Hey, all you readers and writers out there. X009 here with the remake of my personal favorite of the three stories I've written so far: Naruto: Nine and Seven. I hope fans of the original enjoy this new version even more.

Looking back at the earlier chapters of the first version, I found myself extremely unstatisfied with the writing and how I developed the story and Naruto and Fuu's relationship. I hope to correct my past mistakes and make this one more serious than the original.

Disclaimer: I don't own Naruto

The midday sun shined down on the world from a clear, nearly cloudless sky. It was another one of the beautiful days the Land of Fire was known for. The songs of birds and the cries of cicadas could be heard flowing along with the slight breeze that flowed through the area as the critters of the forest went about facing another day of life.

As the sun rays bathed the land in its light and warmth and the sounds of nature echoed through the land, two figures walked down a dirt path between a deep forest and a gushing river.

The first was a fairly tall man, standing just over six feet tall. He had spiky white hair tied in a ponytail that trailed down to his waist and framed his face in a pair of bangs. He wore an unusual, horned forehead protector that bore the kanji for oil as opposed to the sign of his village. He wore a green kimono shirt with matching pants held by a black belt over mesh armor along with a red haori that had two yellow circles on its sides and wooden geta sandals. He had two red lines trailing down from his eyes and had the summon scroll of the toads strapped to his back. He was non other than Jiraiya of the Sannin, one of the most famous (and infamous with the ladies) shinobi in the world.

The other was a young boy who'd just reached his teens, moving to the side of the road to get a better view of the walled town in the distance, close enough that it could be seen but too far to make out any of its features. He had spiky blond hair and ocean blue eyes. He was a bit on the short side, though no one would mention it lest he go off the handle, and had lightly tanned skin and three whisker-like marks on his cheeks. The boy wore an orange tracksuit with blue shoulders and waist, a white swirl on the shoulder, large white collar and a red swirl on the back along with a forehead protector marking him as a ninja of Konoha.

This was Naruto Uzumaki, Jinchuriki of the Kyuubi and self proclaimed future Hokage.

"Where are we headed this time, Pervy Sage?" Naruto asked, looking up at his sensei. "Are we actually going here for a reason, or are you just looking to goof off some more?"

Jiraiya turned his head, casting a slightly irritated look towards his student. "How many times have I told you to stop calling me that? What's it going to take for you to show me one iota of respect?"

"For starters, you could actually teach me something." Naruto scowled, his eyes squinted like a fox's. "All you've done since we left the village is leave me on my own while you go off looking for 'research'." He said, his tone making it clear what he thought of his sensei's antics.

Jiraiya gave a bark of a laugh as a smile spread across his face and he came to a stop.

"Well if that's what's bugging you, your troubles are over. I was just thinking this is the perfect place to get started."

"Really?" Naruto said, his eyes taking on an excited gleam as his fists balled in anticipation. "You mean you're finally done being a pervert and are ready start training me?"

Despite the fact that the whole purpose of this trip was his training, they'd done nothing for the past two weeks. They'd visited two villages and one city in the Land of Fire and so far, the Sannin had left him to practice his chakra control while he went off doing god knows what. Sometimes, he said he'd needed to meet a contact, but other times the blond thought the Sannin was just peeping somewhere.

"For the last time, kid, I'm a super-pervert!" Jiraiya replied heatedly.

"Big difference." Naruto scoffed, rolling his eyes at his sensei's antics. Hooking his fingers behind the straps of his backpack, he resumed walking ahead of the Sannin, his anxious expression returning. "So, let's get this show on the road. Where are we headed?"

"Actually, it's over here." Jiraiya said, pointing his thumb to the trees as the blond turned around to look at him. "If I remember right, there should be a lake just past here. Seems like as good a place as any to start."

With that, the Sannin turned away from the path, brushing aside some of the foliage in his way as he stepped beyond the tree line and said over his shoulder, "Come on, kid this way." But he needn't have bothered; the blond was already in pursuit of his sensei.

It wasn't long before the two found themselves in a large clearing surrounding a lake, just as the toad summoner predicted. The sun reflected off of the crystal clear waters as the large man took stock of the location and nodded to himself.

Naruto took off his backpack, laying it against the trunk of a nearby tree before joining his sensei. "So, what are you going to teach me, Pervy Sage, another awesome jutsu like the Rasengan? Or maybe how to breath fire or…"

Jiraiya closed his eyes and shook his head, "Nah, the Rasengan's enough and you don't need any run of the mill tricks like that." He opened his eyes, though his smile faded a bit when he saw the excitement had drained from the blonds' expression.

He could kind of understand why. Even before things had gone downhill for the boy after the exams with the appearance of the Akatsuki and Sasuke's defection, the boy always looked forward to learning new jutsu, just like the kid he was. And now, he didn't just want new techniques for the sake of it, now he had reasons: to retrieve Sasuke and defeat the Akatsuki when they finally come out of the wood works.

But he didn't need anything like that. Not with the incredible power buried inside him.

"Listen up, kid. Here's what I want you to do…"

"Hang on a minute, Pervy Sage." Naruto interrupted, a slight frown marring his features as he looked up at his sensei. "What exactly do you plan on teaching me?"

Jiraiya seemed a little surprised by Naruto's question, but he answered quickly.

"Well, I'm thinking you should stick to what you know." Jiraiya replied, running his hand through his hair and letting it rest on the back of his neck while looking off into the distance. "I'm going to teach you how to break genjutsu and polish off your taijutsu skills." His gaze fell back on his student. "But most importantly, I'm going to teach you to control the power of the fox."

Naruto didn't look impressed and simply stared up at the Sannin. He remained silent for a moment, almost expecting him to say something else.

"… And?"

Jiraiya blinked.

"And what?"

"… That's it?" Naruto asked before his mouth twisted into a scowl. "That's it? You drag me away from the village on a three year trip and that's all you've got for me? 'Stick to what I know'? That's it?" He questioned, his voice increasing in intensity with each word.

Now the toad summoner frowned, "Yeah. Think about it kid, you've felt that power. You've seen what it's capable of. What more could you need?"

"Oh, I don't know, how about anything?" Naruto shot back. "When you brought me out here, I thought you were going to teach me all kinds of incredible jutsu, but really all you planned to do was teach me to pull more power from the fox."

"And what's wrong with that?" Jiraiya questioned, tilting his head and raising a brow. "Kid, do you realize there are people who would kill for the kind of power you've got?"

Naruto crossed his arms, now giving the Sannin a full blown glare as he said, his tone adamant and unyielding, "Yeah, and what would you or those guys know about it?! I've only met one other guy with a monster sealed inside him, and you're not him!"

