Summary: Being ignored and gazed at with hatred can lead someone to become a boisterous and loud orange-wearing shinobi, but it can also drive him to become a silent and invisible introvert. Of the two, Naruto takes the logical choice for a future in the Ninja World.

Chapter One.

His back leaned against the wall of his one room apartment. The light sound of the water droplets falling from the faucet reached his ears that twitched slightly at the noise. He blearily opened his eyes, turning them to the calendar on the other side of the wall. From the window nearby, the sun dawning tinged the clear blue sky a nice rosy tint. The date was important; he had circled it with a bright red color for a reason.

Today was the day of the Genin Exams.

He stood up, wincing as the sprained ankle of the night before hurt him still. Now it was just sprained, while earlier it had been broken. It had been an accident. Of course, the construction crew hadn't seen him walking beneath them. He didn't know whether to feel elated they actually hadn't, or saddened that they might have lied. He had been doing his best to remain as quiet and invisible as possible, so maybe it had been his own fault. On the other hand, the workers should have been watching out for people below.

He had learned that bright colors were a no-no, but so too were the dark ones. In a village of shinobis, going around paraded in an all-black suit was idiotic. Soft colors worked best to not stand out. A soft beige color jacket, a light green shirt, and a pair of brown shorts. The only thing dark was his sandals' color, but nobody ever looked at another's feet while walking or talking, so he was safe.

To be seen was to be pointed at, whispered from behind, to be ignored when you had a question to ask. So he instead decided to be the one to ignore the others. He wasn't the smartest tool of the shed, but he knew when he wasn't wanted, and he had done just that: he had hidden himself away. Instead of screaming to the wind for the people to recognize him, he had hidden so that the people could forget about him.

The number of murmurs and whispers had exponentially decreased after that. Just like the calls for 'Demon' or similar. No longer pranking, no longer yelling, and soon he was left alone. He should have known: he was just worsening his own situation by acting like a fool…but thankfully it was now fixed.

He didn't eat breakfast; his fridge was half-empty and his stomach queasy to begin with. Quietly, he made his way through the back alleys and the dark streets that riddled the city of Konoha, moving towards the academy. It was quite a longer route than merely running through the main street, but it also kept him away from the crowd and the glares.

He hated the glares.

He didn't know when he had realized that people didn't look at him with a kind gaze, but once he had, he had realized a terrible truth: everyone, except maybe the old man, always glared when looking at him. The shinobi at least held a sort of indifferent mask on their features, but the civilians hated him. He would have given the world for a reason; at least he could have changed his ways earlier.

He finally reached the shinobi academy after a few minutes, the building standing silently as the early morning hour made it deserted. He walked through the still empty corridors, his face softening as he remembered the times spent outside of the classroom...times he no longer had to serve after stopping with his pranks. It was nice and cool within the stone building, even with the warmth of the summer sun. A light breeze stretched from the open windows. He could hear the soft murmurs of the staff a few rooms above, and the chirping of the birds amongst the trees.

He entered the classroom and reached for his desk, in the last row but far from the window. He sat down, and bringing both of his arms crossed in front of him, he lowered his head and waited for the bell to ring.

Soon he heard the clattering of feet, and the door swung open gently but firmly once more. Sasuke Uchiha walked in, stilling as he stared at him with his own eyes. The raven haired boy, wearing his usual blue jacket with the Uchiha fan, analyzed him for a second, before nodding. Naruto nodded back, before watching the Uchiha take his own seat halfway in the classroom, near the window. The relationship between them was strange, to say the least.

There was a sort of begrudging respect, only neither of the two actually held a grudge against the other. They just were both people who didn't like to talk to others. One because he probably would just be yelled at to keep quiet, the other because people would fawn over him in an instant.

The door opened once more, as Hinata Hyuga entered third. The girl looked with her pale white eyes at both of them, before shyly and silently making her way to the last row near the window. She began to twiddle her fingers, moving back and forth her indexes as she gave hesitant glances towards him.

He didn't bother to ask why. He didn't know when the girl had started looking at him, but he couldn't bring himself to talk to her. He could ruin everything he had become: it wouldn't do to once more be subjected to the glares of the people of Konoha...not now that he had finally learned how to avoid most of them.

