Chapter 3: The Demon Brothers and their Cat

He ran forward, placing his foot onto the tree before ascending it. Suddenly, he felt that new sensation of his axes tilting as he traveled along the perpendicular plane of the bark. Then, it ended. He fell on his ass.

"Damn it." Naruto scowled. "I almost had it that time."

Asuma shook his head. "You're putting too much chakra into it. See that mark on the tree?" Naruto looked at the bark and noticed there was a scorched section of the tree, most likely from the overabundance of chakra he used to stick to it. "That's the reason why this technique is applied for chakra control, because it requires such a precise amount of chakra."

Naruto frowned at the plant that dared to defy him. "Doesn't stop it from being difficult."

Asuma laughed. "No it doesn't. Nor does it change the fact that you still need to get up there."

The boy scowled before running at the tree again.

"I've got it!" Ino cheered as she sat at the top. She dangled her legs off the branch, grinning.

"Very nice job, Ino." Asuma said. "Your chakra control is definitely really good." He watched Naruto fall off the tree again. "Perhaps you could give Naruto here a few pointers."

Naruto stood up and growled at the defiant piece of wood. "I just want to walk up you, damn it!" He swore at the tree. It was not fazed.

"Hey, Naruto. Just take it slowly. Feel the tree with your chakra, like this." Ino walked up to his tree and pressed her foot against it, feeling for the right amount of chakra. "When you have the right amount, your foot should stick to the tree. Don't try running up until you know the exact amount you need."

Naruto nodded, and tried it, feeling his foot stick tightly to the tree after a bit of trial and error with chakra input. "Wow, thanks Ino." He said, grinning. He then hiked up the tree, making sure to apply that principle all the way up. In a moment of overconfidence, he slipped near the top, but managed to grab again with his feet. He stopped mere inches above a terrified Ino. "That was close." Naruto walked up again.

Ino scowled, raising her fist at him. "Watch where you're going baka!" Asuma merely chuckled.

Naruto marched back down the tree. "Hey where's Shika?"

Asuma tilted his head, indicating Naruto to look in that direction, where Shikamaru was asleep on a tree branch. "He's already done." The jonin sensei smirked.

"Huh?!" Naruto said, looking at the lazy genin again. "How did he get it so fast?"

The bearded jonin stroked his chin. "Dunno. He's just better than you maybe?"

Naruto turned around and crossed his arms. "Hmph!"

Asuma smirked thoughtfully. He had to teach them ninjutsu anyway. While this was technically. "Tell you what, Naruto. Get this down and I'll teach you about chakra natures."

Naruto grinned. "Alright!"

His torture wasn't over for the day, unfortunately. It had been a month since they had officially become genin, and when the endless D-Rank weren't there to make him cry himself to sleep, his sensei Jiraiya was.

"Jiraiya-sensei! I think I got it!" Naruto said, beaming with pride at his new storage seal. The pattern, from the eyes of a standard ninja, looked impeccable. Jiraiya's eyes gleamed.

"Okay then, brat." The Toad Sage instructed. "If you think you've got it, seal something in there."

Naruto nodded and retrieved a kunai from his pouch, placing it on the scroll. He made a ram hand sign. "Fuin!" The small dagger disappeared. Naruto grinned and looked up at Jiraiya, who nodded.

"Alright, now get it out of there."

Naruto placed his hand on the seal and charged it with chakra. It promptly exploded, sending Naruto bouncing and skidding across the grass until he crashed painfully into a tree. Jiraiya howled with laughter when Naruto looked up with a dazed expression on his face.

"Brat, you intersected the recursion matrices on the left!" The Sannin grinned.

"When were you going to tell me that!?" The young Uzumaki barked.

"The seal told you that well enough!" Jiraiya laughed.

Naruto frowned picking up his supplies. Jiraiya had gotten him an inkpot and brush in order to start sealing, but to the boy's dismay, the first few weeks of sealing practice had instead been calligraphy lessons. Jiraiya said that if his handwriting wasn't perfect when he created seals shit could hit the fan quickly. The Sannin said that every seal master owned a calligraphy set and used it regularly.

