Summary: All decisions impact the future just the same, be it minor or major. Repairing Orochimaru's damage was one and when Jiraiya decides to ask Naruto one question before the finals, he changes his attitude towards Naruto and instead brings about what Naruto was always meant to be, the perfect little Shinobi.
Disclaimer: All rights to Naruto are owned by Masashi Kishimoto and Shueisha. This is strictly for entertainment purposes only and not to be used for profit. Any references that I might add are reserved to their respective owners.
Seeing the blonde genin hard at work at perfecting water walking after his unsealing left about a thought at the older man's head, that enormous amount of persistence he showed earlier, that unbelievable level of frustration, he hadn't seen it in anyone but himself until he met the Yondaime. Now, seeing Naruto at work, it was like how he was looking at himself at the mirror.
"Hey kid, I want to ask you something." Jiraiya said out of nowhere. Naruto's concentration in maintaining his footing on the water's surface slipped and he fell down once again in the river. A grumbling blonde got to shore with a scowl on his face looking quite annoyed.
Naruto had to stop any further comments about the older man's eccentricities when he saw the serious look Jiraiya had on his face.
So with as much control as he can muster up, Naruto had asked the older man one question, "What?"
Jiraiya smirked at the boy's frustrations and annoyance due to his current form of training. He could tell that Naruto had a lot of confidence issues, an insecure ball hidden a sphere of boasts and compensations. During his most serious of times, the obnoxious attitude was replaced with one of either rage or determination, depending on his situation.
"Tell me kid, why do you want to beat up that Neji kid so bad?"
A field silence kept its place between the two, the blonde looked at the man with a bewildered expression.
"Huh? Why are you asking? It's none of your business, ero-sennin!"
Now that was odd, the boy was usually open about stuff like this. Could it be that he hit something rather personal?
"Seems like the reason of the match is more than just a little fight for promotions, if you're going to act like that then you can forget about training under me." Jiraiya was serious this time, Naruto looked surprised by that.
"What? Why?" Naruto asked all of a sudden. This was his chance to beat Neji, and the pervert before him made him sure that this was his big break. In all seriousness, he couldn't really rely on Ebisu. He had the basic skills down pat, but beyond that, he probably won't have taught him anything about beating the gentle fist.
"Kid, I personally don't know what created an animosity between you two, I don't know if he bullied you and tormented you throughout your academy years, but getting payback for yourself is something I can't condone."
Now Naruto was angry, "Why? I want to beat that bastard ever since the preliminary rounds! That asshole needs to get what's coming to him! He kept talking about all this bull crap about fate!"
Jiraiya's eyebrow rose at that one, "So it's a clash of ideals, huh? What did he say to you anyway?"
Naruto's fists clenched at that one.
"He said that no matter what people do, a loser will always be a loser and that they can never change it. He never said it to me directly, but he said it to Hinata. She was the one that's been working hard ever since then. She's been trying to prove to her family that she's not a failure and for her father to accept her. It got to me and ever since then it's been pissing me off add to that him brutalizing her like that made it even worse. I don't care if he's from a noble clan; he deserves a rearrangement of the face for what he did to his cousin like that! If I could, I would have killed him."
Jiraiya did not like where this was going. From the story Naruto told him, it painted the picture of the Hyuuga clan, a strong, proud clan of highly skilled shinobi that had one of the deadliest forms of Taijutsu in the world that was Naruto's current enemy. What was chilling to the bone, however, was Naruto's willingness to make an enemy out of the entire Hyuuga clan just to prove his point. The branch members would likely hunt the blonde down, jinchuuriki status or not.
But he had to admit, the more Naruto talked about his views in general, the more he identified himself to the unknown son of the Fourth Hokage. A loser that wants to prove his worth, get the girl and kick the arrogant bastard's ass for putting him down.
"This isn't payback for me. This is for Hinata and to prove to Neji that there are people out there who can beat him with enough effort. Besides, I swore on her blood that I'd beat him."
Oh, did he now? Well that makes things much more interesting. A momentary pause happened as Naruto noticed Jiraiya's smirk at him. The white haired old man then said to the boy with the golden hair, "All right then, it's decided. I'll train you to the point that you can beat that Hyuuga brat who insulted your ideal. But first, I want you to do something for me."
Sensing that it was probably something perverted once more, Naruto replied, "I'm not doing the Sexy Jutsu again, if that's what you're thinking, ero-sennin."
Jiraiya gave a perverted chuckle at this with a blush on his face at first before he shook his head and looked serious, "Although it would be a good offer. I have a much more serious proposal. I want you to find the time and talk to this Hinata girl that you've been talking about. She sounds like a sweet kid."
"She's twelve, you sick old man." Naruto deadpanned and Jiraiya was growing annoyed at the blonde's responses.
"Not that, you halfwit! I may be a super pervert but even I have standards! I want you to spend some time with her and ask her about her viewpoints and her whole feelings about the situation you're currently in!" Jiraiya countered and Naruto looked at him suspiciously.
"She's still in the hospital, ero-sennin. I can't come visit her. The doctors said she wasn't allowed to have guests."
Jiraiya palmed his face at his own stupidity at that time. How could he forget?
"All right, after she gets out of the hospital then. Tell me her views and if it affects you. Remember that there is more to being a ninja than just fighting, brat and everything happens for a reason. If you can give me a satisfactory answer, you can forget about this one month training, because I'm taking you in as my apprentice."
Naruto whooped with joy to the last statement, it was a weird task that he didn't know what to think of but if he got it right, he'll be apprenticed to this guy! Imagine all the crazy jutsu he could learn from Ero-sennin! His previous dark thoughts leaving his mind, Naruto grinned stupidly at the old pervert's proposal.
"Alright, before we get to start on some serious training, I'd like to know more about my apprentice candidate. This will be like Kakashi's way of introducing ourselves except we'll be talking about your jutsu."
Naruto nodded as both of them sat down in front of each other. Eager to start, Naruto raised his hand.
"Well, I know Henge, Kawarimi, Kage Shuriken and Kage Bunshin." Naruto counted the skills he had with only his hand.
Jiraiya looked at Naruto with a blank stare.
"What? That's it?"
"Pretty much it, actually." Naruto answered casually with a sheepish grin.
Another blank stare.
THIS is what survived the hellish second part of the exam and facing Orochimaru? HOW in the world did he manage to do that? It was pretty much established that Naruto was book dumb, he could tell by his vocabulary, crude and simply no manners, a hallmark sign of a guardian-less orphan. Either he's been masking his genius in front of him the entire time, or that he was just an extremely lucky idiot. Although he was slightly impressed with the ability to use Kage Bunshin, but with the way Naruto was squandering the technique, he was pretty much still a work in progress.
But he couldn't deny though, for a boy his age, Naruto had the physique built above many of his age. He had a stronger punch, keener eyesight, sharper hearing and a powerful sense of smell compared to any ordinary person. Jiraiya could tell all that by simply observing the blonde. It was probably one of the effects of having a bijuu sealed inside a human. Along with the mental instability all human vessels were known for, they had the physique that existed almost beyond human reach. For someone like the infamous Third Raikage, they could only hope to match that much strength when they slightly flare their chakra.
Just imagine if the boy was trained properly by him, all that hidden potential will be unlocked with just a slight turn of the key! Now if only Naruto's other mind would be willing to cooperate, then he could witness a legend being born before his very eyes. If only he knew what kind of teaching method he would need to start his tweaking.
And with that Kage Bunshin of his, maybe this will be even easier.
"Hey kid, how much do you know about Kage Bunshin?" Jiraiya asked and Naruto tilted his head.
"How I can pretty much make clones solid enough to interact with the world?" Naruto asked rhetorically while Jiraiya grinned. Well, that was a first step.
"More to it than that, kid. The Kage Bunshin has another juicy little secret that I would like to share."
Naruto looked interested as Jiraiya noticed the blonde leaned forward, his body language not even lying to him one bit.
"Conjure up a clone and I'll show you." Jiraiya said this as he performed the same jutsu that Naruto used, two clones popped into existence.
