Hey all, Kenchi618 here. New story time.

I wanted to try a crossover with Kenichi the Mightiest Disciple and Naruto for a while, but I didn't know how to do it and try and maintain the integrity of both series. I think I've finally come up with a way, but it'll take a bit of explanation in story to flesh it all out. There's a chance it'll be a bit too ambitious, but bear with me though, because I think it'll be a lot of fun.

And there will be struggles. Trust me. So let's load this one up and see if it can pass muster.

Disclaimer: I do not own Naruto or History's Strongest Disciple Kenichi. And no, my name is not a typo of Kenichi. I've had Kenchi as a nickname and an alias for years before I even got into manga and anime in a big way, and especially before I ever heard of the latter franchise by ten years. IT'S DIFFERENT BY INTENTION DAMN IT!

History's Strongest Shinobi

The ninja. Practitioners of the more clandestine aspects of combat such as sabotage, espionage, infiltration, and assassination. Formidable in open combat, capable of going head-to-head with their contrasting contemporaries in the samurai.

And much like the samurai, their time in the annals of Japanese history came and went, with only small schools of ninjutsu here and there surviving, much like the art of swordsmanship that had dwindled to a specifically small amount of serious practitioners that live and die by their craft.

Yes, their time in the annals of Japanese history had passed them by. The last gasp of ninja relevancy went out the door over a comparatively swift period of around twenty years after Commodore Matthew Perry forced Japan to open itself up to the rest of the world in the 1850s. Japan became 'westernized'.

But then again so did the ninja.

While many other clans died out or faded away into obscurity, others banded together when they found themselves without masters and use in a country that had little use for their original purpose any longer. Those that banded together took note of the outside world and extended their reach farther than most people would ever come to know and live to tell of.

From all corners of the globe the ninjas resided and recruited, belonging to the one great clan that trained them. First generation ninjas would have children that would then be trained as ninjas before they were returned to them to continue living average lives, and so on and so forth, living amongst the regular people until they were called upon to act. Then they would once more return to their normal lives.

The clan was no modern fighting force, numbers only hovering around 1000 at its strongest, but they were specialized warriors, sticking closely to their traditions but still adapting to the times.

While there were still very few entire families that were still ninjas as remnants from the era gone by, first generation ninjas for the last one-hundred years were taken in by recruiters out of extremely young orphans or runaways willing to accept the offer. But they were so young it could be borderline perceived as exploitation.

Any generation past a first generation ninja would live with their parents until the age of five, when they would be sent to the island of origin to train underneath the masters there. Parents would be allowed to see their children twice a year and on birthdays until the ninja-in-training came of age at fifteen where they would be sent back to their families. Those without families would be sent out into the world to go it alone and live normal civilian lives.

But all kept in contact with the clan, in the instance that their services were required for the work they had trained for most of their childhoods for. Their work was for the good of the clan, that hired themselves out to anyone they saw fit. No one was their lord or master.

The last bastion of true, pure ninjutsu in the world.

The great confederation of the old clans: Konohagakure.


A bundle of nerves sat in the stomach of six-year old Uzumaki Naruto. He'd spent the last twelve hours on a boat going to some place he'd only heard by name for a few years, and now he was on the place where his parents said they'd been when they were his age. Some island called the Homeland. That was what his mother and father kept telling him anyway.

He didn't even know where it was. All he knew was that it was a long way away from home and it took a long time to get there. Even the ninjas that lived there or worked for the clan didn't get to know where it was. His mother told him that you had to reach the rank of jounin to know exactly where the island was. They knew, but until he got there he'd have to get his orders from his nearest contact when he left.

That wasn't going to be for a long time though.

"I don't want you or the old man to go mom!" Little Naruto said, clinging tightly to his mother's leg as she walked with him through the stone halls full of other children standing in their doorways and staring at the new arrival. The little scruffy-headed blond boy hadn't left her side for the entire trip to the island, and once they reached the dorms where the kids would stay for the duration of their nine year training, "Why can't I go home?"

No one looked mean thus far. Just curious. But it was still scary. He didn't know any of those other kids.

Uzumaki Kushina was a lovely woman with long, bright red hair that was completely different from Naruto's own. He got that from her husband. She had a black clip in her hair to part it out of her face and for the occasion of sending her first and only child off to train she chose to wear a gold and white colored sleeveless dress and black high-heeled sandals. Something memorable so that her little one would have something of a memory of her until he saw her next.

Kushina couldn't keep the frown off of her face at her little son's query. She'd kept a brave face and a smile up for Naruto's sake, and Minato had been strong but now that she was back in the very halls where she'd spent much of her childhood, it hit her full-on that she was about to hand her baby over for the majority of his.

It broke her heart, but she knew that the day was going to come from the moment that she had given birth to him. She was a ninja. Her husband was a ninja. Her family had been ninjas. It was the way things were, and this was how it had to be. It always had been.

"It's the only way you can be trained. It's forbidden for the ninja arts to be taught outside of the Homeland for a Konoha ninja. There are a lot of reasons, like tradition to instill values and then there's-." Kushina realized that she was beginning to go on a tangent as she had a habit of doing when she was nervous and stopped only to pick Naruto off of the ground into her arms, "I know it'll be hard baby, but when you learn how to read better we'll write you all the time, and you'll see Minato and I one time in the winter and the summer, and on your birthday too."

Parents were restricted to three visits a year. This wasn't some boarding school.

"You promise?"

"Absolutely, 'ttebane!" Kushina said cheerfully with a big reassuring grin, "We can send you things through the contacts to the island, and they'll tell us all about how you're doing! So don't act up or we'll hear all about it! Don't think just because you'll be here that you can get away with what you want. You do what they tell you or I'll find a way to get you okay? And you'll never know… I am a ninja after all."

"I'll be good!" Naruto quickly promised, waving his arms defensively. Knowing what some of what his mother was capable of, she probably could sneak onto that island and off without anyone ever knowing, and at times her temper could be pretty frightening, "You don't gotta do that!"

A sharp whistle farther down the hall attracted Kushina to where Minato was standing by a closed door. He'd gone on ahead to get the key to Naruto's room, to drop off the boy's luggage, and all sorts of other things that needed to be hashed out for his child's stay.

Namikaze Minato was a tall man by Naruto's childish standards, and his posture was smooth, as if he were contemplating every move he could possibly make even though there was absolutely nothing happening. His hair was blond and spiky like Naruto's only more untamed with bangs framing his face that reached down to his jaw. He wore a brown slacks and a silver dress shirt with the sleeves rolled up to his elbows.

As Kushina approached with Naruto he gifted his son with a warm smile and set his hand on the boy's head, "Well this is your room Naruto. It's all yours, and I've unpacked your clothes and other things. You can put everything else where you want it to be later. What do you think?"

Naruto always thought his dad looked so cool. Way cooler than any other kid's dad. Other kids could say that their dads could beat up each other's dads all they wanted to. Naruto could definitely say it and not have it be speculation. Actually, his dad could also kill anyone else's dad without anyone ever knowing he did it too, but even with that he was always so cool and easygoing.

