Revised Author's Forward:

The concept behind this story is simple. The concept of twelve-year-old ninja is ridiculous if you know anything about psychology or physiology. There are reasons that we have minimum age laws in place for most things. To put it simply, children are not just little adults; they think completely different at various stages of development.

This story tries to do a few things:

1: Adapt Naruto (the story) to be more mature, reducing some of the silliness that ran rampant through canon (and fanon). Naruto will not win a battle by farting, for example, and the Hokage does not do battles to the death with paperwork- he has scribes for that sort of thing. This does not mean there won't be plenty of humor- quite the opposite!

2: There are some changes to fundamental aspects of canon. Academy students become genin only after they turn 16 as opposed to twelve. A prodigy such as Itachi might graduate a few years earlier, but generally not.

For all the people who only read certain types of stories, some things to note before you start reading. This is M, although citrus is not the focus of this fic, there will be some occasionally. I don't censor language, and people die in this. It's primarily Naruto/Hinata, with other pairings to be determined.

I've only read the manga up to the Pain/Jiraiya fight, though I've kept up with major plot points. This means there may be some unintentional small discrepancies from canon.

OOOOOO

Naruto's first clear memory was of his third birthday. It wasn't because of presents, of which he received only three; nor of the festival, which coincidentally happened every year on the day of his birth. He remembered his third birthday because it was both the first time he got to see fireworks, and the first time he met an ANBU.

He was in the orphanage, excited by the stories the older kids told about the festival. It was evening, as Naruto stared up through the window, hoping to see fireworks, while other children got ready for bed, or prepared to go out for the festival, depending on their age.

Suddenly there was bedlam as the door was smashed in. The caretakers immediately rushed to the nearest hidden panic buttons, activating them before looking confused as a couple of Konoha chunin and several civilians stumbled through the destroyed doorway. The invaders were preceded by the stench of drunkenness, and several of the civilians were swaying.

"Where ish he? The fucking demon! We come to avet- adverd- … avenge the Yondaime!"

Realizing what was happening, the orphanage workers broke into two groups. An elderly man and two women reached into secret hideaway spaces and pulled out weapons as the other four workers herded the panicking children into the back rooms.

"You don't want to do this. If you leave now you might get leniency…" the wizened man said as the two groups approached one another. The two chunin sobered slightly upon seeing opponents appear.

Some of the civilians looked scared, surprised that they would meet armed resistance against what they had been certain would be looked upon as a heroic service.

"Why are yoo defen'ing him? It's weak now, we can get retrip- retribu- … payback‼"

The matronly woman on the left twirled her sai and snorted. She whispered to her partners, "They're too drunk to reason with; we must frighten them or it will end in blood."

The man nodded nearly unnoticeably, then called out "If you continue, we are required to use lethal force. Leave. Now." As he spoke, he slowly reflected the ceiling lights off his sword into the civilian's eyes, pumping up his killing intent as well. As drunk as they were, the civilians would not be very sensitive to the feeling.

Meanwhile the woman on the right had coiled her weapon (many of the orphans' suspicions were confirmed when they had seen her grab a whip from a cabinet) around her arm. Hiding her hands in her wide sleeves, she started a genjutsu.

Unfortunately the two chunin were not inebriated enough to miss it, and attacked instinctively. All of the drunken civilians suddenly decided they needed to be elsewhere as the five combatants met in the center of the room. There was a mass migration out the ruined door as stray shuriken flew about, and the cracking of a whip only added to the urgency.

Once outside though, the civilians fell unconscious within 10 feet of the door no matter where or how fast they ran. After the lemmings poured out, three ANBU came out from hiding, and rushed inside.

They were too slow to change the outcome, however. Both chunin were already down, though still breathing. Above them, the three capable caretakers were doing cool down stretches. They sported some bruises, but they looked surprisingly happy.

"Thanks for not rushing guys, it's been a while since we've been able to let loose," The old man grinned. "Good to know I still have it."

The ANBU ignored the comment. The leader asked, "Was their target Daidai?"

"You ask that today? Of course he was." The woman with the whip let some sarcasm into the reply as she watched through the windows. A group of the police force was approaching the building. It had been proven several times that with VIP Daidai (the codename for Uzumaki) here, the orphanage needed ANBU response teams instead of waiting for the Konoha Police Force. Not that the police force was slow, but they couldn't compete with ANBU.

The lead ANBU frowned. "We're going to have to isolate Daidai for the rest of the night."

The three looked at him reproachfully. "Where do you think you can take him?"

"You know better than to ask." The looks grew colder. The ANBU raised a hidden eyebrow. "Fine. Where better to hide him than under their noses? He'll enjoy it."

The three looked at each other for a moment before the woman with sai signaled to follow her, and led into the rear. She knocked a rhythm onto one of the doors, which, after a few moments filled with mechanical noises, opened. The door swung out on massive hinges, being pushed by one of the other caretakers to reveal a dozen frightened kids.

The woman had put away the sai by now, and reassured the children before pulling Naruto aside and telling him to go with the ANBU. It wasn't hard to get him to go after being promised he could join the festival, and the ANBU had to chase him a few yards down the hall before he could see the results of the fight.

oooooo

So VIP Daidai was escorted piggyback, under henge, through the festival. It was the start of an annual tradition, one that ended each night with a spectacular firework display.

oooooo

Life in general wasn't too bad for Naruto growing up. He had to put up with scowls and the occasional thrown rotten tomato, but he had a couple sorta-friends from the orphanage and although most of the pre-Academy teachers had been biased at first, the worst two had been fired, sending a message to the rest. In many ways, Naruto had it better than most orphans, despite the specifics of his birth.

And so, the seasons changed.

oooooo

Naruto stood back, looking upon his achievement. Tomorrow was the academy's final test. After he passed, (because there was no way he'd fail!) he would be a shinobi, and Naruto knew he wouldn't get away with crap like this. Better to end this part of his life with a bang, a testament to his genius, one last hurrah before he had to take things serious. By the light of the half moon, he could vaguely see what he had done to the stone faces, but come morning, everyone would see. Truly, this was a pranking masterpiece.

Honestly, he wasn't sure how he would have done it without kage-bunshin, though he was certain he'd have figured it out somehow. And he had to give up eating at Ichiraku's for two weeks to save enough money for all the paint. But it was worth it. With a cross-shaped hand seal, Naruto made a single shadow clone, which immediately popped itself, relaying instructions to the others. The original sat down on the fourth Hokage's chin, meditating as his other clones ended themselves. As their knowledge transferred to him, he used the meditation to try and piece the information together more efficiently, giving him the overall effect of the monument's 'upgrade'.

He grinned. "That'll do. Time to go home."

Standing up and turning around, the blond goof faced the ground several hundred feet below him. Walking down the chin, upside down then to the neck, he got to a point where the wall was almost flat straight down. Grinning, he suddenly stopped all the chakra flow to his feet, falling immediately.

'I hope this works, Iruka-sensei will be pissed enough without me breaking most of my bones,' thought the 16-year-old as he manipulated his body so that his feet stayed fractions of an inch off the stone cliff.

'All right, an object falls at 9.8 meters per second per second, and considering human drag... so I should be going... and I create so much friction with the tree climbing technique at maximum force... so I should start braking... NOW!'

Naruto's feet generated a breeze for a second as he pushed enough chakra through them to pull him the half-inch to the wall. Stone was much tougher and denser than even fire country trees, so he could use more without launching himself away as he and the rest of the male students were want to do years ago when they started practicing the technique. He decelerated quickly, putting considerable strain on his body, and wearing down his footwear noticeably.

'Crap, I might have to get new shoes! Um... isn't the ground coming up a little fast?' he thought, panicking a bit.

Indeed it was, and as Naruto was already braking at maximum power, there wasn't much he could do about it.

'This is where the coyote would hold up a sign with something ironic written on it, like "help", or "ouch."' It was odd where his mind took him sometimes, but then there wasn't much about him that wasn't odd.

Spreading out his body to produce as much drag as possible, as well as evenly distribute his weight on impact, Naruto watched the ground as it came up to greet him.

THUD

"Thumph wamphn't hoo mad." Naruto lay, partially submerged in the soil, and waited for the pain to let up a bit. Then he realized he was trying to breath dirt, and pulled his head out of the ground, and gasped, grimacing. "That's going to bruise, even for me." Pushing his body up out of the dirt he winced and stood up before his eyes shot wide.

"Damn it! I forgot to carry the seven! Stupid sevens, always miss them!"

'All right, maybe that wasn't such a bright idea. Especially since I have to sneak by the patrols to get home again.'

Thankfully, the blond prank master had prepared for this operation for quite a while, and even in the state he was in, was able to get back to his apartment with only a few close calls.

oooooo

The sun was up, and people were starting to go about their day. The sky was blue, though there were some dark clouds far to the southeast, which to the intelligent ninja, promised rain. While the defacement of the Hokage Monument was brightly lit, it took a while for anyone to really notice it. While the villagers were quite proud of it, few bothered to actually look at it every morning, much as it might take you a while to notice a missing freckle on the back of your hand. So when someone did notice it, there were plenty of people milling around who could react all at once.

