Chapter 1: Konoha Dojo!
Disclaimer: I do not own Naruto or HSDK, or any characters or logos associated with either series. This fan story is made for fun, not profit.
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Naruto snored loudly as the alarm beside his bed went off, his hand instinctively swatting it against the wall. Once the noise had been silenced, he rolled over and snuggled back into his nest of blankets, his eyes still tightly closed as if he hadn't heard anything to begin with. The spiky-haired blonde had spent the previous day practicing his fighting skills in a series of rigorous sessions that pushed him beyond normal limits. The efforts had drained him, but it was nothing that some sleep and a bowl of ramen couldn't fix.
Someone knocked on his door twice, but after a minute of receiving now answer the visitor decided to let herself in. A girl with green eyes and shoulder-length pink hair slid into his room, her eyes quickly gravitating towards the articles of discarded clothing, empty ramen cups, and old candy wrappers with minor disgust. Being careful not to disturb anything, she came to a stop beside his bed, her foot tapping against the floor as if she expected him to notice her.
"Hey, Naruto… It's time to wake up." She prodded his sleeping form with her index finger before giving him a gentle shake. Reaching down, she pulled the covers off of him and poked him again, but her efforts were in vain. "Ugh, I swear this knucklehead could sleep through a tornado if he wanted."
To her surprise the blonde teenager smiled eerily, his arms wrapping tightly around his pillow like it was a lover. "Mmmm… Sakura. Should we really do all that stuff now?" he mumbled dreamily, his perverted expression deepening by the moment as a deep flush engulfed his cheeks.
"NA-RU-TO… …" she hissed, her right hand instinctively forming into a fist. A large vein throbbed on her forehead, causing the pink-haired girl to lose her composure instantly.
Sakura clenched her fists before resisting the urge to punch him, instead grabbing the side of his bed and toppling him over onto the floor. A small scream escaped the boy's throat as he hit the floor, following by the soft thud of his body hitting the carpet. Placing his hands on the ground between his legs, he bolted upright and looked around with a dazed expression. The young man rubbed the back of his head, his eyes settling on the pink-haired girl standing in front of him.
"Oh, morning Sakura!" he replied, rubbing his eyes with a sleepy look. "Did you have to wake me up now, I was having such a nice dream."
She grit her teeth tightly before grabbing the pillow off the ground and tossing it at him with all the strength she could muster. He caught it with a slightly frightened expression, looking shocked that someone so innocent looking girl could toss a sack of cotton with enough force to knock down the average man. When she paused to exhale, the blonde pushed himself into a standing position and tried to start the conversation over.
His eyes moved towards the clock to his right, quickly noting that it was only already ten in the morning. "The old folks don't usually wake us up early on a Saturday. So, what's up?"
"You really are an idiot." Sakura stated, causing her friend to cringe humorously. Although she had been deeply annoyed only second ago, her tone was much calmer now.
He cocked his head to the side. "Is there something going on that I should know about?"
"I can't believe you forgot about something so important!" Looking at his clueless expression, she could tell he was being honest. She groaned deeply, rubbing a hand against her forehead with exasperation. "Don't you remember? The elder said we were supposed to gather in the foyer of the main building this morning so that he can make an announcement."
"Oh yeah, the old man did say something like that." Naruto picked his ear while casually flicking away a piece of wax. After a moment his expression changed when the notion finally sunk in. "Wait a minute! Does that mean he's finally going to select one of us to become a new master?"
Sakura shrugged. "I sincerely doubt it… He said it was really important, but if anyone was going to be given such a big promotion, I'm betting it wouldn't be a slacker like you! Still, I suppose anything's possible in a place like this…"
"Oh yeah, now that's what I'm talking about!" The boy shot his fist into the air before pushing his visitor out the door with an exaggerated wave. "Just go on ahead without me! I'll catch up to the rest of you guys in a second!"
"All right, see you there!" The pink-haired girl flinched as he slammed the door in her face, her expression dropping. There were times when she found the boy to be completely intolerable, and yet for some reason she found it hard to stay angry with him for very long.
Naruto quickly pulled on a black pair of shorts and ran a hand through his spiky blonde hair. Looking around his messy room, he tossed a handful of garbage over his shoulder and into the trashcan, kicking several used shirts under his bed in an attempt to make the place look more presentable. After slipping on his sandals, he reached into the closet and pulled out his favorite orange t-shirt emblazoned with the dojo's leaf-shaped logo.
Quickening his pace, he stepped into the hallway and looked around, instantly noticing that there was no one else nearby. The corridors were very simple with plain white walls and old-fashioned wooden paneling, having been hand-built by the residents as a part of their intensive training. Those living within were all aspiring martial artists who had taken up residence in the dojo as full-time disciples. Naruto's case was slightly different from the majority of his pears, seeing how he never had a family, and the fighting school had been his first real home.
