Iruka was whistling cheerfully as he readied himself for his second favorite day of the year. His first favorite day was the beginning of the school year, when the students would greet him respectfully and listen to him obediently. His second favorite day was the last day of school, when he learned which of the little buggers he would hopefully never have to see again. Today was such a day.

"Ohayo, Naruto, Hinata, Sasuke," Iruka greeted kindly, and with no little surprise as he stepped into the room, "I'm shocked that you're here so early."

"Gai," Hinata supplied, grumpily. Sasuke scowled, which Naruto tossed him a sleepy half-wave, before placing his head against his table.

"Gai," Iruka repeated in sympathy, nodding to her. The three top students became slightly more active as the other kids filtered into the room and nervously took their seats. Shikamaru displayed the influence that his mentor, Lee, exerted on him, by not immediately falling asleep. Instead, he slumped on his chair and lazily regarded his teacher.

Among all of the students who had graduated last year, only Team Gai became full-fledged genin. So only Naruto, Hinata, and (much to his distress) Shikamaru received warnings about the true Genin Exam. The other students were left with mentors in remedial classes (who were forbidden to relay ninja-sensitive information) or civilian-life. Sasuke had pointedly cut off any communication with his own mentor- a Neji fangirl- when Naruto had threatened to refuse to allow him into the Compound if accompanied by the Cursed One.

"Well, I'm glad to have all of you here after a long year of hard work," Iruka beamed, "I'm confident that every one of you are capable of becoming great ninja, and I hope that at the end of the day, I can give each of you a forehead protector symbolizing your loyalty and commitment to Konoha!"

The students briefly cheered.

"Okay, so now the first part will be a written exam," Mizuki stepped forward and started handing out the papers, "You have approximately 45 minutes. If we catch you cheating-"

"-And as Chuunin, we will catch you cheating," Iruka interjected.

"Then you get an automatic fail," Mizuki finished, stepping back, "Good luck... and begin."

Naruto spent a few minutes surveying the entire test before he inwardly groaned. These questions were so easy!

How many Great Villages are there?

What is the second level of shinobi command?

Who was the Yondaime Hokage?

Naruto wondered if he could get away with writing 'tou-san'. Probably not.

After 40 minutes had passed, Iruka called for the students to start wrapping up their answers. Naruto, deeply involved in sketching a plotline for the next Icha Icha novel, (perhaps Miko-chan could be an exiled princess who unknowingly fell in love with the son of the tyrant-general who took over her kingdom?) ignored him. It wasn't until the paper was snatched away from him a few minutes later, that he bothered to look up.

"Hey!" he protested in annoyance, "I wasn't done with that yet!"

"I don't see why it should take you so long to finish this test when I know that this material is easy for you..." Iruka's voice tapered off as he caught the additions, "Naruto, what's this?"

Naruto chuckled awkwardly, "...Not a potential plotline for Icha Icha?"

Iruka's body began to violently twitch, but he took a deep breath, held his temper (and tongue) in check, and moved on to the next student. Unfortunately, the next student was Hinata.

"Hinata Hyuuga, why is this woman naked?!" Iruka shouted. The rest of the class stared at them.

"Miko-chan is not naked!" Hinata immediately protested, "She has a swath of cloth and an open half-robe wrapped around her body!"

"They barely cover anything!" Iruka roared, "And her chest binds are made out of gauze. I can see through them!"

"Hey, Iruka?" Mizuki raised his hand, "Can I grade that test?" Iruka glared at him.

Sasuke, who had unashamedly left his seat to look over Iruka's shoulder, commented, "I like the way you let her nipples press against the flowers of her bindings, Hinata. The layered silk was also a nice touch. Your drawing is much improved."

The Hyuuga heiress sniffed disdainfully, "As a Hyuuga, I am- naturally- born with such advantages as excellent depth perception and a fast learning curve."

Iruka, seeing that his students couldn't be shamed out of their despicable porn habit (and mourning the loss of three such promising perverts to the Dark Side), quietly sulked, collected the rest of the papers, and deposited them into an eager Mizuki's arms.

He refused to even look at Sasuke's paper, and knew that he had made the right choice when the raven-haired boy smirked at him. The second test was a genjutsu exam. Of all of the students, only Hinata, Sasuke, Ino, Sakura, and Shino were capable to locating the genjutsu. And only Hinata was able to dispel it.

"Excellent job," Iruka said, pleased, "That was a tricky test and you passed it with ease."

Hinata shrugged modestly. "Sasuke could dispel it too, sensei. But if he saw the same image that I did, than I guess that he just wanted to keep it around."

Iruka raised an eyebrow at Mizuki, questioningly.