The Shodai Hokage was painted almost entirely with forest camouflage, and paper mache trees grew out his ears, while what looked like broccoli was painted coming out his nose. The Nidaime had a giant snorkel mask painted on his face, with water half way up the mask and a goldfish in the left section. The Sandiame had blood coming out his nose and a blush, no doubt a reference to his reaction to that jutsu. The Yondaime was rather unaffected, being painted to actually look like the pictures of him in the kage museum and textbooks and so on. That is, if you ignored the poem on his face, which suggested his legendary speed on the battlefield applied in the bedroom as well.

Next to them all, on the mountain that had yet to be carved, was a kunoichi wearing a graduation cap, a Konoha hitai-ate, a smile, and nothing else, laying on her side holding a bottle of sake.

One chunin knew exactly who to blame.

"NA-RUUU-TOOOO!"

oooooo

"-OOO!"

The indicated miscreant smiled as he heard the primal bellow. He briefly pondered whether to try to postpone his punishment, or to just let Iruka catch him easily. It wasn't much of a decision, seeing as he had to take the final test today. He couldn't run around and skip class like usual, and Iruka was needed to proctor the exam. Anyway, he was hanging with his pals.

Shikamaru spoke up. "Yare yare Naruto, what troublesome thing did you do now?"

"Remember my Omega prank? The one you said I'd never pull off?"

"I said that years ago Naruto. Of course you can pull it off now. I just can't believe you were stupid enough to decide to do it, and yet smart enough to get it done."

*Munch* "You should look at it, Shika, he changed the design since we saw his plans back then."

"You've seen it and didn't tell me Choji? Cruel," Shikamaru complained.

"He knew you'd just call it troublesome," Naruto remarked.

"True. But now I have to get up on a roof to see it from this part of town. Stupid gravity."

With that said, a rare thing happened, Shikamaru went out of his way for something. The other two followed him up to the nearest roof to see his reaction.

"Huh. Better than what you had planned when we were 11, anyway. Kept to a theme of what they were famous for. I suppose I have to give it a ten out of ten just for the sheer scale of it, though the last line of the limerick isn't a true rhyme. And it definitely took balls to paint a three story tall pinup girl for the whole village to see."

"Give me a break, Shika, I spent a significant portion of a week perfecting that limeri-!"

Naruto was cut off when he felt a hand grip his shoulder tightly, and a bit of killer intent leaked over the three teens.

"H-hey Iruka, w-we were just heading to class, weren't we Shikamaru?" Choji managed to stammer out.

"Yes we were!" He agreed quickly. "Good luck Naruto," he added in a whisper.

They dashed off, moving quicker then either of them had for at least a month.

"Traitors!" Naruto shouted, shaking his fist in the air. "Well, lets get on with it sensei, are you hauling me in front of the old man, or are you going to give me the talk yourself?"

"Neither, Naruto. The talk won't work. I know you; this was your last hurrah, the masterpiece before you go into pranking retirement. We've discussed my past; I was the same way. And just as you have me, I too had a concerned chunin sensei. He gave me the same punishment I am about to give to you. I must admit, there seems to be a lot of evidence in Konoha that time is cyclical."

"Yeah, yeah, I know I gotta clean it up."

"That's true, but that isn't the punishment I was speaking of."

"Um, what then? No rame- ooph!"

This time Naruto was interrupted by a knee occupying the region his stomach had moments before.

"No, not a ramen ban. He kicked the crap out of me the morning of my exam, and told me life wasn't fair." *Pow* "He said that once I graduated, there would be real consequences for what I did, even if I hadn't thought of them before hand." *Bam* "He told me that he was going to give me a small taste of real life, so that hopefully when the time came, I would think before doing stupid shit like this." *Thwack*

The now not-so-merry prankster was on his knees, trying to breath after getting the wind knocked out of him. "Gasp- But you have to admit, it was pretty awesome," he wheezed, with a small grin. *Pop* "Aghh!"

Iruka let go of the finger he had just dislocated. "Yes, it is pretty amazing. Beat my prank, but not by much. Stand up, I'm not done yet."

"...Crap."

oooooo

Sasuke walked into the auditorium where the written test would be administered. He walked to the far wall and chose a seat two from it, and in the middle row. When he was younger, he used to take a corner seat so there were as few seats adjacent to him as possible. But over the years, he found it was best for everyone, including himself, if he left two seats in every direction open. As bad as his fangirls were when they tried to woo him, when they were arguing it was worse. He made rare use of his influence to get the male students in the class to try it once this way, and it turned out better than he had hoped. This late into the term, his fangirls mostly just sat in the seats that the pecking order assigned them, leaving the seat on either side of him open for them. And here they came; walking in, eying each other warily, ready to spring on the other at any sign of weakness. At least they didn't shriek very often any more.

"Ready to lose, forehead? I'm going to end up on Sasuke's team on Monday!"

"Please, Ino-pig, every one knows that if you pass, you're going with Choji and Shikamaru."

"Grrrr…"
"Grrrr…"

They walked over to the seats they had fought to obtain, one on each side of the annoyed boy. As far as Sasuke could tell, there wasn't a single redeeming value to having a fan group, and he wished every night before he fell asleep he could trade them with one of the many jealous boys in class. It wasn't, as many of his male peers suggested, that he was gay. The potential benefits of having so many girls fighting over him was quite obvious once he had grown up a bit, but it wasn't as easy as it may seem.

'You let one fangirl give you a blowjob and everything goes to hell,' he pondered.

He had been almost 15, and chose Mayumi, a cute girl in class that had 'matured' more than the rest. He had slipped her a note, and they met up after class. She had no clue what she was doing, but he thought it was amazing anyway. They split up, after he promised they could do more the next day as long as she kept it quiet.

He found out the next morning that she had ended up in the hospital that night, and would be staying there for a month and a half. Apparently, his psycho fan-girls had found out and beat her until a patrolling ANBU noticed. The most disgusting part was that almost all his fangirls had shown up the next day with haircuts like Mayumi. Sasuke had to see the principal, and was partially blamed for the incident! There was a letter sent to all the student's homes, explaining what had happened, and officially banning Sasuke from doing anything more than holding hands until he graduated! It was so mortifying; it was almost as bad as that day...

'Does this count as living a miserable life, Brother?' Sasuke thought, as the girls around him bickered amongst themselves.

The auditorium had filled up more now; practically everyone who could take the exam was here and ready. Call it 60 teens. Most of the proctors were up on the stage, ready to observe for cheating.

'Iruka isn't here yet... ah, out dealing with Naruto's "art" no doubt,' the second to last Uchiha thought. 'Pretty good stuff this time I have to admit, though if he actually put that effort into class he wouldn't be just barely passing in theory.'

As if summoned, the two walked through the door. The dobe looked like crap warmed over, and Iruka was helping him over to a desk, before handing the whiskered teen an energy drink.

"Oh god, don't let him drink that, he'll be bouncing off the walls!" cried one of Sasuke's tormentors.

"Would you shut up? He's drunk one of those before class and at lunch every day for years now," groaned Shikamaru.

"Yeah, some of you joked about it before, but there really is something wrong in my head," chuckled Naruto. "Stimulants actually help me focus and calm me down. I asked the Med Nin about it after I figured out drinking soda helped me think. They say I have some condition, or something," he explained rather quietly compared to his usual volume. He took a deep chug out of the can.

"Brain damage would explain a lot about you, I suppose," quipped someone of little narrative importance. Naruto threw the tab off his soda into their eye. "Gyaowch!"

"Is that why you went from being Defcon-five level annoying to merely really annoying about three years ago?" asked Kiba.

Naruto snorted, then grimaced from one of Iruka's strikes that he aggravated. "Shut up, dog food breath."

Kiba growled while Akamaru tilted his head, wondering how that was an insult.

Iruka stood in front of the room and coughed before addressing the room. "QUIET! Good, now that I have every one's attention, we can start the written portion of the exam. This will consist of three one-hour chunks with ten-minute breaks between each one. The standard rules apply, begin when I signal."

As he spoke, the other proctors tossed out pencils which the students caught or else missed a point, and passed out the exams and answer booklets. Eventually the proctors all signaled Iruka, who in turn shouted, "Begin!"

Immediately the sound of scratching pencils could be heard.

oooooo

The written exam was over now. Naruto headed to the cafeteria with the rest of the students to get their lunch. No one brought lunch from home. Even Choji had to eat lunch from the cafeteria, though he was allowed to bring his snacks. Every student had a meal specifically designed for them each day, and woe to those who didn't eat it all. Rumor had it that they put chemicals in the food. The students for the most part dismissed it, which was ironic, considering that in this case, the rumors were accurate. The lines weren't long anymore, everything was routine by now, and soon Naruto headed off to sit at his regular table.

"Man, no ramen today? What the hell? They know better than that." Naruto had been able to 'train' the lunch staff into serving him at least a little ramen practically every day. In the end it was easier to go with his suggestion, then to put up with his antics.

"Hey guys, get anything special for our last lunch?" Asked Naruto as he sat down.

