Author's Notes: What good is a story if you already know its ending?


Chapter Two

Loss of innocence

It was a peaceful spring morning, the tenants of the residential area were waking up to the serene sounds of birds chirping in the air and...there was the sound of a maniacal cackle scant moments before a door was flung open. A short figure charged outside, followed seconds later by a taller, black haired woman. Obscenities split the air.

"You little brat!" Aiko screeched as she tore around the corner. "I'm going to kill you!"

Naruto didn't quite dare look back as he raced through the hallway, marvelling at the fact that he could keep ahead of the chunin. He spied the elevator up ahead and risked one glance back at the black haired, pyjama wearing menace sprinting towards him. Gulping nervously, Naruto made a mad dash for the lift. As soon as he reached it, one hand snaked around to the button and pushed it frantically.

"Oh no you don-" Aiko's voice was cut short as the elevator doors slid shut with a satisfying clang. Naruto breathed a sigh of relief. Safe.

Naruto hummed quietly as the lift descended, glad to have given Aiko the sli-

"Hello, Minato-kun."

Naruto froze.

"I bet you forgot I could jump out of a window, huh?" Aiko smiled sweetly at him. Naruto looked from left to right, and then suddenly gasped in surprise.

"Look, a bird!" he yelled, pointing at the ceiling of the elevator. Aiko instinctively looked up, and Naruto took her momentary distraction as an opportunity to escape. He dived between Aiko's legs and fled for his dear life.

"Wha- hey, brat! BRAT!" Aiko howled as she whipped around, a flush settling on her cheeks. What kind of an experienced chunin let herself be tricked by something like that?

The residents living in Aiko and Naruto's building block all wondered what the sudden commotion was.


"Save me, Katsuo!" Naruto wailed as he sailed into the other boy's house. "Find me somewhere to hide!" The other boy looked at him in bemusement.

"What?" he asked, as Naruto nervously glanced out of the window. "What did you do this time?"

Naruto said nothing, but jumped up the stairs two at a time and darted into Katsuo's bedroom. Katsuo followed at a steadier pace before grinning as he saw Naruto hide underneath his bed. He flopped onto the bed and pretended to sleep.

Moments later, the door banged open as a not quite out of breath Aiko stood framed in the doorway, sunlight bouncing off her menacingly. Katsuo leaped off the bed and smiled brightly at her.

"Hi, Aiko-san!" he called, trying to lead her downstairs. Aiko batted away the seven year old's attempts at distraction and squatted down next to the bed, lifting the covers. Bright blue eyes stared back at her, wide with trepidation.

Mischievousness reared its ugly head as Aiko exacted her revenge.


"Ah-choo!" Naruto sneezed as Aiko dropped in from the window. He glared. "Stop doing that!"

Aiko laughed good-naturedly. "You're the one who suggested it in the first place," she retorted. Naruto was about to make a witty comeback when a wave of nausea hit him, causing him to stumble forwards from his standing position.

"Minato!" Aiko cried as he tottered forwards. Naruto grunted as his stomach roiled uneasily, and pressed his lips together. In a brief moment of lucidity, he felt another cool breeze drift through the window that Aiko had come in from, and abruptly sneezed again.

Aiko glanced at the window before briskly walking over and closing it gently. Naruto groaned as he felt a strange sensation in his nose. Soon, he discovered that he couldn't breathe, and his eyes bulged rather comically before his mouth dropped open and he started gasping breaths.

"What is this?" he asked pathetically from his prone position on the floor. Aiko gave Naruto a hard glance before picking him up and depositing him in his bed.

"You're sick," she told him. Naruto stared at her like she'd grown two heads and a tail.

"I don't get sick," he said.

Aiko sniffed in exasperation. "So you told me last time," she informed him, before tucking Naruto in. "I'm going to get you some medicine."

"I don't get sick," Naruto repeated, but Aiko was already out of earshot.

The rest of the day passed by in a haze of sneezing fits, aching throats and feeling as if he had the strength of a baby. By the time Aiko came back, Naruto was already starting to recover, which was sped along with the help of the various medicines.

Naruto soon fell into a deep sleep.


"Hey."

"You again!" Naruto shouted, springing to his feet as he pointed an accusing finger at the Yondaime. "I thought you ran away already!"

Minato looked at him sheepishly. "I've actually been here the whole time. I just haven't been talking much," he explained.

Naruto glared and looked away. He still hadn't forgiven Minato for his cryptic words the other day. "What's happening to me?" he asked hotly, crossing his arms. Minato raised his eyebrows.