"Now you two clones go away while we wait here. You know what to do." Jiraiya said to his clone as the both of the clones walked away.
"Where are they going, ero-sennin?" Naruto asked all the while Jiraiya scowled.
"Stop calling me that. And they're going to some place you'll know soon enough."
Five minutes in waiting, Jiraiya suddenly smirked while Naruto scowled for no apparent reason at all.
"Well, what got your face all pruned up?" Jiraiya asked and Naruto glared at him.
"You pushed me off a cliff." Naruto answered, feeling a little hurt about Jiraiya's method of learning.
"Well, you got that right. But I want to know how you got hold of that information?" Jiraiya asked in amusement. Naruto's eyes widened a little, his feelings of hurt were soon replaced with enthusiasm.
"When my clone popped! Oh yeah, this is awesome! I get to learn what my clone memorizes! This is a super awesome jutsu!" Naruto said with a smile. Jiraiya smiled at him as well.
"For the next few days, I'll be teaching you how to fight using the fullest intent and potential of your Kage Bunshin. You'll be kicking that Hyuuga's ass with the first week after I'm done with you."
And seemingly, Naruto had that twinkle in his eyes once more. Jiraiya was surprised too. He had thought that the blonde was stable, but apparently not so once he gets in his comfort zone. It seemed he had a lot more trouble inside him rather than outside and was always in constant battle with himself.
'I guess he isn't the exception to the rule after all. Granted, he is still much more stable compared to many that I've heard about during my trips.'
Jiraiya thought it best that it was time to visit his old sensei, he wanted answers.
"Alright, be here by six in the morning tomorrow."
Naruto suddenly asked, "What but why can't we train now?"
"Important business, brat. Now go, earn your rest for now because tomorrow, I'll make your life a living hell."
Naruto's displeased expression turned serious this time as he said to the old man, "That remains to be seen, ero-sennin."
Jiraiya smirked once more. What an interesting egg, of that he was sure of.
The Sandaime was looking at the files that were to be posted for each of the candidate Chuunin hopefuls. The first match that was to begin the third stage is a fight between Uzumaki Naruto and Hyuuga Neji. As with his previous match, The Sandaime noted how heavily outclassed Naruto was compared to the Hyuuga Prodigy. A talent that they can only come across in a generation, but lest he forget that Naruto won his match against Inuzuka Kiba, a boy in his age group who was much faster and more skilled than Naruto. That surprise brought him through a loop! With Naruto's current level of skill, that kind of win made him a wild card in the exams!
"Hokage-sama, Jiraiya is here to see you." His secretary announced bringing him out of his musings.
"Is he also in my list of appointments?" Asked the Hokage and the secretary nodded before looking at his log of activities.
"According to your log book, he is going to report to you every day at this hour for the rest of the month unless there is an emergency."
"Very well, send him in. Also, please prepare some tea while we discuss our matters."
A few seconds later, Jiraiya entered the office with a smirk on his face.
"I take it that you have met our resident prankster and number one knucklehead?" Hiruzen said with a small smile grabbing his trusty old pipe.
"An interesting one, of that I am sure of. He has Minato's looks, but Kushina's attitude. I'm surprised many people don't notice the resemblance." Jiraiya said this as he sat in front of Sarutobi's desk.
"Not many people know Kushina was pregnant, or married for that matter, to Minato. They had always been a secretive bunch. Only you, Biwako and I knew the truth. Sasuke's mother might have, considering her and Kushina were the best of friends, but the truth has always been kept secret." Hiruzen mentioned. Jiraiya knew for a fact that if anyone were to discover Naruto's bloodline, they would be chasing down and capturing the blonde for their own purposes. Minato may have been of normal origin but Kushina was not. The Uzumaki were renowned, feared by their skills in Fuinjutsu. But because many have thought that the Uzumaki had died out with Kushina, they wouldn't stop to think if Naruto was one. Certainly not, Hiruzen knew. Naruto didn't have the common trait of the Uzumaki, their blood red hair. It seemed Minato's genes were much more potent than they anticipated.
That was another issue on its own, too. Being Minato's son, Naruto has a target painted on his back because of being his father's legacy. There was no point in killing the boy, revenge would be useless with Minato dead. What worried him was that Naruto would be used as an experiment. Minato had a unique mind, perhaps even more adept than the last Uchiha Prodigy, Itachi. His skill with the Hiraishin was far greater than that of Tobirama and his mind simply worked like gears in a clock, in constant motion. The Yondaime had a knack for inventing powerful but practical jutsu. Jiraiya once even said that if Minato were still alive today, no doubt he would have surpassed Hiruzen in his prime in just a few short years and possibly match the Shodaime in strength. He had an array of jutsu he had yet to complete, he was close to being sent to Myoboku to become a sage. Imagine the strength that he might have if he were alive right now.
A shudder escaped Hiruzen's spine at just a mere thought of it. If only the incident with the Kyuubi didn't happen.
"I always questioned your decision on that, sensei. Naruto has a right to know and he won't know unless you tell him. I think it's enough that we keep dirty little secrets from him to keep him safe. You know that I happened to stumble upon the fact that Naruto knows he's the vessel of the Kyuubi? Kakashi told me. And it's those kinds of scenarios that make me think that Naruto is having trust issues with everyone."
Hiruzen rose his eyebrows at this, "Are you saying that Naruto can't trust us?"
Not mincing for words, Jiraiya nodded, "Yes, and I think it's eating away at his own person. He shows a lot of bravado and boasts things he's never sure of, but that's because he puts up an act that he can do it. And ironically, even though he wants to be acknowledged, it's his obnoxiousness that keeps pushing people away. There's also a much darker side to him sensei, and I saw it if only for a small second. For a moment, he was willing to kill Neji to prove his point. Didn't you say that Naruto was stable for most of his life that you have known?"
Hiruzen nodded and his shock of finding that Naruto was even capable of thinking such a thing seem inconceivable was tucked away from the back of his mind for now.
"Yes, but there are instances that are not within my capabilities, I'm sorry to say but even I don't know about Naruto's attitude or his entire personality. Perhaps his encounter at Wave was more serious than I originally anticipated."
Jiraiya never once looked bewildered as far as Hiruzen could tell, so Kakashi even reported that mission to his old student. Perhaps he had no need to further explain himself now with Jiraiya knowing the full story of the boy's life.
He looked at Jiraiya for a moment and then back to his pipe as he asked, "I know that this is sudden, and somewhat useless, but can I ask you to look out for him? For his sake?"
Jiraiya gave only a nod, "You don't have to ask, I was planning to anyway, what with the Akatsuki coming to chase him down due to the Kyuubi."
"Has Itachi provided anymore information as to why?"
Jiraiya shook his head, "Unfortunately. There are strange happenings inside the organization that Itachi has left unclear reports. That or he's still keeping cover. All that we know is that they're after the bijuu and they are making a move soon."
Hiruzen leaned back and sighed, wearily, the old kage could feel the weight of the world on his shoulders for a moment as he said while letting out another cloud of smoke from his lips.
"First Orochimaru and now Akatsuki, things are looking grim for the village."
Jiraiya could only nod. The village would have to brace itself from a possible invasion. After all, Orochimaru makes good in his promises.
The next day:
Naruto was glad, he was ecstatic even. Now he gets train for real this time. All that amount of practice and chakra control exercises were now far behind him! And boy, is he so over that phase!
"All right kid, as your first training exercise, I want you to create one hundred clones and send them over to where my clone is over there." The white haired man pointed to his clone that was waving at them at the other side of the field. Naruto nodded enthusiastically at this as he followed suit.
Soon, the field was literally filled to the brim with orange and yellow specks. The blonde then followed the original Jiraiya who had been wordlessly telling Naruto to follow him with a 'come hither' gesture with his hand.
Naruto, rumbling with excitement, didn't walk, he jogged his way over to the toad hermit who said to him, "All right brat, take a deep breath every five seconds and exhale slowly. You'll be doing this for five minutes while I set up a go board."
