Hi, this is a one-shot that came to me when I saw some episodes how Iruka wasn't there for Naruto and how Naruto accused him for it. What if Iruka had paid more attention to all of his students and gave them more physical training? What if he didn't let resentment for Kyubi cloud his perception?
I don't own Naruto, only this idea. This is a one-shot and I don't plan on making it a longer story.
Iruka Umino looked over the class he had got. All the kids were just ten years old and had been selected to undergo the more advanced shinobi training the academy offered. There were a lot of clan heirs in this class. Most notably the Hyuga heiress and the last Uchiha. There also were a lot of civilian children next to the clan heirs. He wondered how many of them would persevere through the hard training. On top of all those promising children he had the jinchuriki of Konoha in his class. Naruto Uzumaki. He didn't like that at all, but he wouldn't let the boy be the reason to lose his professional attitude. He would treat him like any other student.
After taking roll call and trying to memorize the faces of his students for the next years he gave them a lecture on how hard the job of a shinobi would be and that he expected them to take their education serious. He noticed that some, like the Nara heir, were disinterested in his lecture. Well, he would see about that. Nothing worked better to get a Nara to work than forcing more physical training on them. And he could be as scary as an angry Nara female without problem.
"Alright. While the teaching plan for your year requires you to learn certain theoretical skills, I don't believe that good ninjas are made by studying in a class room. You are here to become skilled fighters for our village. That means you need to be in good physical condition. Therefore we will start each morning with two hours of workout. A ninja needs a strong body, so this is what we will be working on first. As soon as your bodies are ready for it, we will incorporate taijutsu spars. You will be tested on what type of body you have and we will determine which kind of style would fit you. Before we get there, you will learn the basic academy style." Iruka stated.
He noticed that now most children listened to him.
"For your information, my name is Iruka Umino, I'm a chunin and you will call me Iruka sensei. After the two hours of working out, we will work on your chakra control and you will learn your first easy jutsus once you have a certain level of control. So the speed you get to learn jutsus depends on your effort which you put into the control exercises you will learn." He said sternly. "Next will be lunch and then an hour of theory as you need to take a break from physical activity after eating. In the afternoon we will cover weapons and medical skills. This will be your training plan for the next year. Don't expect this to be easy. If you have problems, tell me so that we can work on a solution."
Most children nodded.
"Now get outside, we will do a little evaluation and see where you stand right now." Iruka said and led the group outside.
The academy had a track where he would test the speed and endurance of the kids. He would start with a classic.
"First task is running for fifteen minutes. I will set up a timer which will ring when the time is up. You will run as many rounds as you can in that time. In this bag are bands that will count the distance you have covered in the allotted time. Come here and get one, put it on your arm and then get to the start line." Iruka instructed them.
Once all the children had a band around their arm, Iruka directed them to the starting line and let them run. He soon saw that the Uchiha boy, the Inuzuka boy and the Uzumaki boy were the fastest three. He was a bit surprised seeing the demon container doing this well, but then again, he was known to be hard to catch after a prank. He being a good runner was somewhat understandable. Iruka quickly noticed that many kids weren't physically fit enough to really do well in this task. Mostly girls and civilian boys. He wondered why that was the case. The basic training of the last three years of these kids should have given them more stamina. He had intentionally only set the time at fifteen minutes. A real shinobi had to be able to last for hours. It seemed as if his decision to put more focus on the practical skills and less on theory, even if the civilian council had tried to force the opposite to be done, was correct. If these kids didn't shape up they wouldn't last in this profession and be killed on their first missions outside of the village. He had become a teacher to prevent exactly that.
Once all children had finished the fifteen minutes some were already exhausted. Well, he would train them up.
"Good. Now come here one by one so that I can write down your covered distance." He told them and once he wrote down the results he took back the bands.
Then he set them to stretching their muscles. He didn't want them to get cramps.
"The next exercise is similar. You get a minute each to perform push-ups, sit-ups, pull-ups, jumping jacks, punches and kicks against a training dummy. I will again note your performance." He told them and had them tested in groups.