"Ano, I got a cinnamon bun today." Hinata spoke up.

"They gave me a full rack of ribs and a cobb salad," said Choji between mouthfuls.

Shino provided, "I was given a small bowl of honey as dessert, my insects are quite pleased."

"I didn't even know the lunch staff knew I liked mackerel, but I suppose it makes sense seeing as they're ninja," Shikamaru remarked.

"Jeeze, am I the only one who didn't get what I wished for?"

"Naruto, you got ramen every day for the last month, they probably knew that you wouldn't be able to do anything about it if they gave you none today," griped Shikamaru. "Hang on- is that a naruto on your plate? Someone has a sense of humor."

"How many times do I have to tell people? I'm named after 'maelstrom', not a fish-cake ramen topping!"

"We know Naruto, but you have to admit, it's kind of funny," grinned Hinata.

The boy sighed, "I guess. So, how does everyone feel about the tests so far? I'm not the academic type, but I think I'll pass."

"While the whole thing is troublesome, the written part is probably the least so for me."

"I encountered no difficulties, I expect I passed successfully," droned Shino.

Hinata looked down. "I - I'm not sure, I think I did well."

"Hey, what did I tell you about thinking like that? You had good marks all throughout this term, I know you did great!" He watched Hinata make a small smile. "Choji, what about you?"

The aforementioned chubby muscleman paused in his eating. "Eh, I didn't get them all right, but I got enough."

"I liked the question about throwing a kunai off the top of the building, I had a personal experience with gravity last night," chuckled Naruto.

"That sounds ominous, Naruto-kun. You didn't hurt yourself did you?" asked Hinata.

"Not too bad, I healed by the time I woke up anyway."

"I assume it had to do with the monument," Shino half asked, half stated.

"Quite. I decided to do an experiment involving free fall and the affects of chakra foot suction applied to stone surfaces."

Shikamaru let out a groan. "How troublesome. One day you're going to do something that even your tenant won't be able to heal you from. How hard did you hit the ground?"

"Not sure. I should've just come to a stop 10 feet above the ground. Instead, I ended up an inch below it. I think I missed carrying a seven."

Hinata giggled, "Oh Naruto, you and your sevens. Is that why you came in beat up today?"

"Nah, like I said, I healed before I woke up this morning. My appearance was from Iruka beating the snot out of me."

Every one's heads turned at that. "Iruka did what now?" Choji asked, incredulous.

"He said that basically it was a wake-up call. He knew it was my last great contribution to the world of pranking, and said he was going to do what a concerned chunin-sensei did to him. Then he pummeled me."

The others looked at one another. "Is he allowed to even do that?"

"Not as a teacher, probably. But this was personal. I could probably get him in trouble, but he's Iruka, you know he meant well. Look, forget about it, I'm fine with it. I probably needed it."

The rest of lunch was spent predicting what would be on the other tests they would be taking that day. All they knew was that it was supposed to be comprehensive, and that there would be physical and chakra usage tests. The smart money was on a spar with a teacher for the physical aspect. On the other side, the fundamental three jutsu were almost sure to appear, but beyond that, it was anyone's guess.

oooooo

It turned out the smart money was right, there was a spar with a chunin-sensei. There was also an obstacle course, a timed sprint, and other track and field type trials. The Academy had brought in a chakra sensor to make sure no one boosted their physical abilities during this part of the tests, excluding the spar. That would be taken into account during the third section of the exam.

After everyone was finished, there was a 30-minute break for water and rest, after which, the final section would begin. The students nervously chatted, and tried to relax. While some were confident that they would pass, the exams also affected your placement in teams. Your team placement could affect your life for years to come, and while most teams were able to get along, no one wanted to get stuck on a poor one.

Iruka stood in the field, and took a deep breath before blowing into a whistle. *TWEEEEEEEEEEEEET* "All right, listen up now. This part will go student by student through alphabetical order. First up... Akimichi Choji? Alright, who made this list? Shino's always first!"

A few chunin shrugged.

"Fine, whatever, let's start- Choji!"

Naruto chuckled and clapped for the boy, along with some of the other students. It could be tough having your surname start with an A; you were always called on first. Everyone paid attention to see what they would be expected to do.

"All right Choji, please perform the henge, three bunshin, and the kawarimi twice, in any order. Whenever you're ready."

There was a large log, thoughtfully provided, sitting about ten yards away from them. Choji ran through the hand seals, and replaced himself with it flawlessly, then repeated his actions to wind up in front of Iruka once more. Iruka nodded and smiled. The teen then disappeared in a cloud of smoke before it cleared, revealing a second Iruka. Grinning, he continued to make three clones of himself, still in Iruka's form.

Iruka raised an eyebrow, "Very good, cancel those, then show me any other jutsu you wish us to include in the evaluation."

Choji proceeded to preform several minor camping jutsu, his partial expansion technique, his multi-size technique, two earth techniques, and even a few seconds of the human bullet tank technique. A fairly impressive repertoire for an academy student.

"Okay Choji, one last thing before you're done for the day. See that device over there? It's hooked up to a computer, which will record your chakra output as you focus it into that handle on top. What I want you to do is to pour as much chakra into it for as long as you can, until you get tired. Then you're done."

The students were surprised, they had never had a test like that before, although the Academy had drummed it into their skulls that chakra reserves were important. With an unsure look on his face, Choji walked up to the handle and held the half-tiger/ram seal for several seconds, focusing on his chakra. With a shout, he grabbed the handle with both hands, with a fierce looking expression. When nothing happened, the students decided this was rather boring, as there were no feedback indicators. There was purposefully no way for them to judge how well he was doing.

After about three and a half minutes, Choji released the handle and slumped over a bit. Iruka, who had stood behind the computer monitor with two other chunin to watch the results, nodded in satisfaction. "Good, we'll send you the results Sunday evening. If you pass, please meet in the auditorium Monday morning for team assignment. Next, would..."

Naruto stopped paying attention, knowing that likely half of the 60 students there would fail, or decide not to continue as a ninja. Of course, having come this far all of them were already on the ninja reserves, in case war was declared, but until you put on the headband, you were free to decide to live life as a civilian with little consequence. He knew his favorite ramen server, Ayame, had trained, and almost passed. He had seen her light the burners with the fire-starting jutsu on several occasions. She claimed that she had sabotaged her scores a bit, so that if the reserves were activated, she wouldn't be the first to be called up.

At the time, Naruto had found it a bit difficult to understand not wanting to be a ninja, though he would admit that if he were forced to pick another profession, exploding tag to the head so to speak, he'd have to go with ramen chef. Now Naruto could empathize a bit more; death was a scary idea, and most ninja left the world violently. You were considered lucky if you got a painless poison, or an instant death. If one tried to estimate the number of ninja who died alone, bleeding out, in agony, one would likely lose their appetite at the least. The Academy walked a thin line, they had to prepare students for reality, but it was in the best interests of Konoha not to scare too many potential ninja away.

Between cheering for his friends, and keeping an eye on certain people's performances, Naruto pondered these and other subjects to keep himself from being bored. He had long learned that almost no one liked the way he acted when he was bored. It was hard to control, but he knew ninja needed a great deal of self-discipline, so he had approached it the way he did with most problems. He practiced staying still until he could go for at least 2 hours without fidgeting. Granted, he still needed to work on it, as he usually daydreamed, something he was sure would not be allowed on a real mission. He was snapped out of his reverie when he heard his name called.

"Hai, coming!" The spiky-haired teen jogged over to Iruka.

"Do I need to repeat the instructions, Naruto?"

"Nope! Basic three, whatever jutsu I want to show off, chakra exhaustion test."

"Good to see you were paying attention. Whenever you wish, begin."

Naruto flew through the hand seals at a fairly speedy rate before replacing himself with the log. Then, concentrating, he repeated his actions, only instead of appearing in front of Iruka, he switched places with him.

Disorientated for only a moment, Iruka's jaw dropped when he realized what had happened. Performing a seal-less replacement on the log, he turned to Naruto and demanded, "How the hell did you do that? That's supposed to be impossible!"

Naruto held up his hands, "Whoa, calm down, I just wanted to show off a bit. I know the theory too; you aren't supposed to be able to switch with other people because their chakra interferes. Well, that's only sort of true; if you read the advanced notes, they say you can replace yourself with a willing partner. I played with the equations and took it a step further. I just proved that with enough chakra, you can perform kawarimi on an unsuspecting subject. Unfortunately, even I can't switch with an unwilling Academy student in a battle situation."

"...So it's mostly an academic achievement, you can't really use it on the field?" Iruka queried.

"Well, it could be used under very certain circumstances. Remember, this takes about as much chakra as a few shadow clones, so not everyone can do it. You could have a partner stab you as you replace yourself with an unsuspecting civilian for an easy assassination, though his bodyguards might object, what with you appearing in the middle of them. That could be solved by having a shadow clone do the switch, but that's impractical to anyone except me, Kage, and maybe elite jonin. More practical, is to switch with a teammate to either take a hit for them, or to confuse your opponent. If you had a henge up, and could kawarimi smokelessly with a team mate, you could really screw with an opponent's mind."