"You're sick," he replied. Naruto stared angrily at him.

"I'm not sick!" he hissed furiously. "I don't get sick because Kyuubi's always there to –" at this, Naruto broke off, his eyes widening in realisation.

"Kyuubi's gone," Naruto murmured quietly. Minato nodded.

"It's out in the world somewhere, probably wreaking havoc wherever it is," he said, hoping Naruto would get the hint. Comprehension struck the younger of the two like a lightning bolt.

"You mean –" he started, but was cut off by Minato.

"Think about it a few years down the track," he said brusquely. "You have other, more important things at hand."


A week later, and all traces of illness were long gone. It appeared that even without the rapid healing ability that the Kyuubi had granted him, Naruto recovered quickly.

He still had his weekly talks with Sarutobi, although each visit made him a little more nervous than the last. Naruto twiddled his thumbs, not meeting the Sandaime's eyes as he looked down at the floor. He randomly noticed with a small amount of annoyance that his feet still did not reach the ground.

"Where's Aiko?" Naruto asked, to break the somewhat awkward silence that had settled over the two. He hadn't seen Aiko since the week before. Sarutobi chuckled.

"I'm afraid she will not be able to visit you for a few days yet," he replied. Naruto started to speak again, but the Hokage cut him off gently. "She is taking her jounin exam at the moment."

Naruto's mouth snapped shut with an audible click. "Oh," he said.

The Sandaime Hokage smiled kindly at him. "Don't worry," he reassured Naruto. "I'm sure she will be quite fine. Aiko is a very capable ninja, after all."

Naruto could only nod along with the Hokage, hoping that Aiko's jounin exam wouldn't be like his had been.


Walking out from the Hokage Tower, Naruto could not help but feel a worried feeling in the pit of his stomach as he wondered how Aiko was doing. However, he could not stop for long to think – the streets were full of thronging people, and he couldn't take to the rooftops without being subjected to extreme suspicion. That left attempting to navigate the crowds without being squashed.

As he was pushing through the crowd, a snatch of conversation drifted past his ears. Naruto turned instinctively, recoiling as Neji stalked straight past him, a furious scowl upon his face.

"Hiashi-sama, please wait!"

Another voice, this time coming from behind Neji – no, Naruto realised, it wasn't Neji. Belatedly, he realised that he had just walked past Hiashi, Neji's uncle.

"We're going to be late to the academy, Hizashi!" Hiashi half turned around and spoke, his voice high with irritation.

Of course! The Hyuuga twins! Naruto felt himself being pushed along the crowd, but still craned his neck. The dark haired Hizashi was following behind his twin, weaving around people in order to catch up to his brother.

He felt Hiashi's gaze settle upon him, pale eyes tight with concealed impatience. Naruto flashed a wide smile at him.

"Name's Namikaze Minato!" he yelled as the crowd finally swept him away, out of sight. He didn't know if Hiashi deigned to reply, but he swore that he could hear a laugh from the younger twin.

His mood raised, Naruto allowed himself to move along with the flow, intent on enjoying the next few days until Aiko's return.


"You'll do," the ANBU informed her, before sheathing his katana. "I'd work on increasing your chakra and trap recognition, though."

Aiko kept a blank face as the ANBU evaluated the rest of her abilities. She was startled as she saw the Hokage appear next to the ANBU, but kept her poker face, sure that this was another test.

"Congratulations, Aiko," the Hokage smiled proudly. "I must say that I am very proud to bestow upon you the rank of jounin." Aiko's eyes widened slightly in surprise, but then almost immediately narrowed to almost slits. Then Sarutobi handed her a jounin flak jacket, a knowing smile on his lips, and Aiko knew that it wasn't a ploy to make her lose her guard. The Hokage chuckled. "I know that Minato-kun in particular will be happy to hear the news."

She accepted the vest with reverence and slipped it on.

"Thank you, Hokage-sama," she breathed, bowing low to Sarutobi.


"Hey! Guess what?" Aiko yelled as she leaped through the window. Naruto rolled his eyes at the newly promoted jounin's antics as he sat back on one of his couches, watching Katsuo surf through the TV channels from an upside down position on the other sofa.

"You brought ramen?" he asked lazily. Aiko pointed to her new flak jacket proudly.

"Nope, I made jounin!" she grinned. Naruto stuck his tongue out at her even as a feeling of relief washed over him. "Congratulations," he said dryly. Aiko leaned over the back of the couch, faking a put out look.