Jiraiya was an effective teacher. Naruto couldn't doubt that. As a result of the weeks spent practicing calligraphy, Naruto found it difficult to write with anything less than perfect handwriting. His wrists – both of them, Jiraiya had emphasized that ambidexterity was one of the most important skills for a seal master to have – were dexterous and capable of creating the most fleeting, romantic strokes with a single movement.

Jiraiya sighed after controlling his laughter. "Okay Naruto, write another one, and this time don't intersect the recursion matrices, and this time, do it with your left hand." The Sannin said carefully. Naruto growled, picking up the brush with his southpaw and drawing the appropriate matrices with a few brush strokes before calling it good. Jiraiya picked up the paper and took a look over it.

He was very impressed with how Naruto's calligraphy was going. He picked it up almost instantly, and the rest he had absorbed like a sponge. Jiraiya had hypothesized initially that Naruto was born ambidextrous like his father, but wrote with his right hand out of habit, because from the get go his left-handed strokes were equivalent to his right-handed ones. He looked over the seal before, checking the methods and execution this time.

Jiraiya gave no guidance on this assignment. After Naruto learned some basic sealing theory, the Sannin had told him to come up with a seal that could store objects on his own, so he was surprised at the design that the young Uzumaki had come up with. It was… Uzumaki-like in its design, which Jiraiya figured could only be genetic, but there was some latent genius hidden in it as well. In fact, with the recursive matrices not intersecting like before… This was the most efficient storage seal that he had ever seen. Jiraiya put up a poker face like a pro, but grinned inwardly. This boy was a natural genius.

"Alright. This is good." The Sannin said. He handed it back to Naruto. "This time, don't lose your kunai in a chakra void." Naruto nodded, he spread out the seal and sealed the kunai inside, seeing the dagger vanish. Now to get it out. He placed a hand on the seal, pumped in some chakra, and grinned when the kunai emerged unscathed. "Yeah!" He jumped up. "I knew it would work!"

Jiraiya nodded, pride swelling in him for his student. "Excellent work, Naruto. Produce seals like that and you're on the road to mastery."

Naruto turned to him. "I thought you said not anyone could become masters?"

Jiraiya shrugged. "Well, anyone can become a master if they live long enough, but the truly gifted are those who master it in twenty years or so. The Fourth Hokage was recognized as a seal master less than ten years after he began studying it."

"Whoa." Naruto's eyes widened. He knew just how much you had to know to become a seal master. Ten years was amazing.

The Sannin grinned. "Don't get a big head after this, but I think you might finish in about the same time as the Yondaime did."

"What!" Naruto jumped up. "That's amazing. I'm so cool!"

Jiraiya pounded his head, knocking him to the ground. "Didn't I tell you not to let that get to your head? The Fourth was one of the most humble men I've met, despite being the turning factor for the Third Shinobi World War and one of the strongest men ever to exist. Humility will serve you well." The Sannin concluded sagely. Naruto nodded, understanding Jiraiya's point.

"For now," the Sannin began, "we will continue with your theory lessons on chakra interactions. Tell me, what did you learn about that from your reading…?"

Naruto sighed. This mission was intense. The target was tough as nails. It was going to take a lot to complete this task. He gulped. He did not want to approach the target. Not with what it did to him last time. A bead of sweat rolled down his brow…

"Violet in position." A female voice came over the line.

"Copy that." A sigh was heard over the line. "Future Lord Hokage-sama, what's your status?" A flat voice asked.

"In position, Shade." He confirmed, grinning at the use of his specially picked codename. "Ready for orders."

"Copy that." The voice gave. "Target will be bound shortly, move out in five, four, three, two, one…"

Naruto leapt out of the foliage toward the target at what he felt like was a million miles per hour. He approached, and it saw him. He made his final prayers.


"Seriously, Naruto, I don't know why you hate Tora so much." Ino snuggled it. "He's so cute."

Naruto crossed his arms and turned his head away petulantly. His face still had the scar, for some reason. "That cat's the devil."

"He just likes me better than you." Ino argued back. The cat meowed its agreement.

