"Hey Cutie-Pop," a kind, concerned, feminine voice said from above him, and Naruto looked up to see a really pretty lady. Her black hair was cut short and feathery around her face, and there was shimmery stuff on her eyelids and her lips were extra extra red, while the rest of her skin was pale. She was dressed in a long, tan coat that was buttoned right up to her neck with the belt tied tight around her middle. "What are you doing out here? Isn't it past your bed-time?"
"Got kicked out of the orphanage," Naruto answered.
"Poor baby!" the pretty lady said, sympathetically. She crouched down where she stood – and that was impressive, considering the really high heels she was wearing on her feet – and stroked Naruto's face gently. "That's just not right. The only reasons you shouldn't be at the orphanage are if you're too old or got a new family. I don't think you're too old, are you?"
Naruto shook his head. "I'm four," he answered. "I know there's kids at the orphanage older than me. An' I don't got a new family either," he supplied.
"Well, I'm not going to leave you out here by yourself. Come on Cutie-Pop, you're coming with me. You'll have to stay quiet and out of the way, but you can stay back stage at my work for a while."
Naruto smiled up at the nice lady. "Thank you!" he chirped. "I'm Naruto! What's your name?"
"I'm called Kotori-chan," the nice lady answered, and took one of Naruto's hands in her own, then tugged him up so that he was standing and lead him through the streets to the back door of a building.
Once they were inside, lots of female voice called out greetings to Kotori-chan.
"Everybody, this is Naruto-chan," Kotori-chan said once there was a slight lull in the greetings. "He was kicked out of the orphanage."
Every one of the pretty ladies in the room frowned at that, making similar exclamations of 'poor dear' or 'poor baby' like Kotori-chan had when Naruto had told her that himself.
"So I thought I'd bring him here for the night. Naruto-chan will stay quiet and out of the way, won't you Cutie-Pop?" she asked, directing that last at Naruto, who nodded firmly and enthusiastically.
"And I can fetch things if they're not too high, or look for things that might have been dropped if you need me to!" the child added, wanting to be helpful.
"Aw, so cute!" another lady said, smiling as she crouched down in front of Naruto like Kotori-chan had done. "Come with me now Naruto-chan, Kotori-chan has to finish getting ready right now. I'll find you a quiet spot to tuck away in with a blanket, and maybe something to eat?"
"Thank you very much!" Naruto enthused with a smile as wide as his whole face.
"You call me Cho-chan, alright Cutie-Pop?" this new lady said as she gently tugged Naruto over to another part of the room. "And if you ever get kicked out of the orphanage again, you come back here, alright? We'll take care of you."
"Hai, Cho-chan!" Naruto agreed.
Naruto returned to that back door every night, and after a few lessons from the ladies when they had a moment between the times they had to go out a door that Naruto was not allowed to peek through, was actually very helpful around the dressing room. He learned how to apply and remove make up quickly and well. He learned how to secure a wig over hair so that none of the real hair showed through, and then how to make that real hair look like it hadn't been under a wig when the wig came off. He learned how to give foot-massages after a few lessons, and then shoulder and neck-massages, and back massages, and he learned about different moisturisers and perfumes and curling styles. He learned about cramps and pain medication and smiling even when it hurt and all the kind ladies wanted to do was curl up in a bubble bath with a block of chocolate. He learned how to do sums by helping the ladies count the money that they got when they came back in through the door he wasn't allowed near, and they taught him how to read and write as well. Naruto even learned how to work a laundry machine.
He learned a lot of other things too. Things like descriptions of big tippers each night, the names of regulars (though he had no idea what they looked like, or what kind of things went on beyond the door he wasn't allowed near), and things about each of the nice ladies families. Things like how all of them either had grabby landlords or bitter landladies, and they had to ask permission to make the smallest changes to their apartments and it took forever to get things fixed.
So, when the Old Man came by the orphanage one day and asked Naruto what he wanted for his upcoming birthday, Naruto had an answer ready.
"I'd like an apartment building please," the boy said in his most polite voice.
The Sandaime blinked in understandable surprise. "What would you want with an apartment building Naruto?" he asked, curious and a little bit worried.