With a cheerful expression, the blonde rested his hands behind his head and went downstairs to the living area. It was a large room spanning the length of two or three bedrooms, filled with several armchairs, and wooden table, and a television. Although he expected everyone else to have left by now, he quickly caught sight of a familiar figure clad in a green jumpsuit, red sash, and orange leg warmers. His black hair was styled into a bowl-cut, and a pair of centipede-like eyebrows stood out prominently above his large round eyes and thick lower lashes.
"Hey Naruto! Glad to see you finally managed to get out of bed!" Rock Lee beckoned his friend over with a friendly wave.
"Morning, bushy brows… Glad to see I'm no the only one who overslept this morning."
The dark haired boy shook his head. "Actually I went with Guy-sensei on a nice forty-mile run this morning, and we only just got back. I came here to grab some breakfast before the big meeting, but it appears that the others have already left."
"Sheesh, do you two ever stop?" he questioned with a small groan.
"The process of bettering yourself should only end when you die! This is my firm belief as a true warrior and disciple of this dojo. Surely someone like you understands perfectly well what it means to have a philosophy in the martial arts. If someone moves forward without any type of reason whatsoever, they may lose themselves in the process and I cannot imagine anything…"
"So, are you coming with me or what?" Naruto turned for a moment and headed for the door.
"Just on second and I will be right there!" Lee sat down on one of the chairs and quickly finished dressing his bandages, having sustained more injuries during his morning training session.
After discarding the old layer and wrapping another one around his arms, the young man pulled to tighten them and used his teeth to bite off the excess before closing the first aid kit. He flexed his arms cautiously and punched at the air a few times to make sure the bandages wouldn't restrict his muscle movements. Once he was satisfied with the results, the green-clad fighter sprung into the air using his back legs, landing directly in front of Naruto with ease.
"Show off…" Naruto replied with a smile, casually kicking the door open with his left leg. "All right, let's get going so we don't get chewed out by the old man for being late to this thing."
"Right you are!" Lee flashed him a thumbs up as they exited the dormitories. "As my master always says, perfect timing is something that every martial artist must learn to master!"
The other teenager walked past him with a neutral look, his expression dulling for a second. "Y'know, I really doubt this is what he was talking about."
They headed across the grounds at a brisk jog with the green-clad fighter in the lead. Although it wasn't an actual race, he was known for turning everything into a competition if given the chance. Naruto glanced at the statues littering the training grounds as they ran, his eyes moving towards the sparring ring and wooden posts where the students were sent to train on a daily basis. The ground were very well kept, with several trees and bushes lining the paths, and stone streets leading from one building to the next.
In a matter of seconds they had reached the large pagoda-like structure situated in the center of the grounds. The tower was used as a general meeting place for the students and teachers like a school, and the upper levels served as the master's lodgings. While it was only three stories high, the building served as the central hub of their dojo due to the large number of rooms. Inside were a small dining room, study hall, library, and also a fighting area where official matches were held during martial arts events hosted by the teachers.
As they reached the front doors Lee glanced sideways at his longtime friend. "So, has anyone told you why the elder called us here today?"
"Don't look at me, I completely forgot about the whole thing until Sakura kicked my ass out of bed ten minutes ago." He replied with a shrug.
"Well, no time like the present to find out." The darker haired teen pushed the door open, allowing them to step inside the main compound.
The foyer was an extremely large room decorated with red carpets, two doorways leading to other rooms on the ground floor, and a large staircase direct across from the entrance leading to the higher levels. A pair of glass cases sat on each side of the stairs, one holding an old fashioned katana and several authentic weapons from the Sengoku period in Japan, the other containing a series of items traditionally used in the Chinese martial arts. Since it was morning, the lights were off, allowing the sun to fill the room through a series of large windows lining the back.
By the time the two stragglers arrived, the foyer was already filled with people. Standing on either side of he staircase were two rows of people with each student standing beside the teacher of his or her respective martial arts discipline. Sakura gave them a small glance as the two boys entered the hall, each of them approaching their respective master.
A large middle-aged man with waist-length white hair and red lines on his face, approached the blonde disciple, his serious demeanor warming as he clapped the boy on the shoulder. "It took you long enough, but at least you managed to show up."
Lee placed his fists together and bowed to a man wearing a similar outfit to his own. "I must also apologize for my tardiness, Master Guy." He raised his head with a resolute stare. "I will accept any punishment no matter how brutal!"
"No worries Lee, you were late because our morning routine carried on a bit longer than I expected." The green-clad master batted him a thumbs up and smiled widely, the sunlight glimmering brightly off the surface his teeth.
"Guy-sensei!" the boy screamed frantically, his eyes sparkling as he pulled his teacher into an awkward, bone-crushing hug.
The two men embraced in a humorous fashion with tears running down their faces, causing the others present to look away in embarrassment. Naruto turned his head while his master simply chose not to acknowledge the over-dramatized scene. The others began talking amongst each other, having long gotten used to the bizarre duo over the last few years.
"Will you two get a room?" The woman standing directly across from them stuck her tongue out with a childish look.