He was not impressed with the results of the class as a whole. Even the clan children didn't perform spectacularly. He had his work cut out for him. What the hell did the instructors for the earlier years do with their time? He really doubted the concept of the academy right now. While he had never been an exceptional ninja, he had been better at this age concerning stamina and body strength.
During the lunch break Iruka put the results of his first evaluation on a ranking sheet. And he was very confused that Naruto Uzumaki ranked third, just behind Kiba Inuzuka and Sasuke Uchiha. He had got his file which said that the boy had no talent at all and that he should be dropped from the program. Somehow he suspected that the hatred of the Kyubi was the reason. But even he, who didn't know much about sealing, understood the concept that Naruto was the prison and not the prisoner. He would have to see just how much the boy didn't know. From his first impression he had talent and more importantly the drive to work for his skills, something that many children lacked. While he wasn't comfortable in the boy's presence, he wouldn't deprive Konoha of a talented young shinobi.
The following weeks Iruka build an opinion of all of his students based on the behaviour they showed in his classes. To his surprise since he had taken the class the pranks that Naruto played had massively decreased. Instead you could bet to find the boy on the training grounds of the academy. It was a noticeable change to before and Iruka wondered why that was. He didn't think that he had done something special. He had trained all of his students equally. He had no favourites. It was unprofessional to give one student more attention than another. And if Iruka Umino prided himself for anything it was his professionalism. He didn't go easy on the kids, but he was fair and helped all those that were serious about becoming a ninja.
Naruto sat in class and really paid attention. He had never experienced a teacher like Iruka sensei. While he didn't think that Iruka liked him very much, he also didn't think that he hated him outright like Takato sensei or Botou sensei. His previous teachers had always sent him out of class when something worth learning had been discussed on one flimsy excuse of the other. Iruka didn't do that. And he made learning interesting. They spent most of the day training how to really be a good ninja, not only having to listen to boring things like history or politics. No, in Iruka sensei's theory lessons they learned about strategy during a fight, trap building basics, important ninjas of other nations to prepare them when they were out in the field, which included all their cool specialties, infiltration techniques and much more. Naruto was very interested in all of this. He would become a great shinobi if he could learn this.
And for the first time he got praise if he did something well. Iruka sensei had praised his speed and endurance in training. He had been given pointers how to improve his techniques. He hadn't known about the importance of a balanced diet for your body. Nobody had ever told him before. Iruka sensei had told him that to be a good shinobi his body needed different nutrients. And when he had complained that he hated eating vegetables, Iruka sensei had suggested asking Teuchi Ichiraku to add them into his ramen. Iruka sensei was so smart. Naruto had followed the suggestion and with ramen even vegetables were acceptable, even if he would never really like them.
The one area where he needed most work was chakra control. For some reason he had the biggest problems with controlling his chakra. But he would only be taught cool jutsus if he mastered the exercises. So he worked on this every free minute he had. Iruka sensei always kept his word. That was what was really cool about him. He didn't lie to Naruto. If Iruka sensei said that he would teach Naruto a jutsu once he had the chakra control exercise with the leaf mastered he would do so. Four students had already been shown the first jutsu. For some reason all of them had been girls. Perhaps girls were better with chakra control generally? It didn't matter. He would get the jutsu. He would become a cool ninja with Iruka sensei's help. He wanted to prove himself to his sensei.
The results of the three last classes at the academy were always shown to the Sandaime Hokage as he wanted to be informed about the progress that those closest to graduation showed. And theoretically a student from those classes could choose to graduate early. But it was rarely done. The teachers were encouraged to keep the students at the academy until they were twelve. The Sandaime didn't like having early graduates in times of peace. He looked over the graduates, the second class and the third class. He was very surprised seeing his surrogate grandson in second place of his class. Naruto had always been at the bottom of his class before. How did this change come about? He needed to know, so he called Iruka, the sensei for Naruto's class in. The chunin arrived fifteen minutes after he sent the messenger out.
