No I don't own Naruto. Also, for the moment, I am not going to be using anyone elses material just for a change of pace.

Controlled Chaos of Free Will Chapter Seven

A Not-So Lucky Shot in the Dark

Uzumaki Naruto had never felt so lucky in his life. Oh, sure he was still pissed about being held against his will with a bunch of his closest friends and comrades. But as a trade off, he had gotten to see his true potential realized and found a friendly acquaintance that had the potential to be so much more. For that, he would not go about targeting Vortex for a painful and violent death any time soon. He would retain the threat for future dealings with the bastard, but seeing himself actually happy and thriving was worth a little trauma and incarceration. Although, if Hinata was forced to blush against her will again, all bets were off.

Standing from his pocket of suspended air, their jailer stretched dramatically. "Well, that ends that. I hope that you are satisfied, Hinata-chan. You saw how your path to winning the idiots heart could have started. You saw the potential that would have been unleashed with a bit of courage. But, most importantly, you saw a hint of what might yet come to be. While you have lost some time, there is nothing really stopping you from working together now, is there? After all, teamwork and cooperation is the way of Konoha." Seeing the red tinge on his friend's cheeks, the blonde immediately changed his mind about beating the guy to a pulp as soon as possible.

Still, it was not like he said anything untrue, was it? "Don't worry, Hinata-chan! We'll work together whenever you are ready and get a dozen times stronger, believe it!" Of course, they would have to work around each other's schedules and team missions, but it was clearly going to be worth it. Seeing her hesitant smile was all the conformation that Naruto needed to know he was on the right path.

Of course, that was the point that the old Pervert had to ruin everything. "Well that's nice and all, but I was actually hoping to take you as an apprentice, brat. So any such plans might have to wait for a while. Plus, I'm sure that Kurenai might have something to say about unauthorized cross training with someone on another team." With that, the building moment was broken like a cheap bowl at Ichiraku's.

Rounding on the taller form of Jiraiya, Naruto ground his teeth. "So when were you going to let me know about this? I still haven't made Chunin yet, and I sure as hell am not going to leave my teammates in the dust like that! Plus, we're still getting over the invasion and I'm needed here to help. If there is one thing that I will never do is abandon my village or my comrades!" But despite his passion, the Toad Sage appeared unmoved.

Scratching the back of his head, Kakashi cleared his throat. "I know that you want to help Naruto, but please listen to reason. Jiraiya-sama is much stronger than I am and could help you grow so much more. You want to be Hokage don't you? Well, Jiraiya-sama is the one who trained the Yondaime Hokage. Imagine what he could do to help you on the path to your dream?" With that, the fire seemed to leave the blonde boy's eyes. At least until he heard a familiar and unpleasant chuckling.

Shaking from suppressed mirth, Anoth Vortex almost looked like he was in pain. Noting everyone gazing in his direction, the creature gave up and started laughing. That would have been bad enough. But when the bastard started rolling around and slamming a fist into the suddenly solid air in his hilarity, that was quite enough. "Oi, knock it off you bastard! I don't care what you think or what you pretend to know. One day I WILL be Hokage and that will be the day that makes you choke on that laughter!"

Visibly gaining control of himself, the figure shot the blonde a grin. "Oh, I wasn't laughing at you my dear boy. I, better than anyone, know of the nature and power of your will. The idea of you being Hokage is not really all that funny. Although, I have to admit that the looks on the civilian leadership's faces when you ascend tends to be worth a chuckle or two." Hearing that, Naruto once again felt mollified.

Tsunade, on the other hand, was much less so. "Oh, so what is so funny about us mere mortals this time? You've already demonstrated that you can peep better than anyone else in the history of our planet. What could possibly be so amusing about a training trip to help Naruto that doesn't call into question his dream of being Hokage? I am just dying to know!" The implied threat would have been much more impressive if she had not already proved her inability to cause any harm.