She was probably the shortest of the adults in the room, with dull brown eyes, large breasts and dark violet hair tied into a high spiky ponytail behind her head. Her style of dress was somewhat bizarre, her attire consisting of an orange mini-skirt, long tan overcoat, shin guards, and a tight-fitting mesh bodysuit that reached down to her knees while showing off her curves. Despite her different fashion sense, the woman carried herself with a sense of boundless confidence.
"No need to be so rude, Anko! After all, a strong bond between master and disciple is what fosters that deep sense of teamwork and companionship!" Guy explained proudly.
She spit on the floor. "That's fine and all, but it would be a lot easier if you two weren't so embarrassing to be around. That hair, those outfits… Have you looked in the mirror lately?"
Jiraiya folded his arms with a bored expression. "The last thing we need right now is for you two to be debating something so pointless. We all have our own sense of style!"
"You mean like that camouflage thingy you wear while spying on the girls bathhouse?" Naruto chimed in with a clever smirk.
The middle-aged man spun him around so that they were facing each other. "How many times do I have to tell you not to talk about that in front of other people."
"I knew a heard someone in the bushes last night!" Anko burst out with a grim laugh.
"Eeewwww, that's disgusting." The teenage girl standing next to her replied.
Anko's apprentice looked slightly uncomfortable at the thought, having been in hot springs with her mentor the previous night after their training session. Ino Yamanaka was roughly sixteen years old like the majority of the other disciples, with bright blue eyes, long blonde hair, and a slim shapely figure covered by a dark purple outfit that exposed her midriff and legs.
"Master Jiraiya, I can't believe you would stoop so low." She chastised him with an angry pout.
"He's been like that as long as I can remember." Sakura's master added with a disapproving nod.
Possessing the largest bust in the room Tsunade wore a gray kimono-style blouse that exposed some of her cleavage and a long green jacket with the kanji "gamble emblazoned on the back. She had pale skin, dark amber eyes, soft pick lips, and long blonde hair tied in two ponytails. A small blue diamond shaped mark sat in the center of her high forehead, and a large blue sash secured the front of her outfit. Known for her deceptively youthful appearance, she was technically just as old as Jiraiya.
She folded her arms with a smirk. "He tried peeping on me once years ago and almost lost his life. Luckily for him I was willing to suffice with breaking several of his ribs."
The old pervert glanced at his childhood friend with a smile. "Throw me a bone, will ya? If you keep telling stories like that, people might start getting the wrong impression."
"How so?" Tsunade cocked an eyebrow with an inquisitive glint.
"You made me sound like a little pervert… I'm a big pervert!" he responded proudly.
Although it was nothing they hadn't heard before, the masters had a strange mix of reactions to this statement. Guy remained impassive, Anko burst out laughing, and Tsunade fought the urge to roll her eyes. Standing away from the four of them were the remaining three masters, each of which seemed keen not to get involved.
The first was a woman with long untamed brown hair, dark red lips, and piercing red eyes lined with purple eye shadow. Known as Kurenai Yuhi, she wore a white outfit that came down to her knees covered with black patterns, leaving her arms and legs exposed. The man next to her was Asuma Sarutobi, the son of the dojo's leader. He was rather tall and possessed a darker skin tone than the others with spiky black hair and a beard. His rugged appearance was complimented by his dark tattered dark green pants and a dingy colored vest that displayed his muscular arms.
While the pair talked in whispers about nothing in particular. The last of the group's masters stood away from the others as if he lacked the desire to speak to them. Kakashi Hatake had an aloof appearance with tall spiky gray hair held away from his face by the presence of a headband, and a mask covered the lower half of his face. His calm features held a lazy expression, and his eyes remained intensely focused on the book in his hand. The masked man's clothing consisted of a simple robe with green pants, a white top, and a simple pair of sandals.
Naruto tapped his shoulder. "Hey, Master Kakashi! How's it going?"
"Fine, I suppose…" The masked man lowered his book with a sleepy expression. "I took last night off to perform a job for one of my clients, so forgive me if I'm a little bit tired."
"No wonder you look like a truck just backed over you. So what was it this time? Bodyguard duty, espionage, or did they some people just hire you to do their grocery shopping."
The martial arts master immediately noticed a sense of eagerness radiating from the boy and continued. "I have a feeling that you honestly don't care in any case. Judging by your demeanor, there must something important that you want to ask me?"
"I guess you could say that?" Naruto scratched the back of his head nervously. "Do you know what this big announcement's gonna be about? So far none of the other disciples have any clue, and since Master Jiraiya didn't wanna say anything, I figure you might be willing to drop a hint."
Kakashi seemed intrigued the teenager's genuine curiosity, although he remained impassive. "Well, that must mean the elder wants it to be a secret. Because of that, it wouldn't be my place to give you the information head of time." He smiled behind his mask. "You'll just have to wait until we makes the announcement."
"Damn…" Naruto realized that he wasn't going to say anything and went to stand beside his own master, only to see the old pervert engaged in a conversation with Tsunade.