"And he's not afraid to use his tenant's power!" Jiraiya refuted, growing frustrated with his student. Well, he certainly hadn't seen this coming. Didn't the kid realize just how massive the fox's power was? What he'd used so far was just the tip of the iceberg. If he ever managed to fully master it, nothing could stand in his way. He'd take the ninja world by storm… and he was refusing to use it?

"Listen kid, the Fourth entrusted you with that power, and whether or not you want it, there are people who are coming for it. It's your greatest trump card, so like it or not, you are going to learn to use it!"

Taking a step forward and bringing his fist up, Naruto rebuffed, "I'm not budging on this! If that's all you're going to teach me, then take me back to Konoha right now!"

Jiraiya let out a growl of frustration as he pinched the bridge of his knows.

"You know what?" The Toad Sannin began, "I'm going into town for a drink. You stay here and practice your chakra control." With that, he turned away and walked off towards the town. Maybe after the boy cooled down a bit, he'd be more willing to listen to reason.

"Fine! Go on and get drunk! That's all you've done for the past two weeks anyway!" Naruto shouted after the Sannin, huffing once the man was out of sight.

What did he know? Yeah, he was one of the most skilled ninja in the world… and he did have years of experience… and, according to him, he'd actually been the first choice for taking up the position of Hokage after the Third passed…

Naruto winced slightly and his hand clenched at that thought. The reminder of the loss of his grandfather figure still hurt even to this day.

… But he had no idea what it was like… how could he?

Naruto's expression took on a somber air as his line of he continued with that line of thought. It wasn't like he didn't know how powerful the Kyuubi's chakra was. He'd felt it coursing through his body. It was so… massive… so exhilarating. It felt like he could take on anyone when that power flooded his system.

But at the same time it was so dark. He remembered the hatred that burned through him whenever he used that power… he could keep complete control of himself while using it, but he could feel the fox's will, its rage and hate filled the chakra, its desire to slaughter his enemies, its malice mixing with his own consciousness.

How could he possibly know what that's like?

Even then, it's not that he didn't want to learn and master it; he knew he didn't have a choice in that, and he wanted to use everything he could to protect those precious to him. Besides, something good should come out of the hell he had to endure just for being blessed/cursed with it. Thinking of all that time when he'd been alone, when he'd been shunned for some reason he'd never been able to fathom until he'd learned the awful truth… that couldn't have all been for nothing.

It wasn't that he didn't realize that, it was that he didn't want that to be all he was.

That power couldn't bail him out all the time. He'd relied on it to stop Sasuke… and he'd still blown it and he was certain that was because he could hardly face the Uchiha without it. If he'd been stronger… if he could fight on par with Sasuke without the fox's help, then he'd have won hands down.

Besides, look what relying on his demon had done to Gaara. While he knew it wasn't the same and he would never turn out that way, he still didn't want to risk falling under the fox's influence like Gaara did with his own demon.

So if all Jiraiya planned to teach him was to control it and to polish off what he already had, he felt he might as well go back to Kakashi. After all, the Sharingan bearer kind of owed him, and Sakura, for focusing on Sasuke like he had.

Naruto's eyes shown with determination as his mind returned to his teammates, a reminder of what he had ahead of him. He knew that wherever Orochimaru had taken Sasuke, he'd be training him and teaching him all kinds of new techniques so he'd be as strong as possible when it finally came time to take his body. If he was going to save his friend from himself, not to mention fight off the Akatsuki when they finally showed their faces, then he couldn't afford to just sit around.

Seeing nothing better available to him, he decided to do as the Sannin told him. Picking up four leaves, he walked onto the water, each step sending out a ripple across the lake, as he began an exercise Jiraiya had taught him: holding the leaves to his body as he maintained his place on the clear surface.

He kept this up for about ten minutes before he decided that, since he was doing this with no trouble, he should add more leaves. After half an hour, he allowed four to fall to the water and summoned a shadow clone to serve as a sparring partner. Finally, two hours, one of which filled with non stop sparring, passed and Jiraiya still showed no signs of returning.

"What the hell is the old man doing!?" Naruto roared to the sky in frustration before crossing his arms impetuously as he grumbled, "Lousy pervert. I bet he's living it up at a brothel somewhere."

There was no way he could spend this long at a bar, right? Unless he was either getting completely wasted, in which case he probably wouldn't be able to train him, or he'd found some girls, in which case he'd probably be gone all day. Neither of those options was particularly appealing and the blonds' already small amount of patience was quickly wearing thin.

It wasn't long after that that the blond finally got tired of waiting and took off towards the town, intent on giving the Sannin a piece of his mind.

It didn't take him long to reach the town. He took a brief moment to observe the village's architecture, being a mix of eastern and western themes, as he walked down the lightly crowded streets before getting down to business, his eyes roamed the buildings before he decided to get down to business. After all, this was a fairly large town and there was no telling how many bars there were, or if the Sannin was still where he said he'd be. He decided his best option was to ask around, and promptly walked over to a bystander to do just that.

Unfortunately, it seemed few had noticed the Sannin despite his unique appearance, and those who did either had no idea where he was now or turned out to be mistaken. There were also quite a few bars in the town and in short order, Naruto had visited four with no luck.

After fifteen minutes of fruitless searching, the blond Uzumaki got fed up with looking the old fashioned way. Rushing up a nearby building and flipping onto the roof, he made a familiar, cross shaped hand sign and in a poof of smoke, he was surrounded by ten clones of himself.

The doppelgangers, each possessing the memories and thoughts of the original at the time of their creation, knew what to do and immediately rushed off in different directions while Naruto himself leapt across the roof tops so that it wouldn't be too difficult to find him if the clones had any news.

It was ten minutes later that Naruto heard someone land on the roof behind him and turned to see one of his clones. "You find him?"

The clone nodded, a frown etched into its features as it pointed its thumb behind it. "Yeah, the Pervy Sage is kicking back at a bar with a pair of girls on his arms."

The blond had figured as much, though that didn't stop him from giving a frown of disappointment from actually hearing that his sensei was, once more, enjoying his leisure time when he was supposed to be getting him ready to face his future.

A mischievous smile spread across his face as he thought of how to get back at his sensei in a small way and get him away from those girls. "That so? Listen up, here's what I want you to do…"

Jiraiya threw back his head and let out a loud laugh which echoed through the bar, though it was ignored by everyone else, as the two rather lovely ladies by his side giggled, leaning against his sides.

The man was reclining in one of the booths in the bar with his arms around the waists of the two, the one on his right had long brown hair that fell halfway down her back and wore a long red dress that hung snugly on her hourglass figure while the girl at his left had black hair that reached her shoulders and wore a short sleeve olive green shirt over a t-shirt, both of which bore her midriff, and a matching short skirt.