"Well, all the nice ladies who take care of me at night don't like their apartments, so I thought I'd thank them for being so nice to me and taking care of me by giving them new apartments where they could paint the walls if they wanted, and the plumbing wouldn't be backed up for a week waiting for a plumber, or -"
The Hokage held up a hand to cut off the boy's list. "That's very thoughtful of you Naruto," he said with a smile. "But who are these nice ladies that take care of you at night? Aren't you here, at the orphanage, at night?"
Naruto shook his head. "Nu-uh," he answered. "I get kicked out in the nights, and one night Kotori-chan found me and took me with her to where she worked and I got to meet Cho-chan and Kyoku-chan and Chika-chan and Chiharu-chan and Eri-chan and Momo-chan and Mi-chan and Ran-chan and Saki-chan and Suzume-chan! They're not all there every night, like whenever Cho-chan is there, then Mi-chan isn't, and you never see Chika-chan without Chiharu-chan being nearby, which means that there isn't room for Kyoku-chan or Ran-chan at the mirrors and cupboards, but they all call me Cutie-Pop and they've been very kind to me so I want to do this for them and their families! Please Hokage-jiji?" Naruto begged, bringing out the ultimate weapon: big, watery, shiny eyes and a very small, hopeful pout over clasped hands that were right under his chin as he made his appeal.
The old man tried to resist. Really he did. This wasn't something he could just say 'yes' to as easily as all that after all. There were a great many complexities involved in such an undertaking. Besides which...
"I thought you might ask to enter the Ninja Academy for your birthday this year," the Hokage said, trying to delay his answer and divert the boy's attention. Anything to stop those eyes. "Since you'd finally be old enough."
Naruto blinked. The Eyes of Doom disappeared, thankfully, and the boy lowered his head as he thought, and thought deeply if the expression on his face was any indication.
"I would like to be a ninja," Naruto agreed quietly, "but I want to do something for -"
"Yes, Naruto," the Hokage said, interrupting before Naruto could name every one of the ladies again. "But getting you an apartment building is going to be a difficult thing to do. All the ones we have in Konoha right now are owned by other people, and I don't think any of them are selling any time soon."
Naruto shuffled his feet and bit his lip. "Maybe, build one?" he asked. "I don't mind if it's a next year birthday present. It will be something to look forward to, and I promise to work extra-extra hard at the Academy to be the very best student, an' I'll do odd jobs for you around the Tower if you need me to!"
The old man smiled down at the blonde child. Already so thoughtful of others, so responsible, even so young as he was. "I'll see what I can do, and I suppose, if you're going to have an apartment building for the nice ladies, that you could live there too." He hadn't forgotten what Naruto had said about being kicked out of the orphanage at night. He just knew that there was no point in pressing the matter with Naruto.
He'd be pressing it with the people who the Council had set to run the orphanage. Or... maybe he wouldn't, since Naruto seemed to prefer the company of the 'nice ladies' he had met and wanted to build an apartment block just so that he could thank them for taking care of him. It wasn't until he left the orphanage behind that Sarutobi realised that he'd essentially agreed, within himself, to getting that new apartment complex built for Naruto's next birthday present.
"Ah! Look at this girls!" Ran-chan called when Naruto arrived at the back door, a leaf stuck to his forehead with chakra, as that had been the day's lesson at the Academy. "Cutie-Pop is practising to become a ninja!"
For a while, Naruto was cooed over by the ladies present, and did very well in keeping the leaf on his forehead through it all, and then for the rest of the night helping the ladies with all the things that needed to be done while they were in the back room until he was so tired he fell asleep, as usually happened around about midnight before he woke again at five in the morning to help with last clean up before they all left for the day.
Once he was down for the count and tucked under the dryer in the laundry room, the ladies started talking more quietly amongst themselves.
"Cutie-Pop, a ninja," Ran-chan said quietly.
"He'll be learning all sorts of things," Cho-chan added. "I had an uncle who was a ninja before he died," she paused, clearly thinking back to her memory of the man. A smile spread across her face. "He was fit," she commented.
Giggles rippled through the room.