"You wanted to see me, Hokage Sama?" Iruka asked kneeling in front of his leader.
"Yes, Iruka. I was looking over the results of the last three classes of the academy and I have to say I was very impressed with the results your class showed. The second class at that age didn't do nearly as well and I was interested in what you do differently to your colleagues." The Hokage wanted to know.
"I chose to differ from the set teaching plan that the civilian council proposed at the beginning of the year. The plan didn't involve enough physical training in my opinion to prepare the children for the life of a ninja. I don't want to have to live with seeing them die in the future because they weren't ready. I put more focus on practical skills than on theory." Iruka answered. "I have also noticed that this has increased the attention most students pay to the theory parts as they know that while the theory parts aren't as long as the practical parts, they are compressed and that I expect them to know the topic thoroughly. I have held short tests at the end of every month to see which parts they memorized and which not so I could hold a ten minute refresher on a topic they hadn't learnt to my standards yet."
"I see. Your results speak volumes about it. You even managed to get Naruto Uzumaki from the spot of dead last to second in his class, just a few points behind Sasuke Uchiha. How did you manage that?" The Hokage asked.
"I didn't do anything special, Hokage Sama. Naruto is a determined boy. His motivation to be great surpasses his classmates by far. He works on his skills until he gets an exercise. He simply doesn't stop. The only thing I did was acknowledging him. I think that was what was lacking before. The boy is highly talented. In time he can become one of our most powerful shinobi. I didn't see the wisdom in wasting such talent on petty grudges. I am a professional." Iruka said.
"You indeed are, Iruka. Thank you for giving Naruto that chance. He is very fond of you. He told me how you were the only teacher to ever praise him if he did something right. He wants to make you proud of him. That's why he trains so much. Keep up the good work." The Hokage said.
"I will, Hokage Sama." Iruka promised.
It was the last year for Naruto at the academy. While he had massively improved since Iruka sensei had taken over his class, there was one thing he still couldn't do. The clone jutsu. But it was sure to come up in the graduation exams in two weeks. He didn't understand why he couldn't do that damned jutsu. He would ask Iruka sensei if he had an idea what to do.
"Naruto? Do you have a problem?" Iruka asked the blond boy that stood in the door of his classroom.
"Yes, Iruka sensei. You see, even if I really practice my chakra control and clone jutsu daily, I can't get the jutsu to work. I know that the jutsu is required for the graduation exams. I know everything else, but I don't want to fail because I don't manage to perform a jutsu that everybody else can use." Naruto told his problem.
"Hm, that's really strange. How far did you get with your control exercises?" Iruka asked, knowing that Naruto really trained hard.
"I have mastered water-walking now. I can even spar with Lee on the water." Naruto said.
He had met the one year older boy two years ago and they had become friends and training partners over their common goal to train hard to become great ninjas.
"Hm, that's really strange. Probably it has to do with your chakra capacity. You do have the biggest reserves of all your classmates. But I didn't think they were that big. With water-walking you should easily be able to perform that jutsu. Well, I think you will need to learn another type of clone. Other clones need more chakra to work, so they should be easier for you to use. The question is which type. You haven't started elemental manipulation yet. So water or earth clones won't work. There are shadow clones, but you would need permission from Hokage Sama to learn that technique as it is forbidden due to chakra costs." Iruka said.
"I will ask him directly after school. Thank you, Iruka sensei." Naruto said smiling.
"You're welcome, Naruto." Iruka said.
Thanks to Naruto demonstrating to the Hokage that he had really done everything in his power to get his chakra control to a level that should have enabled him to perform the clone jutsu and still not being able to do it, he had been given the instructions how to produce a shadow clone with stern warnings to not overdo it with the jutsu as the chakra cost was immense. Naruto promised to be careful and learned the jutsu within two hours under the surprised watch of the Hokage. Now the boy was set for graduating.