The Sannin's arms were around the two women, in his right hand there was a cup of sake while his left hand inched down the side of the girl's bare waist before coming to rest just above her hip. There was a light blush on all their cheeks, showing that they were beginning to feel the effects of the alcohol they were putting away. Lying scattered on the table before them were four empty bottles of sake.

"Master Jiraiya, you're such a big spender." The young woman on his right giggled.

Jiraiya let out another laugh as he turned his head towards her, taking in the sweet scent of her hair and perfume. "All in the name of having a good time! Hey, barkeep! I'm in a good mood, how about a round on me, and bring a bottle of your finest sake to my table!"

Not like he needed to conserve the cash, he was a best selling author after all. Oh yes, since he left his student, things had been looking up for the Sannin. If things continued the way they were, he might even get some 'hands on research' done. Of course, he'd have to get back to his student. After all, it was his responsibility to train him… but that could wait until tomorrow. Or he could always send a shadow clone back to supervise his training while he enjoyed himself.

Just for today of course.

"You got it." The bartender nodded. "Hey, you all heard the man, next round's on him!" With that, he turned to get the drinks as the other customers quickly gathered around the bar, many praising the man.

"Wow, the very best? You sure know how to treat a girl." The girl at his left said, tilting her head and resting her forehead against his cheek.

"Oh, trust me, I'm just getting started!" The toad Sannin chortled, throwing his head back and laughing as the bartender brought him his drink.

"Really? If you keep this up, we might just have to give you a special treat." She whispered into his ear alluringly.

The Sannin couldn't help the delighted cry that escaped him as the woman's offer reached his ears. Turning to face her, he said, "That so? In that case, why don't we go rent a private room and you can sho-"

"There you are, Jiraiya!" A feminine voice called out across the room, cutting the Sannin off and drawing all eyes to the door. As the Toad summoner's gaze fell on the source of the voice, he couldn't help but gasp, his eyes widening and a slight chill creeping down his spine as he felt as if he was seeing a ghost.

Standing at the door was a woman wearing a brown sleeveless dress over a blue blouse. She had blue eyes and long, brown hair that went down to her waist, but what struck the Sannin was her facial features. The shape of her face and her large, round eyes brought two other individuals to mind.

One was his newest apprentice and the other… the other was the only woman who could terrify him as much as his old teammate Tsunade when she was in a rage… and the only woman who's temper was even greater than that of the slug princess. A beautiful woman with long red hair who, after a particularly vicious beating she dolled out during her academy days because of the relentless teasing of some of her classmates, had been nicknamed the 'Red Hot-blooded Habanero'.

The Sannin was left frozen, dumbstruck because of how the woman at the door reminded him of her… specifically, his worst memory of her. The one time she'd caught him peeping on her and she delivered a beating that almost ranked up their with the one Tsunade dished out when the same thing had happened to her years prior, though it hadn't quite made it onto the surprisingly short list of times he'd nearly died like that one had.

This woman's face was twisted into the same look of pure, unadulterated rage, her hair whipping around her like the tails of a demon the same way the redhead's used to as she stalked over to the Sannin, a sight that left his eyes wide and his mouth agape.

"Where the hell have you been?" The woman growled through gritted teeth at the still bewildered man as she drew closer and closer to him, the righteous anger she exuded making all the patrons cower away from her path.

"Don't tell me you've been here living it up here all day!" She snarled as she reached the man, roughly grabbing him by the collar with her right hand and pulling him close so that their faces were inches apart while her left hand was balled into a fist, reared back and ready to give him a beating. "I can't believe I actually trusted you! Again! You do this every time! How can you go off and have fun when you're supposed to be watching your grandson!?"

The Sannin's mind, a moment before frozen in the memory of the beating the fearsome redhead this woman reminded him of delivered to him, returned to the here and now at the word 'grandson', though now it was left utterly confused and befuddled.

Jiraiya blinked. "… What?"

"Don't act like you don't know! Or are you so drunk off your ass that you forgot you were supposed to be watching your own grandson!?" She said, pointing to the door.

Jiraiya was the first one to follow her finger and couldn't help but gasp again. Standing there was none other than Naruto, a mischievous smirk etched into his features, but it was wiped away a moment later, replaced with a bashful, slightly fretful expression as the other patron's saw him too. Shortly afterward, he bolted off, seeming too shy to stand being the center of attention.

In reality, he just couldn't keep himself from laughing anymore.

'This is…' The Sannin quickly realized just what was going on. This was no woman before him, it was one of the blonds' clones under a henge! This was payback for leaving him back at that clearing!

Jiraiya opened his mouth to angrily shout at his student before all the beautiful daydreams he was having about how this day could turn out were ruined, but he was silenced as one of the patrons asked with a disgusted frown, "Whoa whoa whoa, you mean this guy was supposed to be watching that kid o' yours the whole time he's been here?"

"He didn't tell you about it? Why am I not surprised?" The woman responded before burying her face in her hands. "Honestly, I don't know why I trust him, but it's not like I have much choice since I have to work all day and his father's gone, but it's just so hard. I work nearly the entire year just barely scraping by and when I call him so I can have just a few hours to rest, he goes off and has the time of his life! And if I stop we'll lose our house and wind up on the street and…" she said lamenting, seeming too depressed to continue.

Jiraiya's breath caught in his throat and all he could do was make a few unintelligible sounds as the customers and bartender crowded around the disguised clone, many sending her sympathetic looks. The Sannin was dimly aware that the two women on his arms had joined the crowd. "That's awful, but doesn't he help you at all? I mean, I heard he's a best selling author or something."

"Yeah, but he's stingy as hell." The disguised clone's eyes narrowed as her gaze returned to the Sannin. "He never wants to spend his own money on anything other than enjoyment! And sometimes not even that! I remember one time I came home and found he'd spent all of my son's money at a bar!"

"WHAT?" Was the resounding response to those words as the bar's many patrons turned to the old man, throwing hateful glares his way.

Jiraiya was absolutely speechless, his eyes darting across the room.

"Th- I-," He began before finally finding his voice. "That's ridiculous! I never did any such thing! And that brat is not my grandson!" he yelled, shooting out of his seat and banging his hand against the table before pointing to the door. Although, in the back of his mind, he did recall blowing the boy's savings at a bar that one time…

No one seemed to believe him however. "And now the bastard denies it! I saw the way you looked at her, that was the look of a man who knows he's been caught!" One of the patrons yelled, and Jiraiya inched back to the wall, raising his hands defensively.

"How can you let your poor daughter work herself to the bone and then mooch off of her when you're loaded!?"

