AN: hi all, Wow over 300 favourites and over 400 follows, thank you so much for your continued support and to my new readers; Welcome! For those of you who chose to review, thank you very much for your input and support, you just never know how good your work is until someone validates it so thank you for encouraging me to continue. This chapter sees the return of Naruto's Jutsu, which is exciting, and next chapter sees the long awaited awakening of Kurama and an explanation of how Naruto time travelled, so stay tuned.
Disclaimer: I don't own Naruto; I just think he's awesome.
Warning: May contain spoilers and/or clichés, if you are bothered or offended by either; why are you reading fanfiction?
The second year of Pre-Academy was the first screening process for the village children. Where during the first year students were mixed together, during the second year they were split into two groups, those whose future career path demanded more of a physical challenge such as the future ninja, blacksmiths and other heavy craft smiths and those whose future career paths tended more towards the academic such as the merchants, scribes and accountants.
The two groups were divided into separate classes, where the first group's curriculum was changed so that physical activity and training accounted for about half of the school day. Such a heavy focus on physical conditioning was an attempt to weed out those unsuitable to the shinobi career before they moved onto the Ninja Academy.
Due to the large number of ninja hopefuls this class was further split into four separate classes, though as the year progressed these classes would be given many opportunities to mingle and learn together as the teachers used such opportunities to observe the students and how they interacted with each other as such information was essential for forming the Ninja Academy classes from which the ninja teams would ultimately be formed.
So it was that with the new school year, Naruto was faced with both a new teacher but also with an entirely new class. Some of the new faces were known to him, as he recognised many as the civilian students who would share his ninja class in the future, and some belonged to minor clan members whom he recognised as shinobi who, though placed in alternate ninja classes in the academy, had graduated either earlier or just after he had himself.
Naruto was hopeful of seeing some familiar faces this year, but not too much so, as he remembered that a lot of the major clans chose to teach their clan heirs at home during these early years, either for political reasons such as the Uchiha and the Hyuga, or because their family jutsu required uninterrupted bonding time like the Aburame and the Inuzuka or simply because they were over protective. In fact the only clan head Naruto could clearly remember attending the public Pre-Academy was Ino and he only remembered this as he had overheard her telling Hinata about how her father had made her attend in the hope of teaching her humility and responsibility, during a joint mission.
'Speaking of which…' Naruto thought as he looked towards the classroom door from where he sat in the last row, attracted by the increasingly loud commotion outside.
"Make way for the village's strongest future kunoichi!" yelled out a brash, young, female voice as a young girl burst through the door, only to pose just inside with her arms flung wide obviously demanding that everyone look at her. She was dressed in a short purple dress with boots on her feet and her platinum blonde hair was tied up in a pony-tail high on the back of her head.
Just behind her, as if hiding in her shadow, slunk a timid little girl wearing a red dress with her shoulder length bubble-gum pink hair pulled back by a light blue headband. "Um Ino, you really shouldn't be so loud," she murmured meekly as she tugged on the back of her friend's dress.
"But Sakura," whined her more confident friend, "How else would everyone know that I have arrived. Come on you try it too, just yell out that you're here." She continued obviously trying to encourage her more hesitant friend.
'Oh... My... God,' thought Naruto hysterically as the first moment of shock passed, 'it's a chibi Ino and Sakura!' and with that thought the flood gates opened and Naruto was overcome with hysterical laughter, so much so that he fell out of his chair and rolled down the classroom steps, laughing all the way, only to land at the feet of the surprised young girls.
The two girls stood frozen in place as they starred at Naruto and waited for him to stop. Only to grow increasingly offended as every time it looked as though he was calming down, it would only take one look at their faces to set him off again with intermittent murmurings of "chibi" and "can't breathe".
"How rude!" Ino eventually huffed, "Come on Sakura let's leave the Baka alone, he's obviously an idiot so please don't take it personally," she consoled her more timid friend as she grabbed her friend's hand and towed her away to sit on the other side of the room from the giggling fool.
'Well that could have gone better,' thought Naruto as he finally calmed down and he picked himself up so he could make his way back to his chair, ignoring the stares of his fellow students along the way. He hadn't meant to react that way, but ever since he had returned to the past Naruto had been thinking of his friends as he had last seen them and so was not prepared to see them as they were now. 'I'll have to do something about that I suppose, before next year as I know the girls will eventually get over it but I don't think Kiba or the other guys would if I reacted the same way to them and especially not Sasuke.'
