Pulling Your Own Strings

Chapter 1: Fly On The Wall

|Eight Years Old|

In a fling of frustration the small blonde-haired boy threw his school bag at the couch in his apartment before turning quickly and closing the door behind him. He dropped his keys on the kitchen-side and as they clattered slipped off his blue shinobi sandals. He moved toward the couch that now held his bag and pulled off the much too large orange jacket that he always wore as he did so. Slipping out of the infernal thing, his thin black undershirt was left all on it's lonesome to protect the boy from the cold air in the room. He moaned in frustration as he sat on the couch and pulled out a large black book with what appeared to be frustrated acceptance on his face.

Naruto was not happy; his stupid teacher, Iruka, had demanded that he at least try to read the book he had been given. The man had taken him aside after class which already pissed Naruto off; he hadn't done anything too bad as far as he knew. Well, not anything that Iruka could have found out about. He was then further irritated when the man had begun a vicious verbal dressing down of Naruto and his abilities:

"Naruto, this is the second semester and I'd have hoped you'd have realised that the academy is not a joke by now." The man's serious gaze was making the boy feel small and so the blonde did what he did best and changed the subject.

"But sensei... It's so boring!" The boy gesticulated wildly, "Who cares about stupid Iwa shinobi?"

The man's eyes hardened as the boy spoke, "I do, Naruto. And so does the entire school staff." At the boy's lack of attention he added, "After half a year you still have yet to show any true capabilities as a shinobi."

"You'll see, I'm gonna be the best shinobi ever - the Hokage!"

The man glowered at the eight year old in front of him, "Considering you have to pass the academy to be Hokage I don't think you'll ever succeed in your goal. I have had you in my class for quite some time now and after experiencing your childish lack of respect firsthand I fail to see what the Sandaime ever thought he saw in you that made him think this establishment would be good for you. It couldn't have been shinobi skills - they're non-existent - and your attitude, if possible, is even worse. If you don't buckle up and take this seriously then I will have to take action."

As the man had grown even more serious the blonde had began to listen meekly and when he was insulted so viciously - and by his sensei no less - he felt tempted to defend himself against such comments. He couldn't manage his usual angry retort however, in the face of such overwhelmingly harsh words.

Naruto didn't snap back. Instead, he retreated into his shoulders from embarrassment; Iruka had never been so brutal. It had always been 'Naruto try harder' or 'Naruto, pay attention'. No, this time the man had crossed the threshold of polite exasperation to a degrading rant. Naruto felt so bad after it and couldn't find the strength to merely ignore it like he usually did when the villagers got on his case.

"H-Hai, sensei." He whispered softly, "I'll try to read the book." The man's gazed softened at the sight of a thoroughly chastised Naruto and he moved to put his hand on the boy's shoulder.

Before he could however, the boy ran out of the classroom quickly, "Naruto!" He tried to beckon the boy back but had only succeeded in a slight flinch from the boy before he continued his trip out of the classroom. Perhaps he had been too harsh on the boy? No, the eight year old needed to hear it and if not from him then he'd hear it from a less polite and much more cruel voice.

Naruto meanwhile ignored his teacher's call. The man didn't care about him really - he just pretended to for the Hokage. If he did he wouldn't just make him read the book, he'd help him do it. After all, he had been forced to teach himself how to read and still struggled to this day. But the man didn't know that; he didn't care enough to know.

At first the blonde has refused as he always did but at the sight of the man's furious eyes had relented against his better judgement. To him the book, which was aptly named 'Famous Shinobi of the Third Great War', was a waste of time. Who cared about some stupid shark-man from Kiri when you could learn about the Yondaime? No, the only important shinobi were the heroes of Konoha - and that was that!

Regardless, he had promised Iruka he'd at least try to read it and so, in the confines of his tiny apartment, he opened the book and flicked through to a random page. He was greeted with the sight of a tall, imposing black haired man staring coldly at the camera that had taken his photo. The blonde was surprised by the sight of such an intimidating looking man and so decided to look further into his profile.

"S-Sandaime K-K-Kazekage." The boy struggled as he read the words out aloud. The guy had been the kage of Suna! Heh, that was kinda cool. He kept reading and was even more impressed when he learnt that the man had been the most powerful shinobi in Suna's history. Apparently he was so powerful because he had a bloodline called 'magnet release'. The boy was amazed as the book described his ability to control sand and use it according to his will.

'Iron Sand?' Naruto wondered, 'I wish I had that!'

When he got to the part in the book that explained he had been killed the boy was shocked. Who could be strong enough to kill the best shinobi ever from Suna? Grinning, he realised it must of been a Konoha shinobi. After all, they were the best. Continuing to read, he was further surprised when he found out he was killed by another Suna shinobi.

"S-Sasori?" What a bad name. It wasn't cool at all! Regardless, he read on as it described how the Sandaime Kazekage had been killed by the aspiring shinobi before he left the village and became a missing nin. "He must have been super strong!" He exclaimed to his empty apartment. Some might say it was weird to talk to no one but he didn't care - it was better than the usual silence he experienced being alone.

Seeing a page number for Sasori, he flipped to the indicated page and was shocked as the picture of a young fifteen year old greeted him. That settles it then; this guy was way cooler if he killed the other guy when he was that young. As he stared at the face of the missing-nin he realised that this guy must have had some crazy ability if he killed the strongest guy ever from Suna - and he had a bloodline too! So he read on and was amazed as it explained the man - no, boy - used puppets - Puppets! - to kill the Kazekage.

Puppets? Those things he saw at show during festivals? They killed the man? He was both surprised and disappointed but his thoughts quickly turned to glee as it described Sasori's puppets using poison, flamethrowers and projectile weapons. Traps and hidden attacks - now that was a language he could understand! He continued to read in apt attention as it described the countless ways the shinobi would use his puppets to trick, feint or avoid enemies and how he would take them out through the use of stealth and secrecy. Now this was a guy who Naruto understood! He was like a prankster - except his pranks killed people. A juvenile part of Naruto's mind - which, considering he was eight, was a large part - made the boy wonder what it would be like if he himself had puppets.

All the pranks he could get away with if he controlled a puppet! They'd never know it was him! And apparently from the sounds of it using puppets wasn't just a cool trick - they could actually do heaps of damage in battle! Well, this Sasori guy could at least... He was an S-Rank missing-nin and he only used puppets in battle to do stuff for him.

Yep, that settled it. Puppets...

'I gotta get me some of those.' Naruto's mind cackled evilly.

"Jiji!" A young voice pierced Sarutobi's calm office air.