"I can't believe I let him charm me!" The brunette said with a disgusted tone, as if she felt dirty for just allowing him to touch her.

"We don't need your kind here!" The bartender yelled.

A moment later, the doors were flung open and the Sannin was thrown out of the building, yelling in shock as he sailed through the air before landing face first in the dirt.

"And stay out!" The bartender yelled after him as the disguised clone walked through the door before he slammed it behind her.

"Hn, serves you right, you old perv." The disguised clone bent over and rested its hands on its hips, an amused grin playing across its face before it dispersed.

A growl was heard as the Sannin picked himself off of the ground, gritting his teeth as his head tilted forward, concealing the top half of his face in shadow, and his fist trembled with anger as he could almost feel himself being cut by the shattered remnants of his hopes for the night.

Oh, the blond would pay. He would pay for daring to do such a thing! But… The Sannin took a deep breath to suppress his fury… that could wait until they sparred. For now, he had to find the little cockblocker.

Now focused on this goal, though one could still clearly read the anger on his face, he went off in search of his student. It wasn't hard; as not far from the bar the sound of a young teenager's hysterical laughter reached his ears.

Following the sound, he soon located the boy, who lied on his back, holding his stomach from the pain his laughter was causing.

Jiraiya simply glared down at the boy for a few moments before kicking him in the side, not hard enough to really hurt him, but enough to get his attention.

"Yeah yeah, laugh it up." Jiraiya grumbled at the young Jinchuriki, who continued to laugh uncontrollably. It was a good minute before the boy got himself under control and took several breaths as he finally calmed down. "You done?"

"Ah… you should have seen you're face, Pervy Sage." Naruto said as he sat up, wiping a tear from his eye.

"Yeah, real funny." Jiraiya grumbled in annoyance, scowling down at the Uzumaki. "You know I'm never going to be able to show my face in there again, right?"

"So? It's your own fault for leaving me on my own for the last two weeks." Naruto shot back before something occurred to him. "Now that I think of it, I should make you pay me back for that time you spent my money at that bar! With interest!"

"In your dreams, kid." Jiraiya replied with a snort. With that, he turned and began to walk away, gesturing for the blond to follow him. "Come on, might as well get back to your training. Not like I've got anything better to do." He grumbled that last part, the fact that he could be spending the night with two beautiful ladies returning to the surface of his mind, rekindling his anger.

He quickly clamped down on his growing rage, reminding himself just how therapeutic a good, one sided, no holds barred sparring session could be.

Naruto stood up and, after brushing the dirt off his cloths, followed after the Sannin.

"Are you really going to train me this time?" He asked.

Jiraiya turned his head and looked at the blond prankster over his shoulder and asked back, "That depends, are you going to let me talk some sense into you about your tenant?"

Whatever was left of Naruto's good mood immediately vanished with that question and he frowned at the Sannin.

"There's nothing to talk about. Teach me something else or take me back to Konoha." He replied stubbornly.

Jiraiya sighed. "Let's continue this discussion back at the clearing."

Not a minute later, Naruto came to a halt and rubbed the back of his head as if it were in pain.

Noticing his student had stopped; Jiraiya looked over his shoulder and seeing this, asked, "Something wrong?"

"Huh? Ah, it's nothing." The blond said dismissively. "Just one of my stupid clones got caught at the hot springs looking for you. I guess they thought it was trying to take a peek and…" A beat. "Wait a minute, how did I know that?"

"Oh ho! So, you've finally figured out the secret of the Shadow Clone Jutsu, have you?" said a grinning Jiraiya. "I was wondering if you'd ever notice it."

Naruto blinked as his mind processed what had just occurred. "Wait a minute… you mean that I learn everything my clones did when they pop?"

"Uh-huh." Jiraiya nodded. "When a shadow clone is dispersed by any means, everything they learn is transmitted back to their creator. That includes anything they did, saw, read, anything. It makes it the perfect jutsu for spying, allowing the user to spy on the enemy without even the slightest risk to themselves."

Naruto stared at the Sannin in disbelief, thinking of many different ways he could have used the jutsu, before facepalming. "… Why didn't I notice that before?"

Jiraiya shrugged. "My guess, their memories were too similar to yours for you to notice the difference. Can you think of one time you used that jutsu where you haven't either been in a fight or in need of a sparring partner?"

Racking his brain for a moment, thinking of every time he'd used the shadow clone jutsu the boy realized he really hadn't ever used it outside of battle. Not once. After dwelling on it a moment, Naruto grinned and placed his hands behind his head.

"Whatever. That just makes it even more awesome."

Even though clone techniques had been his worst subject and he still couldn't create basic clones, the Shadow Clone Jutsu had quickly become his favorite technique. It was just so useful. There was no situation where it couldn't help.

"Heh, yeah, to you. Most people couldn't afford to make their own small army of clones you know, never mind having them use jutsu." Jiraiya pointed out, although this did give him an idea.

The reason he wanted so badly to teach the boy to master his Biju's power was because he had a lot of difficult battles ahead of him with the Akatsuki hunting for the Jinchuriki and his best friend in the hands of his own former rival. He needed to become as strong as possible as quickly as he could, and the Kyuubi's chakra was so overwhelmingly powerful. It might be just what he needed to face his future enemies. And, though he'd wished time and time again he knew what his late student had been thinking when he did this, Minato Namikaze, the Fourth Hokage, had, for whatever reason, entrusted it to him. He must have had something in mind. But the toad Sannin had been so dead set on that that he'd ignored another advantage the blond had, ironically also because of the fox's presence.

Jinchuriki possessed inhuman amounts of chakra as a result of having a Biju sealed inside them, something any shinobi worth his salt should know. However, until now, Jiraiya had never considered how this could be used together with the shadow clone technique. Combine the boy's ability to make dozens of clones, each with enough chakra to perform, or in this case, practice jutsu, together with the memory transference… Oh, this had potential.

"Yeah, well that's too bad for everyone else."

Jiraiya couldn't help but chuckle as he thought of the possibilities.

"You got that right."

It wasn't long before the two returned to the lake. Standing just beyond the water's edge, Jiraiya crossed his arms as he looked down at his student, who stared back at him with his brow furrowed in determination, clearly not willing to back down on their argument.

'Heh, the kid just might get his wish.' Jiraiya thought to himself. The more he'd thought about it, the more he was sure that the blond could benefit from using shadow clones to speed up his training... and the more he felt like banging his head against a wall for not thinking of it sooner.

It was basically the kid's signature jutsu! He'd seen him use it all the time! How could he not have seen its potential earlier when it was staring him right in the face!?