"Aren't you happy?" she inquired with a mock hurt tone. Naruto twisted around from his position to look at the jounin. An unreadable expression briefly flitted across his face, but it passed as soon as it came to view, making Aiko wonder if she had imagined it or not.

"Of course not," Naruto replied, giving her a hug.

"Anyway, I'm going to go out for a celebratory dinner with a couple of my teammates and friends," she announced, walking over to the door. "Want to come?"

Katsuo, who had been fiddling with the television controls, looked up and snorted. Naruto pulled a disgusted face. "I don't want to be around a drunken Aiko," he told her, and to prove his point, he propped his legs up on the coffee table as if to display his reluctance to leave.

Aiko sulked for a moment before opening the door, giving the two a jaunty wave before slamming the door shut behind her. There was a brief sound of footsteps tapping on the roof, and then the swish of clothes as Aiko leaped away.

"I want to be able to do that," Katsuo said suddenly, startling Naruto.

"What?" he asked, not understanding the other boy's words.

"I mean I want to be able to jump around on roofs like Aiko," Katsuo clarified, smiling at the thought. "Wouldn't that be cool?"

"Are you going to be a ninja then?"

This time, it was Katsuo's turn to nod. "I'm entering the academy next year," he said.

There was a brief knock on the door. Naruto stood up and padded noiselessly towards the door.

"Hey, Minato," Tetsuya greeted, and stuck his head through. "Is Katsuo there?"

"I'm here," Katsuo called from his awkward position before abandoning the remote and lowering himself carefully to the floor with no small amount of difficulty. Naruto stifled a laugh, but shut up as soon as the other boy sent him a death glare.

"I'll see you later, Minato," the head medic of the Konoha hospital said, before leading Katsuo away.

"See ya!" Katsuo yelled as he turned around.

Naruto smiled and waved back. "Bye!" he called back, and waited until they were out of view before walking back inside and closing the door.


"Your mission is to retrieve a scroll from a certain person," the Hokage said.

"What classification is it?" Aiko asked. The question was merely a formality, but Aiko said it anyway, to keep routine.

"This mission is a regular C-ranked mission," Sarutobi replied. Aiko tried to suppress the feeling of disappointment, but was only partially successful. The black haired kunoichi had been itching for a higher ranked mission for the past few months, but it seemed that Sarutobi was going out of his way to give her lower ranked missions. She supposed that he did have a reason – after all, Aiko was only a rookie jounin, but still! A genin cell could handle a C-rank mission.

"Your teammates are Yori and Akane," Sarutobi continued, not showing any signs of seeing Aiko's distress.

Ah, Aiko thought, realising what the two other chunin in the room were doing – and therefore what she was doing. The Hokage was putting her together with a group of lower ranked ninja whom she had never met before in order to test her leadership and teamwork. The classification of the mission was purposefully low in order to protect them from harm should the team fall apart. The Hokage wasn't a cruel man, after all. Aiko mentally applauded the Hokage as she turned around to inspect her temporary teammates.

Yori was a lightly built young man who looked to be in his late teens. He had light brown hair and wore a chunin vest. Standard black shinobi pants with bandages wrapped near his ankles completed his outfit. Aiko's sharp analytical eyes noticed the sheathed ninjato strapped to Yori's back and deduced that he was more of a taijutsu fighter than any other.

In contrast, Akane was an older ninja; probably in her late twenties. Her red hair was tied back in two pigtails, and was covered by a dull black bandana, most likely to hide her brightly coloured hair from being too inconspicuous.

A practical ninja. Aiko nodded approvingly.

Akane was wearing a loose dark grey shirt without sleeves, enhancing her mobility. Like Yori, she wore practical shinobi pants, although aside from her kunai holster and equipment pouch, she did not seem to have any specialised weapons. Her muscles were not very defined, drawing the conclusion that she either used genjutsu or ninjutsu on a regular basis.

Aiko realised that each individual complemented the team as a whole. Her respect for the Sandaime rose by a few notches.

"Your contact resides in Fuchidori no Sato," Sarutobi said after Aiko was finished with her analysis. "His code name is 'Hibiki' and he is a spy for Jiraiya. He owns a small clothing store in Fuchidori and has black hair with black eyes."

Fuchidori was a middle ground of sorts. It was located just beyond Konoha's north-west borders and was nestled in a small valley between Fire Country, Wind Country and Earth Country.

Aiko looked at the Hokage in surprise. A spy for Jiraiya? Then why was the mission classified as C-rank?