Naruto looked dumbfounded at that, "What?"
"You heard me, take a deep breath and exhale slowly for five minutes. You'll need it while I'm setting up a Go Board." Jiraiya answered him with equally flat look as he began rummaging to his now obvious package.
"What kind of training is this? You're making me play old man games like Shikamaru too?" Naruto asked in obvious irritability. He could never quite get the enjoyment of playing Shogi or Go with Shikamaru. They were all just moving pieces in order to win. Where's the action in that?
"Brat, you don't understand the very first requirement that Chuunin need to have if you think this is just a game."
Now Naruto was listening. Of course, Jiraiya had to give a little clue about the purpose of the exam. He had to teach his most prized student's son after all.
"Chuunin require leadership skills. They need to have the ability to lead a team and make sure things go smoothly. Among all the most people that die during missions, chuunin are the highest of those casualties. Because it is there that the real dangerous missions are given to them with little experience, chuunin are expected to take those missions without a moment's notice. Are you with me so far?"
Naruto nodded and then glanced at the Go board, "But what's the board game for?"
"To teach you how to strategize, kid, those Kage Bunshin of yours, they're the perfect dispensable army that anyone can have. With the right amount of strategy and tactics, you can take down even the most experienced jounin!"
Now Naruto's look of disappointment turned to become one of excitement as realization dawned on him. He wordlessly began the training exercise Jiraiya had given him, completely pumped for the next set of training.
Five minutes later, Jiraiya was done setting up a small picnic area complete with the go table, a fair amount pillows on the side and some tea.
"Okay, Naruto that's enough. For about two hours, you'll be playing Go with me. Those breathing exercises I told you about? Use it when you get frustrated and calm yourself down. The added oxygen is definitely a big plus to that head of yours."
As they sat down, Jiraiya explained Naruto the rules of playing Go and use of his pieces in both capturing and gaining "territory" of a determined space. The old man even hinted to Naruto that he should try doing things subtly and that he can't go about with a frontal assault.
When the game began, Jiraiya noticed many of Naruto's attack patterns, all randomized yet some where being pulled into a poorly thought of strategy. A few minutes later, Naruto placed a black stone just to the bottom right with just an empty space to its right and a heavy set of stones littering on its left. Jiraiya was smirking when he saw Naruto looking quite bored of the game already.
'Hah, that bluff was so obvious that... WHAT JUST HAPPENED?'
Jiraiya did a double take before rubbing his eyelids and seeing it for himself. Now on the table, Naruto's black pieces just surrounded one line of his white pieces, effectively calling them dead and capturing his territory.
"H-How? What? When?"
"I used three different areas of attack to create a diversion and made you think to focus on the top while I conquer the bottom with small stones in random directions. Got you there, ero-sennin." Naruto replied, a sly voice hinting of the blonde's use of misdirection to get him caught off balance.
"Fine, fine you win this round. For every round that you win you get a pillow to your side. Whoever has the most pillows in the end wins."
Two hours later:
Jiraiya's left eye was twitching in both disbelief and annoyance. Right in front of him, Naruto had eight pillows neatly stacked behind the blonde while he had three. Naruto was looking down at the board rather thoughtfully planning his next move while his arms were crossed. Just then, Naruto grabbed a white stone this time, due to Naruto having more wins by their fifth game, and placed it beside three black stones effectively capturing Jiraiya's territory.
'This kid is pretty good for his age.'
"Oh yeah, and another one goes to Uzumaki-sotaicho-sama! Bow before my military genius! I just conquered another part of your territory, ero-sennin!"
"Don't push your luck and stop calling me that!"
It didn't help that all the while, they could hear some of Naruto's clones dispelling and giving Naruto momentary distractions.
"Doesn't help if you suck at this, ero-sennin!"
Cripes when will this kid stop rubbing it in his face?
"Well, I honestly never expected you to be this good in Go, kid. What? You get a lot of free time, when you were younger?" Jiraiya asked. And for the second time when they met, the older man felt like he just stepped on a landmine with Naruto's expression.
For a second there, Naruto's expression was sullen but then turned into a wide toothy grin.
"I never really had anyone to play with when I was a kid. Though Jiji tried to curb my prankster attitude with different board games for a while, he gave up after seeing me just not being too attentive to it."
Ah, that would explain the expression and some knowledge about the board games even though Naruto acted like he only had his first match with it.
"I'm surprised, this is kind of fun." Naruto admitted, now finding new appreciation to Shikamaru's very lackadaisical passion, even if by a little.
"Well, now that you know the purpose of the game, do you think you can apply the things that you learned with your clones?" Jiraiya asked and Naruto cradled his chin with his right hand and began to think before looking at Jiraiya with a nod.
"Yeah, I think I have an idea now. I need to use my clones better."
Jiraiya gave a sagely nod to Naruto's new epiphany, "That's right, as it is, you're at a disadvantage when you rely on your taijutsu against Neji. Based from the stories I've heard about your match against the Inuzuka and the fact that I am now seeing for myself that you rely on your close quarter combat, shadow clones and not much else. Against a Hyuuga, without the proper teaching, you're dead meat, kid. That's why I'm here to teach you how to use them. If power, speed and technique won't get us the win, then subterfuge, tactics and strategy will be our weapons."
Naruto watched the handicap match as his clones dispelled one by one by the old pervert who showed his superior taijutsu ability and the old fart's clone didn't even once look winded.
"When your opponent is stronger, faster, and far more skilled than you, your best course of action is to outsmart them. That or get them caught by surprise, either way, never let up and find a way to control the battle. Your sensei says that you're unpredictable, that means you're creative, so creative that you have the ingenuity to change the course of a fight. If you can use that to the fullest, then you'll be just as good as the Yondaime."
Naruto looked at Jiraiya with such awe and then back to himself. Praise was very scarce for him, relying only in his own words that tried uplifting himself from failure after failure. Now, after Iruka, he had heard it from someone who didn't look at him like a plague. It somehow did wonders to his confidence.
"Your clone said earlier to give it everything I got, right?" Naruto asked with a serious tone, turning his attention back to the makeshift battle, with the clones being reduced now to a half. The clones had somehow gotten smarter, opting for one to sacrifice itself and let the smoke provide cover while the others exploit the perceived openings that the Jiraiya clone had.
Now Jiraiya smirked at the blonde, thinking that the apprenticeship of this boy became more and more appealing as he gets to see the blonde's actions and his words more and more.
"Now you're getting it. Go wild, kid. Let me see just what you can do." Jiraiya said as he turned back and Naruto drew two kunai from his pouch. With another middle index cross seal, a clone popped into existence and disappeared. All the remaining Naruto clones looked at each other and nodded to each other.
It was time to get wild!
The clones then reached to their own pouches and out came kunai multitudes of kunai and shuriken and all of them were thrown in the direction of the Jiraiya clone that held his hands together to perform a jutsu.
"Ninpo: Hari Jizo (Ninja Art: Needle Guardian)" His long white hair sharpened and surrounded him like needles, intercepting kunai and shuriken alike. The assault didn't stop there, though, as Naruto intensified his attack. Grabbing one of the clones, they disappeared in a cloud of smoke as the replicas mirrored his action, this time, turning to a giant fuma shuriken. The real Jiraiya raised his eyebrow at this.
'How is he going to throw that shuriken? It's impossible since it doesn't have the same mass as a real one!'
Or so he thought, the gigantic bladed weapons were thrown perfectly like they were actual shuriken. The Jiraiya clone shifted from the Needle Guardian to another jutsu to sweep the shuriken out in midair.
"Ranjushigami no Jutsu (Wild Lion's Mane Technique)!" Jiraiya's white hair seemingly enlarged and swept the shuriken in midair. Naruto wasn't done yet as the clones charged in all at once. By now, with Jiraiya too busy to stave off the onslaught of gigantic throwing stars, the toad sage found himself vulnerable to twenty six identical blondes all intent in causing him pain. The Jiraiya clone then used the tensile strength and resistance of his hair to coil to the ground and send him springing up and away from the orange clad teen. This day had been held by more surprises than he can count.