But he put those thoughts to the side for now. Right now, it was time to get back to the roadblock he'd come to with the boy's training. With or without the shadow clone jutsu, he would have to learn to control the Kyuubi's chakra, and for whatever reason the boy seemed very unwilling to do that.

"All right kid," Jiraiya began, "Maybe you'd care to explain this one to me. What is it that's got you so against learning to harness the power inside you?"

"…" Naruto's gaze fell to the ground, but he didn't say a word for a few moments. Finally, he responded, "I never said I was against it…"

"Hm?" Jiraiya raised a brow.

"I just said I didn't want that to be all I learn while I'm out here." Naruto finished, raising his head to look at his sensei again.

Jiraiya nodded, "Ok, I'm beginning to see the problem here…" This was good. He'd heard from Kakashi about the awful chakra that he had no doubt resulted from the Kyuubi's chakra colliding with the malevolent chakra of the Curse Mark when Naruto and fought Sasuke for the last time. He had feared that perhaps the events at the Valley of the End had led the boy to detest using that power, or intensified whatever ill feelings he already had toward it, and left him adamantly refusing to use it. Still, he found himself a bit curious.

"But what brought this on?" The sage questioned. "I mean, you've felt the power yourself. What more would you need if you managed to truly master the fox's power? The Jinchuriki I know of all become nearly unstoppable powerhouses once they learn to truly harness their powers."

Naruto blinked. "Huh? Jinchu-what?"

"Ah, that's right." Jiraiya stated as if just remembering some obscure fact. "Information about the Biju and Jinchuriki is top secret in Konoha, classified to everyone, including you." He shook his head. Personally, he'd always thought that not telling the blond was a mistake. Yeah, he could see that Naruto might have reacted badly to knowing the truth, but was it really any better letting him spend years wondering why everyone treated him like a monster?

"'Jinchuriki' is the term for anyone who has one of the nine Biju sealed inside of them. You've already met one of the others; back at the Exams." Jiraiya explained.

"You mean Gaara, right?" Naruto asked before his expression became a mask of bewilderment. "Wait, so there's more people like us out there?"

Jiraiya nodded. "That's right. As I said, there are nine Biju, each with a different number of tails representing their power. From the Ichibi sealed inside of Gaara, the weakest, to the Kyuubi sealed in you, the strongest. As far as I know, at the moment there are 6 Jinchuriki besides you and Gaara and one of the Biju, the Sanbi, is dead. For now at least."

Naruto's expression shifted from shock at learning of the existence of other people who carried the same burden he did to confusion at the Sannin's last words.

"Wait, what do you mean 'for now'?" Naruto asked, his brow furrowing.

Jiraiya held his hand in an instructive gesture and explained, "The Biju are monsters made of chakra condensed into flesh and blood called, unimaginatively, chakra flesh. They're beings of pure chakra, and as such can't die in the same sense you and I can. Oh, they can be killed, though it's hard to do unless they're sealed away. Actually, I don't think anyone's ever managed to kill an unsealed one before. But I digress, that only causes their bodies to disperse. Eventually, they just reform and come back to life." He brought his hand to his chin as something occurred to him. "… That's probably part of the reason the Akatsuki are holding back for the next few years."

Naruto's face twisted into a scowl as he realized what his sensei was saying.

"It's not just me they're after, is it?"

The toad Sannin shook his head as he said, "Nope. They're gunning for all nine of the Biju. Why, I can't say, but you can be sure they have some nefarious purpose in mind."

Naruto's scowl deepened at that. Though they hadn't exactly seen eye to eye at first, they'd parted on good terms recently and he considered Gaara one of his closest friends because they shared the same burden, though it had brought Gaara far greater suffering than it had him. To know that those guys were after him too…

And not just Gaara, the other Jinchuriki as well. He didn't know any of them, but they'd probably endured the same treatment he and Gaara had. They probably knew the same hateful glares, the same rejection, and the same hell of loneliness. They'd all already suffered enough without some group of ultra powerful psychos coming after them and making their lives even worse.

"Then what about the other Jinchuriki? Isn't there anyway we can help them, we can't just do nothing!"

The Sannin shook his head. He could understand why Naruto felt that way, but the boy wasn't considering the whole situation.

"Kid, all of the other Jinchuriki are shinobi of other nations, and not all of them are friendly with our own. I can tell you right now two of them would probably kill you if you told them all this, just to screw over the Akatsuki and cripple our village while they're at it." He said, thinking of the two Jinchuriki of Iwa.

As with Iwa ninja in general, the two were fiercely loyal to their village with rock hard wills and attitudes, willing to do anything to strengthen their village's position. Few other villages would ally with them unless necessity demanded it because they were notorious for backstabbing them as soon as the battles were over, a precedent set by the Second Tsuchikage. He had little doubt they would be willing, and definitely able, to kill his student, even if he was trying to help them out.

Naruto froze at that, his face a mask of disbelief over the thought that two of his fellow Jinchuriki might kill him when he was trying to help them, just to harm his village. He shook his head, putting that thought aside before pressing his argument.

"Well, what about Gaara? We're on good terms with Suna now aren't we? And aren't there any other villages with Jinchuriki allied with ours?"

Jiraiya cupped his chin as he said, "Well, there's one other village…" he then shrugged and continued, "But even then, what are we going to do? Help them train? Maybe that could work, if a deal was worked out between our villages, but you have to understand something. Know that I don't think of you or them this way, nor do those close to you, but you should be aware that most villages see their Jinchuriki as their ultimate weapons." Naruto's scowl returned at that. Seeing this, Jiraiya quickly said, "I know, it sucks, but it's the way things are right now."

Naruto looked down to his feet as he seethed at the Sannin's words before his expression became somber as he remembered what he'd learned of Gaara's past. Unlike him, he'd had a demon sealed inside of him specifically to turn him into a weapon. Is that how it usually worked with Jinchuriki? Was that all the village's thought of them?

"Anyway, that makes them a bit hesitant to allow other nations to see what they're capable of. For the most part, all we can really do is warn them and hope for the best or try to work out an alliance to face the threat posed by Akatsuki, and we've still got about three years before they should make a move."

Jiraiya waved his arm dismissively. "But let's get back on topic. What's with this obsession with learning more all of a sudden?"

Naruto kept his gaze one the ground for a few more moments, his expression grave as his mind still dwelled on the way people like him were viewed before finally, his thoughts returned to his own training and he looked back up at his teacher.

"… I don't want that to be all I'm known for." He said finally, a slightly melancholic tone in his voice. "Yeah, that power's amazing and all… but you don't know what it's like to use it. Its chakra's full of all this hatred and rage and every time I call on it… I feel some of what it does. I don't want that to be all I can do."