Looking into his room once Kushina carried him in, it was pretty bare. It was just as big as his room at home, 8x10, and he had a window outside. There was enough space for him to make it his once he knew what he wanted, but for now it was pretty bare bones. There was a sleeping roll, a dresser with a mirror… and that was it. Other than the stuff he'd brought.

It was a good thing Minato was so easygoing, because it had allowed him to put up with the way Naruto spoke to him for the last five years, "…There isn't really nothing in here old man." The little boy said earnestly with a shrug.

Minato's eye twitched almost unnoticeably, same as it usually did when this happened.

Kushina thought it was funny to teach Naruto to call him old man after he called her mom first, probably because he'd pissed her off sometime around that same time and she wanted to get him back. It worked, and it stuck. As did the rampant disrespect that was somewhat similar to how his mother had treated Minato with before she'd fallen for him. He was more like her than she'd admit out loud and while she never condoned it she never admonished him for it either, and she always had a smirk on her face whenever Naruto would act delightfully belligerent.

Now Naruto still listened to him like any other son should have and loved him and all that jazz, but he definitely always had known where his bread was buttered so to speak, and he knew full well who the taskmaster had always been in the house. The angel that gave him life and the devil with red hair was one in the same, and her name just so happened to be Kushina.

Try as he might, Minato couldn't get over the 'old man' thing. Maybe five years just wasn't long enough to get used to it, 'I'm only thirty-three.' His miserly thoughts came to a close when he felt Naruto tug at his pant leg, getting him to look down into the big old eyes of his only child. God, he looked so much like them it was too much sometimes, "What's the matter little buddy?"

"I don't want you to go." Naruto said quietly, and this was a child that didn't speak softly unless he had to. He was almost as much of a motor-mouth as his mother could be. And with that kind of tone this had to be really getting to him. He already knew that though, "Why do you gotta leave?"

He could explain it all he wanted to the boy, but when it all came down to it, when Naruto would keep asking why, Minato couldn't break it down into terms that a five-year old would understand. No matter what they'd say in explanation Naruto would just keep saying 'How come?' and eventually they'd run out of ways to explain that he'd get. And just saying 'because that's the way things are' wasn't good enough.

All he could do was ask his own question. The question he'd asked Naruto the day after his sixth birthday that had started all of this. He stooped down to Naruto's eyes, set his hands right on his shoulders and stared at him, "Naruto. Do you want to be a ninja?" He said with complete weightiness in his voice.

And that was it. Naruto rarely heard Minato speak with such severity. Only when he was really in trouble, or when Minato needed him to listen above all else. It was the kind of voice that made Naruto stop cold in his tracks. Even Kushina couldn't make him freeze solid the way Minato could. But he wasn't in trouble at all. This was a father making sure his son was of a clear enough mind to make his own choice.

"I couldn't be any more serious." Minato continued, his eyes never leaving his son's similar blues, "This is the most important decision you're ever going to make, and I know it's not fair to make a child make such a decision, but it's the only time when it can ever be made. It's the most grown up thing I'm ever going to ask you." He let it sink in for a bit before Naruto nodded to let him know that he understood, "If you don't want to do it just say so, and we'll go home. It'll never come up again, and you can be a regular little boy."

Kushina stayed quiet at first. There'd be repercussions for taking Naruto there and then backing off at the last second. They'd probably be punished if such a thing occurred. Maybe Naruto too. But they could try and hurt her baby if they wanted to. Ninja business was ninja business, and if he said he didn't want to be a ninja they could just bite the bullet or she'd make them bite something else that was deadly and metal.

The Kage council could kiss her ass if they wound up making a fuss. She and Minato were both jounin but that mattered not to her, "Listen to Minato Naruto. Neither of us would think badly of you at all if you said no, but you could never be a ninja. We couldn't train you ourselves or… bad things would happen. But this is going to be challenging."

Very bad things. The rules of their society were flexible, but they could be extremely strict at certain times, and the ways that one became a ninja were one of the most inflexible for certain reasons.

But to Naruto… to never be a ninja?

His mother and father were the coolest people in the world to him. The amazing things they could do, the way they seemed to know how to handle everything, prepared for everything. If he was a ninja he could be like them. Just like them.

The allure of being a ninja to someone too young to understand all it entailed was strong. It was how the outside contacts could dazzle parentless children into agreeing to join. Children were very impressionable and being a ninja was an easy way to impress them. All of the myths, then seeing a few base acrobatics, and BAM!

But Naruto took his parents' words to heart. They were being honest with him, and that made him want to make them proud even more.

The choice was never a choice. He was a big kid, and big kids didn't get scared.

"I want to be a ninja old man." Naruto said with a big grin on his face, "I'll stay."

Minato and Kushina both smiled down at him, and after a few hours that seemed like they couldn't stay for long enough, the sun set and they had to leave Naruto on his own.

Giving her baby one last tight squeeze that she didn't want to let go of, Kushina said one last thing to Naruto before they had to go, "I know that sometimes this will be hard, and at times it might be scary. But no matter what happens don't ever let them change who you are. You're my sweetheart Naruto, and I love you very much." She wiped her eyes behind his back so he didn't see, "Now what's your name?"

"Uzumaki Naruto."

"Who are you?"

"Son of Minato Namikaze and Uzumaki Kushina, jounin of Konohagakure."

"And what are you going to do?"

"Be the best ninja ever!"

Kushina let out a teary laugh at his exuberance, "Don't ever forget that, and don't ever lose that. No matter what happens, I love you."

"Listen to your busybody mother." Minato instructed, joining his wife and son in their hug as he wiped her eyes for her, "We both do."

As they left their only child in the room, Naruto silently started crying to himself. No one ever heard him make a sound. Outside as his parents left through the long stone hallway to exit the dorms his mother never made a sound either, even as tears spilled from her eyes freely as well.

"Is he going to be okay Minato?"

"Ah, have a little faith Kushina. He's our son after all. He'll be fine.

Chapter 1: Where Do Ninjas Come From?

(Ten Years Later)

"School." A blond young man with spiky hair said as he walked the hallways of the new high school that he was a first year student in, "I really can't stand this place you know? I've tried and I know why I'm here's important, but I just can't focus." His posture was a bit easygoing as he held his hands behind his neck to rest his head.

Despite the lax clothing policy of the school, he wore most of the uniform that he felt comfortable with. A white short-sleeved button-up shirt that he left untucked with a pair of orange-tinted ski goggles in the pocket and a black bookbag over his shoulders, and a pair of blue slacks that drifted down past the backs of his ankles.

He didn't want to dress like a total bum even though he could wear whatever he wanted. He had to at least make a little bit of an effort.

Walking next to him on the way to find a new spot for lunch was another young man his height with spiky brown hair that reached his neck line and hung a bit in his brown eyes. He was a pretty average kid, and unlike Naruto he wore the entire long-sleeved blue uniform of the school with a yin-yang badge on his chest and carried a one-strap bag over his opposite shoulder. He had a sheepish look on his face at Naruto's nonchalance when it came to his education, "Oh, it's not really that bad Naruto-san. You've just got to find something about it that you like."