Turning his head away, he walked in the opposite direction only to run into two more of his fellow disciples. The first was a teenager named Shikamaru Nara, with brown hair tied back into a spiky topknot, and a pronounced look of disinterest. He wore a simple green t-shirt with a gray jacket, blue lining, and black pants. His friend Choji Akimichi was a larger man with a husky build, full round face, and long spiky brown hair reaching down his back. His outfit consisted of a red jumpsuit with metal guards on his legs and wrists and a pair of combat gloves.
"Oh, hey guys. What's up?" the blonde greeted his companions with a cheerful expression.
"We're just waiting for this thing to start." Choji learned in to whisper in his friend's ear. "So, did you figure out what's going on yet, or has your master refused to say anything too?"
Naruto exhaled slowly before letting out small grunt. "Nah, the old pervert wouldn't tell me anything. I tried asking Master Kakashi, but he just sorta ignored the question. Must be something pretty big if the old geezer wanted us all together to make the announcement."
"Either way, this meeting is a real drag…" Shikamaru placed his hands in his pockets and leaned back against a nearby pillar. "If it weren't for this thing today, I could've slept in and spent the afternoon playing shogi. Knowing the old timer's methods, we were probably called here for some kind of special joint training session."
"Sheesh, do you always have to look on the bright side. I'm still pooped from yesterday's session!" the blonde boy groaned loudly.
Rock Lee literally jumped into the conversation, landing amongst trio with a spirited smile. "If it is more training, then we should accept it with open arms! What better way to spend a day off improving one's skills and teamwork while working alongside the masters!"
"Typical Lee… Always ready for back-breaking labor." Choji commented with a sigh.
"As martial artists, we must always strive to be the strongest!" the green-clad ninja screamed.
Shikamaru looked on with a neutral expression, his tone unshakably calm when he spoke. "Yeah, but that doesn't necessarily mean you have to do everything at once. Sometimes taking it easy and giving yourself a breather can just as beneficial as running two hundred laps around the city. Know what I mean?"
Rock Lee squared up to him with a fire in his eyes. "Nothing is more invigorating than training!"
"I don't think he knows what you mean." Naruto mused with a relaxed expression.
The room's occupants fell silent as the sound of footsteps reached their ears, causing the students to return to their masters. They diverted their attention to the stairs in time to see the source of the noise was indeed the master of the dojo. Hiruzen Sarutobi was an elderly man with a shorter build, light skin, a thick goatee, and short spiky hair. Due to advanced age, his face was heavily lined and dotted with the occasional liver spot and a wart on the left side of his nose. The elder wore a full-length red robe with long sleeves, a long white cloak, and matching sash.
Despite his relatively diminutive size, the elder held himself up with strength and pride, a certain sense of grace belying each of his subtle movements. In his right hand he carried a large wooden staff finely engraved with a complicated series of markings. The head of the stick was engraved to resemble the face of a monkey. Upon reaching the bottom of the stairs, the old man eyed each of his charges pensively, his deadpan expression twisting into a welcoming smile.
"Ah, it is very good to see that everyone was able to attend." Sarutobi nodded with a cheerful expression, his eyes sweeping back and forth to observe each of his charges. "I must say you are all looking very well this morning. Now without further ado "
Asuma removed a cigarette from his pocket during the brief pause, lighting it with a casual flick of his wrist. "Save the pleasantries for later, pops. After listening in on their conversation, I can tell these kids are burning to know the reason you called everyone here."
"Yeah, what is this about old man?" Naruto added, barely hiding his own eagerness. Jiraiya thumped the back of his head with a fatherly expression, causing the blonde teenager to snarl at his master for treating him like a child.
Hiruzen let out a light-hearted chuckle before tapping his walking stick against the floor with a more serious expression. "Very good to see you all in such high spirits. If the disciples of this dojo would be so kind as to step forward, we can begin immediately."
His six disciples moved away from their respective masters and formed a line directly in front of the elder. While the girls looked relatively nervous, Naruto and Lee appeared eager to listen. In comparison Choji appeared reserved and calm while Shikamaru wore a look that suggested he was actually bored with the proceedings. Even though his demeanor gave off the opposite impression, those who knew him were certain that he was perfectly focused on the proceedings.
The old master cleared his throat before continuing. "As you have no doubt been informed by this point in time, we called you here to make an important announcement. Each and every disciple standing before me today has proven to be a strong martial artist, excelling in your respective disciplines." Sarutobi walked down the line of students looking very proud. "You each possess qualities essential to the art of fighting… Strength, speed, skill, cunning, creativity, intelligence…"
"So what's the deal? Are we getting some kind of prize?" Naruto questioned the others.
When the elder did not answer right away, Jiraiya stepped forward to speak. "In a way, we suppose you could say that." He turned back to his former teacher. "What do you say old man?"
"Yes, indeed…" Hiruzen agreed with a small nod, his ironclad gaze extending to the younger group of fighters. "We the Masters of Konoha have agreed to select a single student and bestow that person with the glory of becoming this dojo's number one disciple!"