The noises now grew in intensity. People began to flock in, the chatter in the room increasing until it became unbearable for him. Shikamaru Nara plopped down next to him, with Chouji following and munching on chips. The boisterous Kiba sat next to Shino and Hinata, while the pink-haired Sakura was trying to woo Sasuke with Ino fighting her every step of the way.

"Troublesome." Shikamaru mumbled, his dark eyes flicking from him to the sensei's desk.

"Munch…Munch…Why?" Chouji asked; a packet of chips opened in his hands. The slightly overweight boy was some sort of sidekick of the Nara, and Naruto felt slightly envious that the boring and lazy boy actually had such a friend.

He didn't have one, so of course he had to feel envy for someone who, in doing nothing, actually got a friend.

"They'll split us in teams," Shikamaru remarked. "The Ino-Shika-Cho formation is one team, for example." The Nara explained to the surprised Akimichi, who merely nodded thoughtfully.

"Then there's the Dead Last placed in the team of the Rookie of the Year and the second best of the class." The shadow user continued, "And if we take that into account, then it's obvious we'll end up with Ino."

Chouji frowned slightly. "Can't we have Hinata?"

"That wouldn't work," Shikamaru pointed out. "If Hinata was with us, in place of Ino, we would have no long-range tactics. You still need to deploy melee after all." The spiky haired Nara sighed, "Troublesome."

Naruto listened in silence. He had been the Dead Last of the academy for a while, but since that… event he no longer held the place. He didn't know if the nominee to Dead Last worked on the average of all years or only of the last year. If it did base itself on the cumulative ratings for all years, even if he suddenly became Rookie of the Year in terms of placements, he would still be the last. As it was, he was comfortably standing in the slightly lower than average result.

He had crammed up for the exam, expecting something written or a display of Taijutsu or Shuriken-jutsu, but as the time passed nervousness began to take its toil of him, since the sensei had yet to arrive.

He was already profusely sweating by the time one of the teachers entered the classroom.

"Silence!" Iruka-sensei exclaimed. The man had a scar on his face, and his dark brown hair was held in a short pony-tail on the back. He wore the Chuunin flak jacket, and was holding with his hands a scroll, probably containing the names of the students. "Come when called in room One-A, and we will administer the test."

As the name call proceeded, he began to tremble. What if he wasn't good enough to pass? He had trained hard for this, he wanted to pass —no, he needed to pass! His dingy apartment was starting to break apart, and unless he actually earned the money to repair it, he would end up evicted while the owner of the complex made the repairs. Considering his luck, he would end up homeless for weeks.

"Uzumaki, Naruto." His name called, he stood up fast, hitting his sides with the corner of the table and wincing in pain. He held the tears in his eyes as he quickly walked downwards, and from there to room One-A.

Iruka merely nodded at him stiffly, ticking his name off the scroll. He walked through the hallway to the adjacent room, where only Mizuki-sensei stood in wait, sitting with his back against the wall of the empty classroom. On a desk nearby, the various headbands with the symbol of the leaf glinted because of the light of the sun that peered through the window.

"Oh, Naruto-kun," the man began with a light smile. "Third time's the charm, they say."

"Yeah." He replied. His voice was raucous as the word came out. How many days had it been since he had last talked to someone?

He didn't remember.

"Well, can you do a henge of the Hokage?" Mizuki asked kindly. He nodded and smiled. His fingers went into the correct position, and concentrating on the chakra within his lower stomach, he pulled at it. There was a small puff of smoke, and the next instant Naruto Uzumaki was gone, replaced by Hiruzen Sarutobi, the third Hokage.

"Good!" The teacher praised him, "Now can you do a Bunshin?"

He froze slightly, gulping down nervously before releasing the Henge. He could do this. He had practiced. He had repeatedly tried with increasing frustration until the point of exhaustion, and he could do this. He knew he could.

He slowly began to pull at his chakra again. Far more slowly than how he did for the Henge. He imagined himself tearing a small, really small piece of parchment from an enormous scroll that was his chakra pool. There was no puff of smoke, but two sickly and pale Naruto-Bunshins appeared near him, both face down on the ground and both seemingly dead.

Mizuki's face was ecstatic. The Chuunin-sensei walked towards the headbands and handed one over to him, smiling brightly. "Congratulation Naruto! You did it!"