As if predicting Aiko's question, Sarutobi said, "This spy is not an extremely important one, although the information he holds is useful. Retrieve the scroll, but do not open it or let it fall into any other shinobi's hands, lest Hibiki's position be compromised. The time frame for this mission is about a week's time, including travel to and back."

Aiko turned around to Yori and Akane. "Meet me at the western gate in thirty minutes," she ordered.

The two ninja nodded and disappeared simultaneously in a Konoha Shunshin. Aiko gave a sharp nod to Sarutobi before following suit.


Aiko was busy packing her supplies when Naruto opened the door and tramped into her room.

"What're you doing?" he asked, bounding onto her bed. His arms were already clasped around his head by the time he reached the soft surface. Aiko grunted at him and snatched a storage scroll from a shelf before depositing it into her bag.

"Prepping for a mission," she replied as she zipped her bag up. "I'll be back in around a week." Naruto jumped back up as Aiko slung her bag over her shoulder and walked out of the room. Then, she stopped abruptly in the middle of the living room, almost causing Naruto to crash into her.

"You'll be alright, won't you, Minato?" she asked, shuffling a little. Naruto smiled back, touched by her care.

"I'll be fine," he promised, and propelled her gently towards the door.

"See you later, then," she said, ruffling his messy blonde locks. Naruto beamed back up at her.

"Bye, Aiko!" he replied. Aiko walked through the doorway and then made a seal, disappearing in a swirl of leaves.


Aiko tightened the straps around her bag. Next to her, Akane straightened her bandanna. As the chunin monitoring the western gate checked out their mission passes to leave the village, Aiko checked over her team. She was pleased to notice that both of her teammates' forehead protectors were not glinting in the noonday sun. It was good to know that her teammates hadn't fallen into the trap of polishing them until they reflected light like a beacon.

The chunin stamped the papers and nodded at her. "Let's go," Aiko said, and with a simple hand signal the three dashed past Konoha's western gate.


The trip to Fuchidori Village was rather uneventful, but boring nonetheless. It was a three day trip to the village, and the first two days were spent watching the forest around them slowly diminish until it was nearly a bare plain.

On the third day, the vegetation around them started to grow again, although not even close to the thickness that was the forest surrounding Konoha. The three made their camp in a small clearing surrounded by a layer of thick vegetation. When morning rolled around, they silently kicked dirt over the remains of the fire and packed away their pallets.

"We'll split up and meet back up here in two hours' time," Aiko said as they reached the crest of the hill, looking down on the village Fuchidori. "Yori, check over the eastern side. Akane, you take the centre, and I'll take the west. Let's split!"

Aiko used a Henge to transform herself into a nondescript looking middle aged man and entered the village. There were plenty of civilians in the streets of Fuchidori at that time of the day, and Aiko had no trouble mingling in with the rest of the crowd. She kept a sharp eye out for any clothing stores, and entered every single one to make sure she didn't pass it by accidentally.

It was almost two hours later when Aiko finally cleared out her sector. It appeared that Hibiki was not located in her area. Sighing to herself, Aiko walked back up to her team's previous location, releasing her henge as she went.

Aiko was at the top of the hill when she realised that she had travelled up the wrong side. Cursing at her error of judgement, she was about to turn and leave when she heard the faint displacement of air that usually signalled a group of ninja moving as one. Heart pounding, Aiko dashed behind the trunk of a large tree, suppressing her chakra.

"Only a few more kilometres to go." The voice belonged to a male with a slight accent. Aiko risked a look around the trunk.

Five ninja were standing in a loose circle. All of them were wearing a jounin flak jacket, and Aiko barely had time to blink before they took off again.

Cloud-nin? she thought with a slight trepidation. What are they doing this far west?

She stood up abruptly and glanced at the position of the sun in the sky, realising that she was late for her team's rendezvous at the other side of the sharp knoll.


"Sorry for keeping you waiting," Aiko said as soon as she touched the ground in front of Yori and Akane. "I just saw a Kumo ninja patrol...they're a long way away from home. They headed off west – that's Earth country."

The three exchanged uneasy glances before returning to their task.

"I found Hibiki," Akane said, pointing towards the zone she had been searching. Aiko nodded.

"Good," she replied. "We'll go there now and then head back for Konoha. We'll certainly have some news for Sandaime-sama."

All three of them reapplied their transformations before heading back into the village.


They waited for the last customer to exit the shop. Aiko gave Akane the go ahead signal, and she walked purposefully towards the counter, where 'Hibiki' was standing. The three of them dropped their respective transformations concurrently as the black haired man paled nervously.