"Ne," called Kyoku-chan softly. "Do you think, maybe, it would help our Cutie-Pop to learn the things we do?" she asked, pointing to the stage door. "Well it is good exercise," she justified in a quiet huff when all the other girls stared at her, incredulous.
"It's also completely inappropriate for -" Momo-chan began in a soft hiss.
Kotori-chan cut off the other woman by stretching her arm out in front of her face. "No," she said softly. "It's a good idea. A ninja should be flexible, as well as strong. I'm not saying we teach him how to strip for tips or any of that, but dancing and working the pole, that sort of thing."
Heads nodded in agreement, some slightly more reluctant than others.
"It certainly can't hurt," was the final, verbal agreement. It came from Eri-chan. "But where, when and how are we going to be able to teach him?" she asked.
"I'll talk to Gojyo-san and Hakkai-san," Cho-chan volunteered in a soft, solemn voice. "Maybe they'll let us use a private room for Cutie-Pop's lessons."
Smirks spread around the room.
"Especially if they're allowed to watch the lessons," Ran-chan quipped.
Still, they had a plan, and that was the thing. The two men who ran the club were good guys, didn't take big cuts from the tips the girls got, much more making their money off the bar and poker tables that also ran in the club. They were good bosses, never grabbed at them or leered, though they did occasionally run an eye over them, but that was more appreciation and approval than lechery, letting the girls know without saying so that they looked great and would knock all the customer's socks off. They were also good about getting the rowdy and grabby customers out of the club, as well as the unpleasant drunks.
The guys even knew about Naruto being in the backstage every night. When they'd found out, they'd just grinned, then laughed, and said that as long as the kid wasn't causing the girls problems, then they didn't mind at all.
Before the night was out and the sun had begun to rise, Cho-chan had mentioned the idea to Gojyo, who talked it over with Hakkai, and the two men joined the ladies backstage just a bit after Naruto woke up.
"Hey Kid," Gojyo greeted with a smile. This was actually the first time that he and Hakkai would be meeting the boy, rather than just hearing about him. "I'm Gojyo, and this is my friend Hakkai. We own this place."
Naruto sat up, rubbing the sleep out of his eyes. "Pleased to meet you Sir," the boy answered politely. Then he was clearly struck by a terrible thought. "I'm not in trouble for sleeping here, am I?" he asked, hopefully. "The nice ladies aren't in trouble for letting me, are they?" he asked, desperately.
Gojyo and Hakkai chuckled. "Nah Kid," Gojyo answered with a smile. "But Cho-chan here tells us you started your ninja training."
Naruto bobbed his head frantically. "Just yesterday Sir!" Naruto answered.
The two grown men chuckled again. Naruto really was a cute kid. They hadn't lost anybody to the Kyuubi when it rampaged, hadn't even gotten to Konoha yet when that happened. The pair of them had arrived in the re-build stage, and had missed the announcement of Naruto's prisoner. They had no reason to hate him at all.
"Well, the girls here thought, since you're going to be a ninja, that they would like to teach you a few more things," Hakkai said with a gentle smile. "I understand you've been a good student to them with all the other things they've been teaching you?"
Naruto beamed and nodded his head again. "I really like learning from them all!" he enthused.
"We've loved teaching you, Cutie-Pop," Kotori-chan said from behind her bosses.
"What time do you get out from the Academy each day, Kid?" Gojyo asked with a crooked smile on his tanned face.
"Uh... Four from Monday to Friday, two on Saturdays, and I don't go at all on Sundays," he answered, nodding once he'd finished, sure that he'd gotten it right.
"Alright then, here's what we're gonna do," Gojyo decided. "You'll come here every Monday through Friday for an hour after you're done at the Academy for lessons from the girls, you'll get Saturday off, and then on Sundays you stay here the whole day. You can alternate between practising what you've learned during the week and helping around with the day-jobs out front. Alright?"
Naruto nodded, wide-eyed. "I'm gonna see what's past the door?" he asked.
Hakkai and Gojyo nodded silently, small smiles on their faces.
"But you're not going to actually use that door without either one of us or one of the girls taking you through it," Hakkai clarified. "It goes onto a stage, and you have to learn all sorts of things before you can be let onto a stage on your own."
