Author's Note: Yo, I know some of you guys are waiting patiently on my other stories to be updated. No need to fret, I'm still working on them. It's just that I have recently been struck with inspiration and am giving another idea a swing. I was inspired to write this story after watching Naruto Shippuden episodes 166 (Confession) and episode 178 (Iruka's Decision). There's a couple more in there, I just need to find them again.

Anyway, hope you all enjoy this one.




Eight years after Kyuubi attack…

It was a nice, warm and sunny day out in Konoha, and there was not a cloud in the sky. It was really the perfect day to be outside, especially for all the children cooped up at home. The younger groups were out on the playgrounds, kicking ball, playing tag, hide-and-seek, and all manner of fun that they would normally do out on a day like this. It was literally a cauldron of excitement brewing in the parks.

"Hey, Sakura! Check this out!" a blonde haired girl in an orange shirt with her hair tied up in a high knot exclaimed as she ran up to her friend, who was picking flowers in the park's clearing. The addressed youngster looked up to see Ino stop and pose in front of her. "What do you think?"

Spotting the large purple flower slipped into her companion's hair, Sakura smiled and leapt to her feet in excitement. "Wow, Ino! Where'd you get that?"

"From the woods over there," Ino exclaimed while pointing. She brushed her hair back in an attempt to look more mature. "Isn't it pretty?"

"Yeah! It is!"

While the two compared collections with one another from the flora they had already managed to pick, they suddenly picked-up on a big commotion somewhere nearby and looked up to see all of the kids on the playground suddenly run off. Boys and girls of all ages scrambled over the equipment en masse before disappearing across the plain, running out of the park or to their parents.

Things quickly went from excited to deathly quiet after that, something that puzzled both girls out on grass since the sight of the children leaving all at once made it seem like they were running from something scary. Hell, they pretty much left everything that they had with them behind; balls, toys and stuff in the sand box.

"Hey, what's going on?" Sakura asked, looking around worryingly.

After a few seconds of scratching heads, the two friends then saw a boy with blonde hair appear on the empty playground. Wearing a slightly grubby white shirt with shorts, he stared after the kids that had run off in confusion before spotting Sakura and Ino. He then ran over to them, the two girls backing away a bit until he stopped in front of them and smiled.

"Hey, can I play with you guys?" the newcomer asked with a grin.

Sakura and Ino looked unsure at each other at first. But after a few seconds of deliberation, they both glanced back at the stranger and smiled. Looking him over there didn't appear to be anything scary about this boy. He seemed pretty nice to them, so why did everybody else run off? This question however went on unanswered and the two youngsters approached the smiling boy with open arms and smiles of their own.

"Sure," Sakura chirped, stepping towards the stranger and holding out the flowers she was still holding. "We're trying to find as many of these as we can."

Ino also walked up to him and showed off the piece in her hair with a big grin. "The one who finds the most interesting ones wins."

Naruto laughed a little at their activity and went on to inspect the bunch the pink haired girl was holding out to him. "Hunting for flowers? That's a silly game."

The girl clutching the collection of daisies and poppies puffed her cheeks out indignantly, "No it's not!"

Giggling excitedly, the blonde held up a fist and grinned at them, "If it's a competition then I bet I can find the best!"

"Uh-uh," Ino replied immediately while pointing at her chest. "I bet I can find the best before you can! My family owns a flower shop and knows everything about plant life, so I know what the best flowers are."

"Alright then," Naruto spoke up confidently while pointing at both of them, "Whoever finds the best flower in the next five minutes wins!"

"Okay!" both girls said in unison. On their count, the trio then broke away and began roaming the playground for the eye-catching plants they could find. They had to search high and low if they wanted the best, with Sakura immediately going to a cherry blossom tree and Ino retreating to the base of an oak for some wild blue bells. Even Naruto had his share of fun picking daisies from the side of the sandpit.

Unfortunately, before their little challenge could gain any real traction Sakura, who was busy pulling flowers from her tree, was interrupted by the sound of footsteps approaching her from behind, which had her look over her shoulder. There she saw her mother, a tall woman with shoulder-length golden blonde hair, green eyes and wearing white robes smiling down at her. She took the girl gently by the hand and began leading her away from the park. "Come on sweetie. Your father wants us home now."

"B-But wait mom, I haven't finished playing with my friends yet," the pink haired girl exclaimed in protest, looking across the park to see Naruto staring after her with a handful of grass and chrysanthemums. He also looked across to see Ino being led off by her father as well, both girls looking back towards him in confusion.

Mebuki smiled sweetly at her daughter. "You can spend time with them tomorrow, okay?" She looked back across at the youngster standing by the playground. "I'm sure he'll be here waiting for you."

"Umm… o-okay …" Sakura replied, allowing herself to be led away. When she looked back at the confused boy she had just met she waved at him, which he returned after a moment of pause. He didn't seem to know what was going on or why she was being led away so suddenly, but after a few seconds of watching the girls leave with their parents he looked away, appearing a little hurt. The pink haired girl looked back with worry. 'H-He didn't even tell me his name.'

To Naruto, it was a familiar sight seeing kids running away from him or being dragged away by their parents, but for whatever reason he had no idea why. Was he sick? Was he scary? Was he hideous? Was he a bad person? To a kid only eight years old and incredibly impressionable it certainly seemed that way. What else was he supposed to think?

He'd heard people's whispers, seen their stares and seen how the villagers acted around him. They were always pushing him away, ignoring him or sneering at his face.

These were mostly the parents and the adults. The children naturally followed what their parents were doing and ran away from him… most of the time. Those youngsters who were the exception, the ones that didn't know him, were always nice to him the first time around. But then when he went to see them again to play they either ran away, hid or ignored him.

Perhaps the two nice girls he met today would end up like that tomorrow. Perhaps they wouldn't. He wasn't sure, but it was still a very upsetting thought.

Upon seeing a couple more potential friends get dragged away from him Naruto looked down at the ground in disappointment. He dropped the flowers he was carrying and shoved his hands into his pockets dismissively, kicking at the earth before following the footpath out of the park.

Since there was nobody here anymore what point was there in hanging around?


A couple years later…

"Quit it!"

"Huh? Who the hell are you?" a young boy wearing a blue jumper and a cap asked as he looked over his shoulder at the short, blonde haired boy in a white T-shirt standing behind him. The delinquent's two companions, a chubby boy wearing a bandana and a slender one with dark hair and wearing an orange-brown top were also glaring menacingly at the newcomer. Their scowls intensified when they saw exactly who it was. "I don't like that face of yours."

"Hey… isn't he that?" the chubby kid asked.

"Yeah… the punk that keeps painting on walls and causing trouble for everybody else," the boy in orange stated, the three of them all turning at once to confront the interloper. "What're you doing here, that?"

The blonde haired boy glared back at each of them, moments before his eyes came around to rest on the kid kneeling at their feet. The girl lying on the ground appeared to be both bruised and harassed.

It was apparent what had been going on here.

These three upstarts had been picking on someone that had probably upset them in some way, and judging by the tears on the victim's face the attacks they had been dealing the person had been quite severe. The fact that they had dragged the person all the way out here to the back of the academy near the tire swing where it was completely isolated meant that they could do whatever they wished here without consequence. It was sick.

What's more Naruto recognized the victim as someone from his class. It was the shy, quiet girl with short blue hair that always sat somewhere behind him in the back rows.

Her name was Hinata if he remembered correctly.

The girl was looking up at him in surprise, an expression he was able to catch before he clenched his fists angrily and glared back at her attackers.

"Hmph… I don't know who this 'that' person you're talking about is," the young Naruto said before smirking proudly. "Speak clearly, dumbasses."

"What?" one of the side-kicks shouted, stepping towards him and shaking his fist, "What was that?"

"You heard me," Naruto grinned, testing the waters a little more. "Who are you talking about? I don't know who you're talking about, so everything you're probably going to say about that person is going to go right over my head."

"You!" the other chubby delinquent shouted, pushing his friend back and stepping into the insolent kid's face. "Aren't you the good-for-nothing runt making lives difficult for everybody else?"

"It's true isn't it?" the leader asked, pulling his friend back to tower over the shorter kid. "You're the one?"

"I have a name, you know!" Naruto suddenly cut in, his voice climbing in volume over theirs and getting them to blink in surprise. Pulling his right up from his side, the blonde jerked his thumb across his chest before wiping it under his nose arrogantly. "It's Uzumaki Naruto, the future Hokage of the Hidden Leaf!"



The three kids suddenly burst out laughing, holding their sides and pointing at the blonde as if he were crazy. The girl behind them, still looking ruffled with tear stains smeared across her cheeks, gazed admirably up at the stranger standing valiantly against her attackers. Even though he was smaller than them, younger than them and out-numbered three to one, he was standing up to these brutes and drawing their attention away from her. He wasn't scared of them at all.

Sure, she remembered this particular boy. She remembered him from class, from training, and from passing him on the streets with one of her caretakers. She'd heard of his exploits, causing havoc and ruin wherever he went, and making lives incredibly stressful for all of the villagers. Heck, she had even questioned about him and his nature many times with her guardians in the past, but they had always either held their tongues or gave her explicit instruction not to associate with him because he was 'dangerous', 'foul' and 'mischievous.' It was a different reason every day.

For so long she had wondered what kind of person he really was and why everybody said to stay away from him. But as she knelt on the grass, looking up at him and seeing him stand up to the three boys that had been picking on her minutes before, she could only wonder why a person said to be so untrustworthy, was rescuing her.

It made her eyes shimmer with awe and curiosity.

'He's so brave,' she thought.

"A brat like you can't become one," the leader of the trio with the cap exclaimed, cocking a fist back with a malicious grin. "Just shut up and buzz off!" He threw a punch.

Unexpectedly though, the blonde haired boy standing directly in front of the attacker suddenly swayed back, bending to an almost impossible angle so that his antagonist's wild swing sent him stumbling forward with a yelp. The second his footing went, Naruto threw a right up at him in a hooking motion. Whether it was a hook or an uppercut no one knew, but the result was the same as any punch carrying any weight. Naruto hit his target right underneath the boy's chin and lifted him a foot off the ground before he dropped like a dead weight. The jinchuriki then snapped back into a standing position like a pop-up in a book the moment his foe's body hit the floor.

The blonde cracked his knuckles while facing the two remaining bullies down, who were now looking at him in shock. "You guys are older than me right? Do you like picking on kids smaller than you? Kids who are weaker than you?" He saw them grit their teeth and raise their fists in preparation for an attack. "That is so not cool. So in return I'll give you a little present! Say hi to my demon right hand!"

The chubby boy went for him first, but Naruto dashed right at him in response and sent a killer right cross across his jaw. The blow sent spit flying and his opponent crashing to the grassy floor, seconds before his other companion rushed at the blonde with a wild swing. Just like with his other opponent, Naruto swayed under it and stepped around, waiting for the kid to spin back and chase him with a series of untamed punches. The blonde backed away from them with a playful grin on his face, ducking and weaving around knock-out blows before his back suddenly smacked into a tree trunk.

He looked behind him momentarily, a split second before seeing the boy in the orange jacket rush at him with a roar. Smirking, Naruto jumped into the air and placed both feet against the tree behind him. Hands in his pockets, he then kicked off and spun around his swinging opponent, who unintentionally punched the tree with a painful crack.

"OW-OW-OW!" the boy cried out, clenching his bark-covered fist while turning around. He saw Naruto standing directly behind him with that ever-present grin still stretched across his lips, a split second before his entire world blacked out.

The reason for this was the blonde haired boy's foot shooting straight off the ground in a perfect, vertically drawn, skyward kick, slamming him in the jaw and lifting him into the air. A second later, the last bully dropped to his knees and face planted the ground.

Naruto smirked at his fallen opponent and stepped away coolly. "And let that be a lesson to yah." Scraping his sandals on the grass, he then turned his attention towards the girl to see her gazing across at him in sheer astonishment. "Yo! Are you okay?"