The man smiled softly and rubbed his forehead to ward away the incoming headache courtesy of the boy in front of him, "Hello Naruto-kun." The small blonde boy stood in front of him with a beaming smile on his face. The old man was relieved to see that expression rather than the mischievous grin he sometimes wore when he came to visit; it meant that he wasn't planning on pranking the man. In fact, from the looks of things the boy merely came to sate his curiosity surrounding something, "To what do I owe the pleasure?" The boy scrunched his face up in confusion as he tried to work out what the man had asked.

"Eh?" Was his poignant response.

The man sighed, "Why did you wish to see me?" He left out the 'why have you deigned to bother me' bit - his frustrated part of his brain was sick of the boy's constant disruptions. He never voiced such concerns however as he was always prevented to by the soul-crushing guilt he contained surrounding the boy. Images flashed through his mind.

"Why does everyone hate me Jiji?"

"I don't understand either, Naruto."

He always avoided such painful questions:

"Did... Did you know my parents?"

"... No. I'm sorry Naruto-kun."

It was his greatest regret and he told himself it was for the boy's protection but a part of him knew that it was a lie - it was his own fear of what the boy would become if told. He shuddered to think of what would happen if the boy grew hatred for the village, something he believed was beginning to happen. So he soldiered on through the countless interruptions in the hope that the boy would value his relationship with him enough not to harm the village itself.

"I was doing some homework," At the Hokage's suprised glance the boy explained, "Iruka said I wasn't doing well and stuff so I promised I'd try." If the darkening of his eyes was anything to go by what Iruka said had affected him more than he let on, "Yeah, so I was reading this book about all these cool shinobi and I started reading about the Sandaime Kazekage..."

"Ah, yes. I remember him. Please, continue." And he did know the man; they had met on the battlefield before - both with and against each other. The man's reputation didn't do justice to his prowess. Such a shame that the young puppeteer put an end to his reign. What was his name again? Sa-

"And this super cool guy called Sasori took him out." The Sandaime refocused his attention on the blonde, "And I was like 'wow how did he beat the strongest guy ever?' so I looked at his abilities and he used puppets Jiji... Puppets!"

"Oh?" His feigned interest made Naruto smile in happiness.

"Yeah! They had flamethrowers, weapons, poison, armor and all kinds of other stuff! It was so cool how he had them made up of all this different stuff!" The boy's face twisted into a smirk at this, "And then I decided - I wanna learn about puppets cause' I could use em for pranks and stuff." The boy's eyes turned into huge pleading pits of desperation, "So can you teach me Jiji? Please?"

Ignoring the boy's unusual politeness, Sarutobi pondered the boy's proclamation; it was odd enough that the child was reading, let alone being interested in both a foreign and secretive art. Even if he was willing to let the boy learn such advanced technique - which he most certainly wasn't - he wasn't sure he could find any information on the art. Puppetry was a shinobi branch exclusive to the desert and, by proxy, Suna. The only time Konoha experienced it was through war or the occasional festivals that brought foreign entertainment to the village. Regardless, he couldn't simply deny the boy's first actual attempt to learn something outside of what was required and so he decided he would play along for now.

"I'm sorry Naruto-kun but," The boy's face grew downtrodden as he spoke, "The use of puppets in battle is exclusively used by Suna. We have neither the knowledge nor the skill to replicate it. But I do have some scrolls detailing famous puppeteers and the way they were used. It's mostly theoretical but I'm sure a smart boy like you can fill in the blanks." Actually, he was sure he couldn't but the expectation that Naruto would succeed would shame the boy when he didn't manage to and would prevent him from asking any further.

The boy looked ecstatic as he listened, "Aww, thanks heaps Jiji!" He grinned from ear-to-ear and the man felt a pang of guilt hit his heart at such blatant manipulation, "You won't regret it."

"I should hope not." The man smiled as he stood to look at his scroll collection, trying to find any to do with puppetry. He certainly wouldn't regret it because the boy in front of him wouldn't be able to make him regret it - not with the sparse information on the art Konoha had. At least, he hoped he couldn't... Could he?

Before Naruto could read the scrolls the Hokage had given him he still had the matter of homework to attend to; the class assignment had been to pick a shinobi out of the book and do research on them in preparation for Monday. Iruka had said it was a good way to put into perspective the diverse and wide-ranging skills that shinobi employed. Regardless, the blonde boy knew most people in the class would choose the super cool people like Jiji or the Sannin.

The most popular choice - and the one Naruto usually went with - was the Yondaime Hokage. The heroic story of how he fought against the Kyuubi and defeated it at the cost of his own life was one that the people of Konoha held close to their hearts. The man was idolised to the point of a deity in the village - he was, quite literally, a god among men to the population and Naruto was no different. Until he read about Sasori he had thought no one could be as awesome as the Yondaime. He had worshipped him to the point that he felt honored to have the same hair colour, let alone ever aspiring to be like him.

Now that he had read about Sasori he realised just how narrow-minded his previous thoughts surrounding shinobi had been. Gone was the idea that Konoha was the only village worthy of respect. In it's place was a healthy respect for the outside world and the people in it. The redhead - and to a lesser degree, the Kazekage he had killed - were at the crux of this change in ideals and so Naruto decided he would instead research the redhead rather than his usual Yondaime.

He started off by sneaking into the library quietly. He knew if he was seen he'd get kicked out and so he moved quickly through the dark halls of the building, avoiding the sight of any workers or individuals using the library for their own purpose. Within a few minutes he came upon the section that held books surrounding individual shinobi. Such an honor was usually reserved to those of A or S-rank and so Naruto was pleasantly surprised when he found a section for the puppeteer. In it there were books describing the way he revolutionised the Suna war effort and puppetry itself and there was even one written by himself surrounding the art.

Ignoring those for now, he reached in and grabbed a much more simplistic one; the biography of the man and his accomplishments. Aptly titled, 'Akasuna no Sasori', Naruto felt a flutter of excitement travel through his body as he realised the book was exactly what he had been looking for. Not wasting a moment longer, Naruto quickly moved to one of the countless study desks in the building - the one furthest away from anyone else - and sat down at it. He pulled the book out and flipped to a random page:

...Suna forces being pushed back across the river and Iwa pursued heavily, believing they had attained victory. As their shinobi waded through the waters of the river Sasori sprung his trap. With their troops heavily encumbered by the terrain surrounding them, Iwa couldn't sound a retreat at the sight of the one-hundred puppets flying down around them. What followed was, simply put, a massacre. Through an ingenious combination of poison, projectiles and explosives the puppeteer devastated the Iwa advance. Estimates of casualties Iwa experienced during the initial attack have been placed around two to three-hundred while the delayed deaths through poison and infection are believed to be around four to five hundred which places total losses as anywhere from six to eight-hundred. This means that in one fell swoop Sasori managed to put 10% of Iwa's mobilised forces out of commission. This was a significant blow to Tsuchi no Kuni and helped to establish the Konoha foothold near Kannabi Bridge.