Naruto nodded solemnly, understanding what he was being told. "Thank you Genjo-san, Hakkai-san," he said earnestly and almost too seriously for a child his age.
Gojyo grinned and ruffled Naruto's blonde hair. "Our pleasure Kid," he assured the five-year-old.
Lessons at the Ninja Academy included lots of history, lots of running, lots of throwing blunted (and not always balanced) kunai at hay bales, throwing equally blunted (and often even less balanced) shuriken at hay bales, more history, very basic chakra control (the leaf exercise), and (at the moment) not much else. There was rumour that the girls also were taught about flower arranging, and that next year there would be lessons in things like tracking, trapping, and lock-picking, but for Naruto, that would be next year, when he was six. Currently, he was still five and his favourite lessons were the ones he had after the Academy let out for the day.
The ladies took turns teaching him, always in short shorts and sleeveless, tight tops.
"Our clothes have to be like this," Chika-chan explained when Naruto asked. "Because it is our skin that gives us grip on the slippery pole. Here," she said, taking hold of Naruto's arm pressing it against the pole. "See? Your skin clings to the pole, just a little, but a little is enough."
Naruto nodded, able to see perfectly well – and feel, more to the point – that his skin stuck to the cool metal of the pole, just a bit, as Chika-chan had said.
"Now, if we do that with cloth, or something else slippery between us and the pole, then we fall off and hurt ourselves. There are some things we wear that will give us grip, but you wouldn't want to wear leather shorts for hours on a warm day while you're doing a workout, would you Cutie-Pop?"
Naruto shook his head vigorously. No, he would not.
"Mm," Chika-chan nodded. "But it's these hard sorts of fabrics that will give stick, rather than the soft, comfortable ones, so we wear less clothes so that we can be comfortable while we do this. Okay?"
Naruto nodded. "I understand, Chika-chan!" he insisted.
His lessons there, under supervision of Gojyo and Hakkai, included things like pulling himself up the pole with just his hands, or hanging from it upside-down by his legs and not sliding down, or controlling how much he slid and how fast. He learned how to do twirls on the pole and hang by one arm, how to flip himself upwards with his hands and all sorts of other things.
Before, Naruto was willing to bend over backwards to help the nice ladies. Now, he actually could bend over backwards quite easily thanks to the 'dance' lessons the girls gave him. He was taught kicks and handstands and the differences between doing them from the ground and the pole, and then he was taught new kicks, and twirls, and how to climb upwards, upside-down with just his hands.
He learned about doing similar feats across the ground without the pole to help hold him up too. He could do series of back flips, forward flips, he could tumble in any direction, cartwheel forwards and backwards, walk on his hand or drop to his knees without hurting himself. He could do the splits on the ground or holding himself up off the ground.
Then Hakkai suggested that, as a ninja, Naruto might benefit from learning how to do all that sort of thing on a rope, rather than a pole, as there was no guarantee that there would be handy poles on missions, but he could carry something like rope with him.
So Naruto learned it all over again, and learned even more things that could only be done with rope that couldn't be done with a pole (like rope-burn!), and then he learned the differences between rope and other lengths of fabric that could be used in a similar way, and he practised all day every Sunday.
When the Hokage presented Naruto with the apartment building he'd asked for – his gift for his sixth birthday – Naruto was thrilled and got all the girls, Gojyo and Hakkai to help make it exactly what they wanted it to be, since Gojyo and Hakkai lived in a small apartment a block away from their business, and they didn't like their landlord much either, and Naruto wanted to thank them too, for being so nice to him.
The entire top floor of the building was converted into a place were Naruto, the girls, and even Gojyo and Hakkai could practice and train (Gojyo and Hakkai liked to work with weights just to keep in good health), and all the girls – and their families – got enough space to themselves, and Naruto explained how they didn't have to ask permission to get anything done to their apartments that they wanted done, since he knew they weren't going do anything that could be bad.
Gojyo and Hakkai had shared a look, and Hakkai had taken Naruto aside to explain everything that a person needed to know about account-keeping, since owning a home – which is essentially what the apartment building was for them all now – was simply fraught with expenses.