Before Hinata could say anything out of gratitude for his actions, a rustling of bushes behind her caught her attention and the Hyuuga looked around to see a guardian from her clan come running up to her. "Hinata-sama!" He skidded to a stop in front of the surprised child. "Are you okay?" He then took note of the carnage around him. The beaten or unconscious boys lying across the ground were the first to come to his attention, before his eyes looked up and landed on the blonde haired boy standing by the last one lying at his feet. The Hyuuga blinked, "He's…"

Frowning, the man took Hinata by the hand and gently, yet hurriedly, pulled her to her feet. "Come, Hinata-sama. This is no place for you."

"B-But wait!" the girl exclaimed, looking desperately towards the spiky-haired youngster, "H-He came to my rescue!"

"He is none of our concern. Do not associate yourself with him," the Chunin stated firmly, earning a surprised glance from the young heiress. He then began dragging her along, wanting to vacate the premises and get as far away from the jinchuriki as possible. "Now come."

Hinata was overwhelmed. Why was she being led away so suddenly? Why was she being taken away from the person who saved her? The moment she felt her feet start to move; endless questions began plaguing her thoughts. She didn't know where to start.

However, instead of fighting against the current, the Hyuuga allowed herself to get led away by her guardian, at the same time looking back toward the brave soul that had stood up to her villains. When she did, she saw Naruto looking back at her in bewilderment, before a saddened expression overcame his face and his gaze turned southwards. He didn't wave her off or anything at first, choosing to keep his hands in his pockets and to kick at a clump of dirt at his feet.

A moment later however, upon realizing that being sad wouldn't do him any good, he looked back up towards the retreating pair and smiled. The small gesture soon transformed into his characteristic grin and he waved back with vigor.

It was almost like he was saying he was okay.

Hinata, still being dragged through the small wooded area, returned his smile and blushed before looking away to hide her embarrassment. When she looked back to exchange his kind wave of parting with another, she saw much to her surprise that he was no longer there. Only the unconscious bullies remained.

Her hero had vanished, like a ghost on the wind…


Six months later…

Sitting alone in a hot spring up in the hills of his village overlooking a better part of the suburbs, one which he had found all on his own while out wrecking destruction wherever he could, the jinchuriki Naruto was busy scrubbing himself down from a long day of troublemaking, training, and getting into a lot of fights.

Apparently that scrap of three from a few weeks ago hadn't been the only 'tough' kids on the block.

The order of the jungle was that wherever you saw one delinquent there were always thousands more hiding somewhere in the same neighborhood. That meant that there was always trouble around every block and, being Naruto, the boy didn't give a squat about territories, family groups or whatever.

Like he always said to himself every morning whenever he got up and out of bed; he WAS the trouble, he WAS the danger, and he couldn't care less about any of that divided society crap. Always on the lookout for 'opportunities' and getting himself involved in some way, the blonde had managed to grab the attention of some local hoods by painting his signature on what they claimed to be 'their' wall. Just like how dominoes fell, he was quickly set upon by the entire gang in seconds.

The resulting clash to follow was the same as every other day. Naruto beat the shit out of every single one of them while taking some bruises for himself as a reward for his efforts, before walking away with a wide grin on his face. The boys had been like… several years his senior; teenagers. Being a ninja in training and still nine years old of course, that little scruff was just another workout for him.

After rubbing the bruise on his cheek from taking a hard punch from a blind spot, Naruto folded his arms and glared impatiently across the small steaming pond nestled in the forest covered hillside. As pleasant as this was, he was still a little sore.

"Those dumbasses. They didn't know who they were messing with," the jinchuriki thought, sticking his tongue out. "I'm going to be awesome one day. They'll see!" An upset frown replaced his foul look when he said his next words quietly, "They'll all see…"

Looking around at his sanctuary, he couldn't ignore the fact that he was alone. The only other signs of life he could make out in this area were the sounds of frogs and crickets, and he couldn't even see them. Nothing else. The whole atmosphere made him submerge himself further into the water and blow bubbles in a bored manner.

He so wished he had somebody to talk to who wouldn't turn their back on him for the rest of their lives.

As if answering his plight, a rustling in the bushes drew his attention toward the woods. A moment later after locking onto the source of the disturbance, a family of nihonzaru monkeys suddenly came out of the brush, surprising the blonde.

Naruto watched intently as they gathered around his spring, taking their time to test the safety of the area and hopping in once assured that there was no danger present. An adolescent monkey crawled circles around the pond a few times before perching itself on a stone next to the startled blonde.

At first baffled by the little critters, upon seeing the family hop in to bathe the jinchuriki was able to relax once more and spent the next couple of minutes counting their numbers. Quickly figuring they were here to keep him company, a smile came to his face and he turned to the young monkey sitting close by with great enthusiasm. "H-Hello," Naruto exclaimed, tilting his head at the adolescent on the rock. "You're not afraid of me… are you?"

The monkey responded in its native tongue before splashing at the blonde playfully. The jinchuriki giggled before flicking water back at it, earning a squeak before it dived into the water.

"Hey… no fair!" Naruto exclaimed, getting splashed by the squirt's dive. The youngster surfaced nearby, earning a laugh from the child. "D-Do you want to play?" The monkey looking at him from the water waded around and back into the shallows, splashing water at Naruto who returned fire. "Alright! You're on!" Seizing the opportunity the jinchuriki then began trading shots with the little ball of fur while its family relaxed nearby.

The afternoon drew on as Naruto and the family of monkeys bathed. After an hour or so passed it was eventually time for the lot of them to get out and, not wanting to part from the monkeys he was able to befriend in his time in the spring, Naruto pulled on his clothes and decided to clamber after them back into the woods. He played tag with the young ones high up in the trees and ran around in the field.

Having longed for the company of others for so long, it wasn't a surprise for a child his age to respond to even those much different from him. At least these friendly animals of the mountains and woods didn't recoil at his presence. They didn't snarl, glare or throw rocks at him, they didn't run or hide… they were honestly really nice.

It made Naruto genuinely laugh out in joy, for the first time in a long while…


A year later…

Naruto woke bolt upright from his bed, blinking away his sleep as he stared towards the wall at the foot of his bed. Appearing both baffled and drowsy from the exhausted rings around his eyes, he looked around his room momentarily to reacquaint himself with his surroundings… and to possibly get a handle on reality.

Okay, he wasn't at the park, he wasn't in the trees behind his school, he wasn't in his living room, and he certainly wasn't up in the valleys next to the Hokage Monument. Soon determining that he was actually in his room and in his bed, he concluded that the events he had been watching through his eyes moments before were merely memories of a bygone time; turbulent, upsetting and filled with brief glimmers of happiness.

They were what shaped his life up to today.

Groaning, Naruto rubbed the back of his head and picked up his bedside clock. He groaned when he saw the time. "Two-thirty? Still too early!" he thought to his dismay before setting it back down and giving a yawn. "Damn dreams…"

With that curse made to his own biological clock and his adventurous mind, he then laid down flat and pulled the covers back over him.

Hopefully his next dreams wouldn't be so stirring…


Two weeks later…

Early morning…

Another peaceful night and another beautiful sunrise; a predetermined event that told everyone across the country that all was right with the world. The rays of light from the golden ball that drew across the sky filtered down onto the landscape, illuminating every corner and filling in every shadow. Peaking over the rolling hillsides and forests its magnificent glaze soon reached the hidden village of Konohagakure, which greeted its warmth with a welcoming breeze and the glow of sweet dew built up from the night before.

The blend of nature with human settlement, as well as the manmade marvel known as the Hokage Monument sitting comfortably in the background made the glimmering picture of faultlessness a sight to behold. It was like somebody speed-painted the entire village based on their own thoughts of what the most tranquil place in the world was like every waking hour. If it weren't flying the flag of a shinobi village or was plagued with such a questionable history it would have been paradise.

To the people living inside of its walls though, it was just home. This was precisely what ran through a particular shopkeeper's mind as he prepared to open the doors of his business to the populace. Immediately upon pushing up the roller door of his general items store he stretched his back and greeted the sun with a satisfied yawn. He stepped out onto the street with a delightful smile on his face.

That was until he turned around and looked up at the front of his shop that had been passed down to him from his father and the father before him. A shriek escaped his lips and he jumped further out into the middle of the road.

"Wh-What?! What the hell?!"

It was horrifying. His shop was covered in paintings of various symbols, words that should never be uttered in public and images that were either too abstract to make out or too shocking to even talk about. Not only that, but the poor salesman's building wasn't the only one that was hit by the maelstrom of paint works.

From left to right up and down the neighborhood, every single roof, wall, door, window and fence in sight was covered in the atrocious street art. It wasn't even the good kind of street art either; it was the terrible graffiti, single-colored, time-wasting bullshit you could find anywhere on any sign and there was a shit ton of it. It looked like somebody had just done it on the fly because it sure as hell wasn't done over the entire night, but that wasn't the main problem right now. Almost everyone who was awake at this time and outside was looking up in mortification at their once glamorous suburb.

"What is this?"

"How terrible."


"It's everywhere, honey! Look! Even the clothes on the line got painted!"

"Who did this?"

As questions and exclamations began filtering out from every villager and shopkeeper present, boisterous laughter suddenly filled the air and forced everyone in the vicinity to crane their heads towards a nearby overpass. There, standing on top of cluster of drainpipes straddling the gap, the culprit responsible for the aforementioned crime stood over the crowd far below with his arms proudly folded, a bucket at his feet and a wide grin on his face.

Dressed in an orange jacket with short blue sleeves with an orange arrow on each sleeve, orange cargo shorts and a pair of ski goggles slapped over his head, the blonde haired menace known throughout the village cast his ominous shadow across the street from the sun now hitting his back, lighting him up like a superhero under spotlight.

The blonde's grin flashed into view once all eyes landed on him.

"That's right! It was me!" the boy with spiky blonde hair exclaimed. "Uzumaki Naruto at your service! Remember that name well… because I'm going to be Hokage some day!"

With that announcement made he wasted no time in making his getaway and took off down the street at speed, leaping across from rooftop to rooftop.

"Come back here!"

"Damn it! It was him again!"

For a ten year old academy student, he was damn quick. The villagers could do nothing except attempt to give chase, point fingers and throw curses at him as he vacated the premises with fleeter feet than a cat running from a garden hose. Within seconds he was out of sight, leaving behind a trail of atrocities and fuming shop keepers.

The owner of the general store growled and crossed his arms, now standing amongst a whole crowd of villagers who had also been attacked by the little menace. "What a nuisance. He's made a big mess."

The man next to him nodded in agreement, "Even if we want to file a complaint he's got no parents we can nag to."

"What'll we do?" another concerned villager asked, a woman who turned out with the rest of the crowd holding up her summer kimono, now covered in colored paint reading the blasted perpetrator's name. "Who's going to pay for all of this?"

By the time the unpleasantness started to waft off of the targets for that day, Naruto was long gone and running down some random road many blocks away. He was still grinning mischievously from ear to ear and giggling non-stop, thoroughly satisfied at what he had been able to accomplish in a short half-hour. If he were a dog, then he would have pretty much claimed that entire area as his territory.

"Suckers," Naruto exclaimed, laughing out loud as the paint bucket he had trailing behind him rattled on the wind. "Naruto: five-hundred! Village idiots: zero!" He stuck his tongue out.

Once he was certain that he had pulled far enough away from the danger zone, Naruto allowed his sprint to slow to a jog before dropping into a comfortable stride. He waded in the satisfaction of seeing all of the villagers' reactions to his latest felony and bathed in the afterglow. However, while he was walking down a quiet suburb way out of reach of anyone bound to be seeking revenge on him, he stopped when he heard a familiar call from nearby.

"I'm heading off mum!"

Eyes training left as his feet carted to a stop, Naruto saw the door to one of the nearby homes open and a boy around his age come running out, shortly followed by whom he guessed was his younger brother and their mother. The parent stopped the younger of the two from running off prematurely by holding out two bento boxes, all neatly wrapped and ready for them. It was a homemade meal only a loving family member could prepare for her children.