"Like you and your how-to book reading?"

"Yeah, exactly. There you go."

Naruto grinned over at his acquaintance and reached out a hand to pat him on the back, "You know I've got nothing against reading Kenichi." When he gave what he thought was a good-natured thump on his friend's back, the boy stumbled forward several steps and had to be grabbed by the back of his collar to stay upright, "Whoa! Come on man, brace yourself."

"Manga doesn't really count as reading Naruto-san." Kenichi said as Naruto helped him remain upright, 'Man, this guy really doesn't know his own strength even after a year of knowing him!'

"Yeah they do." Naruto replied, "They could serve as 'how-to-be awesome' books."

To Kenichi, Naruto was weird. Flat out weird. There was just no other way to put it. They'd met when they were first-years in middle school but it was really just in passing as classmates. Even back then Naruto had been an odd bird from what he'd seen, but they'd never interacted until the last year of middle school.

It was kind of strange, and they were complete opposites for the most part. Kenichi was pretty introverted. He was timid and didn't like rocking the boat with others. He went along to get along for the most part, and he was pretty flaky.

Naruto on the other hand was extremely outgoing and had a tendency to be pretty boisterous and brash. He wasn't a shy guy to say the very least. He wasn't very formal or respectful to anyone either, but it didn't seem to be by design, it was just the way he was. He wasn't a mean person, he was actually pretty nice. But he could be blunt to a fault.

He always seemed to be staring around at more than what was in front of him. It wasn't a thousand-yard stare per se, because he was still aware, but he seemed to be looking for more, like there was something that wasn't there. They'd been good friends for about a year and he'd never seen Naruto's home even though Naruto in turn had been to Kenichi's. His family even knew him fairly well. Naruto never invited him to hang out after school, or anything.

If Kenichi didn't have Naruto's cell phone number he could honestly say that he probably wouldn't even know how to find the guy outside of school! He'd tried to tail him once or twice, but he'd see Naruto turn a corner and he'd just disappear into thin air!

Even as they found a mostly empty classroom with only one other girl inside studying to sit down in to eat lunch, he was still pondering deeply about his friend. His only friend really.

Kenichi wasn't very smooth or cool. He wasn't tough or strong or had a fetching personality. He wasn't handsome. There wasn't anything about him worth noting at all.

At least Naruto had a pretty interesting appearance. Mileage may have varied on his facial features since Kenichi wasn't about to judge another man's attractiveness, but even though girls weren't into him either, when you looked at him you found it hard to ignore him. Maybe it was the random goggles he tended to wear from time to time?

So that begged the question.

"Naruto why are we friends?"

Naruto had been in the middle of enjoying a nice broth of some sort of soupy concoction from his metal thermos on-hand before that question had been sprung on him. He lowered the thermos and swallowed his lunch as he seemed to be looking at Kenichi with both of his eyes closed. Another quirk of his. How did he do that?

"Uh…" Naruto said eloquently before shrugging to seemingly nothing, "I'm not getting you comrade. What are you talking about?"

Kenichi wasn't going to allow that to stop his train of thought, "I mean… well, you know what I mean. I'm kind of a loser." Naruto cringed at the ease with which Kenichi could talk himself down.

"Bullies again?" Naruto asked, giving off a sigh when Kenichi didn't answer, "You want to know why I'm friends with you, even though you can be a real downer sometimes, and even though a good gust of wind can knock you down on a given day, and even though-?"

"I get it Naruto-san." Kenichi deadpanned, feeling about two feet tall right then.

At least Naruto had the good fortune to look sheepish for shooting his mouth off, "Well even though there's all of that, I'm friends with you because you're a good guy. You're actually a really awesome guy, and you're as good a friend as a guy like me can ask for. And guys like us have gotta stick together."

That got him to puff his chest out a bit. He was thinking that Naruto was friends with him because hanging out with the only person in the school definitely seen as a bigger loser than him would deflect all of that sentiment away from him, "Oh. I was kind of thinking for a moment that you just hang out with me because I make a good meat-shield for the delinquents."

"What? Of course not Kenichi. How could you say that? I could never use you as a meat-shield." Naruto said, sounding affronted at the mere thought, "…Effective meat-shields can take more than one hit."

And just like that the moment was over with and gone.

"I'm going to go refill my thermos and get a drink." Kenichi said, getting off of one of the desks he'd been sitting on to leave for a bit, "I might head back to class early to try and talk to sensei for a bit."

"Alright man, see you there." Naruto said, getting out a pair of chopsticks from his lunch to begin picking noodles out of his thermos to eat.

Conversation aside, today had been pretty good for Kenichi. He and Naruto had finally found a classroom to eat lunch in where someone didn't enter and proceed to emasculate him for kicks. Maybe that could become their regular spot?


As Naruto continued to quietly enjoy his homemade food, a trio of second-year students walked in and took account of who was in the room before shutting the door. They sneered at Naruto and figured they could deal with him next if he didn't take the hint and get scared off from the 'warning' they were about to give the fairer denizen of the room.

Like Naruto they didn't wear the school uniform, but they didn't even bother half-assing trying to look presentable, looking more like run-of-the-mill street thugs than anything else.

"Hey, get out." One of the brutes said to the other girl sitting in the room minding her own business studying, "This is the place we go to during lunch. Has been all year. If you ain't looking to have a bit of fun just get on up and step off."

The way they surrounded the girl's desk immediately alarmed her, and the fact that the only other person in the room was some non-descript blond kid that had been eating with the scrawny brown-haired guy only made it worse. He wasn't going to be any help, "B-But, lunch is over in five minutes and this is my classroom."

"Well if lunch is over in five minutes, this isn't your classroom for the next five minutes." Another boy said, dropping his hands right in the middle of her book before ripping through half of one of the pages, "Heh, who studies during lunch anyway? Get a boyfriend!"

"No, stop! Those are expensive!"

"Wrong place, wrong time I guess." The third one said as he grabbed her by her arm and tried to pull her out of her seat to shove her on out.

A sharp whistle directed their attention back to Naruto who was still sitting on the desk with his eyes closed, "I don't think she likes being touched." He said, holding his drink that he'd gotten earlier from a vending machine, "You guys should probably just go and get back to class, it's kind of late."

A chuckle came up from one of the boys as he left go of the girl's arm and let her be in exchange for the meat that had actually started raising a stink, "And just what happens in this fantasy world of yours if we don't just run off? He gestured to the tall aluminum can in Naruto's hand, "You'll kill us with your coffee can?" The others started chuckling at that, making fun of Naruto's cheap-looking container.

"It's green tea actually."

The laughter stopped, "What was that?"

Naruto didn't mince words, "I'll kill you with my tea can."

The first boy that spoke clenched his fists until one of his running buddies set a hand on his shoulder to get his attention, "Hey, we've got three minutes before anyone else'll come in here. Why not?" With a grin spreading on his face he moved down the aisle where Naruto was and started running at him in case he smartened up and tried to run away.