"You're just jealous 'cause my chakra nature training is going so much better than yours." Naruto argued back childishly.

Ino scowled. "You wish. Besides, I'm not the one with bones that essentially count as chakra points. Nor do I have the same nature as sensei." Ino said. "I'm earth natured, unlike sensei."

Naruto shrugged. "I'm earth natured too."

"Well you can't teach me anything, can you?" Ino smacked him over the head. Then she grinned. "But was funny to see sensei's face."

"You mean when I…" Naruto asked, stopping at Ino's nod. "Yeah that was pretty funny."


Asuma smiled at Naruto's split leaf. "Good, you're picking this up fast."

"Well, you're wind natured." Naruto said. "You're speaking from experience with this."

Asuma nodded. "That is true. So, try moving wind chakra to various points in your body. Feel its movement. It's pretty easy to channel wind chakra internally." He pulled out one of his trench knives, coating it with wind. "Once you get the feeling down, I'll teach you how to do this."

Naruto tilted his head. "You mean this?" Naruto showed his palm and a bone erupted out of it, coated in wind. It wasn't sharp like Asuma's trench knife, showing Naruto's amateurish skill in the subject, but the jonin figured that the boy would get it soon enough. Nonetheless, he gaped. He had no response to what just happened. "Did you just?"

Naruto shrugged. "You were the one that said it was easy to manipulate wind chakra internally. I was told my bones were like big chakra points."

Asuma was still shocked. That just wasn't fair. Naruto just laughed at his expression.

Flashback End

The young bone-wielder grinned. "Yeah, I'm pretty good, huh?"

Ino giggled. "I'm sure sensei's just jealous."

From their side, they heard Shikamaru shake his head. "Troublesome…"

They entered the Hokage's office once more, with the cat in hand, noticing Asuma was there. He had been observing them. The mission's client, the Daimyo's wife Madame Shijimi immediately bounded over and retrieved her precious pet, which began meowing loudly as it was enveloped in a bone-crushing hug by the woman. As much as Naruto enjoyed the cat's pain, even he had to wince when he heard something crack. The woman thanked the kids profusely, lightheartedly scolded her cat, and bid her farewells to the occupants of the room, remarking that she would put in a good word with the Daimyo. The Hokage merely nodded pleasantly, having heard this from her many times before, and bid her a safe return to her abode.

"Good job on your mission." Asuma said. "Capturing Tora has never been an easy thing." He shuddered, remembering his own days as Genin and having to catch the precursor to that monster.

Ino looked at the jonin confusedly. "Why's that, sensei? He was the most lovable little thing ever."

The bearded jonin sighed. "Well, he always picks at least one person on the team to mercilessly claw to death." He looked at his team, chuckling at Naruto's furious expression. Shikamaru merely sighed.

"Sensei, Naruto got destroyed by that cat. It was only by Ino's doing that we could complete the mission." The Nara ignored Naruto's death glare.

"Even so," the Hokage interrupted. Everyone stopped their glaring and talking immediately, "your team has done admirable work lately, completing no less than forty D-rank missions in the span of a month. Your sensei and I have spoken, and it has been decided that I would assign team 10 a C-rank mission."

Naruto's eyes bugged out, before he threw his fist in the air. "All right! Thanks old man!"

Ino smacked him. "Naruto! Control yourself before Hokage-sama."

Hiruzen chuckled at the children's antics. "It is quite alright, Ino-chan. You can say that Naruto-kun and I go way back."

Ino gaped, but composed herself quickly. "Of course! Please excuse me!" She bowed, but the Hokage waved it off, stating that she needed not be so apologetic for something she had no knowledge of.

"Back to the topic." Hiruzen began, "Your mission is to escort a bridge builder to his home country of Nami no Kuni, protecting him from the threat of bandits. Then you must stay until his project is complete."

Naruto frowned. "Escort a bridge builder? Don't we get to, you know, save a princess or something?"

Hiruzen looked at him. "You will treat your client with the utmost respect and offer exemplary service in the name of Konoha."

Naruto sighed. "Yes, Jiji."