"Hold on, sweetie. You forgot something," the mother exclaimed with humor in her voice.

The older boy skidded clumsily and rushed back, looking slightly abashed, "Oops! Sorry, mum!" the youngster laughed, taking the box from her when it was lowered to him. "What did you make for us today?"

"Did you make us omelets?" the younger brother asked eagerly while tackling his older brother in a playful manner. "Is it omelets?" They looked up to see their mother beaming at them.

"Of course. I made a lot."

"Yay!" both cheered excitedly, after which they then ran off with their bento boxes held overhead, like they were trophies won in contest and needed to be elevated. They celebrated their way down the street, looking back to see their mother waving at them.

"Be careful you two," she yelled out to them.

"We will, mum!" the older brother called.

"Love you!"

Naruto's expression sunk as he watched the two siblings head on their way while their mother saw them off from her home's doorsteps. After a few seconds of looking and seeing the parent walk back inside, upon floundering over the memory of the warm bond he saw that they shared as a family the jinchuriki then turned his gaze back to the road ahead of him again and he shuffled on. With his head and spirit set on an extreme low, he began dragging his feet away to wherever he wanted to go next.

Where? Well… that was a question he would really like answered.

Obviously no one was waiting for him back home. No one was waiting for him anywhere.

"This sucks," he muttered, feeling a lot smaller than he had been before; even after all of his big talk to the villagers about becoming Hokage. Speaking of which, after reaching the end of the road and finding himself in some quiet backstreet the boy was able to get a great spectator's view of the entire monument itself laid out on the horizon.

He gritted his teeth and dropped the paint can he was carrying. The yellow splashed over the ground as he pointed up at the vacant expressions of the four historic faces watching over the entire community.

"What are YOU looking at, huh?" Naruto shouted, ignoring the startled looks of a couple of nearby villagers. "Do you think this bothers me?! Being all alone?! Having no parents?! Being the number one loser?! The dead-last?! HUH?! Well screw you?!"

Rubbing his eyes against his arm vigorously to get rid of any tears he was probably holding back, he then brought his fist around and punched it towards the monument.

"Just you wait! I WILL become Hokage someday! And when I do become Hokage and everyone has acknowledged me as the number one ninja in this village, I will have MY face engraved right next to the rest of your ugly mugs!" Naruto bellowed, his voice carrying over the neighborhood and scaring a few birds out of their roosts. "And believe me when I say this, my face will look a thousand times better than all of yours combined!" Once his words echoed into silence, he heaved in several deep breaths of air before straightening his posture and changing his expression.

From an onlooker's point of view, he looked especially proud at his outburst.

"I will become the greatest Hokage there ever will be. Believe it," Naruto declared under his breath with a small smile, before putting his hands in his pockets and marching off. With all of his yelling and vows being spouted at the top of his lungs, he had completely forgotten about the can of paint he'd dragged all the way out here with him. It had served its purpose anyway, so there was no further need for it.

"A Hokage like that needs to be strong and cool! And I'm going to be both!" the blonde recited quietly with a grin. He nodded affirmatively to himself when he parted from the suburb; heading off to God only knew where his body wanted to take him. "I'm gonna get some training in."

It was still early in the morning, he'd had his fun messing with society, and he had a full day of time left to burn. I mean, what else was there for him to do? It wasn't like he had anything important scheduled for the rest of the day…


Ninja Academy…


"Here, sensei," the above girl answered to Iruka, who was currently doing role call for his class as per the usual routine.

Nodding and checking off her name, he then went on to the next.


"Here!" the Akimichi exclaimed through a bag of chips.




"Yo!" came the reply from said Inuzuka, currently sitting with his legs kicked up on his desk somewhere in the back row. The teacher quickly spotted him and nodded in acknowledgement to his presence, but frowned a split second later.

"Feet. Off!" Iruka said in a loud and dangerous tone of voice. The member of the dog clan quickly took his finger out of his ear and did as he was told, lest he be punished for the small act of rebellion. "Better."

With that insubordination quickly dealt with, the man drawled on. "Shino?"

"Here," the Aburame droned back in his usual tone of voice.

"Excellent. Shikamaru?" Iruka exclaimed, looking up. When he received no reply on the first call, the Chunin raised an eyebrow. "Shikamaru Nara?" The class's collective attention immediately began panning left and right for the next few seconds of silence, before all eyes eventually fell onto the middle row in the center of the room where every student within peripheral range could see said boy lying with his face on his desk and arms crossed under his forehead for support. It was plain to see exactly what the problem was, which had Iruka's eye twitching.

"SHIKAMARU NARA!" the teacher yelled out, startling the entire room.

A low groan came from the boy as he slowly raised his head, looking back down towards the front of the class with bags under his eyes and an incredibly drowsy air about his character. He scratched his head when he saw his teacher glaring back up at him.

"I'm here," Shikamaru yawned, figuring that it was him that all the fuss was about. Though the entire reason for his existence here was to sit in conformity with the rest of the cabbage patch, it didn't mean that he had to follow protocol to a tee. It also didn't mean that he couldn't be aware of his surroundings either.

Satisfied, Iruka furiously ticked the boy's name off before moving along. "And don't go falling asleep again!" Hoping that the class slacker would at least obey that command, though in all likelihood he probably wouldn't be able too, the man chose to move on with his list. The next name that came up didn't have him holding his breath in the slightest. "Naruto!"

Several seconds passed as the teacher waited for a response. But after a certain amount of time ticked by and nothing was born from his initial inquiry, Iruka looked up at the class with a glare. He'd half-expected this development, yet proceeded on a steady course, "Naruto Uzumaki? Has anybody seen him?"

"No," was the immediate reply from the vast majority.

"Why would anyone give a rat's ass about that idiot?" a random boy in the middle row asked rather unpleasantly.

"He's a slacker and a nuisance. Let's just forget about him," another student, this time a girl, spoke out, earning her a round of nods of agreement from the rest of the room.

Iruka sighed as the mutterings regarding the whereabouts of their most troublesome classmate continued. In his honest opinion, his best guess was probably the most likely one. The brat was either wrecking havoc across the entire village under the ever watchful yet oblivious eyes of the local guard or he was off somewhere gallivanting about, wasting time, and making random proclamations about becoming this community's leader some day. Kami knew what the world would be like if that kid somehow got in command and started signing treaties on his village's behalf in the big seat.

Maybe that was the reason why some of the other teachers had repeatedly failed the kid in a lot of his theory work, because every adult who knew him by nature was unconsciously concerned for the future of the world's wellbeing. This had nothing to do with his umm… 'ahem', baggage problem, mind you.

With the issue highlighted and the mystery established, the Chunin lowered the clipboard with the list of names on it and under the drone that had escalated in volume amongst his students Iruka began scratching his chin in silent contemplation.

"Damn it, Naruto. What in the world are you doing now?"

Was he going to need aspirin after this one?

Based on previous events which have resulted in his summoning to the Hokage's office multiple times and being grilled out by swamps of angry villagers, yes, he probably was.


About half an hour out from the school, a new type of game was being played out on the busy streets of Konoha, and this time it didn't involve any large number of kids running around with a ball being kicked between them or anything like that. This was purely a test of patience and soon to be physical endurance for a single individual. Naruto had set this particular one up after finding quite a bit of value in knowing exactly how to duck and weave through a series of obstacles when you needed to escape from a band of persistent pursuers.

Come on. One didn't get as good at pulling practical jokes on people as he did without taking in a boat load of other skills to go along with his ability to make paper bombs from scratch and traps out of a few bits of thread and a log. Out of every student in the academy, Naruto was probably the best at setting up traps, and was the fittest and fastest in terms of long-distance sprinting, obstacle runs, and any kind of activity that required the participants to be able enough to pull through the miles. Even when lessons up at the school encouraging these activities were stopped due to time running out on them the blonde was never tired at the end of any of those sessions.

He simply plowed through the physical tests with ease. It was probably his main saving grace in the academy when it came to a usable set of skills for a shinobi… something which he went out of his way to purposely screw around with to mess with Iruka…

But enough with the old war stories; the jinchuriki had even more interesting things to focus on.

The program Naruto was currently investing his time in was one of the reasons why he was as good as he was when it came to pulling his own weight.

Crouching low in amongst the thick brush of an oak standing high above a cluster of apartment buildings, the blonde had his sharp eyes trained on a couple of birds perched on tall picket fence standing on the other end of a nearby garden. The two fast fliers grooming each others' feathers had no idea that something was watching them from the shadows and this time, out of the dozens of animals that could possibly be hunting them, it wasn't a cat. They didn't need to fear cats. They could sense them coming from a mile off.

This one was in a completely different league and class.

Making sure he sat downwind from them as per what he had learned from this routine, Naruto readied himself by grinding his feet into the branch he was on to test the foundations of his placement. It was solid and fixed. The movements of his hands, shoulders and legs were quieter than a leopard's as he crept along at an agonizingly slow pace, making sure to position his form well within striking distance.

Ten feet.


The blonde grinned and licked his lips, his right hand flexing, "Oh, I've got you this time Swift-chan!"

Without a moment's warning, he pounced, exploding from the tree in a shower of leaves. The birds shrieked loudly as they took off, chirping madly with every flap of their wings. The blonde attacker landed perfectly upon the fence the animals had previously been perched on before giving chase to one…

A fork-tailed swallow with red feathers on its back shaped like a kunai.

The bird dove low for the buildings and weaved around them as well as other obstacles lying in its path including bushes, power-lines, poles, signs and lights at an incredible speed. It was so fast in fact that it immediately held confidence that it would be able to lose its attacker… completely misplacing the fact that when Naruto set out to do something, he would see it through to the end.

A shadow darting from the right across a line of rooftops told the swallow that it was being followed and it quickly made a sharp, ninety degree turn to avoid the blonde boy diving at it from above again, hand outstretched and aiming to catch it. The Uzumaki laughed out when he landed on a length of gutters lining another roof and began sliding along them like he was on a skateboard skidding down poles.

"You're not getting away from me this time!" Naruto shouted, reaching the end and flying off of the pipe right at the bird, which darted out of his reach again and into the trees. "COME BACK HERE!" He dove after it.

Completely ignoring the results of the commotion he was probably causing, Naruto pursued the bird through the trees relentlessly. He saw its red dot of a back dodge and weave gracefully through the smallest of gaps in the trees' branches it was flying through and, being the persistent son of a bitch that he was, he spared no effort in going after it. Amazingly enough, for the majority of his pursuit, he was following the exact same path the bird was without even snapping a twig.

This showed just how nimble as a human being he actually was.

Bursting out of the treetops right on the bird's forked tail, Naruto's hands grabbed at the air ferociously trying to catch the damn swift as it flew circles around him just within reach, avoiding the lashing claws of his determination. It was like the boy was attacking the air itself, his body twisting, contorting, warping and spinning as he tried to nab the critter, but all in vein. He growled out when he tried slapping it between his hands, only to catch nothing.

"Shit! Damn it! Gah… STOP FLYING AROUND ME!" Naruto shouted, completely ignoring the fact that he was now following the path of a full twenty story drop. It was when the bird finally shot off in some random direction when he finally noticed his main problem. "Oh SHIT!"

Eyes trained towards the ground, the blonde gritted his teeth and took action. He began a corkscrew spin, turning his body horizontal to the floor and slowing his drop. Once satisfied at the rate of his fall, he then threw all his limbs out in a sprawl, his right arm cocking out further to reveal a brace around his wrist. He flicked his hand once and produced a hook wrapped in rubber, which he snagged onto a power line.

Spinning around, he kicked off a nearby wall and shot down the cable, continuing pursuit of his quarry. "I'm not done yet!"

Able to keep tabs on the bird's movements, he made it to the end of the line and flung himself off, retracting the hook from his grip and barrel rolling onto a roof to absorb the impact. He jumped back into the hunt, chasing the bird now zigzagging its way in between the buildings once more.

