Naruto Thousand Hands (Mokuton Naruto AU)

#26
I'll have to go back and reread the whole story to get full context, but I liked the changes made to the scene.
 
Extra: Information on the characters

AoMythology

Apparently a report-er
#27
Some information on how I see the characters from my notes (barely edited, sorry), though with the long time since I wrote the original versions of the chapters, there might be inconsistencies. Mainly for my reference, so not necessary to read them; they aren't vital to understanding the story.

I also edited pretty much everything in the past chapters.
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(Naruto's main flaw (other than his insecurity of sometimes) is opposite to a canon trait – he is quite vindictive and doesn't forgive easily. Other flaws include his unapologetic nosiness (more recent thing), to a level worse than Ino sometimes; his hatred for apologizing; his mostly hard-working -almost workaholic- nature is sometimes marred because he is used to mastering things quickly, though Tsunade is working on that.)

(Biwako's flaws are her disregard for her own safety (not to the point of suicidal stupidity; at least not anymore); her tendency toward being rude to those she doesn't care about and disregarding them (Naruto is really vindictive toward his perceived enemies. Biwako is somewhat ruthless toward even 'extras', as Bakugo from MHA would say).... She also is literally almost completely unable to cry, no matter what her emotions.)

(They both have the tendency of nearly overworking themselves, a certain bent towards violence and anger (especially Naruto) and love of the high of battle (especially Biwako). Biwako isn't as revenge-driven nowadays and Naruto is getting worse, so Naruto might be the one to need pacification by his Uchiha friend rather than the canon other way around. They can both be a bit hypocritical.)

Naruto's favorite food is ramen and fresh herbs, fruit and vegetables in almost any form (except lemon!), though he really dislikes strongly sour things like most yoghurts and wines, putting more than minimal vinegar and putting most any amount of lemon at all on or in foods. He is indifferent to practically all tea despite the fact it has herbs in it, though he is quite good at brewing it. He doesn't like mushrooms, in a soup or not, very unlike Hashirama. Terrible at baking sweets for some reason, so he has to talk Biwako into making him some.

Biwako's favorite foods are medium rare steak (more generally, non-overcooked meat of all sorts) and tomatoes, which are one of the few sour things both Naruto and Biwako like. She also used to like rice balls a lot, but she has fallen out of eating them more recently. She likes tea, but is bad at brewing it. She hates eating most fermented things, despises anything sweet (though she is good at baking) and doesn't much like milk.

Naruto's hobbies are reading manga (and sometimes books), training and gardening (though it's both a hobby and a job, considering he makes money out of selling parts of some of his plants); also pranking, though he is a 'filthy casual' prankster according to Mito.

He dislikes arrogant pricks (other than himself, being a bit arrogant himself. Hypocrite), those who see him as the Kyuubi, those who see him as a bully, actual bullies and those who mess with others' minds for no good reason (especially Yamanaka Maifa*)

Uzumaki (soon Senju) Naruto:
Gender: Male
Birth Date: October 10
Age: 10~11
Height: ~145 cm
Weight: ~47 Kg
Blood Type: B-
Appearance: Golden blond short hair, blue eyes with a hint of green, large like Kushina's and similarly shaped; three whisker marks on each cheek, less prominent than Mito's
Handedness: R
Classification: Sensor Type, (future?) Medical Nin
Affiliation: Shikkotsu Forest (canon home of the Slugs)
Ninja Rank: Academy Student; soon to be Genin
Element used: Water, Earth (affinities); Wind, Yang
Greatest Strengths: Stamina Regeneration, Self-healing, Chakra Control, sense of hearing, memory, Chakra Sensing
Greatest Weaknesses: Yin Style, Hand-Seals, Fire Style, somewhat; can be countered by anyone who can hide their Chakra and the noise they make near-flawlessly (Tobirama and Muu mainly; also Hashirama when in Sage Mode. The Second Mizukage relies too much upon Genjutsu to be a good counter to an adult Naruto. As for people among the living... Orochimaru and probably Hiruzen. Jiraiya maybe, especially likely if he enters Sage Mode beforehand.) (In spite of his excellent memory, Naruto is terrible at anything to do with painting, even copying. On the other hand, Biwako can copy something for obvious reasons, but the results, according to many, have no soul.)


Biwako's hobbies: she likes training and taking walks, especially in the moonlight. Also reading books and manga, though she doesn't often admit she likes manga, nor does Naruto admit he also likes reading books (to a point; he doesn't count books as a hobby; 'too much like schoolwork'.) Her final, lesser known hobby is, well- you will see in the next chapter singing.