Today he just realized that Naruto's potential shined brighter than most. The current geniuses and prodigies of this time were nothing compared to this boy's innate potential. This was more than just gold. He had found a diamond in a sea of rhinestones!
Naruto may not be a genius, but he had the makings of being one. If it weren't for much of his childhood, he probably would be. But Jiraiya did not wish to live in should haves, would haves and could haves. He knew for a fact that much of the damage had already been done and the best that he could do was to repair that damage. This is what Kakashi probably have meant when he said that Naruto was rough around the edges. Compared to newly minted genin, Naruto was sloppy. But he could care less about forms. Taijutsu was the art of fighting with your body not with forms. Many forms of Taijutsu combat have weaknesses and each weakness as glaring as its stances. For Jiraiya, knowing how, where and when to throw a punch was good enough for him. Punches and kicks were only as good as the practitioner and even a practitioner fails when he fights with his own style against something unfamiliar.
True Taijutsu skill required a strict amount of discipline and actual years of combat training, which they heavily lacked with the latter. Fighting a Hyuuga with Naruto's current skill set was suicide, but he knew that Naruto only needed a little polishing and probably add just a jutsu or two to sweeten the deal. The Kage Bunshin training with the Jiraiya clone would help with Naruto's muscle memory and mental capacities to start his re-training with the basics. His Kage Bunshin, along with Kawarimi and this new version of Henge would surely be the things that he needs to counter the Hyuuga's lauded Jyuuken.
But just in case, if for an inexplicable reason, that Neji had something up his sleeve that were advanced Jyuuken techniques, then he needs much more than just tactics, misdirection and strategy.
A week of relearning, a week of mastering elemental manipulation, another week for the toad contract and summoning, and three days for the start of Naruto's assessment in using the Kyuubi's chakra.
Yes, that would suit him well.
Three hours later, the little battlefield they had were littered with Shuriken and kunai, mostly, they were all dispelled and Naruto was laying down on the grass, face up, arms wide open and legs spread eagle.
He looked up in the skies, impassively and his lips curved into a smile as he thought about his training. Tired as he was, he couldn't help but feel a little more proud of himself.
He didn't brag this time, he didn't have to uplift himself with empty words. He never had to be put down. This was something he could definitely get used to.
"I don't plan on losing."
And he wouldn't. That was what he had promised.
For one whole week, Naruto had improved his tactics and strategies with Jiraiya. Now, he could mingle in with the clones, rush in and perform kawarimi's with his fellow clones for them to take a hit, use Henge and perform any amount of complex attack patterns. But what the most useful skill he probably learned was what Jiraiya called 'subtle suggestions'.
With movement patterns alone and his form of misdirection, he can make sure his opponent can fall to his grasp. Jiraiya once said that he can orchestrate the outcome of a match if he executes his attacks perfectly.
Although Naruto admitted to himself that he couldn't take that kind of perfection the way he was now, he was going to make sure it was better than just passable. Jiraiya reminded him once more that in winning, "Execution is everything."
For the umpteenth time that week, he had faced off against a clone of Jiraiya's and everyday there was just something new he liked to add in trying to at least get a hit in. As an added effect, his reflexes had surely increased. So honed that blocking, parrying, dodging and deflecting attacks became second nature to him.
Imagine him, fighting Jiraiya with one hundred clones for five hours that was five hundred hours worth of training, equating to roughly about twenty one days of pure torture summed up in five gruelling hours of hopelessly trying to out-manoeuvre the Sennin.
"Today, we're doing something completely different."
Naruto looked somewhat displeased, "What? But I still haven't got a hit in!"
Jiraiya laughed at the thought. The boy surely liked to overextend his reach.
"Kid, you are still a hundred years too early for you to get a hit at me. I only used that goal to make it more difficult for you to try and do your best. There's a reason why I am one of the Sannin, Naruto. But that doesn't mean that you haven't improved. Over the past week, I've seen your use of Kage Bunshin becoming much more efficient. You've been using tactics and you're starting to plan well on your attacks. By now, you can surprise a jounin several times but you'll probably have difficulty in doing so. So today I'm adding a little extra. It's time for you to learn a new jutsu."
When Naruto heard that last sentence, the blonde whooped in joy and began jumping around before approaching the Toad Sage with sparks flying in his eyes.
"It's a relatively simple wind element jutsu. But I think it could help you in your fight. If what I heard from the spreading rumour about Hyuuga Neji is true, then I expect that he might have the Kaiten (Spin) as one of his techniques. So this should help you negate that advantage."
Naruto nodded twice before Jiraiya gave him a scroll from his pocket. The Toad Sage then explained to him.
"This is a simple C-Rank Ninjutsu named Fuuton: Tenrin (Fuuton: Providence Wheel). I know, archaic, but it's a relatively simple jutsu to learn one with potentially devastating results, I might add."
Naruto didn't look keen to absorb this however, he could do a B-rank technique and it was almost useless until he knew how to REALLY use them. It sounded like this jutsu, though simple in nature, sounded like it had a lot of stipulations.
"The nature of the technique is a simple counter-rotation. The technique itself is a c-rank because of its simplicity in nature in that you need to connect it point blank before the effects settle in, you can thank sensei for that, he's the guy who made mundane jutsu after mundane jutsu. The idea of this technique is, the faster the spin of the target, the faster the counter-spin will be."
If ever Naruto had a look of true disappointment, he never even once tried to hide it as Jiraiya explained the purpose of the technique.
"That jutsu was made by the old man?"
Jiraiya smirked at this, the kid really was amusing.
"Sarutobi-sensei's got a lot of free time training by himself when he was much younger. I don't know what got in his mind in creating such a jutsu, but those were the days when sensei would start to earn the title of 'The Professor'. This is just one of his creations and he was certain that this thing had no use other than to have a stronger punching force because of the counter-spin."
"If it's useless, then why are you teaching it to me? I thought it was going to be an awesome jutsu!" Naruto complained, his enthusiasm completely vanishing in an instant.
"Hey now, don't be like that. This jutsu has the potential to stop his Kaiten."
Naruto then asked with a disbelieving eyebrow, "How?"
Now Jiraiya started to mess with the blonde. Jiraiya feigned his exasperation with a sigh and shook his head as he explained to the blonde, "Kid, if you were listening earlier, you would get what I was trying to say. If this is the way it's got to be then you should go find out for yourself of what I'm talking about. I can't spoon feed you, you'd rely more on me than to yourself. I taught you how to use your head in battle. So it's time to put that thought process here."
Sometimes, a little manipulation was the key to move things forward.
"Ah, you're just going to peep anyway! Come on, ero-sennin, give me some pointers here." Naruto pleaded and performed his sexy jutsu on the old toad.
"Pretty please?" She dragged the last word with as much sultry as she could muster but Jiraiya gave Naruto a lecherous grin and had a blush on his face all the while letting out a perverted giggle.
"Well, since you asked so nicely..."
Naruto then dispelled the jutsu as Jiraiya's grin quickly turned to disappointment.
"Who am I kidding? Absolutely not, you need to do this on your own and..."
Another transformation and Jiraiya's libido came back full force.
"WHAT WAS I THINKING? OF COURSE I'LL HELP YOU..."
It would take two more transformations for Jiraiya to finally be firm with his resolve about letting Naruto handle things.
"Kid, the Yondaime had a mind like no other. If you want to surpass him, then I suggest that you model your thinking just like him. Give it a try, Naruto. I'm sure that the Yondaime would have faith in you as well."
Of course he would, Naruto was Minato's son after all. Naruto didn't seem convinced at all. Instead, he was looking down, for the first time; uncertainty was eating away at his heart. Jiraiya was looking down on him, his confidence issues were rising up again. Jiraiya couldn't help but shake his head in dismay, not at Naruto, but to many in the village.
"He would? How would you know that? I'm not exactly the sharpest kunai in the tool kit. I'm not as smart as the Yondaime."