Naruto soaked up these lessons just as eagerly as he learned everything else he was taught.
Naruto was seven when he first watched one of the ladies – Mi-chan in this instance – practising a new routine that she would perform on the stage at the club. It was the first time that he was really exposed to anything that could be called 'sexual'. The clothes that the ladies wore backstage could be called 'skimpy', and Naruto had often wondered (before he was taught how to work the pole) how they could sweat so much while wearing so little. Of course he'd learned, but...
"Hey Kid," Gojyo greeted, laying a hand on Naruto's shoulder as he came to stand beside the boy and watch Mi-chan begin to really get her groove on. "She looks good, huh?" he commented absently.
Naruto nodded. "That's what they all do on the stage?" he asked quietly, ripping his bright blue eyes away from the sight of Mi-chan's practice session.
Gojyo nodded. "That and more," he answered simply. It was fact, and he wasn't a liar. Lying would be a disservice to the kid. "It's a demanding profession, just like being a ninja is -"
"You got that right," Naruto quipped softly. He knew how demanding the pole was alright.
Gojyo smiled, but continued as though he hadn't been interrupted. "But at the same time, it's easy money because the girls all enjoy it," he explained. "Their work makes them look sexy, and everybody likes to be sexy and be around other beautiful people." A chuckle escaped Gojyo's lips. "That's vanity, Kid. Even Hakkai and me are like that. It's why we work out, though in different ways to the girls. Old guys like us -" Gojyo and Hakkai were between thirty and thirty-five, which wasn't really old, but they were certainly older than Naruto. "- are too stiff to take up the pole. We don't have the flexibility like you, and you'll keep that flexibility too, if you keep yourself limber, so we work out in different ways. Capishe?"
Naruto cocked his head up at Gojyo, not recognising the word. He could guess, from the context, but he'd never heard it before.
"Ah," Gojyo seemed to register the boy's confusion and its source. "That's Italian, don't worry about that, it's a very, very far away place. My folks came from there a long, long time ago. It's one of the few words that really hung around after all the generations. It means 'do you understand?'"
Naruto nodded. "I, er, I capishe?" he said, wondering if that was right.
Gojyo laughed and shook his head. "Man, Kid, no. You just say 'yes' or 'no' when you're asked that. If there's a proper Italian answer to that, it didn't get passed down in my family," Gojyo said, ruffling Naruto's hair fondly.
That was the year that jutsu theory and the 'Academy Three' started being taught to Naruto. There were still lessons that had him and his peers running laps, and listening to boring history lectures, but the tracking and trapping and lock-picking lessons had only been last year, and weren't carried over at all – which seemed strange to Naruto. He also thought it was weird that they weren't being taught how to actually fight yet, still just throwing badly balanced weapons at stationary targets from a standing position.
Naruto knew the weapons were badly balanced too. Hakkai had taken a look at the kunai and shuriken that Naruto had brought home to practice throwing with and declared them horribly balanced. Naruto had asked how the man could tell, and gotten a very thorough explanation of how a weapon was balanced. He hadn't thought to ask how Hakkai knew though. Naruto just took it for granted that the grown-ups around him knew stuff.
"New lesson!" Gojyo and Hakkai declared happily when Naruto was eight. It was his birthday, and every one of the ladies had taken directions from their bosses on what to buy the boy for his gifts this year, since the men had a 'Plan'. Naruto had been confused by more than a few of the gifts he'd been given at the time, but they were being explained to him now.
"This, Naruto, is more than just a long, smooth stick. It is a weapon," Hakkai expounded, picking up the bo-staff that Naruto had been given by Saki-chan. "It gives you reach," he began, stepping back from Gojyo and bringing the staff down fast over the other man's head, stopping before he actually hit his friend. "It is versatile," he continued, swiping it one-handed at Gojyo's feet – the man jumped over it. "It is unassuming," Hakkai added, leaning on it like a tall walking stick. "And it is strong despite it's light weight," he finished, pulling himself up on the pole for a brief moment, using it like a pole-vaulter might.
"And it's adaptable," Gojyo added, taking the staff from Hakkai and picking up another of Naruto's birthday gifts – a sort of short machete with a hollow handle – and screwing it on the end of the staff. There were lots of other interesting things with hollow handles that Naruto had been given as well, and now he understood better about why that was.