Why this creature just didn't take off into the skies to completely outrun the blonde was beyond comprehension. Perhaps it took too much time to gain altitude to avoid a persistent foe, that it wasted energy, or that its favored method of losing air-capable predators was by sticking as close to the ground as possible and take the risk of ducking in and around the tightest of turns. Its aerial acrobatics and stunts were really impressive, especially as it was able to perform them while being struck at by Naruto's claw-like hands.

In any case, their cat and mouse game was undoubtedly intense as hell and soon enough, Naruto was back on its tail.

The pair danced across the air above Konohagakure for the next fifteen minutes, dodging traffic, avoiding clothes-lines, despite Naruto hilariously crashing into one and draping himself in all sorts of horrendous garments, scaring house pets and startling a lot of civilians.

Eventually, all the maneuvers and zipping around corners surprisingly began to wear on the usually more energetic swallow, which slowed down just enough to catch its breath before deciding it had had enough.

It began to climb.

As predicted however, even with a swooping start it risked not only an attack from above but the build-up was excruciatingly slow, as opposed to its earlier maneuvers. Despite knowing this, it gunned its engines and went for it, completely missing Naruto leap across the gap between the buildings further down below before springing straight at it in one fluent move.

This was the 'mistake' the jinchuriki was waiting for the bird to make.

Sweating up a storm and covered in all kinds of crap from running after the bird across the entire village, Naruto flew right up at the climbing swallow and flipped through the air right over its head in a cart-wheeling motion. His swift left hand flew out from behind him along the exact same path the moment he was in reach, intercepting the bird, blindsiding it, and catching it.

"HA!" A laugh of triumph escaped the teen's lips before he went spiraling back towards the ground a dozen stories below.

Timing his descent, Naruto corkscrewed through a netting of power lines crisscrossing the main highway at arrow speed before balling up and spinning towards ground zero. In a frightening display of ferocity, momentum and grace, the blonde opened up just feet above the ground and slammed into it with a crouching stance, right into the road. He slid several feet forward before coming to a cloudy stop, throwing dust in all directions and scaring the shit out of nearby villagers.

Families and shopkeepers, as well as several Chunin that happened to be in the vicinity, instinctively leapt away at the sight of the boy.

Ignoring the whispers beginning to start up again, Naruto looked up with a flash of his goggles and down toward his enclosed left hand, which he had kept close to his chest. Panting heavily and dripping with sweat, the boy then turned his hand to look down at his fingers, where he saw much to his delight the bird that had tried to get away locked in his gentle grip.

The swallow chirped and looked around it with a start, its chest heaving and head twitching this way and that. After several moments the eventual realization that it had finally been snagged became obvious, and it soon ceased clawing and attempting to wriggle its way out of the boy's hand. Its eyes fixed up at the blonde who chuckled and grinned back down at it warmly.

"Caught yah!" Naruto exclaimed, glancing down at the gauntlet on his wrist that contained his spring-loaded hook. "This thing really does come in handy. That was a great chase, Swifty-chan!"

The bird chirped again and ruffled its feathers under his palm, earning a nervous laugh from her captor.

"Whoa. Was that your boyfriend back there?" He received another chirp and a nip to his finger in response. "Ouch. Okay, geez. Sorry about that. It's just that I was really bored you see…" The bird fell into another tirade of chirps, interrupting him and getting Naruto to pull a double-take on the female flyer. "Hey, who are you calling a 'dumbass'? I didn't know you were on a date. Cut me some slack here." The swallow glared up at him, chirping sharply. "Insensitive? Okay, fine, I guess I can give you that one…"

While the bird bitched at being disturbed so suddenly, a shadow from in front of the crouching blonde fell over them and forced Naruto to look up in surprise. When he did he saw Iruka Umino standing over him with his hands on his hips and a look on his face that pretty much said 'yeah, you're in big trouble.' The tapping of his foot only added to the insane amount of tension that he had brought along with him and flooded the entire area with, giving the blonde a moment of pause to comprehend his current situation.

Silence prevailed between them, while the villagers scattered across the street stared with heavy anticipation hanging in the air. After a minute or so of prevailing silence, with nothing being said or shouted between the two for that entire period, Naruto then sprouted his trademark grin and pointed up at the man.

"I found you, Iruka-sensei!"

The man's hair bristled before he went into full 'rage' mode, complete with big-head and bulging veins, "IDIOT! I FOUND YOU! YOU'VE GOT IT ALL BACKWARDS!"

The blonde cackled hysterically before bringing the hand he had caught the bird with up to show his teacher. He rotated his fist so that the creature was facing him and gave it a warm smile. "Hey. Sorry for bothering you, Swift-chan. No hard feelings?"

Having been chirping incessantly minutes before the sudden yelling score, which scared the poor thing into silence, the bird tilted its head a few times at its captor before bowing in resignation. It then chirped happily and nodded.

Naruto grinned, "I'm glad. Thank you." With that he then opened his hand and extended his finger so that the swallow could hop onto it and regain her bearings. The bird ruffled her feathers, using the precious few moments given to her to catch her breath before finally taking flight. Iruka and Naruto followed after her with their respective gazes until she was gone from sight.

The Chunin looked quite surprised, "Was that a Fire-Breasted Swallow?"

"Yup!" Naruto exclaimed while looking up at his teacher with a grin. "Her name is Swift-chan; my training partner."

His instructor looked back at him with an astonished blink, "That species of swallow is one of the fastest birds in the country. How were you able to catch her?"

"It wasn't easy," Naruto replied tiredly before thumping himself hard in the chest, "But I caught her with a combination of guts, speed and wit. I've been playing tag with her for over a year now, so I've gotten much, much better since when I first started."

"Whoa," Iruka smirked, giving the boy a complementary gesture, "Not bad. I guess that explains why you're so good at running away from the authorities?"

"Damn right."

"Not that it matters now though, because I've caught you. Apparently I'm the only shinobi in this whole damn village, living or dead, who is able to," Iruka said, folding his arms and watching the boy rise to his feet and dust down his shorts. Even with this statement the blonde wasn't worrying about his predicament in the slightest. "Are you going to come quietly or do I have to drag you away from here kicking and screaming?"

"Well, other people would normally come quietly, but personally I prefer leaving a scene kicking and screaming. It's way more fun than walking," Naruto exclaimed without hesitation, earning a shake of the head from his normally intimidating teacher. The jinchuriki gazed up at the man without flinching or trembling. This was the truth about the blonde haired squirt as he was so bold and foolhardy he had no concept of fear from the familiar. "But before anything else happens, I have a quick question for you, sensei."

"Fire away."

"If you're here, talking with me," Naruto pointed at his chest before gesturing towards the Hokage tower where the academy was also located, "Then who's looking after the rest of the idiots?"

"Mizuki. I finally had a good reason to get that lazy-ass of a substitute teacher to do some actual work around my class instead of just dropping in whenever he feels like it," Iruka replied sternly, wondering whether his friend would be able to hold down the fort in his stead. Of course, seeing as how they were both disciplined and mature teachers the scar-faced individual with the ponytail really didn't think he had anything to worry about, and hence dismissed any further concerns on the matter. What he had to focus on now was the more pressing issue standing before him, "As for you, young man, you and I need to have a little chat regarding your absence from this morning's lecture…"

"Oh no," Naruto murmured with slumping shoulders. "Let me guess… detention?"

"As much as I'd 'love' to doll out some more chores for you to do as penalty for your actions, seeing as that this time you were actually doing something productive outside of class I'm going to let your little offense slide," Iruka said, before reaching out and grabbing the boy by the ear. The blonde let out a yelp of pain when he found his full weight and body being dragged down the road by his precious lobe. He was forced to stumble along at an incredibly fast pace to keep up with his smirking teacher. "Right now I'm more interested in putting those impressive and supposedly honed skills of yours to the test."

"Ow! Ow! Ow! Hey! Be careful, Iruka-sensei! You're going to rip my ear off!"

"Well then, if you don't want to have your entire brain pulled out of your head through the side then hurry up. We don't have all day."

"OW! S-Slow down! Where are you taking me?"

"Back to the academy," Iruka said with a playful grin. He looked down at his student just in time to see tears of anguish welling up in his eyes as he glared back up at him defiantly. "It's nearly second period… and you know what that means don't you?"

Taking a moment to think as he was dragged across the dirt against his will, Naruto blinked several times before a pained smirk came across his face.

"T-Taijutsu practice?"

"Exactly. It's free picks today, so you can choose whoever you want to be your part-"

"The village idiot Sasuke!" Naruto shouted immediately before his teacher had a chance to finish.

The man let out an amused and exhausted sigh, "I was going to recommend Choji, but sure. Why not?" Iruka looked ahead of him again with a doubtful grimace. "Just try to take it seriously this time."

"I'll try… but… your lectures are always so boring."

"Oh are they now?" Iruka asked while suddenly twisting the boy's ear, earning a yelp of agony. "Would you care to review that assessment? I don't think it was a very accurate or fair survey of my teaching methods."

"Ow! Ow! Ow! But it's true, sensei! I'm not going to lie about something like that!"

Iruka grinned sinisterly. "We'll see how long you'll be able to keep up that tough-guy act of yours once I have you scrubbing toilets with your tongue."

Well. Naruto wanted kicking and screaming; so he got kicking and screaming.


A couple hours later…

Following the brief side show of Naruto being dragged through the homeroom door by his ear and recess, the class was quickly rounded up and taken out onto the fields outside of the academy building for some mixed sparring. Being the taijutsu portion of the day both Iruka and Mizuki made it their sworn responsibility to oversee each of their students' bouts, with contenders going up two at a time to compete in the ring. It was a circular space painted into the earth, outlining the boundaries between the arena and the barred area for observation. The matches were to take place within the circle, with those who are knocked out of the ring, deemed unable to continue or conceded defeat to their opponents determining the outcome of each round.

The whole thing went off with an explosive start with students showcasing mixed levels of skills and techniques, ranging from amateur to downright impressive. It was then when Naruto was eventually called up to the ring where he made his colorful declaration of war out to Sasuke, everyone sort of stopped.

What led on shortly after the whistle was blown was, pretty much, a battle of wills and grit as one of the two boys doggedly chased his opponent all across the ring with a flurry of ferocious dashes and attacks while the other pulled him along as though they were attached by string.

The most surprising aspect about this show though, was that Naruto wasn't the one doing the chasing. It was in fact the other way around.

Everybody watched on as the two academy students played cat-and-mouse with each other, one of whom was getting incredibly frustrated from not being able to land a single hit, whereas the other one was grinning from ear to ear while moving out of the way of every swing. The way Naruto was dodging his opponent though was going against every single taijutsu rule, maneuver and technique in the book.

Whilst others would simply weave, leap away, keep their distance or move around their enemies to outpace them, not that he wasn't doing it, Naruto was sticking at extremely close range to his target despite the onslaught of attacks and dodging from inside his opponent's innermost range.

He was close enough to exchange hits, but the blonde wasn't dishing out any at all. Instead of returning fire, he was ducking, weaving and swaying at peculiar and impossible angles while at the same time moving with gravity defying agility. Damn it if it didn't look spectacular, it was still pissing Sasuke off something fierce and looked really dangerous from Iruka's point of view.

How the hell was Naruto able to sway back to a full ninety degree angle and still backpedal like someone standing upright? That wasn't natural.

"Damn it. He's gotten even faster since last time," Sasuke gritted his teeth while giving chase, swinging at his target with straights and hooks. The jinchuriki however moved back, swaying and throwing his upper body this way and that, avoiding the sharp blows while also staying directly in front of the teen, almost taunting him. "You can dodge well, but how the hell are you going to throw attacks at me from those angles?"

A sharp roundhouse kick came to nail Naruto across the face, but the jinchuriki swayed back to dodge it at the last second before springing back up, his face appearing just inches in front of Sasuke's. The piercing blue eyes of the blonde met the Uchiha's charcoal one, the latter's gaze widening in shock when he was confronted by the roguish, blank stare of his opponent.

