Naruto was not impressed with the education of the Academy. They got lectured about the history of Konoha and the ninja wars in a very, very censured manner so as to not scare the kiddies, periodically ordered to perform the henge and the bunshin, and the girls got lessons in flower arrangement while the boys were allowed to throw kunai at a log. That. Was. It.
It was really no wonder to him when – after finally passing the exam – the jounin who had been assigned to be their sensei explained that a little over two thirds of the genin who passed the exit exam failed to actually become genin. Naruto would be willing to bet that almost all the ones who did were either from ninja families or training nuts (like him, though the people who chased him through Konoha after he'd pulled a prank would argue that what he did was vandalism rather than training). The rare civilian that made it through, like Sakura had, were the ones that had made a friend of a clan child and gotten an extra lesson or two when having play-dates at the ninja clan's estate. All of the two genjutsu that Sakura had known at the point of graduating from the Academy had been taught to her by Ino's parents when the two of them had still been friends.
Heck, even the clan orphans like Sasuke had access to more materials than the civilians, simply because he had all the scrolls that had belonged to his family – even if he never bothered to read most of them. Which was a waste that Naruto wanted to kick the angst-riddled 'avenger' up the arse for.
That Kakashi was prepared to pass them on a technicality was almost worse than the piss-poor education that the Academy provided. A pass which he said was because they demonstrated a modicum of teamwork, but which Naruto suspected was actually a load used as an excuse to be the man who got to train 'the last Uchiha'.
When he became Hokage, Naruto was determined to change the system. It was seriously failing the village and short-changing a lot of kids who wanted to protect their homes. Actually, maybe he should just bring this travesty against the future generations to the attention of the current Hokage. Sarutobi was, admittedly, a decimated clan, but the Old Man surely wanted what was best for his village, or he wouldn't have been made Hokage. So when Kakashi took him, Sasuke and Sakura to the Hokage Tower to collect their first ever D-rank mission (though Naruto had actually been paid for an A-rank mission the night he graduated from the Academy, for catching the traitorous Mizuki), Naruto slipped an appointment request form to the Old Man's secretary – a form he was intimately familiar with, as he couldn't even go to lunch at Ichiraku's with the Old Man without filing one first, unless it was the Old Man's idea.
The secretary also had orders, he knew, to forward all requests for time with the Hokage made by Uzumaki Naruto straight to the Hokage, so that he could make time, rather than her shuffling his appointments so that he couldn't see his honorary grandson. Sarutobi Konohamaru, the Hokage's real grandson, was probably the only person who didn't know about these forms. Sarutobi Asuma didn't bother with them himself, as he always had dinner with his father unless there was something up, so he didn't really need appointments during the day.
"What was that paper Naruto?" Sakura asked as they left the building.
"The one you left behind on someone's desk!" Sakura said, growling a little. "I saw you!"
"Requesting an appointment with the Hokage," Naruto answered. "He gets so bogged down with paperwork that it's easier if I make a request to have lunch with him, than it is for him to remember another thing on top of the million-and-one important issues he has to deal with every day."
"And why would the Hokage want to spend time with you?" Sakura demanded.
"Because he was good friends with my parents before they were killed in the Kyuubi attack," Naruto answered snappishly. "And when he has decided that I'm strong enough to handle all of their reputation, he's gonna tell me who they were. That's what he told me when I asked anyway."
Yes, Naruto decided, he'd get the Academy fixed up if it took his entire career, and he'd start with the very next time he saw the Hokage.
Naruto kept a meticulous journal. He wrote down all the history lectures, word for word, from the Academy. He made extensive notes on how to perform the few techniques he could use – kage bunshin and henge – which meant that he practised them extensively until he had learned everything about them that he could. He detailed kunai and shuriken throwing techniques, and even some of the theory of flower arranging. All of the things taught at the Academy. Naruto then went on to the theory and practicality of evading pursuing ninja, both in general and in Konoha specifically. After all, if he was going to be Hokage some day, then he'd need to make sure that all the ploys he'd used for evasion within the village wouldn't work for someone else.