"So cool," the boy said with awe, then he frowned as his eyes fell on one of the gifts that didn't look like it had anything to do with the staff or any of its possible attachments. "But what's that?" he asked, pointing to the coil of woven brown skins. Suzume-chan had given it to him.
"That's a whip, Kid," Gojyo answered with a grin. "You remember all that stuff you learned how to do on the rope?"
Naruto nodded, with a slight roll of his eyes. That was a stupid question. Of course he remembered! He practised every day!
"And you remember how you got rope burns the first time?" Gojyo pressed.
Naruto nodded again, wincing in remembrance. Those had hurt, and he was really glad that Hakkai had a cream to put on those burns to make them stop burning.
"Well Kid, a whip won't give you rope-burns, but it's kinda like a rope. The bonus of a whip though, is that it can do other stuff that a rope can't," Gojyo explained. Then paused and frowned in a moment of thought. "Of course, you'll have to watch out for whip-lash until you get the hang of it."
Hakkai chuckled as he picked up the coiled leather length and gently tossed it to his friend for Gojyo to demonstrate.
Gojyo grinned as he unwound the whip. "There are different sorts of whips out there," Gojyo said as he let the coils fall to the floor while he held the thick handle in his hand. "But this one's called a bullwhip. Now, here's something that a rope won't do," Gojyo declared with a grin as he lashed the whip across the room to where the pole was. The end wrapped around the metal upright and when Gojyo pulled it didn't come loose.
"With a rope, you'd have to tie a knot," Hakkai said to Naruto, who was staring, again with awe in his bright blue eyes.
"But the whip is made from animal skin, so, like your skin, it grips the pole," Gojyo explained. "I'll get it loose and then Hakkai and me will start teaching you how to use these, okay?"
Naruto nodded eagerly, but then he frowned as a thought occurred to him. "How do you know how to use them?" he asked.
"We travelled around before coming to Konoha, Kid," Gojyo said, ruffling blonde hair on his way past to the pole.
"Gojyo and I had to defend ourselves on the road somehow," Hakkai added with a gentle smile. "I know we don't need them ourselves any more, but we haven't completely forgotten how to use these, and I'm sure you'll come up with even more ideas."
Naruto beamed brightly at the compliment.
It was true though. With all the pole training he'd had, he could see himself using the staff like a portable pole if he needed to. The whip too, Naruto was sure he could use like a hung rope just as easily as anything else if he needed to.
"One more thing, Kid," Gojyo said as he came back with the coiled whip in his left hand. "You're gonna need to learn how to take care of all this stuff, so it stays in top condition so it will work for you when you need it most."
Naruto nodded, and it was somewhere between a solemn nod and an enthusiastic nod. He could hardly wait to learn!
Hakkai and Gojyo smiled at the boy, his determination to succeed and make them proud of him written all over his face. That was enough right there to make them proud of the kid.
Taijutsu lessons at the Academy finally started when Naruto was nine, and he surprised a lot of people by being really good right off – something that, normally, only clan children could boast, as they'd usually been trained in the family style a little bit by this time already.
Particularly, his peers and the instructors were surprised when, at a moment that one of the boys had started to move in on him, Naruto had bent backwards, put his weight on his palms, and raised his feet in a smooth movement that caught the other boy's chin, lifting him off the ground before Naruto brought his feet back down and stood up. His opponent had been forced, face first, into the ground that was now behind Naruto, and he turned quickly so that he didn't have his back to the 'enemy' for long.
The other boy was laid out, however, and clearly the loser of the bout. Naruto, as he left the 'arena' considered his hands. The dirt of the practice yard had stuck a bit over his hands, and the nine-year-old was considering what would happen if he tried that manoeuvre on different surfaces. Sand would probably be alright, likewise grass, but dirt roads often had lots of small stones all over, which would hurt his palms, and what if he was trying that somewhere that had lots of small, sharp rocks lying around? Not good. He was going to have to buy himself some tough gloves that he could pull on when he needed to. Of course, they'd also have to be flexible enough to let him make the hand-signs of jutsu if he needed one of those in the middle of a fight.
