Disclaimer: I do not own Naruto. I do own the idea behind this story and any O.C.s created. Tenten's last name of Hasuwada belongs to Obsidian Dreamer, as Tenten does not have an official last name, and I suck at coming up with names, especially Japanese names.

Key:
"Talking"
'Thinking'
Jutsu
Biju/Boss Summon/Very many speaking loudly at the same time speech


Prologue: A Year Early

"You fail." Those words echoed in his mind, continuously coming to the front. "You fail." He had failed. Try as he would to deny it, he couldn't. The blond-haired boy walked slowly, pushing open a door. Cheerful sunlight mocked him. His ocean blue eyes squinted, trying to discern the shapes in front of him.

"You fail." He saw them now. Parents congratulating the children at making genin rank. Something he had failed at for a second time. He still couldn't get the stupid bushin jutsu down. "You fail." All that appeared was a half dead clone. Tears fell slightly from those eyes, running down his face and hitting the edges of his whisker marks.

"I failed. Again. I don't get it. I worked so hard…" He walked alone, as he had always been. Even that Lee kid, who couldn't mold chakra, had succeeded. All because some jounin had believed in him, and taken him on as an apprentice.

"Damn it! It is not fair!" Naruto threw a punch into a tree. His slightly sharper than normal teeth were bared. "Why can't I do it? Why can't I get it right? Why? I would do anything to pass. To show them all that I will be Hokage. Then they would have to acknowledge me!"

The boy looked up, craning his neck to take in the sight anyone in the village could see. The four faces of the past and present Hokages looked down upon him, as if challenging him to back up his words. He raised his fist in defiance, orange sleeve sliding down. "You wait and see. Someday I will surpass all of you, dattebayo!"

Behind the boy was a white haired chunnin academy instructor. Mizuki watched as Naruto offered to do anything to get promoted. 'Screw waiting another year. The Demon is as desperate as he is going to get. I want the scroll now.' With that final thought, Mizuki walked up to Naruto and asked "How are you feeling?"


An incredibly well sculpted man wearing a tight green spandex was oddly still. He was meditating on his tortoise familiar, Ningame, a wise middle-aged tortoise with a diamond-back shell and a leaf headband. Both were so still they could be statues. Maito Gai's breathing was so shallow you couldn't actually tell he was breathing.

Both human and summon were in deep thought about Gai's upcoming genin team. With Lee and Tenten, the two had no problems at coming up with training plans. The problem lay with Neji, the Hyuuga prodigy. The boy on the brink of teenage hood was already showing great promise in his family arts, and while Gai couldn't directly teach him any Juuken, he could increase Neji's speed and strength. The problem lay in Neji's attitude.

The heir to the Branch House (1) was very unyouthful, going against Gai's code of conduct in a way the rub him much worse than his eternal rival's hip-cool attitude. Neji was a fatalistic boy who belittled all he believed were below him, which was pretty much everybody. He was indifferent to Tenten, which could be worked with, but he hated Lee and what Lee represented with a frozen passion beyond his usual icy demeanor.

Gai would have liked to have been able to trade Neji for a different graduate, but there was no one else he could teach well. He was a taijutsu specialist with little talent for ninjutsu and no talent in casting genjustu, only breaking them. The remaining students were better suited for the respective teachers, who were more adept in those fields.

So how to break Neji out of his mold? That was the quandary Gai and Ningame had been pondering for the last few hours. The best idea they had come up with was getting Lee to have a rivalry with Neji, which should be easy, and have Lee win. If Lee could beat Neji, it would prove that fate did not exist, and should make Neji more youthful. It wasn't a great plan, but it was the best they had come up with.

A loud caterwauling alarm caused them to react. Gai recognized it immediately, a lockdown and chunnin and jounin report alarm. "Yosh! I shall reach the Hokage tower in one minute and if I can't do that then I shall do 100 laps around Kohona once this crisis is over! Youth!" With that the bowl haired man ran off towards the tower as his summon disappeared in a poof of smoke.

Fifty five seconds later Gai was at the tower. The Third Hokage, dressed in his ceremonial clothes and lit pipe in his mouth, was surveying the shinobi as they shunshined in. His face was clenched in a rictus of worry and apprehension.