He smiled back with hesitation, before grasping the headband and tightly knotting it around his forehead. He was a shinobi now. He was a protector of Konoha. He felt his heart bursting from his chest, his desire to scream reach the base of his throat…and then he held it there. He wasn't going to scream. He wasn't going to yell how happy he was for this. He just couldn't.

"As a shinobi of the leaf, you are hereby declared legally an adult." Mizuki began, signing a scroll on the desk. "You also have access to the library of Konoha, but only to the Genin related sections. You are also eligible to receive standard shinobi equipment from the Ninja Office, as well as having an account open in the Konoha Shinobi Bank from this moment henceforth." The man scribbled something on a piece of paper. "As an orphan, you have no guardian and thus it falls entirely to you to open up an account or simply receive checks for mission payment."

Mizuki finished speaking, handing over to him a small scroll. "This is a storage scroll. It contains your ninja number, the information needed to activate your bank account and the shinobi rules. You are to memorize everything."

Naruto nodded back, displaying for once a cranked up smile. He then turned around and left quietly. Maybe he'd go to Ichiraku to celebrate. It would be sort of a splurge of his meager finances, but it would be good to eat something warm for once.

He left through the main door of the school and stilled for a moment. That was a big no-no. He had forgotten: the parents would be there to congratulate their own children. He tensed and then awkwardly began to walk stiffly towards the exit. He didn't look at the other children. He didn't look at his ex-classmates. He didn't look at their parents.

He just walked quietly, and slowly managed to leave without attracting attention. There had been no whispers or murmurs towards him. No heated glares or pointed fingers. Maybe…maybe he was safe now that he was a shinobi?

"That boy passed?" a voice reached his ears, and suddenly he knew he had been wrong.

"Really —what are they thinking, passing a demon like him?" another voice added. "They should have failed him."

He dashed for the dirty alleyways the next second, running with his heart pumping in his chest until he reached his apartment. He was a shinobi now, he shouldn't be afraid of the murmurs and the glares, but he just couldn't stand them. He had wanted to scream at the voices to shut up and leave, but he merely hadn't been able to. He wasn't a coward. He was sure he could fight them off if he wanted to…but why should he?

Yelling out loud just got people killed: it didn't save them.

Why couldn't they look at someone else? What did he have that made him different? What was the reason they all called him a demon?

The idea of going to Ichiraku was discarded with his dropping mood. The moment he slipped inside his house, he closed the door behind him and then silently started to clean. There was little else he could do. He had a deck of cards, but after months of solitaire it became an absolute hell to even look at it. He just hoped his teammates would be decent people.

He just hoped they would be his first friends.

It took him a while to get used to it, but eventually he had found things to do when alone. Instead of screaming and running around the village, he would silently make rounds on the roof of the building. Instead of playing with other children, he would look at the running shinobi that dashed on the rooftops, trying to catch them with his eyes as they moved. A few of them actually waved at him as they went, somehow without even turning their gaze to look at him or slowing down.

The rooftop of the apartment complex was the place where he had the most social encounters to begin with. He decided there and then, while pondering on what to do to pass the time: he'd do a bit of light training, and then the next morning, as early as humanly possible, he would go and do everything Mizuki-sensei had told him to do.

In that way he wouldn't be seen by many people.

Unknown to the young Naruto Uzumaki —recently made Genin of Konohagakure no Sato— Hiruzen Sarutobi was silently watching him through the crystal glass in his office. The old third Hokage was biting nervously on his pipe, puffing out small clouds of smoke as he saw the dejected face of Naruto turn to one with a light smile.

He couldn't help but cringe, as he felt his heart constrict a little. Once the blond boy had been vivacious, like a boisterous grandchild. Something had happened one day, something the boy had never told him, and the next day he had been different. He had been subdued, silent, and melancholic to say the least. He now rarely smiled. He rarely yelled or talked to someone else. He had used the crystal ball to actually see how he would fare in his exam, even though once he was sure Naruto would have been the first to run up to him and show his forehead protector with pride.

He sighed. He wouldn't have let Naruto pass, and had Iruka been there, the Chuunin-sensei wouldn't have either. Mizuki had probably acted out of his good heart for a fellow orphan, and he couldn't actually fault such an act. If Naruto was unprepared he would simply be failed by his Jounin instructor, and that would be that.

He looked at the paperwork on his desk, neatly piled up. He could use a Kage Bunshin and be done with it, but something required his personal touch beforehand: he needed to decide the teams.