The man shrugged sheepishly. "I just thought that I'd give Miko-chan a test run." Iruka frowned.

The students were then brought out for their taijutsu exam. A series of matches showed a few notable fights. Kiba and Shino were more or less equal, and ended up in a draw. Sasuke and Naruto stubbornly kept it going, until Iruka was forced to call it a draw (they seemed dangerously close to employing ninjutsu). Ino made a respectable showing, but ultimately lost to Hinata, and Choji defeated his civilian opponent rather easily. The only real surprise was Shikamaru, who, despite his lazy dodges and general lack of offense, displayed a brilliant efficiency of movement and solid, decisive blows.

The weapons showing was fairly decent all around and passed with little fanfare.

"Okay guys, now we're just in the final stretch of the exam," Iruka encouraged, "We're going to do the ninjutsu portion. I'm going to call each of you up by name, so you can show me the Bunshin, Kawarimi, and Henge."

The students milled around nervously or sat together in clumps as "Aburame, Shino" was called. When he came out after ten very tense minutes- with his forehead protector on his head- Naruto initiated the clapping, which quickly spread across the room. Although Shino's large collar covered his expression, Naruto assumed that he was pleased by the slightly looser gait that he used to reclaim his seat.

As they waited for their names to be called, Naruto, Hinata, and Sasuke sat close to each on a few adjoined desks. Hinata, leaning against Naruto's side to proffer more support, snatched up Sasuke's arm and began to ghost her fingers over his tenketsu. The Uchiha kept his face neutral and made no move to remove his hand, as the blue-haired girl carefully directed her chakra at her fingertips and began to gently open and close his tenketsu, as was her habit when she was nervous.

Usually when a Hyuuga Jyuukened someone's tenketsu, he or she forcefully jammed the chakra through to clog up the openings. This method though involved a slow opening and closing of the tenketsu as though they were locks. Tendrils of light-blue chakra poured into the tenketsu and slowly swirled around its' ridges, causing the nerve cell to close into itself from the foreign stimuli. This held a significant advantage since, as determined by the way Hinata's chakra would swirl, the tenketsu would either enlarge (thus giving greater access to reserves) or shrink (for finer chakra control).

This was an old Hyuuga chakra control exercise that was basically abandoned once they realized that it held few benefits for a Hyuuga's tenketsu, since making them any smaller would impair the power of their attacks, while making it any larger would cause them to lose the control necessary to attack at all. There was also the small matter of how it required such finely tuned chakra control that it was difficult for even a Hyuuga. Hinata was one of the few with the patience and the skill for Heaven's Blessed Touch.

Hinata's anxiety wasn't helped by the glares she was receiving from the fangirls for her overt familiarity with their Sasuke-kun. It didn't help the situation that Sasuke seemed to be in no hurry to remove his arm from her grasp. (They were unaware that this was largely due to his fear of her resulting anger)

Hinata was finally called, and she eagerly jumped up and rushed into the room. Five minutes later, it was the graceful Hyuuga heiress that coolly stepped out, with the Konoha headband tied around her neck. She held her noble demeanor for a few more seconds, before she squealed- causing several students to startle- and glomped her two best friends.

It really didn't help the situation that she had halfway crawled into Sasuke's lap to reach over him and tightly hug Naruto. Sakura, who had just received her headband a few minutes before Hinata, even stopped admiring it, to scowl at the bluenette.

Sasuke, and then Naruto, were called in right after the other, when the teachers' reached the U's, and each managed to pass with flying colors. Naruto asked, and received, permission to do a more advanced Bunshin, and then astounded his teachers with three perfect water clones. He had chosen not to do his usual Kage Bunshin on the advice (read: threat) of Hiashi, who hadn't really received "permission" to teach him a B-ranked kinjutsu.

When all of the students were finished, Iruka once again began to talk.

"While I'm glad for everything you've accomplished, I don't think there would be anything wrong with offering a chance for extra credit," Iruka said, grinning at the students. "So if anyone here would like to display a jutsu not shown at the Academy…?"

He had brought the students out to the courtyard, where any potential techniques would not accidentally destroy school property. This kind of thing wasn't really done. As the students traded nervous, yet anticipatory glances though, Iruka knew that he had offered them a chance to see how far their peers- and potentially they- could go with some extra work.

Naruto was the first to break through the anxiety. "Sensei! Sensei!" he called out, waving his hand in the air, "Can Sasuke, Hinata, and I do a Collaboration Technique?"

Iruka's eyebrows rose. That was certainly a surprise. "...Okay."

All three students stepped forward to face the wood and straw dummies at the middle of the courtyard. In near-perfect synchronization, their hands quickly began to move through different seals. Hinata finished her technique first, with an Ox sign- a signature Doton move.