As the school day progressed Naruto found young Sakura's meek attitude puzzling, especially in the face of the overly, confident she-demon she would later become. It was only when he took the time to recall his earliest memories of her that he remembered that she had been bullied as a child and it had only been her friendship with Ino that had enabled her to grow into the competent kunoichi he remembered her to be.
It was this transformation from timid victim to class queen bee, on par with Ino Yamanaka, during this second year of Pre-Academy that had first captured Naruto's young attention and had resulted in his desire to make friends with the pink haired girl in the hopes that he too could make just such a change. Unsure of the correct social norms and not wanting to mess up, Naruto had made the mistake of asking old man Teuchi on the correct way to approach a girl in the hopes of starting a friendship. Seeing an opportunity to mess with the young boy, Teuchi had informed him that such friends were called 'girlfriends' and the correct approach would be to ask them out.
Naruto did so and was promptly rejected, partly because young girls that age thought all boys were icky and partly because Sakura having just clawed her way up the social ladder did not want to jeopardise her position by being seen with the village outcast, and that was when Naruto's stubborn nature kicked in.
His 'never give up' attitude in the face of rejection meant that Naruto continued to ask Sakura out even in the face of increasingly more violent rejections and even after he had come to realise the difference between just a friend who happens to be a girl and a girlfriend, as by that point he had talked himself into believing that Sakura was the 'love of his life'. It had taken three years away with no contact between them for him to finally realise that though he did love Sakura it was more a sibling kind of love rather than a romantic kind.
Looking at her now sitting next to Ino, whose attitude was not that dissimilar to her older form, Naruto was not too worried about their current dislike of himself, as it had taken a few years and a lot of growing for them to become friends the first time. He was more concerned about watching over them now and seeing what he could do to make them stronger earlier, though this could possibly wait until they started the Ninja Academy. In the meantime he just enjoyed how amusing they were as cute little girls, in that way they reminded him a lot of Moegi.
Simply knowing how to perform a jutsu is not enough to be able to do so, if it was, any two bit thug that got a hold of a jutsu training scroll would be flinging jutsu left and right. No to perform a jutsu takes not only knowledge but also the ability to physically manipulate chakra and like any other physical skill this takes training and practice. Jutsu are formed by trained shinobi manipulating their chakra to cause supernatural effects, they do so by moulding their chakra through specific pathways, this most often accomplished by using hand signs as a mould, and by focusing the caster's will on the desired outcome, most commonly caused by calling out the name of the jutsu thus focusing the mind at the point of release. Though a well-trained Shinobi, with enough practice in the technique can manipulate his chakra and focus his will without the need for either hand signs or vocalisation.
Academy students were first drilled on how to form the hand signs and then on how to manipulate their chakra through the pathways formed by doing so, only after this action became instinctual, without the need for constant concentration, were they taught how to cast jutsu. Speed was also a factor as signs formed too slowly could cause the chakra to pool resulting in a jutsu misfire and this was also a skill that took time and practice to master.
It was towards this end that Naruto had been constantly training his hand seals for the last year, making sure that his hand seals were not only accurate but also formed fast enough. Three months into the new school year, he finally deemed himself ready to reclaim his Ninjutsu.
The only problem with reclaiming his Ninjutsu, however, was explaining his knowledge of said jutsu to the old man and his ANBU watchers. Having exhausted all the possible plans he could think of to gain access to the jutsu section of the library with no success, Naruto now turned his mind to alternative sources for the instructional scrolls he would need to excuse his knowledge of the clone, transformation and replacement jutsu. He reasoned that as long as no one touched his clones or saw them pick up anything they wouldn't be able to tell the difference, as even his enemies hadn't been able to do so until they actually hit one of them.
It had taken a whole day of wracking his brain before the obvious solution had occurred to him, where else to acquire the academy three than the Ninja Academy itself. He even knew where to look, in the storage room on level three, the very room he had been assigned to clean, oh so many times, as punishments for pulling pranks and skipping class.
He planned to enter the academy building after school hours, when the students and teachers had left for the day, and before the night guards started their patrols, which gave him a window of opportunity of half an hour just before five o'clock. Strapping his pouch of practice kunai, that he had received from the Hokage, onto his thigh and putting on his shinobi sandals, Naruto made ready to leave.
