Disclaimer: I do not own Naruto or Bleach. Both franchises are owned by people who are not me. I make no monetary profit from writing this fic, this is purely for fun.
A/N: A couple of notes about this story before I get started: This is a fan fiction, therefore I can and will exercise creative license where I choose. If a character or event does not go how you wish it, that may be entirely by design. THAT BEING SAID, it also may be a failure on my part. If you have any concerns about my characterization, writing style, or the direction of the story, feel free to leave a review or PM me. I promise I won't make fun of you. On that note, please do not insult me with reviews, or if you do, at least throw some specific complaints or criticism in there with the insults. I want input I can use, not just blind rage. Well then, let's get started.
(Ichiraku Ramen, the night of the Academy Graduation Exam.)
Sometimes the best way to cope with a traumatic event, such as finding out that you have a great and powerful demon sealed in your stomach, is to do something you love. Now, Naruto loved ramen, but something about his shiny new Hitae-Ite just made the meal taste that much better. The grin Naruto wore through that meal was even wider than his normal one; despite the horrific revelations, he had been privy to not even an hour ago.
"Proud of yourself Naruto-kun?" Iruka asked. He grimaced a little at his back injury. It was not very deep, or even very dangerous. It just hurt. A lot. However, the Chunin had managed to dress the wound enough that he was comfortable treating Naruto to a meal before he checked in with the medics.
"Mmhm!" Naruto nodded vigorously, his troubles forgotten for the time being. He slurped down the broth of his seventh bowl of the delicious heavenly delight just as Old Man Teuchi brought him another bowl. Naruto was a little confused. He had not even asked for another bowl yet. He certainly wanted one though, so he was not too concerned about that. No, Naruto's confusion came from the fact that he could not tell what kind of ramen this new bowl was.
"Don't worry Naruto! Your nose does not deceive you! Since it's a special day," Teuchi gestured to the headband, "I made this special ramen!" he leaned in close and whispered conspiratorially, "It's my new recipe. You're the first customer who's seen it. Best of all, for you it's on the house." Teuchi laughed at Naruto's star struck face. "Well go on then! Dig in! I need to know what my favorite customer thinks!" he crossed his arms with a proud look on his face.
Naruto's face slowly moved from shock to an even wider grin, if that was even possible, "Thanks Old Man!"
Iruka, having finished his one bowl marveled at his young friend's exuberance. He was a little worried though; he had sent a message to the Hokage detailing the special circumstances of Naruto's graduation. He could only hope that the message was delivered before final team assignments.
Hiruzen Sarutobi was nothing if not punctual. Despite his mishap with a certain troublemaking blonde, he had still managed to conduct the team assignment meeting with the Jonin sensei to be while still coordinating the search for Naruto. Sometimes Hiruzen truly loved the ability to create Shadow Clones; being in two places at once certainly made his job much more manageable. However, despite the Jonin being the reason for the meeting, his attention was not on them. Instead, he was reading a note that had been delivered to him by a Dog masked ANBU. He had even stopped petting the black cat on his desk, much to the cat's consternation.
"Excuse me Hokage-sama," Kurenai Yuhi broke the silence that had descended upon the meeting.
Hiruzen cleared his throat and turned his attention away from the memo and back to the Jonin assembled before him, "Yes Yuhi-san?" he said with a smile on his face.
"Well, um forgive my asking, but is that letter important to this meeting?" Kurenai had a rather annoyed frown on her face.
Good to see she takes the job seriously, the Third Hokage thought to himself. Then he grinned, "As a matter of fact, it is. I have just received word that one Naruto Uzumaki has graduated from the academy due to certain unusual circumstances." He waited a moment to let the news sink in, and then held up his hand for silence. As the room quieted, he resumed speaking, "Despite your protests, this news comes directly from Iruka Umino, a man whose judgment I trust in this matter. I will hear no argument on this, is that clear?" He waited for the assembled Jonin to nod their assent before turning to the ANBU, "Inu, please inform my clone to stop the search, and inform Umino-san that I have received his message." Inu nodded before disappearing in a swirl of leaves. "Now then," the Hokage started petting the black cat on his desk, "let us continue with team assignment, Yuhi-san? Who would you like for team 8?"
"Perhaps I should take Sasuke Uchiha, Hinata Hyuuga, and Chouji Akimichi." kurenai said thoughtfully.
"Interesting choices, your reasoning?" The Third puffed on his pipe.
Kurenai took a deep breath, "I have already have experience teaching Hinata. Sasuke will need to learn to use his Sharingan, and if I am not mistaken that includes a mastery of genjutsu. I do not mean to offend, but I doubt anyone here is as capable of teaching genjutsu as me."
"Quite correct. And the Akimichi?" Hiruzen was impressed with her reasoning; clearly, she had put some thought into this.
"He would round out the team both in combat and in demeanor. With any luck, he could get the other two to open up a bit."
Hiruzen smiled "Good, team 8 will be Sasuke Uchiha, Hinata Hyuuga, and Chouji Akimichi. That is, unless there are any objections?"