"...That's certainly a lot to think about; after the test would you be willing to write a paper and see the Hokage for some extra credit?"

"You mean this paper?" Naruto asked cheekily, withdrawing a thin, folded stack of papers and handing it to Iruka. "But sure, I wouldn't mind seeing the old man."

Iruka scanned over the papers before slipping it in his pocket. "If someone told me three years ago that I'd be reading a paper on chakra theory by that blond brat, I'd have them checked into the psych ward."

"To be fair, Hinata proof-read it and helped me with the general format."

"It looked like her influence. All right, I know you're going to do shadow clones instead of normal bunshin, but you still have to do it and a henge. And so help me, if you do a any of your perverted brand of jutsu, I'll fail you for the year and give you a beating that made this morning seem fun."

"I was a kid! I didn't know any better! And I've proven on multiple occasions that it is perfectly valid form of distraction, sometimes even an attack."

"Get on with it!"

"Hai!" With that, Naruto made the cross seal and three kage-bunshin appeared. One started doing backflips, while another did cartwheels. Sensing Iruka's calm wearing thin, one jumped on another's back, while the third stood in front of the first two. Foregoing the seals, the three turned into the Hokage, complete with hat and little orange book. Iruka smiled at first, before realizing what the book was, and face palming.

"Ah, Iruka-kun, you should treat Naruto to ramen when this is over," the faux-Hokage suggested. "He deserves it! He's been working his ass off the last year or two, trying to make up for his stupidity when he was a kid."

"I'll keep that in mind, Hokage-sama," Iruka said facetiously, "Since you're here, why don't you show us your jutsu along with Naruto?"

"No problem." The Hokage look-alike took off his hat, and tossed both it and the book at a training dummy. As it flew, the book, which was behind the hat, suddenly made a small explosion, propelling the hat even faster towards the dummy. Instead of exploding on contact as much of the surprised audience assumed it would, the hat hit with a loud crack and bounced off, to end up on the ground beneath its target. Naruto scowled at it for a second, before it exploded with a fair amount of force.

The Hokage-clone looked sheepish, making Naruto's trade mark gesture of rubbing his head and explained, "Heh, looks like I'm out of practice," before it disappeared.

The rest of the students, most of whom were used to the blond's shenanigans, rolled their eyes. Leave it to Uzumaki to simultaneously impress and screw up.

"So, I'm still getting the kinks out of exploding clones, I suppose it's not quite battle worthy... Still, I think the fact that a genin hopeful can pull it off at all will be in my favor," explained Naruto.

Iruka closed his eyes, appearing as if he was trying to calm him self. "Anything else to show us?"

Naruto nodded, and began to preform the basic jutsu any half decent genin knew to help set up camp. Water condensation, one that made a spark for dry fire starting, one that made a larger flame for starting fires in bad weather, and so on.

After he finished those, he began, "As you know, when the Academy had us test our chakra natures, I was surprised to find I was wind aligned. We have relatively few wind techniques in the repositories, but I've learned a couple."

"Naruto, we don't have all day. I know there are only a few more students to test, but still, demonstrate and move on," he added the next part as a whisper, "The last part is going to take forever for you as it is..."

"Sorry sensei, I'll try to hurry up." Iruka spun around as Naruto's voice came out right behind his ear. "What the-?"

"It's advanced ventriloquism," said the familiar voice, now right behind Iruka's other ear, "I can project other noises as well."

Iruka turned back to Naruto, and watched as he clapped his hands; a moment later the sound emanated 20 feet away. "Good for distracting guards." This time the statement was made above Iruka's head. The teacher shook his head with a small smile and made a gesture to continue.

"Next is a generic wind jutsu, called Cutting Breeze: medium range, fairly quick, one 'blade'." Naruto called out the attack, demonstrating it on the dummy that he had charred earlier with the exploding clone. It created a three-inch deep slash in the dense dummy's torso. "Finally, this isn't quite a jutsu, but it deserves mention anyway," Naruto said enigmatically, "and don't worry, I know what I'm doing!"

The unpredictable ninja held the bird seal, which Iruka noted was in most futon jutsu he had seen, before crouching then leaping up incredibly fast, a combination of charging his leg muscles with chakra, and what looked like a crude futon jutsu propelling him upwards. Iruka looked pleased at first, then worried, then panicked as Naruto passed 100 feet.

While Iruka took months off of his life in worry below, Naruto was slowing down as he came to the peak of his flight. Quickly he ran through more seals, before disappearing, just as he stopped ascending at around 130 feet in the air.

Iruka's attention was jerked off of the teen in the air as he was hit with a horrible noise from where the log was sitting. Or at least where it had been sitting. Now there was a shallow trench dug into the ground originating at the log's old position. Following the trench with his eyes, he found a groaning blond haired lump lying in the dirt.

The chunin was speechless for a moment, but if Naruto thought he would get away without getting yelled at, he was disappointed as Iruka began shouting admonishments, surprising some of the awed students with his choice of vocabulary.

"By the Tsuchi-Kage's hairy ball-sack, what in fucking blue blazes did you think you were doing? You could have-"

While he ranted, Naruto rolled over to track the progress of the log he had temporarily made airborne. Eyes widening, he interrupted his teacher's rant. "Sensei! Move!"

The honed instincts of any ninja good enough to make chunin kicked in, and Iruka leapt away in a flash of movement, moments before the log returned to earth, kicking up dirt and making a sizable crater. Iruka slowly un-tensed his body, looking at the spot he was standing seconds ago, before glaring at Naruto. Naruto gulped, noticing his favorite sensei's hands clenching and unclenching, a common method to suppress emotion, generally anger.

"Why don't I go over there and do the chakra exhaustion test?" asked Naruto.

The muscles around his sometimes-mentor's eye twitched. "Yes, that would be for the best," managed Iruka.

The pair walked over to the device, until the older of the two split off towards the computer. Before they were too far apart, Iruka gave caution. "Keep it low key, after launching yourself into the sky, there will be enough kids asking questions about you without you doing something wild here."

"Got ya, sensei." Always one for dramatics, Naruto pulled up his sleeves and rubbed his hands together, then grabbed the handle. "Can I start?"

"One moment." Iruka bowed his head and mumbled a short prayer to any kami that was listening. He took a deep breath, and said, "Focus as *cough* much *cough* chakra as you can. Begin!"

The next second, a vortex of blue sprang up, spinning around the blond as he poured his chakra at roughly half his maximum rate into the measuring device. Reading Iruka's lips, (he didn't think that suggestion was anatomically possible) he took the meaning behind the advice and toned it down to one-fourth his maximum output. The swirling wind and the twisting bands of chakra faded away, but a faint blue aura remained, enveloping him as he stood there.

And stood there.

And stood there.

The previous best had been Sasuke, (naturally) whose hands had weakly glowed for a few seconds, and had held out for five minutes, though he nearly fainted after walking off a few paces. The proctors had rolled their eyes and made a note of it.

Naruto was still standing there glowing at ten minutes however, and the examiners were getting antsy, let alone the students. Coming to a decision, Iruka announced, "If you don't get tired by the 15 minute mark, please stop Naruto."

"Sure, how about I speed things up a bit?" Despite the look of alarm on his sensei's face, Naruto slowly increased his output to about 33%. The wind picked up a bit again, but not nearly as bad as it had been. The students wore gob smacked expressions; they all knew Naruto had large reserves, it was an unavoidable fact. Several times when they were learning chakra theory Naruto would do something impossible, or at least improbable for a student. After a while the sensei decided there was no point ignoring it, and they would often use him as a interactive prop for chakra theory.

Still, it had been a few years since the blond had let loose, and the brighter students were imagining what the clown could do with a jutsu that scaled in power and area of effect with chakra. It was a scary idea.

oooooo

The mood was more somber under a tree, where Shino, Shikamaru, Choji, and Hinata watched and smiled at their friend's antics. While they too were surprised by the effectiveness and amplitude of Naruto's performances, they had at least known what was coming. After all, the inventive blond needed people to bounce ideas off of. And after the night of Mizuki's betrayal, they were all more than merely friends.

"Man, it's troublesome to think he's doing this without even tapping into his tenant's supply. What's he pouring out Hinata? Three eighths his max?"

"You know it's hard for me to tell when he's like this," the girl answered quietly, squinting with her eyes activated, "closer to a third I think. He's got about half his reserves left."

"Damn." let out Shino, low and slowly, as if that said it all. But then didn't it?

The rest looked at him oddly, before returning to the spectacle before them. "You can say that again," agreed Choji, slowly masticating a stick of venison jerky from the Nara's ranch.

Shino decided not to.

"He's going to go far, isn't he?" the pale eyed Hyuuga asked rhetorically.

"Yep," Shikamaru replied, then paused. "You know, if you don't tell him how you feel by a year from graduation, we are going to tell him, just like we said we would."

Hinata looked down. "I know, and I'm getting better, I think I'll be able to do it soon. The three of you and he have helped me so much, I-"

"Shhh- we know. You're welcome, just get your butt in gear and do it. The longer you wait, the longer both of you miss out on being together."

