Chapter 1

Naruto knew he was awesome. He beat down Kiba and was going to the final round of the Chunin exams. The Hokage hat was as good as his. The fight with Kiba bugged him though. He had tried to create thirty clones to swamp Kiba but only managed to pull out five. Ever since that snake bastard had hit him in the forest- Wait a minute. "Kakashi-sensei, wait!"

"Hmm, Naruto-kun?" Kakashi eye smiled at Naruto.

"Out in the forest the snake man did something to me and my stomach has been feeling all light and fluttery since then."

"Now Naruto, I know that the academy covered this. You are much too young to act on these feelings for-"

"I don't mean it like that, you pervert! I mean my chakra has been all out of whack ever since he did something to my stomach."

Kakashi's eye widened, "Shit. Hold still." Scooping Naruto up bridal style he shunshined repeatedly to the medical wing. "You," nodding to a random medic, "get the Hokage here now. Naruto, strip to your waist. Now form the ram seal and channel your chakra."

Black lines formed on Naruto's stomach. "What! What is this? Did snake bastard do this to me? Am I going to die?"

"No. This is the seal holding back the kyuubi. This here though... this is not part of the original seal. Orichimaru must have-"

"Kakashi, why did you need to see me?"

"Hokage-sama, Orichimaru altered Naruto's seal."

"Let me see." Sarutobi shoved Kakashi out of the way and bent over the seal. Sighing in relief he said, "No, no, he didn't alter the seal. He put a new seal around the old one. A five element seal to interrupt the flow of chakra if I'm not mistaken. It must have made it difficult to control your chakra with this on, Naruto-kun. Your fight against Kiba is even more impressive. Raise your hands over your head and hold still." Blue flames appeared on the Sandaime's fingertips with a grunt he drove his hand into Naruto's abdomen.

"Ouch. That hurt Jiji-san."

"I'm sorry, Naruto-kun. Can you channel some more chakra so I can verify that everything is better?" Making the ram symbol Naruto just scowled as the Hokage poked at the seal. "Everything looks to be in order. You can head on home now, Naruto-kun, good luck in the finals."

By the time Naruto left the tower night had fallen. He stretched and started walking towards a victory dinner at Ichiraku's Ramen. I should start with miso, then beef, then another miso, and then... what'd she just say?

"... and somehow my brother got beat down by that orange wearing brat Naruto."

Naruto looked over and saw three chunin walking down the street. The one badmouthing was a tall female with Inuzuka clan markings. "Hey! How dare you call me a brat! I'm going to be Hokage and orange is the best color ever, dattebayo! I beat dog breath like a broken drum."

She looked over in surprise then snorted, "You got lucky. That's the only way a shrimp like you could have beaten Kiba."

"Why don't I just show you how I beat your dumbass brother, you bitch."

"Let's put a little wager on it. The loser is the winner's slave for the rest of the night. Deal?" She winked at he compatriots.

"Deal." Shaking on it they walked to the nearest training ground.

"My name is Inuzuka Hana but after tonight you may call me Hana-sama."

"Only if you win! Kage Bunshin no Jutsu!" Thirty clones appeared around Naruto. As one they rushed towards her. Hana swayed back dodging the first clone's strike. Sniffing the air she swayed through the clones. Leaning just far enough away to avoid a strike she picked her way through, grabbed Naruto and threw him to the ground with a kunai to his throat. "I win."

"I'll never give up! That my ninja way." Naruto tried to lever himself up only to be smacked back down.

"It doesn't matter if you never give up. You feel this?" Hana tapped the kunai against his Adam's apple. "This means that I won. This isn't some fucking wrestling match. I don't have to fucking get you to say uncle. My blade. Your throat. My victory."

"Fine. You win."

"No, no, say my name."

"Yes, Hana-sama," Naruto growled.

"First things first, brat. We're feeling a little thirsty, aren't we boys? Go get us some tea."

"Right. Right... Hana-sama" Naruto got up and turned towards the village.

"Hey! Where are you going? Send a clone you idiot."

"Oh! I can do that. Right, right. Kage Bunshin no Jutsu."

Hana smirked, "Meanwhile, we need to practice our genjutsu. Demonic Illusion: Blindness." The world went black to Naruto. He waited, started tapping his foot, "Aren't you going to break it brat?"

"I'm supposed to break it? Right, right..." Naruto pulled out a kunai and raised it above his hand only to be forcibly restrained by Hana.

"What the fuck! What's with the stabbing?"

"You told me to break the illusion and genjutsu breaks with pain."

"Don't you know how to dispel?"

"I've never really been able to figure that out," Naruto rubbed his head sheepishly.

"Seriously? Ok, ok, create some clones for my teammates to practice on and I'll teach you how to dispel."

After half an hour Naruto could break some genjutsus. Some of the time. If he was lucky. Hana's preferred method of teaching was to cast the blindness jutsu on him, count down from thirty seconds then punch him. Naruto may have disliked her system and hated her but he had to admit that he made more progress with the stupid dispel he ever had before.

"Hey. We're done with these clones. Can we get some more?" Hana's teammate called over. Half the clones were wandering around aimlessly like they were drunk the other half lay curled up whimpering on the ground.

"Fine." Naruto dispelled the clones and his eyes swung back showing only the whites. He collapsed bonelessly to the ground. "What..." Hana ran over her hands already glowing green. "He's under a genjutsu. Kai! Help me you two. Kai! Kai!" Her teammates crouched down and started to assist. After five minutes Hana waved them. Hands glowing she rechecked his vitals. "He's out of the genjutsu. I'm not picking up any other problems." She bit her lip, "Damn it. Help me get him back to my house."

x x x

"And just what is going on here?" Hana turned around with trepidation. Tsume stood glaring at her daughter. Nervously Hana recounted the events of the evening only to be interrupted by Kiba.

"What the Dead Last doing here?"

Tsume turned on her son, "Kiba, calling the boy who kicked your ass Dead Last insults you more than it does him. Who's this idiot's jonin-sensei?"

"I don't know his name. He has silver hair and one eye."

"Hatake. Why would anyone put him in charge of genin? Kiba, go get Hatake. He's the nin-dog user by that lives between the stadium and main gate. Hana, keep monitoring his vitals. If nothing changes by tomorrow morning he'll have to go to the hospital and you'll have to face the consequences."

"Consequences?"

"You were hazing a genin. It's only tremendously bad luck that anything like this happened but it still happened. If we can smooth things over we will otherwise you need to be prepared to take the consequences."

"Yo," Kakashi appeared in swirl of leafs one hand raised in greeting the other on Kiba's shoulder. "What did my little genin do now?"

Tsume turned and glowered, "Your 'little genin' almost got himself killed using a forbidden technique. "Hana, explain to the moron what happened. I'm going to get a drink."

Five minutes later Tsume came back with a half empty sake bottle. "I blame you for this Kakashi. Your student is using a restricted technique without even knowing why it is restricted. My daughter almost killed him by accident."

Slouching down Kakashi said, "I'll have Ebisu go over it with him tomorrow."

"Why not you?"

"I have to take Uchiha Sasuke out to train for his match with Sabaku no Gaara."

Hana snorted, "You're leaving the brat with Ebisu? Are you fucking kidding me?"

Tsume turned to her daughter, "You want to say something, Hana-chan?"

"Ebisu is a snob. He'll never be able to teach the brat anything."

"Oh?"

"The brat's almost an Inuzuka. The only way to teach him anything is to beat it into his brain. The only thing Ebisu will do is long overly complicated lectures."

"Well Kakashi, that settles it. Hana will teach Naruto this month."

"What? Mom!"