"Hibiki?" Akane inquired softly, stepping forwards. Hibiki started sweating bullets and he backed away from the red head.

"Hibiki? I-I don't know who you're talking about!" his voice was in a high pitch from his anxiety.

Aiko snorted. "You're a horrible liar, Hibiki," she muttered. The calibre of Jiraiya's spies certainly didn't live up to their expectation. The man seemed to compose himself before stepping back to the counter.

"Alright, you got me," Hibiki said in an even tone. "Now, who are you, and what do you want?"

"We are from Konoha," Yori piped up. "Hokage-sama informed us that you are one of Jiraiya-sama's informants and that you have certain...information for us." Hibiki nodded slowly, before reaching into a pocket on the inside of his dark purple jacket.

"Here," he muttered, withdrawing a scroll and handing it over to the person closest to him – Akane. She placed it in her equipment after Aiko's brief hand gesture.

"Is that all?" Hibiki asked briskly, once the scroll was concealed.

Aiko grunted a yes. "We're out of here."


Aiko glanced up at the darkening sky as the three leaped through the trees. "We've used up quite a bit of the day. Hokage-sama was right when he told us it would take –"

Aiko was cut off as her foot snagged on a wire. She instinctively jumped away as far as she could with a chakra enhanced leap, screaming, "Take cover!" as she saw the multitude of exploding tags rigged across the branch. Akane caught Yori when he stumbled, his footing not even, and leaped away as an explosion rocked the clearing.

"So you survived. Pesky little ninja," a voice said darkly. A man stepped out from behind a tree as the Konoha shinobi fell back to the ground.

"Kumo-nin?" Aiko whispered, as another ninja appeared next to their leader. She glanced furtively at their forehead protectors. "No, missing-nin from Cloud," she corrected herself. Was that why I saw that squad of Cloud ninja from before? Were they tracking these ninja?

Akane stifled a gasp as a third missing-nin appeared from the underbrush. And they're all probably jounin level, she thought with no small amount of apprehension.

However, that was not what caught Aiko's attention. "Hibiki?" she asked in shock as the third ninja turned his head to the side. One last figure emerged from behind a tree, his black hair damp with perspiration.

"What are you doing here?" Aiko demanded, surreptitiously drawing a kunai. Hibiki darted a glance at Aiko before staring at the ground a metre away from her.

"I-I'm sorry!" Hibiki cried. "They – they made me tell them!"

The third nin smirked cruelly, and with a burst of speed, appeared behind Hibiki. He swiftly drew a kunai and plunged it deep into Hibiki's back before twisting it. A muffled groan emerged from the man as he slumped to the floor.

"You are no longer needed," he murmured to Hibiki's corpse. Then he turned back to the Leaf ninja. "And you, I'm afraid, cannot be allowed to live," he continued, running his tongue along the flat side of his kunai, licking up the blood. Aiko grimaced before launching herself forwards at him. Her hands blurred into seals as she hung suspended in the air. She stopped on the tiger seal.

"Katon: Gōkakyū no Jutsu!" she shouted, a great spurt of flame issuing from her mouth. Yori narrowed his eyes as he drew his ninjato, and nodded to Akane. They approached the other two ninja cautiously.

The Cloud-nin danced to the side as the fireball reached him, smirking at Aiko, but he didn't notice the shuriken following it until two sliced into his arms. Hissing furiously, he threw a heavy punch at Aiko as she touched the ground again. She twisted to the side, avoiding his blow with ease. As he overbalanced, Aiko swept his feet from under him, but grimaced in dissatisfaction as he sprung up from a handstand, landing on his feet lightly. He raised his kunai, scowling at her. Aiko frowned. He would be more cautious now.

The two collided in a flurry of high speed taijutsu, with Aiko dodging and weaving. Suddenly, she lunged forwards and threw another kunai at him. The ninja leered at her.

"That's not going to work!" he shouted, stepping to one side as the kunai whistled harmlessly by. Aiko merely smiled. The ninja looked on in horror as he discovered that he was entangled in ninja wire.

"W-what?" he whispered in terror as his back collided forcefully with a tree, the wire digging into his skin. "When?"

Aiko stared at him for a moment, before smiling. "When I threw the two shuriken at you, I had already attached wire to them. The kunai only served to pin you to the tree. You didn't realise it, but you were trapped from the start." The shinobi flailed about helplessly as Aiko commenced her seal sequence.

Serpent, Dragon, Hare, Tiger.

"Katon: Ryūka no Jutsu!"