"W-What?" Sasuke blinked, a split second before realizing Naruto was just standing directly in front of him and staring at him. He cocked his left over his shoulder. "You need to get back!" A jab shot out, but the blonde suddenly zipped out of his line of sight and the Uchiha ended up hitting nothing but air. Emitting a frustrated growl, the genius looked left and right searchingly before swiveling about a hundred-eighty degrees, where he saw his opponent circling him with his hands and guard hanging at his sides. "How the… what…?"

Sasuke was baffled.

"How is he moving like that?" Kiba finally spoke up from where he stood at the edge of the class with his hands on his hips. He watched Naruto contort his body in a twisting sway, avoiding Sasuke's spinning back-kick when the genius once again gave pursuit, before dashing out of reach. The jinchuriki managed to put a mile of space between them even before his opponent was dropping his leg back into a stance. "What is he like a cat or something? No human being should be able to bend that way and at such speed, and manage to escape so quickly."

"Maybe it's not so much a question of his humanity. He is clearly human," Shino replied pointedly. The young Aburame glanced towards his classmate standing beside him and saw the Inuzuka looking just as perplexed as every other kid watching from the sidelines. "Perhaps the question we should really be asking ourselves is who is capable of executing such impossible feats? Naruto is clearly one of the few."

"Stop nitpicking dude, geez," Kiba grumbled back.

Seeing how desperately hard Sasuke was trying to catch his elusive prey had every single girl in the class standing on their toes. Looking on with hands on their chests, cheeks or just staring with hopeful expressions in play, Sakura, Ino and the rest of the 'cheerleading squad' once again began voicing their undying support for the genius of the academy. They cupped their hands to their mouths and cried out his name.

"Sasuke-kun! You can do it!" Sakura cried.

"Beat that class clown, Sasuke-kun!" Ino also shouted.

"You're awesome!"

"Yes! You're the best!"

"Don't let that idiot mess with you! He's pathetic!"

"You can knock that slacker's butt to the ground easy! Come on, Sasuke-kun!"

Sasuke bit his bottom lip when he tried for another jab, only for Naruto to sway with it, keeping his nose millimeters in front of the knuckles the entire motion before following it back when the Uchiha withdrew it. Naruto kept doing that for the following attacks, resulting in a tick mark forming on the genius's forehead.

The shouting from the fan club wasn't helping him.

"You think this is easy?" Sasuke thought furiously while glaring after his opponent who danced around him with his roguish grin. "I've dealt with speed before, but this is completely different to anything I've ever seen this idiot do in the past. His evasive tendencies are just whack and his stance is so unrefined." Seeing the blonde skipping ahead of him with his hands dropped at his sides and wearing that crafty smile on his face had the raven haired boy's gaze tighten. "I guess it suits him, being the class clown and all…"

Mizuki chuckled as he watched Sasuke rush in to reengage. With the village-famed genius initiating the second round, the white haired man glanced over at the main homeroom teacher for council, "Sasuke seems to be having his hands full with Naruto today. Quite the surprise, huh?"

The scarred man groaned and rubbed the aforementioned mark across his nose, "Yes, but this is completely ridiculous. Naruto's making a mockery of his match and isn't even trying to hit back. What is he thinking?"

"Who knows what goes through that kid's brain most of the time," the other Chunin shrugged before looking back to see Naruto once again dancing around his opponent with ease. "But still, I gotta give him points for dodging."

"And I'm taking away those points for a lack of common sense and security for his own safety," Iruka frowned while tapping his clipboard impatiently. "Those moves do not fall under standard taijutsu guidelines or practices; not the ones I taught him." It seemed a little harsh, but what Naruto was doing was completely unorthodox.

Seriously, what could he accomplish from this tactic? He wasn't even fighting back.

Sasuke dashed straight at Naruto again, the crowd swooning when the genius dove in with a beautifully corked up left straight. He was clearly intent on bringing this battle to close-range, to trap his opponent on the edge, to cut off his escape and to bring him to heel with a quick take-down. However, just as he was getting within striking distance, the jinchuriki hovering outside of range of his punch suddenly dove in to meet him halfway.

In the blink of an eye Naruto's face was stopped just inches from his target. The speed the jinchuriki used shocked the Uchiha and, just as Sasuke was thrusting out with his punch, he felt the unmistakable tap of his opponent's knuckles against his. A split second later the blonde in front of him spun around and allowed him to dive right passed him, resulting in the raven haired boy's fist striking nothing but air again.

Baffled, the Uchiha spun around and watched his target pull away for the hundredth time, earning a blink of amazement. "He just tapped my fist in mid-motion! D-Did he do that on purpose?" A bead of sweat ran down Sasuke's face as he watched his opponent stop and stare back at him with those cool blue orbs of his. "Is he… telling me that he can see my moves? That he can hit me anytime he wants to?"

The grin that appeared on Naruto's face had Sasuke grit his own teeth and glare back furiously.

"Bullshit!" Sasuke turned and charged, attacking his opponent with a barrage of sharp punches and kicks. No longer fighting with the grace and form he held before, the Uchiha began striking at his foe with even more ferocity. His style began losing all refinement and tact, all of it being replaced by anger and desperation. "This slacker-clown is just toying with me. That's it. He's just fooling around and trying to psyche me out. There's no way in hell he'll be able to hit me if I keep attacking him at this speed. No way!" But try as he did, with all his attacks raining down on his target no matter what he attempted the Uchiha just could not catch the orange blur darting in and out of his view. The effort was becoming more and more frustrating. "Damn it!"

Sasuke swung with a right hook, but the jinchuriki swayed and dropped out of sight once more. The Uchiha, losing his target for a third time, tried to search him out across the ring to give pursuit. He glanced left and right repeatedly, trying to locate and tail any trace of his ridiculously elusive prey.

Unbeknownst to him however Naruto had relocated again, having placed himself directly behind his opponent. Back to back, he followed Sasuke's motions of his body and stayed out of his line of sight. When he looked left, he did too. When he looked right, he mimicked.

Grinning mischievously, Naruto figured he'd messed with his rival enough and stuck his backside out so that it slammed into Sasuke's, knocking the boy stumbling forwards and startling him. Unable to regain control of his motion the Uchiha lost his footing and went crashing hard into the ground, rolling a couple of times before managing to stop himself. On all fours, the genius glared up toward his opponent who had stopped moving and bouncing around, but was still smiling at him with his bullshit lowered guard.

Wiping the dirt off of his face on the back of his fist, Sasuke shot back up to his feet. Though he stumbled, he corrected. There was no way he was going to let his pride get destroyed by a delinquent academy student who didn't take anything seriously. It was time to put an end to this.

Before he could do anything though, Naruto started swaying his upper body from side to side; using some weird motions to try and either coax his opponent into attacking him again or was attempting to figure out a way to get around his antagonist's blows, which he had long since visualized in his head.

Either way, his swaying annoyed the class genius. "Stop messing around," Sasuke said loudly.

"Aww, come on, teme," Naruto grinned teasingly. "What good is a sparring match if you're not having any fun?"

"This isn't supposed to be fun, Naruto," Iruka suddenly spoke up, silencing the gawking crowd and drawing the jinchuriki's attention. The Chunin glared across at him. "This is supposed to be a serious test meant to determine your current level of skill and strength in your group. If you keep messing around the way you are now, I have no choice but to disqualify and fail you for your outrageous behavior."

"What?" the jinchuriki blinked, abruptly stopping his swaying movements and raising a hand meekly in protest, "B-But sensei…"

"Last chance, Naruto," Iruka interrupted, his gaze hardening the moment he shot down his response. "You can either show me something of value, anything at all you may have learnt, or you can give up. I don't like wasting my time with your antics."

"Yeah, Naruto," Kiba shouted at him while waving his fist, "Stop playing chicken and do something already!"

"You can't beat, Sasuke-kun!" Ino also yelled with a cocky smirk. "You'll never be able to beat him! You're just a loser and a slacker!"

"Yeah, dead-last!"

"Fight for real or don't fight at all!"

"Stop dancing around like a pansy and do some proper fighting!"

"Kick his ass, Sasuke-kun!"

"Beat him already, Sasuke! You can do it!"

"Knock his punk ass down!"

The combination of his teacher's glare, the seriousness of his voice, and the way everyone started rooting for Sasuke again while at the same time insulting him and dismissing his oddball performances from before, had Naruto's confused gaze slowly transform into a harsh glare. He lowered his head and allowed his eyes to become overshadowed, all aspects of his previously cheerful demeanor melting away before he turned back to face his opponent now back in an offensive stance several feet in front of him.

What was wrong with him? What would it take to impress these people? How much more did he have to do to get them to side with him, to get them to see that what he was doing was just as good as the genius's abilities? Was his presence that repugnant? Was his smile that unpleasant? Was it him that they despised, despite how carefree and friendly he was?

Well… it didn't matter now.

The jinchuriki looked up at his foe and narrowed his eyes.


Naruto dug his feet into the ground and widened his stance. He froze just outside of Sasuke's reach, telling everyone he was now ready to duke it out. No more running.

The crowd continued jeering and cheering, whereas Iruka kept his eyes on his student to see how the fight would progress now. If anything interesting was going to happen, it was going to happen in this round.

Sensing an opportunity, the Uchiha frowned and shuffled forward carefully, his left held out in front of him to gauge the distance and his right at his side. With the change in the atmosphere the genius knew right then and there that he was going to be guaranteed an actual fist-fight this time, one that would be fought on his own terms and not on his opponent's.

Right now, he was more certain than ever that he'll be able to get his foe in an exchange and win.

"Come on. Let's see what you've really got," Sasuke thought, clenching his left for a straight.

The distance between them was quickly cut away and the Uchiha was ready to begin.

However, just as Sasuke's left was being drawn back for a punch, a sudden flash of light froze him, followed shortly by a sharp pain and the distinct echo of a sharp thump, like a deft bag was just hit by a jackhammer.

From the crowd's point of view, it was instantaneous.

Naruto was the one to make the first move against his opponent, but instead of pulling off some predictable wild swing or busting out one of his stupid moves from before, what he did stunned every single person on the field.

All the crowd saw from where they were standing was the blurred motion of his fist, the boy's left being drawn back from a clear hit and a cloud of sweat exploding off of Sasuke's face, the latter's head recoiling from the unexpected impact of a blazingly fast punch nobody was able to see.

The Uchiha stumbled back a few, head still cocked upwards and a shocked look slapped clean across his face.

With his left still swinging in front of him, Naruto glared straight into his opponent's astonished eyes, awaiting a response. But when none came and his attack wasn't met with any retaliation, the jinchuriki grunted, straightened up out of his stance and placed his hands behind his head.

In a shocking turn of events, Naruto was the one to turn his back on his rival and begin walking away, his nose held high and eyes closed. The crowd and his teachers watched him leave the ring with astonishment emanating off of every one of them.

"This is boring. I've had enough," Naruto said in his usual dejected tone. "I'm going to go find someone who can put up an actual fight…"

Shaking the shock out of his head, Iruka gritted his teeth and stepped forward, "N-Now hold it right there, Naruto! You only threw one punch and you didn't even give the sign of reconciliation! Get back here!"

The jinchuriki stopped in his tracks and spun around, glaring back at his teacher with what everyone immediately saw as anger, "WHY THE HELL SHOULD I?!"

Iruka flinched at the volume in his voice and recoiled a bit when he got a good look of the boy's eyes. Naruto's irises were shimmering with unshed tears and the amount of rage he was shooting towards him was almost suffocating. The Chunin backed away at the sight of his stare alone and didn't say another word afterwards, merely looking back silently with a bewildered gaze. Because of his lack of response, the teacher and the rest of his bewildered class could only watch wordlessly as the jinchuriki walked away from the clearing and disappeared around the next bend.