Jiraiya's expression softened slightly as he could understand what the blond was saying. When large enough quantities of uncontrolled Biju chakra were called upon at once, the malevolent energy would cause the cause a burning sensation in everyone around the host and one could actually feel the seething hatred present in it. He hated to imagine what that must be like for the hosts themselves.

"And it's not always going to be enough to bail me out. It wasn't enough to help me stop Sasuke… Besides, if all I do is rely on the fox, how will the village ever really accept me as anything but the jailer of the thing that nearly destroyed our home? And if I can't even stand on my own two feet, how will I ever be worthy of the title Hokage?"

Jiraiya closed his eyes and was silent for a few moments, thinking it over. He could definitely see the boy's point of view. Jinchuriki, with the exception of those who proved themselves, were almost always treated as nothing more than containers for the beasts and blamed for the damage they caused. That or time bombs who could go out of control any minute by those who don't really know them. It was understandable that he'd want to rely on it as little as possible.

Finally, he smiled. "All right kid, you win."

Naruto seemed surprised at that before giving the man his fox-like grin.

"Actually, after thinking about it, I've had a brilliant idea for your training, if I don't say so myself." Jiraiya said, crossing his arms and nodding to himself with a self-satisfied smile.

Naruto practically trembled with excitement, anxious to know what his sensei had in mind. "Well don't keep me waiting. Spill it."

"Okay okay, keep your pants on. Remember what we talked about on our way here?"

Naruto's brow furrowed as he racked his brain for what the Sannin could be referring to before the answer came to him and he replied, "You mean about the shadow clones?"

"Got it in one. Remember how I told you that the user learns just about anything the shadow clones do? So, what do you think would happen if your clones were to, say, read a book, or learn a new jutsu?"

Naruto blinked once, then twice, and then a wide grin spread across his face.

"Yeah, that's-!" Then he stopped and frowned as he realized something. "Wait, do you mean I could have been using the shadow clone jutsu to train like crazy this whole time? Are you kidding me? Why didn't anyone tell me that?"

Jiraiya just shrugged. "I can't speak for anyone else, but I wanted you to realize the jutsu's potential on your own. Like I've told you before, I'm not going to hold your hand and walk you through everything. You said you wanted to stand on your own two feet right? You've gotta start somewhere." Then he rubbed his hands together as he decided on a training regiment. "Well, if you've got nothing else to ask, then let's get started. Why don't you go ahead and make some clones, say, eleven."

Naruto, eager to see just how quickly he improved in the wake of this new method, made the hand sign for the jutsu. "You got it."

The ordered clones materialized around the blond and Jiraiya pointed to the lake. "Now, I think your hold on the basics could use some touching up before we start you on anything new. For today, let's just have ten of them practice chakra control."

As the clones did as told, Naruto enthusiasm skyrocketed from what he'd just heard. "You mean you're going to teach me to jutsu to control the water, or maybe something like Chidori?" he asked excitedly, the clones mirroring his eagerness.

"Oh, don't you worry. I'm going to teach so much more than all that." Jiraiya said, taking on a melodramatic tone at the end. "When I'm through with you, you'll have mastered arts that make all that seem like child's play. Now," He said, turning his gaze to the remaining clone. "I've got something special in mind for this one."

"Really? What?" The real Naruto asked, anticipation clear on his features which was mirrored by his clone.

"That…" Jiraiya began, pausing for dramatic effect and letting the blonds' excitement build before smirking and finishing, "… is a secret."

Naruto deflated at that.

"Huh? Oh come on Pervy Sage, can't you even give me a hint?" He complained.

"Sorry kid, you're just going to have to be patient." Jiraiya replied before making a cross shaped hand sign and creating one clone of his own.

"Come on, you're coming with me." The Sannin's clone stated, gesturing towards the clone before walking away. While Naruto and his doppelganger obviously wanted to know what was up, the clone complied. Once the clones were far enough away, the real Jiraiya's gaze returned to Naruto.

"Now, as for you, we've got some serious work to do on your taijutsu." Jiraiya said, hoping his student would take the bait.

He didn't disappoint as Naruto frowned and said, "What's that supposed to mean?"

"Exactly what it sounds like." Jiraiya replied with a smirk, looking down at the increasingly irate teen. "You're taijutsu style leaves a lot to be desired. Actually, I'd say you don't even have a taijutsu style. You just attack and attack with no sense of strategy or direction. Really, I'm surprised you even passed in the academy."

"Shut up, what do you know!?" Naruto shot back, sweeping his arm out in anger.

"Oh, touch a sore subject, did I?" Jiraiya asked with a knowing smirk, knowing exactly how to provoke the blond. "Hate to tell you kid, but I could take you on with one hand tied behind my back."

And the young Uzumaki continued to fall for it, hook line and sinker. "Oh yeah? Then why don't you prove it?"

"Well, if you're that confident about it." Jiraiya shrugged, holding his arms up and shaking his head as if to say 'oh well', his smirk never fading. "Since we're talking about taijutsu, no clones, got it?"

Naruto immediately dropped into a combat stance without responding, spreading his legs apart and bringing his hands up. Jiraiya placed one hand behind his back and made a beckoning gesture with his hand. That was all the invitation to attack the blond needed.

Naruto leapt at the Sannin, fist reared back to punch the Sannin, focusing all his strength into it arm as he aimed to wipe the grin off of his sensei's face. Jiraiya simply learned to the side and brought his free hand up, brushing the Jinchuriki's attack aside and allowing the boy to sail past him. Naruto landed on his hand and spun on his palms, extending his leg to kick his sensei, who, took a step back and leaned out of the way once more.

Naruto flipped upright and launched himself at the Sannin, throwing a multitude of punches, but no matter how quickly he attacked, the Sannin would avoid the blow, tilting out of the way with the minimal amount of movement before finally catching one of the punches and holding the blond in place, leaving the boy unable to dodge as he brought his foot to the boy's chest, knocking the wind out of him and sending him flying back, bouncing off the ground twice before coming to a halt.

Naruto pushing himself off the ground with his hand and elbow and glared at the Sannin, who just waited for him to renew his assault. He didn't have long to wait as Naruto picked himself up.

Naruto glared at the Sannin, growing increasingly frustrated by his inability to land a single blow on his teacher. Gritting his teeth and letting out an aggravated growl, he once more charged at his sensei.

Once more, the Sannin leaned out of the way, this time bringing up his knee and slamming it into the blonds' stomach, causing him to bend forward, and the slamming his elbow into his back, sending him crashing to the ground.

The young Jinchuriki twisted his body to launch another kick at the Sannin, but the man saw the attack coming from a mile away. He grabbed the blond by the ankle, whipped him over his hand and threw him.