The Sandaime Hokage nodded, and turned to Asuma. "Your client will meet you at the southern gate tomorrow morning. Make sure your students pack what they need for this trip; you know the details."

Asuma nodded, before turning to his students. "Alright, you will pack up and be ready for a two-week trip starting tomorrow morning. Meet me at the southern gate then. Dismissed."

Naruto and the others nodded. "I'll see you tomorrow, sensei! See you later Jiji!" He grinned and bolted out the door to catch up with his teammates. Asuma merely sighed.

"The rambunctiousness of youth." Hiruzen smiled.

"Tell me about it." Asuma chuckled. "At least Shikamaru brings some balance to the dynamic. I don't know what I would do if it was just Naruto and Ino… They'd run me ragged."

Hiruzen laughed, and dismissed the jonin, bidding him good luck on this mission. As Asuma left, Hiruzen looked back at his desk, and briefly his eyes met the document speaking to Nami no Kuni's current economic status that he had hidden previously. He leafed through various intelligence reports on Wave before piling them together neatly and returning them to a blank manila folder.

"Forgive an old man for sending you on this mission, Naruto-kun." Hiruzen sighed. "But consider it a test of your mettle."

The white haired boy finished sealing up everything he needed into a single small scroll and placed it on his kitchen table. Naruto looked outside. The sun was drawing down and the day was coming to a close.

"Welp, today was a good day, I guess." He said. He looked at his desk, which he had acquired recently with which to draw seals and study, and remembered the problem he was working on earlier but stopped because he hit an impasse. He shrugged. With nothing else to do he sat down and got to work. It wasn't like he was going to sleep soon anyway.

As he expected, the morning came faster than he would have preferred. Nonetheless, he gave in and opened his eyes, frowning at the light. He grumbled. It wasn't the sunlight peeking in through his window that woke him up, but rather, something much worse.

"Shikamaru! Get your lazy ass up!" Nara Yoshino roared from the other side of his door.

"Troublesome woman…" The Shikamaru scion sighed as he sat up. He spoke slightly louder, trying not to exert himself. "I'm up!"

"Well you have a mission to get ready for. Chop, chop!" She stopped, and Shikamaru sighed in relief as he heard her retreating footsteps. He stepped out of his bed and gathered clothes from his dresser.

"I just hope this mission isn't troublesome." He sighed. "Just a walk to Nami no Kuni. Maybe I can see some clouds…"

Shikamaru made it to the front gate and stopped, dropping his backpack on the ground as he leaned against the wall. He noticed one of his teammates had beaten him here. "Didn't expect you to be the first one here, Ino."

She shrugged. "I woke up early so I made the best of it." Her backpack was next to her on the bench. She moved it to her lap. "Sit by me."

Shikamaru shrugged and sat by his teammate, relishing the chance to lean his head back and watch the clouds. He sighed, this time in comfort, as he let his usual lazy self take over. "Surprisingly, I'm not worried at all about this mission."

Ino looked at him curiously. "What do you mean?"

"I should be nervous, right?" He chuckled. "I'm not nervous at all. Just relaxed. Somehow, I feel like everything's going to go okay."

"That's because you trust your teammates." Their sensei's voice was heard to their side. He gave the duo a small wave, lighting a cigarette. "Where's Naruto?"

Ino shrugged. "Not here."

Asuma nodded. "Well, we have a bit longer until the client arrives, so…"

"I told you, I didn't do it, alright?" A younger voice yelled. The three looked over to see Naruto in a spat with a merchant; apples were all over the ground.

"I'll report you to the Hokage!" The old man warned, raising a finger. "Wreaking havoc like some demon. Bah!" He spat on ground ahead of Naruto's feet. "Die on this mission of yours like my wife did." The merchant continued picking up his apples. Naruto pursed his lips and did an about-face, moving toward his team.

"There goes my good day." He mumbled. He looked up at his team and waved casually. "What's up?"

Ino marched up to him. "What's up? Baka, what the hell was that?"

Naruto flinched. "You saw that, did you?"

"Hell yeah I did," Ino said. "No one deserves such treatment. 'Die like my wife did,' really? You should teach that fart a lesson."