Naruto did not run away. Quicker than anyone could have anticipated, Naruto jumped up and stuck the can longways onto the attacker's forehead before punching it and crushing it with a metallic crunch, knocking him back down the aisle cleanly on his back, out cold.

His friends recoiled in shock and got into hunched postures to prepare and fight Naruto who sat back down with his bag and his lunch. Instead of doing or saying anything else, Naruto reached back into his bag and pulled out an extremely worn and small, but still very sharpened pencil that he sat directly on the table right next to him while he stared directly at them both, not opening his eyes the entire time.

It was the standoff that wasn't as within ten seconds they had grabbed up their KOed friend and left the room in a hurry.

As they reached the door, Naruto cleared his throat to get them to stop. At this he opened his eyes to reveal alarmingly bright blue eyes staring at them like a jaguar did its prey, "Nobody has to know that I beat you up. I won't tell if you won't." They said nothing, but they just kept going, shutting the door behind them in case he gave chase as if it would slow him down.

'Everything's a weapon.' Naruto thought to himself as he pocketed his pencil back and started packing up his lunch, "…I wouldn't really have killed those guys, but they didn't need to know that." He muttered to himself before getting up to leave.

"Wait!" The girl from before said just as he reached the door, "Thank you senpai. Is there anything I can do to repay you?"

Senpai? She was a first year just like him from the look of her. With a snap of his fingers, Naruto gave her a big grin, "Yeah." He then put a finger to his lips and mimicked a shush, "Could you keep that a secret? I don't run with any gangs, and don't really have any friends to get my back. I don't need that kind of tough guy attention. Don't want to get beat up you know."

'Not much of a fighter? Right.' The slightly skeptical girl just nodded, eventually guessing that Naruto had lucked out and didn't want word to get out so even more people might look for him to get revenge. Even so, she owed him and wouldn't tell anyone what happened later.

Reassured by the girl, Naruto went along his way just as the bell rang to end lunch.


(Later that Day – City Streets)

"Hey, Naruto-san, what do you think about joining the school's Karate Club with me?" Kenichi asked Naruto as they walked home from school. After lunch when Naruto had returned to their classroom he found Kenichi with his clothes more disheveled than they had been when he'd left him. He didn't say anything about it, so Naruto didn't bring it up, "I mean, we're required to join a club anyway and you haven't done it yet. Who knows, we might get strong?"

"Eh…" Naruto said not sounding very enthused at all at the prospect of joining that club, "Not much of a fan of people trying to beat me to a pulp." Which was what happened to Kenichi in that club, every day, "Half of the bullies in the school are in the Karate Club Kenichi. I think you should think that one through a bit more and switch out."

"I know what it looks like." Kenichi admitted, "But I can't quit and just prove that I'm weak. If I'm a club member and admit I'm beneath them eventually they'll teach me right?" For once instead of people just trying to beat him up at least he'd get something out of it. Teaching and learning Karate was the point of the club wasn't it?

"I don't know." Naruto said as he affixed his goggles around his head on his forehead to keep his bangs out of his eyes, "Shouldn't you join a club with stuff you actually like in it?" Nothing in the school was appealing enough for him to take an interest in.

"I like the martial arts." Kenichi defended, "You know I've always been interested in them."

"I've never seen you throw a single punch at anything ever though." Naruto replied bluntly, "Besides, you'd be better off trying out for a real dojo. School clubs like that are notoriously top-heavy aren't they?"

The concept went over average young man's head as he didn't really get what Naruto was referring to, "I don't get you."

"I mean, it's like one guy that actually knows what they're doing-." Explained Naruto, squinting his eyes in concentration as he kept thinking of a way to get his point across, "-But only because they're a sucky bottom-tier guy at a real dojo. You won't get strong there."

"That was… kind of mean." Kenichi pointed out, "Why would you say that?" Those guys seemed pretty hard to him. If he didn't have headgear when they used him as a punching bag he'd shudder to think of what he'd look like.

"It's an assumption, but it's got some merit." Naruto said, "Our school's not even nationally ranked for Karate. They don't try to compete in tournaments. It's just a club for punks to hang out, punch stuff, and talk about other times that they hung out and punched stuff. They're just jerks."

"Well do you know about any good dojos for Karate?"

"Ahehe." The blond student laughed a bit sheepishly before pulling his goggles down over his face to hide his eyes, "Nnnnnoooo…" He drawled out in a long, unsure manner, "Not for just Karate…"

Come to think of it, Kenichi probably shouldn't have been surprised that Naruto didn't have any interest in getting involved with fighting. Naruto never seemed to ever get riled up enough to come to blows with anyone. He never stood up to fight with people that tried to mess with either of them, instead just smiling his big grin and trying to talk a situation down. It was surprisingly effective.

It worked more times to ease tensions than a few when he didn't stick his foot in his mouth, but it didn't show a lot for his backbone. He never ran from anything, but then again he never ran toward anything either. Sometimes though, every blue moon Naruto would turn up in school looking like he'd taken quite the beatdown, but like him he never said anything about it, even though he'd never seen Naruto get hit.

He couldn't really say anything about Naruto and his backbone or lack thereof when he himself was about as spineless as a jellyfish.

Without warning, Naruto turned off down a street that he usually didn't see Naruto take, "Hey, where are you going?" He was certain that Naruto didn't live that way.

"I've got something to go do before I go home." Naruto said, waving of his shoulder as he left Kenichi behind, "I'll see you tomorrow in class."

Kenichi had a mind to try and follow him again to see just what his sole friend got up to on his own time, but he'd never even get close to wherever Naruto was going before he'd know he was being followed and would lose him in a heartbeat.

Honestly, the guy was like a shadow sometimes.


(Elsewhere in Town)

A teenage boy with a placid expression on his face walked down the street in a residential neighborhood with a yawn as he neared his apartment complex. He wore a black school uniform and had one hand lazily shoved into his pocket while the other carried his bag over his shoulder, 'School was a drag like always…' He thought to himself as he ran a hand through his black hair that was kept in an upright spiky ponytail, "But it beats the hell out of the Homeland, that's for sure."

"Oh don't be that way Shikamaru. There were some good times back there too."

Upon hearing that voice, the boy let out a great sigh and directed his attention up to the landing of the floor that his apartment was on, and fought with himself about going upstairs to deal with that troublesome person.

But he was standing in the way of him reaching his bed so that he could take a nice long nap into the night before he could go back to sleep later. So he had to go up, and up the stairs he went, greeted by the grinning face of…

"Uzumaki Naruto." Shikamaru said as if someone had told him that he'd gotten a parking ticket, "Back again?"

"You could at least act like you're happy to see me, just a little bit." Naruto said as he followed Shikamaru to his apartment door, "We're the only point of contact for the other, but that doesn't matter. You know I come back every single week. Let's go inside so we can talk about the mission."

"No need. I already know what you're going to ask, and it's the same answer I gave you last week, and the week before, and every week before this for the last four years." Shikamaru said. Even though he didn't think Naruto to be the type, he wasn't about to open his door with his back turned to anyone. They were trained better than that, even if he did his best to forget it, "There's no messages. There's no new mission for you or me. There's never a new mission. We've got the same one they sent us off the island with and nothing else to supplement it. No new or rescinded objectives, it's the same damn thing."