"You owe it to Naruto. You did almost kill him. If he doesn't pass you'll have to answer to me. Are we clear?"

"Yes, Mom."

"Um," Kakashi raised a hand, "is she qualified to teach?"

"She'd be jonin if it wasn't for that damn age restriction."

"Fine, fine."

"If I'm going to teach Naruto I'm going to need to know more about these shadow clones."

"Making a shadow clone uses a very large amount of chakra. Most genin would never be able to make a single clone. Though when the clone is dispelled some of that chakra is returned and recycled. With that chakra comes the memories of the clone. Apparently the chakra from a genjutsu also travels back," Kakashi said.

"By the Log, that is one ridiculously awesome technique. So Naruto gets all of the clone's experience. Why hasn't he been using it to train?"

"Train? With shadow clones? Well, that could work, I suppose..."

"What do you mean, you suppose?"

"The psychic shock of the shadow clones has been known to kill and when the psychic shock hasn't killed the severe chakra drain has," Kakashi shrugged.

"And you let him use it! That idiot!? Are you nuts?"

"He has an emerging bloodline. The first time he used it he created over a hundred clones. Considering that he didn't die then the Hokage and I decided that it would be safe for him to use."

"Until I almost killed him tonight."

"I didn't think about genjutsu. I didn't even know that the genjutsu would piggyback on the returning chakra. Anyway, I never thought about him using shadow clones to train. Normally it would be suicidal. He's probably is the only person who could do it."

x x x

Naruto woke up the next morning to the smell of bacon and eggs. Rolling off the couch he followed his nose into the dining room. Kiba and his family were tearing through a large pile of food like they hadn't eaten in a week.

"Good, you're up. I'm Tsume. You know my son and you met my daughter last night. Grab a plate and dig in."

Naruto happily complied and loaded his plate with gristle and fat. "So," he said around a mouthful, "why am I here?"

Tsume slammed a kunai next to his hand, "Don't talk with your mouth full. You are here because due to my daughter's and your collective stupidity it seems that my family owes you. I talked to your sensei and my daughter is going to repay that by being your sensei for the next month."

"Eh, but I wanted Kakashi-sensei to teach me."

"He was never going to teach your dumb ass. He's going to teach Sasuke," Kiba spoke up.

"Stupid Sasuke-teme."

"Don't worry, brat," Hana bared her teeth, "we're going to have a lot of fun this month."

After finishing breakfast and a long discussion about how shadow clones worked they headed out to the most isolated training ground with a lake that Hana could think of.

"We're going to start with just a few clones. Over the next month I'm going to monitor you as we gradually increase the number to figure out how you aren't expiring from psychic shock."

"Huh?"

"We start small and build up to figure out why you aren't dying every time you use your clones. Let's start with five."

Naruto put his hands together and called out "Kage Bunshin no Jutsu."

"Don't fucking shout your goddamn techniques, brat. That's not five. That's eight. Eight is not five, it is three more than five."

"Hehe," Naruto rubbed the back of his head sheepishly, "I don't really know how to create a specific number of clones. I just shove some chakra in until it feels like enough."

"Fine. Fine. There's no point in doubling up on training so you three start practicing the academy three, you practice throwing kunai, you shuriken, you one hundred punches on the training post then switch sides, you same thing except kicks, and you start running through the basic twelve handseals."

Turning away from the clones Hana said, "Original, we're going to work on your strength and speed. Now put these on," she tossed Naruto a set of weights knocking him over, "and run twenty laps on the lake."

"Eh, how do I run on the lake?"

"Not his fault, not his fault, not his fault," Hana muttered. "The same way you do tree climbing, brat. Channel chakra out of your feet."

Laughing sheepishly Naruto ran out onto the water and started doing laps. Hana's jaw dropped. First time waterwalking and he just takes to it instantly? The kids a genius or... shit. She turned around to look at the clones and winced. The clone punching the post was doing huge windups that would get get him killed in a fight, the kicking clone had already managed to dispel himself with a misaligned kick. The clone practicing handseals was going through them at a rate would make a first year academy student be ashamed. The henge clone had transformed into a naked girl. The bunshin clone had created two puking illusions and was muttering to himself about how useless it all was. The throwing clones were missing half their targets. The only clone that seemed to be doing well was the kawarimi clone and she could feel the surge of chakra down to her bones whenever he switched with his practice log. Nope, not a genius.

"Yo, punching clone. That's fucked up. You want to keep your punches fast and tight. Drop you shoulders and roll your hips. Like so. Throwing clones, hold the kunai like this and the shuriken like this and then just flick the wrist. Pervert clone, I want you to transform into every opponent you have fought since the academy. Not wank material. Clone clone, cut that crap out and start practicing kicks. Replacement clone, keep doing what you're doing but try to use less chakra. When the jutsu feels really easy stop saying the technique. When that becomes really easy drop the first seal. If you can get it down to one seal in this month I'll teach you shunshin."

The hour passed with Hana slowly teaching Naruto how to do things he should have been taught at the academy. Is he really that dumb? He seems to be picking up on it now. Was he just lazy? Holy shit! Was that Orichimaru?!

"Brat! Show me that last henge."

"Oh, you mean snake face? Henge." Naruto transformed into a leering Orichimaru, "I must apologize pretty lady but I prefer my company to be... younger." Orichimaru-Naruto licked his lips and glowered at Hana.

"Creepy. I thought I told you to transform into ninja you've fought."

"I did fight him! We fought him in the Forest of Death." Hana snorted. "Hey! Team Seven is awesome. We also fought Momochi Zabuza in Wave."

"Who?"

"One of the Seven Swordsman, Demon of the Mist, Zabuza 'look at me, I killed a bunch of kids so I'm really scary' Momochi."

"Holy shit, brat. What kind of missions have you been on?"

"One C-rank turned A and a bunch of D-rank. I finished my twenty laps. What next?" A wet Naruto said from behind her.

"Turning she gestured towards the clones, "I can work with this. It's going to be painful -for you not me- but I can work with this. Occasionally we'll get a nin-dog that hasn't been trained properly. Large chakra stores but no control. Every chakra exercise is either impossible to perform or superbly easy. The only way to fix it is to get their chakra pathway and tenketsu into shape."

"Ten-what-su?"

"Tenketsu," Hana groaned. "When you perform a jutsu you take chakra from the your reserves, channel it through your pathways and out of your tenketsu. The chakra pathway regulates the flow of chakra and the tenketsu shape the chakra. However you have such large stores that you instinctively throw more chakra at all your problems so you never exercise your pathway or your tenketsu. So you can do some jutsu like kage bunshin or waterwalking where you can make up for lousy control by throwing more chakra at the problem but you suck at regular bunshin which can only be done using a small amount of chakra."

Naruto scowled, "Chakra control this. Chakra control that. I'm awesome without it and I don't need-" Hana's fist to his midsection interrupted Naruto's spiel. Kneeing him in the chin and she yanked him up by his collar and threw him into a tree.

"One: I'm the sensei. What I say goes. Two: Chakra control is crucial for most jutsus. For example brat, we Inuzuka have a jutsu where we channel chakra into our nose to enhance our sense of smell. If you tried that jutsu you would never smell again. Now did you have any more questions or are you ready to train?"

Cough. Cough. Naruto gave a weak thumbs up. "Ready to train, Hana-sensei."

"Good. Now the only way to train good chakra control in your case is to get rid of your reserves forcing you to be more efficient in your molding. With that said I'm doubling your weights and you need to do another twenty laps around the lake. If you feel like you're running low on chakra stop and come back. Scooby here," she reached over and scratched one of her dog's ears, "will fish you out if need be. Hop to it."