Naruto flipped in midair and channeled chakra into the soles of his feet, increasing traction and bringing him to a halt. Drawing up so much chakra that it began to surround him in visible blue wisps, he once more sprung towards Jiraiya, throwing a punch his way.

Jiraiya blocked the attack and Naruto leapt over him, peppering him with punches that the Sannin before landing in a crouch and jumping back into the fray, the Sannin making no moves to dodge or counter.

Even with his chakra enhancing his strength and speed by as much as he could muster, the boy still couldn't lay a finger on him. No matter how frequently or how he attacked, the Sannin simply leaned out of the way or brushed the attack aside with his free hand.

Seconds ticked away into minutes, and still the young Jinchuriki made no progress towards defeating the smirking Sannin. Skipping backwards to avoid a counter strike, the blond leapt up, flipped in the air, and came down in a spinning axe kick towards his sensei.

The smirk never leaving his face, Jiraiya simply side stepped the attack, the boy's foot missing his shoulder by a narrow margin, and brought his elbow to the descending blonds' stomach.

The toad sage's strength, combined gravity doing its job and pulling his target towards him, sent his elbow digging into the Uzumaki's gut, causing him to cough up a slight amount of blood and leaving him helpless as the man drew his arm back, letting him fall freely, and spun into a kick, hitting him in his side and sending him flying in a collision course with a tree.

The boy grunted from pain as he slammed into the hard trunk of the tree, cracking the bark and sending splinters of wood into the air, before falling to the ground. He coughed for a few moments before placing a hand on the tree he'd just collided with, rising to his feet a little sluggishly and glaring at his sensei, his face twisted in an infuriated snarl.

Sure, he now knew that the man he was facing was one of the most renowned and powerful shinobi in all the continents, but this was humiliating!

"Geez, is that the best you've got?" Jiraiya spoke up. "Come on, I've barely even moved here."

Naruto's frown deepened before he looked down and couldn't help but gasp. The Sannin was standing in almost the exact same spot he'd begun the battle in! In fact, there were four imprints in the dirt around his foot where he'd stepped to avoid the genin's attacks, that was all he'd managed to make him do.

"Oh, what's wrong? Am I going too hard on you? I can hold back if you want." Jiraiya taunted. "Course, I've already got one hand behind my back…" Seeing the blond grit his teeth and let out a frustrated growl, the Sannin held up his hand in a placating manner. "Hey, try to keep yourself calm. Not going to do ya any good if you lose your head in battle. Tell you what, if you're that upset, why not go all out?" Naruto's expression shifted to one of surprise as the Sannin shrugged. "Go on, you can go ahead and go crazy. I won't complain."

Naruto grinned. Unknown to his sensei, he'd been about to do just that anyway. "You asked for it Pervy Sage!" Naruto made a cross shaped hand sign, summoning up as much chakra as he had during his fight with Gaara.

"Shadow Clone Jutsu!" Flashing into existence without the usual puff of smoke, but a mass of whispers, the Sannin suddenly found himself surrounded by what appeared to be well over a thousand shadow clones. The Sannin let out an impressed whistle as he turned his head and observed the mass of blonds.

Without another word, two dozen clones leapt at the Sannin from all directions, charging at him at once. The Sannin spun on his foot, each time a clone got into striking distance, he lashed out with a punch or a kick and dispelled it with one, quick strike, and for each one that fell, another would take its place, only to be taken out just as quickly.

He stopped as twenty clones came at him all at once from the front, jumping out of the trees or rushing across the ground, letting out battle cries as they neared.

His grin widening every so slightly, he channeled chakra into his hair, causing it to harden and extend, and with one whip of his head, his hair, which temporarily quadrupled in length, whipped around, tearing through the clones and wiping them all out in one go.

Sensing something behind him, he turned to see four clones coming at him from behind, each holding a Rasengan.

But not even the Fourth's original technique could help Naruto here. Jiraiya simply reached past the orb and batted at the clone's wrists as the approached. Two of the attacks were sent hopelessly off course, their holders promptly destroyed with swift strikes, while one was sent into another clone, the orb of chakra causing it to dispel instantly before its wielder was followed suit with a knee to the gut before Jiraiya stood straight, waiting for the next assault.

53 down, just under one thousand to go. The Sannin tilted his head as he shifted into a defensive stance and beckoned them to attack again.

Ten minutes later, Naruto stood near the edge of the clearing, breathing hard, sweat rolling down his face, mixed with blood from his mouth and forehead as he stared with a mix of anger and disbelief at his sensei. Scattered throughout their battleground, eleven clones remained, all staring at the Sannin with similar expressions.

As if that weren't bad enough, the man had still only barely moved! He didn't even look winded!

With a 'hmph', the Sannin tilted his head and smirked confidently. Naruto and his clones grit their teeth, wanting nothing more than to wipe the smile off his face.

They changed as one, launching one final assault on the man. As they made their moves, they reached into their pouches and threw shuriken and kunai at the legendary shinobi.

Once more channeling his chakra into his hair, the Sannin spun and batted the attacks away with his long ponytail. However, one of the weapons had a flash bomb attacked to it. As it fell to the ground, the small sphere exploded into light.

Hoping the attack had been enough of a distraction, clones charged, having shielded their eyes just as the bomb detonated. However, they quickly found that their distraction hadn't worked when the Sannin lashed out with his leg and wiped three of them out of existence with one attack.

The remaining clones were all dealt with similarly, and the Sannin found his vision obscured by a cloud of smoke. However, his instincts, honed by years of experience, detected the blond closing in from within the smokescreen.

Naruto leapt out of the cloud, his fist reared back and ready to launch a blow right at his sensei's smug face… only for his eyes to widen when he saw the man was crouched down, well below his attack.

Before he could make any moves, the Sannin's unleashed a high kick at the boy, his foot slammed into his stomach and sending him back into the tree once again, this time back first. He once again felt himself slam into the trunk, its bark now stripped away, and slid to the ground. This time, he didn't get back up.

The sage was silent for a few moments, allowing his student to catch his breath, before he spoke.

"All right, I think I proved my point." Jiraiya stated looking to his downed student. Now that he was no longer trying to provoke him, his expression shifted to seriousness and a hint of sympathy. "Like I said, kid, we've got a lot of work to do on your taijutsu. I didn't say anything before that wasn't true. You've got a decent punch, and your natural strength and speed are pretty high up there for your age, but right now you've got no real ability in taijutsu. Have you ever wondered why it is you usually have to throw huge numbers of clones at your enemies or use your tenant to get anything accomplished? It's because your skills are so sub-par that you can only win by overwhelming your opponents with numbers or sheer power."