The civilian council didn't like at all when the Hokage told them the results of the graduation exams of the academy. Their favourite Sasuke Uchiha had been beaten to the spot of Rookie of the Year by none other than Naruto Uzumaki, the demon brat. But nobody dared to doubt the integrity of one Iruka Umino, the most popular teacher of the academy who had managed to increase the level of his students since he took his class three years ago. It wasn't even by much that Naruto had beaten Sasuke, just two points. Naruto was better in Ninjutsu and Taijutsu than Sasuke, the raven haired boy way better in Genjutsu and academics than the blond. In the end it had led to Naruto getting out on top. The reason why they were so grumpy was mainly that Kakashi Hatake, the last remaining student of the famed Yondaime Hokage would be taking the Rookie of the Year, the dead last and the Top Kunoichi into his team. That meant that he would get Naruto Uzumaki, Hinata Hyuga who had massively improved under Iruka's firm but fair teachings, and as Shikamaru Nara was set on being on a team with Choji Akimichi and Ino Yamanaka thanks to the three clans' alliance, he would get another student from the bottom end of the class. There was no way that the Hokage would put the second best student in an already powerful team.
"Hokage Sama, wouldn't it be wise to change the senseis for each team or to exchange Naruto Uzumaki and Sasuke Uchiha in their respective teams? After all, Kakashi is the only one that could teach Sasuke how to use his sharingan." One smarter counsellor suggested. He knew that badmouthing the demon brat only enraged the Hokage.
"No, that won't work. Sasuke hasn't activated his sharingan yet and if he does there is the possibility to arrange some private lessons with Kakashi later on. Kakashi explicitly asked for Naruto Uzumaki as his student and I won't change that. Hinata Hyuga will be part of that team and it will be rounded up by Kiba Inuzuka. Kakashi has experience with ninja dogs so he is well-suited to train Kiba in this and Kiba scored in the lower average part of the class, so he isn't upsetting the balance of the team much. Sasuke Uchiha will be placed under Kurenai Yuhi considering that Uchihas normally show great aptitude for genjutsu. His teammates will be Sakura Haruno and Shino Aburame. That's as far as I will go by giving him a team with the second best kunoichi and the fourth ranked shinobi of his class." The Hokage stated.
On paper Sasuke got away better by having two strong teammates, but he also knew that Sakura was a fangirl and only the low requirements the academy still had made her look better. The girl was book-smart, that much was true, but she lacked the drive to excel on her own. Shino was solid and the least likely candidate to be intimidated by Sasuke's attitude which wasn't the best, especially as Naruto had beaten him to the top spot. He could hear the civilian counsellors grumble, but there was nothing they could do. The teams were set, now he could only hope it worked out for the best. And Kakashi had asked to have Naruto as his student. He wanted to train his sensei's son to honour his late sensei who had taken him under his wing when he had suffered from his father's suicide.
Kakashi was very happy with his new team. For the first time since he had got genins to test he had had a good feeling from the start. There was a small rivalry between Kiba and Naruto, but the two were buddies and it was much more good ribbing than anything serious. And if they got too heated Hinata could easily calm them down. And the three, four if you counted Kiba's dog Akamaru, had worked together to get the bells. Kiba and Naruto had herded him towards a trap where Hinata had tried to damage his muscles with her gentle fist style. They had even managed to cut off one bell from him, a really incredible achievement, but nothing more. When confronted with the decision who should get the bell, they decided that they would play rock, paper, scissors to decide because it was the fairest way. He had passed them hearing that. This was teamwork which he was looking for in a team he trained. He was very happy with this new batch. He had heard good things about Iruka Umino's way of teaching students and it seemed to be true.