Naruto raised a hand. "Ino, enough."

"No, not enough. That was completely uncalled for! You apologized and everything! I mean, who does that?"

Naruto looked at her. "It happens a lot to me, alright? I'm completely used to it."

Shikamaru piped up. "What do you mean, 'it happens a lot?' Why does this happen a lot?" He looked at Naruto with discerning eyes; the white-haired boy was forced to look away.

"No reason. It just does." Suddenly, his attitude changed. "Anyway, let's make this mission a good one!"

Shikamaru eyed him critically, but said nothing. Ino on the other hand was vocal about her feelings. "You're not keeping secrets from us, are you?"

Naruto turned away. "It's stupid, alright. It'll distract us from our mission."

Asuma interrupted. "He's right. For now, we focus on the mission. Naruto, at some point, you should tell your teammates about it though." At Naruto's look, he added. "That is not an order, but a recommendation. Keep that in mind."

The group said nothing until Asuma spotted the client. "Ah, Tazuna-san. It's good to see you here. Allow me to introduce you to my students."

Naruto got a look at the man. He was short, old, and somewhat buzzed, despite the early hour. Really, they were escorting his guy? Talk about boring. The Hokage's words echoed in his mind, and Naruto kept his mouth closed. The client, however, had no such obligation.

"Really, this is the team I get?" The man frowned. "A bunch of brats?"

Asuma sighed. "Tazuna-san, for the sake of convenience, I recommend that you respect the people who are guarding your life. I know the chances are unlikely, but bandits are still possible."

Tazuna gave Asuma a look at that, but the jonin didn't seem to notice.

"Alright, now that we're all here, let's move out." He hoped to get his team pumped and ready to go, but the tension still lingered.

Perhaps, it was the walk that gave him some time to think. Naruto had cooled down a bit, but he still wasn't particularly talkative. Ino noticed that his eyes darted back and forth, as if he were completely paranoid.

"You alright, Naruto?" She asked, placing a hand on his shoulder. He sighed.

"I can't help but be paranoid." The bone wielder replied, very conscious of his paranoia. "I feel like something bad's going to happen."

Ino shook her head. "Look, we're more than capable of dealing with this, alright?"

Naruto shrugged. "Yeah, but that doesn't really help at all."

She frowned at the cryptic reply, but when it was clear that he wasn't going to say anything more, she dropped the topic. The team marched onward. Tazuna occasionally talked about the country he was from, telling tales of how the people were happy and times were profitable. Despite his jovial tone, Ino could clearly see a layer hidden underneath his voice.

It only added to Naruto's nervousness.

Suddenly, everything was in motion. She stood on a puddle and then, out of nowhere, Asuma was split in two. The length of chain severed top from bottom, and Ino couldn't help but scream in shock.

"Ino, move!" She heard a voice, barely remembering Shikamaru from the shock, and she moved to protect the client. She glanced back at Tazuna, who was just as stunned, and observed her enemies.

Naruto flew into action as soon as the puddle even rippled. He was too late to save Asuma, but he would make these pieces of shit pay. Adhering to the ground with chakra, he yanked the chain, using his surprising strength to cause one of the attackers to come flying back at him. Then, there were five bony claws through his chest. Tazuna nearly puked.

"Gozu!" The remaining man cried, watching his brother fall to the ground off of the white demon's claw. "The white curse… It's supposed to be extinct."

Naruto gave him a look. Red irises tore at the missing nin's sanity. "Sensei was supposed to be alive." Leaning into his run, thinking no more, the traumatized boy ran toward the man, bone white claws gleaming with blood. The man blocked with his gauntlet, but the bones did not bow.

"Naruto!" Shikamaru called. He made a rat hand sign and extended his shadow, trying to catch the missing-nin. The man was aware of the Nara clan technique and dodged the shadow, stress marking his expression as he also tried to handle the onslaught of the Jinchuuriki.

This left him completely unprepared for the sudden lurch in his brain. He felt something enter his mind and was powerless to repress it.

Ino was greeted with a vision of Naruto charging toward her, a feral gleam in his wild red eyes. She panicked as the image embedded itself into her memory, and screamed.