"Now you," she pointed at the henged clone, "tell me why you lost to me."

"You're faster, stronger, and more experienced."

"No, well yes, but other than that. You covered my entire house in flea powder last year. You painted the Hokage monument. In our fight you created a dozen clones and charged with no plan."

"Those were pranks and pranks don't hurt people. That's what Jiji told me."

How do I explain this to an idiot? She took out a pack of paper and wrote 'kick me' on it. "Could you put this on my back?" Naruto nodded. "That's a prank. If we replace that with this," she pulled out an exploding tag, "it's a tactic. Do you understand?"

Naruto squinted at her, "So if I don't hurt someone it's a prank and if I do it's a tactic."

"Yes, that's close enough. In a fight you need to start using tactics. I want you to list every fight you've had. Then we're going to figure out what you could have done better."

x x x

Kakashi and his most talented and most troubling student were secreted away at the ANBU training grounds behind the Hokage monument. The threat of Orichimaru keeping them close to backup. Sighing Kakashi shot down another hare brained scheme that relied on ridiculous power levels. "Mah, that wouldn't work, Sasuke-kun. Your fireballs aren't hot enough to turn sand into glass."

"Then how would you beat Gaara, Kakashi-sensei?"

"Gaara uses an earth based defense so I would just use chidori. Considering the speed of the attack and the lightning release it is almost as if the chidori were designed to take out Gaara."

"So just teach me the chidori then."

Kakashi eye smiled down at his pupil. "Nope."

"What!? Why the hell not? You just said that the chidori is perfect against Gaara. Why wouldn't you teach me it?"

"The chidori is high level elemental manipulation technique. Even if you were a natural lightning elemental, which with the way that you throw fireballs around is unlikely, even then you would still require months of training to get to the level of the chidori."

"I can just copy it with my Sharingan."

"That's not how Sharingan actually works. The copy wheel idea is more myth than fact. The sped up perception, perfect memory, and ability to see chakra allow you to, with practice and training, copy your opponent. You have not yet had that training and won't complete it for a few years yet. Now, how would you defeat Gaara?"

"I can't. Even with these eyes I can't get past his sand defense. It's too fast and none of my jutsu are powerful enough."

"Think on it, Sasuke. In your career you will face many seemingly insurmountable obstacles. You must learn how to face them on your own. Until then we'll work on your speed training. Fifty laps around the training ground. Go."

x x x

"Stealth training today, brat. Nine clones. Eight of you as you were yesterday the ninth with me. Everyone else as you were yesterday." She waited until she was sure everyone was practicing. Turning to her largest nin-dog, "Gromit, he looks a little slow out there. Go give him some motivation." Gromit grinned and ran out on the lake towards the jogging Naruto.

"Alright clone, we won't be able to really develop good stealth until you have your chakra under control until then we-" They heard a scream coming from the lake. If you don't want to be bit run faster," Hana yelled to the distant Naruto. Turning back to the clone she continued, "Until then we can only work on visual, auditory, and olfactory factors." She saw Naruto's puzzled expression. Crap, two syllables, Hana, two syllable limit. "Sight, sound, and smell. First you need to lose the jacket."

"Eh? I love this jacket. Why would I ever replace jacket-kun? Everyone always notices when I wear jacket-kun. It's the perfect choice; comfy and stylish."

"Are you fucking kidding me? Fine, hang your jacket next to mine. Now, which one blends in with the forest better?"

"What the hell are you talking about? They look the exact same, you crazy woman."

"The exact...? Henge." Hana's hair turned green. "Henge." Hana's hair turned red. "Henge." Her hair turned yellow, "Did you see a difference?"

"What difference? How could I see a difference when you don't change?"

"Naruto, you're colorblind. It's like, like... imagine if you met a person who couldn't taste and you saw him eating pickles covered in wasabi because he couldn't tell the difference between that and a sausage with mustard."

"So I'm eating pickles with wasabi?"

"Right. Why do you like orange so much anyway?"

flashback

Naruto walked into the classroom strutting his stuff. The thrift store had a fifty percent off sale on a bunch of old jumpsuits. I look good. Everyone is looking at me today.

"What the hell, Naruto!? You're a ninja. Why are you wearing so much orange, you idiot!" Kiba called down from the back of the class.

I'm wearing orange? Well, I'm awesome and I'm wearing orange so orange is awesome! "Shut up, dog breath. Orange is the best color in the world, dattebayo!"

end flashback

"I don't really remember."

"But... how do you do henge if you're colorblind? You shouldn't be able to transform into what you can't see. You know what, just show me. Transform into me."

"Henge." Naruto looked away and pouted.

"Huh, that is weird. Okay, good job squirt." Hana reached over to pat him on the head and jabbed Naruto in the eye.

"Eh, what was that for you crazy bitch!"

"Shut up for a second." Hana patted Naruto down. "Two things: one, my breasts are a cup size bigger. Two, that is not henge."

"Of course it's henge. I put my hands together like this and said henge. What would it be if it wasn't henge?"

"I have no idea what you did, brat, but it ain't henge. If it was a henge I wouldn't have hit you in the eye. Henge is a visual genjutsu. I shouldn't be able to touch you. You know what? It's a problem for our future selfs. Right now we're going shopping."

x x x

"You're only twelve which means you're going to be growing a lot in the next few years. You should buy the cheapest outfits possible in this case that means the standard shinobi uniform with a genin flak jacket. It's subsidized by the village."

"But it's so boring."

"Brat, if you want to be promoted your best bet is to walk into that stadium looking like a professional. Get used to your nose smelling like shit, kid."

"I don't get it... why do I have to buy a flak jacket? Won't I get one when they promote me?"

"Yeah, but it's always good to have a spare, just pop in the red spiral and instant chunin flak jacket. Besides buying one now shows humility. I doubt that anyone will believe it but you're still expected to lie."

"I'm plenty humble. I'm the most humble person you've ever met. I'll kick your ass..."

"...and an extra hitae-ate, paper, ink, a bandana, and- hey brat, you're going up against a puppet user in the prelims, right? You're going to need a mask with activated charcoal to counteract any poisonous gasses."

"Is that why Kakashi-sensei always wears a mask?"

"Maybe. Rumor has it he was in ANBU for over a decade. Paranoia would have to run pretty deep after that long. I prefer the rumors that he wears it to avoid fangirls. You also need new shuriken and kunai that aren't crap and storage scrolls."

"Um, Hana-sensei, I can't afford all of that."

"I'll loan you the money."

"Thanks, Hana-sensei."

"And at only ten percent interest too. You lucky dog."

x x x

"Jiraiya, what are these reports about you peeking in the hot springs? I would think that you'd be too busy training Naruto."

"That Inuzuka, the cute one, is doing a good job teaching him the basics. Could you imagine me teaching basics?"

"You never learned them..."

"I never needed them."

"This wouldn't have anything to do with not wanting to anger Tsume, would it, Jiraiya?"

"No woman can resist the natural splendor that is the toad sage! Not the beauties of the east. Or the wonders of the west. The splendor of the north or the delights of the south. But that woman, she gets just a little too grabby. You know what I mean, Sensei?"

"Just stay away from the bathhouses, Jiraiya."

x x x

Ino and Sakura had made up. It was actually pleasant to have another girl to talk to about boys, flowers, how to get bloodstains out of silk... Laughing they moved aside for a ninja in uniform slowly shuffling along. A blonde ninja with a silver disc and a familiar spiral on his shoulder.

"Naruto, is that you?" asked Sakura.