'Perhaps if Naruto grew up differently, things would be much more dreadful. More than anything, this is a sign of doubt in himself.' Jiraiya thought as he placed his gigantic hand on Naruto's head. The blonde looked at the old man in surprise as Jiraiya said to him,
"Kid, I was the former teacher of the Yondaime, I taught him many things, watched as he grew up and had a sense of pride as if he were my own son. If anyone knew more about Yondaime placing his faith in someone, it would be me. So don't be hard on yourself. You need to have more faith in your own abilities." Naruto didn't respond to Jiraiya's words, perhaps still unbelieving to his declaration. But whether Naruto believes him or not, it would be up for the blonde to decide. Students grow from Masters who know when to teach and when to let students figure things out for themselves. That's what makes good shinobi.
As Jiraiya handed Naruto the scroll, another thought crossed Jiraiya's mind.
"That reminds me, how is that Hinata girl coming along? Is she out of the hospital yet?"
A moment of pause happened between the two. Naruto looked at Jiraya as the hermit looked back at Naruto with the same blank stare.
"I completely forgot about that. Eh, sorry, ero-sennin. You want me to do it now?" Naruto asked with pure innocence, Jiraiya had other intentions though.
"By all means, boy, by ALL means." Jiraiya said with a grin.
It should be noted that Jiraiya, being the pervert that he is, had a tendency to pass on his addiction to women with anyone he meets. He tried it and succeeded with his teacher, almost got killed by Kushina when he tried to taint Minato to his side, once and was about to go against Kushina's wishes once more with her child.
'That boy has potential not only in the shinobi arts but with women as well. At least Kushina isn't in here to see this happen. Naruto will be my apprentice and no one will stop me from pulling him over to my side!' Jiraiya giggled at the thought as Naruto was walking away and looking for his target of the day, one Hyuuga Hinata.
It was such a nice day after finally being out of the hospital, Hinata was told that she needed to rest and no amount of stress should happen to her in the next few weeks that were to come. The thought of her being stuck in her home with the eyes of elders on her and their dismayed looks made her feel apprehensive in going back home and enduring their harsh words yet again. For sure, her father will tell her that she was a failure once more and she was sure that the result of her earlier match would have deep repercussions inside the political structure of her clan.
Turning away from such depressing thoughts, Hinata decided that she would need to just stretch a bit and stall enough before she headed back. Her retainer was nowhere to be seen, maybe deployed by a mission from the Hokage. She let out a sigh, at least she can be alone for a while and not think about her clan a few hours longer.
Her thoughts then shifted to her stay in the hospital and how nice a surprise she woke up when Kurenai said to her with a smile that Naruto would occasionally check up on her. She was glad, but not overly so. Naruto was the kind of boy that would visit the hospital to anyone he knew. He was concerned that way. He would probably visit Shino if he was hospitalized too but that's just how he cared. If only many others would see how wonderful the blonde boy she had a crush on for years. But then again, she would rather have it this way, less competition and more time for her to announce her feelings.
If she ever tells him about it, though, it was just hard telling the boy she liked that she was head over heels for him.
Thinking that she would treat herself with a cinnamon bun, Hinata turned to a corner and found Naruto walking towards her direction.
Hinata didn't know what to do for a second, and panic was starting to settle in, looking for a place to hide, Hinata tilted her head from side to side as Naruto came looking for her with that toothy smile etched on his face.
She shivered when he called out her name with such familiarity. In her clan, proper address was to be given to people of different standings. Hiashi is to be called, 'Hiashi-sama' or the polite term, 'chichiue', for her and Hanabi. There were rules for everything and those rules felt like they were breaking her apart. When she was outside of the household, she was carefree, unwatched and none the wiser.
For Naruto to call out to him like that made her feel a little happy inside, at least her thoughts can shift from her most depressing ones back to right now, where her little bit of happiness would be worth a little more with the thoughts of her clan being tossed back into the recesses of her mind, to be figured out at a later date.
"You're out already, that's great!" Naruto said with genuine care. Naruto, without even saying anything romantic, made sure his actions speak better than his words. Or at least, that's what Hinata thought. Naruto cared, truly. And it was one of the reasons why she had great admiration for him.
"I-I was out just a few hours ago. K-Kurenai-sensei said that you often came to check up on me, I-I'm t-thankful for all that you've done." Hinata said with a bow and Naruto felt a little humbled from Hinata's appreciative gesture.
"Nah, don't worry about it." He said with a smile that changed to a serious one when he added, remorse escaping his voice, "Besides, I was the one who wanted you to continue even though Neji had you beat down. I shouldn't have given you ideas about that, you almost died because of me."
He then mumbled, but Hinata could still hear, "If you died, your death would be in my conscience forever."
Hinata shook her head, "I-I would have continued, regardless, N-Naruto-kun. I had to prove that I was strong enough, that I wouldn't fail. B-But it seems, that my skill is still lacking."
By now, both of them were sinking to some form of depression. The bush behind them seemed to be shaking out of frustration.
Behind the shrubbery, Jiraiya was shaking with frustration.
'Come on, kid, get out of that depressing mood! Cheer her up, damn it!'
As if the blonde had heard his cue, Naruto shook his head and refuted Hinata's last statement with a look that sent shivers down her spine, this wasn't an admonishing look, this was the gaze of determination, "Don't beat yourself up over it. You're strong, Hinata, stronger than you give yourself credit for. Losing is just part of growing strong, it takes a real strong person to move forward, and I know that you've been doing that for a long time. So cheer up, Hinata! You're strong, I believe you are and there's nothing that can stop you from reaching your goals."
'Not exactly romantic, but the boy's got the words and the actions of a real man.' Jiraiya grinned, writing double time with his small notebook.
Hinata, for her part, was taken aback by Naruto's words. His words, made her feel so reassured that she couldn't help but let out a small smile and a blush on her cheeks.
"Um-umm... T-thank you, N-Naruto-kun, for giving me encouragement. B-But I have to ask, why are you here?"
Naruto simply grinned and said, "I just want to talk to you. Because I'm fighting Neji in the finals, I want to ask about how you feel about this. I made a vow with your blood that I'll win for your sake."
And his words made her feel lost once more. How could Naruto sweep her off her feet like that? How does he do things that make her feel completely and absolutely make her knees so weak that they feel like she was losing ground? It was completely unfair of how Naruto felt like a tidal wave and washed her away like that!
"Hey, Hinata, are you okay?" Naruto asked her, concern evident on his deep blue eyes as Hinata leaned back trying not faint and assuring Naruto that she was fine.
"I-I'm okay, just that I'm still recovering. T-the doctors said that I just need to rest and to avoid some stress for a while. I-I can't have something making me feel bad until I recover, I'm sorry."
Another silence, although he didn't look like it, Naruto was getting rather fidgety, he was waiting for her answer. Hinata knew, but she didn't exactly know what to say, so Naruto, keeping in mind of Hinata's condition, Naruto tried to at least be patient, just for once.
A few more seconds later, Hinata finally spoke, "I-I knew that you were fighting Neji-nii-san, Kurenai-sensei told me a few days ago when I was in the hospital. I-I'm rooting for you, b-but Neji-nii-san is f-family, p-please don't do anything that w-we would both regret."
Naruto stopped his train of thought as he looked at Hinata with bewilderment.
"But that bastard didn't just beat you up, he made you suffer! He put you down, disrespected you even! He trampled on you like you were just some bug! HE CALLED YOU A LOSER!"
Inwardly, Naruto was seething. He just couldn't fathom the idea of calling the one who stepped on you as family! Neji didn't deserve to be called that as far as he was concerned! Families were supposed to help each other, not bite each other's head off!
Hinata, however, never once looked put off from Naruto's reaction. She had somewhat expected that. She knew Naruto had no family, so he was having a hard time understanding that concept. For that, she felt sad for Naruto's predicament, so for the first time, Hinata answered him with a smile as she sat down and waited for her cinnamon rolls. And for once, she didn't stutter.