"...Assuming he'll take me, not to mention my father-"

Deciding it would be a bad move to even playfully slap the Hyuuga heiress in public, the lazy boy bopped her on the top of her head. "You know he'd love to try dating a girl, especially you, though if you don't hurry after today, someone might beat you to it. As for your father, you're a ninja right? Make with the sneaky sneaky."

Hinata glared at him, a welcome sight considering her temperament not too many years ago. "Fine, logically I understand he'd agree, but my father is not quite so easy an obstacle as you make him out to be. You know how he reacted when Hanabi started flirting with Konohamaru, and he's a direct descendant of our currant Hokage! Father has never mentioned an opinion on Naruto, good or bad, but considering that even most of your parents were wary of him when we all first started hanging out I think it's asking a little too much to hope he'll be happy for us." She took a breath finally, having gotten most of it out in a rush. She started poking her fingers together. "I love him, but I don't see how we can be together."

"I think you are making a bigger deal out of it than it really is, Hinata-san," Shino advised, "while your father made a big fuss, it was mostly to put the fear of Kami in Konohamaru, not because he was worried. There were rumors that for a week or so afterwards he seemed amused, one of my clan said she had even seen him... smile."

This raised eyebrows and a certain amount of disbelief out of the others. "Hmm, if true, this bears thought," Shikamaru said, summarizing everyone's thoughts.

"Still, what's the worst that can happen?" mused Choji.

"You really want to know? Let me tell you what keeps me up at night then, Choji," Hinata said, disgruntledly. "My father finds out we're dating, and it pushes things over the edge, forcing him to put the seal on me. Naruto tries to make good on his promise to me, and retaliates, killing my father and some of the elders. The village council panics, and tries to execute Naruto. In the very worst case, the furry asshole breaks loose and kills everyone; otherwise just Naruto dies. That's the worst that can reasonably happen."

The three boys looked at each other and seemed to communicate silently. Shino was apparently elected spokesman and began, "First of all, you have an interesting, some might say ridiculous, definition of reasonable. Secondly, while we are aware of how your father has been harsh and mistreated you in the past, you are likewise aware of our hypothesis on why he behaves so. In his twisted way, he wants you to be happy. He is just seemingly incapable of realizing that the methods that have successfully raised so many Hyuuga are incompatible with you. You yourself have said he has been laxer of late, and shielded you from the scrutiny of the Hyuuga Elders."

Such a long oration was rare from Shino, signifying the importance of the subject to both him, and the rest of the group.

Hinata sighed, and nodded. "I hope you're right. Just- just give me a little more time."

The group watched the blond again, as Iruka called time, and Naruto finally stopped sending chakra into the device. Shikamaru laughed and shook his head.

*Munch* "What's so funny?" *Munch*

Shikamaru had leaned back to watch the rain clouds, that had seemed so distant that morning, close in. "Not much, I just overheard some chunin talking about the device earlier. It converts chakra into alternating current, which the computer then measures with some complex math to compensate for various effects, and tells them how much chakra you've been pumping into it, looking for peaks, averages, cycle rates, frequency- bunches of troublesome stuff even I don't understand."

Shino's hive buzzed for a second. "I'm aware I don't always get jokes, but how is that humorous?"

"It isn't, unless you know that some bright ninja came up with the idea to hook up the voltage into the village's power supply a few years ago, thinking that the village could get a few watts of free energy out of the deal." Shikamaru pointed to a thick cable running to one of the rare aboveground power lines in the city. "Apparently, the extra energy takes some strain off the power plant each year. But after Naruto's turn, I was wondering. How much you want to bet everyone's electric bill at home will be cheaper this month?"

That broke the nervous tension that had developed in the group, and the four laughed as Naruto swaggered over towards them, looking mighty pleased with himself. Knowing someone needed to lance his ego before it swelled to much, Shikamaru called out, "Nice landing, flyboy!"

"Shut up, I did amazing, easily the best show today. Er, not that you guys didn't do great."

"True," admitted Shino, "you definitely prodded buttock."

Naruto snorted at the old in-joke, "Kicked ass, Shino, really. Hmmph, at least you didn't say defenestrated breasts or something else really weird."

"Naruto-kun!"

"Sorry, Hinata-chan, sorry. Come on guys; let's blow this place! How about some celebratory ice cream back at the hangout? What do you say?"

Shaken heads answered him. "Sorry, I'm sure I'm not the only one who has to give a report to their parents."

"Yeah."

"Indeed."

"Sorry, Naruto-kun."

"Eh, it's fine, just be sure to tell them I made 130 feet or so!"

"I'll even tell them the length of the trench you dug during your landing. I noticed you kawarimi-ed at the peak of your flight, did you forget that there would be conservation of horizontal momentum as well, Naruto?"

"No. More like I underestimated the amount of wind that high, and failed to compensate. No worries, when I learn shunshin that'll be taken care of."

"If you were anyone else, I'd suggest that there wasn't any reason to launch yourself 100 feet into the air. You'd probably be troublesome and find one though."

"Good thinking, I'll add that to my things to do list! Surveillance, perhaps? No, everyone would know where you were. Well, I'm sure there's some situation where launching yourself a dozen stories into the air would be helpful! Should we meet up Monday morning?"

The odd group of friends continued to chat as they walked away from the Academy. It was funny to watch the villager's faces, especially today, as they went from pleasant, to cold and back as they saw the heirs of several esteemed clans walking with the miscreant who had desecrated the village's most prominent land mark. One by one, they split ways, until Naruto, now alone, turned almost entirely around and headed towards the Hokage tower. Iruka had reminded him to visit old man Sarutobi before he had returned to his friends. It had been a while since he and gramps last talked, and Naruto felt like boasting about his performance. It'd be like old times. Of course, the wrinkled old monkey probably had watched the whole thing through his viewing ball.

Leaping up to the rooftops, the adolescent broke into a lazy, loping jog, interspersed with hops when a street broke the continuity of the 'ninja highway', as it was only somewhat jokingly referred to. It was late afternoon now, and the rain clouds appeared to be bunching up, as if in preparation to storming the village.

Soon enough, he was at the tower. The outside surface was sealed out the wazoo to prevent people from climbing up it. Naruto couldn't wait to learn shunshin so he could pop up to see the old man via the balcony, as he'd seen important older ninja do as a child. Then again, he'd seen what had happened to one unlucky chunin who had taken the shortcut while maintenance-nin were doing the bi-monthly security seal checks. He had teleported into the balcony's interdiction zone, setting off some serious traps. He had pulled through at the hospital, but was sentenced to gate duty for half a year, for both the recuperation time, and as punishment for ignoring the posted warnings.

Making a wise choice, Naruto used the door.

Then walked back outside, after checking the unclassified bulletin board for maintenance alerts.

'I wonder if I can catch him reading Icha-Icha?' Naruto thought to himself with a chuckle. Looking around, the blond counted out paces away from the tower, then aligned himself with the balcony. Holding the bird seal with his hands for several seconds, he looked at a flag near the top of the tower to check for wind.

"Rocket Jump no jutsu!" the blond yelled as he flung himself into the air. Unfortunately, the rain clouds chose to send a particularly strong gust of wind his way; causing what would otherwise have been a perfect landing to crash in through the glass door.

*CRASH* *SCREECH* *THUD*

ANBU rushed through the normal door on high alert to find a torn up blond menace at the end of a red trail. Figuring out the gist of what happened (if not how), they relaxed and walked back out of the room, pointedly ignoring the orange book that ended up on top of their leader's head some time during the ruckus.

"I can see I'm going to regret asking you up here to see me, Naruto. I'm afraid I'm going to have to ask you to use the stairs, at least until you get more practice with that technique," the Hokage said dryly.

"Yes, that is a lovely pair of coconuts Mrs. Robinson; by the way, did you see the number of the wagon that hit me?" Naruto deliriously spouted.

Hiruzen threw his book at the boy's spiked head. "Get up, I've seen you take more trauma then that and stay lucid."

The lump groaned, then straitened himself and stood up. "Hey, I didn't know Icha-Icha: No Need for Harems part 3 was out! Did you get an advance copy somehow?"

"Give that back! You aren't still aren't old enough to read it."

"You should have thought of that before you threw it at my aching head. Let's see, 'Oh Tenchi, it's so big!' 'Only from thinking about you, lovely Ayeka!' " He skipped a few pages, scanning the images. "I admit he's an awesome artist, but the dialog is cornier than chicken feed. There's too much moaning, not enough character development. At least 60 percent of the dialog is shared in common between most of the books: 'Oh blank you stud you,' 'Oh darling blank,' 'Your schlong is so long,' 'Your breasts are like two white elephants wrestling,' give me a break!" The teen tossed the orange book back to the steaming older man with a flick of his wrist, before shaking off most of the glass shards onto the floor.

"And just how did you get to be such a connoisseur?" Hiruzen glared.

"You were reading a copy the night I stole the scroll. I was curious, and took a look before I ran off. I might have thought perverts were stupid when I was a kid, but I've grown up since then." His eyes scrunched up as he pulled a large chunk of glass out of his bicep.