As Naruto stopped reading he leaned his head back, eyes wide open, "Whoa." He whispered in shock. The idea that a single man could so utterly obliterate a force of 800 - 800! - was entirely foreign to the boy. The only person he had heard of that managed that kind of wide-scale destruction was the idealised Yondaime who had been reputed to do so quite often in the Third Shinobi War. Respect for the puppeteer rose significantly in that moment and Naruto knew that his earlier decision to pursue the art had been the right one.

He would be a puppeteer and no one could stop him.

"Alright, quieten down class." Iruka asked kindly as the group of eight year olds in the room ignored him and continued to shout at each other like lunatics, "I said quiet!" His booming voice caused an immediate reaction and he watched in satisfaction and pride as the children all quickly stopped talking and returned to their seats. It was amazing what one could learn about the class from simply looking at the way people sat.

In one corner of the room sat Uchiha Sasuke. He glared at anything that moved near him which was, fortunately for now, nothing. The aptly named Uchiha Massacre had caused everyone to walk on eggshells around the emotionally unstable boy but Iruka knew it would only be a matter of time before the girls of the class began to swoon over him. In the middle of the room the Aburame heir, Shino, sat side by side with the obnoxious Inuzuka boy, Kiba, and the comparatively quiet Hyuuga heiress, Hinata. The man smiled lightly as his gaze crossed over them; of all the students in the classroom Shino and Hinata gave him the least trouble. Kiba was another matter entirely.

It was in the other corner of the room that Iruka was met with the sight of perhaps the biggest trouble in his class; Uzumaki Naruto sat in his usual seat - the one furthest away from everyone - with a scroll in his hand. The boy seemed to be reading it intensely and not for the first time Iruka wondered if he had been too harsh on the child and drawn the ire of the boy in the form of some sort of prank. Next to the blonde sat the only person both willing and brave enough to sit next to the village pariah; Nara Shikamaru. The chunin knew he only sat there to avoid having to do too much work but it was nice to know that Naruto didn't scare everyone in his age group. Finally his gaze rested on the ever faithful friend of Shikamaru; Akimichi Chouji. No surpises there, the two stuck together like glue.

Shaking his head to dismiss his thoughts, he began to speak, "It's time to go over the homework I assigned for the weekend." As groans erupted he gave a pointed glare to the room and the sounds ceased, "Would anyone like to go first?" As he asked a hand shot up at the front of the classroom. Realising it was Sakura - as per usual - motioned for his hand, "Alright. Sakura, what was the name of the person you studied and what made them famous?"

"I looked at Tsunade from the Densetsu no Sannin! She's really famous because of her medical knowledge - she's considered the best med-nin in the world." She beamed as she spoke, obviously happy with herself and Iruka returned the favor by smiling back at her.

"Good work Sakura. I'm looking forward to reading your full report," A series of groans once again erupted at the reminder of the schoolwork they had to have finished by the end of the week, "Now, how about I choose someone now... Shino, who'd you study?"

The Aburame stiffened as he was chosen before beginning to speak, "I researched Senju Tobirama, the Nidaime Hokage. Aside from the obvious fact that he was the leader of our village, he was most famous for his mastery over water - he could produce techniques out of the molecules in the air." The boy spoke without emotion although as he finished he seemed sigh in contentment.

Iruka smiled at the boy, "Nice job, Shino. The Nidaime certainly was a master of Suiton." He looked around the classroom silently before he settled on the blonde in the corner of the room who still wasn't paying attention. "Naruto!" The boy jumped at the call of his name, "Who was the person you looked up?"

Several snickers could be heard across the room while others groaned in boredom; the boy would either say he didn't do it or tell some half-assed story about the Yondaime that was more fantasy than fact. It was all that ever happened. Iruka ignored the sounds as he paid attention to the boy; he had decided he might as well test to see if the words from several days ago had actually struck home or not.

The boy straightened his back and began to speak excitedly, "I looked at Akasuna no Sasori!" Students looked at him in confusion - the puppeteer was not in the syllabus, "He was this super cool Suna shinobi who used puppets in battle and was famous for being able to control hundreds at once!" Iruka stared at him in surprise; while he had hoped for a better and more detailed response than that it seemed like Naruto had actually tried to do his homework.

"He used puppets? What a loser." A boy near the front used Iruka's moment of stunned silence as an opportunity to belittle the man Naruto researched. Before the blue-eyed boy could snap out a retort Iruka regained his bearings.

"U-Um, very good Naruto!" His reply sounded weak even to his own ears and from the look of the blonde student he was talking to the tone did not go unnoticed. The boy was looking down at the floor, clearly upset with his teacher's reaction. Iruka knew he had screwed up but how was he to know that the boy would actually do the work set for once?

He shrugged his shoulders; the boy would forget soon enough and go back to being the insufferable brat he really was.

When he had been unintentionally mocked by his teacher in front of the class Naruto didn't react; he didn't care enough right now. This scroll he was reading was way too interesting to waste his time with Iruka-teme! It explained how much damage the puppeteers had done in the wars and how Suna's Puppet Brigade in particular had helped to change the very tide of the war. Most importantly however, it spoke of how chakra strings were the most important part of learning to be a puppeteer.

Naruto learned that the skill was available to anyone in Konoha too! One simply needed the right chakra control and patience to learn how. Unfortunately, without the in depth knowledge of how puppets work the skill was reduced to only being used in hospitals as it wasn't applicable to real-time combat. This didn't dissuade him though and he simply resolved to learn the skill regardless of the restrictions.

Naruto had never been one to plan too far ahead so he didn't particularly care that the skill couldn't be used without an intricate knowledge of how to create the puppets it could control - he could work that out later. So he resolved to go to the hospital and ask someone to teach him how to use chakra strings. If he couldn't find someone who would teach him then he'd force someone! It was that simple; Uzumaki Naruto wouldn't take no for an answer!

The ANBU member stood in front of the Hokage silently. The two were situated in the Hokage's office as the Sandaime thought over the report the man had just given. Considering the position the report was being given - in the office and not the ANBU HQ - the mission couldn't have been particularly high-profile. And what other mission is given to ANBU members that isn't high-profile other than the protection of one Uzumaki Naruto? The boy always had at least one pair of eyes on him and would continue to do so untile he graduated or the venerable leader in front of him decided he was able to look after himself.

The Sandaime finally looked up and stared at the ANBU member intensely, "This fixation he has is most curious." He hummed as he thought about how the child had demanded to learn about puppetry, "Most curious indeed." Naruto had never shown a particular interest in any field other than stealth and that had only been so he could prank better. Part of him believed this was also the case with the puppetry but another, deeper, logical part of him realised that such obsession from the boy hadn't been seen since he had learnt about the Yondaime when he was four.