"Family is family, no matter how we look at it. Neji-nii-san wasn't always like that when we were much younger. He was much more cheerful. But there were circumstances that happened that changed him, much like how Sasuke-san was affected, and much like how you try to always avoid. That bitterness he carries is a result of his father sacrificing himself for my own father."
Naruto remained silent at this, even though Hinata seemed timid, she had a viewpoint that knew exactly the kind of pain that he had been going through. That, he can admit. Hinata may have a bigger sense of empathy than he had and he respected her more for it. In fact, he could swear that Hinata was someone who he can rely to actually listen and understand him. He couldn't help but reciprocate those actions of hers.
"What happened to Neji's father?"
For the first time in a week since his bitter attitude towards Neji, Naruto was willing to listen to what Hinata had to say just so he could understand why Neji was like that.
"It happened during a peace treaty between Konoha and Kumo…"
And so the tale began.
Thirty minutes later, Naruto was looking away, hands clenched into a fist as he stared forward as if he was looking farther.
"That cursed seal, how could they just do that? To their own family as well? Why would they do it? Why does it have to be that way?"
And now, he understood. Why Neji was a complete jerk, why he believes in pre-determined notions and a fatalistic point of view. He was simply acting out to the harsh events that lead him at this point.
"This stupid tradition is making me mad. I don't see the point of sealing people and making them feel like garbage."
Now he knew what to do. He knew exactly what he was supposed to do, he had more reasons to win this match now than ever before, he had more to prove to Neji than to himself. He was sure of it. When Naruto stood up, he looked back at Hinata and said with determination in his voice.
"One day, when I become Hokage, I will change the old ways. I'll change the Hyuuga, I'll change everything."
Hinata looked at Naruto with awe as the blonde moved and waved goodbye to Hinata. The blonde simply spoke to her about his intentions and he meant every word of it. She couldn't put in to words but she had somehow placed her faith in Naruto.
With mere words, relief washed over her and soothed her like a stream of gently flowing water washing over her.
"T-Thank you, Naruto-kun. I-I don't know what exactly to say to that."
Naruto looked at Hinata and beamed at her with that great big smile of his, "Then let's change this village together, Hinata, for the better."
And just like that, Naruto left. Hinata had already forgotten about her snack before heading back.
"So how was it, kid?" Jiraiya asked, hoping that Naruto hadn't noticed that he was spying on the blonde. In truth, he wanted both to get Naruto's answer AND obtain some vital inspiration for his books. Surely that would get him over the current wall that he was having!
"I-It was pretty eye opening." Naruto replied, his expression of a souring mood continued to grow.
"I learned that Hinata and Neji's clan is made up of complete assholes that have no remorse in stepping on their own family members. I learned that Neji's father died as a choice to protect his own brother in the main family and took his place against that incident with Kumo. It's why Neji keeps saying bullcrap like fate and destiny. By the time I'm done with him, I'll shove that destiny shtick were the sun don't shine."
Jiraiya looked down on Naruto, silent, as if there was something he was contemplating within his head. He most likely was, he surely wasn't in a position to support Naruto's notion of destiny and fate. No, he's been a searcher for the promised child for almost all his life. That prophecy told him about a child that will decide the fate of the world.
Then he met Nagato, Konan and Yahiko with Nagato possessing the sacred bloodline that anyone would kill to have, the fabled Rinnegan.
Right then and there, Jiraiya had become a firm believer.
"You seem really antagonistic at that Neji kid, brat. You sure this isn't just your convictions that are in question? But what if he said was all true?" Jiraiya asked and straightforwardly, Naruto answered him with as much as he could rationalize.
"Of course it isn't! I don't believe in any of that pre-determined bullshit! I'm a man who makes my own path! If I were to even believe what he said, that means I would be a loser for life and I won't become the Hokage!"
'So he's out there to prove he's worthy of the title.'
"Kid, destiny and fate, all of that pre-determined history, sometimes it does exist." Jiraiya answered, though he could tell that Naruto wouldn't have any of it. He couldn't blame the boy.
"No it doesn't! That just means that I'm stuck as the loser forever! But I've proven that I can be more than just that! Hinata's not like that! She's just like me, and she wants to prove everyone wrong. She's not a failure. People just can't see that."
Jiraiya had to shake his head at this, maybe it was time to tell Naruto.
"Kid, in a few years from now, you'll be facing ninja that have abilities that are inconceivable. I know that much because they're after you. I've been keeping tabs on them since Orochimaru joined that organization. It's one of the reasons why I'm here in Konoha, to prepare you for that encounter soon. The chuunin exams? That's just cakewalk. I'm here to make sure you survive the encounter. Being the vessel of the nine tails holds a certain appeal to certain people and these criminals are several of them. That's your predetermined fate right there, kid."
"But it doesn't follow the consequences." Naruto answered, firm and full of conviction in his words. Jiraiya seemed impressed. The boy wasn't even intimidated. He didn't know if it was courage or just plain stupidity. But belief is there nonetheless.
"So what if I have to fight them? It doesn't tell me that they'll surely win and I get killed. I'm my own person, and what I decide is what I'll stick to till' the very end. If they want to get me, then they're welcome to try. I'll grow so strong that I wouldn't even have to worry about them trying to kill me. I'll just beat them up first."
"That's what I mean with that destiny thing. One way or another, there's going to be a situation that will be out of your hands and that you will have to be forced into a circumstance that you don't want. You don't even get a say in the matter." Jiraiya countered and Naruto clenched his fists in anger.
"Isn't that what my whole life has been all about? I'm in a situation that's out of my league and I don't even get a say anything about it. The Fourth sealed the kyuubi in me and I'm living through that nightmare now. What else is new? What else do I have to go through?"
And Jiraiya promptly shut up at that, now getting what Naruto had to say.
"I wasn't given many choices and I had to make do with what I have. But I don't care. If I give in now, then it just proves that I'm going to be a loser forever. It means that I couldn't keep my promises."
Jiraiya looked at the boy with a sense of disbelief and somehow senses of pure trust in Naruto's words. The way the boy spoke meant, simple as it is, volumes of his character. This was a talent that many in the world don't have, charisma. And one day, it would definitely be a potent trait that many would be drawn into.
Two weeks remaining until the finals arrive, and Jiraiya had thought it was time to put Naruto through the main gist of his training.
"Ever had a strange feeling of using your chakra before, brat?" He asked, just to open up the topic slowly, Naruto seemed to think this through for the first time. It seems whenever he was in a foul mood, Naruto had a chance to think things through.
"If you're asking about the Kyuubi's chakra, then yes, I've had a few times using it. But most of those times, I tend to forget what comes after, it's like my head becomes too hazy and everything becomes a blur. After that, I notice things differently but feel as if I've done something before. I'm drawing blanks whenever I try to recall details to what happened when it takes over only the gist of it. I do remember the feeling of having the chakra and fighting with it, though."
Jiraiya scratched his head out of thinking of the sensation that Naruto had when unconsciously tapping into the fox's chakra. He never expected for the blonde to give details about it.
"So you have some experience in using it, right? Does Kakashi ever tell you about the times you did leak out chakra?"
Naruto nodded, "Yeah there was that one time in Wave Country, Kakashi-sensei said to me about it. But he said he could only feel it, not like he really saw, he was busy fighting no-brows and all but he could tell I was leaking out the fox's chakra. It triggered when Sasuke got stabbed multiple times and when I was fighting that giant snake. It's hard, like balancing on a board with the ocean trying to make you fall. A little mistake can make me sink in it. At least, that's what Kakashi-sensei tried to tell me."
"That means you can only trigger the chakra when you're under great stress or near death. It feeds on your emotions, mostly." By this, Jiraiya was already coming up with ways to trigger that effect and have Naruto call upon it at his disposal.
"Right, so how do you feel when you use its chakra?" Jiraiya asked and Naruto looked somewhat hesitant.
"I-I don't like using it. It feels too malicious, like the second I let my guard down, I'll be taken over. But sometimes I can't help it if my opponent's too strong. So I always use that as a last resort. It's too dangerous, I don't know how to say it."
Jiraiya noted, knowing that Naruto had some sort of grasp to the power he's holding within.