"One rushed look shouldn't have made you familiar enough with the work to critique it like that."

"I wouldn't call it rushed… What can I say? It left an impression on me. After all the fallout settled from that night, maybe a week later, I henged into one of the jerks who liked throwing produce at me and waltzed into a 'book store' and picked up the set. Wiped out poor Gama-chan. Like I said, he's a very good artist." Naruto looked himself over, checking for more bits of glass. He wouldn't heal as quick if he left them in his body.

"Hmmph. I suppose I'll over look it. I'm sure he'll be pleased with your opinion of the art, though he'd be hurt hearing you dismiss the story."

"Wait, you know the author personally? I knew you were a pervert, but that's pushing it Jiji!"

"Tell me, knucklehead, have you ever bothered to read the author's name?"

"That's obviously a pseudonym, I mean the Great Toad Sage? The only one who could claim that is… no way, you can't be serious!"

"Yes, my student and legendary ninja, Jiraiya. Good to hear they still teach history at the Academy. Though I'd like to see you write better than he does! You must be aware the series is an international best seller."

"Yes, but I maintain that's because of his inspired drawings! I bet I could come up with better dialog. If his work is any indication, it doesn't take any first hand experience!"

"…Well, he was never very popular with the ladies. In his youth anyway, I hear that among certain types he's quite the ladies man now."

"I'm not surprised, even if he doesn't flaunt his status. High level ninja have a certain charisma I've noticed."

"…Yes well, Jiraiya certainly has a certain… charisma. But enough about this, I didn't call you up here to discuss Icha-Icha, as stimulating as it is. I want to know how you are doing."

"You know how I'm doing. Even if the ANBU don't watch me 24/7 anymore, they still keep tabs on me, when you aren't spying on me personally with your seeing orb."

"That doesn't tell me how you're feeling Naruto-kun," said the aged leader concernedly.

"Not much has really changed gramps. We've all grown older and matured, but the five of us still hang out. I really don't know what I would've done that night without them. How I would've taken the news…"

"It all goes back to that night, doesn't it? You've changed, Naruto. For the better mostly, though I'll always mourn the loss of your innocence."

"I couldn't stay a stupid brat forever, old man. Can you imagine sending me out on a C-rank when I was 12? I'd have been toast, or at least gotten my teammates killed."

"Yes, but to us old folks you youngsters grow up so fast." Hiruzen sighed. "I'm getting too old for this hat, Naruto. It's getting too heavy on my head. I've made too many tough decisions and sent too many young men and women off to die." The weary sexagenarian turned to face the balcony. "Tell me, do you still wish to be Hokage?"

Naruto snorted, "I'm not sure any more Jiji. I used to want it with a passion- believe it!" The two chuckled at the old mannerism. "But seriously, I didn't really understand what it meant. That kind of responsibility, I've seen what it's done to you. I still want to be a great ninja, the best I can be, if not the best in the world, but do I want to lead? I guess… I guess if there was no one else who could do the job right, I'd take on the mantle. If it were necessary to keep my friends and the village safe, I'd take the hat with a smile."

The Hokage shook his head and smiled. "You never cease to amaze me Naruto. You pull stunts like the monument and crashing through my balcony door, then you go and say such a mature thing like that. Still, it's those types of stunts that lead me to think I won't be able to hold onto this hat long enough for you to grow into it." He stood up and beckoned Naruto to follow him out onto the balcony, stepping over the glass and wood fragments. "Tell me," he said, pointing his weathered hand out towards the village as the rain finally began to fall, "what do you see?"

"Is this a test of some sort?" Naruto asked, intrigued.

It was the old man's turn to snort. "You will find, Naruto, that all of life is a test. But more specifically, yes, I will gain more of a measure on you based on your response."

"Great, I never was any good at metaphors," Naruto complained, earning a swat to the head in response.

"What do you see?" urged the aging leader.

Naruto stared out over the village as the sun hung about two thirds of the way through it's path. Civilians were rushing around, trying to finish their chores while the rain was still light. He saw ANBU and the much reduced Police Force, uncaring of the elements; continuing to monitor their assigned areas of the village. He saw the literal village: wood, brick, and stone. He thought about what Jiji might want to hear and came up blank, then decided to wing it.

"I see ninja willing to carry out any mission you ask of them, even if it means their life. There are the villagers, who just want to live their lives peaceful and content. I see a complex machine with thousands of parts, a headache to keep running, and yet worth all the trouble every time a young kid smiles at fireworks."

He paused for a few seconds. "How did I score?"

"There were no right or wrong answers per say, Naruto-kun, but you did better than many. Do you see anything else?"

Naruto looked around, then smiled. "Yes, I do. I see that the extra money I paid for water-based paint was well spent, and that I'm not going to have to do any cleaning this weekend. I'm sure Iruka-sensei will be disappointed."

The Hokage looked over to the redecorated monument, which honestly had been quite amusing. The paint appeared to be melting off, leaving the rock underneath unchanged, perhaps even cleaner than it had been. The paper mache was dissolving as well. The bizarre effect reminded him of the time a young Asuma had switched his pipe tobacco with a hallucinogen.

The old man snorted, then chuckled, before letting out a big guffaw. "Oh Naruto, I think I might've passed on already without you to liven things up occasionally. There is a mighty thin line between tedium and living in interesting times, and you seem to straddle it constantly. Let's go get some ramen, my treat, okay?"

"Darn, I was hoping for some amazing ninjutsu for a graduation present, but I suppose a dozen bowls of ramen will do," the teen said, obviously facetious.

"Who said you graduated, gaki?" he mocked as they left the room.

"After the show I put on? There's no way I failed. I might get stuck with a poor team, but if it happens, I'll just help our sensei whip them into shape!"

"I wouldn't call your team a bad one…" the old man teased, starting down the stairs.

"They decided teams that quickly? That was fast! Who am I with? Tell me please!" he pleaded, regressing in maturity instantly.

"No, they haven't even finished everyone's written exams. You and a classmate just happened to be requested by a jonin. If you graduate, you'll both almost certainly go together to him."

"Crap, I wanted a team with Shino and Hinata. We all knew Shikamaru and Choji would be teamed with Ino," (the Hokage heard a whispered, "Poor Shikamaru," and held back a laugh.) "But I know Hinata will be sad, she really wanted the three of us to be together. You know, I think she might have a crush on Shino."

It took all the skill Hiruzen had not to bust out laughing at the completely clueless boy. "Are you going to do anything about it, Naruto?"

"Well, we've all been working on her assertiveness for a while, if she doesn't tell him pretty soon, I'll talk to her about it and see if she wants more proactive help. Otherwise, it's not my business."

"That's a mature path to take, I'm proud."

"Thanks. On a somewhat related note, I was thinking about the future, and our favorite literature, and realized that based on the ratio of shinobi to kunoichi, most of us guys will have to find civilian wives."

"That's generally true, though you never know, you might get lucky, or catch the eye of a young kunoichi a few years older, or eventually, younger, than you. I was lucky to be married to a wonderful kunoichi for many years."

"You know, we're taught all about your exploits on the battle field. But it never occurred to me how little most people know about any of the Hokage's personal lives."

"The four of us were rather private people. I don't mind stopping in the street and having a chat with a villager, but my personal life is not the business of anyone who I don't choose to share it with."

"That makes sense. Growing up, I wanted people to talk about the things I had done; I planned on being so famous everyone would know my name. But I wouldn't want people to talk about my private time with my wife, or my hobbies, or stuff."

"Private time with your wife huh? You know, there's a rumor that the Yondaime nearly killed his sensei, Jiraiya, for publishing his honeymoon night as Icha-Icha: Steamy Night Spectacular."

"The Fourth Hokage was married? They never said that in class!"

'Shit!' Hiruzen thought, 'That's what happens when you get too casual.'

"Like I said, a private guy. He had gotten married less than a year before…" The old man explained.

"Oh. I got you. What happened to his wife?"

"Died fighting the Kyubii" he bluntly lied, not pulling any punches. They had gone slowly and were now at the bottom of the tower. "Speaking of ninjutsu for graduation presents, how would you like to learn two techniques to keep you dry in the rain?" The sly man redirected.

"Boring, yet practical," mused Naruto, "sure, why not?"

"The first technique isn't a jutsu as much as a training exercise used practically. Expel a firm wave of chakra out of your head, and have the wave move to the ground, pushing beads of water to your feet. Once you get proficient at it, you can move liquids anywhere on your body or clothing to your hand, for example."

He demonstrated, stepping out into the rain for a few moments, and then back under cover where the beads of water pooled together into the palm of his hand. He then used one-handed seals with his other hand to launch the small blob of water into the street, leaving him and his clothes perfectly dry.

"That method is more useful generally, as it uses less chakra, and will not alert enemies to your presence unless they are a sensor, or are in visual range already. Every chunin is supposed to know it. However, it will take you months of practice at the state your chakra control is in. On the other hand, this second technique is an actual jutsu, a variant of a wind release called unimaginatively, Wind Shield, used to knock away incoming projectiles. You should be able to learn it quite quickly."