"You shouldn't talk about that out here in the open." Naruto said with a frown on his face, "And that mission is hard. I can't think of a way to do it. I've tried everything I can think of. What about you?"

'That's because it's impossible for a genin. We're not supposed to pass it. They never wanted us to pass it.' Shikamaru would have palmed his face if he didn't have a modicum of pity for the poor bastard. He wanted to scream it in his face, to spell out for him something that his faith in their culture wouldn't let him see for himself.

But that was cruel. Crueler than Shikamaru was willing to be for no other reason than to crush a man's soul, and he wouldn't do that. One day he hoped Naruto would see the truth the way he did before it killed him. But maybe Naruto would rather die believing in something than live for nothing.

Smoothing a hand through his hair, Naruto pulled out his cell phone to check what time it was, "Well, I'm going to be trying something again tonight. If the stars align maybe I can finally finish this mission so I can wait for my next one."

"Don't worry about it." Shikamaru said before walking into his apartment, leaving Naruto outside, "Just go home Naruto. If you try it again the same thing's going to happen as always."

The truth that he saw the moment they were placed on that boat to leave the island that trained them, the truth that almost broke him after the first time they'd tried, failed, and he'd subsequently accepted it and quit.

The truth that they weren't special.

They didn't have something that the other students lacked.

Instead they sorely lacked something that the other students actually had in the minds of the kage council. In Shikamaru's case it had been belief, drive, and motivation. In Naruto's case it was different. He believed in Konohagakure… but they thought he was too empathetic, an occurrence in his life effecting him too negatively to recover from in their view.

Being called upon to leave the Homeland Island early wasn't an honor that meant you were ready for life as a functional ninja. They were sent away before their training was complete. Given an impossible task for the pair of them that they could never complete. And the reason was simple.

Because they were never expected to complete it. Ever, 'Naruto, even if you get in there and get out with what you need there's nowhere to take it to. Don't you see?' There wasn't even a way to turn in their results.

They didn't know how to get to the island by design unless you were a jounin, and they took great pains to make sure of such, especially on the way out. They were told that someone would find and contact them, but neither had heard a peep in four years. No attempts to check on their progress or if they were still alive. Konohagakure had washed their hands of them because they thought that they weren't up to snuff.

They were sent away to wash out and die. And they couldn't even do that right.


(Later that Night)

Night had fallen, and Naruto had only made a quick stop home to grab some stuff such as a change of clothes and some other things before heading back out. He walked down the sidewalks at a reserved pace, slow and deliberate as he carried himself to his intended destination with the same kind of gait that he used to see his father use when he was a very little boy.

There was no need to rush to where he was going. No matter when he showed up it'd still be the same as it always was. Man, that was negative.

He always used to wonder why his father, a man he knew for a fact was faster than his eyes could see, would most often move so slowly, so deliberately, when he didn't have to, but now he was beginning to get the reason why. At least he thought so. He couldn't ask. There wasn't anyone to ask.

'Mind off of that!' Naruto thought to himself as he was nearing the insertion point to begin his mission. He could tell because he'd done this enough times that his body knew this portion of town by heart and already knew to dread it. But he'd never back off, 'This is your mission. Your first mission. You have to complete it. No matter how many tries you need. No matter how long it takes.'

Trying to pump himself up with his own ongoing inner mantra, Naruto took several rapid breaths and looked down at his feet before breaking out in a run once he saw that the streets and sidewalks were clear. He needed the streets to be clear before he started running as he couldn't let anyone see him moving that fast.

Eventually a patch of land that had a 15 foot wall erected around the entire property came into view, and right at the front of it was a large gate that was twice as tall, with a pair of iron doors too thick and heavy for a normal person to open.

'That's fine.' He thought to himself, pulling a rope and grappling hook from his bag that he used to reach the tallest building in the nearby area. It would give him a decent view into his target grounds.

Laying down on the rooftop in question, on his belly as he peered over that wall and took account of everything he was seeing, he pulled his goggles down over his eyes and took into account his change of clothes from what he'd been wearing earlier that day.

His pants were black and had the bottoms of them placed inside of black high-top shoes to keep any loose articles of clothing from trailing. He wore a regular form-fitting long-sleeved black t-shirt that was tucked into his belt enough to work similarly to his pants; no loose articles. He looked normal enough to walk around casually without scrutiny, but it was as functional as he needed it to be for what he was doing.

'Tonight's the night.' He thought to himself, doing a little prayer just in case something went wrong… again, 'After all of these years, and all of those asskickings, this is the night I finally infiltrate Ryouzanpaku; the dojo of the strongest! This time'll be the charm! I'll make it in and complete my mission of-!'

Oops. Well no he wouldn't, because there was already the noticeably heavy weight of a sword against the base of his spine.

"You… again?"

At the sound of that very calm, dull, almost bored-sounding female voice, Naruto felt a shiver go down his spine but didn't make any sudden moves, 'No! I didn't even make it over the wall this time? I've been training my ass off for this try!' Actually, he didn't move at all. Not a muscle. No, no, he wasn't going to make any sudden moves here. He'd walked that far in the snow before and he didn't like the destination that would await him one bit.

He felt a slender, smooth finger poke him in the side of the head several times as if trying to get him to react somehow, but he didn't budge. Not even his eyes moved off of the sight of Ryozanpaku. He didn't need to look to see who it was. It was the only denizen of the dojo that ever bothered trying to sneak up on him when they caught him, and he used the word 'trying' loosely since he doubted she was really trying at all.

And this woman wasn't a ninja? She might as well have been.

He didn't need to see what she looked like because he already knew. She was a tall and extremely gorgeous young lady several years older than him, very well-endowed in Naruto's opinion with emotionless purple eyes. Her dark hair trailed down her back in one long ponytail tied with pink string ribbon. She had purple stockings that travelled halfway up her thighs and simple sandals to go with a pink loose-sleeved kimono, with a very long nodachi in her hand that hadn't been poking his skull, bandages covering the hilt.

Naruto was very intimate with it one could say.

And she'd been the first master of Ryouzanpaku he'd had a run-in with. Kousaka Shigure: The Prodigy of Sword and the Mistress of all Weaponry.

The first time he'd ever even come to Ryouzanpaku when he was twelve he'd tried to sneak in over the wall, and she cut him from waist to shoulder before he'd even gotten used to his settings. She didn't kill him though. She just kicked his unconscious body out of the front gate.

And once again, she was pointing a sword at his spine.

"What is… your name?" She said, finally standing up directly over top of Naruto as she held him at blade-point.

"You don't sound like you care that much." He eventually said, knowing that she didn't take him as enough of a threat to do anything as long as he remained still.

"I don't care… at all." The woman freely admitted, "…But you have been trying to break in for years now." How many times had it been at this point? Fifty? More? There had to be something that he was after, "And… we don't know your name."