"Doton: Mud balls!" she called out, spitting out fist-sized balls of clumped mud.

Sasuke's hands were next, "Katon: Phoenix Flowers!"

Naruto completed the formation with, "Futon: Great Breakthrough!"

The combination of the three attacks resulted in most of Hinata's mud balls combining with Sasuke's fireballs to form hardened pieces of stone with trailing tails of flames. Naruto's wind made the fire double in size, and vastly increased the speed of the attack. Under the class's shocked gaze, the projectiles of fire and stone hit their mark, in most cases literally ripping through the straw body and even setting the dummies ablaze.

The entire class was silent, except for Naruto.

"Wahoo! Our Combination Attack: Meteor Shower was a success!" he cheered. "Ha! Take that, Erojiji. Mangas are too a form of training!"

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During this time, a man with spiky, white hair was visiting the Hokage. He was tall, clad in simple, dark clothing, and wore a mask over the lower half of his face. One eye was hidden by his crooked forehead protector, but the other one glimmered with a sense of reluctant eagerness.

"Hokage-sama," Kakashi began, briefly bowing to the old man, "I have come here to make an early request for team placements."

"Kakashi," Hiruzen smiled at one of his most loyal and competent ninja, "Although I'm fairly sure as to what requests you will be making, I'll let you tell me to affirm that belief."

"I would like to have Sasuke Uchiha, Naruto Uzumaki, and Hinata Hyuuga as my students," Kakashi said, for once showing the serious side of his personality that made him the youngest- well, everything, from genin, to chuunin, to jounin, to ANBU. The sole accomplishment that Kakashi lacked was the Hokage position, of which he was a serious- if unwilling- contender for Godaime.

"I'm afraid I can't allow that," the Sandaime's gravelly voice said regretfully. At the man's stunned gaze, he elaborated, "Jiraiya has already demanded those three for his own team."

"Jiraiya-sama wants to create another genin team?" Kakashi frowned, "But I thought he was busy with his spy position…"

"He is, and that is why I would like to request that you work as an assistant sensei alongside him," Hiruzen replied, "I would normally refuse to let someone of Jiraiya's caliber do something as menial and time-consuming as training genin, but these three have already proven to flourish under his… unique brand of teaching. Moreover, they hold the potential to become a Konoha's Third Immediate Response Team. I'm willing to bank on Jiraiya developing that potential within them."

Kakashi's mouth fell open, "An Immediate Response Team? The last one was the Sannin, and before that, it was your team, Hokage-sama! Are they really that talented, that they could master enough shinobi fields to respond to any mission parameter?"

"I hope so," the Sandaime said, grimly, "There are some dark times approaching, Kakashi. I feel another war coming in my bones, though if its' with the other villages, or a different, greater threat, I don't know. For this reason, I have chosen to accept a tentative half-year shinobi exchange program with Mist and Sand. Teams 7 and 10 will be sent to Mist and Teams 8 and 9 will represent Konoha in Sand."

"You chose rookie teams to take part in an important diplomatic exchange?" Kakashi asked.

"I chose them as a sign of trust, since all but two are clan heirs, and Kiba is the son of the Inuzuka Clan Head," Hiruzen explained, "Moreover, they are the generation with the greatest potential to have ever come out of Konoha. I am an old man, Kakashi. I have made so many mistakes that I regret to this day. These children will form a different breed of shinobi; one that may fix the mistakes, we- their elders- have forced upon them."

He turned and looked out the window, "Should they form bonds of friendship with shinobi of other villages… should they experience humanity beyond their own narrow scopes of understanding… should they empathize with the men and women they may fight besides and fight against… perhaps, then, we will have a chance of ending this cycle of hatred our world has entered."

"That is not an easy thing to request from the next generation," Kakashi said, sorrowfully.

"No," Sarutobi agreed, "But nothing that was easy was worth fighting for."

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Two pale hands reached down and cupped a mouthful of fresh, cool water from the stream. Yugito brought it closer to her face, and took a long, greedy gulp. Her clothes- a simple dark purple shirt, black pants, and purple fingerless gloves- were scratched and dirtied. Her long, silvery-blonde hair had been carefully braided and twisted into an elegant half-knot.

Along her wrist was a string of rosary beads, with nine new additions: gold, violet, pink, light blue, yellow, silver, green, brown, and red. They were simple, marble-veined spheres with a scrap of glowing chakra embedded under the opaque surface. She indulged her nervous habit of tapping each of them, the first once, the second twice, and so on, until the ninth one received nine quick taps. They glowed dimly in response, and a smile, unbidden, surfaced to her face.