Hiruzen told the young jinchuriki the order of hand seals, and roughly how much chakra to use relative to the offensive wind jutsu Naruto had used that afternoon. Then the pair set off, despite Naruto's protests of not being ready yet.

"The rain is a good motivator, Naruto-kun. Let's make it a challenge, if you can activate the wind barrier by the time we get to Ichiraku's, I'll buy you 15 bowls of ramen, if not, you'll have to pay for any after the eighth bowl."

The wet blond sputtered indignantly, then groaned, knowing he wouldn't change his surrogate grandfather's mind. The two proceeded down the street, the older man staying perfectly dry as the water rolled right off of him, and the younger man getting absolutely drenched. The Hokage smiled every time there was a violent blast of wind that came off the teen next to him.

By this time, the only ones out were ninja on business, or the occasional off duty nin using the same technique as the Hokage, and taking advantage of the lack of crowds. They would all make small nods of respect to the Hokage as he passed by.

"Grr, why haven't I gotten it yet?"

"For one thing, your tiger hand seal is a bit sloppy, but mostly it's because it takes practice. Even I never performed any non-trivial jutsu the first time I tried it, although I recall Tsunade-hime doing so with a few lower-intermediate level jutsu. But that's an unfair comparison, she had almost inhuman chakra control despite generously sized… chakra reserves… from a very young age."

"Heh, huge tracts of land… Geez, how the mighty have fallen: the Great Toad Sage an erotic literature author; the most dangerous, beautiful kunoichi in the elemental nations a drunk, irresponsible gambler with the moniker Legendary Sucker; and Orochimaru, hiding out in some cave somewhere, the greatest traitor Konoha has ever had, even bigger than Itachi. The Densetsu San-nin! I wonder what Hanzo thinks about it."

Hiruzen's expression grew chilly. "Watch what you say Naruto, you do not understand all that has happened involving those three, much as the villagers do not understand your situation," he warned.

Naruto flinched, and stopped practicing for a minute. "Sorry Jiji, I need to work on controlling my mouth."

"It couldn't hurt Naruto-kun," the old man said, more gently this time.

The soaked blond started practicing again, blasting out air every half minute or so.

"Let me demonstrate it once, so you know what you're doing. And remember, until you can do a jutsu flawlessly every time, it helps you visualize the effect to call out the name. You don't think we shout out our intentions to sound cool, do you?"

"I know that Jiji, but you seem to have forgotten to tell me it's name!"

"Oh, um, right. I was uh, testing you!" he said unconvincingly. "…It doesn't really have a name; it was a minor variation, not very popular. Would you like to make one up?"

"Sure! How about Rain Shield?"

"Really? I was expecting something more elaborate from you."

"Don't worry old man, I'm saving the pretentious, over the top names for all the awesome jutsu I make, like Rocket Jump! As useful as this Rain Shield would be right now, it would be lame for it to have some ridiculous name."

"If you put as much thought into practicing the jutsu as you did just now in naming it, you'd probably have finished already," he admonished before going through the hand signs. There was a small blast of wind before a barely visible dome of air formed above him, picking up drops and flinging them away in random directions as it swirled around.

"Sugoi!" The soggy teen stared at it for a minute, before the old man released the jutsu. "Rain Shield no Jutsu!" the adolescent shouted. This time there was a weak dome of breeze that appeared for several seconds, before suddenly expanding in a weak explosion of wind. "Now I'm getting somewhere!"

The Hokage smiled as they kept walking, taking pleasure in the boy's journey of learning. He could tell that Naruto would get it soon, but doubted he'd get it in time to earn the 15 bowls of ramen. If his tired old brain worked, their destination was only two more blocks ahead, and one to the right.

Naruto seemed to instinctively know the distance to his favorite ramen stand at all times, and was putting even more effort into experimenting with the jutsu, trying to find a way to make it work. Hiruzen was surprised when Naruto changed the order of two of the seals purposefully, to see the overall effect. Well, he wasn't as surprised by the fact that the blond did it, than by the fact that the attempt after that one seemed much more stable.

"Well, even if you don't graduate, I'll put in a good word for you at the R&D lab, you could backwards engineer a lot of jutsu Konoha has wanted ever since the Uchiha were taken from us," he teased.

"Ha frigging ha. It is to laugh. I'm going to win my 15 bowls of ramen!"

As they got closer, the knucklehead varied more and more from the original jutsu activation sequence his 'Gramps' had showed him, getting quite interesting results, but nothing really resembling the swirling dome the old man demonstrated.

As they turned the corner and their destination came into view, (and within smelling range), the Hokage gloated a bit. "I suppose my wallet will only be wounded, not completely slaughtered today, Naruto-kun. Don't worry, I'm sure you'll get-"

He was interrupted by another blast of air, louder and stronger this time, but then was assaulted by relative silence. A dome the width of the street, much larger than the one he had made, was not only flinging all the water away from both of them, but also muffling the noise of the rainfall outside the dome.

"Impressive, Naruto! You even forwent calling out the jutsu. I assume you were testing a wide range of variables when you were screwing around with the hand seals?"

"Something like that, the empirical process has a lot to recommend its self," said the smug teen. "Sorry about your wallet, but if I remember, you and Iruka have got lines of credit here from feeding me so often."

"Mmm, indeed," Hiruzen frowned, thinking of a particular bottle of sake he had been looking forward to, the money for which was about to end up in the brat's stomach. "A word of caution, while impressive, the sound dampening effect will allow enemies to sneak up on you more easily. Most likely, your Jonin-sensei will prohibit you from using this in most cases."

"If it's raining this hard, you wouldn't even hear that green spandex weirdo, let alone a normal ninja preparing to ambush you. But I'll take your advice into account." He raised his hands again, making the bird seal to focus, before the large dome shrunk to cover only the young man.

Hiruzen shivered a moment, as the rain started to fall on him once again. While he remained dry, the cold water still sapped the heat from his body, though not nearly as much as it would if he stayed wet. He grinned, viewing his grandson in all but blood produce the technique as it was intended to be formed.

"Let's get inside and eat."

The two stepped through the door after Naruto ceased the barrier. The stand had done so well the last few years that Teuchi had been able to expand to an actual building. There were a number of villagers using the establishment as shelter from the downpour. Most of them had acted sensibly, and had a meal while they waited for the rain to let up. They were treated to the sight of their Hokage coming in, though it was ruined somewhat with the fact he was with the little demon. However, their leader's feelings for it were well known, so they ignored him and greeted the ruler happily.

The Hokage nodded his head, acknowledging and returning their greetings, before putting a hand on Naruto, and drying them both off with his chakra. "Teuchi-san, your biggest customer is here to celebrate completing his final genin exams!"

A muffled yell of delight came form the back. "Wonderful! I'll set up another pot of broth!"

Ayame rushed out of the back with a ladle still in hand. She rushed around the counter and grabbed the boy in a hug, actually lifting him off the ground for a moment. "Congratulations Naruto! I'm sure you passed with flying colors! What order do you want your flavors in today? And how many? Gee, I remember taking the genin exam, I did all right, but decided I didn't really like the idea of having to kill. How did you do?" The girl was almost more energetic than Naruto remembered himself being as a kid.

"Ha! Calm down Ayame! Did you drink a bunch of coffee or something?"

"I got thirsty this afternoon and had one of the energy drinks you left here. It doesn't seem to be affecting me the same way it does you, no it doesn't!"

The Hokage laughed as Naruto face palmed. "Ayame-chan, I told you not to let anyone drink those, they get ordered from the capitol city! They're almost more medicine than soda! You're lucky you don't have a caffeine migraine; you must have a high tolerance. Come sit down and I'll tell you about the exam."

The villagers were hard pressed to ignore the blond, as he and the cute girl that had served them all talked about his day. One customer finished his bowl, left his money on the counter, and walked off through what was now a storm. No one else seemed that gutsy, though many were confused listening to the supposed menace. Almost none of them had spent any time with him, their presumptions about the way he acted were proven groundless, though some deluded themselves into thinking it was some kind of trick.

As the teens chatted, the establishment's owner came out from the back, ready to take orders. "So Naruto-kun, Hokage-sama, what can I make for you?"

Reading the mood of the crowd, Naruto allowed the Hokage to order first.

"Ah, all of your dishes are so good, Teuchi-san, it's hard to pick! I suppose I'll have shrimp today. And Naruto's first 15 bowls are on my tab today, he won my bet by learning the Rain Shield jutsu in the time it took to walk here from my office!"

There were some mumbles at this, either from surprise that the boy could eat as much as a hungry Akimichi, or anger at his tricking the Hokage into paying for his food.

"Congratulations, Naruto-kun! What order would you like the flavors in?"

"Hmm. I haven't had the miso, chicken, shrimp, beef, pork order in a while. I like the contrast between the chicken and the miso, especially with the shrimp afterwards. And your beef and pork are always good no matter the order! Let's try it that way today please, Teuchi-san."

The stand's proprietor was annoyed Naruto felt forced to be so formal with him, but understood that he was being on best behavior with so many people around. "Good choice, Naruto-kun. I'll have your orders out shortly!"