"Naruto, stop! It's me, Ino! I'm in his mind!" Naruto screeched to a halt, but the damage was clearly there. Even proxied by another body he could see the fright she had just experienced. It was something that would haunt her.

Naruto caught his breath, letting his rational mind catch up. "Alright, Ino, so you got him. Let me finish him off."

"Wrong answer." Asuma's voice was heard as he walked into the path, good as new. There was no mangled body or blood where their sensei had perished, but rather, merely a log. He looked at Naruto sternly. "Don't lost control like that or you could lose vital information. We need to interrogate this man. Ino, can you see his memories from there?"

The man shook his head. "No, I'm not that good at the Shintenshin jutsu yet."

Asuma nodded. "Fine, we do it the classic way. It would be a good time to teach you lot how to interrogate, although it'll be tough, since his brother's dead."

Naruto paled. "That was his brother…! I killed him." He looked at his bloody claws, which were still extended, and vomited. Asuma said nothing while Ino held her mouth in shock and Shikamaru turned away. Tazuna had also turned away, but for other reasons.

"Tazuna-san." Asuma stated. "Before Naruto disposed of Oni Kyoudai no Gozu, the two were clearly after you. Any reasoning behind that?"

The old man gulped, before telling his tale. "Alright… I lied on the mission report. You see, Nami no Kuni's in big trouble right now."

Asuma nodded. "Go on."

"Well, there's this man, you see, who took over the entire economy of Wave. Gato, his name is, of Gato Corp." Tazuna explained.

Asuma shook his head. "And we're up against that…? There's no way we can continue this mission. It's at least A-Rank at this point."

Tazuna grew exasperated. "But you must! The bridge is our only hope! With it our people will be saved!"

"That's fantastic." Asuma drawled. "The fact remains that we as a team are not prepared to handle this mission. Our next opponent will be much stronger than these two, likely A-Ranked or even S-Ranked, because I know Gato can afford to spend such money, especially on such a large investment as this."

"So you'll just leave us to die." Tazuna spat.

"I never said that. We will escort you back to Konoha, where we will talk the situation over with the Hokage. I'm sure we can cut a deal." Asuma grinned. "You'll find that Hokage-sama is a very generous man, and very willing to reason."

Tazuna sighed. "I… what if he doesn't?"

"Then you have the option to request an A-Rank mission and take a loan." The jonin said.

"I have no choice, do I?"

"Konohagakure no Sato is a military institution. There are no free missions."

Tazuna gulped. "Fine… Let's go back."

Asuma nodded. "Let's go, children. Also, Tazuna-san."

The old man turned.

"Typically, if you lie on mission parameters, Konoha will allow the employed ninja to kill the client immediately as per the Shinobi Behavioral Regulations. We can't afford to have people lying on mission parameters."

Tazuna gulped.

"Naruto, you have sealing scrolls?" Asuma queried.

The white-haired boy jumped. "Yeah, I do, but how did you know?"

"You have no backpack. Now, seal up the body and incapacitate the other. We're bringing them back."

As they entered the gates, Asuma made to dismiss them. "Alright team, I think you all are dismissed for now. This will be marked as an aborted A-Rank mission in your records."

They all nodded, and began to move off, when another voice was heard. "Naruto-kun, please remain."

They turned around and noticed Sarutobi Hiruzen standing there, as if waiting for them.

"Jiji?" Naruto asked, receiving a stern glare from Asuma.

"It is improper to refer to Hokage-sama with casual titles in front of a client." The jonin supplied. "Even if you do know him well."

Hiruzen nodded, and Naruto shrunk a bit in embarrassment.

"And, pardon any insubordination, but why did you ask for Naruto to remain here?" Asuma asked, tilting an eyebrow.

The Hokage looked at Naruto, and his eyes twinkled with some hidden fact. "No reason, merely if Naruto-kun strives to be Hokage one day I figure politics and negotiation is an important thing to study up on."

Asuma nodded, accepting the fact that he wasn't going to get any true information from the man.

"Let us head to my office. I'm sure we have things to discuss, Tazuna-san."