Ignoring her crack about peeping, the figure smirked. "What I found so amusing was the claim that learning under Jiraiya during his training trip will facilitate Naruto's dream of being Hokage in the slightest. I've SEEN that training trip, and the training trip the pervert had with his last apprentice Namikaze Minato. Out of all of his students, those two benefited from such methods the least!" Shaking his head, Vortex seemed absolutely smug. "In fact, the only thing that was true about Kakashi's argument was that Naruto would learn more under Jiraiya than himself. Of course, since that man's training is so pathetic that's not really saying all that much!" With that statement, the figure returned to expressing his hilarity like a three year old.

Gaping like a fish, the Toad Sage pointed at the figure as if trying to find the words to express his shock and dismay. Kakashi on the other hand, was not quite so laid back. "Now I think that you are being a bit harsh. Not to brag, but Jiraiya-sensei and myself are two of the strongest ninja to come out of Konoha in quite some time. Surely under our tutelage Naruto could only grow and prosper?" With that, the figure finally stopped his laughing. Unfortunately for the Jonin, the sudden silence was not as comforting as he might have hoped.

Shaking his head as if the men before him were children, Vortex resumed his seat upon the air. "You know, that would probably be the funniest thing about this situation if it wasn't so sad. You two ARE among the strongest ninja to come out of your village in the last two decades. Both of you have numerous unique skills and pieces of knowledge that could improve Naruto's skills at least one hundred fold. Not to mention any of the other ninja here. But no matter how strong you claim to be, the simple fact of the matter is that neither of you can teach actual ninja skills worth a damn. Either that or you chose not to." Fixing the Toad Sage with a look, his grin turned sadistic. "I mean, pushing Naruto into a canyon in order to force him to use enough chakra to complete his summoning technique? Where's the brilliance in that?"

Leaning back, the grin only seemed to get worse. "In addition, the chances of a promotion after your training trip are roughly seventeen percent! I've lost count of the number of times that Naruto is made Hokage straight from the Genin rank. Then of course, there are the numerous worlds where you constantly ignore his accomplishments time and time again, leaving him a Genin capable of fighting Kage level opponents, like a sword you only pull out for special occasions. All in all, it's really quite ridiculous."

After hearing that little tidbit of information, Naruto felt very, very cold. Ever since the training for the Chunin Exams, he had grown to respect the skills and strength of the Perverted Sanin quite a bit. Those feelings of respect had only increased with his later introduction into the Rasengan. But to discover that someone lazy like Shikamaru would be made a Chunin at twelve yet he would still be facing Kages as a Genin? That put him in a particularly bad mood. Sparing a look at Gaara, he had to wonder if Vortex had a point. Was he just a weapon to use against particularly dangerous enemies? That sure seemed to be how things had been working out lately.

Seeing the blonde Konoha ninja glance over at him, Gaara decided that was the final piece of the puzzle he needed. Many would assume that, due to his previous homicidal tendencies, the Sand Genin was also too stupid to detect subtleties. The truth was being forced to spend hours awake while everyone around him slept had forced the boy to occupy himself with additional academic studies to keep himself occupied when there was no one around to kill as a distraction. Given how readily people avoided him in Suna it should be no surprise that the amount of time he had devoted to such pursuits was considerable.

Therefore, it was not impossible for him to determine several very important things. First, that his earlier suspicions about the nature of the blonde were correct. Secondly, Konoha had not planned on using him as a weapon like the Yondaime Kazekage had used his son, and thus kept him and his cohort in the dark about his nature. Finally, just as his uncle's death was his own introduction into the realities of his existence, this moment in time was Naruto's own revelation. It was amazing how different and similar they managed to be at the same time.

Clearing his throat, Gaara quirked an eyebrow at someone he thought could be a friend. "Uzumaki Naruto, about the scene we just saw at your Academy. Did something similar actually happen in real life?" It was a simple question, but the blonde's sudden jump was all the confirmation he needed. The Suna ninja would bet his father's fortune that this Mizuki-sensei was the blondes own version of Yashamaru. It was the only thing that made sense.

However, before Naruto could say a thing, the blonde Konoha kunoichi Genin began to speak. He honestly had not bothered to remember the girls name for the simple reason that their interactions were limited to an observed battle that was so embarrassing that it had been forgotten as quickly as he could manage. "Wait, something like this happened before, even with all the changes and stuff?" Turning to the still silent Naruto, her voice managed to become even more piercing. "Is that how you managed to graduate?"