He paused for a moment, letting the blond stew. Seeing a veritable cloud of gloom hovering over him, he continued, "Let me guess, no one wanted to teach you, so you taught yourself without any real instruction or checking books or diagrams, am I right?"

The young Jinchuriki nodded slowly.

"Before Iruka-sensei came along, they used to send me out all the time and ignore or mock me. Then when he tried to tell me I was doing it wrong…"

"You didn't want to listen and insisted you were doing fine like the stubborn brat you are." Jiraiya finished for him, watching as Naruto's head fell forward, hiding his expression.

Was his sensei right? Were his skills in taijutsu really that pathetic? As depressing a thought as this was, it did make sense.

Thinking back, he was right, with the exception of his fight with Kiba, which in retrospect had hardly been impressive, and his fight with Kabuto, which was won because the gray haired traitor had underestimated him, and the few cases where his unique strategies and ingenuity had won the day, every one of his fights had been won through overwhelming his opponent using the fox's power, or with sheer number of clones.

Throughout his early childhood, no one had ever tried to teach the blond anything. Before Iruka came along and bonded with him, every teacher he'd had had made it a point to ignore, if not ridicule his questions, send him out of class over the slightest infractions, and generally do everything in their power to avoid doing their job and teaching him anything.

As a result of these discouraging acts, he had developed a lack of interest in book work or learning anything he didn't find interesting. This is why he seemed so stupid. It wasn't out of lack of intelligence, but ignorance and an unwillingness to change that. Thinking back, he typically lost back at the academy during taijutsu. He'd always just played it off and told himself it was a fluke or he'd do better next time… but nothing ever changed.

After a few moments of silence, Jiraiya said reassuringly, "Don't worry about it. That's why we're here. You've had a hell of a time so far, but this is still only your first year as a genin."

Naruto looked up at that. "So we can fix my taijutsu?"

"Oh yeah, but we're going to have to start from scratch. And I think its best we begin right this moment."

"What's the first step, Pervy Sage?"

Jiraiya looked down at the blond, giving him a grin that set off warning bells in the blonds' mind as he brought his hands together and cracked his knuckles. "Well, first things first. You're going to have to relearn everything you know about taijutsu, and what better way than to have a first hand demonstration of the right way to do things? Now get up, we've got work to do."

Naruto gulped, the feeling that there was more of what he'd just experienced in store for him creeping through his mind.

This was not going to be fun…

"… That was all payback for that stunt at the bar, wasn't it?" Asked a beaten and panting Naruto as he looked up at his sensei. He was covered in bruises and scratches and a third trail of blood had been added to the two from earlier.

"I don't know what you're talking about." Jiraiya responded innocently before looking up to the sky, bringing his hand above his eyes to shield it from the light. The clouds above were painted a dull red and the horizon a beautiful orange by the last rays of the setting sun. "Anyway, I think it's about time we called it a night." With that, he put two fingers in his mouth and whistled, getting the attention of the clones. "All right you guys, that's it for the day!"

A series of nods followed before all the clones, including Jiraiya's, dispersed themselves. Naruto's eyes shot wide open as the memories, experience and fatigue of all the clones suddenly hit him at once, causing him to grip his head and stumble backwards from the wave of exhaustion that fell over him.

Jiraiya grinned down at his student, now certain that this would be the correct choice for the blonds' development. A few weeks of this, and he'd probably be able to use the Rasengan with one hand, something he really needed to learn. While it was impressive how he'd managed to improvise the technique, his method of forming the jutsu was not only more chakra intensive due to needing a shadow clone, but also more time consuming, and in a life or death battle, that was something one simply couldn't afford.

Deciding to test the effectiveness of the other part of his plan, Jiraiya tilted his head to the side, searching his memories for what his clone had gone over with the blonds', and questioned, "Hey kid, tell me, who were the main founding fathers of Konoha?"

"Huh?" Naruto responded, his attention returning to his sensei. The answer, oddly fresh in his mind, immediately came to him "Oh, that's easy; Hashirama Senju and Madara Uchiha. I remember because they had this incredible battle at the Valley of the End and…" Naruto stopped mid sentence blinked as something occurred to him. He hadn't known that before. He recalled in the back of his mind Sasuke saying something about how fitting their battle in the same place had been and it totally went over his head at the time.

He searched his mind for the source of this information and then remembered Jiraiya telling him… but that hadn't happened. His eyes widened as he realized what had happened, Jiraiya's clone had explained this to his, telling him in a way that kept him on the edge of his seat to find out what happened next, and when they dispersed, all the knowledge was transferred to him.

A grin spread across the blonds' face as he remembered what his clone had been told about Jiraiya's plan. Through one clone during each training session, Jiraiya would teach him everything he missed out on during the academy and everything he'd need to know to be a truly great shinobi. While those days back in the academy had bored the boy to tears, a reason why he frequently skipped class to go on pranking sprees, Jiraiya seemed to know exactly what to say to keep hold his interest and actually make him want to know. Best of all, he wouldn't actually have to sit through any of it himself!

"This… is… awesome! Hey, can we use this to improve my taijutsu too?"

"Afraid not." Jiraiya replied, shaking his head. "Given that they're just constructs of chakra, not everything the clones go through will carry over. While most knowledge and mental processes, like skill in chakra manipulation transfers, muscle memory happens to be one of the things that doesn't. That means that if they learn a jutsu, you're only going to get the chakra manipulation for the technique down by using them. You'll have to practice the hand signs yourself too."

"Aw man, that sucks."

"Hey, don't complain. You can still use this to learn everything else you need to know. Besides, think about it this way. Pain is another of those things that doesn't carry over. Would you use the Shadow Clone Jutsu like you have until now if you had to feel how every clone died?"

Naruto shuddered at the thought, thinking of every time he could remember seeing one of his clones get destroyed. Experience all those painful deaths himself? No thank you.

"Well, let's head in before it gets dark." Jiraiya said as he turned to walk back into town.

Naruto quickly caught up to the toad sage, walking along side of him before turning his gaze to the sky, thinking of what lied before him and how far he had to go to accomplish his dreams.

He smirked as a new confidence welled up inside him. He may be just some kid now, but he knew that someday, he'd be one of the greatest heroes the shinobi world had ever seen, and he'd have the power to protect his friends and save Sasuke, no matter how many times he had to beat him to make him see he didn't need to bear his duty on his own, that he had friends who were willing and able to help him every step of the way.

But as the two left the clearing to find a hotel, bathed in the golden rays of the day's end, neither could imagine what laid in the boy's future.

Well, that concludes the first chapter. Please review.