"Hey Yugito!" Naharu Teka, one of her comrades for this mission, called out, as he walked up to her, "Come on, we have to set up camp!"

"I'll be there in a minute," she called back, and watched the slightly older Chuunin walk away. Naharu was an alright fellow. He was wary of her tailed beast and her power, but kept a professional attitude throughout their border patrol, which was all that she could ask for really.

Yugito was more than a little surprised that she had been chosen for something as menial as border patrol in the first place. Sure, it was good experience for rookie Chuunin, but she could control the first stage of her Bijuu transformation already! Surely that meant she was capable to better and more difficult missions?

Yugito grimaced. Damn, she had sounded like a spoiled clan brat for a second there. Not that she wasn't a clan brat, but still, jiji would have given her fifty laps at least for acting so arrogant. She may have been a jinchuuriki, but she was still an inexperienced Chuunin, and Yugito resolved to keep that in mind.

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"Hey, Shibuki! Shhiiiibuuukiiii!" Fu called out, merrily, as she stood on a large pine that stood at the outskirts of Taki. The young girl had a completely ordinary appearance, unless you accounted for her unusual colouring with her olive skin tone, mint green hair, and orange eyes. That, and she was standing upside down.

"Try yelling a little louder, Fu," her new friend yelled back, irritably, "I think a few of the birds in the Eighth Sector haven't been woken up yet!"

Fu attributed the cause of his irritation to the fact that it was an ungodly hour of the morning, and judging by his disheveled, wet appearance he was training.

"Aren't you happy to see me?" Fu asked, mock sadly, "And here, I went through all that effort to bring you breakfast…"

Shibuki's stomach grumbled loudly at that word and he brightened, "Breakfast? Really?" Then a sign of hesitation appeared, "Ah, you don't have to bring me anything, Fu…"

"It's fine," she assured him, "I'm not running out of food anytime soon." The words, and the concern, both filled her with a sense of pleasure. Rarely had she been in a position where she had extra food, and even less often, had been the concern of someone else on her behalf.

"Great!" Shibuki replied, gesturing for her to take a seat besides him on one of the mossy logs that littered the field, "I was just practicing my water-walking. Eh, why are you standing upside down?"

Fu released her chakra, and flipped down on the ground, "Practice."

"You really love being able to tree-walk, don't you?" Shibuki asked, rhetorically, "I'd lay off it a little if I were you. All that blood getting into your head will just kill off brain cells. And it's not like you have that many to spare."

"Just for that I'm not sharing these omelets that Yagura sent me," Fu shot back, laughing as Shibuki hastily fell into long and desperate apologies. She unsealed two containers of food and passed one to her grateful friend. It was nice to eat with someone for a change… and later, maybe she could learn a new skill. Water-walking sounded like that kind of useful thing Shibuki totally had to share.

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Omake: Hinata's Training School of Seduction

A dozen-or-so preteen girls, between the ages of twelve and thirteen, stepped into a small building at the outskirts of the village. They were nervously giggling and looking around as they walked in. Several of the girls had shiny forehead protectors wrapped at different places in their body, but most of them were civilians. They settled down to the floor, on the brightly colored cushions that were scattered everywhere, and smiled at one another.

A delicate rice paper screen with a bright blue filigree partitioned most of the room from a small corner, where a shadow of a slip of a girl could be seen. The girl was lounging carelessly against an armful of cushions, feet tucked under the loose fabric of her kimono.

"Ohayo, my disciples," a gentle voice spoke from behind the screen, "I'm glad that you have all managed to arrive safely to this location."

One of the girls recognized that voice. "Hinata!" Sakura exclaimed, surprised, "You're the mysterious benefactor who sent us those fliers?"

"Yes, and you're the eager disciple who was the first to send in the payment," Hinata said, approvingly.

Sakura blushed. "Well… yeah…" she mumbled, proud and a little embarrassed, "It was totally worth it if I can snag Sasuke-kun!"

Her expression suddenly turned suspicious though. "What qualifications do you have for teaching us though? You don't even like Sasuke!"

Hinata nodded, "Yes, so I'm not competition."

"But you're not any closer to him than we are though," another girl chimed in, "What makes you knowledgeable about Sasuke's heart?"

"Well, have any of you been inside of Sasuke's room?" Four girls raised their hands, and Hinata sweatdropped.

"Have you ever been invited into his room?" she qualified, and the hands went down.

"Have any of you ever got to hug him? Have any of you ever cooked him a meal that he actually ate?" she continued, "Have any of you ever seen him without any clothing on… including his pants?"

The girls gasped in awe, as Hinata nodded wisely. "Will anyone else be questioning my abilities?"

No one else moved. "Okay then. Now to start with, Sasuke wears blue and white boxers to bed…"

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