just like the rest of your class… and I want you to be a part of that next, graduating group."


Iruka saw the youngster quickly turn back to him with an intense gaze and attention firmly set on him. The man raised a finger and prodded in his direction, but withheld himself from making contact.

He gestured at him, making his points loud and clear so to make sure the slacker absorbed the information he was given and it didn't just go pouring out of his other ear. "You can make up for your past mistakes and lost time by concentrating on your lessons and work. From now on; I want you to work hard, study hard and focus. If you keep your mouth shut, and your eyes and ears focused on what's going on, you'll be surprised at what you can learn." For that last time he made emphasis of the Chunin locked in their exercises, from the ninjutsu training zone across to the taijutsu area. "Training to become a shinobi is all about watching, learning and adapting."

Naruto blinked and nodded.

Without issuing any form of response beyond that, the jinchuriki then silently turned back to the field at a labored pace, making Iruka wonder if maybe he had accidentally broken him with the brick solid words he had been throwing at the boy. The academy teacher waited and watched patiently while the jinchuriki fixed his attention onto the Chunin training all at once down on the field.

The youngster's eyes trailed from one area to another, moving quickly over the various activities going on, with the strain of concentration becoming a little bit too much for him in the end. Calming down some more, Naruto took in a deep breath and focused on just one aspect of the camp. He watched the current one-on-one duel going on between the two Chunin within the sparring cube, both of them going at each other with a fury of attacks and counters. The blonde took genuine time and interest in observing the fight going on, to the point where he was able to slow it down enough to be able to watch their movements clearly and see how their taijutsu was executed first-hand.

Time seemed to slow down around him

He became so engrossed that his stare became unblinking and he completely forgot about the instant ramen he had brought up to the balcony with him.

When Iruka yanked on the ignition string at the base of his cup of noodles, which effectively flash-heated the contents, the man then noticed Naruto's continuous stare. Looking between the youngster and the occupied pasture, the Chunin reached out and shook him to see if he was still alive.

It would suck if he was having a stroke.

"Naruto? You okay?"

"Y-Yeah… I'm fine, sensei," Naruto replied a little bit lazily. His eyes and attention shifted rigidly between the field and his teacher a couple of times, before becoming fully locked with the practice sessions transpiring before him once again. Submitting himself to silence, the boy then waved a hand at Iruka. "I… I'll eat a little later…"

Iruka became both puzzled and astonished at his response.

Naruto never said 'no' to ramen. Fact of life. Period. It was the teacher's trump card to all of his breakdown problems and he needed to restart the eccentric boy. The blonde would easily give up a day of lessons to go eat at Ichiraku's. Heck, he'd even trade in his shoes for a bowl without a second thought. He would even neglect valuable hours of sleep to go sit at his dining room table and eat ramen.

The only thing that sat next to ramen on Naruto's hobbies and interests chart was pranks. Ramen was quite literally the boy's life blood.

The fact that he was purposefully ignoring the instant cups meant that something was definitely wrong, and that had Iruka worry.

"Umm… okay…" the scarred academy teacher slowly turned back to his fast food meal and pulled the cap off of the now steaming broth. "I'll just… leave you to it then…aye…"

While he ate, Iruka kept on sparing brief glances at the boy who just continued to sit and stare at the field with a deep expression of mixed curiosity and analytical edges visible, as the training between the groups of Chunin continued on throughout the night.


Author's Note: It just occured to me that Destiny Breaker was not progressing as much or as well as I had been expecting. So I've come up with a replacement. To refill my portfolio, I came up with THIS idea. I'm really busy in between different works, so you'll have to excuse me for not updating regularly. I'm having a pretty shitty month.