On one page of his journal, Naruto made a list of all the things that he felt should have been taught in the Academy, things that he thought every ninja of Konoha should know:
weapons handling and maintenance: kunai, shuriken, senbon, tanto: kinjutsu
fighting without weapons: taijutsu
foraging and hunting
camping without leaving evidence of presence
cooking over a campfire
anatomy: for pressure points and assassination as well as for administering aid
poisons and antidotes
how to properly mould chakra
disguise without use of henge (because sometimes henge isn't an option)
how to make sealing scrolls and exploding tags: fuinjutsu
Naruto contemplated having the students of the Academy learn how to actually kill someone, but figured that would probably be something that they should learn from their jounin sensei instead. It wasn't a particularly large list, and certainly not unreasonable. He also really wanted to put 'teamwork' on the list, but that wasn't something that could really be taught in a classroom. Teamwork was learned by working in a team after all.
Speaking of teamwork, Naruto had just spotted the target for the D rank mission he was on with his team: Tora the cat.
Naruto was alone in the clearing, resting and writing in his journal after having figured out the tree-walking exercise. It was a useful exercise, and one that could be applied practically in several different situations. But that wasn't what he was dissecting in his journal at that moment. Oh no. He was going over the weapons, tactics and techniques used by friend and foe since the moment they'd been given this mission. He was even writing all that he could about the sharingan. There weren't many Uchiha's left, admittedly, but one of them was the man who had killed his entire clan in one night and then become a missing nin. Naruto didn't anticipate meeting him in battle any time soon, but he could be pitted against Sasuke in the chuunin exams when Kakashi decided that they were ready for them. Besides, better safe than sorry – and he could study the tree-walking in more detail later to put everything he could about it in his journal. Right now, he had to get these techniques down while they were still fresh in his mind.
"Oh, I'm sorry, am I disturbing you? I didn't mean to."
Naruto looked up from his journal and smiled at the... girl? Really pretty boy? Person. At the person who had walked into the clearing where he was thinking his way through all the things he'd seen and experienced over the last couple of days.
"No, you're not," he answered. "I'm just trying to sort through everything. Oh, I'm Uzumaki Naruto, pleased to meet you."
"Yuki Haku," the person answered. "When you say 'everything', what do you mean?"
Naruto chuckled happily. "I mean I've been attacked, been forced to attack others, and seen allies and enemies fighting each other, and I'm writing down everything that they did as part of the fight, analysing it, and seeing if I can figure out how they did what they did. When I get home, I'll try and replicate it."
Haku tilted... his?... head to the side. (Yes, Naruto decided. His. Haku had an Adam's Apple beneath the choker that he wore.) "You couldn't just ask your sensei?" he asked.
Naruto chuckled again, but this time it was a dry, cynical sound. "Kakashi-sensei isn't a very good teacher," he explained. "He's a great ninja and all, but a really lousy teacher. I learn better by figuring things out by myself anyway. What brings you out this way?"
Haku gestured to the flowers in the clearing. "I came to gather medicinal herbs," he answered.
Naruto nodded, though there was a slightly awed look on his face at the simple phrase in combination with the flowers he was now staring at.
"Which plants?" he asked eagerly. "What will they be good for?"
Haku blinked in surprise. "Shouldn't your Academy have taught you those sorts of things?" he asked, the beginnings of laughter bubbling in his voice.
Naruto pulled a face. "Should have," he agreed. "Didn't. I think the Academy teachers expect the jounin sensei to teach us that sort of thing." Naruto sighed then. "Unfortunately, they didn't count on how bad some of the jounin sensei would be at teaching their genin."
Haku laughed. "Alright, I'll tell you what little I know about herbs while I pick them, alright?"
Naruto grinned, nodding enthusiastically, and created a kage bunshin to take notes in his journal while he gave Haku his full attention and helped pick some of the herbs.
Naruto added 'medicinal herbs' to his list of things the Academy should teach, since he already had 'first aid' and 'poison and antidotes'. It was just logical.
A few days later, Naruto stood before the graves of Yuki Haku and Momochi Zabuza in silence for a moment, contemplating everything that had happened in their second confrontation. Naruto's next move was to plant his bum on the ground and pull out his journal. Details of Sasuke's fight with Haku, Naruto's own fight with the boy, and as much of Kakashi's fight with Zabuza as he'd been able to see. Haku's sacrifice, and his reasons for it. Gato and his thugs. When Naruto was done, he stood again.
"Thank you for teaching me," he said to the graves, then walked up to the giant sword that had been Zabuza's and, with both hands on the grip, pulled it up.
There was a moment when something foreign probed at his chakra core, and Naruto could only guess that the sword was testing him, to see if he would be worthy of the blade. Then there was a cool-warm feeling washing through him which Naruto guessed was approval, and Naruto pulled out a sealing scroll he'd bought.