He couldn't, in good conscience, place Naruto together with Sasuke, who had passed with top marks. The boy would make his teammates fail, and he shuddered at what Homura, Koharu and Danzo would say if the last of the Uchiha ended up having to repeat the year. Unfortunately, placing Naruto in that team would mean passing him by force.

He couldn't bring himself to send Naruto outside without a workable Bunshin.

He couldn't even put the boy in the same team as a Clan Children: it would simply make the selected clans angry. His only choice was to split up the teams in a different way.

Naruto could go with Sakura Haruno, a civilian who had no backing whatsoever and with the pitiful marks she held on the physical evaluations, a possible fail candidate. He needed a third shinobi however.

Someone who nobody would make a ruckus for if he failed. He was thinking about it, and was already starting to believe that maybe he could put another female —there was a certain Ami in the list— when the door of his office opened to admit Danzo.

The old teammate of his walked in slowly, half of his body covered in bandages and holding up with sheer willpower and a wooden walking stick.

"Hiruzen," the war hawk greeted him with his name, "I have heard interesting news."

"Oh? Pray tell," Hiruzen took another puff of tobacco, before slowly standing up from behind his desk and making his way to the window. He wouldn't admit it, but being in the same room with Danzo always made him think that one day, the man would come in with a kunai in hand, scream 'banzai' and attack him. He slightly chuckled at the mental image, but cleared his features the moment Danzo walked to stand next to him.

"The Jinchuuriki has passed his examination." The cane tapped lightly on the ground, "pitiful display, nearly dead last, and not worthy of being called a weapon for Konoha."

"I know." Hiruzen replied with a dull tone. The third Hokage shook his head slightly. "He did better than the last time, but—"

"I could train him." Danzo remarked. "I could make him better."

"A better weapon, perhaps, but a better man?"

Danzo's face morphed into a scowl.

"He is a Jinchuuriki, a human sacrifice: his place is as a weapon."

"You forget, Danzo, our teacher's words." Hiruzen lightly replied, still shaking his head. "And as long as you'll forget them, I'm afraid I won't be inclined in handing Naruto over to your…personal training facility."

The Yami of shinobi merely stilled for a second, before releasing a breath he didn't believe he had held. "You need a third shinobi, do you not?"

"Now that you know that I know of Ne, you offer one of your own?" Hiruzen raised an eyebrow. "I asked you to disband that group, Danzo. It is inhuman."

"Inhuman, but not ineffective." He retorted calmly. "How about a deal, Hiruzen? I too have a —sort of—defective product."

The third Hokage frowned, but said nothing waiting for Danzo to explain himself.

"You are building a team that is meant to fail, I know because I would do the same in your position."

"Not out of kindheartedness however." Hiruzen snorted. He knew the man would rather avoid Konoha's 'weapon' from dying outside, rather than actually care for the boy.

"Does it matter the mean to the end?" Danzo lightly rebuffed him, before continuing. "I will place my defective shinobi with yours. Then we will see the results of your academy training compared to my Root training, and we will do so by taking into account the lowest possible grades available."

"And if they pass because of your shinobi?"

"Then it means the Jinchuuriki will at least be protected by a slightly better than average Genin." Danzo didn't miss a beat as he answered back. The third Hokage remained thoughtful, but said nothing for a while. The silence stretched to the point where Danzo was just about starting to lose his patience, his index finger twitching lightly as it tapped against the cane.

"Why not," Hiruzen nodded to himself. "But if something happens to Naruto because of your operative, Danzo…you don't want to see me angry."

The third Hokage smiled then, and Danzo grinned back.

"Of course, Hokage-sama."

As Danzo left, Hiruzen returned to his desk. The team for Naruto was ready now: Naruto Uzumaki, Sakura Haruno and the failed operative of Danzo would work together. Now he needed a sensei and a replacement. The other civilian girl, Ami, would go with the Uchiha. Since another male was needed, he grabbed Kiba Inuzuka to place in the roster.

The Ino-Shika-Cho formation was complete, but now the problem was with Shino Aburame and Hinata Hyuga. He needed yet one more shinobi to complete their ranks. His eyes fell down on the students who had shinobi as parents. A certain Hibachi appeared to have a father in the Konoha's ninja department: it was enough.