That meant asking the ladies about clothes – the favourite collective pass time for all of them. Oh, each one had something they liked more than shopping for clothes, but the only thing all of them agreed on as fun was clothes shopping. Yes, for those wondering, that included shoes.
"Oi! Uzumaki! Who taught you that?" demanded one of the sensei – a grey-haired chunin called Mizuki – with an unpleasant expression on his face.
"That move I just did?" Naruto asked, innocently seeking clarification from the man while he quickly decided he would not be helpful. "Momo-chan taught me that one!" he said, giving absolutely no indication that he would say anything else on the matter.
Mizuki pressed though. "And who is 'Momo-chan'?" he growled.
"Momo-chan is Momo-chan," Naruto answered, his tone suggesting that it was the most obvious thing in the world, and Mizuki-sensei was an idiot for not realising that.
Then Iruka-sensei quietly ordered Mizuki-sensei to back off, and called the next two kids into the 'arena' for a spar.
From ages ten until twelve, lessons at the Academy were repeated, reviewed, tested, and difficulty increased where possible. There was no extra weapons training, still just kunai and shuriken with the use of ninja wire and exploding tags added as offensive items rather than just being used as parts of traps. It was when he was twelve that Naruto 'invented' a 'new' ninja technique.
Iruka-sensei just yelled at him for being stupid with the henge technique, but... What Naruto called the 'Orioke no Jutsu' wasn't the henge. Oh sure, it transformed the person performing it, just like the henge, but it was different.
The Orioke always, always, made the person performing it appear as one of the opposite gender. It was solid, unlike the henge which was a minor and localised genjutsu and couldn't be touched. It also required a certain level of knowledge of the human body to work properly. A dual understanding actually. First, it was important to know the inside of the body, the anatomy, things that were best learned from intense study of medical texts. Second, the person performing the technique had to have an idea of the outside of the body, and what about bodies of the opposite gender they found 'sexy' so that such things could be applied to the technique. Alternately, it could be applied to make you look like any other person of the opposite gender, but it was designed for a specific reason.
Anybody who didn't understand this about the Orioke no Jutsu would likely just perform a henge. Intangible and easily discovered as false.
Naruto invented it so that when one of the nice ladies couldn't perform for whatever reason, he could fill in for her in the show – having finally been fully educated on everything that went on in Gojyo and Hakkai's club. He didn't have a problem with it, after all, it was just dancing, however scantily clad it was. The customers were only allowed so close, and it wasn't like the girls were ashamed of their work or anything like that. Still, the solid Orioke allowed Naruto to actually, properly fill in. The first time he did this, he filled in for Kotori-chan.
Learning how to walk in heels (while also learning how to move around with his new height thanks to the technique) had been a challenge, but as with all challenges presented to him, Naruto rose to the occasion and performed admirably.
Once, just once, Naruto didn't disguise himself as one of the other ladies when he went on stage, and performed with the staff and whip that he'd been training with. He got a lot of applause and more than just a few tips from his performance. Of course, there was a second instance of Naruto using that 'original' guise when he was twelve: he used it to... borrow a few scrolls from the Hokage's office and private library. He returned them of course, but using the Orioke meant that the ninja thought they were looking for an eighteen-year-old, busty blonde woman rather than cute little Naruto, so he got to study the scrolls in peace for a few days before he returned them the day before his genin exam.
He learned a lot of things from those scrolls, not all of it nice, but he'd certainly be keeping what he'd learned to himself. Besides, it wasn't like anybody was going to ask him about any of it. He wasn't supposed to know in the first place. Not about the Kyuubi sealed in his stomach, not about the identities of his parents, not all the other S-ranked secrets that really had little or nothing to do with him, and certainly not the near thousand dangerous jutsu that had been contained in those scrolls. It really was a very handy thing that the first thing he'd come across in those scrolls was the Kage Bunshin no Jutsu, as it meant it only took him a few days to read everything rather than a few months. Of course, it would likely still take him a long time to actually process everything he'd learned – and master the jutsu.
But he had time and Kage Bunshin both on his side for now, so that wasn't too much of a problem.