Once Naruto was gone, every able person in the vicinity returned their attention to Sasuke, who was still standing in the exact same spot in the middle of the ring. Seeing opportunity for audience with the last of the Uchiha, all the girls in sight rushed to his side, with Sakura and Ino being the ones to lead the charge from the lines. They crowded around him bubbling with excitement and flashing him their most approving and flattering gazes, all of them looking forward to fawning over the boy's magnificence.

"That was amazing, Sasuke-kun!" Sakura exclaimed.

"Yeah! Did you see what you did?" Ino asked with equal enthusiasm while leaning towards the genius with her cutest smile. "You scared the loser away without even trying! Th-That was… incre-…"

All of a sudden the girl's remarks stopped, as did every other girl's exclamations. The Yamanaka and the rest of the troop stared at the boy for several moments in silence, wondering what exactly was wrong with him until they all backed away in shock and alarm bells started ringing. Sakura was the one that brought the rest of the audience to the attention of the problem with a gasp and a wave of her hand.

"Iruka-sensei! Come quick!" she screamed.

Hearing the fuss as well as his name being called, the Chunin detached himself from his notes and pushed his way into the ring. Shortly arriving at the scene of the disturbance with the boys, Iruka gave a frustrated sigh and looked down at the Uchiha, figuring this to be another waste of his time. He completely overlooked the fear struck looks on every girl's face.

"What is it now?" he asked while looking down at Sasuke, to which he too noticed the problem. Blinking in surprise, the Chunin dropped to his knees and stared right into the boy's gaze searchingly.

It took the rest of the class and Mizuki a while to notice, but when it eventually clicked the sight had everybody thunderstruck.

Sasuke was standing in the exact same spot in the exact same pose not because he was trying to act cool, tough or empowering like he unconsciously did, but because he was out cold. The boy's face was frozen in a look of dazed disbelief and, not only did he have a trickle of blood running down from his nose, but his right eye was swollen shut. The instructor was astonished that he didn't notice it sooner and quickly began performing medical checks to see if he was okay.

Concern increasing by the second, Iruka waved a hand in front of the raven haired boy's face from left to right, attempting to coax some sort of responses out of him. He then clicked his fingers several times and upon receiving zero life signs in that manner, checked for a pulse.

"Holy crap…" Iruka murmured, ignoring the whimpers and worried comments being made by the students now crowding behind him. "Naruto didn't want to fight anymore because he was bored; he stopped because he realized his opponent was out on his feet… and from ONE punch!" With this in mind, Iruka's head snapped in the direction Naruto had walked off in and, though he had nothing but the best of intentions in letting the jinchuriki know of his astonishing win, stopped short when he remembered he was already long gone.

The instructor's expression then dropped considerably more when he also remembered what he'd said to him just minutes ago.

"Damn it," Iruka groaned and grabbed his chin. Yup, he knew he screwed up this time. In all good conscience he felt like kicking the shit out of himself for not seeing it sooner and instead acted out irrationally. "Naruto wasn't dancing around his opponent to draw attention to himself; he was trying to wind him up and tire him out. After getting Sasuke to chase him around and burn up his stamina, he would then hit him when he was weakened and too exhausted to react in time to counter. He was biding time, fighting smart and moving evasively, waiting for the right moment to strike."

The fact that he yelled at the boy and threatened him with failure had he continued jumping around the way he had been only had Naruto hasten the process of his victory. Though he didn't carry it out the way he probably wanted to, the jinchuriki was still able to succeed, and what a win it was. Sasuke probably didn't even see the attack coming or realized exactly what it was that hit him until after he had lost consciousness.

That was an incredibly terrifying thought.

After a few minutes of Iruka stressing over how he responded to Naruto's approach in his fight and female students making a fuss over the condition of their Sasuke-kun, the boy in question suddenly awoke from his dazed state of oblivion with a shout of terror. Students and teachers alike jumped back in shock when the Uchiha stumbled out of his reverie, waving his hands in front of him like he was trying to ward off flies or punches before stopping altogether.

Panting and looking around at the bewildered faces surrounding him in paranoia, Sasuke gulped deeply and asked the question that pretty much had everybody scratching their heads, "W-What just happened?"

Kiba gaped at the Uchiha, "That's… kind of what we'd like to know, pal…"


Two hours later…

Naruto, frustrated and irked from his shambles of an academy lesson, decided to take a hike outside of the village's suburbs and cool off the best way he knew how; by beating the crap out of random inanimate objects. Fortunately enough, instead of taking his wrath out on the village streets or the villagers themselves, he opted to head out into the woods to kick some tree logs and boulders around. There were plenty out in Konoha's forests, so what harm was there in knocking in a few extra hours of training to relieve the tension?

The taijutsu portion of the day for him had been way too unsatisfying. Being the battery pack that he was Naruto needed a proper outlet. He was still burning adrenaline like crazy on top of the fuel stemming from his disappointment, and he needed to flush it all out as quickly as possible. So, hashing together some massive tree logs to create pendulum traps, he started off the first hour ducking, dodging and swaying between five simultaneously swinging tree trunks blindfolded. Doing this with eyes covered in a heavily wooded area was one of the many ways he was able to increase his flexibility and sense of timing, which was damn near close to inhuman already.

There was a boatload of other shit he did in his free time as well, but he wanted to space those exercises out as much as possible.

Following a grueling session of avoiding falling logs with the potential to crush him should he get hit, he then moved on to heavy lifting and hitting the posts. Really, he was doing anything he could to get his muscles to work since his fight against Sasuke didn't. Though he did admit there was a time he had once been on the ass end of an ass-kicking from a lot of the students including the Uchiha, this all happened before he realized he needed to be smarter and more creative when it came to fighting. How the hell was he able to get through all those fights he got into with tough guys on the streets and manage to slip away from Chunin and the occasional Jonin every time they came after him?

By being just as unpredictable as he was creative, that's how. He was a very flexible character so it was no surprise.

Anyway, after managing to work up a sweat and getting his knuckles filed against a post to a satisfying degree, Naruto then took to the forest to follow-up on one of his other favorite pastimes; foraging. Though he didn't seem like the type, as of late it has become one of the jinchuriki's many acts of habit.

After making friends with much of the wildlife surrounding his village and getting to know the 'ways of the woods', Naruto had been able to absorb more skills and knowledge in the forests then he had been able to in all his time spent at the academy, mostly for a fact that what he did was actually fun. Iruka was all talk and theory in his lessons. The jinchuriki was more of a hands-on approach kind of guy. The amount of free time he was able to spend with the monkey tribes and animals of Konoha's lands taught him many things; like a lot of the moves he used in his freestyle taijutsu style, how to survive with nothing at all, what plants were good for eating, what weren't, what things could kill you, what things could save your life, and by extension the ability to talk to a lot of creatures that hadn't developed the ability to commune through human speech.

Naruto knew where to go when he was in trouble, he knew how to make makeshift homes, he knew how to hide, how to run, how to swing, how to climb, how to use his feet as hands, basically anything a wild animal could do. This also explained his extraordinary fighting sense, incredible high level of timing, speed and body strength.

Believe it. He had built up A LOT of body strength over the years hanging with the monkeys.

But he didn't use it as excess. All he required were outlets, one of the many being the serene practice of digging through the brush and finding the most delicious items of forest grub he could get his hands on.

Yup. When not gorging on ramen back home, he was trying to make his own, which was always great.

Weaving himself a bag from long grass, leaves and vines, Naruto began a long walkabout of the thickest part of the woods. Scurrying up trees, digging through bushes, searching crevasses, he left no stone unturned in his search for the best things the natural world could provide. Within half an hour he was able to grab a whole sack full of stuff, even some rare goodies he was sure would sell for a good price back home. But he wasn't interested in money. All he wanted was a distraction and a way to cool off from his displeasing lesson back at school. The almost secondary natural act of scavenging made him forget all about his troubles in the village and brought a smile to his face.

However, while he was picking mushrooms from a wide clearing and humming a pleasant tune, the blonde suddenly noticed further up the hillside something out of place. Depositing what he had in his hands into his basket, he left it on the ground where it was and went over to the area in question to check out.

What Naruto found up the path was a ruined patch of land scarred from what could only be described as an intense battle. There were craters punched all over the place, chunks blasted out of trees, gashes and scars carved into the land and wood, and scorch marks burned here and there. There was also traces of blood; never a good sign.

Perplexed, the jinchuriki ran a hand over a particularly large scar in a tree before noticing some weapons deposited across the clearing.

"A fight… between enemy shinobi?" Naruto wondered, before spotting something else higher up above him.

It was hidden conspicuously so that only a shinobi would notice, but it was clearly there. The sun pretty much silhouetted it. Up in a bird's nest a couple stories above the ground, the blonde spotted a kunai sticking out from the twigs, refracting the sun's rays when it tried to pass through it and cast a shadow across the area. Naruto quickly hopped up to the canopy and carefully pulled the blade out, making sure the eggs were okay before jumping back down.

"That's an odd place to put something." It was an odd knife, not like any of Konoha's weapons, with a slight curve to its blade and an extra prong protruding from the cutting edge, ideal for shaving through enemies. He also noticed there was a piece of paper tied around the handle. It wasn't a paper bomb or anything like that. That much was made clear to him when he didn't pick up any specific markings or powders, or that it was big enough to be an explosive. It didn't detonate on contact either.

This was something else.

Before he could make heads-or-tails with what had gone on around here though, Naruto suddenly detected a disturbance on the wind and crouched low in the center of the clearing. His instincts kick starting at the sound of approaching danger, his gaze hardened and he placed a hand on the floor so that he could get a bead on the infiltrators.

The vibrations gave him all the Intel he needed. "There's someone here. No… three people?"

The instant he realized this, two shadows suddenly dropped down from the treetops on either side of him at a distance. The individuals then rushed at him from his left and right, attempting to blindside the boy with their speed and get him in a simultaneous attack on the first move.

Already aware of their presence, Naruto pocketed the knife, sprang to his feet and dashed at the one coming from his right. He met the attacker halfway who made to jump at him and strike from up high, but the blonde anticipated this move and slid under, slamming both hands into their lower and upper body and tossing them over when they failed to react to a counter. The act of throwing said attacker sent the person hurling into the other, who was also jumping to attack but ended up having their partner crash into them.

The impact sent both of them flying back, but they quickly recovered and separated, back-flipping before landing in crouched stances. The moment they landed they dashed in and attacked simultaneously. A surprised Naruto started ducking and weaving as they assaulted him one after the other, aiming to bring him down with low and high blows, punches and kicks. "Whoa! Yikes! Hey… w-what… geez!" The jinchuriki danced between them, using swaying and evasive maneuvers he had previously used against Sasuke to avoid the duel fighters before allowing them to fly passed him and fall back. He too leapt away in a hasty retreat, hands hanging at his sides as he locked his best hostile glare onto them.

The two masked attackers put distance between them and their target, one taking up position behind the other, with the individual up front on their feet and glaring across at the boy.

"This is no ordinary brat!" the head attacker exclaimed, before both of them drew their swords from their backs. The blades flashed under the sun, alerting Naruto to the change in the fight's nature as well as an increase in danger.

It was during the stand-off the jinchuriki was able to take quick stock of their appearances as well as their abilities thus far. They both fought well in conjunction with the other, using speed, tenacity and coordination honed from years of experience. This made them a big threat. As for their outlooks, the one ahead of him was about half his body taller, same as the person backing them up. The two of them also wore dark shirts, trousers, sandals, gloves, and dark grey, figure-hugging body vests similar to an ANBU's. They also carried swords and had black fabric masks covering their faces, keeping their identities secret. The only way you could tell them apart was that one had short light brown hair and the other had shoulder-length dark brown hair, almost maroon in comparison to the other.

There was one other thing Naruto came to the awareness of.

The blonde blinked as he glared up at them. "You two are girls?" The way their shoulders twitched gave him his answer. He lowered his stance and glanced between them harshly. "Kunoichi, huh?. I guess I can safely say that you're not from this village either."