He knew he was probably condemning to early death students who would not have normally passed the exams, but he had to prevent Naruto both from being heartbroken once more, as he certainly would if he were to go and annul his forehead protector, and from dying if he actually went out of the village with the skills he had.

No, he was not sorry: he was doing what was best for everyone's interests, except maybe Ami's and Hibachi's.

With a tired sigh, the old man closed his eyes and began to snore lightly, folding his arms over his chest in the particular signature jutsu of the Kage Bunshin. As his clone began to work, muttering under his breath about 'damnable old coots', the original one chuckled.

The day of the team selection, Iruka Umino glanced at the roster with a perplexed expression. His eyes travelled to the students, all nervously awaiting their teammates' names.

"Team seven will be composed by Sasuke Uchiha, Ami Satou and Kiba Inuzuka, your sensei will be Kakashi Hatake." He saw the civilian girl in the back rows fist-pump in the air, before sneering at the other girls who had lost. The two girls closest to Sasuke, Haruno and Yamanaka, both looked defeated with their faces downwards. The Inuzuka merely snorted and strongly whined about being in the same team as Sasuke.

"Team eight will be composed by Shino Aburame, Hinata Hyuga and Hibachi Saitou, your sensei will be Kurenai Yuuhi." The Aburame and the Hyuga both looked at one another, gently bowing in a sign of respect. The civilian boy on the other hand seemed affronted, but because of what Iruka had no idea.

"Team nine is still in effect from last year. Team ten will be Shikamaru Nara, Ino Yamanaka and Chouji Akimichi, your sensei will be Asuma Sarutobi." He proceeded to list the remaining teams, until he finally reached the last one.

"Team Thirteen will be Naruto Uzumaki, Sakura Haruno and Sai Satou. Your sensei will be Aoba Yamashiro. All students: please wait in the classroom for your Jounin-sensei to collect you." Iruka then stiffly made his way out from behind the desk and headed for the door. He stopped midway however, and turned to address the classroom one last time.

"From this moment hence, you are all shinobi of the leaf. You will live, bleed and die for your village. You are no longer children, but adults. Remember this."

Then Iruka walked outside, leaving behind puzzled and perplexed children. The teachers began to stroll in, and as they did Naruto turned his gaze towards the pink haired girl. Sakura had been one of his early crushes and one of his early friends…but she too had begun to glare and stare at him eventually, just like the other children, and then she had begun making fun of him. He had been left alone once more, and the girl had moved to become friends with Ino first, and then a rival to her for Sasuke's affection.

He had been forgotten afterwards.

He turned his gaze around the classroom, trying to connect the name Sai to a face. He didn't remember anyone called Sai in the class, but then again he hadn't bothered to memorize the names of all the students. The girl had apparently decided to stand, turning her gaze around until she met his eyes. She gave him a tentative wave, and he perplexedly gave a nod back.

Seemingly happy with that, the girl began bickering with Ami who apparently wanted the spot near 'Sasuke-kun'. The boisterous Kiba was instead loudly whining of his teammates, walking downwards and jumping on the desk of the last of the Uchiha.

The funny thing was that Sasuke was sort of glancing towards him, with a look that betrayed the 'love' he had for the team he ended up in. He merely gave him an awry grin and a shrug of the shoulders, and the Uchiha nodded back gruffly.

"Hello dickless." Naruto blinked. He turned his gaze to the side, where a pale skinned and raven haired boy stood with a plastered smile. The boy was holding a Tanto on the back, and seemed to be holding far better shinobi equipment than him, but what truly puzzled Naruto was the fact that the boy was holding an ink brush and an empty scroll in front of him.

"Hello?" He replied.

The dark haired boy said nothing more, albeit he did keep on his plastered smile. Naruto frowned, but remained silent too. A few seconds later, Sakura joined them.

"Hello! I'm Sakura!" She smiled, "I never saw you in class before." She added, turning her emerald gaze to Sai.

"I was privately trained, ugly." Sai replied calmly, smiling as Sakura's fist collided with his face and sent him reeling against the wall.

"How rude! Shannaro!" She screamed, huffing as she locked her eyes in fury with the raven haired boy. Naruto instead merely stood up and moved slowly backwards, wanting to avoid taking part in his teammates' ordeals. It wasn't actually his business. Sure, they were teammates, and he had hoped to make friends out of them, but he knew he shouldn't have been so hopeful.

As long as one had hope, it could be crushed.