"That's good, it means that you have some form of understanding your powers more than anything. But let me remind you, you won't always be on top of your game in your fights and when push comes to shove, you'll be at a disadvantage and the ninetails is the only thing that's left in your bag of tricks."
"I know that but at the same time, I don't want to use it as much as possible!" Naruto countered but Jiraiya cut him off.
"And that's good, that's your trump card. You won't always get to use it, but it doesn't mean you can forget about it and move on. Before a farmer searches the open fields, he must first look within his house."
Jiraiya nodded and pat himself on the back, seemingly proud of his own quote.
"What's that got to do with the Kyuubi's chakra?" Naruto asked, now confused as to what the toad hermit was saying out of his mouth.
"It's a metaphor, brat. Forget about it. Before you master any jutsu, you must first refine yourself. You have to improve yourself first before going out. It comes with the skill in being a great ninja just like Sarutobi-sensei."
Jiraiya then had a bright idea enter his head right now and grinned.
"All right, now that this little is closed, let's begin with training. Starting with a new jutsu."
"But I thought you said before I could learn any jutsu..."
"Nah, this is a little different, I'm using this jutsu as a way to tire you out. Kage Bunshin's not going to cut it. You're a damn powerhouse, kid. Only a large scale jutsu can make you winded and I'm not about to teach you a dangerous technique that could very well kill us both since you're still an amateur." Jiraiya then summoned a large toad about the size of an average man that held a scroll.
"Here, sign this contract with your blood and you can become one of the summoners for the great and mighty toads!" Jiraiya exclaimed with pride as Naruto looked at it giant parchment before him. He noted that many names were listed here. To the side of an empty slot, he noted a name, Namikaze Minato.
If he remembered correctly, that was the name of the fourth Hokage. He'd remember it for sure; the yondaime was his idol after all.
So Jiraiya wasn't just making stuff up. He was actually the teacher of the Fourth. That meant this man definitely knew his stuff.
All doubt vanished from his mind, Naruto bit his thumb and wrote his name in full, besides the man he considered his hero.
With that finished, Jiraiya rolled the scroll away and the toad vanished from sight with a plume of smoke.
"Now the handseals are, Boar, Dog, Bird, Monkey, Sheep, draw blood and summon!"
Jiraiya demonstrated and a frog wearing a set of samurai armor appeared below him.
Naruto's eyes sparkled once more and performed the same technique.
"All right, let's do this, Kuchiyose no Jutsu! (Summoning technique)"
A plume of smoke rose from the hand that slammed on the ground, excitement ran through the blonde's veins as the smoke continued to rise, indicating something big! Naruto's imagination ran wild at the possibilities as the smoke covered both him and Jiraiya who seemed rather expectant about the after effect of Naruto's jutsu.
Both master and pupil were at the edge of their seats, slowly eating away at their attention as excitement drew upon them.
Was this it? Did Naruto really inherit his father's genius? Was he destined to stand on a pedestal above others as his father once did? The excitement that the blonde held soon transferred to Jiraiya but it quickly faded as soon as he heard the blonde cursed rather loudly.
"GODDAMNIT, WHAT THE HELL IS THAT?"
Jiraiya's attention turned to where Naruto pointed at and to his amusement, out came a tadpole with legs. Jiraiya couldn't help but chuckle and then turning to full blown laughter.
"Oh man, talk about the hype! And I was thinking that a kid had just beaten the Yondaime's record in summoning! Boy how wrong I was!"
Feeling frustrated with the result, Naruto performed the Kage Bunshin and four clones popped out, all performing the same technique by letting them smear blood from the original's bleeding thumb.
"Oh hey, kid, don't be too hard on yourself you might end up doing something..."
Soon, Naruto collapsed on the ground, the drain felt unbelievable compared to spamming his clones! This jutsu was hardcore!
"Told you, you should let your clones handle the training with your wind jutsu while you practice the Kuchiyose."
In the next few days, Naruto would train with Jiraiya about Kuchiyose while some of his clones worked to master Tenrin. By the fifth day, Tenrin was learned well and Naruto had unimaginable leaps and bounds with the Kuchiyose. But for all his planning, Jiraiya just couldn't get Naruto to siphon the Kyuubi's chakra out willingly. So now, he wanted to try a different approach.
By the fifth day, just before he was to finish his summoning training, Jiraiya had Naruto wait at the canyon that was said to have been created by the demon fox.
"All right since we're getting nowhere with tiring you out, let's try a different approach, one where we simulate a life-or-death experience to draw the fox's chakra out."
"How are we going to do that?" Naruto asked and Jiraiya smirked pointing down at the canyon. Naruto, being him, he obeyed Jiraiya and leaned down and looked down at the cliff.
'Man, that looks really deep.'
He unconsciously gulped as he continued to stare down, his heart racing.
"Just stay put brat, let the fear takeover you and..." It was then that the old hermit kicked the blonde straight to the abyss below.
"REMEMBER THAT THIS IS PART OF THE TRAINING!"
"IF I GET OUT OF THIS ALIVE I AM SO GOING TO KICK YOUR AAAAAAAAAAAAASSS!"
As soon as Naruto looked down and stared straight at the darkness, his vision and surroundings changed. He could feel his feet feeling wet and cold. There was no wind in his face or his hair. He looked down and saw water, up and saw darkness. All around him, everything was dark and red.
"And so he appears. It's nice to have some guests once in a while."
Naruto turned his back and to his astonishment, there stood the mighty Kyuubi, in all its nine-tailed glory and crouching down to meet him all behind an enormous golden steel caged prison.
"Hello brat, it's nice to see you here. Now open this cage so I can eat you up!"
"Kyuubi no Youko..."
"Yes, me, your prisoner and your benefactor. The sole reason why you're still alive to this day."
A wisp of one of its tail moved above the menacing creature's head as Naruto's expression of surprise changed to one of hesitation. The fox gave a sinister chuckle and gave off a malicious grin, with only his eyes and his sharp teeth being visible from behind the cage.
"Come closer child, come closer. Let me take a good look at you."
A monstrous claw made itself known as it slammed on to the cage with an audible clang. The fox growled in rage as it stared at the boy before him, from beyond his prison.
The boy smirked for the first time it met the monster.
"Not even close, you idiot."
"Your blood is all that awaits me! I yearn for the day when I can finally obtain my freedom, so much so when that when the time comes, I'll make sure to savour every moment as I feel your bones grinding between my teeth!"
Naruto simply shrugged that threat off, confident with the Yondaime's seal and shouted to the fox, "You're not getting out of here anytime soon! Not like you can anyway, so listen up!"
The blonde's diatribe then began with a simple point to himself with his thumb, "Your hairy stinkin' ass owes me rent, furball! We're bound to this seal, so if I die, you die as well, it's time to pay your tribute and fulfil your end of the bargain, I want my worth as a warden, goddamit!"
The fox glared at the boy before him, his malicious stare turned to an entertained grin, almost as if it was amused by the statement of this young delinquent. He was sure this was misplaced foolishness, no being could ever hope to stand up against a creature such as him in a logical standpoint.
"For a human, you sure do not lack in courage in facing one such as I. More so that I think it is not courage but mere foolishness. Foolish, but amusing."
"Shove your assessments way up your ass, fox, I'm not here for your amusement, I'm here for the chakra!"
The fox's eyes flinched at the simple audacity that this human had displayed and growled, subtly, but that mere annoyance turned to a grin inside as it accepted the boy's "terms" of negotiation.
"Ten Percent of my chakra, and that's all you'll be getting from me. Not that it can exceed much more than that right now anyway, due to the seal. But I look forward to how much you can do with it, mongrel." The fox said as it turned its head from the blonde and flicked the boy away from his vicinity with a mere push of its chakra.
"Now away with you and let me watch your progress." 'And wait as my power slowly eats at your mind.' The fox spoke to itself as it watched with an expression that says that he had won the better half of the deal.