A light thump behind him followed by fast approaching footsteps cut Naruto short from his interrogation. Not a smart thing to do when in a fight but he wanted answers, and his little Q&A session didn't stop him from responding to the sneak attack, in which he back-flipped right over another masked kunoichi lunging at him from behind. He kicked off of the back of their head and sent them stumbling forward, allowing him to make a greater leap and land further away from the enemy.

When he did and set himself in a crouched position, he glared up to see all three enemy shinobi up on their feet and staring at him. It was kind of a creepy sight with all of them wearing masks where only their eyes were visible.

"A party of three, though I would have preferred one," Naruto grumbled, looking at the previous two before focusing on the newcomer, who had short silver and grey hair to match her mask. "Who are you and what the hell are you doing skulking around these woods?"

They were blunt questions sure, ones he knew he wasn't going to get answers to so easily but was still compelled to ask. It wasn't like he was getting defensive about 'his' territory exactly, the problem was much bigger than that. So, instead of bitching about the odds Naruto decided to step back a little for more space, noticing in that split instance the eyes of the silver haired kunoichi glance towards his pocket before looking back towards him.

It was thanks to that subtle lapse in attention that the blonde was able to discern what this team of enemy kunoichi was really after, which had him smirk deviously.

"So you're after the kunai? It must be pretty important for you to be trying to kill a scrappy young kid just to get your hands on it." He saw the trio flinch, which caused his smirk to unconsciously widen. "Too bad. I've got it and I ain't giving it back."

The woman with the silver hair grunted. "Stupid boy. Hand over the weapon and we'll let you go. If you don't, then we'll make you give it to us."

Naruto shook his head. "You know I hate it when people don't say the magic word. But as much as I'd like to talk about proper manners with you and stuff, I'd rather rip off those masks so I can get a good look at your faces!" Throwing his right hand up, he then tossed a pellet into the ground. The ball detonated and filled the air with a thick white smoke, blocking him completely from view.

The three kunoichi backed up a little in surprise and began scanning the area for any signs of movement. Since he was just one child against a squad of full-grown ninja he was either trying to make a break for it or was swinging around the side to get behind them, which had all of them on their toes and ready for pursuit.

But of course, while others with any level, straight-forward thinking would have normally ran for the hills when the odds were stacked against them, according to article one of the shinobi handbook the advantage always fell toward the combatant who could get the drop on their targets first, and that one in this instance just happened to be Naruto. With the kunoichis' attention so utterly focused on the areas of the woods further out, they didn't expect for the jinchuriki to suddenly come sprinting out of a nearby bush to the leader's right and nail one of the masked kunoichi right across the face, which he did.

The brown haired ninja had no idea what hit her until she was smashed in the face by her pintsized attacker and sent careening into the back of her partner.

Naruto dashed right passed the group when the rearguard was bowled over and jumped straight into a tree, the silver haired kunoichi spinning around and tossing a barrage of shuriken after him in response. The weapons thumped against the trunk when he swung around it and returned fire from the other side, letting loose his own barrage.

The leader of the three drew her sword and smacked away the five projectiles effortlessly, before tossing a couple of kunai up at him. The blonde however took to the canopy and vanished, the knives hitting the branches obstructing his person. The last one thrown hit a branch higher up in the leaves, where the paper bomb wrapped around the handle ignited and detonated, knocking the canopy about with a staggering shockwave and setting the whole area ablaze.

Forest came raining down in ashes, splinters and cinders, leaving the kunoichi down below looking up towards the tops in frustration.

"Fucking brat!" the leader growled, her head snapping left and right in search of their quarry. "Where did he go?" She looked back down at her comrades, one of them rubbing the side of their face from the little fist that went plowing across it, which also tore her mask open. The fair-faced kunoichi expressed her annoyance visually and also turned toward the burning canopy, ripping away the remains of her ruined covering. "I don't care what it takes! Get that kunai!"

All of a sudden, before they could completely recover from the sneak attack, the bush on the forest floor directly behind the silver haired kunoichi burst outwards and the quick on his toes academy student came sprinting out from a new position. The woman heard the disturbance and spun around, but was met with a face full of paint when the kid threw his right hand across and fired off pellets from the brace on his wrist.

It was a new edition he had recently added to the device for his escapades inside the village and while it seemed like a waste of time, it was pretty damn effective as a supplementary tool designed with a lot of spread.

The insignificant projectiles exploded across the leader and, not only did it repaint her outfit in an interesting blend of colors but also blinded her when the spray got through the eye line in her covering.

Staggering back in surprise, the woman moved to clear the blockage, only to feel a sharp sting hit her side that caused her to collapse to the ground. Grabbing her waist, she looked down to see a kunai buried part way into her midriff, thankfully protected by her body armor. This didn't stop her mental response though, which came in the form of a low growl and a swivel when she glared after the child, who managed to disappear into the bushes once again.

"KILL HIM!" the leader kunoichi roared to her subordinates, who obeyed instantaneously.

They tossed kunai and shuriken in their dozens into the undergrowth, toward the area where there target had disappeared. Realizing they were hitting nothing the leader ripped the mask off of her face as well as the kunai in her side and rose to her feet, showing just how pissed off she was.

This kid was good. Not just that, he was crafty and quick; not something you'd find so easily in your everyday neighborhood. He was deceptively good. Clearly he'd done this kind of crap many times before and knew this terrain well. Just what the hell was he?

"He's running circles around us in the shadows while we're exposed out here in the clearing! What a clever little punk," the boss thought before rounding on her teammates. "Into the trees! Don't let him box us in!" With that command given they immediately leapt towards the upper branches, only to get a very nasty surprise.

From the bushes the hidden Naruto began firing more pellets up at them, nailing the exposed ones in the face with shocking accuracy and hitting the only masked one left all over her body from toe to head in that exact order. Though they were paintballs and shouldn't have hurt, it definitely threw them off their game. A stunning barrage of well-aimed hits knocked all three of them out of the air and, while her teammates crashed back down to the forest floor, the leader was able to keep her footing and continue leaping up towards the canopy.

"Damn it! Where is he?"

Looking towards the ground, the team leader tried to locate the hidden assailant before she suddenly saw leaves fall passed her. She looked up in puzzlement, only to get tackled by the jinchuriki dropping down on her from above and straddling her chest. The force he hit her with sent both of them plummeting back toward level zero, with Naruto taking his time ramming hooks across the startled kunoichi's face one after the other. Though she attempted to guard, the blows he plowed into her still managed to rattle her.

The blonde cheered as they crashed through the branches on their way down one after the other, yelling out with each hit, "BEST! RIDE! EVER!"

They slammed into the forest floor seconds later. Well… the kunoichi did. The woman gave out a sharp cough when she was slammed into the earth at full speed despite the branches breaking her fall, with Naruto jumping off of her like a springboard and back into the trees. He hooked his leg around a high branch and hung off of it, grinning down at the fallen trio now struggling back up a couple stories below.

"This is totally cool! I've never been in a real shinobi fight before!" Naruto exclaimed almost enjoyably, watching the woman glare up at him with blind fury. "This will be an awesome story to tell the others when I get back to the academy!"

"Don't screw with us you little shit!" the unmasked subordinate shouted before flipping through hand seals. "Katon: Gōkakyū no Jutsu!" The woman then breathed out a massive ball of fire and sent it rocketing towards the boy, burning through branches at breakneck speed.

The blonde gave a started yell and dove away. "Whoa! That's hot!" he shouted, disappearing around the other side of the tree he was dangling off so that the sphere of flames slammed into it instead of him, ripping into the side before engulfing everything in a great inferno. This attack was many times bigger than the explosive tag used against him earlier and carried much more force, tearing up the tree and sending its top-half collapsing to the forest floor, bathed in flames.

Though this put their objective at risk, at least it satisfied the kunoichi knowing they were able to scare the living daylights out of the kid. Hopefully they managed to actually get him with that one too.

However, just as the three women were beginning to wonder how they were going to pluck the kid out from under the burning wreckage of the tree, there was suddenly a loud tap that echoed out from the woods behind them followed shortly by a holler that caught the attention of the only masked kunoichi left. She spun around with her sword swinging, only to be met with the unexpected sight of-

"CROTCH!" Naruto shouted, slamming into the woman's face and wrapping his legs around her. Twisting sharply and diving right, he tossed the startled woman over and straight into her partner, knocking both of them to the ground for the third time in a row. The leader was quick to respond when she looked over to see the boy crouched down on the ground, grinning up at them.

"Nuisance!" she shouted, throwing a barrage of shuriken at him and flipping through hand seals. "Gen'ei Tajū Shuriken!" The projectiles she tossed seemingly multiplied in mid-flight, filling the air with a cloud of metal stars that charged the crouched blonde down.

Naruto stood upright, being peppered by the first wave that caused his body to go up in a puff of smoke, which parted moments later to reveal a log. When the log fell to the ground the real one came darting out from behind it, zigzagging between the waves of projectiles at high speed while approaching the leader kunoichi, who continued tossing shuriken his way.

Using his fleeted movements the blonde managed to rush right into his opponent's reach and leapt at her with a kunai in hand. The woman responded immediately by slashing out at him with her sword, slicing him in half. For a second time his body burst into a puff of smoke and was replaced by a massive log, which was cleaved in two.

With the replacement blocking her view ahead of her, the woman immediately suspected attack from a blind spot. "Above!" she said while looking up in alarm. Seeing nothing, she looked left and right, before her eyes dropped straight down. "BELOW!" Before she could respond, the orange blur of her opponent suddenly slid right between her legs, his fist smacking her behind the knee and dropping her like a stone.

Yelping, the kunoichi hit the ground on all fours but she recovered shortly thereafter, throwing herself back onto her feet and spinning around to see her target perched on a boulder not too far from her position. He was looking at her rather strangely.

"You're quick for a runt," the leader complimented with a smirk, bringing her sword back up into an offensive stance. "But don't think I'll be sparing you because of that. In the grand scheme of things nothing you do has the least bit of significance. You're just worthless trash." Her companions had managed to pull themselves to their feet too, and after a few seconds of recovery were once again behind her and at her defense.

Blinking curiously, Naruto then held up his right hand, bringing forward a rather peculiar item which he dangled before his three-person audience. "That's quite a lot of weight to be carrying around with you… though you can't really tell through that vest you're wearing."

The three women scrutinized the article the boy was holding, which they quickly identified to be a light green bra with lace. The team leader's subordinates blinked in surprise, before the leader herself realized what must have happened and, with her face turning bright red and her arms snapping over her chest, she let out a shriek and dropped to her knees.

She wasn't wearing any panties either…

Which were being held in Naruto's other hand when he brought it into view too. He stretched the upper body garment between both and looked at it strangely. "Man… you have a really weird taste in fashion. This crummy color doesn't suit you at all."

"Y-YOU FUCKING PERVERT! GIVE ME BACK MY UNDERWEAR!" the leader screamed, her cheeks glowing at this point. How the hell did he manage to get his hands on her unmentionables without removing any of her clothing? That's what all three kunoichi wanted to know right now when they all glared back up at him.

Was it some kind of jutsu? What the hell kind of joke was this?

Naruto grinned and began twirling the items on his finger provocatively. "Wondering how I got em? Well… I ain't telling you ladies squat. Trade secret. Use your imagination."

"You punk!" the last masked kunoichi shouted while ripping off her face covering. Tossing it aside, she slapped her hands together to form a hand seal. "You'll burn for this! Katon-"

"THINK FAST!" Naruto interrupted, tossing his right hand across and firing off several more projectiles with a sleight-of-hand draw. He nailed all three of them in the bodies with pellets, but instead of using paintballs or anything of the sort, the supplementary weapons he threw turned out to be soft balls covered with some sort of powder very similar to flour.

The fabric-wrapped balls thudded against the three kunoichi continuously, with the boy ditching more and more at them with use of both hands. The women cried out in surprise as they were peppered mercilessly, the projectiles clouding the airspace around them in fine powder until the onslaught stopped. Coughing and waving away the fumes, the kunoichi quickly glared back up at the child to see him still perched on his rock, grinning wildly.