"Hm, oh, hi Sakura-chan, Ino-chan. What do you mean," yawn, "is that me? Of course it's me. If I wasn't me then who would I be? And if I wasn't me," yawn, "then someone else would have to be me and then who would be-"

The loss of the orange made a definite improvement. He was still short but he didn't look so much like a little kid anymore. 'He'll never be a match for our Sasuke-kun,' inner-Sakura crowed.

Well of course not. He'll never hold a candle to Sasuke-kun. I was just saying he didn't look as bad. "Shut up, you idiot. I just meant that you look really different."

Naruto yawned, "Oh yeah. My new teacher made be buy new clothes. Why didn't anyone tell me that orange was like pickles with wasabi?"

"If you mean ugly, we did, Naruto, repeatedly. Hell, do you remember that time we were trying to burn your clothes?" pointed out Sakura.

"I just thought you were being perverted."

"What!?"

"Well, you were trying to strip me and-" Sakura's fist interrupted Naruto. "You idiot! Moron!"

Naruto just flopped to the ground and lay there as Sakura started to stomp on him. "Whoah. Hold on, Sakura-chan. Naruto-kun are you alright?"

"Tired. Very, very tired. Going... sleep... now."

"You're in the middle of the street. Come on let's get you home. Where do you live?"

"First and Bottom North. That way." With Ino supporting Naruto on one side and Sakura on the other they made their way to the edge of the market district.

"So what have you been doing that made you so tired, Naruto-kun?"

"Training. Horrible, horrible training with crazy, psycho dog lady."

Ino made eyes at Sakura then jerked her head down towards Naruto. You wanted someone to train you? Train with him. Sakura vehemently shook her head. Train with Naruto? Are you nuts? Ino just shrugged. Whatever you want to do.

"Um, Naruto, do you think I could train with you?"

"Dunno. You'd have to ask Hana-sensei. Inuzuka compound at six."

"This is your apartment, Naruto? It's really nice. Not a lot of decoration but really nice. How do you afford it?"

"Jiji gave it to me. There's instant ramen in the cupboard. Help yourself. I'm going to bed." Naruto stumbled out of the room.

"Jiji?"

"That's what he calls the Hokage."

"Weird." Ino started opening cupboards.

"Ino! What are you doing?"

"What does it look like I'm doing? I'm snooping. Seriously, this place is depressing. The only food is some milk, cereal, and instant ramen. There are no decorations aside from those house plants. I expected something... different."

"What did you expect?"

"I don't know. The walls painted orange? Action figures scattered around? Maybe a few porn magazines? This place looks like he hardly lives in it."

"He spends all his money on ramen. I'm not kidding. He puts away at least three bowls a meal usually more."

"How is he not fa- big-boned like Choji?"

"No idea."

"I thought ramen was cheap."

"Instant ramen yes, but he almost always eats at Ichiraku's. He drags me and Sasuke over there every chance he gets."

"Any good?"

"Yeah, but it gets a little tiresome after a while."

"What 's with the clan symbol on his shoulder?"

"The silver disc? I asked about that. The Hokage gave it to him. It has some sort of fancy seal which lets him to attach it to anything he wears."

How does he know the Hokage so well? Gossip senses tingling.

x x x

Hana looked at the pink haired girl in front of her. I wonder if the hair is part of a bloodline? Skinny, no musculature, bright clothes, and perfectly applied make-up. Ladies and gentleman we have a fangirl. "Pinky, you're useless. I mean that in every possible meaning of the word. Your physical conditioning sucks. You have no ninjutsu, genjutsu, or medical jutsu. Fortunately none of that is my problem. You are not my student, the brat is."

"You've barely tested me how do you know-"

"I had the brat describe every fight he's been in. Your bell test: you did nothing. The Mist Demon brothers: nothing. Momochi: nothing. Momochi again: nothing. The Ame genin team: nothing. Orichimaru: nothing. My brother couldn't stop laughing when he described your cat fight with the Yamanaka. Summary: you are completely useless."

"He's lying I did a-"

"Shut up, he phrased it differently. It took some work to find out every detail of those fights but the end result is that you are hanging onto your teammate's coattails. But please, prove me wrong. In all those encounters what did you do?"

"Naruto froze when we fought the Demon brothers!"

"I asked what you did. Not what he did."

"Hana-sensei, she's my teammate and won't it be best to-"

"No. My job is to get you ready for the finals, not train your teammates. She adds nothing to your instruction. Pinky, if you want training go to Maito Gai. He never turns down a student. He'll probably be at the hospital."

x x x

Oh Log, I hoped I'd never have to do this.

'Don't do it. Think of the horror. The eyebrows. The spandex.' inner-Sakura screamed.

The bitch was right. I did nothing against the demon brothers, Zabuza, Orichimaru, even that sound genin team laughed at my traps. I'm useless. "Hello Gai-sensei, Lee-kun. Here, these are for you." She placed a vase of violets beside Lee's bed. "How are you feeling, Lee-kun?"

Bandages wrapped most of Lee's body leaving only his face uncovered. Lee gave her his good-guy grin, "Thank you, Sakura-chan. I am feeling much better with you, my springtime flower beside me. If I cannot get better with your help I will run around the village a hundred times and if I can't do that I will hold my breath for twenty minutes and-"

"I'm glad that you're feeling better, Lee-kun. I'm sure you'll be well soon." Turning to Gai she asked,"Gai-sensei, will you train me?"

"What about my eternal rival?"

"Kakashi-sensei is training Sasuke somewhere. I haven't actually seen him since the prelims. Naruto's new sensei refuses to train me."

"Tell me, Sakura, do you have the flame of youth? The will to never give up? The dream of jumping to the heavens?"

"Um, yes. Yes, Gai-sensei. The, er, flames of youth consume me."

"Yosh! I will be happy to fan your flames, Sakura-chan. Soon you will be a match for my Lee-kun here. We'll start with these weights and ten laps around the village." Gai pulled out a pair of weights from who know where. He probably just used storage seals. And I just didn't see the smoke. Inner-Sakura snarked, 'Yeah, that's it. You aren't delusional at all.'

"YOUTH!" Lee called from the hospital bed.

"LEE!"

"GAI!"

"LEE!"

As the sunset genjutsu formed inner-Sakura was trying to crawl out of Sakura's ear, 'Abandon ship! Every man for themselves.'

x x x

"Alright, pop ten clones this time." Hana held glowing hands around Naruto's head while he dispelled ten clones. "What book were you reading?"

"I read... I can't remember."

"That's what I thought. Whenever your brain is getting an information overload from the clones it tosses out all the memories."

"So if I pop too many clones at once I won't get their memories? Ah man, I wasted all that training we just did."

"No, you didn't. We needed to figure out how your clones work with you. Make another ten clones and have them make up the time. You're eating lunch at my house today."

x x x

"When you said eating lunch I thought you meant eating lunch. Not cooking lunch."

In the middle of the kitchen were three strung up, struggling rabbits. "You need to know how to prepare food in the field. We kill the rabbits quickly to minimize their suffering. Take the kunai and position it like so. A quick jab and it will strike the brainstem killing instantly." Hana held up her rabbit for inspection. "Now you do it to these two and then we'll cover prepping and cooking."

"Do I have to? They're so cute and fluffy."

"Yes. You really have to." She guided his hand over the right spot. With a quick motion she brought his knife down into the rabbit's skull. Blood spurted out and covered Naruto's hands. "Good. With practice you'll be able to make a cleaner kill. Now do the next one on your own."

Over the next hour Hana helped Naruto dissect the corpses pointing out which organ could be eaten and which had to be thrown away. Serving the sweet meats to the dogs they chowed down roasted rabbit.