Sakura looked slightly uncomfortable. "I don't see how setting one person apart from the others with a fancy title would do anything but cause trouble. I'm guessing there's more to this."
"In either case it sounds like this will be a real honor!" Lee folded his hands and bowed his head.
To everyone's surprise, Kakashi Hatake sauntered over to join the main group. "It would seem that you all have the wrong impression about this. To be chosen as the number one disciple of this dojo is much more than an honor… It is a privilege that will grant several new challenges for the person who it is given to."
Naruto leaned back and closed his eyes with a distasteful expression. "Sounds pretty cool, but you really oughta give us the details instead of just beating around the bush."
"Yeah, what kind of benefits do we get?" Choji added with a genuinely curious look.
"More importantly, how must we prove ourselves worthy of this title?" Lee spoke out excitedly.
Anko Mitarashi placed her hands on her hips with an amused expression before turning to their superior. "So what do you think, old man? It looks like these maggots are really getting into it!"
Sarutobi nodded moved back to his original position at the foot of the stairs before tapping his stick against the floor to grab their attention. Once all eyes were back on him, he addressed the students again. "As of now each disciple has been training with the master who specializes in a specific discipline, but the person deemed most worthy will be presented with the privilege of learning from each of the masters of Konoha!"
A silence fell between the disciples as they exchanged glances, each of the group looking as if they were not certain what to think. Training in a single discipline was difficult enough, but the idea of learning them all sounded nearly impossible in comparison. Sakura was still feeling the pain in her side from the previous day's training with his own master, while Shikamaru looked incredibly disinterested with the idea altogether. Ino blinked with a puzzled expression, while Choji did his best to retain a sense of calm.
Without warning, Rock Lee threw his fist in the air and cheered. "This sounds like a most exciting prospect for anyone who trains in the art of fighting! I would be most eager to be chosen for this wonderful opportunity!"
Sakura smiled despite her initial surprise. "Sounds pretty cool, but which one of us was chosen?"
"Naturally they would pick whichever one of us they consider the strongest." Choji suggested.
Tsunade ignored the outburst and instead spoke to the group as a whole. "This title is far more significant than you seem to understand. The student chosen will hold the responsibility of mastering all forms of Konoha's martial arts. To be given such a responsibility is much more than an honor… It is a responsibility!"
"Very well said, Tsunade." Hiruzen agreed with a calm expression. "Without further ado, I will announce the person we have picked to fill this role and carry on the legacy of this dojo. Naruto Uzumaki, please step forward!"
Everyone frozen for a second as the other students turned to stare at him, each looking slightly annoyed by the current turn of events. As far as skills went, the young fighters had always been around the same level of strength and fighting experience with some of them performing better at specific tasks than the others. Even armed with this knowledge, it was somewhat surprising that any of them would have been signaled out so suddenly as standing above his or her peers.
The blonde-haired teen blinked absent mindedly before obeying the order. "You picked me." He gestured back at himself with his left thumb before rubbing his head anxiously before voicing everyone else's thoughts. "I guess I'm pretty awesome, but why did you pick me? Shikamaru's way smarter, and Lee works about a hundred times harder than the rest of us!"
"Speak for yourself, knucklehead." Ino commented glumly before folding her arms.
The elder shook his head slowly. "Everything that you say is absolutely true, but know now that we did not make this decision without several months of hard deliberation."
"The truth is, we've been watching you kids ever since you began training in this place." Jiraiya held up his hand with an unusually serious look. "As your sensei, we recognize that each one of you has the work ethic and talent to become a master."
Guy responded with a wide grin. "No matter how much some of us consider our own students to be special, we were eventually forced to pick someone who we believed had the most potential. In doing this we had to focus less on that which you can do, but rather what you may become."
"He may be the world's biggest doofus, but the boy's got a lot of spunk." Anko Mitarashi replied grudgingly. "Kinda reminds me of the way I was when I was his age."
"I keeping with this decision, we have all acknowledged that this child possesses the strongest will of all of our students, in addition to a powerful desire to become stronger no matter what the cost!" Hiruzen explained with a resolute air, his eyes settling on the blonde teenager standing in front. "Naruto Uzumaki, from this day forward, you will be Konoha's number one disciple!"
"I guess I'll give it my best shot. Who would have thought that I was the best choice for something like this?" He responded with a slightly embarrassed look.
"Don't get cocky." Asuma warned with a craft expression. "Now you've got about seven times the amount of work on your plate compared to before."
Naruto took a moment to count the masters on his fingers and grimaced with a mingled sense of confusion and annoyance. "Wait a minute, there are only six of you guys. What did you mean by saying that I'll have seven times the lessons?"
Hiruzen cleared his throat rather loudly as he approached the boy. "If you are to carry on the spirit of this dojo in its entirety, that includes learning how to master my own techniques as well as those of the others. Starting tomorrow morning, I shall take charge of your training from Master Jiraiya."