The man screamed powerlessly as he was devoured in flames.

Hiss!

A kunai embedded itself in her shoulder and Aiko stumbled, pain blossoming. She cursed at her inattentiveness as her eyes zeroed in on the group of rogue ninjas' leader. Glancing at Yori and Akane, she discovered that the two of them were effectively cutting off the last ninja from helping his leader and cornering him at the same time. She smiled grimly.

Good, there's only one more to worry about now, she thought. Another kunai sailed past her ear.

"Your inattention will cost you your life!" the ninja roared as Aiko drew another kunai. She slipped into an open stance as the leader dashed towards her.

Fast! she thought as he appeared before her eyes. She struck out at him, but he seemed to dodge every blow with ease. A niggling sensation entered her mind and she jumped back a few metres, an answer flashing to her in an instant. She brought her hands together in a ram seal.

"Kai!" she called, and the illusion dispelled itself. The lead ninja had actually been several metres away, and was just finishing a seal sequence...

"Raiton: Shuuraiyari!"

Aiko screamed as the ninja collected chakra in his hand and converted it into electricity, its form coalescing into a spear. The lightning spear plunged deep into Aiko's stomach and slashed through her back. Aiko tumbled to the ground, feeling her blood seeping through the fabric of her shirt.

It's a fatal wound, she realised numbly as the spear glowed white-yellow, burning away any blood that made contact with it.

"Aiko-san!" Akane shouted as she ran over to the jounin. Yori extracted his ninjato from last ninja's chest and whipped around, dashing over to Aiko as soon as he saw her. Aiko's opponent laughed maniacally as he commenced another seal sequence.

"That's not all!" he shouted. "Raiton: Shuuraimyaku!"

Aiko twisted in agony, not even strong enough to scream, as the spear embedded inside of her pulsed bright yellow. Blood spurted from her wound as the spear sparked away into nothing, splattering on both of her teammates. In a brief moment of awareness through her haze of pain, she glared at her teammates.

"Run!" she said hoarsely, coughing up blood. Electricity still danced around her body. "I'll...I'll distract him and you make a run for Konoha."

The two started to protest, but Aiko silenced them with one look. "Just do it," she breathed, a wave of dizziness almost overcoming her. "Finish the mission."

"Alright," Akane whispered as she stood up, pulling Yori with her. "Goodbye, Aiko-san."

Aiko smiled bravely at both of them. "Goodbye."

The enemy ninja wasn't pleased. "You're not going anywhere," he grated out, hands ready for another jutsu.

"W-wait!" Aiko called to him, and he turned around, sneering. Aiko shrugged off her bag with some difficulty, and withdrew the storage scroll she had packed. She looked at the man and weakly chuckled.

"I'm going to finish you off with this," she muttered, before counting to five slowly in her head. He started towards Aiko again, but it was too late. With a grunt of exertion, she unravelled the scroll, and grinned humorously as hundreds of exploding tags appeared, and started burning down simultaneously.

Aiko lay flat on her back as her thoughts flickered to a certain blonde haired brat, and a hint of remorse touched her. "I guess I won't be seeing you again after all, Minato," she whispered.

She smiled peacefully, watching the afternoon blue sky as the forest exploded in a huge inferno of exploding tags.


"Hey, old man! The Ninja Academy starts in a month, I want to join!"

Ignoring the cries of the two chunin guarding the door as he evaded them, Naruto crashed through the doors and bounced into a seat.

He stopped short at the sight of two ninja standing before Sarutobi, both bearing bloody red marks across their clothes and armour. The male ninja handed a scroll to the Hokage.

"...Hokage-jiji?" Naruto asked, feeling slightly weak. Yori gave him a cursory glance as he guided Akane out.

"What was that?" he asked the Sandaime as the two chunin left. Sarutobi sighed before covering his face with his hands, eyes burning with remorse. After a minute, he looked back up, a solemn expression written on his face.

"Aiko is dead, Minato," he said heavily.


Author's Notes: Shorter chapter. Next chapter will include the Academy. Let me know what you think!

Fuchidori no Sato: Fuchidori Village

Konoha Shunshin: Leaf Body Flicker

Henge (no Jutsu): Transformation Technique

Katon: Gōkakyū no Jutsu: Fire Release: Great Fireball Technique

Katon: Ryūka no Jutsu: Fire Release: Dragon Fire Technique

Raiton: Shuuraiyari: Lightning Release: Lightning Strike Spear

Raiton: Shuuraimyaku: Lightning Release: Lightning Strike Pulse