Just before closing and locking his door he grabbed the piece of wire he had found in a random trash can and had fashioned into a primitive window shimmy, just in case, and made his way towards the Ninja Academy being careful to stick to the shadows wherever possible. Opening up his senses he felt around for the presence of others before scuttling across the open school grounds towards the safety of the shadows cast by the school building.
Bending low he crept along the length of the wall, avoiding the possibility of being seen through any of the low set windows, and stopped at the corner to once again scan his surroundings. He could detect two chakra signatures in the immediate area, an adult sized aura in one of the ground floor classrooms of about mid Chunin strength and a child sized aura in the training ground out back of the school at only civilian strength. The child shouldn't cause any problems that Naruto could see but he would need to avoid the adult, whoever he was, if at all possible.
Naruto eased himself around the corner and made his way over to the three large dumpsters that rested against the back wall of the Academy. Rising up along the face of the building, just above the middle dumpster was a rubbish chute which ran the full height of the building and as such would be Naruto's ticket to the inside.
The chute, though used for refuse, was not as bad as it sounded as only paper waste was ever thrown down it and as such it was relatively clean and had been Naruto's preferred method of access for setting up pranks over the weekend in his previous life, even though it was quite narrow and at times a tight squeeze.
Climbing up onto the rim of the dumpster, Naruto reached up into the chute and pulled himself inside, almost immediately after doing so he froze in place with a judicious use of chakra as felt the rapid approach of the child sized chakra signature. Soon enough Naruto could make out the sound of frantic footsteps that halted just a few steps from the dumpster above which he precariously hung. In the ensuing silence Naruto could just make out the hiccupping sobs of a small child on the point of tears who nevertheless was trying to calm himself down and appear brave.
Rotating himself using chakra alone, until his head was pointing down towards the chute's opening, Naruto cautiously peeked out being careful to stay concealed. Standing below him he could make out the form of a young boy, perhaps a year older than his own current physical age, dressed in a simple green t-shirt and a pair of shorts with his thick black hair clubbed into a tail at the nape of his neck.
As Naruto watched the boy seemed to collect himself and raised up his left hand in which he held three small scrolls with the Ninja Academy symbol painted on the outside, obviously getting ready to throw them into the dumpster before him. Without thinking Naruto called out to him, "Oi wait a minute!" and in doing so lost control of his chakra and plummeted head first into the dumpster below him.
"Owwww!" moaned Naruto as he painfully righted himself and then stood up, holding his hands up above the rim of the dumpster, "Hey be a pal and help me out would ya?" he called out and soon enough he felt two small hands grab his own and haul him out with surprising strength.
Tumbling out over the side, Naruto managed to land on his feet and somewhat reclaim his lost pride, dusting himself off he looked up at the young boy before him and was instantly struck by the boy's two defining features. 'Hey those eyebrows look like …. It couldn't be.'
Standing up straight, Naruto stuck out his hand and introduced himself, "Hello my names Naruto Uzumaki, Future Hokage. Who are you?"
The boy wiped his face and blew his nose on his sleeve before grabbing a hold of Naruto's hand and answering, "Rock Lee."
"Heh, nice to meet you," beamed Naruto, "Hey sorry for surprising ya, I didn't mean to startle ya but I wanted to have a look at those scrolls before you threw them out as they look like the once I was going to go look for inside." he finished, gesturing towards the building before sheepishly rubbing the back of his neck with one hand.
"I'm not sure if these are the scrolls that you were looking for. They are the jutsu scrolls assigned to academy students to learn from after they have unlocked their chakra. Though they give them to you during the first week even if you haven't unlocked your chakra yet, you still need to be an academy student to get them." explained the newly revealed Rock Lee apologetically.
"Yeah that's them," confirmed Naruto with a nod, "I'm going to be in the academy next year and wanted to get a head start as I've already accessed my chakra and us orphans need any advantage we can get over them clan students." continued Naruto cheerfully before a puzzled look overcame his features, "But why are you throwing them out? Have you mastered them already? Wow, and it's only been three months since school began too."