"Today you start learning how to make explosive tags. I will allow thirty seconds of celebration starting now." The way he shakes those hips, if he were five years older... Bad. Bad Hana. "Celebration is now complete. This is a concussion tag useful for spars and captures. This is an explosive tag, use it to kill or demolish. Copy them like this: start in the center with the large figure and then do the outside edges in a clockwise direction. I want one clone on the concussive and one on the explosive. You're not using chakra ink so all you'll be able to do with that is nonfunctional tags.

"This is another thing that you will only be able to do if you have good enough chakra control. If you try to write a tag with bad control it will blow up in your face. When your penmanship and chakra control are good enough we'll start making active tags."

x x x

Sakura and Gai stood outside of a clearing. Nervously looking at the ropes crisscrossing the ground Sakura kicked the kinks out of her leg. "This, my youthful student, is Lee-kun's personal training ground. When he heard about your determination and flames of youth he insisted that you use it." Jumping into the middle of the clearing Gai settled into his stance. "Come at me."

Sakura charged into the clearing. Jumping onto the ropes she leapt at Gai only twist in mid air to dodge a kunai launched from the perimeter. Landing she brushed another rope setting off another trap. Within seconds she was dancing around trying to dodge the hail of kunai. "This is insane!" At that point the log traps started activating and she had to dodge under a swinging log which putting her into the path of an uprooted tree flying towards her head. Sakura froze fortunately inner-Sakura wasn't ready to die.

"To hell with this, shannaro!" Sakura swung stopping the tree dead. "And you! What the hell is with this death trap! Are you trying to kill-"

Gai interrupted her with a giant, sobbing bear hug, "Sakura-chan, you've found your flames of youth. From now on we are going to build them higher. Stronger. Hotter. You will burn as bright as Lee-kun!"

x x x

The Yamanaka Flower Shop was a quiet place. Inoichi ran it to remove himself from the feeling of scum and decay the T and I department left behind. Now he could spend the day around flowers writing poetry for his lovely wife who had given him his precious and adorable baby girl. Nosy but still adorable.

"Hey Daddy, can you tell me about Uzumaki Naruto?"

Looking down at his little poppet he smiled, "He is a loyal ninja of the leaf."

"I just wanted to know about-"

"Ino, he is a loyal ninja of the leaf."

"I'm not questioning his loyalty, Dad. I just want to know about his clan."

"Ino, listen closely. He is a loyal ninja of the leaf."

"You can't tell me anything about him?"

"He is a loyal ninja of the leaf," Inoichi smirked.

Ino stomped out of the shop. I should have tried that years ago. Now what rhymes with begonia?

x x x

"You have done very well, Sakura-chan. My delightful student Tenten-chan is back from leave. For the rest of the day you will practice with Tenten-chan whilst I visit Lee-kun and encourage him with the power of youth." Guy ran away manly tears streaming down his face.

"You've been training with Gai for a week? How are you still alive?"

"What do you mean? He's your sensei and you've had him for a year."

"Well, yeah. He's a great sensei in small doses. Usually Neji and I use Lee as a shield. They fixate on each other and as long as you don't get caught in the sunsets it works really well."

"Well, after the first few days it isn't that bad. You just start to appreciate his energy and dedication. You know, his flames of youth-"

"He got to you, you poor, poor thing."

"No, no he didn't-"

"You're wearing orange leg warmers."

"Oh my god, it's true. Tenten, promise me if I ever wear latex or try to grow out my eyebrows you'll do the right thing. You'll do the right thing and end it for me?"

"Shh, everything is going to be fine. We're going to go shopping, just the two of us. So what weapon do you specialize in? Keep in mind that if you say something girly like the rope dart I will have to beat some sense into you."

"I don't really have a weapon specialization. I just use kunai and shuriken."

"No, no, that will never do. Alright Sakura-chan, close your eyes. Now, imagine someone you hate. Someone you want to tear limb from limb. Let's say it's Tora the cat. How would you leave the corpse?"

"Impaled to the wall of his fatass owner's carriage. Shannaro!"

"See. Piece of cake. Now let's just go buy you a new best friend."

Tenten dragged Sakura, a Sakura filled with the flames of youth by Maito Gai and love of steel by Tenten, into Bloodbath and Beyond, the largest weapon shop in Konoha. "I want that one."

"It's a little large."

"I don't care. I want that one."

"It's bigger than you are."

Sakura turned towards Tenten, her eyes filled with fire. "I. Want. That. One."

"Your money. I have a spare storage scroll here."

Sakura emptied her wallet. Every ryo she had earned from missions, her birthday money, and even the money she earned by selling hand towels with Sasuke's sweat to his fan club went towards her newest love.

x x x

"Create your clones and set them to what they were doing yesterday. Today we're going to take a look at that transform technique of yours. I don't know what the hell you are doing but it's not henge. You've already transformed into Akamaru once. Let's start there."

Hana circled the transformed Naruto. She poked, prodded, and then picked up Akamaru-Naruto. "Somehow all the dimensions are correct including weight. It's not an active effect, I can't feel you generating any chakra... you actually transformed into Akamaru. Except the smell. The smell is wrong, we'll have to work on that. Naruto-kun, until you can completely suppress your chakra do not transform into an animal within the village."

With a poof of smoke Naruto reappeared sitting on his haunches. "Why?"

"Chakra is the combination of physical and mental energy. Only beings capable of intelligent thought (though in your case I wonder) can use chakra. If a ninja senses an animal with chakra it is presumed to be a summon. Unless it is already known and registered with the village (a toad, dog, or monkey) it will be attacked with extreme prejudice."

"Eh, that blows."

"It's a necessary precaution against spying. Now transform into Kakashi." She reached out and took started tugging at the transformed mask. "Why. Won't it. Move!" "Owowowowow stop that." "Alright. It's not a perfect transformation. The mask seems to be fused with your skin. Try to lift up your shirt." Further experimentation showed that the shirt was also stuck to Kakashi-Naruto. He couldn't grow larger than Zabuza or smaller than Akamaru and his chakra control was messed up when he transformed. The greater the transformation the larger the difference in chakra control. Hana theorized that his tenketsu were actually moving causing an abrupt change in how he had to mold chakra.

"So when will I learn how to suppress my chakra?"

"When you have good enough control it will come naturally. You can already do it for a split second when you dispel a genjutsu."

"This is so cool! I can transform into a bird and fly. Or I can transform my arms into swords-"

"Don't do that. The bird thing might work, but flight isn't as easy as strapping on a pair of wings, there was this one time when I was younger that I- you don't need to hear the rest. I suggest that you observe birds before you try that. Since you can't get any smaller than Akamaru the messenger hawks would be your best bet and only use clones until you've mastered it. As for transforming your body into weapons... swords can be brittle. With enough experimentation you could, possibly, work out the kinks. But until then what would happen to you if one of your arms are shattered?"

"I can just use my clones!"

"That might work. Create a couple clones and try it out." Naruto created a dozen clones each transformed into a different weapon, axes, swords, spears. Picking up the sword Naruto swung it into a target post. It stuck there for a moment and then popped into smoke. Trying again with a battleax led to the same result. "So the clone can't stay stable for more than one hit. Pity."

"That doesn't make sense." Borrowing a kunai from a clone he slashed the training post. "See? Cloned objects work fine."