"Hokage-sama?" The man - aptly named Fly in ANBU - asked cautiously; the older man in front of him had seemingly lost himself in thought.

Sarutobi looked up in surprise, "Ah, my apologies. Where were we?" He paused for a moment before adding, "His fascination with puppetry shouldn't amount to anything - we don't have the means to support it." Stroking his beard, the man settled on an appropriate course of action, "Leave him be for now. While he will be disappointed by the lack of success he will experience in the area it is much better than him actually finding something he can grow powerful in. I shudder to think what the council would do if he found strength."

The ANBU member couldn't help but agree; every time Naruto seemed to apply himself to something they forced the Hokage to gently push the boy away for fear of the power the boy held inside himself. They were fortunate the blonde had yet to find something he truly loved, otherwise the Sandaime wouldn't have been able to use the peaceful means he does now to get him off such a course.

"Hai, Hokage-sama." Yes, it was for the best that Naruto find no success in puppetry. He couldn't grow too powerful - it was for his own good.

With his eyes squinted in frustration and nose wrinkled in distaste it was obvious to anyone watching that Uzumaki Naruto was most displeased with the progress he had attained in what he was currently doing. Of course, no one was watching as far as he knew - aside from the usual animal-face person that always seemed to be around. Yeah, he was somewhere to the left of the training field. Naruto could practically see him leaning on a tree branch.

Contrary to what the Sandaime hoped, Naruto unfortunately could detect the ANBU detail he had on him. As far as he knew, someone was always watching him. Since he was old enough to walk he began to notice the signs; a ruffle of movement in his peripheral vision, the light padding of sandals touching floor - it was all obvious enough to a boy who had been dealing with it since he was born. At first, he had been terrified of such observation; he only achieved fleeting glances of their faces when he was younger and their imposing animal masks gave the boy countless nightmares to the point that he never truly felt safe around masked individuals again.

When a five year old Naruto had once rambled to the Hokage in one of their rare meetings about how he kept seeing floating 'dogs' and how 'cats' kept looking at him it hadn't taken the man long to leap to the logical conclusion; the ANBU were being compromised by a five year old. Aside from the obvious insult to their pride, the Hokage also ensured they stayed hidden - both as a way to relieve the child of his fears and to allow for the observation to continue. Unfortunately, the damage had already been done and the boy always knew from that point on that there was some sort of ANBU member around watching him at all times.

This had the effect of both increasing Naruto's already advanced perception - being granted advanced senses from the beast sealed inside him - and forcing the boy to become unusually gifted at stealth in order to give his handlers the slip when he needed to. The Hokage used to grow terrified when the boy did so; when he was young if Naruto escaped his watchers it was so the boy could vent his frustrations on some hapless tree or to cry himself to sleep in a dark alleyway, cursing the village as he did so. Now however, the boy's uncanny happiness meant that when he got away from the ANBU it was only so he could pull a light-hearted prank, usually on someone who had wronged him. Needless to say, the Sandaime was most relieved when the boy changed from cursing the village to pranking it.

It was with these enhanced skills, courtesy of having to avoid ANBU from the age of five, that allowed Naruto to know he was being watched as he read the scroll on chakra strings. He didn't pay any attention to the man in the trees however, and instead focused all his being on the advanced technique written on the paper in front of him. He had already tried to create strings only for such an attempt to result in nothing - not an explosion or a flying leaf as usually happened when he harnessed his chakra - but nothing at all.

The boy was, understandably, quite displeased. He wasn't stupid - well, he wasn't too stupid - he knew that it was his chakra control, or lack thereof, that caused such failure. It was unfortunate however that for the life of him he didn't know how to improve in controlling the monster that was his chakra. The teachers at the academy had said from the moment he had harnessed his chakra for the first time that he was doomed. In fact, he could remember the moment well:

"Alright class, it's time to try and harness your chakra." Iruka smiled as he looked at the class of eight year olds he had only had for a week, "Now, don't be to frustrated if you can't manage it on your first time or if there isn't much - you'd have to be a freak of nature to pull off anything more than a wisp at this age." He had said it as a way to comfort the children; last year a few had cried because they couldn't manage the task. So he decided this year to forewarn them.

He watched as the children lined up and tried pulling their chakra out one by one. First the Aburame boy managed a slight jump, enough to warrant it as a success. Then the Hyuuga girl, as was common with her family, managed a small, controlled trickle. As they shuffled through each student, civilians and clan members alike, he was subject to the sight of tiny, inestimable bounces of chakra in the air. He smiled softly, remembering his own youthful experience of touching his chakra for the first time.

Next up was the Uchiha. He was a quiet boy if a little aloof. Hopefully his mother - that Mikoto woman - would ensure he stay grounded. The boy tugged on his chakra and it began to whirl around him. The amount was a notable increase in comparison to the other children but nothing too out of the ordinary. The other kids looked at him in awe and he realised it must look impressive to such inexperienced children.

Satisfied, he turned his attention to the one person he didn't want to; the Kyuubi brat Uzumaki Naruto. The child was a slight on his honor to even be standing in his classroom and he couldn't help but look at the boy in disgust. He didn't know what the Hokage saw in the child. He watched as the blonde tried to draw his chakra desperately only to fail in the act. Some of the more vicious children began to mock him and, if the look on his face was anything to go by, he was accustomed to it. Rather than be disheartened, the boy straightened his back and huffed before trying again.

This time he succeeded; that much was obvious from the explosion of chakra that whipped around the room. Papers fluttered from the raw intensity of the boy's chakra. He felt a sweat on his brow appear from the heat and a creak of the foundations. Some children fell backwards from the pressure while the child himself didn't even seem like he had drawn a drop of his reserves out. Worried for the safety of the building, he quickly gesture for the child to stop.

There was a brief moment of silence as the children stared at Naruto in shock. He had drawn more than all the students combined - perhaps more than Iruka as well.

"What a freak!" A smarmy civilian kid pointed accusingly as the class erupted in laughter at the child, "Freak! Freak! Freak!" The chant started and the blonde tensed in pain from the verbal abuse, tears pricking his eyes.

'Ah, yes. Not the best choice of words Iruka.' The chunin sheepishly thought; he hadn't meant to insult the child when he opened with his diatribe - he honestly hadn't!