Lee looked away in shame as he replied in a low voice, "No Naruto I have not. I am afraid that I will never master any Jutsu, nin or otherwise, as my chakra network has been discovered to be deformed and as such I have been told that I must give up my dream of becoming a ninja of the Hidden Leaf." Tears sprang to the boy's eyes and his breath caught in his throat as he bit his lip attempting to stem the flow.
Naruto straightened up to his full height, his attitude suddenly serious, "Don't say another word Lee. You will come will me now." he bit out as he grabbed hold of the startled boy's arm and marched him angrily from the school grounds towards the village library.
Nodding a greeting to Chishiki-san as he passed her desk, Naruto dragged Lee towards the study tables against the back wall. "Sit." he ordered the confused boy, "Stay." After which the annoyed young man turned and disappeared between the shelves.
Moments later Naruto reappeared with a pile of books held in his left arm, laying them down one-by-one, with some force, before the startled Rock Lee, Naruto explained their contents to him.
"Tekken Mi, Jonin shinobi of Kumogakure, sustained injuries to his tenketsu in the battle of Misted Rock, unable to cast jutsu, he went on to develop the Rising Rock Taijutsu form and achieved Special Jonin rank as a result, served forty years as an excellent shinobi even after the injury. Mista Myagi, Shinobi Hunter of the village hidden in the clouds, born with chakra levels so low he could only ever cast the most basic of E-rank Jutsu, developed the Clashing Gale Taijutsu style and went on to capture the highest number of missing-nin of any other shinobi from his village, a most excellent shinobi by any standards." Book after book left Naruto's hands as shinobi after shinobi was detailed each having one thing in common, their excellence as shinobi and their inability to use jutsu. "And finally we come to Might Gai, Konoha's Sublime Green Beast, Jonin and our very own Taijutsu Master. He is one of the legends of our village and with his skill he is able to fight off countless high-level ninja unarmed. He makes a conscious effort to rely almost exclusively on Taijutsu; as his philosophy is based on what he can achieve with his bare hands he sees using Ninjutsu as cheating. Despite this he is a most excellent shinobi of Konoha."
Naruto stood back and looked at Lee's face, wanting to see if he had gotten through to the dejected boy. Looking deep into the other's eyes he smiled in satisfaction as he saw a small ember of hope ignite within them.
"They all were excellent shinobi even without chakra?" the boy asked hesitantly, looking up at his new friend as hope grew in his heart.
"Definitely!" confirmed Naruto, "All it took was not being afraid of a little hard work."
"Hmmm." returned Lee lost in thought.
"You know," started Naruto slyly, "I know for a fact that Might Gai will be taking a genin team in a few years' time. If you start now and work hard enough he might even take you on."
"Really?" asked Lee, his eyes now shining brightly with hope.
"Oh yes, but it will take a lot of work. Tell you what, I'll leave you to read through these books tonight and if you want to travel down this path, I'll help you out by letting you train with me in the mornings, starting at six o'clock by the swing in front of the academy. But if you decide not to, if you give up in the face of anything less than complete physical incapacitation, then I must agree that you have no business being a shinobi, especially not a shinobi of the Village Hidden in the Leaves." And so saying he turned to leave.
"Wait," Lee called out, "Why are you helping me? Why are you so concerned?"
"What kind of Hokage would I be if I let one of my comrades fall even before he could begin?" asked Naruto as he looked back over his shoulder.
"Here," offered Lee as he held out the three scrolls he had attempted to throw out before, "You said you wanted these and I won't be needing them. I'll see you tomorrow." He finished with his trademark smile and returned to sit down and begin reading.
"See you tomorrow Lee." smiled Naruto in return.
Returning home for the night, Naruto locked his door and drew his blinds before giving in and twirling giddily in the middle of his lounge room floor. 'Everything is going so well!' he thought before catching himself and knocking on wood to cancel the jinx.
"Yosh! Time to get to work!" he exclaimed as he pumped his fist in the air. Placing the three scrolls on his kitchen table he moved back and stood in the middle of his carpet, "Okay, Shadow Clones coming up!"
It took a couple of hours and some minor chakra explosions before he was able to create a single, functional shadow clone, though it still puzzled him how nothing was broken when he accidentally created a fifty shadow clones for a split second in his small apartment. Circling the final result of two hours' work, Naruto examined his doppelganger looking for any mistakes.
"So how do you feel?" he finally asked returning to stand before his mirror image.
"As far as I can tell I feel just like we remember our clones always felt Boss," replied his clone as it looked down at itself.