Naruto was expecting to get his ass kicked more upon being discovered. He usually did. Every single time he'd ever tried to get inside of Ryozanpaku he got caught and then he got destroyed when he tried to run. No, destroyed wasn't the right word. He got ANNIHILATED. But that was what you got when you picked with master-level martial artists.

But Ryouzanpaku were absolute monsters.

They never killed him though, or had him arrested. They would put him down hard, and fast. Oh so fast. And then they'd chuck him out over the wall into the shrubs outside where he'd wake up the next morning and go home… or to school depending on what day it was. Kenichi would always stare so much at the damage he showed up with, as did a lot of others, but at least the guy was willing to respect certain points of his privacy and he never asked about it.

He oftentimes thought about why the Konohagakure organization would send a pair of newbie ninjas to do a mission like this, and Shikamaru kept trying to convince him to let it go. But he couldn't.

He wouldn't.

How could he do something like that? Run away from his very first mission, even if it seemed impossible for him? His parents never did, and he wouldn't either. They had been amazing ninjas, and he would be too. Konohagakure believed in him and Shikamaru enough to send them away earlier than any other student in their age group, by themselves, to tackle such a difficult assignment.

'I believe. I believe in myself.' Naruto thought to himself despite being pinned down with no foreseeable way to counter. Maybe this time. This time he had something up his sleeve that could overcome one of them, 'Don't ever let them change who you are.'

The moment his muscles twitched to make a move, the woman above him rendered him unconscious with a single stroke of her blade's blunt side.

She just stood over him and stared at Naruto's body before shrugging to herself and jumping from their perch on the biggest building on the block, clearing three other houses and the entire street before she soared over the walls of Ryozanpaku to return from whence she came.

And there Naruto remained on the rooftop, where he would slumber until daybreak.

(Flashback – Seven Years Ago)

Though the time flew by the routine remained the same.

School for ninjas in training was pretty uniform. For the young ones like Naruto, they were taught elementary things that they would have learned in normal schools for kids. Reading, language, geography, general history, math and science, and culture, the latter being the favorite class for pretty much every student because it involved a lot of TV and movies, and anything that would let them understand what was to be expected of normal people outside of the island.

The reason for the existence of the culture class being that even though the kids were isolated for the privacy of their organization they would not send their trainees out into the world ignorant. They would know as much as they could of the world and how to act in it, as it could and would keep them alive and help them complete their missions. Contrary to popular belief, ninjas actually liked their ilk to have personalities. Being as rigid as a board and unemotional raised too many red flags. Being normal and blending in was the best way to go about with any assignment.

Aside from that, the children also got physical conditioning. Quite a lot of it. A healthy ninja was a strong ninja after all.

Winding down from their afternoon P.T. sessions, the children were being put through their final paces of the day in the forested courtyard provided for their entire class to learn in day-in and day-out.

A man with brown hair up in a ponytail and a scar across his nose stood dressed in the white ninja attire of the shinobi shouzoku that was only really used and worn at the Homeland Island, only required to be worn during official training as a uniform. It was the stereotypical ninja outfit, but in all white, with no loose articles of clothing whatsoever along with tabi socks and sandals. The children wore the same outfit, but in black.

At the front of a gathering of students all facing him he stood calmly breathing in and out as he watched the 20 nine-year olds all do the same. Classes were separated by age, as by the time they turned fifteen they would be sent out into the world or given the option to stay. Those ninjas that stayed would be the standing force in case the island needed to be defended. They also tended to the land, the school grounds, the children, and other responsibilities as their official jobs and were clothed in white uniforms it was easier than going out into the world, but you didn't get to leave really at all.

"Alright." The man said, giving a signal for the kids to be at ease for a moment, "Okay, today we're going to start preparing you for the year-end tests to mark your progress and see what you all need work on respectively if you ever want to pass by the time coming-of-age occurs. So we'll do a quick run-through for each of you to make sure you'll know what's expected of you this time. It'll be harder than last years, so prepare well. Am I understood?"

"Yes Iruka-sensei." All of the students, both male and female sounded off at once.

A smile came to his face at that and he continued on, "Now we're going to pick on all of you a little bit, one row at a time." All of the students tensed up, as it was going to be something surprising. It always was.

Whenever they were told they were about to be picked on by one of the instructors that usually meant that something random was about to happen and they had to react accordingly or get called out for it. Thus the first row of kids moved forward and stood straight up, waiting for the start.

Without warning or a movement from Iruka, a row of blunted shuriken, one for each of the five children in the front row, flew right at them. Without a sound or any other prompting, each child in that row immediately crouched down low enough to avoid it and pulled out a blunted training kunai, set down in a posture to defend themselves with their eyes darting around suspiciously to analyze the entire forested courtyard.

Iruka said nothing but he nodded in approval. Preparing to defend one's self was the appropriate course of action in such a situation. That was basic, learning how to respond to a mystery threat, 'Do not panic under duress. Do not move in a random direction, otherwise you might fall prey to where your opponent wished for you to be steered.'

Iruka lifted his hands and began moving his fingers around, raising up a great maze of metal wires that he'd prepared well in advance and connected to his fingers just before talking about the exercise they were about to do.

The movement allowed the wire to become visible to the students as a warning, "Reach me." He said.

At that his fingers started to dance around and the children were then forced to dodge the shifting wires without being caught up in them and dangling. Two ninjas-in-training were caught shortly while three others took their time and worked their way through the maze without moving slow enough to touch any of them. Touching real stretched out metal ninja wire was as good as cutting yourself. It was razor-sharp.

Eventually they worked their way through with great effort and reached the end, all tired from the constant movement and the adrenaline of not wanting to get caught. As the last thing, Iruka pulled out a small decorative bell and gave it a jingle before smiling, "Get this bell from me if you can." He said in a challenging voice.

Two of the ninja children immediately sprang into action while one stood back and did nothing. One with black spiky hair and black eyes, the other with thin red hair and freckles.

It didn't take Iruka long to get rid of one of them. While he dodged the first's attempt at a sliding kick tackle, the second came straight on planning to use the distraction of the first attack and his hands to fight with. Not a bad tactic against someone on your level, but he was a chunin, and these weren't even close to genin. He simply sank his fist into the child's belly harshly, dropping him to the ground breathlessly sucking air.

The second child was a bit harder to get rid of. For a nine year old he fought furiously. A little boy with black upright hair's eyes blazed over with determination to take that bell. Alternating between attacking with punches and kicks and reaching for the bell when he thought he'd worked his way to it.

Eventually though, he overextended himself reaching for a bell in a bluff of Iruka's and got bopped on the head with the bottom of his fist hard enough to scatter his brains and knock him to the ground too.

"Good intensity Sasuke, but your first attack was too advanced. Your technique was good though, but without developing the speed for using it a strong opponent would not fall for it." Iruka said as the boy he just bopped got up and walked to the other students to get to the back of the line. His onyx eyes shone in acknowledgement of the compliment, "Jon, work on your approach. Don't telegraph a move coming in." Iruka said to the other boy that had tried to fight him.

He said nothing to the third boy, the one that had not fought him to begin with. All he did was gesture with his head for him to go to the back of the line, "Naruto. You're done."