"Wait, the old man's going to be my teacher instead of you?" he glanced up at his master.
The white-haired man patted his disciple firmly on the shoulder and smiled. "Don't worry about it too much. Since the top students trains with everybody, you'll still be my disciple. Although from now on, the old man will have control over coordinating your daily sessions instead of me."
Tsunade placed her hands on her hips and begrudged him a smile. "Don't forget that this intense new training regimen is also in addition to all of your current responsibilities. I trust you'll make us proud, Naruto. If not, we may be forced to rescind this decision."
"So you're saying that if this sucks, I can just drop out at any time?" the boy replied sheepishly.
While a few of the masters groaned with irritation, Sarutobi seemed to find his comment rather amusing. "You always did have a sense of humor… Nevertheless, we would not have chosen you for this if you were the type of man to give into adversity so easily. The majority of us are confident that you will at least survive."
Sakura Haruno moved past him and bowed her head. "With all due respect, I remember you saying that Naruto's training was to commence tomorrow, which incidentally is also our first day as transfer students to a new school. Don't you think we already have enough to worry about?"
"We'll have plenty of time to discuss the details of his training afterwards. Tomorrow afternoon once you return, I would greatly appreciate it if you would come by my personal quarters so that we may discuss your future regimen." The elder elaborated.
"All right, you've guys have got my attention. I promise to be there on time and ready to go!"
Sakura let out an exaggerated cough. "Gimme a break, you're almost never on time."
Naruto returned his expression eagerly before copying Lee's nice guy pose. "C'mon, I won't let you guys down!"
"That's the spirit!" Guy encouraged him before giving his new student a hearty slap on the back before standing on one leg and posing with his arms in the air. "Couldn't expect anything less from a true warrior like you, now could we?"
Several of the room's occupants sweat-dropped behind their backs, looking slightly embarrassed again by the green-clad ninja's odd mannerisms, even though no one was rude enough to say anything out loud. As the others began talking amongst each other once more, a loud gurgling sound interrupted the din. All eyes were on Naruto again, who had incidentally become the source of the group's fascination for a second time.
"Sorry, I haven't had breakfast yet. Guess I'm a little bit hungry." He rationalized.
Hiruzen let out a light-hearted chortle before turning back to the teenagers. "So you are… Now that we've made the announcement, everyone here is free to head back to your lodgings and enjoy the rest of this glorious Sunday morning."
When no one moved right away, Anko grew impatient with the group and decided to hurry things long. "You maggots heard him… Get out!" she screamed at the top of her lungs.
Slowly the group filed from the hall and separated into different factions. The group of disciples headed off together in a group back towards their living quarters while Jiraiya departing in the opposite direction towards the master's lodgings, while Tsunade exited through the back door leading into the kitchens. Asume and Kurenai took the path leading to the exit of the dojo's grounds, while Guy went to the training grounds to continue his morning routine. Kakashi let out a soft sigh and departed at a leisurely pace with no particular destination in mind.
"Looks like the master's have taken a real liking to you, Naruto?" Sakura commented.
"Gee, thanks Sakura!" He answered with a cheerful expression. "Who would've thought that they would pick me? I mean, you guys are all pretty good at fighting too."
Choji shrugged off the notion. "The elder said they picked the person most likely to live through this new training without giving up. You have to admit, learning several different styles of martial arts sounds like a lot of hard work. It's just like the masters said!"
"Don't be modest… It sounds like a living Hell!" Shikamaru stroked the back of his neck with a deadpan expression. "I'm just glad they didn't pick me, or else I might have refused."
"Which is exactly why they didn't pick you." Naruto mumbled absent-mindedly.
Ino could only shake her head. "I still don't get what's so special about this particular title. I mean sure it's cool to learn a bunch of different fighting styles, but how on Earth does that make you better? Isn't the martial arts about mastering one discipline and learning to use it perfectly rather than taking a little bit from several?"
"How dare you doubt our comrades capabilities!" Lee shot back fiercely.
"Well excuse me… It's not a crime that the rest of us aren't as boundlessly energetic and optimistic and you." She retorted with a casual gesture.
The bushy browed fighter stomped his foot against the pavement with excessive force. "Surely you jest! If one does not believe they can do everything, then said person will never achieve their full potential. This is not only as a martial artist, but also as a human being."
"A little bit dramatic for my taste, but I suppose it makes sense." Choji shrugged it off.
The blonde girl looked slightly annoyed. "Are you guys saying this would be easy?"
"Calm down you guys." The pink-haired girl standing in front considered them for a minute. "It's not that I don't have faith in our teachers, but she does make a good point. I wonder if a single person can really learn several different styles of fighting at once without getting confused. I mean, we already know Naruto's already enough of a knucklehead as it is."
Naruto frowned with an exaggerated moan. "C'mon Sakura, the least you can do is give me a little bit of credit."
"It wasn't meant to be an insult… I'm just saying that you can be pretty scatter-brained already. Imagine juggling seven times the work you have now and then tell me with a straight face that you can handle it." She elaborated carefully.