"So that mean your henge is introducing weaknesses. Aren't you glad I stopped you from using it on your arms?" Naruto shuddered at the thought. "Keep trying later, right now we need to work more on your control. Scooby, Snoopy sic him." Hana smiled as Naruto ran screaming across the lake. Her student did have some potential after all.

x x x

Ka-thump. Crack. The training post split in two. "Well, Tentan-chan? Is it big enough?" Sakura reloaded her arbalest. It was taller than she was and weighed more too however Sakura's only regret after seeing a bolt split a post in two were the inevitable 'she must be compensating for something. Snigger snigger' jokes.

Tenten squealed. "I will never say that again. I want to try. My turn. My turn."

"Try it from 150 yards. My baby is supposed to be accurate up to 500 yards and I want to gradually move that far back."

x x x

Two weeks in the hospital had left Hinata very bored. She had been using the Byakugan for entertainment. Three of the doctors had been having affairs, two of the nurses were stealing hospital supplies, and the janitor alternated between tormenting an overly friendly doctor and pretending to be other people. It was amusing for the first week but now she could predict the daily occurrences and trip falls. The only consolation that she had was blackmailing the misbehaving hospital staff into supplying her with reading materials.

Naruto stuck a head into the hospital room. Seeing her he smiled and waved. "Hi Hinata-chan," I brought these for you. Kiba said you'd like a visitor." Naruto handed her a bundle of wildflowers.

Am I dreaming? Hinata pinched herself. Seeing no change she pinched herself harder. Seeing that it wasn't a dream or genjutsu she nervously accepted the flower from her Naruto.

"Sorry I couldn't be here in person."

"What-t-t, Naruto-kun?"

"Oh, yeah. I'm just a clone. Boss is busy training for the finals."

"Y-y-you're a c-clone? Then I c-c-can p-practice with you."

"Sure. Practice what?"

Turns out that Hinata wanted to have someone to practice talking with. She talked slowly and with a lot of stuttering about her home life and how much she respected Neji, her Oni-san. The brutal spars she had with her father and sister. The high expectations of her clan. Then about the academy and how she saw a cute boy who would never give up. "...and that b-b-boy was you, Naruto-kun. I l-l-l-love you." Hinata turned bright red. "Th-thank you, clone-kun," and so saying Hinata whipped a kunai out from under her pillow and implanted it into the clones head, "b-but I can't have Naruto-kun finding out yet. Naruto-kun..." Giggling Hinata lay down and opened up a pilfered medical textbook.

x x x

Naruto didn't have a very large circle of friends and while Shikamaru could probably give good advice in combat the only thing he ever said about women was "Troublesome." Choji and Kiba would never let him live it down. That left Kakashi-sensei and Naruto had no idea where he was, the Hokage, who Naruto wasn't going to bother with this, and Ayame who when asked just giggled and said that her Naruto-kun was growing up, and Hana-sensei. After Hana-sensei had flat out refused to help in the matters of the heart.

Maybe it will make her jealous? I can't think of anyone else. Maybe Shikamaru is right, this is all very troublesome. After two hours searching with clones he found Sakura in a deserted training ground obliterating targets with the biggest crossbow he had ever seen.

"Hey, Sakura. I've got a problem that I thought you might be able to help me with."

Sakura glanced over and leered, "Sure. Create a couple clones first. I need some target practice."

"Fine. Hand over the ammo."

"Why?"

"If I clone it we won't have to go looking for it at the end of practice."

"That's... actually a really good idea." Loading her baby with a cloned bolt she grinned nastily at the clones. "Start running."

"So I, er, accidentally overheard Hinata. She said, well, she said that she loved me." Naruto winced as Sakura shot a clone.

"Does she know that you 'accidentally' overheard her?" Grunting she recocked her baby.

"No. She doesn't. What am I supposed to do?"

"Well, how do you feel about her? Do you feel about her the same way that you feel about me? And that wasn't an opening for you to ask me for a date." She shot another clone hiding behind a tree. Naruto stared at the tree Sakura had shot the bolt through.

"I don't know."

"Naruto, if you hurt her I'll kill you. She's been pining over you for years."

"How'd you know that?"

"She wasn't exactly subtle about it."

"Right, I'm just block headed. Why doesn't anyone tell me these things?" Naruto mumbled. He gestured at the reloaded arbalest, "Hey can I see that? I want to try something." Naruto took Sakura's loaded precious and then created five clones. Each holding an arbalest. As one they all shot at a training post. They all missed, Naruto having no idea how to aim, but the effect was still impressive as the bolts kicked up a small cloud of dirt. "Kick ass."

"Why the hell.. how the hell... give that back, you idiot!" Sakura grabbed the crossbow from Naruto. "You're going to teach me how to do that.."

"Eh heh, sorry Sakura-chan. But I'm sort of forbidden from teaching it to anybody."

"That just isn't fair. You can't play with my baby anymore."

"Come on, just one more shot." Sakura just shook her head. "Fine. What am I supposed to do about Hinata then?"

"Well Naruto, I can tell you right now that you ain't getting any of this," Sakura gestured at herself, "so why don't you try asking her to be your girlfriend?"

"After the finals then. She's still in the hospital and I'm busy training."

"Make sure you keep giving her flowers while she's in the hospital."

"Oh yeah, good idea. Thanks, Sakura-chan."

x x x

"This jutsu that I'm going to teach you is almost never taught to genin. Before I teach it to you you must promise to only use it with clones until I or your jonin-sensei, actually no, just me. When I say otherwise."

"I, Uzumaki Naruto, genin of the leaf swear to only use this mighty and powerful jutsu with a clone until told otherwise by the beautiful Hana-sensei."

"I'm serious brat. Screw up this jutsu and you'll die. The only reason I'm teaching it is because you can use it with your shadow clones. It's called Hide Like a Mole no Jutsu. It does exactly what it sounds like. Here are the hand seals. Give it a go." The clone fumbled through the seals. Nothing happened. "Not unexpected. Watch what I'm doing: I draw out my chakra with ram, convert it into earth with snake and then do the other hand seals and Earth Release: Hide Like a Mole no Jutsu!" With a puff of smoke Hana disappeared.

"So cool." Hands came out from underneath Naruto and sucked him down so only his head was left above the surface.

"Isn't it though?" Reaching down Han tugged him back up. "Same deal as the kawarimi. The only difference is the first two seals. Don't drop those seals, they're what's known as as chakra filters. You need them to convert your chakra into earth type."

"So I'm always going have to use seals for this?"

"When you get better at drawing out your chakra you can drop the ram. The only way you can do any elemental jutsu sealless, however, is if you develop the right affinity. A higher affinity also means that your filter is more efficient." Simple kid, simple terms, Hana. "Er, better affinity means less chakra more boom."

"You don't have to be condescending."

Hana gaped, "Where did you hear that word. It's more than three syllables."

"I've been reading those books you got me."

Hana rubbed her nose irritably, "How many clones do you have that you haven't told me about?" It took a week before she found out that Naruto was barely literate. Since then she had checked out a dozens of novels, biographies, and declassified mission reports. She had smacked him upside the head when she found that for a week he had only been rereading Tale of a Gutsy Ninja because it had his name in it.

"About ten. Can you teach me affinities?"

"Nope. You have to train your tenketsu and coils for that and we don't have the time."

Naruto made the handseals and with "Earth release: Hide Like a Mole no Jutsu!" his feet dropped half an inch into the ground.

"This is no good. You're using more than enough chakra, even with your control, but... Naruto, get your ass over here," and Hana punched the clone dispelling it. Naruto came tearing across the lake chased by Scooby and Snoopy. "Stop boys. Playtime is over for now. Brat, it looks like you have an opposing affinity. We're going to need to work on your ability to filter earth chakra before you can do any earth jutsus."

"But you just said we didn't have enough time."