One called him dickless and the other was an enraged fan-girl who had broken his childhood trust. He doubted they would —or even could— work together as a team, no matter what. His eyes trailed downwards, looking as the Jounin-senseis came to get their students. Five minutes had passed since he was standing against the wall, when Sasuke joined him with a staggered and bewildered expression.

Naruto could see both Kiba and Ami animatedly talking to one another, with endearing terms like 'bitch' and 'uncouth mongrel' flying.

"Uzumaki." Sasuke began, somehow curt and yet showing an undertone of something else Naruto couldn't place. He would have called it 'despair for an intelligent conversation', had said undertone a name. He raised an eyebrow at being called, but answered back.



"Team Thirteen!" A Jounin spoke loudly from the doorway, and Naruto tensed as he looked to the sun-glass wearing man and then back to Sasuke.

"See you later?" Naruto hazarded, and was somehow surprised when Sasuke actually nodded to him. Shocked, he kept on walking down the stairs of the classroom, reaching for his teacher as Sakura and Sai soon joined him.

Their sensei seemed young, with dark, spiky hair. He had red-framed sunglasses on his face, which obscured his eyes. He wore the standard Konoha shinobi outfit complete with flak jacket and forehead protector, the latter of which was worn slightly tilted to the left. The man nodded at the three of them, before cracking a smile.

"Well then! Let's get going, shall we?" His tone was jovial, and as they began to walk out of the academy the sensei kept on speaking. "I remember when I was at the academy! I was one of the best students in the class, would have been rookie of the year but Hatake was way better." As the man kept on talking, Naruto found himself slipping into a comfortable position. He hadn't even realized he had been tense just a few minutes prior.

The sensei didn't seem that bad. He just wondered what he would learn from him.

"Now, I'm sorry to say but I personally don't believe in luck. I mean, we're number thirteen but that doesn't mean we have to be unlucky, right? Even though no team thirteen ever passed their exams before, this doesn't change everything."

"Excuse me, sensei," Sakura frowned as she caught on something strange their teacher had said. "What do you mean with 'no team thirteen passed their exams'? We already did, didn't we?"

"Ah no," Aoba remarked. "You are now shinobi. You aren't yet fully fledged Genins: if you fail, you are sent back to the academy and are retrained for the following year."

"What!?" Sakura screeched, making him wince from the voice the girl had. "But…But then Sasuke-kun would already be…and I wouldn't be able to…no! We have to pass!" She tightened her fist in mid-air, her eyes blaring with determination.

"I concur with ugly." Sai remarked, only to receive a fist to the side of the face. Naruto…

Naruto said nothing.

He sighed as he felt the typical feeling of nervousness start to crawl up his skin: this wasn't good. He wanted to pass, no, he had to pass. He didn't know if he would lucky enough the next year to still have Mizuki giving him the examination. If it was someone else, then maybe they might ask something he didn't know and fail him. He couldn't fail two years in a row.

He just couldn't survive two more years like this, in his own personal hell.

He had to pass.

He would pass…and then he would leave.

His eyes brightened with determination, as he stared at the back of his Jounin sensei's head: maybe if he stared hard enough, he might see what the exam would be like?

Their walk ended near the sides of the Konoha library, to where the Konoha's Torture and Interrogation department began hidden between camouflaged rocks. Aoba merely walked through them, and after a moment of hesitation came back outside, gesturing for them to follow him.

Naruto nervously gulped down, before following behind Sakura and Sai. The girl seemed to start worrying, while instead the raven haired boy wasn't. Sai seemed to be made out of rock, for all the emotions he displayed. He didn't even seem to care that they were entering the bowels of the mountain, or that they were going in the Torture and Interrogation department of Konoha, where people were tortured.

Naruto shuddered as they walked along a pristine white corridor, a scream of pain piercing the air and making Sakura jump backwards in a slight display of fright. He was frightened too: only he froze rather than jump.

"Anko must be at it," their Jounin-sensei remarked, taking a turn to the right. The scream of pain soon morphed into a set of pitiful sobs, as choked words became more and more distinguishable as they walked closer to its source. Sakura had subtly started to distance herself from their sensei, instead choosing to be between himself and Sai.

Sai said nothing and didn't even appear fazed by the screams of pain or the wails of the broken down shinobis. They finally reached the end of the corridor, where a crossroad seemed to be splitting into three different roads within the complex, and one of them ended in an onyx black door, that seemed to be standing slightly ajar.