He left flowers on the two graves. Flowers that Haku had instructed him in the medical properties of – and which Naruto had pressed samples of in his journal.
"I'm sorry I wasn't able to catch up with you before now Naruto," Sarutobi said as he eased onto the seat next to Naruto at Ichiraku Ramen.
"That's alright Old Man," Naruto said with a smile. "The paperwork, I know. I don't see why you can't put Kage Bunshin to the task though."
Sarutobi blinked once, twice, three times, then slammed his forehead into the heal of his hand.
"I'll do that from now on," he said firmly. "I must be getting old, to have not thought of that myself."
"So, how was your first mission out of the village Naruto?"
"It was educational, that's for sure."
"Oh? Kakashi used the easy mission to teach you some techniques?" Sarutobi asked. Kakashi, being the famously tardy nin that he was, hadn't submitted the mission report yet.
Naruto laughed, loudly, shaking his head. When he calmed down, he wiped tears out of the corners of his eyes and his cheeks were beginning to hurt from smiling so widely.
"We faced Momochi Zabuza, Old Man. That's not an easy mission, and the only thing Kakashi-sensei did was demonstrate tree-walking before telling us to replicated his results," Naruto said, breathing deliberately so that he could calm down and explain better.
Sarutobi listened to everything Naruto had to tell him in stunned (and slightly horrified) silence until Naruto was finished.
"Oh dear," he said at last.
Naruto snorted. "Understatement, Old Man."
Naruto damn near chuckled at the paper test in front of him. Oh yes, it was nearly impossible for a genin to answer all of these questions. But he'd made learning everything his hobby since he left the Academy and the history lectures had stopped. Calmly and confidently, Naruto filled out the answers. The few that he wasn't confident on, Naruto cheated to get – Hyuuga Hinata was sitting next to him, and she had all of the answers on her paper. He barely had to glance over to confirm that his guesses were right before he wrote them all in.
He then proceeded to lean back in his chair, hands behind his head as he stared at the ceiling.
"What's this?" demanded one of the nins who was there to catch cheaters.
"I'm done," Naruto answered simply. "You wanna collect the completed test?"
The nin chuckled, but shook his head. "Just turn your page over."
Apart from that was the mysterious tenth question. No one in their team put their hand up. Sasuke was too over-confident in himself, Sakura too assured in her knowledge. Both waited for Naruto to put his hand up, believing him to be the weak link in their team, but Naruto had spent all the extra time he had after finishing his test to figure out all the rules and think about the proctor for the first stage of the exam. He wasn't going anywhere.
Naruto took the scroll for safekeeping when they went to the tent, grabbing it before Sakura or Sasuke could.
"Dobe, what are you doing?" Sasuke demanded coldly.
"You're too obvious as the one to hold it," Naruto answered. "And Sakura's pink hair is just too obvious point blank."
"And your orange jumpsuit isn't?" Sakura growled.
"I've managed to avoid capture by chuunin, jounin and AnBu who were deliberately chasing me in this outfit," Naruto countered. "It allows for freedom of movement and is very durable. Okay, it might be better if it were brown or mottled green in the environment we're headed into, but a bit of dirt can fix that. Besides, who's going to think I'd be the one carrying the scroll?"
His team mates grumbled, but agreed, and then they left the tent and were guided to a gate into the Forest of Death.
They were only an hour or so into the forest when Naruto was separated from the other two by a giant snake closing its mouth around him. Naruto growled and unsealed the sword he'd taken from Zabuza's grave. At this range, he didn't need technique, he just needed to hack a hole in the side of the thing to let himself out. Naruto was surprised when the snake dispersed in a cloud of chakra when he stabbed it though.
"Snake summon," Naruto decided as he sat on the grass and re-sealed the sword. "Where have I heard about snake summons?" he muttered to himself, pulling out his journal and flipping to the history lectures from the Academy. Finding what he was looking for, Naruto's blue eyes widened until they were nearly popping out of his head. "We're all so, so screwed."
Orochimaru, one of the Sannin, signed the summon contract with the snake clan. So read his journal, which was word-perfect on the Academy's history lectures.
Naruto didn't much like his team mates, but he wouldn't get through this stage of the chuunin exam without them, and he really wanted that promotion. So, as much as he would like to see Sasuke get his butt kicked...
Except that when he reached Sakura and Sasuke, she was hovering over his prone body, and they were the only ones there.
"What did I miss?" Naruto demanded as he landed beside her.
"Naruto?" Sakura yelped. "But -"
"Yeah, it was a summon snake. I busted out. Sorry I wasn't here sooner. What happened?"