"We don't have the time to teach you an entire affinity. This is more like rushing through the steps before the first stage. Unfortunately it's similar to control exercises in that clones won't benefit you. For the next hour you're going to make sand castles like so, "Ram. Snake. Earth Release: Sandcastle no Jutsu!" A plain cylinder like a kid had packed a pail full of sand rose from the ground. "The trick is to concentrate on what form you want the castle to take and force your chakra to make that form. Get practicing."

"I'll show you. I'll make the best sandcastle ever! Earth Release: Sandcastle no Jutsu!" Naruto slammed the ground. A slight bump formed.

"Keep practicing and use more chakra. We still need to start your normal chakra exercises."

Naruto muttered, "Sadistic bi-"

"I'm an Inuzuka. I can hear everything you say."

"-g toe. How could I have stubbed you? Hana-sensei, do I really need to say this jutsu?"

"It focuses the mind making it easier to perform. So... yes. Yes, you do." Future blackmail material? Me? No, I'd never do something like that.

x x x

"Hey guys, you eat here too?"

"It's all you can eat barbeque. We have a hungry Akimichi on our team. Of course we eat here."

"Yeah. I'd usually go for ramen but Hana-sensei say I'm too skinny and that I need to put some meat on my bones."

Asuma looked over at Naruto, "Oh? I heard you were being trained by Inuzuka Hana. All the other contestants are being trained by jonins. Are you sure you're going to be ready?"

"Damn right I'm going to be ready. I've been working my ass off. You wouldn't believe everything we've covered. Everything from rope escapes to-"

"Naruto!" Ino yelled right into Naruto's ear, "You shouldn't talk about your training in front of your opponent."

"Shika? The only way that Shika and I will fight is in the final match and he's way too lazy to get that far. He'll forfeit before then."

Shikamaru nodded, "True."

Naruto and Choji dug in while Ino started berating Shikamaru. It wasn't ramen but Naruto had to admit that it was good. And cheaper. Ten bowls of ramen per meal really hurt his wallet, but it still wasn't Ichiraku's. Looking up Naruto saw Choji glaring at him. "Do I have something on my face?"

"You're keeping up with Choji," Asuma said with awe.

Bite for bite Naruto and Choji were eating at the same speed. Once it was pointed out Choji started eating faster. Naruto grinned and picked up his pace to match. They raced down to the last bite on the grill. "You can have it, Choji-kun." Choji happily grabbed the last piece and saying a quiet prayer devoured the morsel. "You know, I've been meaning to tell you this Choji and seeing that you're so happy right now... The way you wear your hitae-ate makes it look like you have underwear on your head."

"Huh?"

"It's true. Tell him, Ino-chan."

"Hey, leave me out of this. Though, yeah, it is kind of true."

"I thought it looked kind of dashing," Choji scowled.

"So Naruto-kun," said Ino, "not that I'm trying to change the subject or anything, but what can you tell me about your clan?"

"Hmm, why'd you want to know?"

"Just curious about my fellow ninja. After all you never know when we'll have to go on missions together."

"I don't have a clan. Jiji-san said that it was destroyed at the beginning of the Third War."

"So it's like you're the last remnant of a long lost clan training to be a shinobi to avenge their deaths?"

"That sounds familiar... Oh hell no. I'm not like Sasuke-teme! You take that back Ino-. Ino-chan?" Naruto looked around the table. "Where'd she go?"

"Troublesome."

"It's too late. By the time you find her the entire village will know about your tragic past," chuckled Asuma.

"Damn it. I'm not the teme... hey, do you think I'll get any fan girls out of this?"

"You can't brood. No angry brooding, no chicks. Them's the rules," said Choji.

x x x

"Um, Hana-Sensei, if I'm underground how do I know when to attack?"

"It's difficult to do but you just need to sense their chakra and time it correctly."

"Sense... their... chakra? How do I do that?"

"You don't know how to- No, of course you don't. Unfortunately for you, brat, I only know of one way to teach how to sense chakra. I can only teach the most basic, inexact versions of chakra sensing. To get better you need near perfect control of your chakra or a bloodline."

"So what can you sense, Hana-sensei?"

"I can sense when someone is using chakra and the approximate direction but not distance. That's how I know that you're using too much chakra in all your techniques. It is as if you were shouting when everyone else is whispering."

x x x

"Are these what I think they are, my most adorable student?"

"Blast lances. They still need tags though."

Kakashi fondled one of the lances, "These are lovely. From the Uchiha armory I presume?"

"Hn."

"We'll start working on how to reinforce weapons with chakra. Here take this stick. Surround it with your chakra. Good, good. Now... defend yourself!" Kakashi flashed out a kunai and slashed through Sasuke's stick. "Ah, see, that's no good. If you can't do better you're going to scar. Now, let's try that again."

x x x

Blindfolded, nose and ears plugged the clone lay inside a bedroll. No sight. No sound. No smell. No wind. Nothing. Naruto just lay there. What am I supposed to be doing? Sensing chakra just by sitting here doing nothing. I wonder what ramen I should eat tonight I should be doing something I'm bored I wonder what the other clones are doing has to be more interesting than this nothing happening nothing happening crazy bitch doesn't know what she's talking about one hundred cups of ramen one hundred cups of ramen on the wall one fell down and hit the ground ninety-nine cups of ramen...

...no cups of ramen on the wall bored bored bored bored bored bored what's that? It feels... bubbly? Like the steam off of fresh cooked ramen. There's someone above me, and someone to the right, and- I did it, I'm the best, dattebayo. "Hey, let me out. I got it. I can sense you all."

"Good for you, brat. Now shut up."

"Eh? But I can sense chakra now. It's boring in here. Let me out."

"Shut it. You'd think you would've learned by now that just because you can do something doesn't mean you've mastered it. How many people in the direction of your feet?"

"Eh, two?"

"Wrong. You aren't getting out of there until your range is far enough to sense them. Now shut up and figure it out."

x x x

Sasuke sprinted forward zigzagging across the ground. Right hand grasping a lance, left trailing behind him. With a final thrust he jammed the lance a foot into a boulder and twisted the handle. With a whomp the boulder blew apart stinging Sasuke with the thrown rubble.

"Very good, Sasuke. You should be able to handle Gaara with that. Now how are you going to prepare for the other opponents?"

"There are six other opponents. How can I prepare for all of them in the week and we have left?"

"You need to use your brain. Who's your opponent after Gaara."

"So I need to figure out how to fight Neji."

"Mah, you never know. Naruto could win his fight with Neji."

"That idiot beat Neji? Tche, how do I fight the Byakugan?"

"Have a little faith in your teammates, Sasuke-kun."

"Hn."

Kakashi sighed, "Neji will be a tougher fight than Gaara given the conditions. You cannot use lethal force on a fellow Leaf Shinobi which limits your options. Neji on the other hand will be using the Gentle Fist. A style that is just as powerful subduing an opponent as it is killing them."

"So I should just give up? Is that what you're saying to me?"

No, you should fight him from a distance keeping out of the range of his taijutsu. When that inevitabley fails and he manages to close the distance you should surrender before he closes off all your tenketsu thereby proving that you are ready to be a chunin. "I'm sure you'll figure out something."

x x x

Twenty clones were working on every conceivable exercise Hana could think up. From knife fighting to reading 101 Amusing Mission Reports to the academy bunshin which after over four months away from the academy Naruto could finally perform. Another ten clones were cranking out explosive tags as fast as they could write.

"One seal? Damn brat, you bring a tear to my eye. Alright keep a clone practicing kawarimi; there is a big jump from one seal to no seals and make me another clone."