The blonde-haired boy stopped for a moment and tapped his head with a thoughtful expression, beads of sweat forming on his brow. Upon realizing that he had fallen behind them, his friends paused and turned to see what he was doing. After a minute or two of considering everything that he had learned about the new title, Naruto's arms drooped like a pair of limp noodles and he raised his head with an expression that rivaled even Shikamaru's.
"Wow, now that you mention it, it does sound like a pain in the ass." He answered with a sigh.
"Too you long enough." Sakura imitated his gesture. "Well, that's typical Naruto, I guess."
Shikamaru approached him from behind. "You did all that boasting over the last few years about one day being the greatest martial artist in the world. Please don't tell me you plan on quitting as soon as things start getting tough."
Naruto sprung back to life almost instantly. "When you put it that way, I guess there's no choice. The kind of man goes back on his word isn't worthy of being called a man at all!"
At the mention of this, the blonde-haired boy remembered a promise he had made years ago to his best friend, causing a dismal shadow to flash across his face for a second. Looking up he was relieved to see that his companions had begun talking amongst themselves again. Behind him, Sakura noticed his initial expression only top watch him cover it with a smile. She guessed at what he was thinking, but refused to voice her thoughts in mixed company.
"Hey, I just remembered something important that I needed to do!" he shouted to catch their attention. Turning around, he began running in the opposite direction.
Lee struck a karate pose. "If you need some help, I would be happy to lend my assistance!"
Naruto turned his head for a second. "Nah, it's nothing big. I'll catch up to you guys in an hour back at the dorms, all right?"
"Don't let us keep you." Shikamaru added as the group watched him disappear behind a bush in the distance. Once his footsteps had died away, they began speaking again.
"I really hope he's sure about this? All this training on top of schoolwork, homework, and God knows what else? Talk about having no time for a life in between." Ino recounted glumly.
Choji tore open bag of potato chips and began munching. "Speaking of which, what was the name of the school we're attending this semester?" he asked through mouthfuls.
Sakura shrugged with a look of indifference. "No matter where we go it's bound to be just as boring and normal as any other school we've been too in the city. According to the paperwork we filled out last month, it's some dump called Kouryou High."
Naruto quietly walked up the steps leading into the small shrine on the edge of the property line. It was a small wooden building located in a small patch of forest that grew within the gates of Konoha Dojo, and the partial namesake of the fighting school that the old masters has established several generations back. Stepping up a pair of wooden doors, the young warrior pushed them open to reveal the meditating form of Kakashi Hatake. He sat on the floor of the small enclosure, his eyes closed as if he were in a trance.
As if sensing the teenager's approach, the gray-haired master opened his eyes. "I just got here a few minutes ago, although perhaps it's better off that you chose to disturb me at the beginning of my meditation rather than in the middle." He commented with a calm note of sarcasm.
Naruto rolled his eyes, although his tone remained polite when he spoke. "Sorry for just barging in, but I just figured you would be the right person to ask."
"Fine, go ahead…" Kakashi replied, looking slightly disappointed that he hadn't taken the hint.
Naruto leaned against the open door. "Have the other masters heard any news about Sasuke recently."
"This is a dojo and we are the teachers." The older man replied tactfully. "When a student chooses not to attend our classes anymore, they are no longer the responsibility of Konoha."
"You know that's a load of crap!" Naruto interjected with a note or irritation. "Sasuke and I were both orphans when we first came here. Neither of us really had any other place to go, and we spent most of our lives in this place"
Kakashi exhaled deeply and stood up so that they were at eye level. "Having been his master, I can understand perfectly well why you would be so concerned for your friend's well being. This is a complicated matter, but the answer you seek is quite simple…"
He paused maddeningly, only picking away at Naruto patience. "Which is?" he pressed on.
"There comes a time when every martial artist must leave on a journey of self-discovery." The masked master began calmly. "Despite being only fourteen when he left two years ago, Sasuke felt that he couldn't learn any more from the masters of Konoha, and so he left on a journey to find new inspiration beyond the walls of this compound."
Naruto's expression dampened. "You always say those things, but there are times when I wonder if there was more to it than that. I mean, what exactly did he hope to learn about martial arts that the greatest masters in the world couldn't already teach him?" the boy felt his fists tighten. "It just doesn't make any sense!"
"The road of life leads in several different directions." Kakashi added with an unshakable calm. "Sometimes it is up to us to seek out that path we wish to take."
"Where the Hell did you get that cheesy line from, a fortune cookie?" the blonde teenager spat.
The master rubbed the back of his head with a drop of sweat dripping. "Maybe, but I think it applies here as well, and it's an piece of advice that works well almost anywhere."
Naruto entirely body twitched, a look of barely suppressed anger flashing across his face. He turned his back on the older man and began stomping away from the shrine, almost damaging the stairs in the process. "I swear, why do I even bother talking to that guy?" he grumbled to himself.