"Now wait here while I prepare the exam." Aoba remarked. "Do not, under any circumstance, follow me inside. There are important and vital documents around and you do not have the clearance to look at them: the penalty is death for breeching state secrecy. I'm sure you don't want to end your career this early, right?" As the Jounin jokingly spoke, Naruto slowly shook his head in a nod.

Sakura seemed queasy, but quickly nodded too. Sai didn't even move his head.

The next moment, they were alone in the corridor.

"Do you think it will be hard?" Sakura asked, looking worried at him and Sai. The black haired Genin didn't reply. He uncomfortably stared at the wall near them, hoping the girl wouldn't try and talk to him again.

"I asked a question, you know," she spoke once more. "You could answer, jerks."

"We were told to wait here, ugly," Sai said. "There is no need to speak."

He actually approved of what Sai was saying. They heard the noise of footsteps coming closer from another corridor, and as they all turned to look, a purple haired kunoichi —clad in a most revealing fishnet shirt and long trench coat— came into view. The woman was wearing a really short skirt, and seemed to be holding a stick within her mouth, albeit she was displaying a worried face.

"What are you three doing over here!? This isn't a place for academy students!"

"We…We're waiting for Aoba-sensei." Sakura spoke out, "We're to take the test to become Genins..."

The Kunoichi smiled wickedly, before sultrily speaking. "Oh…fresh blood." She licked her lips, "Do you guys want a hint?"

"Really?" Sakura's eyes widened as the pink haired girl smiled. Naruto merely scoffed. People who smiled like that weren't to be trusted.

"Oh yes! His tests are always the same multiple choices: Aoba has no imagination, you see? So the correct answer to all of the questions is always the last one. Now excuse me, but I have an escaped prisoner to catch." With those words, the woman —clearly mad— left quickly.

"Oh." Sakura sighed, "Only that?" She muttered. The girl then returned to stare at the door that was still slightly ajar. She bit her lip as if torn between looking and not looking, and as she hesitantly took a step forward, the hand of Sai clamped down on her shoulder, making her jump in fright.

"Where are you going, ugly?"

A nervous tick mark appeared on Sakura's forehead, as the pink haired girl gritted her teeth.

"We could take a small peek." She whispered in a low enough voice to hopefully pass unheard. "Just to know how long it will take: mom is expecting me for dinner after all."

"No." Sai remarked. "We wait here. Treachery to a superior officer is punishable by imprisonment or death."

"But aren't you curious about it?" Sakura asked back.


"Not even a little bit?"


"A tiny bit?"


As the two kept on discussing, Naruto tuned them out. There was an escaped prisoner going around, if what the purple haired kunoichi had said was true. Still she had acted a bit too calmly for someone looking for an escaped convict. Shouldn't she have brought them outside to safety?

He turned to look at the slightly ajar door. What if the escaped convict was within the room?

"We can call sensei without looking through the crack then!" Sakura exclaimed.

"That is acceptable." Sai nodded. Naruto merely remained unperturbed as the two moved forward.

"Sensei?" Sakura asked cautiously, her voice rising just a bit. "Are you still there?"

"Yes I am! Don't come in!" The moment their sensei spoke, Sakura added.

"Will it take long?"

"Not much, you should take care to remember my words! Stop wasting my time! Disturb me again and you will fail!"

Sakura flinched at the harsh words, but then sulkily turned her back on the door and marched towards the 'crossroad' of corridors. "Fine!" The girl huffed, crossing her arms over her chest. "I'll wait here then."

Sai said nothing, instead taking out the white scroll of his and starting to draw on it. Naruto brought up an eyebrow at the sight, quietly watching the dark haired boy drawing.

The silence stretched through the trio for uncomfortably long minutes.

The minutes turned into hours, at least to their senses.

"What are you drawing?" Naruto finally blurted out, looking at Sai who seemed surprised to hear him speak.

"A…a scenery, dickless." The boy answered. Naruto ignored the 'dickless' word, and moved closer to look. There, drawn in ink, was a sight of the Konoha's mountain monument, with the faces of the four Hokage and even complying with the sketched entrance to the T&I department.

"You like to draw?" Naruto queried.

"Yes," Sai said, frowning. "I enjoy it, but it is distasteful for a shinobi to enjoy such things."