The bridge builder nodded, and the group moved. Uneventfully, they passed by the secretary of the Hokage, who greeted the Hokage warmly and went up the stairs to the Hokage's office.

Hiruzen entered first, and beckoned for the others to follow. "Naruto-kun, I expect you to be silent throughout this exchange. This a learning experience."

Naruto nodded. "Yes, Hokage-sama."

Hiruzen's eyes softened imperceptibly at the title, but he returned to the matter at hand. He took a seat at his desk, leafing through some manila folders before he found the ones he needed.

"Tazuna-san." The Hokage began. "Before we begin, please note that this mission turned out exactly as Konoha expected it to."

Asuma's eyes widened; he was about to question it, but he kept his mouth closed. Naruto restrained himself only barely. The Hokage placed the contents of his folder on his desk, flipping through it.

"I would say that Konoha's intelligence-gathering system is the finest in the world, but every country claims that." The Hokage began. "We tracked you as you arrived, Tazuna-san, and noticed the Oni Kyoudai were shadowing you. As you stated your home country, more pieces of the puzzle came together. Tell me, Tazuna-san. How long has it been since Hohote Kaiza passed away?"

Tazuna gaped. "Um, two months Hokage-sama."

"Yes, and since then, Konoha has been monitoring Nami no Kuni's economic depression. Typically, Tazuna-san, nations are not permitted to interfere with each other. It makes people nervous, yes?"

Tazuna nodded. The Hokage sighed and continued.

"However, there is also the fact that once a certain line is crossed, it becomes morally deplorable to ignore the situation." He said, writing on a scroll. "Therefore, it is my responsibility to tell you this. Bear, your orders."

A cloaked man appeared from the shadows, making Tazuna jump. He received the paper and bowed to the Hokage before disappearing.

"Gato will mysteriously die in three days." The Hokage said. "Through a strange quirk of fate, control of the company and its funds will pass into your hands. Exactly half of those funds will be missing, but the remaining half is more than enough to jumpstart your country. Konohagakure no Sato had no involvement in this mission, except an aborted A-Rank mission."

Tazuna gaped. "Hokage-sama, thank you so much!"

Hiruzen nodded. "You and Asuma are dismissed."

Tazuna practically jumped for joy and might as well have skipped out of the room. Asuma turned to Hiruzen, before shrugging and following the client. Naruto remained in the office.

"What did you learn from that exchange, Naruto-kun?"

Naruto frowned. "Well, I learned that the Hokage is generous?" He hazarded. Hiruzen shook his head.

"Black-ops missions, Naruto, are an essential part of leading. Working in the dark as well as the light." Hiruzen answered. He gazed past Naruto. "Also, the finest spymaster in the world, and I do mean that seriously, is standing behind you Naruto."

Naruto whipped around to see a shimmer and some form of invisibility vanish. Jiraiya of the Sannin stood in the corner of the room.

"I asked him to monitor this conversation, but also merely to be here for what we are about to discuss now. Jiraiya, if you would."

He nodded. "Naruto, everything said from now until the end of this conversation is an S-class secret. That means that one mutter and Konoha has the right to execute you, with me so far? You may or may not enjoy this information, but don't go blabbing it to anyone else."

Naruto nodded mutely. "Yes, sensei."

The Sannin nodded. "Right, so you know I'm Konoha's spymaster, which also is a secret by the way. Well, it's been decided that I would be chained down here following sensei, so someone needs to take my place."

"I have dealt with this paperwork for more than four decades." Sarutobi quipped. "I think that is more than enough."

"Right," Jiraiya drawled. "Well, once I become Hokage, it's impossible for me to travel as spymasters do, and you know what kid, I like you, so I offered to train you in the ways of spymastering."

Naruto frowned. "Why me? I thought I was an all-out offensive sort of guy."

Jiraiya shrugged. "You are, but then again, so am I. But that's not part of the secret, is it? To the world, I'm Jiraiya of Mount Myoboku, the Toad Sage and writer of great books, but underneath, I'm Konoha's intelligence foundation."