"Infantile pest!" The leader shouted, all three of them rising to their feet and forming hand seals in perfect sync with each other. "We didn't take you seriously enough; a mistake we won't be repeating twice. There's no way you can match three Chunin at once!"

"I beg to differ," Naruto exclaimed cheekily while still holding onto the leader's undergarments. "I outsmart and outrun the Chunin of my village on a daily basis. You guys are no different."

"We'll see about that!" the silver haired woman shouted, the trio finishing flipping through seals before all of them inhaled sharply. "Katon Renkeijutsu: Karura!" The team then exhaled at once, the flames of their jutsu spewing forth from their lips-

Before the powder around their faces suddenly ignited and, before their combination technique could even gain traction, their bodies caught fire simultaneously. All three kunoichi cried out in shock and then agony when their forms exploded into flames and they all started running circles around the clearing. In the midst of their panic they dropped to the ground and started to roll excessively in an attempt to put the fires out. They were miserably unsuccessful, yet kept on trying to put out the heat.

After watching them cook for a moment with a sense of satisfaction, Naruto then hopped off of his rock and rushed over to them. Grabbing clumps of dirt, he tossed it over them in heaps, covering them and patting over their bodies quickly to put the flames out. Within seconds he was able to extinguish all of them, leaving three very crisply burnt yet still attractive looking kunoichi smoldering on the ground in a daze.

Gasping from the pain and the shock at lighting up so unexpectedly, the wounded, silver haired kunoichi shakily looked up at the blonde haired boy leaning over her, where she met his curious gaze eye to eye. She trembled in all manner of the word, gaze widening and fear being reflected clearing in her irises at being confronted by the 'monster.'

She was completely at his mercy now.

"W-W-What the hell… did you do to us?"

Naruto smiled. "That wasn't ordinary powder I was pelting you three with… it was phosphorous. Highly flammable." He held up one of the soft balls in question and squeezed it several times. "After seeing your first attack I realized you guys used quite a lot of Fire Release techniques, so I gambled on you using one against me to try and put me out if I messed with you enough. Guess that means I win…"

The leader gritted her teeth in frustration, but upon realizing who she had lost to and not knowing a thing about him, she grinned. "Who… or what… are you?"

Naruto smiled proudly. "The resident prankster: Uzumaki Naruto. Nice to meet you."

He then clenched the fist he was holding the ball with and punched her in the face with full force, knocking her out…


Half an hour later…

A little while after the battle was over Konohagakure shinobi finally arrived at the scene, with all intent and purpose of stopping whatever it was that had been going on all the way out here. The squad of course sent to investigate the area was made up of Izumo, Kotetsu, team leader Kakashi, and surprisingly Iruka, who had volunteered onto the group in his search for Naruto, whom he'd learned was somewhere out here in the woods.

When they stumbled upon the ruined battlefield, the squad was quick to discover a much unexpected surprise.

Three kunoichi from an unknown village were tied up and propped up against a tree, all of them knocked unconscious and looking absolutely barbequed. Not so much that they were burned black or anything like that, but the damage they had received from whatever scuffle they had gotten into was still quite prominent. They had frazzled hair and everything.

The four Konoha shinobi were left scratching their heads and looking around peculiarly for the next few seconds trying to figure out who could have done this… until they heard a very familiar giggle from above.

When they looked up the group saw a very happy and amused Naruto hanging upside-down from a branch, swinging back and forth along with a bachelor of male gibbons who had also come around to investigate. The blonde laughed when he saw the back-up turn their attention to him and waved. "Hey guys! Pretty cool, huh?"

"Hey, isn't that?" Kotetsu began to ask while elbowing his partner in the arm.

"Yeah. No question," Izumo replied, a small smile appearing on his face.

Kakashi blinked when he saw Naruto swing back into an upright position, before dropping down from the canopy to land directly on a branch above the three unconscious kunoichi. The boy grinned at the familiar faces, and then towards the rather unfamiliar face of Kakashi Hatake.

"So you're the 'reinforcements'?" the jinchuriki murmured, rubbing the back of his head with a sheepish smile. "Well, sorry for hogging all of the fun but these three are already beaten."

"Did you do this all by yourself, Naruto?" Iruka asked in shock, pointing down at the prisoners all parceled up and ready for processing.

"Of course," Naruto nodded affirmatively, hopping down to land in front of his former opponents. "Who else would be out here other than me? It was a piece of cake anyway. These kunoichi have obviously never faced the machinations of Uzumaki Naruto before." He said that with a great deal of delight. As the four shinobi in front of him started to smile and look towards each other over the matter of this astonishing victory, Naruto suddenly pulled out of his pocket three sets of women's underwear which he then had hanging in front of him innocently for all to see. "By the way, can I keep these as souvenirs? I bet they'll look great on my wall next to my kunai collection."

The three Chunin and the one Jonin stared at the articles of clothing curiously, wondering for the next few seconds where the boy could have possibly gotten women's underwear from in these woods. But then they remembered… there were three tied-up and thoroughly defeated Chunin kunoichi sitting behind him, which immediately had heads turning as to what exactly had been going on here while they were absent from the scene.

Kakashi pointed lazily at Naruto's 'trophies'.

"Those are…"

"Ah, I'm not gonna keep em," Naruto replied while tossing them over his shoulder so that they landed over the three dazed bodies. "I wouldn't even know what to do with them. Anyway, here they are." He stepped aside and gestured grandly towards the threesome. "One team of enemy spies; beaten, burned and ready for postage. That will be a two ryo service charge." To the Chunin's humor he held out his hand rather expectantly.

With the matter of the underwear set aside for the time being, Kakashi and Kotetsu waddled over to the tree and collected the enemies. Slinging them over their shoulders along with their valuables, the Jonin then turned toward Naruto with his usual unreadable expression, after which he then nodded to the youngster in acknowledgement.

"Great work, Naruto," the silver haired man exclaimed while giving him his trademark eye smile. "I'm looking forward to the day you graduate from the academy." With that said, Kakashi then shot up into the trees, quickly followed by both Izumo and Kotetsu, who also nodded a pleasant farewell to the blonde. This pretty much left Iruka and his troublesome student standing in the woods to wrap things up.

When they turned to face each other, Naruto quickly remembered the whole reason why he was out here in the first place and turned away with an upset frown. The instructor knew he wasn't going to get off from his previous actions so easily and, smiling pleasantly, approached the youngster and patted him on the head. He was obviously still sore from the lesson today and was expressing it the most suitable way he knew how.

Through use of the cold shoulder.

Iruka sighed. "Naruto… I'm sorry." The jinchuriki glanced up at him, which allowed the older man to beam at him proudly. "It was stupid of me to misjudge your tactics during your spar with Sasuke. It didn't occur to me that you were probably trying to avoid a direct confrontation with your opponent in order to tire him out first and… well… I shouldn't have snapped the way I did. I guess I'd fallen into the habit of scolding you whenever you do something reckless or irresponsible, even during a proper evaluation. But what I said and how I said it was thoughtless and uncalled for, and I realized I must have upset you. Can you forgive me?"

Giving a moment of pause, Naruto mulled the question over in his head for a bit. After a tense few seconds the blonde smiled a small one and turned towards his homeroom instructor.

"Teachers are supposed to be strict with their students, right, sensei?" Naruto asked, remembering the time Iruka said he was going to be more firm with him after one of his more troublesome pranks on the school months ago. Ah, that was a great day… for him anyway.

Iruka smirked, "Yeah, but not insensitive. I know I'm supposed to be tough on you whenever you misbehave, and disciplined as well as thorough when it comes to your education. Though you didn't fight how I taught you in class or how the scrolls instructed you to, you came up with your own way of fighting your opponents and it worked beautifully." He chuckled when he looked around the scorched battlefield. "I can see your strange tactics served you well out here. You managed to fend off three enemy kunoichi, all Chunin in rank, and you were able to beat them swiftly and decisively with no damage done to you whatsoever. Only a really strong-minded Genin or a shinobi with a higher skill set could have possibly pulled something like this off. I guess you could say your mischief saved both your life and your village today."

"Yeah, I guess it did." Even though he was supposed to be feeling happy, Naruto couldn't help but still feel a little bit disappointed as he kicked at the ground, earning a puzzled look from his teacher. "Still, it sucks that all I know how to do is fight, use the henge and kawarimi. I wanted to use the bunshin no jutsu to mess with them as well, but I couldn't because I can't." He looked away glumly. "I don't think I'll be able to graduate without it. You said it was pretty important."

Hearing him say that had Iruka smile a bit. Of course his worries were within reason. Though he didn't look it Naruto did try hard to learn and perform everything he was taught. Even if it didn't show on paper, the boy definitely possessed skills that made him exceptional in the field of a shinobi. Today was a perfect example of this. He wasn't just able to run rings around the genius Sasuke back in the academy, who had never lost in taijutsu to anyone before, but he was also able to outwit three Chunin at once.

This was common in Konoha. Whenever he pulled pranks with the intention of being seen, Chunin, hell, not even Jonin were able to catch him.

His creativeness, unpredictability and experience in pulling fast ones over his hometown really bled well into his potential talent as a shinobi. This was saying something.

Though the bunshin no jutsu was indeed a core topic that ninja definitely needed to learn in order to graduate, Iruka remembered that there were a few exceptions to this rule. This allowed him to come to a suitable conclusion he hoped would not only cheer the jinchuriki up from his sulking, but also satisfy both parties when the day finally arrived where they all inevitably had to move on.

The man cleared his throat to draw Naruto's attention to him again. "Of course the skills you take in from the academy are definitely important and necessary in order for you to graduate and become a Genin. It would be awfully irresponsible of me to let students without the proper training or skills needed to survive to simply waltz out of the academy with a headband over the heads. That would make me a terrible teacher." He saw the jinchuriki's intent expression drop, which had him chuckle. He placed his hand on the boy's shoulder and got him to look at him again. "But if I am able to see that they do possess the right qualities and abilities to survive out there in the real world, than it would be terribly irresponsible of me to not allow them to graduate."

Naruto's eyes widened, "Y-You mean…?"

Iruka grinned and squeezed the boy's arm reassuringly. "You have shown me a lot today, Naruto. You showed me that you could fight and think outside of the box, that you could muster incredible strength and speed whenever you wanted to, and that you could defeat an opponent several times more experienced than yourself. On top of that, you did this all without use of the bunshin no jutsu." He removed his hand from his shoulder and folded his arms. "I tell you what, in order to make up for your poor test results and inability to use the bunshin no jutsu, if you can master another jutsu by the time of your final exams, than I will forgo the bunshin test and allow you to graduate. How does that sound?"

His expression lighting up, Naruto leapt at the opportunity presented to him and cheered excitedly. "Seriously, Iruka-sensei?"

"It's my way of saying 'good job', Naruto," the man replied with a short laugh. "I am your homeroom teacher after all. I don't have to be strict and firm with you all the time like some grumpy old drill sergeant. I can be fair and supportive too, you know."

The boy let out a laugh and held his fist out to the man in declaration. "I promise you, sensei, I won't let you down! I will master the best, most awesome jutsu I can and show it to you before my final exams at the academy, dattebayo!"

Iruka grinned when the boy suddenly tackled him with a hug, which he returned with the same enthusiasm. He then looked up towards the battlefield and glanced around, inspecting the damage and coming up with a rough mental picture of what must have happened out here. Though he was sure to get more detail about this from his student, what he was really looking forward to was how this child was going to impress him later in the future.

As troublesome as he was at times, there was no doubt in the man's mind that Naruto was going to be a big name one day in the world of shinobi. He could see it now.

"I wonder how things will go from here," Iruka thought quietly to himself, before proceeding to lead his student out of the woods and back toward the village. Making sure to stop for his basket of goodies, Naruto was then led back to the academy so that the Chunin could reassess his student's performance officially…