Despite the pain of being mocked Naruto grinned at the memory; even if Sasuke-teme was better than him at everything else he couldn't beat him in chakra reserves, ha! The obvious downside to this however was the his control was shot beyond belief and the usual chakra control techniques the academy used didn't work. An obvious example of this was the leaf concentration exercise; while yes, he could stick the leaf on his forehead with chakra, it didn't help his control at all. It was like trying to control lake with a straw - it just didn't put a dent in it. He had long since forsaken even trying the exercise but now it seemed he had to return to it and at least try, otherwise he wouldn't be able to use chakra strings. And if he couldn't use chakra strings he couldn't be a puppeteer!

So Naruto, using his incredible intellect, realised that he had to use the leaf exercise. With the resolution in his mind and a purpose for the day the boy stood up from where he had been sitting and moved toward the treeline to grab a leaf. He decided, with a small malicious streak, that he would grab the leaf from the exact tree the ANBU member was sitting in.

The man meanwhile, tensed in fear as the blonde walked up to his tree and prepared to shunshin away only to realise he was simply grabbing a leaf. Of all the trees to choose how on earth did he manage to luck out and choose the one he was hidden in? Well, he hoped he was hidden in...

It was on the second month of practicing the leaf exercise that Naruto realised he had to up the ante somehow. Even with all the hours he had put into the training there had been no visible improvement in his chakra control for quite some time. He could barely restrict the flow enough for chakra strings, let alone actually form the shape or direct them. No, he wasn't even an inch closer and he had no way of improving. Frustrated with his progress and the continuing failure, he had spent much of the past week wondering how he could possibly improve.

The answer had come to him rather simply; he was sitting under a tree trying to stick a leaf to his head with chakra when another landed on his nose and disrupted his control entirely. No longer was it an exercise in futility; he struggled with his chakra to hold the new leaf to his nose before finally they both blew off of his face from the irregularity of his chakra flow. His mind had wrapped around the issue for minutes, struggling to work out what had gone wrong before he finally realised what had happened.

Two leaves required divided attention in chakra control; one had to balance and regulate the flow of chakra around two objects rather than one. When he had stumbled across the solution he had been beyond ecstatic; not only could he increase his chakra control but he had a visible way to increase the difficulty - simply keep adding more leaves. It was genius! And they called him the dead last...

So here he was sitting in an abandoned and derelict training ground with at least a dozen leaves stuck all over his body, his chakra fluttering around his body desperately trying to ensure the greenery stuck to him. After holding the pose for at least an hour - which was like a super long time! - he finally disperesed his chakra and allowed the leaves to fall to the floor.

"I am so fucking awesome!" He grinned ear-to-ear.

Of course, if the boy had strained his ears slightly he would have heard the sputtered indignation of his ANBU handler hiding in the trees. The man was shocked and appalled by the vulgar language that had left the boy's mouth. Where on earth had he learnt words like... like that?! Recomposing himself, he allowed a small smirk to grace his lips as he realised the boy didn't dare to utter the obscenities in public and only had only said them when he was alone in an abandoned training field. It seemed the boy did have some sense of manners after all.

Naruto's next lesson came in the form of taijutsu training at the academy, although at the time he failed to realise the importance of what occurred.

Iruka had waited for the class to quieten before announcing, "Alright! Everyone outside, we're going to be sparring each other for the day!" A mad cacophony of sounds erupted as soon as he finished; sparring was practically the coolest thing ever in the eyes of the eight year olds - well, the boys at least. They would fight bravely and prove their metal against each other. Of course, all it ever ended up being was a massive ego trip for those who were talented and a taste of humble pie for those who struggled.

Naruto, contrary to what he believed, most certainly belonged in the second group. While other students practiced the strict academy taijutsu style he would skip the lesson to either pull a prank or slip out of grip of his ANBU followers. This resulted in the boy learning the taijutsu style in a hacked up, half-developed way. And with the already obvious neglect he experienced at the hands of his instructors this meant he struggled to even fight, let alone win.

Regardless, the blonde eight year old believed himself to be something of a super star when it came to anything in the shinobi arts and so when his name was called to face off against Kiba he strutted into the small circular boundary the teachers had created with an air of confidence that was hardly justified. His opponent sneered at him in distaste, already believing himself victorious, which only made Naruto angry and thus more reckless.

"Wow, and I here I was wanting to try!" The Inuzuka taunted as they faced off.

Naruto growled in response, "Shut up dog-breath! I'm gonna kick your ass!" The crowd of students and instructors watched the exchange in amusement; it was obvious Kiba would emerge victorious. The boy had the taijutsu of his clan to support him while Naruto slacked off to the point where he didn't even learn the basic academy style.

"Begin!" Iruka's exasperated voice cut through the air.

Kiba struck forwards first, fist reared back. Naruto moved quickly backwards to avoid the hit and then found himself having to move to the left to avoid a punch in his side. He jumped forwards at the Inuzuka in retaliation and tried to swipe him across the chin. The boy, rather than moving backwards, simply bent his head to the right to the hit missed entirely. Naruto's follow up kick ended in much the same way as he felt the boy's chest inches away from his foot.

Then everything went downhill. What had previously been a evenly-matched fight suddenly turned into a bloodbath; Kiba shot forwards and flung a fist at Naruto's face. Due to his short stature the blonde ducked. He was severely punished for such an action when Kiba's other hand struck his chin with a vicious uppercut. As he reeled backwards from the hit a kick struck his side and he fell to the floor, rolling in pain. Before Iruka could call the match he stood back up and ran at the dog-nin, enraged.

Kiba snorted and jumped to the right to avoid the charge before elbowing him in the back. As Naruto fell he was kicked in the side before finally being picked up and punched in the face so he flung across the circle, landing in a heap a few metres away. Iruka finally moved to hastily intervene and jumped between the two. He looked at Naruto's crumpled form before looking angrily at Kiba.

"That's enough Kiba!" He had exceeded the needed amount of force by far when he picked the boy up and punched him again. The dog-nin merely shrugged in response at his angry gaze before looking at Naruto with something akin to disappointment.

"He insulted me!" He grinned viciously, "Besides, it's not my fault he's dead last!" And it was true to a degree; any other child would have fought off the second barrage by Kiba easily and then tried to counter themselves. Of course, the dog-nin would have inevitably won almost any match he was faced off against considering his heavy reliance on taijutsu but the fact remained that almost every child in the class would have lasted longer than Naruto.

The blonde meanwhile, merely stood up and wiped the blonde coming out of his nose in frustration. Being defeated so quickly and in a way that was nothing short of a massacre did nothing to help his already wavering pride. His eyes darkened in shame as he saw the gazes of everyone around him; they all thought he was an idiot, that he was some sort of fool who was weak. Yes, being humbled darkened Naruto's attitude considerably for the day.