Kakashi watched him go with a frown hidden behind his mask, silently sitting back down and relaxing his shoulders once the distraction was gone. After relaxing his muscles again, the tranquil man began to seriously think about the questions the boy had just asked him, causing him noticeable discomfort. Although Naruto had disappeared into the trees, the master-level fighter simply could not relax anymore.
He exhaled deeply, quietly eyeing the spot where his visitor had been standing only a few minutes ago. "Sorry Naruto… Sometimes the truth is harder to except than you would think." He muttered with a focused, empty glare.
Hiruzen Sarutobi ascended the stairs leading into his private study, gently opening the doors with his free hand while leaning on his staff. Upon entering the room, he placed his white cloak on a hook protruding from the wall and continued into the main living area.
The office beyond was a plain-looking room with a row of bookshelves lining the back wall and a plain wooden cabinet for paperwork. He also had a single wooden table and two straight-backed wooden chairs standing near the center of the room. While many people preferred creature comforts, elaborate décor, and modernization in their workspace, the elder favored the simple things in life and his office certainly reflected this part of his personality.
A single window on the left wall acted as the sole source of light in the room, making it seem a little bit dark at all times. Above the bookshelves were four pictures featuring the previous masters of Konoha Dojo from the old days to the present. Staring at the faces of his forbearers on the far wall, he remembered the day that they had declared him the new elder, bringing a smile to his heavily lined visage. Trapped in his own memories, he barely noticed the sound of a visitor entering from behind.
By the sound and weight of the footsteps, he immediately knew who it was. "I had a feeling there was a reason you were eager to dismiss the others so quickly. Am I correct, Anko?" he mused out loud, never once turning to confirm his suspicions.
The woman was not surprised that he had been able to sense her approach. "I apologize for interrupting you like this. Please forgive my intrusion, Master Hiruzen." She inclined her head respectfully towards the old man.
"I've known you since you were a child… There's no need for such formalities." The elder turned to face her with a coarse, yet high-spirited laugh. "I can tell by your demeanor and tone that there is something of the utmost importance that you wish to bring to my attention."
She stood up and reached into her jacket, pulling out a packet of papers. "All of the details are in here, and I think some of this information within may yet be relevant to our students as well."
Sarutobi accepted the stack with his aged hand and skimmed the contents with a critical eye, causing his cheerful expression to vanish. Walking over to the corner, he laid his staff against the wall and took the packet with both hands, this time reading it more slowly. "Hmmm…" he pondered with a thoughtful expression.
"So, do you think we should we tell the kids what's going on?" She proposed grimly.
"I see why you might be concerned, however at the moment there doesn't appear to be any specific reason to worry our disciples over this particular matter."
Anko stammered slightly. "Well… I think it might be a better idea for us to give them at least some of the information. It might prove valuable in preparing them in the worst case scenario."
"Such information would only ruin their peace of mind, which is something that only the young can truly experience. Also, you seem to lack the confidence that these children can handle themselves, when they have proved otherwise several times. Am I not wrong?"
"No sir, but we…" she began through grit teeth.
"Can consider this a partial learning experience, even if there's a chance that something unfortunate does indeed happen." He finished with a knowing expression before turning his back to her once again.
She attempted to raise the issue again, but the old man reached over to the door before placing the cloak on his shoulders, silently retrieving his staff from the corner where he had left it only moments ago. Sarutobi reached into the folds of his red robe before pulling out a small wooden pipe, which he immediately placed between his lips, using his opposite hand to light it with a match from his pocket. He shook out the flame and tossed it over his shoulder, gently stomped on the ember to make certain it was out.
"I'm going out for some air… Please feel free to stay a while if you desire." the old man replied with a polite wave. Gently scooting past her, he exited through the door, leaving behind a slightly confused woman in his wake. Once the entry closed behind him, she knew there was no point in raising the subject again.
Note to Readers: Well here's a crossover between Naruto and History's Strongest Disciple: Kenichi. In this story, the Naruto characters are written to have been born into Kenichi's world, meaning that their fighting styles will focus on the martial arts rather than fancy ninja tricks or chakra. Good news for Rock Lee! I figured this would be interesting after reading similar ideas and imagining what kind of martial arts I could use for inspiration.
I also tried to keep their personalities intact, and a lot of their outfits remain unchanged from the original Naruto versions of the characters. You'll probably begin seeing some characters from the HSDK series next chapter, but in the meantime I hope you enjoyed what I have so far. You guys probably noticed that I added some things into this chapter to foreshadow future plot development and hint at the Naruto characters' roles in Kenichi's world.
The first chapter was a drag due to the large amount of introductions to handle, but I think the next one should be a little easier. Sorry if there's a fair number of typos, or errors in spelling and grammar, but I usually write chapters for stories late at night.
Until next time, please REVIEW so that I can get some motivation to write more chapters. Such things can make or break a fanfiction for me, especially towards the beginning of a story I'm writing. If you have any comments, ideas, questions, or you liked something in particular about this work, I would love to hear it!