Naruto smiled slightly and rubbed his hair before doing just that. As he moved to the back of the line he could hear a lot of the other students whispering about how he didn't try to take the bell because he knew Iruka would have beaten him up too. And how Naruto hoped to get good marks if he didn't believe in his hand-to-hand well enough to spar with the teacher during class.

Once he got to his place at the back of line back in their original rows as the next group went through Iruka's random tests, Sasuke sent him a momentary smirk, but when Naruto turned to look at him he was already facing the front again.

Naruto narrowed his eyes at him and at everything everyone else was saying, his cheeks stained red with embarrassment, but he just shook his head and didn't say a thing.


From a distance up amongst the trees, two of the eldest ninjas on the island stood in hiding, watching the next generation of Konohagakure ninjas learning their art. A man in a black kimono with spiky, balding grey hair and liver spots on his face looked down with a smile, "Did you see that Danzo?"

"The boy that didn't fight?" Danzo responded. He was also quite old, with spiky black hair, bandages covering one eye while the other stayed closed, a cane in one hand and the other in a sling and thick cast, "Yes. He was the only one in his group that passed all of the trials. His teacher never told that they needed to take the bell, only to do it if they could. None of them would have been able to."

"A ninja does not engage in combat when there is no need." Hiruzen said as if reciting a rule, "Violence is saved for only when necessary. Most younglings are so quick to resort to trying to show their skills to get what they need when there at times is no reason for such a thing."

"They will learn though." Danzo said in return, "They are just now beginning to learn the basics of our way. It will come in time. But that one is already very advanced is he not? The boy that stayed back?"

"Yes. Naruto is his name I believe. Second-generation ninja on his father's side, seventh-generation on his mother's. Both of them jounin, and his father's near being issued Kage-status like you and I?"

Kage was the most powerful class of ninja available.

The system went that all ninjas deemed good enough to begin working were given the rank of genin. From there a promotion to chunin was possible, pending enough support from others of the same ranking after more experience and skill was garnered. The same went for jounin only longer and more difficult.

A kage was rare. The best of the best. The highest level achievable. All kage-level ninjas remained on Homeland Island, with a place for them reserved on the council that governed the entire organization. There were currently only thirteen members serving at the lofty position, and most of them were over the age of fifty.

"Namikaze?" Danzo said with a touch of astonishment in his bland voice, "He's rather young for such a consideration isn't he? As a man with no background in his family before him of being a shinobi that is extremely impressive." How that man ended up with someone like Uzumaki Kushina was beyond him. She was an incredible ninja but… her personality as a ninja was not what they wished.

The way she did things walked the line of acceptance within their clan. Hopefully she didn't pass that down her lineage to her son.

"His son seems to be shaping up as well, but we may be getting ahead of ourselves." Hiruzen said. A positive mindset in regards to the children they were training was always what was needed of those that came before them. A grin then appeared on his face, "I wonder if he'd thought to ask for the bell nicely."

(End Flashback)


His dreams from the past broken, Naruto returned to the land of the conscious amid sharp pokes to his side. He cracked his blue orbs open to find them filled with morning sunlight.

So he got knocked out again. That woman with the weapons was just too fast. Not that he'd had a good position to begin fighting from to begin with. If he'd have been standing he'd have made a real fight of it.

Oh who was he kidding? He'd have gotten taken out just as quickly if he'd been facing her at the ready. The only difference would have been that he might have seen her take her first few steps before he lost track of her and she put him to sleep just as decisively.

"It's time to wake up ninja-kun." A bright and cheerful girl's voice said as she continued to try and prod him awake, "I heard from Shigure-san that you tried to break in again last night. What do you want from us anyway? Maybe if you told us you wouldn't have to do… well, this."

"Mmmph." Naruto moaned without opening his mouth as he turned his head to face the person messing with him, "Huh… Ryouzanpaku-hime. I haven't seen you in a while."

Said 'Ryouzanpaku Princess' was a lovely teenage girl Naruto's age with long blonde hair and bright blue eyes and a beauty mark under her left eye. For some reason her hair was plaited into a single braid to go along with the two purple clips she wore to keep it out of her face, which was odd because it was loose every other time he'd seen her. He didn't want his eyes to drift any lower than her face out of respect because if he did he would have wound up staring. Her body was absolutely stunning. Grown women would kill to have a full figure like hers. Said figure was clad in a blazer for some kind of school uniform and a plaid-patterned skirt.

An absolutely adorable pout came to her face after hearing what Naruto called her and she poked him several more times slightly harsher than before, "My name is Miu ninja-kun. Fuurinji Miu. You know that."

"Of course I do." He did. But it didn't feel right to be so familiar with someone that he was trying to take something from, especially since she already knew that he was. Then again, she was the only Ryouzanpaku denizen that had never knocked him out within the time-frame of five seconds.

"And I still don't know yours." Miu said, crossing her arms and pushing her chest out as she continued to sit on her knees next to him, "After four years."

"Oh, don't be like that." Naruto replied, wiggling his arms and legs enough to make sure Shigure hadn't paralyzed him when she'd hit him in the neck to knock him out, "Who tries to be friends with the ninja trying to get over on them? We've fought how many times again?"

"Ten times." Miu supplied with a helpful smile.

A confused look came over Naruto's face at that, "No way. I figured it would have been way more than that. I've run into you like six times by yourself trying to break into your house."

Furrowing her brow in thought, Miu eventually pounded into one hand out of realization, "Oh! You're counting all the times you ran away and hid. Well that would make it fourteen, but some of those don't count for what we did silly." And that chapped Naruto's hide.

Yes, he ran away sometimes while they had been fighting. It was a perfectly sound tactic, and it had led to some of his more dominant victories over her when he'd actually trapped her or turned the tables several times. But the only times he had ever hidden when he'd been in the middle of a fight with her was not because of her! It was because of the monster that showed up every single time he started winning!


Now he wasn't afraid of anything, or anything that he would readily admit to, but her grandfather was fucking terrifying! She descended from him? No way, not that cute little thing. Not from him, not at all. Naruto would not accept that as a reality, because her grandfather was by far the most horrifying master inside of Ryouzanpaku.

And without fail, no matter what, whenever Miu wound up being the one trying to deal with him and couldn't defeat him herself… if he started winning, if he had her on the ropes and was preparing to subdue her so he could keep on going, her gigantic demigod of a grandfather would show up and smoke him on sight. Even if their fight hadn't made a hint of a ruckus by the time he found them.

He could run from the man the second he saw him. His foot wouldn't touch the ground in the opposite direction one time before everything went dark and he woke up with more injuries than he could ever remember having. All he could do was turtle and hope he landed somewhere comfortable after he was punted out, because if 'The Invincible Superman' Fuurinji Hayato was the master that got to him he wouldn't wind up just outside of the walls in the shrubs or just down the block.

It was like the man had a sixth sense for knowing whenever anyone was screwing with Miu. Or was it just him?