"Excellent!" he exclaimed before a grin spread over his face, matched by the clone in front of him as they high fived each other and exclaimed simultaneously, "We did it!"
"Right, now to test the memory transfer, grab a scroll off the table and read it while I make some dinner." instructed the original as he moved towards the kitchen to begin preparations.
A comfortable silence enveloped the apartment as the two Narutos set to work. Fifteen minutes later a puzzled look came over the clone's features as he called out to the original, "Hey Boss, did you know that the Transformation Jutsu is a genjutsu?"
Naruto looked up from the pile of vegetables he was cutting, "That can't be right, how can a physical change be classed as a genjutsu?"
"Well it says here that it's only supposed to be an illusion, not a physical change." replied the clone.
"But … well wouldn't that be useless? I mean it would take heaps of concentration otherwise the illusion would collapse with any sudden gust of wind and what about transformations that are bigger than you? You'd have to look out that you didn't pass under anything that would go right through your illusion. What's the point in transforming into someone bigger if you still can't look over tall fences or reach any further? Man, my Sexy Jutsu wouldn't be anywhere near as effective if it didn't feel as soft as it looked." ranted Naruto as he walked over, wiping his hands on a dishtowel.
"Well yeah, it says here that these are common faults of the Jutsu but it also says that the Transformation Jutsu taught at the academy is only a genjutsu and is to be used as an infiltration technique. It also says that though physical transformations are theoretically possible it would take so much chakra to be impractical for daily use." answered the clone calmly.
"So all this time the others have been using an illusion to transform?" mussed the original, "No wonder it didn't look like it hurt when others practiced it in class, I just thought they had better pain tolerance than I did. Used to piss me off. But then how come our transformations are real?"
"Maybe it's because we never, strictly speaking, learnt the Transformation Jutsu in class." reasoned his clone, "Remember how the teacher would always make us leave the classroom whenever he was demonstrating the hand signs? We had to spy on the third years to learn how to do it and they would form their signs so fast that even after watching them over and over again we still had to guess some of the signs."
"Oh yeah! And by the time it came for Iruka-sensei to test us on the ability, I could create the hand seals fast enough that no one would have caught the difference if they had even cared to look." finished Naruto as he sat down at the table in a chair facing his clone, "What else does it say?"
"It says that Tsunade-baachan had theorised that if true transformation was possible that the easiest transformation would be into other people as the brain would use a shinobi's inherent genetic blueprint to for the new body, thus negating the risk of a shinobi dying as he created a body that wouldn't work correctly. It was for this reason that it would be ill advised to turn yourself into an animal without a thorough knowledge of the animal's inner workings as a misplaced organ would spell and instant, agonising death. Turning into an inanimate object was extremely advised against as doing so would cause instant death as the shinobi would not be able to turn back as his chakra network would have collapsed not being able to be sustained in an inanimate body." explained the clone, "But Boss we've turned into inanimate objects all the time and we're still here."
"Yeah I wonder how that worked, it's probably just because I'm awesome like that" mused Naruto, they looked at each other for a moment in silence, both lost in thought, "Oh well, I know it works for us to turn into inanimate objects so I won't question it, but I might hold off on turning into an animal until I read those biology books in the library and get you guys to practice it before I try just to be safe. You finish reading that while I finish dinner and we'll see how much transfers."
Unbeknownst to Naruto it would have in fact been instant death to any shinobi that attempted to truly transform into an inanimate object, the difference between himself and others, however, was his natural healing ability. Sensing the danger inherent in the technique the primal centre of his brain automatically created an organic core surrounded by a chakra shell at the centre of any such transformations, to house his consciousness and his chakra network.
Much like the sending of white blood cells to fight off an infection, the process was completely automatic and undetectable by his conscious mind. This core acted much like Sasori's heart, this organic core kept Naruto safe whilst using the transformation technique by housing his chakra network and allowed him to sense what was happening around him even when he had neither eyes nor ears.
Returning to the table with a full plate of food and a glass of milk, Naruto set down his burdens and sat down as he ordered his clone to dispel. Naruto closed his eyes as he took a moment to assimilate all the information that his clone had managed to gather. 'Clone technique is a success,' he cheered internally, 'Better tuck in and have an early night, cause tomorrow is when the real work will begin.'