As the next two stood in the ring and Naruto limped away from the group who surely wouldn't accept him so he could sit under one of the nearby trees, he forced his thoughts away from the spectacle in front of him. While his ego burned and his pride disintegrated he knew he couldn't dwell on the match too much or his anger would fester and he'd be forced to take it out on someone, probably Kiba. While the boy was an asshole and had humiliated him Naruto wasn't so shallow as to punish him for his own mistakes. If there was one lesson he had learnt in the whole fight it was that he was, well, shit and it was his own fault.

So he sat and pondered on his shortcomings silently for the rest of the practice and Konoha sighed in relief; they wouldn't be tasting Naruto's pranks for a few days.

Naruto walked out of the academy and groaned in anger as he realised an ANBU immediately tagged onto him once he was out of the boundary of the institution. Normally he wouldn't care too much that he was being followed but he was still feeling the shame of his match with Kiba so his usual exuberant temperament was subdued. He ignored the masked man slinking in the trees near him and instead focused on the task that he had set himself for the day.

He was going to sneak into the library again and go to the section that contained information on Sasori. His progress in chakra control had slowed to a halt and he knew he needed to work on some other stuff while he waited to be taught a newer chakra control exercise by the academy. So he had resolved to sneak into the library and resume his research in puppetry itself, rather than the technique required.

Once he decided to do so he flung his mind back to the first time he had been in the library and tried to remember the books surrounding the subject. He knew that he had been very lucky last time to not be caught and thrown our so he resolved this time to grab a book and sneak out quickly. He'd read it elsewhere; preferably somewhere safe and sparsely populated.

He soon found himself out the front of the library and it's double doors. Sneaking in quietly, he slipped past the front desk by traveling through several deserted sections. If there was one thing Naruto was good at, it was being sneaky. All the pranks he did required such expertise and his chest filled with pride as he thought about his talents in the area.

Before he could think too much about how great he was - he had time to do that later! - he found himself in front of the section that contained information surrounding Sasori. He slipped up next to it and began to shuffle through the books at a rapid pace; he had to be quick about it or he'd be found by a librarian or worse... A shinobi.

'Catalogue of Akasuna no Sasori's known poisons - nah, boring. The Puppet Brigade and it's Champions - nah, too big... Sasori and Sealing - Pfft, sealing... Hah!' Naruto grew frustrated as he read the names of the books; none of them were cool! None at all. He began to sweat in fear as he realised if he didn't moved soon someone was bound to catch him in the act. His fingers fluttered through the numerous books and he swore in frustration as he saw the names - they were all either boring or complicated.


"The Principles of Puppetry: An Eternal Art by Akasuna no Sasori!" The boy whispered to himself in excitement. This looked good and it was written by the man himself! He grabbed the book quickly and shoved it into his bag before moving the books he had previously looked at back into their usual place. Satisfied with his work, the boy snuck away from the section quickly and moved toward the exit. Keeping his eyes on the librarian at the front desk, he discreetly slipped out of the building and moved into a nearby alley. As soon as he felt safe he let out a whoop of joy - he had succeeded in his mission! If he pretended the book was some secret enemy documents and the librarians were some evil Iwa shinobi then he'd pretty much pulled off a search and retrieve or - or! - a spying mission. Man he was so cool!

His happiness was quickly dispelled when he noticed the presence of his ANBU handler. Ignoring the man, he began to walk back to his apartment at a sedated pace. Not for the first time in the day, he thanked the fact that his followers was too lazy to enter the library himself and thus allowed Naruto to get away with the crime of stealing the book. Well, it wasn't really a crime if he gave it back was it? Libraries are there to borrow books anyway!

As he walked slowly he didn't know why he wondered why he felt the need to act so glum in front of the ANBU; usually he'd just continue on his merry way and not care in the slightest. Today however, he felt guarded, as if he needed to hide his success from the man. And so he did, walking through the streets quietly and seemingly without the slightest hint of joy while internally he grew excited at the very idea of being able to read his new precious book.

He soon found himself rounding a bend he knew very well; the final corner before he reached his admittedly sub-par apartment complex. With home in his sights and success within his grasp Naruto allowed a small grin to show on his face. He ran quickly into the building and up the stairs before finally reaching his door. His movement frustrated the few other occupants to no end, with mutters of 'demon brat' 'stupid monster' and the like being ignored by the boy in favor of hastily unlocking his door.

As soon as he entered his apartment he let his full happiness show; a shit-eating grin extended across his face and he weaved through the countless discarded items on the floor in his building. As he moved he quickly grabbed several discarded ramen cups and threw them in the bin. Unfortunately, being both alone and ignored meant Naruto never developed a particularly effective sense of cleanliness. To him, his home of discarded clothes and trashpiles was no different to the picture perfect cleanliness of, say, the Hyuuga compound. He didn't feel there was any need to spend time on the upkeep of his apartment and so it built progressively to a point where he had to remove some of the crap littering the room. He was in luck however, as right now the place wasn't too bad.

He quickly reached his couch and he hoped onto it with a sight of contentment before slipping his hands into his bag and pulling out his stolen - sorry, borrowed - copy of Sasori's book. He felt the cover of it slowly and let his excitement build as his mind raced ahead to try and think of all the possible things that he could learn from the book. He ripped it open madly and began to read the first page, bobbing up and down on the couch as he did so.

"I trust your mission was successful, Fly?" Fly, what an appropriate name for the man who stuck to the wall every day to watch a single individual. Sarutobi would chuckle at his own wit if he wasn't currently debriefing the poor man. And he didn't call the man's situation poor lightly - over the past few years guard detail for Naruto had become something of an infamous mission in ANBU; the boy would constantly escape or cause trouble that resulted in the ire of an otherwise emotionally stunted organisation.

"Actually Hokage-sama," The man began hesitantly, "The boy did something quite, erm, odd." Sarutobi's interest was immediately piqued as the man spoke; Naruto had become nothing if not predictable in the recent few years. If predictable meant escaping from his handlers and causing mischief, that is. To say he did something out of the ordinary would mean the boy probably did something quite the opposite... God forbid if the child actually did his homework.

"Odd you say?" His kind tone was dismissed under the almost demanding gaze he gave the boy.

The man shuffled nervously, "Yes, well he, um, he went to the library." There was a moment of silence in the room as the venerable leader stared at his soldier silently before he began to laugh lightly. Any other child and one would say it was a good thing that they went to the library. Uzumaki Naruto... Well it meant he either thought there were cool jutsu in there or he was up to something. Knowing the boy as he did, he had a feeling it was the latter.

"I can see why you might be concerned." He smiled at the man, "I'm sure he's not up to anything too drastic but see to it that the staff are informed just in case." It wouldn't do for the man to have a civilian librarian moaning to him in his office in a few days time with dyed orange hair. No, better to get an umbrella before it starts raining, "Otherwise, I'm satisfied. You're dismissed."