"Oh." Naruto muttered, with his back leaning against the wall.

"Is he going to take much longer?" Sakura muttered, making Naruto tense since he hadn't heard her move closer to them. "I need to go and…freshen myself up."

"We cannot ask him, or he will fail us." Sai commented. "I though you understood that, ugly."

The nervous tick mark on Sakura's forehead reappeared, but was soon squashed down by the girl holding on to her stomach with a slightly worried look.

"I really need the…freshening." She whimpered.

"If we exclude the corridor we walked in from," Naruto spoke then, "It leaves us with two other corridors to explore." He added, pointing to the one where the Kunoichi had come from and the other one perpendicular to it. "One might hold the torture cells," he dryly remarked, "but the other is an unknown."

"I can have them checked, dickless." Sai remarked then, grabbing a clean parchment and slowly drawing small images of mice. A hand sign later, and the mice actually emerged from the scroll and scampered down on the floor. The ink animals began to run across the empty corridors, not making any sound as they went.

"That's…That's pretty cool." Sakura muttered in awe, before her face suddenly morphed into one of worry and grief. The girl then shook her head and returned to her most 'I am definitively not worried about an exam' face. Naruto knew what the girl was thinking, instead. He knew because he was thinking the same thing too: what if he was the unprepared one?

He had been happy in passing the exam, but what skills did he have? He had nothing. He had an unworkable Bunshin. A pitiful Taijutsu stance and few props in hitting things with shurikens. The only thing he was good at was with his stamina, and only recently on theoretical practice. He didn't even want to know what the exam was, and it had been hours since they had last seen their sensei.

Finally, the mice came back, and Sai directed Sakura to where the toilets were. The girl seemed relieved and really 'freshened' up the moment she came back, but the waiting game kept being played.

In the end, the three of them stood with their backs against the wall, waiting and sighing heavily as their eyes began to feel droopy.

"What time is it?" Sakura blearily asked.

"I don't know." Naruto replied.

"My parents are going to be worried."

"uh-uh." The blond haired boy said nothing, albeit hearing that didn't make him feel well at all. It was as if the girl enjoyed twisting the rusty kunai in his wounds.

"You know, they always told me to stay away from you because you were a bad kid." Sakura commented. "You don't look bad though."

He snorted, but said nothing again.

"He's dickless: he can't be bad if he doesn't have a dick." Sai piped in from his side.

Strangely, those words actually made Naruto crack a small smile. "So you're bad then, Sai? You have a dick right?"

"We are not measuring dicks, dickless." Sai remarked, keeping his smile on.

"Immature, both of you. In front of a lady—" Sakura had barely begun talking, that the door cracked open to reveal a puzzled Aoba.

"Well…" The three of them stood up, eagerly waiting for the exam to start.

"You fail."

And with that, their dreams were crushed in the most brutal manner possible.

Author's notes

And we begin with the serious Naruto Fanfic. 'Introverted'.

We all know Naruto as loud and boisterous. We know him from various fanfics as becoming 'smarter' and more intelligent, or more powerful, or ultra-bloodline filled, or…whatever. In this circumstance, a simple 'event' brought him from being orange-clad and screaming to being dimly dressed and introverted. Not 'intelligent' but 'introverted' rather than asking out loud, opening doors and charging in, merely asking and answering himself and trying to find a more 'sedate' approach to matters of the shinobi world.

There is no 'citizen kill Konoha demon' stuff, or anything 'much' derailed from canon.

Thirteen is an unlucky number in Western civilization, but it also moved to Japan (Japan has number 4 and 9, which actually shows why 'Team nine' isn't presented at manga-start)

I left you with a cliff-hanger…silly me, I forget people love cliff-hangers.

If you can guess why they failed before the next chapter, you win a cookie.

The writing will be 'slow' and cool. Naruto WILL NOT BECOME POWERFUL OVERNIGHT. Get that out of your system NOW. I will not repeat myself. I am of the firm belief that 'nothing suffered, nothing gained' So unless you can stand…eight? 9? Maybe even ten chapters of a 'struggling' Naruto and co, avoid reading. I mean struggling. I mean broken bones, torn limbs, blood and deaths. I mean seeing missions being FAILED and not just the 'oh well, Naruto-kun, you farted on the beetle' version.

that's pretty much all there is.