The day after the graduation exam, Mizuki, who had not slept well at all the night before, had been careful getting out of bed in order not to disturb Tsubaki who had stayed over, since it was still rather early in the morning. Despite the fact that he wished it was so since he was dead tired, his responsibilities at the Academy didn't end for the year until the newly minted Genin were all packed off on their teams and sent out for their final test before joining Konoha's shinobi forces. In the week between now and then, there would be several tasks that needed to be done including a final cleaning of the classroom before he went on his all too brief break between academic years.

As he went through the rather mundane routine of getting ready for the day and making his way to the Academy where he would likely be scraping chewing gum and a variety of other unpleasant substances from underneath the desks as part of the end of the year cleaning, he told himself that this was one more day that he probably wouldn't have had if he had gone through with his original plan last night. It was dull, it was boring, he received no more respect than he had the day before, but above all, he was alive. He kept telling himself that as he took in the classroom that looked neat enough on the surface aside from a number of smudges, but was undoubtedly far worse underneath, upon his arrival.

As the Assistant Instructor, cleaning up the messes that were lurking beneath the surfaces of the room, including the possible end of year pressure sensitive explosive tag that was meant to take out the Academy or at the very least one of the teachers was his responsibility. A responsibility that he hated, but wasn't allowed to shirk nonetheless. He had headed over to the first of the desks with his utility knife when his "friend" whom he'd spent several years making miserable at every opportunity had shown up and told him that the Hokage wanted to see him. Surprised, and somewhat apprehensive, he followed his friend to the Administrative complex that was loosely attached to the Academy.

As he got closer to the Hokage's office, he began to worry that the old man had found out about Orochimaru, and the plans he had rather hastily scrapped the night before. That worry rapidly turned to a fear that took every last bit of his effort to conceal as he began to come to believe that there was a possibility that the only way he'd be leaving the Hokage's office would be in ANBU custody if not feet first and bleeding on the carpet. He was practically trembling as he made his way through the doors of the office.

Far from being the slightly ridiculous old man that he'd come to believe was senile that he had spotted in the company of the demon child he'd nearly tricked last night, the Hokage looked almost gravely serious. It was in this moment, he remembered the stories he had been told about the "Professor" in his younger days, the stories of a man who had been taking down armies long before the Yondaime had come on the scene with his Hiraishin which had made short work of Iwa's forces in the last war. After seeing the man with Iruka and the Kyuubi brat, and hearing Orochimaru's speeches about how the Sandaime had long since gone senile, seeing this side of him had been chilling to say the least.

"Mizuki, may I ask why you saw fit to add Uzumaki Naruto's name to this year's list of graduates after Umino Iruka had failed him?" the Hokage asked sternly as soon as he stood in front of the Sandaime's desk at attention, barely keeping his urge to panic in check.

"The...Uz- Uzumaki Naruto was successfully able to challenge the Jutsu portion of his exam before the twenty-four hour limit had passed." he replied carefully.

Iruka had looked shocked at this, and the Hokage had gone from stern to thoughtful.

"And, how did he accomplish this?" the Hokage asked.

"He managed to master the Mizu Bunshin in under three hours." he replied, still somewhat amazed that the child had been able to do that, amongst other things, as his mind had gone places in his sleep that he had not wanted it to go last night.

Mastering the Mizu Bunshin to the level that the Uzumaki had usually took weeks or even months depending on one's approach. The boy who had been desperate to pass as this was the boy's final failure before he was dropped from the ninja program altogether had come up with some off the wall solution two hours into their training and next thing he knew, there were hundreds of water clones littering the training field. As he considered how quickly the boy had learned that C-Ranked Jutsu, he'd found himself shuddering as he realized that the boy could have quite likely learned something from the Forbidden Scroll in that same amount of time if he'd gone through with his plans.

Despite Tsubaki's best efforts to tire him out, he'd had a nightmare last night as his mind had connected several dots and a number of unfortunate implications began to sink in.

The thought of a Naruto who had mastered say the legendary Edo Tensei for instance scared the hell out him. He knew from experience that the kid had a skewed sense of Right and Wrong, and wouldn't hesitate to use something like the Edo Tensei if he thought it would gain him something he desperately wanted, even if he didn't really act like the demon he contained. It was quite possible that he could have ended up being a the sacrifice used to gain the boy an undead servant last night or worse, considering the number of horrors that were said to have been contained in that scroll.

Having extremely powerful techniques that you could use to make yourself a legend on the battlefield was one thing. Having said techniques be used against you was another thing entirely. A thing that he'd just very narrowly saved himself from experiencing.

Both the Hokage and Iruka had looked startled at his statement about Naruto's skills, but the Hokage, after briefly glancing over at the pictures of his predecessors that hung on the wall, rather quickly took it in stride. There was an oddly nostalgic look in the Hokage's eyes when he turned his attention back to him. Odd, one would think that the man would have looked sad after a glance at the picture of the man who had sacrificed himself to save the village from the demon that had been sealed into the Uzumaki. Instead, the Hokage almost looked proud.

"Very well, I will allow Naruto's graduation to stand." the Hokage said before seemingly dismissing them as he went back to his paperwork.

"Oh, and Mizuki." The Hokage said as he turned to leave.

"Yes?" he asked.

"Thank you." the Hokage said, giving him one of those smiles that he'd only seen directed at Iruka or the Uzumaki before.

He paused, standing there, not knowing what to think or how to feel. Only the day before, he had been planning on betraying this man. Now, when he would still leave if there was a chance that he wouldn't be executed for doing so, now, after he had planned on betraying the village and all it supposedly stood for only to have chickened out at the last second since his own miserable hide was more important to him than anything else, he had gotten the genuine smile and actual acknowledgement for something he had done from the Hokage that he had been craving for more than a decade.