No surprises there. What was a surprise was that the bastard's injury was a seal at the base of his neck. They were just going to have to set up camp and wait for him to wake up. If they were lucky, a weaker team would stumble across them and have the scroll they needed too, and then they'd be able to make a run for the tower.
They were lucky enough for things to work out in their favour in exactly that way, and then they were in the tower with preliminary matches going on.
Naruto watched the matches avidly, a kage bunshin on either side of him taking notes on the techniques used by the two different fighters as they used them.
"You're wasting chakra before your fight," Kakashi pointed out. "And letting your opponents see one of your techniques."
"Don't care," Naruto answered shortly. "This is more important. You're a great ninja and all Kakashi-sensei, but you're a lousy teacher, so I'm using everybody I face and every fight I see as a lesson."
He noticed, but didn't care, when he saw Kakashi flinch at the blunt statement from his student.
The final phase of the exams were interrupted, but Naruto and Shikamaru got promotions anyway, which the blonde would have been more pleased about if the Hokage hadn't been killed in the invasion by Sound and Sand. Actually, Naruto almost didn't get the promotion, but the Hokage had made notes on who deserved promotions and why, as well as who didn't and why. It was these notes which had allowed for Shikamaru and Naruto to get their promotions, while Sasuke had stayed a genin – something the Uchiha boy was not happy about.
Not that Naruto cared, as he was too busy just then leaving Konoha with Jiraiya (who had showed Naruto a couple of tricks prior to the final phase of the chuunin exam) to fetch back Senju Tsunade to be the new Hokage. Whether she liked it or not apparently.
As they walked – and quite slowly at that, as Jiraiya didn't hurry anywhere if he could help it, and actually catching Tsunade would be harder if she knew she was being chased – Naruto bombarded the white-haired man with questions – politely of course, since he wanted answers. Questions about techniques, questions about sealing, questions about pretty much everything, and everything was written down in his journal.
The relevant stuff anyway. Naruto didn't see any point in writing down the pervert sannin's so called 'seduction' techniques, or his opinions on what made a beautiful woman, or anything else like that. Naruto was in the beginning stages of teenager-hood, yes, but impossibly horny and randy and crazy for anything resembling sex he was not.
"Only idiots want to be the Hokage," Tsunade said firmly once they'd found her and Jiraiya had asked her to come back to Konoha and take the position.
"Well Konoha is breeding nothing but idiots these days," Naruto countered dryly. "All the same, I'd just as soon not see a conniving idiot in charge of my home, thanks."
Tsunade raised an eyebrow at the boy's interjection. "Meaning?" she asked, focusing her attention on the kid wearing orange and a chuunin vest, dismissing her old team mate from her notice for the moment.
Naruto pulled out his journal and began his explanation of the education that the students were getting in the Academy these days, then moved on to the current political climate as he understood it from his last catch-up with the Old Man. Jiraiya added in a few things at that point, stuff that Naruto hadn't been told (since he was only a kid genin until a little while ago), as well as the current standing of Konoha in relation to the other hidden villages thanks to the be-damned invasion.
"Tsunade-sama?" Naruto asked, interrupting Jiraiya talking nonsense about the second Hokage. He had noticed that Tsunade's eyes were looking a little glazed. "Are you alright Tsunade-sama?"
She shook her head. "That's really all that they're teaching these days?" she asked, horrified.
Naruto nodded. "I was talking to the Old Man just before the exams about fixing it, and I had plans to fix it myself if I ever became Hokage, but yeah, this is all that's getting taught these days," he answered, scowling in disgust. "And it's like the jounin sensei aren't screened for competence at teaching at all, just picked out based on their competence as ninja."
Tsunade nodded. She remembered Kakashi, and it sounded like the brat had a lot to answer for, to say nothing of the rest of the village.
"Alright," she said, straightening up in her seat. "I'm an idiot then. I'll take the damn job, but Naruto."
"I'm going to requisition you to help me straighten the place out. I'm going to be putting that journal of yours to serious use," Tsunade said firmly.
Naruto grinned and gave a salute from where he was sitting. "Yes, Hokage-sama!"
Tsunade smiled wryly in answer to the enthusiastic teen – and on the way back to Konoha, was more pleased than Jiraiya had been to answer all of Naruto's questions about her medical techniques. The kid was genuinely interested in learning after all, and not just for the sake of knowing more techniques, but actually for passing them on to others so that the future ninja of Konoha could benefit.