At that point, Iruka-sensei broke in. "What happened that resulted in Naruto's graduation was a tragic and malicious bit of manipulation by a traitor. Mizuki used Naruto as a scapegoat to steal village secrets, but was defeated when he attempted to manipulate Naruto into committing Treason. He's still serving his sentence in prison for his actions. Naruto was passed because he was able to learn the Shadow Clone technique after failing due to his trouble with the clone technique."

Frowning, Hinata shot a glance at their former teacher. "But Iruka-sensei, why wasn't Naruto-kun's chakra control trouble taken into account? I mean, it's not normal for an Academy Student to have that much chakra. I know that certain considerations were made during my taijutsu portion of the exams because of my specialization in the Jyuken. Shouldn't the same have been made for him?" While well meaning, it was clear that these inquiries were bringing the blonde boy pain. Belatedly, Gaara realized that perhaps bringing up this particular issue in an attempt to bond might not have been such a good idea in front of so many who were not in the know about the situation of the blondes status. He was going to have to work harder at this friendship thing.

All speculation stopped with the intervention of the Hokage. "I think that is enough of that. The sooner we move on the sooner we can get out of here. So I believe that it was Kurenai's turn next?" Still grinning like a madman, Vortex nodded his assent. With that, the questions about Naruto's issues were put to the side, at least for the moment.

Yuuhi Kurenai did her best to maintain a calm facade with all the skill and poise that had earned her the Jonin rank. She was among the strongest ninja in the village, and had been rendered powerless by a being that they could barely begin to comprehend. Her students, who she valued more than life itself, were in great danger and despite what she might want to believe she could not protect them. These facts kept her very nervous when the beam of white light made itself known. Having seen the effect it had upon Hinata-chan, she would have preferred to set her arm on fire than step into that light.

Like any moderately successful Jonin, the kunoichi had a number of secret hopes and wants that she never wanted the world to be made aware of. She had seen the actual effort that Hinata had put into changing her question to something pertinent to the safety of the village and her inability to do so. Hopefully, with her greater experience, the effect could be properly controlled and modified to suit her needs. However, given that this Vortex individual had been capable of containing two of the three Sannin against their will, she did not have high hopes for her success.

Being careful to avoid eye contact with her Hokage or Jiraiya, Kurenai decided that the greatest threat that she could inquire about was Orochimaru. The man was still at large and a major threat to Konoha's security. While it might be a bit of a political embarrassment given that the children of the former Kazekage were in attendance, it was better than bringing up Uchiha Itachi's recent infiltration. Unfortunately, despite her greater skill and mental fortitude, the question that was asked was not what she was expecting and left the Jonin feeling mortified. "In you unique view of the information available who is the best overall Genin Sensei in Konoha?"

Backing away from the light, she began to understand just what her student must have felt. Her feelings of inadequacy as a teacher were one of those secrets so deep in her mind Kurenai did not even acknowledge it on a conscious level. But as a new Jonin with one failed attempt of instruction under her belt, compared to the legendary Hatake Kakashi and Sarutobi Asuma, it was only natural that she would feel an extra amount of pressure. On top of that she had to deal with three highly placed Genin with personal issues it was almost too much at times. But to have those concerns aired in front of her peers and leadership was just one step too far.

However, she managed to retain her professional stoic facade, despite Vortex's clearly amused grin. If she did not already know how pointless it was, she would have wiped that look off his face with extreme prejudice. Either unaware or ignoring her violent mental images, their captor began his answer. "It's a relatively honest request, but one that is a little difficult to answer. A number of different elements can be taken into account, including the goals of your training and your ability to instruct like a ninja rather than, for example, a samurai. However, I have no problems giving my own honest opinion at this time."