"My fellow shinobi, we have a crisis on our hands. It has just been discovered that over several hours ago the forbidden scroll of sealing was stolen by one Naruto Uzumaki. Both Naruto and the scroll must be recovered unharmed. You have your orders, carry them out."

"HAI, HOKAGE-SAMA!" The shinobi leapt away in different directions, Gai among them.

Fifteen minutes later Gai was tree-hopping through the forest. A shout of "Naruto, give me the scroll!" made him look around. He hopped over to where he heard an exchange of blows, only to see two academy instructors recovering from a fight.

One of them, Iruka, was in bad condition, bleeding from multiple kunai wounds. The other, Mizuki, was far better off. Hiding behind a tree was Naruto, holding onto the scroll with his shaking hands.

"Why do you defend it, Iruka? You know a demon like him will just use the scroll to gain power, so he can destroy the village."

"You want it for yourself, so you can gain power." Iruka held up a trembling finger at Mizuki. He then lowered it. "Yes, a demon would use the power in that scroll for terrible purposes." From his position, Gai could see Naruto's face fall. "But Naruto is not the Kyuubi, he is its container, its jail. Naruto is a proud citizen of the leaf, and my student!"

Gai was stunned by the display of youth by the wounded chunnin. It was motivational, inspirational, YOUTHFUL! Even young Naruto was caught up in the youth of the speech, his eyes hardening.

At the same time, Mizuki readied some shuriken to throw at Iruka, no doubt to finish off the teacher. Gai readied himself to jump down, but was interrupted by Naruto springing out of his hiding place. "Hey, Mizuki-teme. Stay away from Iruka-sensei."

Mizuki laughed. "So, are you going to fight me little demon? Fine, makes it easier for me; now I don't have to track you down to kill you." The eleven year old boy stood his ground proudly.

"Ha! Whatever you do, I will pay you back one-thousand fold!" The boy put his fingers in a cross position. "Kage Bushin no Jutsu!" Gai blinked as hundreds of Naruto clones poofed into existence, surrounding the combatants. Many appeared on the trees, including one on the tree Gai was in.

Said clone bumped into Gai while shifting to a better place on the tree. "Oh, sorry, didn't see you there. Right now I need to kick Mizuki-teme's ass." Gai simply smiled and gave him his patented thumbs up "nice guy" look.

"No problem. Fight with youth, and you will win."

"Uh…ok?" The clone blinked for a few seconds, and then noticed its brethren pouncing and pounding on the traitorous teacher. "Hold up, I got to get my fair share in!" With that the clone jumped into the beat-down, screaming war cries all the way.

Soon all the clones were dispersed as their chakra was used up, leaving a very battered and unconscious Mizuki behind. The remaining Naruto was smiling proudly over his victory.

"Naruto…coming here please." Naruto turned to see his sensei, who had propped himself up against a tree. He quickly walked over, worry in his face. "You have made me very proud. Please close your eyes." The student did so, and felt his something being place on his forehead. "You may open them now." He did so, and gasped.

Iruka no longer had his forehead protector on his head. Which meant it must be on his head. Which meant-"Yes, you are now a full-fledged shinobi of Kohona. Congratulations, you have passed you genin exam!"

Naruto's smile was so bright, it was like a miniature sun. "Thank you Iruka-sensei. I won't let you down." A thump behind him caused Naruto to spin around, only to see the green loving Jounin behind him.

Gai raised his hand to his face, biting his thumb deep enough to draw blood. With that he made five hand seals and shouted "Kuchiyose no Jutsu!" and slammed his palm into the ground. There was a burst of smoke, from which Ningame the tortoise emerged.

"Naruto, I must ask you to ride Ningame here to the Hokage tower with the forbidden scroll of sealing. He will vouch for you. I will take Iruka to the hospital and Mizuki to T&I."

"Wow! That was so cool. You just summoned a turtle from nothing. Can you show me how to do that? Please?" Naruto tried his "puppy-eyes jutsu" making him look rather cute, despite his horrendously orange jumpsuit.

"Ah such youth! Unfortunately, I cannot teach you the youthful arts of summoning today. Now, you have a job to do." With that, Gai scooped up Iruka and Mizuki and flung them each over a shoulder. Then, with a cry of "YOUTH!" he ran off towards Kohona.