Over the next two months Kakashi's main job consisted in getting his team to learn the ropes of being a ninja. Team formations, more chakra control, even if he was really surprised that Naruto and Hinata already knew water-walking and Kiba knew tree-climbing, strategies for missions and teamwork exercises. And of course he had them do the infamous D-rank missions. Thankfully his team didn't complain too much about them. It might have had to do with them knowing that they had to successfully do twenty of them before they were allowed to go on a C-rank mission. It was a rule the new senseis had been informed about by Iruka Umino. He had instilled the value of covering the basics thoroughly in all of his students and told the senseis what they could expect. Kakashi had never had such good information before testing a new team. And he had failed more teams than anybody else; therefore he had also had more potential genins and the briefing before the tests.
As he had them do about two or three missions each week now after two months they had finished the twenty missions. He was willed to let them try their hand at an easy C-rank. They were ready.
Team seven was really surprised to be confronted with missing nins on their first C-rank mission, but Naruto and Kiba easily took on the demon brothers while Hinata stood guard over their client Tazuna. Kakashi didn't have to do much as Naruto even took care of getting as much information from them as he could. Kakashi found out that Naruto knew about Kyubi and had managed to perfect a ninjutsu that let persons that he concentrated the jutsu upon feel the dread that the Kyubi chakra caused. When Kakashi asked if it was a genjutsu Naruto said that it was a ninjutsu as he sucked at using genjutsu thanks to his high chakra levels. He could only break them. So he had experimented a bit and had found a way to imitate a genjutsu with a ninjutsu.
Kakashi had been impressed with the idea. The team decided to continue the mission, even after Tazuna had confessed that the billionaire Gato tried to get him killed as he didn't want the bridge that Tazuna was building to be finished, because it would mean the end of his monopoly over Wave Country. Kiba suggested that Kakashi sent one of his ninja dogs as a messenger to the Hokage to inform him that the mission got more difficult and if necessary to send back-up. Kakashi agreed and sent his pug Pakkun to Konoha to inform the Hokage and ask for new orders.
While Pakkun was on his way, the team continued on to Wave Country. After being set over by a friend of Tazuna, they were confronted with Zabuza Momochi, the Demon of the Mist. Hinata's Byakugan proved invaluable to assisting Kakashi in his fight as she could see through the mist. Naruto and Kiba took care of the water clones that Zabuza used while Kakashi took on the man himself. It ended in Zabuza being taken out by a Kiri hunter nin after Kakashi had weakened him in the fight. There had been a moment of danger when Zabuza managed to trap Kakashi, but Naruto had quickly run over to Zabuza and engaged him in a taijutsu fight, something he was really good at by combining his shadow clones and his taijutsu training with Lee into a unique style. It was enough for Zabuza being forced to let Kakashi out of the water prison thanks to the onslaught of clones. It was rather unwise after all to stay in one position in a fight and even a good genin could injure or even kill an experience fighter if he had an easy target.
After Kakashi had passed out from overusing his sharingan eye to defeat Zabuza, the three genin followed Tazuna to his home. Naruto set up a perimeter with his shadow clones to ensure that no uninvited guests appeared. Who knew if Gato had hired other ninjas or if Zabuza had more support than the demon brothers?
Kakashi couldn't help but be proud with how his team had performed on their first A rank mission. After a week of healing he and Zabuza had had their rematch on the nearly finished bridge. Naruto had used his army of shadow clones to give Tazuna the man-force he needed to finish his bridge. And Kakashi had to hand it to Naruto that he was good with manual labour. Probably because he had to do most of the repairs in his apartment himself. He had heard how Naruto had told Kiba that he had exchanged the whole kitchen applications himself as the old ones had been rusted. He had even managed to become independent from gas as he had found out how to draw heating seals. Now his oven worked on seals, which was much safer for the boy and saved him a lot of money. He only needed water and electricity now. As the apartment was on Naruto's name, Kakashi knew that it had once belonged to Naruto's mother Kushina and that the Sandaime had simply changed the deed after her death, Naruto didn't have to fear being overcharged for rent by a spiteful landlord.
And electricity and water were supplied by the village and therefore the Hokage set the prices for them, which meant he would notice if Naruto was treated badly. Nobody had dared to try that after one stupid civilian worker had tried to increase the prices for them for only Naruto.