Naruto frowned. "So you're saying I should have this secrecy thing going on too?"

Jiraiya nodded. "Yes. Now, I won't start training you until after you become chuunin." He said. "Sensei's not leaving his job for another three years so unless something extreme happens I have just enough time to train you and do my job. But training you will involve taking you out of the village with me, in order for you to get a hands-on experience."

Naruto nodded, accepting this information. "So I'm Konoha's next spymaster."

Jiraiya nodded. "Oh, and there's something else I need to tell you. You're free to share this, but I really wouldn't recommend it. It you start blabbing about it you will gain unwanted attention."

"Unwanted attention?"

"If Iwa catches wind of this, chances are you'll see a few assassination attempts in your life." Jiraiya shrugged. "Can you handle it?"

Naruto gulped. This was some big info if Iwa would kill him for it. There was one more thing he had to ask. "Why would Iwa want to kill me for it?"

Jiraiya smirked. "Revenge."

"I already know about the Fox." Naruto frowned. "If it did something to them…"

Jiraiya shook his head, a grin spreading on his face. "Oh this is much better."

"Tell me. I think I can handle it sensei." Naruto challenged.

Jiraiya shrugged. "Very well. Naruto, the reason why you haven't been told this before is that children are very loose-lipped about the best information they've ever heard in their lives. You, Naruto, are the son of Iwa's scourge and bane, the very man who cost them the Third Shinobi World War, Namikaze Minato, the Fourth Hokage."

Naruto gaped. "What!"

"Tis true, although your hair color was a mystery to us until you manifested your bloodline." Jiraiya commented. "See, your mother had red hair, she was Uzumaki Kushina, Konoha's Red-Hot Blooded Habanero, or to our enemies, Konoha's Red Death."

Naruto blinked. "So my parents were total badasses then?"

Jiraiya laughed. "Just about, yeah."

Naruto frowned. "So… if my last name is Uzumaki, then how come nobody connected me to my mom?"

Jiraiya shrugged. "It was well known that the main-lineage Uzumaki always had red hair. Even if they married someone with a different hair color, the hair was always red. Kushina-chan was an extraordinarily pure-blooded Uzumaki; the last divergence in her blood before you was at about… sixty or seventy back or so."

"Years back? That's not a long time."

Jiraiya shook his head. "Generations, kid. Generations. The Uzumaki had been around for a while. Almost as long as the Senju themselves. And they did a damn good job at tracing their history."

"That's…" Naruto began. "Incredible. And I'm a main-branch Uzumaki? I've got family?"

Jiraiya looked at Hiruzen, who frowned. The Sannin spoke. "Kid, you're the main-branch Uzumaki. The clan has long since been wiped out. Since the Second World War."

Naruto frowned, biting his lip. "So I've got no family then."

Jiraiya smirked. "Kid, you've got me. I taught your father. He made me your godfather. Frankly, I'm glad I had the privilege of telling you your heritage and seeing you."

Naruto teared up a bit, but quickly blinked it out.

"Alright, now, don't forget, you're free to talk about the Kyuubi and your heritage to whomever you like, those burdens are your own, but don't let that information spread too far, you hear?"

Naruto nodded, a smile forming on his face.

"Also, don't talk about our arrangement, okay?" Jiraiya grinned. "S-class secret and all, so yeah, keep that to yourself."

"Um, sensei?" Naruto broached. Jiraiya quirked an eyebrow. "So, you said that I would start training only when I became a chuunin. And you said that Jiji will only be Hokage for three more years, giving us just enough time to train…" Jiraiya's eyes widened as he made the connection. "So either you'll Jiji will extend his time until I become chuunin or…"

Jiraiya nodded. "Don't let it get to your head. Trust me, by the time the chuunin exams roll around, I will train your ass into the ground until you are definitely chuunin material." He stopped, looking at Naruto critically. "We may have a long way to go."


The Hokage cleared his throat. "Now, Naruto-kun, I hope you enjoyed this conversation, but I have meetings to attend. Also, you may want to return to your studies so that we can get you going quickly, but for now you both are dismissed."

Naruto grinned. "Yes, Jiji."