Naruto blinked twice at the sheer speed of the man. He had left an afterimage! "Wow, I just realized he had the bushiest eyebrows I have ever seen. Seriously, they were like freaking caterpillars. But man was he fast. I'll bet he is strong, too. Weird as Hell, but strong." After placing the scroll on the tortoise, he hefted himself onto Ningame. "So, do I just say 'go to the Hokage tower?' or something."

Ningame grunted, and turned towards the village. "I am quite capable of figuring it out myself."

Naruto jumped up at the unexpected speaking. "Wow, you can speak? That is so cool! I'll bet you have all these awesome stories, don't you? Can you tell me some? Please-please-please-" Ningame prepared himself for a long journey, despite how little time it would actually take him to reach the tower.


After placing Iruka in the hospital and Mizuki at T&I, he made his way to the Hokage tower. The Third Hokage was already talking to Naruto, no doubt about the Kyuubi sealed inside him on his day of birth. Gai shuddered, as he remembered the giant nine-tailed fox attacking the village. Over a sixth of the population had died due to events from that day, whether in direct contact, or from sickness spread by its corrupt chakra. Many names had been added to the memorial stone.

After about half an hour of waiting, Naruto shuffled out, a shell-shocked look on his face. He was finally comprehending the fact that he was a Jinchuuriki, a human container of one of the nine biju, the demons of the land. The boy was so startled by the revelation that he didn't even notice Gai. With that, Gai walked into the Hokage's office.

"Ah, Gai-san, is there something I can do for you?" The old man looked much more strained than he had this morning, or even at the time of the announcement of the theft, the events of the day clearly taking their toll on the man. It was at times like this that Gai was reminded that no matter how youthful the Hokage acted, he was still a seventy-eight year old man who had seen three world wars, and several smaller wars. Considering what the Hokage had gone through, time had been very kind to him indeed.

"Yes there is, Hokage-sama. I humbly request that Naruto be placed on my team in place of Neji." The Hokage puffed on his pipe, sending a ring of smoke upward. He noticed the lack of 'Youth' in Gai's speech. That meant that he was serious about the topic.

"Why?"

"Neji cannot flourish under me. While I can improve him, he will grow no matter which team he is placed on, due to the fact that the Branch House will tutor him no matter what. His attitude is completely against my philosophy, and he would probably resist me at every turn. He would not get along well with Lee, and be indifferent of Tenten.

On the other hand, Naruto has great spirit and determination. With his kage bushin I could turn him into a taijutsu master. He would become a friendly rival with Lee, something both boys need. I think Team Nine would greatly benefit from having Naruto."

"So you don't think Lee and Tenten will resent Naruto-kun for graduating a year early and being placed onto their team?"

"No Hokage-sama. Lee would appreciate someone who works as hard as he does, and Tenten won't care either way."

"You do realize that Kakashi wants to train Naruto as well? He is, after all, the Fourth's legacy."

"I know my rival wants to train Naruto. However, the council will protest it, and he would be better off training Sasuke next year. Also, I intend to have Team Nine trained enough to enter and succeed in the Chunnin exams a year and a half from now. Kakaski can train Naruto after he becomes a chunnin."

There was a long silence as the Hokage puffed into his pipe. The soothing smell of the herbs being burned hung in the air. "Very well, you have my approval Gai-san. Team Nine will consist of Naruto Uzumaki, Lee Rock, and Tenten Hasuwada, with Jounin instructor Maito Gai."

Gai smiled broadly, and the light in the room caused his teeth to sparkle. "Yosh! Thank you Hokage-sama. I shall turn Team Nine into the most youthful team ever!"

The Hokage watched as Gai speed walked, for he never simply walked, out of the room. "I am sure you will do so. Good luck Naruto-kun."


Authors Notes:

(1) : I decided that the Branch House is run by the head of the Branch House, or in the case of the heir being unable to lead at the time, the head of the whole clan. The head of the Branch House is still subservient to any Main House members. This is to further symbolize the separation of the two houses. Neji, by not being married, a Jounin or 21 (whichever comes first) is the heir to the Branch House, but not yet the leader. This will little to no impact on the story.