Leaning back in his invisible chair, the figure became contemplative. "If you want to know who the best teacher is in general, then it would be a tie between yourself and Gai actually. Kakashi does not generally have the temperament to be a proper teacher, utilizing short cuts and pigeonholing those he teaches. Asuma is lazy, relying upon the natural alignments of his students talents in order to achieve victory. However, while Gai is a taijutsu specialist he is able to motivate his students properly and maintain a schedule that maximizes their potential as ninja."

Narrowing his eyes, Asuma rebutted. "Not to rag on Kurenai-sensei, but that doesn't seem very fair. Out of every student who competed at the Chunin Exam, only Shikamaru managed to gain the promotion. Meanwhile, two of Kakashi's students managed to progress to the next stage and defeat their opponents, one of which was Gai's strongest Genin. So while I admit that their students are skilled, I don't really think that it's fair to call her better than us." Frowning, Kurenai decided that the smoker had just earned himself a month of being cut off.

Chuckling, their captor shook his head. "I agree that you have some potential, but my analysis is based upon the current team assignments. Now, if the teams were organized differently, then it would be a whole different ball game." That brought the assembled ninja up short, although the Jonin were better able to hide their reactions. It did not matter if you loved them or hated them. Your first team was your second family and changing that after so much time seemed almost perverse.

Rolling his eyes, the man in front of them sighed. "Surely it is not that surprising an idea. Ninja teams change all the time as their members chose different specializations or get promoted. In fact, after things progressed to their natural conclusion in the previous universe, Gai comes out of the wood work and takes both Hinata and Naruto on as members of his own Genin team, having named Rock Lee as his personal apprentice the year before. I've seen practically every combination of teams for the three of you that include the Genin before us and more. Believe me when I say that the combinations before us are far from the best that they could be." Blinking, he then turned to the Suna Team. "Well, with some exceptions of course."

Pointing to Team Gai, Vortex sighed. "First off, while I think that Gai is an excellent instructor, his specialization has left his team a bit of a one dimensional joke. Lee has to be his legacy, so any deviation from his own training pattern is ignored through practice or preference. Tenten is a long range weapon expert with undervalued sealing potential that is being ignored to further polish her already awesome aim. Neji is a prodigy of Jyuken, but like all Hyuga he is trained to ignore alternate techniques as a waste of his valuable time and chakra. The edges in their specialties are razor sharp and their physical stature cannot be ignored, but as ninja not every problem is going to be a nail to hammer down!"

Turning, he then shook his head at Asuma. "Tradition is all well and good, but a ninja should never be so predictable. The Ino-Shika-Cho tradition and formation is powerful but much too well known to be as effective as it once was. However, instead of pushing the limits of what your team could do, you instead focus completely upon the synergy of their formation. An effective tactic does not mean that you can realize the potential of your students by eating together and playing a few board games. I admit that the Chunin Exams were an excellent tool to demonstrate reality to them, but you took a big risk assuming that Shikamaru alone would be enough to keep them alive and in the game. Not only is it unfair to him, but undermines the potential contributions of your other students."

Continuing down the line, he then smirked at Kurenai. "As for you my dear, I have to say I don't have many issues with your teaching ethic. You work your students' hard, focus upon the pros and cons of their individual styles, and are always willing to put them first. These are all facts that support my opinion of your ability as a good Sensei. In fact, Shino would have easily made Chunin in this last exam if he had been allowed to demonstrate his skills in the stadium instead of an ambush. No, my complaints have to do with your lack of personal drive. You work your students hard, but you yourself are so specialized that you allowed your own development to slip. If you could push harder, the effort would easily translate over to your students that much easier." Hearing that brought the kunoichi Jonin a flush of embarrassment, but she managed to hold her tongue.

Turning to face the final Konoha team, the grin slid off the creatures face. "Then of course, we have the most dysfunctional and imbalanced team in the last generation of your village. Kakashi is so focused upon pigeonholing his students that it's just embarrassing! Sakura has naturally perfect chakra control, so of course that means she's a Genjutsu Type. Therefore teaching her the basic dispel and mentioning that she would be good at the technique is more than enough information. Sasuke has the Sharingan, so he's clearly a Ninjutsu type! Therefore, just throw him into a couple of battles and provide the odd hint, and he'll be good to go! Finally, Naruto is only notable as a Taijutsu type, given his lack of fine control and limited Jutsu library. So simply have him fight constantly and ineffectively until he learns from experience! Not only is such an evaluation inaccurate, but this training method only works for the one with a Doujutsu! His teaching style is just as lazy as he is!" By the end of the tirade, Vortex had actually gone red in anger, much to their surprise.