Asuma took this opportunity to voice a concern shared by many of the people in the room, "But pops, I mean, Hokage-sama, what about the Ino-Shika-Cho trio?"
"Actually," Shikaku Nara spoke up from the back of the room, "I've spoken to Chouza and Inoichi, and we agree on this one. We'd prefer if our kids were not on the same team. They need to learn how to work with other teams first. We don't want them getting too used to having perfect synergy with their teammates. Might get 'em killed in the field."
Mollified, Asuma turned back to the Hokage, "In that case, I recommend Ino Yamanaka, Kiba Inuzuka, and Shino Aburame for team 10." Asuma saw the Hokage gesture to continue, "They would be primarily a reconnaissance and tracking team. Their skills are all suited to aspects of information gathering, and they can balance each other in combat, if not now then with a little training."
The Hokage nodded and continued asking each Jonin who would comprise their preferred team. There were very few conflicts, and the few were resolved quickly. Eventually, all the teams were assigned but one: Team 7. "Well there are only three graduates left, Shikamaru Nara, Tenten, and Naruto Uzumaki. Are there any objections to this team?" The assembled Jonin looked around the meeting in confusion as they realized that every single one of them had already been assigned a team. Kurenai opened her mouth to point out the mistake when someone appeared to the side of the Hokage's desk in a small whoosh of wind. The Jonin stared at him wide eyed and not a few of them open-mouthed, due to both his sudden arrival and his appearance. He was wearing geta sandals, a bucket shaped hat with vertical green and white stripes, a dark green matching set of pants and shirt, a VERY dark green haori with white diamonds along the bottom and with the symbol of Konoha stitched into the back. To top it off, he carried a plain wooden cane over his shoulder.
"My my," the man said with a smile that somehow managed to be carefree and knowing at the same time, "Am I late?"
"No Kisuke, you're right on time actually," Hiruzen chuckled at the faces of his assembled Jonin.
Asuma recovered quickly and asked incredulously, "He's the sensei for team 7?!"
Kisuke pulled out a paper fan and opened it in front of his mouth in mock surprise, "Me? Why no, I'm just the simple owner of a candy store!"
Not buying it for a moment, Kurenai's eyes narrowed, "Then why are you here?"
"Ahh! I'm just here to pick up my cat!"
"Speaking of which," Hiruzen interrupted before an argument could start; after all, it was late and everyone in he room was rather tired, "Yoruichi, will you take team 7?"
The cat stood up and stretched a bit, then spoke in a deep male voice, "Sure, why not?" The cat then walked to the edge of the desk, jumped onto Kisuke's shoulders, and turned back to Hiruzen, "Well then, I take the meeting is over?" Hiruzen nodded.
Kisuke snapped his fan closed, "Well then! Toodles!" He gave a small wave before he and the cat disappeared with the same whoosh he had arrived.
As most of the Jonin left the room, Kurenai watched spot where the shopkeeper had disappeared with a twitching eye. Asuma watched with her for a few seconds before he turned to his father, "Was that a talking cat?"
Hiruzen gave up; he could not keep the laughter in any more. Asuma looked a little annoyed at his father's mirth, while Kurenai looked downright scandalized. Hiruzen noticed their expressions, and in between chuckles managed to say, "Don't worry, everyone says that."
Asuma looked at Kurenai, shrugged, and started walking to the door. She hung her head in exasperation and followed Asuma out to the sound of their Hokage's hysterics.
(With Kisuke and Yoruichi.)
"Seriously Kisuke? Your cat?"
"You aren't mad are you Yoruichi-san?"
The cat sighed, "I suppose not."
Kisuke clapped happily, "Oh good! I was afraid I would have to run!"
"You really think running would save you?"
"Nope!" Kisuke chirped happily, "But it would annoy you, and that's what matters."
(Naruto's apartment, the next morning.)
Naruto woke up bright and early the next morning. He quickly dressed himself, tied on his Hitae-Ite, and grabbed all the things he thought he would need. Shuriken, kunai, ration bars, etc. As he got ready, a piece of candy fell to the floor. He remembered the shop that he bought it from and said to himself, "I better go tell Urahara-san, he's way more awesome than the other shopkeepers Dattebayo!" Just as he was about to rush out the door, he noticed the time on his stove clock. 8:30. Naruto grinned. He only had to be at the academy by noon. He had at least 3 hours of free time! As blond-haired, orange clad ball of energy left his home, his mind was racing through the possibilities of what he could do with over three hours. As he ran through the streets towards the market district, he cackled madly. If he were to think about it he would realize that such behavior would not help the civilians stop believing that he was a demon, but he was far to preoccupied with dastardly plans for pranks to think about such boring topics as social consequences.
Of course, his plans fled his mind when he caught sight of the Urahara Shop. Naruto dashed over to the front door and barged in, "Hey Urahara-san! Guess wha-" his words died on his tongue as he saw the eccentric shopkeeper standing in front of the door with one hand on each head of his young assistants, Jinta and Ururu.