Hana sniffed the air. Looking around to make sure nobody was watching, "You can't tell any of your friends how to do this. It uses an absurd amount of chakra and if they start before they are ready-"

"They could die. You really take all the fun out of jutsus, Hana-sensei."

"Jutsus aren't toys. We're reordering reality as we see fit and you better believe they're dangerous. Heh, look at it another way; you are going to be the only one from your class who'll be able to do this for probably two more years. Now the big secret is this: you already know shunshin. All it is is kawarimi with air."

"So the big chakra usage is because-"

"Air is so light that you have to use an exponentially higher amount of chakra than if you were just using a log. Now start with all the handseals just like you were starting kawarimi again. Remember that you can't shunshin in public until you can do it without seals. Keeps the mystique alive, doncha know. Oh, and never use this as an offensive weapon. The transition leaves you open to attack for a split second."

"If I can't use it in combat-"

"You can use it in combat but only to retreat like kawarimi and kawarimi is better for that as a general rule. Mainly it's just used to look cool."

x x x

"Honey, I think it's time we had a little talk."

"What about, Mom?"

"You've been eating an awful lot recently. Are you going off of your diet?"

"I've been training like crazy lately. It's all I can do to cook the meat before I eat it."

"We're very proud of you for becoming a ninja, Honey. But shouldn't you start to look beyond that? You need to start learning how to run our shop and men buy more from a girl with a good figure."

"I'm not interested in spending my life carving wood. It was fun when I was younger but now I'm a ninja."

"This shop has supported our family for three generations. It fed and clothed you growing up. All we ask in return is that you do the same."

"I am a ninja. I have more responsibilities than just the shop. What did you think was going to happen? I graduate, get my hitae-ate then settle down and become a carpenter?"

"You were never supposed to graduate! Not go running off into danger at the drop of a hat."

"Then why did I even go?"

"Where else would you learn to mould chakra? Our art requires it."

"So you signed me up for military service on the hope that I would wash out? And now you're angry because your carefully laid plans – that you never told me about – are ruined?"

"We only want what's best for you, dear."

"So do I, Mother, but right now we seem to disagree on what that is."

"I am your mother and you will treat me with respect."

Sakura slapped her hitae-ate on the table. "I am a genin of the lead and I could request the same."

"Get out. Come back when you are willing to make a rational decision."

Sakura stalked out of the kitchen, "You don't mean rational. You mean your decision." At least I can stay with Ino for a couple of days. Hopefully she'll have come to her senses by then.

x x x

"There are only two days left. Take your weights off. You'll need to readjust your body. Now, what are the first and second true rules of a ninja?"

"You cannot hit what you cannot see, except with explosives. Explosions solve all problems including problems explosions create."

"Brat, if it was in my power I'd make you a chunin right now. Light workouts today and tomorrow. You need to be rested for the exam."

x x x

Author's Notes: I don't own Naruto.

Long authors notes, mainly notes to myself. Just feel free to skip. That's why I stick it at the end unlike those bastards who stick it at the beginning and make you search for the start of the chapter.

The entire series jumped the shark after the chunin exam. Before the exam the fights were about how a technique was used. After the exam it started to look like Yu-Gi-Oh. I use Clones! I counter with with bone sword! I counter your counter with Rasengan! But Rasengan is ineffective against my bone armor! etc... So this fanfic is going to be highly AU. The first fight against Momochi Zabuza is about as extravagant as two jonins ever get (Genin actually tend to have the largest fights because they don't know better yet, one of the reasons the last stage of the chunin exam is held open to the public. It shows off the strength of the village to civilians who don't know any better while keeping village techniques secret because, after all, they are only genin) and the only reason that it was that extravagant was Kakashi showing off for his students.

Beyond the fights the entire mood of the world also changed after the chunin exam. It shifted from an unstable dystopia to a shallow background for said fights. In this fanfic Madara is dead, Obito is dead, Itachi was never ordered to massacre his clan, there never was a ten-tails, the Rinnegan allows the user to use all elements (including combination elements like ice, metal, steam, etc [but not mukoton]) but nothing more, there are both more and less jinchuuriki (fewer tailed beasts but more spirits and minor demons), and the Sharingan caps out at Tsukiyomi.

Naruto's greatest weaknesses are ignorance, learned stupidity, and hubris. Fanfiction loves talking about how arrogant Sasuke is but Naruto is just as bad. This was going to be a different story with Hana's only role as beating the stupid out of Naruto and Naruto's main teacher being Tenten but that got lost somewhere.

As for Naruto's chakra capacity: it is higher than every ninja in the village including the Hokage but he cannot create hundreds of clones without the Kyuubi, which for the record is canon compliant. I'm topping him out at about fifty without using the Kyuubi and I still feel like I'm overpowering that move. I thought about making it so clones couldn't use jutsu but then I would have to carefully delineate everything they could and couldn't do, treewalking or activating an explosive tag for instance.

Naruto's precious people: all it takes to becomes a precious person is minimal physical contact and a few kind words. A lot of these fics have Naruto realizing how terrible a teacher Kakashi is and how Sakura will never love him etc. etc. but that is out of character for Naruto. He will always think of Kakashi/Sasuke/Sakura/Teuchi/Ayame/Sandaime/Iruka as precious to him unless they egregiously betray him. And considering that Sasuke shoved a chidori into his lung and Naruto still forgave him I have no idea how big a betrayal would be needed.

Naruto's new clothes: I don't want him wearing orange and I hate it when an author spends a page describing his clothes. With the sporadic nature of fanfic updates I can never remember what Naruto is supposed to be wearing anyway, it just gets ten times worse when Naruto buys a ton of weapons. The uniform makes sense. The flak jacket is too damn useful (in the first chapter it managed to stop a fuuma shuriken that should have killed Iruka, for example) to limit to chunin and above so the only difference between the genin and chunin uniform is the red spirals on the jacket. Oddly enough that silver disc shows up on Naruto's clothes pre and post timeskip so that, of course, had to be included.

Naruto's apartment: have other people been looking at the same anime/manga that I have? Naruto's apartment is sweet. Sparsely furnished but large enough for a kid living on his own with roof access. Absolutely nothing in the anime or manga suggests that Naruto lives in the Red Light District or slums.

On chakra control: I'm not going to make this easy for Naruto. Chakra control depends on elements inside of the body not just the brain so kage bunshin won't work. Same with elemental transformations.

Sakura: pre-timeskip she's the princess that needs to be protected. I said before that she came pre-bashed and I meant it. I've been watching the anime on Hulu and it is taken to ridiculous extremes on how useless she was. In the Tea Country arc the enemy jonin actually lets her treat Idate behind his back. She is three feet from his turned back and he doesn't care and she doesn't even try anything. The pre-timeskip series is all like that. I really don't feel guilty about writing her OOC. At least I gave something of an excuse.

On shunshin and kawarimi: it doesn't make sense that they increase movement speed if kawarimi is the more basic variation. To replace yourself with a log you would have to run to the log carry the log back to the starting point and then run back to where the log used to be. In other words you are traveling three time the distance that a shunshin would take.

On Chidori and Rasengan: How the hell were Sasuke and Naruto able to learn these? Chidori is a high level elemental technique somewhere between the wind chakra exercises of cut a leaf and cut a waterfall. It should have taken months for Sasuke to have mastered it. Rasengan is high level chakra control exercise that Naruto should haven't been able to learn for several years. And further, Rasengan is introduced as move that penetrates. It creates a perfect round hole in its target yet it somehow keeps on creating craters or throwing backward in canon. It is not an enhanced punch, it is a drill. Naruto should have been leaving holes in bodies not throwing them into the horizon.