Visibly gathering his earlier resolve, Vortex sighed. "Honestly, one of my personal pet peeves is how much more powerful your groups could be with a little more creativity. Kakashi could be an excellent instructor, but is too lazy. Asuma could be much better than he is, but acts too passively. Kurenai could help her team reach much higher than they currently are but is too timid. Finally, Gai could enrich his team much more effectively, but is too stubborn. All in all, this combination of events is almost enough to encourage me to tear my hair out."

Frowning, Kurenai had to admit that nothing the man had said was wrong per se. That did not mean that she enjoyed having her skills both mocked and disregarded in such a fashion. Nevertheless, this was an excellent opportunity to gather further information for later training. "So, to be clear, if the teams were changed so that I had Naruto instead of Kiba, they would be much more effective?" After all, the Inuzuka's test scores were not much higher than the blondes and most of his fighting ability came from working with Akamaru. If there was anyone she could see exchanging with a stamina nut like Uzumaki it would be him.

Staring into space, the figure suddenly smirked. "By my calculations, any time that Uzumaki Naruto is placed on your team full time, it's overall performance increases by a factor of twenty to seventy percent. Hinata gains a training partner whom she can cut loose against without fear. Shino fights someone who will not fall just because their chakra is drained. Finally, if he is still involved with the team, Kiba gains a friend who can be his equal in enthusiasm and energy. All in all, it's a winning combination." Then his smirk turned vicious. "The only downside that I see is that you tend to die or get seriously injured protecting him from the likes of Akatsuki." That little fact sent a shiver down her spine.

Cracking his knuckles, Vortex smiled an evil smile. "I'll tell you what. Why don't you sit back and see what would happen if the teams were angled a little differently? I did it for Hinata, so it's only fair to demonstrate it once again. What do you say?" Mentally rolling his eyes at the artificially innocent tone, the red eyed Jonin nodded her head. After all, it was mostly academic at this point. Their captor had already proven his invulnerability multiple times, so if he wanted to give them a show, it was not like she could refuse. On that final thought, the scenery changed once more.

Authors Notes

Yay, I've been productive again!

Sorry to everyone who wanted the next chapter released to be Escape from the Hokage's Hat. While I am still working on it, I ve run into a slight snag. Upon reviewing the information on the Hoshi ninja, and comparing it to the efforts of the Five Great Villages in the recent Manga chapters, I've come to the conclusion that their arrogance for claiming the title of Kage is just unforgivable. Therefore, every time I try to produce a chapter, the Hoshi ninja come across as a bunch of stuck up jerks. The effect is kind of cool but not very pleasant for the flow of the story. Plus, the next chapter is going to be an interlude right before a major boss fight, so I have to get the set up JUST right.

In addition to that, I am still hoping to get some reasonable progress done on the next chapter of Different Techniques. The next Dr. Who series is going to be coming out soon, and I sort of want that done before the premiere as a tribute. Progress is being made but its slow going.

The third issue was that the original version of this chapter had the big "Naruto reveals the Kyuubi" before moving the story along. But when I thought about doing that, the idea bored me to tears. How many dramatic reveals of that little issue can you read before becoming completely sick of it? Therefore, I simply dropped hints, had one of the smarter ninja figure it out with Shikamaru lacking the data required to do so and moved the story along. There will be a dramatic reveal soon enough, but I wonder how long I can go without doing so?

Oh, and sorry for the bashing during my evaluations. It's just that sometimes I kind of want to scream at the cannon Jonin Sensei's and this is the best venue I've got to do that for the moment. Take it as you will.

Now that all of the posturing is out of the way, it's time to break into the next story! I bet you already can guess which one I m using. I also bet you'll guess wrong. But that's most of the fun! Stay tuned and enjoy! ;)