"Look kids! It's a Genin! Say hi to the Genin, kids!" Kisuke said in his trademark mocking tone.
Jinta crossed his arms, "He still looks stupid to me."
"Congratulations Naruto-san," Ururu said quietly.
"Now now you two, that's enough of that. Come! I have some new medicine for you to shelve!" The tall man in the apron picked up the two children by their shirts and started walking into the storage area of the shop with a resigned Ururu and a struggling and ornery Jinta. "Oh," he turned around, "Well done Naruto-kun."
"Thanks Tessai-san!" Naruto waved after the retail associate, and then shot a glare at Kisuke.
"Whaaat? I was just having a bit of fun."
"Yeah yeah, whatever. Anyway, I wanted to stop by before I get my Jonin sensei!" Naruto flashed a thumbs up at Kisuke, "I bet I'm gonna get someone super awesome! But I'll get stronger than them in no time!"
"Yeah yeah," Kisuke waved his closed fan dismissively, "Sure you will." He ignored Naruto's disgruntled look and asked, "So why did you want to drop by? I don't think I have anything new." He started digging behind the counter for… something.
"Well you guys were always way cooler than the other shopkeepers." Naruto looked at his feet sheepishly, "I like you guys, you're nice to me. Most people aren't."
Kisuke paused in his digging and poked his head over the counter. He gave Naruto an uncharacteristically serious look, then dived back under the counter and resumed his search. "AHA! Found it!"
"This!" Kisuke popped up from behind the counter with a small scroll between his thumb and index finger. "This is a sealing scroll!"
Naruto was intrigued, "What's it seal?"
"Things!" Kisuke said excitedly, "Now this one is a graduation present of sorts, so I made special for you!"
"Really!? You did!?"
"Yes I did! I am just that amazing. Even better, it has a couple of goodies you don't get in the normal ones. First: this one is keyed to you. You're the only one that can open or close it. Second: it's much smaller that the regular ones, but it holds just as much!" Naruto's eyes were as wide as dinner plates. "Why you might even say," Kisuke continued, "That it's bigger on the inside."
"Urahara-san you are so COOL!" Naruto dashed forward to hug the shopkeeper, but found himself held back by a cane tip on his forehead.
"Calm down Naruto, let me show you how to use this little beauty."
(Naruto's apartment, 30 minutes later.)
Naruto wasted no time on his way home to play with the scroll some more. In fact, he took so much time sealing nearly everything he owned, that by the time he was done he realized that if he left immediately, he would just barely get to the academy on time, and definitely not with enough time to prank nay of the Jonin. Naruto was annoyed with himself for missing such an excellent opportunity. He berated himself for his carelessness on his way to the academy.
(The Academy, just before Noon.)
Even though Naruto walked into the classroom somewhat depressed, he perked right up upon seeing the astonished faces of his classmates. He walked to his usual seat, listing to the murmurs of "He graduated?" "But he's the dobe!" "How'd he do it?" and at least one muttering of "Troublesome."
He was just barely in his seat, and about to gloat, when Iruka walked into the room holding a clipboard. "Okay," Iruka began, "You are all now Shinobi of Konoha, and are expected to conduct yourselves as such!" While Iruka said more, that snippet was all Naruto heard before he started tuning out. He tuned back in as he heard the team assignments called out.
Looking over at his new teammates, Tenten and Shikamaru, he shot them a grin. Tenten waved back and smiled, Shikamaru did not even lift his head from the desk. The three watched patiently, or not so patiently in Naruto's case, as each Jonin instructor collected their teams, except for team 7.
Naruto was ready to tear his hair out, "Gah! The only way this could be worse is if Sasuke-teme were on this team."
Shikamaru just groaned, "Naruto, quit being so troublesome."
"Hey guys, look!" Tenten pointed at the chalkboard where there was a message written that had not been there before.
The message read: Team 7, Find me on the roof. Signed, Shihoin-sensei.
(The Academy roof, a short time later.)
The three newly minted Genin walked out onto the roof and looked for their erstwhile sensei. Naruto was quickly distracted by a certain black cat. He walked over to the cat and knelt in front of it.
"Hey Yoruichi-san, I missed you at the shop," Naruto started giving the cat a head rub.
Tenten glanced over, "Naruto, quit playing with the cat help us find our sensei." Then Tenten noticed something odd about the cat, "Wait a minute, why is that cat wearing a Hitae-Ite on its neck?"
At this news, Shikamaru decided that the cat was probably more interesting than his halfhearted searching.
"Because, Tenten," a deep male voice came from the cat, "I am a Jonin of Konoha." Naruto fell back from the cat in shock, Tenten yelped and jumped a foot into the air, and Shikamaru raised an eyebrow, "My name is Yoruichi Shihoin, your new sensei," the cat made a small bow, "Pleased to meet you."
Naruto just stared in shock that this cat he had known for years could TALK. Tenten stammered out, "A-a t-t-talking cat!?"
Shikamaru's hand collided with his forehead, "A cat for a sensei. How troublesome." He sighed.