Naruto went back to chatting with Ayame, while the Hokage made small talk with the rest of the patrons. While he was annoyed with their attitude towards young friend, these people, and others like them, were ultimately the reason Konoha existed. To keep villagers, wherever they were from, happy and safe from bandits and other parasites.

"Ayame-chan!" came a shout from the rain outside. "Have you seen boss around?"

'Oh no, not today!' the blond thought. While he thought Konohamaru and his pals were great kids, now was not a good time!

Sure enough, the three barely teens walked into the diner soaked. The crowd turned to see their Hokage's grandson and two best friends, Udon and Moegi, shake water off themselves.

"I want to hear about his exam today-" the boy continued, before seeing his target. "Boss! I thought I might find you here. Oh, hey gramps! Teuchi-san, would you let us put a bowl on our tab? We just completed a d-rank, so we'll pay you back tomorrow after we cash the check!"

"I don't know, last time I lent you credit you didn't pay me back for a week."

"Extenuating circumstances! I got put in the hospital for a day, then a string of unlikely events occurred and I couldn't get anyone to take you the money."

"Heh, I know, I'm just messing with you! You three want your usual?"

The youngsters nodded in the affirmative, before moving over to bug Naruto. "How were the exams, did you pass, what was the toughest problem?"

"CALM DOWN!" Shouted Ayame. "He's answering my questions!"

Naruto laughed, "Guys, you all want to know the same stuff. I'll tell all of you, just let me get a word in!" He started over again, giving an outline of the written exam before going over the physical portion.

oooooo

By the time the blond was done with his 15th bowl, the whole crowd was listening as he told about his turn to wow the proctors in jutsu.

"So I turn over in the ditch I had carved out, and Iruka sensei starts shouting at me, I think his best line involved the Tsuchi-kage's scrot-"

The Hokage coughed loudly.

"Um, well, Iruka said a lot of curses, some of which were inspired, while the log I switched with was heading straight for him. I shouted at him to move, and he just barely got away before it crashed into the ground. Whew, was he pissed! I decided to go to the next section before he popped a vessel!"

Some of the villagers laughed despite themselves.

"Wait, you didn't do your sexy technique?" asked Konohamaru.

'Oh kami shut up shut up, everything's going so well!'

"Sexy technique? What's that?" asked a curious man.

"Only boss's first, most awesome original jutsu ever!" shouted the excited boy.

"Don't tell them that runt! It was a childish, juvenile version of the henge I made when I was eleven," the blond explained, "I saw guys acting stupid around beautiful women, and extrapolated that beautiful naked women would make men act even stupider."

"You got that right!" supplied a middle-aged woman.

"C'mon kid, don't leave us hanging, show it to us!" What must have been the man's girlfriend put an ice cube down his shirt in response.

"Sorry, I don't think the ladies in the establishment would look kindly on it," Naruto begged off. 'This is so surreal. They're acting as if I was a well known radio personality…'

"Don't worry mister! He taught me how to do it too! I'll show you!"

Konohamaru flipped through the seals before he could be stopped, and poofed into a naked woman, not even bothering to put up the censoring clouds that would have stayed over 'her' new assets. The women scowled, as the men grew glassy eyed as the woman bounced on her heals. The girlfriends and wives who were there with their men made their displeasure known.

Moegi, while annoyed at Konohamaru's behavior, thought the women were being rather hard on the guys. "Stop that! You act like you all wouldn't act the same way if you saw a sexy naked man waltz in!"

"You ought to know better girl, women aren't perverted like men are!" claimed a woman.

"Really?" The teen girl flashed through the symbols herself, "Sexy Man technique!"

The women quickly became quiet, a few fanning them selves as they looked upon the fake Adonis. Udon rolled his eyes and continued eating his ramen.

It was the men's turn to get annoyed, but most were entranced by the hypnotic jiggle of the beautiful woman's breasts.

The Hokage, who knew where this had been headed, had his eyes closed. "I'd like to remind all of you that that is my 13-year-old grandson and his friend you're ogling."

The crowd grew queasy-faced, but when the two started to hop up and down to prove their point, most of the crowd started leaking blood from their noses.

The Hokage looked around at the crowd, keeping his gaze averted from the two bouncing brats. "Naruto, fix this."

The blond turned to him, his expression clearly asking the older man what he expected him to do about it. Getting no response, the blond sighed. 'In for a ryu, in for a hundred I guess…'

"Not bad for beginners, but you need practice. Kage-bunshin! Pan-gender Harem Super Knockout Technique!" he shouted, being as over the top as possible.

A dozen men and women appeared, perfectly nude and straight out of the latest Icha-Icha, grinding against one another, including some same sex groping for any really perverted patrons in the room. Almost the entire room fainted from a drop in blood pressure except for Naruto's close friends. Even the Hokage was taken out, though it was uncertain whether he hadn't averted his gave quickly enough, or if he had felt the view was worth a little blood.

The victory wasn't without a price though. Ayame and her father, the three brats who had started it all, and even Naruto himself were holding their noses, small trickle's of blood flowing out.

"I think my balls just dropped." Udon said in a daze.

Konohamaru was having a bit of an existential crises. "Oh no! Does this mean we're perverts too?" he panicked.

Moegi ended her technique, her hands moving to her small breasts for a second, before she stuffed them both in her pockets with a blush.

Ayame made a small squeaking noise before she managed, "Naruto, you can have your clones stop any time now…"

Naruto himself had been in a daze before he was snapped out of it by Ayame's command. "Right! … Maybe in a minute…" he said as he slipped back into it.

Teuchi, the only adult conscious, had managed to close his eyes in time, though the obscene noises were still giving him a bloody nose. "Naruto! Iruka's on his way here!"

"What? Crap! Guys, dispel!"

His clones immediately stopped groping one another and popped, causing Naruto to freeze.

"… … … I'm going to borrow your bathroom for a minute, okay?" Naruto asked wide-eyed.

Having some idea as to what just happened, the fatherly ramen shop owner nodded, imagining the poor boy would need to clean up.

Ayame was quick on the uptake, and blushed harder than she had been, as Naruto walked off oddly.

Konohamaru blinked then gaped, "Boss was so sexy, he messed himself up! I thought he was untouchable! Sugoi!"

Neither father nor daughter thought it a good idea to explain to the boy exactly what had just occurred, it was rather a private matter anyway.

Naruto returned to the room, having obviously splashed some water on his face, among other things. "You two! While I'm proud that your henge is to that level, you behaved awful! I'm telling Iruka sensei what happened. Udon, while you had enough sense to stay out of it, you should have tried to stop them! Since I seem to have kick started your sex drives, I'm going to remind you that while it's fun to mess with adults, none of you are old enough to be doing any of that yet! If you have questions, ask Iruka sensei or myself. If you need it, I'll let you borrow a Icha-Icha book, as long as you promise not to imitate anything in it, and return it to me without any stains."

The three troublemakers had looked contrite throughout the tongue-lashing, but put on incandescent blushes at the last part.

"Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going for a long walk in the rain," the blond concluded, then proceeded to do just that.

The teen stood under the sky as the water poured down on him. 'I have the feeling I'm going to be taking many cold showers between now and Monday. That, or I should buy a fresh box of tissues.'

oooooo

Thirty minutes later, the men and women that had been knocked out woke up with a smile on their faces. They wouldn't remember anything after Naruto's tale about the exams until the memories trickled back a week later, yet they felt good. Many felt better than they had in years. That night, husbands and wives all over town were surprised by their partner's behavior. Nine months later there would be a small pile of cards on the blonde's front door, thanking the teen for indirectly being responsible for 20 new Konoha citizens. But that is a different story.

OOOOOO

End Chapter the First

oooooo

A/N: Please don't PM or review telling me how child soldiers happen all the time or trying to educate me on how you heard the brain matures by the time you turn 12. To begin with, I'm sure you've seen pictures of skinny black boys holding AK-47s. Child soldiers on earth happen when you have more guns than you have trained people. It's relatively simple to pull the trigger in the general direction of your enemy. Melee combat and magic? Not so much.

Additionally, child soldiers suck. I'm willing to bet they can barely hold the gun still while firing from the recoil with their tiny arms, let alone infiltrate an enemy base and assassinate someone. The idea of a ninja in Naruto is an elite agent who can handle anything (except be stealthy, but that's another issue). Children can't plan very well, and it takes much experience to take information and constantly adapt your response to a situation- unlike real child soldiers, who basically are told to shoot at anyone who doesn't wear a blue bandana, or other simple objectives.

If you actually have any experience with child soldiers, or are some professional who studies them academically, please contact me if I'm in error, or have something to add.

As to the brain, I'm not a doctor, or even a medical student, but I do know the very basics of child development. Please don't tell me "studies show that the brain actually does reach full growth around 12 years of age". (Actual review quote.)

Once again, if there are any psychologists, psychiatrists, or even med students reading this who can back me up or shoot me down, please PM me. I'm also interested in doing a scene involving Naruto and his therapist, but I have no idea where to start.