Either way, the best option when she was the one that confronted him on Ryouzanpaku grounds was usually to just run from her… because even at times when he actually could beat her or had a trap planned, he never seemed to win fast enough to escape a secondary asswhupping.

When they fought, she was a fierce enemy. The fiercest he'd ever fought… that didn't destroy him outright. Outside of the walls, like now, she was an absolute delight. Really easy to talk to. Such a sweet girl. It was like she didn't acknowledge the fact that he was an enemy outside, which was probably partially his fault too since he was just as affable outside of his mission.

"Well I should go to school right now, but my head is killing me so I think I'll just lay here and try to think of a new way to get into Ryouzanpaku before I go home." Naruto said rather nonchalantly for speaking to the person whose home he was going to try and infiltrate.

"Good luck with that!" Miu chirped brightly, patting him on the head, "Speaking of school, I have to go to class now. I'm starting at a new school I transferred to today."

"Killer." Naruto said earnestly with a thumbs-up, "I hope it goes well." He then noticed something that stood out about how she looked, "What's with the glasses?" He had fought against her a bunch of times. He knew full well that she had perfect vision and did not need them.

"Heh, just trying to avoid attention and look normal."

"Ah, I gotcha." And he really did, "Well, bye -hime."

"Bye! See you later ninja-kun!"

Weird. Were they friends? Nah, he was trying to take something important from within Ryouzanpaku's walls. You couldn't be friends with someone that lived in the place you were trying to burgle, even if you were cordial with each other. They were more like rivals. Kind of.

He would go in, sometimes she'd try to stop him. If she couldn't stop him or never discovered him during his mission attempts, another master would. That was how it always went no matter what he tried… even if they had conversations if he ran into her on the way to the store or on the street or whatnot.


(Some Time Later – Naruto's House)

The front door to the modest two-story home opened up as Naruto walked in and kicked off his shoes in the necessary space, 'Pssht, I put on my wall-climbing shoes and I didn't get past the front gate this time.' Naruto thought to himself, dropping his bag in the same area, "I'm home."

He was speaking to himself though. There wasn't anyone else there but him. As he walked through the foyer his eyes drifted to some of the pictures in the wall that he hadn't touched since Konohagakure had sent him on his first mission and the day he moved back into the house he and his parents shared until he was sent off to train on Homeland Island for years and years.

His mother and father. He just liked keeping those pictures up even though they weren't with him any longer. He was in a lot of them as a small child, and they all looked happy.

They did love him. They left him everything. Their house, all of their money which was quite enough for him to live off of until he graduated and went to college, if he wound up going, and more.

Going upstairs into his room he walked in and sat down on his bed, eyes flickering to several composition notebooks that were basically filled from cover to cover. Those were the things that made him feel fuzziest when he thought of what they'd left him.

They were filled with training ideas and programs that they were planning to put him through upon his return. It made him smile. There was so much meant to keep him busy even after they'd sent him off to college.

Because they believed in him. Even if no one else did, they did. They were willing to die for their duty as ninjas, and in their place he'd go on and be everything they were and more.

If Ryouzanpaku's masters kept on beating him and kicking him out he'd train harder. He didn't have to fight them, he just had to find a way to get past them and search for his objective.

He'd be the kage his father was supposed to become, and he'd do it the way they told him to. His way. Defeat wasn't going to make him back off and change who he was. He promised them he wouldn't. The last promise he'd made them in person.

(Flashback – Seven Years Ago)

Naruto's day had been extremely strange. Actually, things had been rather strange for quite some time now.

Ever since he'd first come to Homeland Island, his parents had made good on their promise to write him frequently. It almost bugged him nonstop how many letters he'd receive from them, asking him about any and everything. They told him that they knew of his grades and that they were mostly very good. Kushina did constantly get on him about improving on his science and math, even though she did like preening about the fact that he owned all of the culture classes with an iron fist.

Minato didn't really like Naruto's little rivalry with the fellow top student in his age bracket in Uchiha Sasuke, but he did encourage Naruto that if he was going to compete he should kick his ass. Though that was probably something Kushina wrote in.

They sent him packages and had even managed to send him a TV and a Playstation for him to occupy his time when he was by himself for his performance in his classes. It was a big hit with the other kids and got him some popularity.

They always told him when they'd be visiting and always came to see him once in the summer, once in the winter, and once on his birthday. They never missed a beat.

Which was what the problem was now.

His birthday had been a week ago, and his parents kept writing that they were excited to go and visit him on October 10th. October 10th, October 10th, October 10th, in every letter he'd received from August to September.

But at the start of September he stopped getting letters. Cold turkey, they just stopped coming in. He thought it might be because of storms, as boat was the only way for anything to get to and from the island, but then October 10th came and went, and they didn't come.

But they were probably busy. On top of being high-class ninjas, Kushina and Minato had real jobs too. Important jobs. Something probably just came up.

So why did his heart feel like it was tugging downward in dread?

To add onto that, his teachers hadn't been addressing him normally the way they had before. Even Iruka who had been his favorite of the rotating instructors made him feel like something was off.

A knock came at Naruto's door while he was just leaning on his windowsill, staring out at the ocean through the trees. He had a great view, "It's open."

Speaking of the devil, Iruka opened the door and popped his head in, looking around to make sure there weren't any other kids in Naruto's room before he went in and closed the door behind himself. He needed to tell him something that the others didn't have any business hearing before he did, "Hey Naruto… I need to tell you something. It's important, and it's about your parents."

"They're coming?" Naruto turned around so fast Iruka had to blink and make sure he'd seen him even move, "Or are they here?" His face lit up at the thought, which damn near crushed his heart to see.

But he was a ninja. Naruto was a ninja. They all dealt with this kind of thing eventually. And he needed to know, "…They're not coming Naruto. Now or ever again." The shock and confusion on his face would shortly give way to complete horror, "Uzumaki Kushina and Namikaze Minato are both… dead. I'm sorry for your loss."

Iruka just stood there for the longest time watching the stone cold frozen expression on Naruto's face. It made him cringe at the sight of it. And then tears started rolling down his cheeks as he stared up at his teacher.

"…They were dispatched on a mission, a very sensitive infiltration mission, and they didn't make it." Iruka explained to a petrified Naruto, seemingly frozen in time, "I don't want to be the one to tell you something like this Naruto, but they died doing what you're training to do now. We're proud of them and you should be too. I'm so sorry."

That was all he could repeat until he left the room and left Naruto alone.

Once again Naruto cried, but this time sounds did come from his room. In the dead of night the sound of punches impacting off of a stone wall and soft uncontrolled sobbing emanated from his quarters.

And from that day forward everything else went downhill too, whether he knew it or not.

Well I'm going to go ahead and give this a try now. Not sure how it'll shake out, and I'm pretty sure I might confuse some readers for a bit, but I'm trying to have this all make sense without laying all of my cards on table right off the bat. Give me a bit of time to flesh out the entire situation.

I've wanted to take a run at something like this for a while, but I didn't know how I'd pull it off for the longest because I wanted to be different from what I've actually seen thus far in this department.

Like I said earlier, we'll see if this idea has legs as we go along.

Kenchi out.