The sudden rush of power entered through Naruto's veins, the chakra felt so hot like burning liquid, and yet felt so mind numbingly strong. There was no pain and no struggle. It was just pure, unadulterated, intoxicating and adrenaling pumping potent chakra that shook his insides like they were about to burst.
With a yell, Naruto performed the timely and perfect sequence of the Kuchiyose no jutsu, with no stable ground to slam his hand on, Naruto pumped as much chakra and power he could at his right hand that was bleeding and shouted the very words that commanded the technique.
"KUCHIYOSE NO JUTSU (Summoning Technique)"
Blue turned to red, the rush suddenly stopping and the enveloping chakra bursts out of his fingertip. A large white smoke popped from inside the fissure. Four gigantic, red appendages popped from the smoke grinding down the jagged earth on both sides and halting their descent to the abyss below. The creature growled as smoke came out of its pipe and adjusting his blue obi with his right foreleg and finally screamed.
"Jiraiya, Jiraiya! Jiraiya, you no good excuse of a summoning pervert! Where in the nine levels of hell am I? Answer me!"
From atop the cliff that the voice came from, the white haired sannin had a bead of sweat at the back of his head as well as a bone chilling conclusion as to whom that voice might belong.
'Of all the summons that could have ever happened, he just had to call the most troublesome one.'
Something told Jiraiya that shit was about to go down.
A few hours later, Naruto was slung on Jiraiya's shoulder as he dropped the boy off to the nearest hospital. He made sure that Naruto was checked in and served properly as the staff tended to him. All forms of exhaustion was endured today as Naruto almost won it all.
Jiraiya couldn't believe it. Naruto was so close to winning that bet, if only he lasted just a second later. The gigantic toad that he sat on could only smoke his pipe as he told the white haired man,
"I have to admit, the kid's got spunk. He's got more of it in his chest than in his head, not what I was expecting from that man's son, but he had me impressed as well."
Jiraiya looked at the giant toad with a grin and asked the giant, "Quite a find, isn't he?"
Gamabunta could only nod. "Kid has balls of steel, Jiraiya. That's something you don't see every day. He can be my disciple anytime. Just don't tell him I said that."
Jiraiya chuckled, "Why would I do that?"
"Because if he found out, it'll get into his head. Best that he learns a little more humility before I officially accept him as one of my disciples."
With that, Gamabunta vanished in a cloud of smoke.
The next day:
Naruto awoke to the rays of sunshine hitting his face. The blonde immediately sat up and immediately, his mood turned sour. He was in the hospital once more. He hated hospitals, the staff there always told him to rest which he couldn't exactly do. Not to mention, just recently, this became a scene for a revelation. He had learned here that Gaara had a monster sealed inside of him as well and had aptly named it the "Shukaku". Shikamaru told him later after their encounter that "Shukaku" was actually the one tailed tanuki monster, much like the Kyuubi.
'I wonder if the Kyuubi has a name as well.' The blonde thought, but thatn was quickly dismissed by the monster inside of him.
'No, and I would appreciate it if you do not pry any further.' To this, Naruto had raised one of his eyebrows and grinned.
'So you DO have a name.' The blonde grinned cheekily as the Kyuubi slammed his claws onto the cage as it growled and bellowed inside the seal. It cursed the day that Naruto had managed to hone his mind during his tenure with Jiraiya of the sannin.
"You are in no position to demand me of such, mongrel, now drop the matter!"
Naruto simply sighed and turned his back from the fox. Naruto then turned back to the cage as he said out loud, "Someday, I'll know your name."
The Kyuubi only growled deeper from the stomach as he pushed his host back to the realm of the living.
As Naruto woke up and a new day greets him, a note was left near his table. He went to grab the note and noticed his arms were wrapped around in bandages. The blonde then focused his attention back to the note left behind on his table and opened it, reading the contents within.
'No training for the remaining days ahead, I've done all I can in that short amount of time. Give that kid hell, brat. Show him YOUR conviction.'
Naruto merely grinned at the note left behind by the toad sage and he smiled. That smile turned into a full blown grin as he went out of his bed, soreness and all pain vanishing from his body.
To be continued…
I'd like to apologize, first of all to all my readers. I'm in med school and the work is demanding real life has been daunting for the past year. I could no longer keep up what with all the stuff I've been handed. I was appointed as vice-president of external affairs on the student council (go figure, I'm not what would anyone consider a leader by my standards) and then as Grand Chancellor of my organization aside from my school (again, go figure) through all that, I've been organizing medical and surgical missions, creating forums for both medical students and licensed physicians across the country (Philippines) and spoke for my school in any occasion that there was a meeting at the monthly gatherings, not only that, my real life editor has been pestering me but due to the circumstances above, I couldn't find the time. Second, I apologize for any that I've had the chance of pissing off in this site. You could say that it was the stress, the unbelievable amount of responsibility placed on my shoulders (my parents are nearing retirement age and I'm the acting first born so I've been doing some odd jobs for my parents just to make my dad's company somewhat stable and mete out problems left and right, inside and outside the company). I couldn't just throw away the hard work my own father had created, he went from the son of a fisherman to establishing his own company and giving me the opportunity to be where I am right now. Simply put, I had to grow up and accept my responsibilities willingly. Well, grow up more as I put it, I'm 24 and I'm paying all my bills on my own and living on my own in an apartment all the while studying.
Factor another complication that I would hate to admit, I suffered through depression for half a year. I had a friend move away from our hometown and worked in another country. He was and still is my best friend although our connection didn't continue as to what we would like. He's a seafaring man and I wanted to stay behind to become a doctor, aside from my parents and siblings, he was perhaps one of the few support lines that I had when we were younger so seeing go away definitely made me melancholic. Another was that I had just come from a very tumultuous and bad relationship with this girl for so long. She broke up with me after I caught her cheating. I know, call me stupid for having to put up with her but I couldn't help it, it took me awhile because I couldn't harbour any bitterness at all, because I'm not that kind of person. Heh, it's weird at first in seeing the world differently after all of it. During this unprecedented hiatus, I've lost loved ones: A fun uncle and a loving aunt, a friend due to drugs, and fights that ended bitterly between friends. It was utterly devastating and it drove me through all kinds of coping mechanisms. I turned to alcohol, to smoking weed and cigarettes. I wasn't some raging asshole that had his temper shortened and vented it all on the people close to me, I wasn't suicidal, but I might as well have been. I've introspected and I found myself on some sort of twilight. I now see my old friends with kids of their own, having jobs and just continuing to their day to day lives.
As of this writing I found myself doing things I've been doing for most of my life and writing has been the way of escaping the stress of life for a moment. To all the teenagers who can't wait to grow up, cherish your youth, it only comes out once. Don't hang around with people that wouldn't value you as a person, rather, those people that would enjoy your company in a small place, drinking and sharing stories. Don't be concerned too much of your future, it will come and along with it, the responsibilities tied to it as adults. I've enjoyed life up to this point and I still do. Even though I've lost a lot of things, there were others to fill the gap. The world is a harsh place but I have people that can experience it with me and I'm happy for that.
This is Airheaded dude, I'm still here, trying to live my life and doing what I love most, writing. I'm not done by any means and I'm definitely not out yet. I'll continue as long as I like.
Okay, author rant over let's get back to business.
This is something that's been on my mind for a while. I wanted a somewhat realistic evolution of characterization for ALL of the young cast of Naruto and primarily circling around them and mainly to the titular character. I want to evolve his character beautifully from naïve child to maturing teen affecting those around him and mainly to his graduate class particularly, Sasuke, Hinata, Shikamaru and Sakura. I really do believe I can make it with this. It's not only Naruto who will be growing up as the story progresses, definitely the others are on my mind. And, I think I'm ready to go out of my comfort zone and try my hand at Romance. I don't want to be evasive and I don't like dragging things to eat away at my thoughts and pander to the point that it drives me mad. This is my answer to all of the shit that I've been trying to avoid ever since trying my hand at writing and being part of this site. Inspiration has struck me and it has struck me hard again. Prepare for some slew of updates by the latter half of December and probably February.
So for now, read and review and tell me what you think.