"As you wish, Hokage-sama." The man bowed low before slipping out of the room and leaving the Sandaime to himself.

As the man sat and pondered the blonde-haired troublemaker his thoughts never once touched on the idea that Naruto might struggle to get in the building due to the heightened awareness of the librarians caused by their warning.

Well that settled it.

Sasori's book was the single most complicated thing Naruto had ever tried to read. And it was only the basics! He shuddered to think what the man wrote on the advanced skills of puppetry. The way the redhead wrote was both dull and detailed, something that preyed directly on the blonde's weaknesses; he had an incredibly short attention span and he hated reading with a passion. Needless to say, despite his best attempts to read the book on his couch for hours he had yet to get anything useful out of it.

He was, rather justifiably, disheartened by such a lack of progress. Just when he thought he had taken his first steps toward learning about the art he hit a roadblock. It was funny really, that his reading ability was holding him back. It wasn't so much that what the man said didn't make sense so much as every second word didn't; the boy knew if he could understand the words he'd be able to follow the text pretty well but... He couldn't.

It wasn't all bad news however; despite the convoluted and confusing statements that Sasori liked to say Naruto did grasp one valuable lesson in it all.

"The asinine desire to attain mastery over a single branch of the shinobi arts, while seemingly admirable, only leads to a stunted skill-set. Not only does it inhibit the way an individual can approach any situation but it also makes one habitual and it is through this repetitious behavior that one becomes predictable and thus assailable."

The passage continued on in the same vein and, after having pulled out a dictionary to work out the meaning of several words, Naruto managed to work out what it was saying: Being good at only one thing is bad.

Sasori of course described it in a much more complicated and cold way that Naruto was quickly growing used to. The man had a particular style to writing that both insulted the reader and elevated the writer. Naruto had lost count of how many times the book made him feel stupid, and not just from it's complicated nature. He was geniunely embarrassed when the book would spell out countless things that Naruto abided by as 'weak' and 'foolish'. If he didn't know any better he'd think the book was written specifically to demean him.

The boy had long since decided that if he were to abide by the rules and guidelines that Sasori revealed in his book that he'd have to spend countless hours translating them so he could actually follow them with a sense of sincerity. Because of this, Naruto pulled out a piece of paper and a pen and decided to write down the first golden rule that Sasori had given him;

Naruto's Super Awesome Rules of Puppetry and Other Stuff!

1. A specialized shinobi is a dead shinobi.

To his juvenile mind his rule was a much better way to describe what Sasori was trying to say. As he finished writing he grinned madly and flourished his wrist dramatically. He was eight years old and already writing pearls of wisdom to the younger generations...

"I'm so cool." He muttered as he smirked at his achievement. Not only did he manage to work out what Sasori meant but he also started his own rules! Man, he was gonna be so famous one day. He shook his head to dismiss thoughts of hordes of fans and world domination to instead focus back on his current task. Looking at the book, he decided that working out that rule was good enough for the day. He packed his stuff up quickly and put them away before standing with a grin on his face and moving to his next objective of the day.

Time for a visit to Jiji! He needed to see if the old guy could help him with his chakra control.

A loud crash was his only warning before an orange and yellow bundle smashed through the doors to his office. The multi-coloured thing landed in a heap, limbs sticking out at awkward angles. The Sandaime would be appropriately amused by such a sight if he wasn't already so frustrated; he was not in the mood for Naruto right now. Regardless, he mustered a benevolent smile on his face and watched as the boy untangled himself and stood up slowly.

A screech could be heard in the distance before a head popped into his doorway, "I'm so Hokage-sama, it's just he... I don't know how he does it!" His secretary babbled as she spoke, mortified that she had failed at her job to keep people out of his office. What was worse was that she had lost to an eight year old. The subject of her ire turned around and grinned at her before sticking his tongue out.

"It's cause I'm awesome!" He boasted proudly while puffing his chest up, "Aren't I Jiji?" He grinned and turned to his grandfather in all but blood.

The man in question merely stared pointedly at the child before rubbing his forehead in consternation, "I'm glad you've come to see me," Not really, "But you really must stop terrifying my poor staff." And stop bothering him.

"Huh?" His eyes scrunched in confusion.

Sarutobi sighed, "While I appreciated the enthusiasm for your visits could you try to tone down your entrances?" He smiled softly, "A good start would be to ask if you could be let in. I'm sure Masuyo-chan would appreciate it..."

The woman sputtered quickly, "Oh! Yes of course." She glared at Naruto, "You make my job hard you know?"

"Ano, I'm sorry." The boy had the decency to look abashed although the twinkle of mischief in his eyes didn't go unnoticed by the Hokage.

"I forgive you Naruto, just... Try to calm down a little." She smiled softly at the boy. The woman knew any sign of bias against the child would result in her losing her job. Not that she saw the boy as the fox or anything as equally foolish, but after the previous secretary had refused Naruto entry for several weeks without the Sandaime's knowledge he had become much more harsh on any signs of such idiocy.

The boy nodded enthusiastically at the woman, "I will, I will!" His face turned to the only other person in the room and Masuyo took it as her sign to leave the room, slipping out of the doorway, "Now... Jiji?" His eyes morphed into polite, soft orbs and the man grew suspicious at the sight. He knew that look; the boy wanted something.

"Hmm?" He waited for the child to voice his request.

He smiled nervously, "Well you know chakra control?" The man snorted; did he know chakra control? Ha. "I've been trying to get better but, uh, I just can't seem to with the leaf exercise. So I was wondering..." He paused and looked at the man with pleading eyes, "DoyouknowanyotherexercisesIc anuse?" The man's eyes almost bulged at the speed that Naruto spoke. He took a few moments to decipher the full contents of the sentence before finally deciding what to say.

"Naruto, you know I can't teach you anything; it'd be unfair." Of course, he didn't mention that it was one of the sanctions the council had placed upon the boy.

The blonde smirked as he spoke, "You don't have to teach me though, that's whats so cool!" The Hokage raised an eyebrow, "If you can just give me a scroll like you did last time I'll teach myself!" He grinned from ear-to-ear, over the moon with his genius plan.

"Naruto..." The Sandaime sighed; he couldn't give the boy too much support or he'd never hear the end of it, "I'm sorry but I won't do that. That's what the academy is for." At the boy's crestfallen face the man winced before adding, "Why don't you ask Iruka?"

The boy nodded half-heartedly, "I guess." He forced a smiled onto his face, his eyes squinted to hide what was shown in them, "Well thanks anyway Jiji! I'll leave you alone now." As the boy left the Hokage rubbed his forehead not from frustration but from sadness; it was obvious to him that the smile was fake but the boy refused to show his pain to anyone.