Now in the fight against Zabuza's apprentice Haku Naruto and Kiba had teamed up to take the talented boy out. Hinata had guarded Tazuna and made sure that none of the projectiles that both ex-Kiri nins had tried to hit the man with in the beginning had got close to the bridge builder. She had also helped directing Kakashi in the thick mist. In the end Kakashi had killed Haku who had jumped between his attack and Zabuza. Zabuza fell from losing too much blood after taking out Gato and a good part of his thugs who had appeared trying to profit from the exhausted shinobis. Naruto and Kiba had shown them exactly why it was wrong to underestimate students of Iruka Umino. They were both among the physically strongest students in their class and both had excellent taijutsu and stamina.
Together they were devastating to any force below high genin level of each fighter. He would guess that Naruto by now was a solid chunin in his abilities, he only lacked the necessary experience to lead missions, but that would only come over time. Kiba was high genin to low chunin level in taijutsu and physical strength, but he was solid genin on all other aspects a ninja needed to know. He would be ready in about half a year Kakashi guessed. After their fight Hinata took care of the injuries of the team, being the most skilled in medical jutsus, healing creams and first aid. She was also the most skilled on his team in genjutsu. He would guess she was high genin to low chunin like Kiba. Overall his team was really good. He wouldn't have any problems requesting more C rank missions for them so that they could grow into the profession that they had chosen. He knew they would become great in time.
Iruka sat in the mission office listening to the report Kakashi Hatake gave on his unexpectedly upgraded mission to Wave Country. He was really glad to hear that his former students had performed well under the pressure of facing a much higher ranked mission than expected. But they had done well from what Kakashi said. Now he was doubly glad that he had ignored the teaching plans the civilian council had tried to implement at the academy that leaned towards less physical training. Had Kiba and Naruto not been as physically strong as they were the sheer numbers of the thugs Gato had employed would have given them trouble after fighting a chunin level ninja. One with an ice-bloodline to boast. And Hinata was developing into a good medic for her team. He was proud of the three.
He was also happy that his former students had been really happy to see him again and proudly told him how they had performed on the mission. He thought back to the day he had taken over their class. Naruto had been the dead-last and didn't seem to have talent as a ninja. He had skipped classes and played pranks all day. Kiba had been a loudmouth who was brash and didn't wait to charge into a fight without thinking. Hinata had been horribly shy and too insecure to voice her opinion. He had only treated all his students the same, had gently encouraged them to do their best and given help where it was needed. Now he saw promising genin standing tall, rightfully proud of accomplishing an A rank mission so early in their careers. Naruto and Kiba had a friendly rivalry going on, Hinata while still having a crush on Naruto wasn't above ruling both boys in when they overdid things and all three were a good team. He knew that they would go far in the future. He didn't know if Naruto would manage to fulfil his dream of becoming Hokage; he didn't know if Hinata could unite her clan; he didn't know if Kiba would become Konoha's best hunter ninja, but he knew that he had given them the tools they needed to have a chance to fulfil their dreams.
He could proudly say that he, Iruka Umino had made an important contribution to the future of Konoha. He had taught a class of talented young boys and girls and shown them how they could become good ninjas. He had seen their raw potential and had professionally brought it out, no matter if he harboured negative feelings for any of them. By now he had overcome his former resentments for Naruto for holding Kyubi. The boy wasn't at fault for what the fox had done. He was the one keeping the village safe from the monster. He had set his students on the path where they wouldn't be in danger of being killed thanks to not being strong enough to survive in the harsh world of ninjas. No, his students would have a real chance to survive and become new legends of Konoha. While not many would ever remember his part in bringing them to those places, they would know and he was content with that.
That's it. How did you like the idea? I thought it would make a major difference if Naruto got some support in the beginning and if he didn't have to sit through too much theory at the academy. After all, in the manga he manages to learn incredibly fast if he gets the proper support (see rasenshuriken). Please review.