The blonde-haired child strutted confidently to the academy with a grin plastered over his face. There was very little that could make Uzumaki Naruto as excited as he was right now. The reason for his bubbling happiness was simple; yesterday Iruka had told them they were going to be learning their first ninjutsu. Well, first jutsu from the academy. The blonde knew that all the clan families probably knew their own specific ninjutsu while the civilian children could go into the library without fear of reprisal but he didn't let the grin slip from his face because of such thoughts. Nothing could get him down right now.

He soon found himself in front of the imposing academy building and so slipped inside quickly before barreling through the door to his class in excitement. Iruka looked up from his desk in exasperation while the few students who were here ahead of him snorted at his interest. He ignored them and quickly moved to take his place in the back right corner of the room. Iruka waved a greeting to him but he avoided replying.

Naruto always made sure to get to the academy either early or late. That way he could avoid the rush of families dropping off their children. He knew Sasuke now did the same, arriving before anyone else in the room so he didn't have to see what he had lost in the form of parents saying their goodbyes to the children. Naruto didn't just come early or late to avoid growing jealous however; he also did it to avoid the whispers and comments that always followed his appearance in an area with adults.

As he pulled his mind away from such dark thoughts he realised the classroom had already filled quickly to the point where even his partner-in-slacking, Shikamaru, was sitting beside him with his head tilted in a quiet yawn. The two weren't exactly friends per say, it was more that the two wished to both avoid the front of the classroom and Sasuke who sat in the left corner of the room. That left them with few options other then to sit next to each other. Although Naruto did know that the boy held no ill will to him. In fact, he could remember overhearing Shikamaru and his father talking about him one day out the front of the academy:

"Why does everyone say he's so bad?" Shikamaru gestured at Naruto discreetly, "I don't understand."

Shikaku stared down at his son intently, "Shikamaru, don't listen to the other kids; you're better than that. You should always form your own opinion." The man's serious tone wasn't lost on the boy in front of him who was used to his father's lazy disinterest.

Shikamaru nodded slowly, "I guess I'll just have to wait and see. Tch! Troublesome." Shikaku looked at his son with a wide grin and ruffled his hair. If his mother heard their son say that word he knew he'd be in the doghouse for a while.

While not exactly a shining description of him, Naruto was thankful that the man at least gave him a chance. He treated him like no other child and for that he was grateful. He also knew that Shikamaru had done just as he had been told and, in his own way, shown he didn't agree with the collective populace. He wouldn't necessarily 'hang out' with the blonde but he'd always wave back a greeting or reply to anything Naruto said to him.

Naruto forced his focus back to the front of the room where Iruka had just finished giving the background info on the henge, "Now you guys can all give it a go! Grab one of the scrolls from the front that explain how to do the technique and then feel free to break off into groups and try it. I'll come around and inspect your progress."

As soon as he finished the class all jumped up out of their seats and rushed to the front to grab a scroll, excited by the idea of performing their first jutsu. Naruto himself was near the front of the line despite having started at the back of the classroom. He quickly grabbed a scroll before moving back to his seat to read over it. As soon as he landed in his seat he began to skim over it quickly. When he finished Shikamaru had just returned from the front of the room and moved to sit down. As he got in his seat the shadow-user let out a loud sigh of relief before throwing the scroll at the desk and leaning back to go to sleep.

Naruto realised the boy must have already learnt the henge at home and for a moment a sliver of jealousy struck his heart before he ruthlessly squashed it and returned his focus to the scroll. He read it again. And again. And again. Finally, he was satisfied with his understanding of the jutsu and how it worked so he stood slowly and moved to the open area in between his desk and the middle desks.

He flashed through the handseals:

Dog! - Boar! - Ram!

'Visualize. Compress. Expel.' He remembered the line in the scroll as he forced his chakra out to coat around his body.

"Henge no Jutsu!" There was a puff of smoke and in place of where an eight year old blonde boy stood a small, deformed looking Iruka with huge arms and tiny legs. As he struggled with his ugly form Naruto heard a snort from the right of him and looked over to see Shikamaru looking at him with a bemused smirk. Scowling, Naruto quickly dispelled the illusion.

Before he could try again the boy beside him interrupted, "You're using too much chakra." He yawned as he spoke, "Try to reduce the flow." Naruto looked at him in surprise for a moment; it wasn't like Shikamaru to offer help. Hell, it wasn't like Shikamaru to be awake. Regardless, the blonde nodded in thanks to the other boy.

"Oh! Ok, thanks!" His exuberant voice made Shikamaru groan and cover his ears. The boy then turned in his seat away from Naruto presumably so he could sleep easier. Naruto could swear he heard 'loud' and 'troublesome' being muttered as the boy did so but ignored it; he had helped him after all. He returned his focus to jutus in question and flashed through the handseals again.

"Henge no Jutsu!" With the reduced levels of chakra Naruto was able to form a much better version of Iruka; the clone was appropriately size, with a bit of his colouring in the clothes off. Grinning madly, the blonde realised he could have the jutsu mastered in a few days - maybe even by the end of the day! He was so damn awesome!

"At least he doesn't look like a goblin now." Shikamaru muttered behind him. Naruto whipped his hear around to look at the boy, a retort ready on the tip of his tongue, only to stop as he saw the boy's mirthful expression; he was joking.

"Don't you have a desk to sleep on or something?" He replied with a smirk on his face.

The other boy just grinned, "You're very interesting, Uzumaki Naruto."

A/N: I know I shouldn't start ANOTHER story but this is probably the thing I want to do the most - I'm super excited by the idea of doing it and if you guys like it I'll happily start it up. It's heavily inspired by the story 'Scorpion's Disciple' - now that is a masterpiece - but I won't be having Sasori helping Naruto in his training personally. Certainly, the boy will learn from books by the man and the stories surrounding him but there won't be any of that 'redhead strolls into Konoha, decides to make Naruto his apprentice' stuff. No, I'd like to make this a little more unique.

I would say that he'd develop the skill as Sasori did - simply being shown the basics and then everything building from there. He'd do it on his own and because of this he wouldn't be at Sasori's level until at least AFTER the timeskip. Well, that'd be my realistic thoughts.

This is going to be fairly slow in build-up. I'm aiming for a chapter for every year until canon kicks in. This is probably the story I enjoy writing the most right now; I just love the idea of a Puppet!Naruto. BUT the updates will be slow due to the size of the chapters - I want to say two a month but I'm not really sure how I'll go so yeah...

I also really need help with the name of this fanfic - the current one is essentially a placeholder because can't think of ANYTHING good. Feel free to let me know about any ideas.

Anyway, hope you enjoyed! Please read and review!