...The first time Biwako saw Naruto eat broccoli without putting anything other than a bit of salt on it, she called him a freak of nature. His haunted reaction to her calling him that affected her enough to keep her from uttering anything like that ever again.

Uchiha Biwako
Gender: Female
Birth Date: July 23
Age: 10~11
Height: ~152 cm
Weight: ~47 Kg
Blood Type: B-
Handedness: L (mainly, because she is partially ambidextrous)
Appearance: Very tall for her age; black hair cut short but growing once again; black eyes
Classification: None (for now)
Affiliation: Great Sky Plateau (home of the Hawks, non-canon location, but presumably existent in canon)
Ninja Rank: Academy Student; soon to be Genin
Elements Used: Lightning, Fire (Affinities); Earth, Yin
Greatest Strengths: Elemental ninjutsu, Speed, Sense of smell (Fugaku has some Inuzuka in his ancestry; it was likely a clusterfuck that happened generations before), planning ahead (though she hasn't refined that. Need to write carefully in the future in order to not make it an informed attribute.)
Greatest Weaknesses: underestimating anyone not named Naruto or Uchiha too easily, inside battles and outside of them; losing her head in the enjoyment of fights with anyone called Naruto; too careless with her well-being; Yang Style


Stats (as compared to Sasuke in canon at the same age)
Ninjutsu: way ahead
Taijutsu: moderately ahead
Genjutsu: significantly ahead
Intelligence: a bit ahead
Strength: ahead for now. Endgame: likely between 60% and 90% of Sasuke's strength in the upper body. (Lower body: she might be stronger than Sasuke, even as adults)
Speed: slightly better than Sasuke
Stamina: way, way higher reserves than Sasuke
Hand Seals: Equal to Sasuke

Weapons: way ahead due to naturally higher manual dexterity, though manual dexterity will likely not quite reach Itachi levels, ever.
Stealth: the same as Sasuke
Traps: the same or slightly better
Sealing: way ahead of Sasuke
Stam. Regen: same as canon Sasuke
Seal-less: far ahead
Chakra Control: significantly ahead

On her flexibility: women, on average, are much more flexible than men. The same way Biwako's upper body strength is going to be very much lower than Sasuke's, her bones are going to be (already are) more flexible than Sasuke's. By a wide margin.

I will come back with Mito's characteristics later.

Edit:

Mito likes standing in -and looking at- the rain, swimming, her twin brother Naruto, Ino (?), studying for Fuuinjutsu (the art of Sealing). She also likes eating Ramen (her favorite is Seafood Ramen), Red Bean Soup and cooked fish and other seafood (not Sushi!). She likes Jiraiya (the Pervy Sage) in small doses, and when he is focused on her training.

She dislikes her height and verbal tic (Dattebara) being mocked, any activity that has her in the sun for prolonged periods (she burns really easily), studying for anything other than Fuuinjutsu, and Ino (?). She can't stand any meat or fish that is raw or undercooked; she also dislikes raw vegetables, but after Naruto got her a steam cooker as a gift, she often eats them steamed. She is indifferent to perversity (and used to it), unless someone gets handsy, in which case, she pummels the offender.

Her hobbies are swimming in the river (she only recently was deemed strong enough to do it without adult supervision), reading Manga (Naruto recently got her into the habit; she is more of a casual reader, though) and pranks.

Namikaze Mito
Gender: Female
Birth Date: October 10
Age: 10~11
Height: ~133 cm
Weight: ~31 Kg
Blood Type: AB-
Appearance: Strawberry blond, somewhat long hair (used to be chin-length, but she's growing it for hair-based jutsu); dark blue eyes with a hint of green, smaller irises like Minato; very short; three whisker-like marks on each cheek, a bit more prominent than Naruto's
Handedness: L&R (complete ambidexterity)
Classification: ???
Affiliation: Konohagakure (Hidden Leaf), Mount Myouboku (canon home of the Toads, obviously)
Ninja Rank: Academy Student, Genin next
Elements Used: Wind (affinity), Fire not too far in the future, Earth at some point
Main talent: Fuuinjutsu (Sealing Arts), combat instincts (already comparable with someone like Madara in that field, in spite of his great natural talent and having grown up in the Warring Clans period. Madara at her age at least. She is only in her preteens! As an adult, her combat sense and intuition will probably be off the charts, surpassing everyone else, including Madara and canon!Naruto, who have shown great feats of brilliance in that field), stealth, Shape Manipulation. Possibly multitasking too.
(In civilian stuff, painting.)
Main weakness: While she is really good at intuitive moves, getting her to plan ahead much in anything but Fuuinjutsu is all but impossible. She tends to get flashes of brilliance, though... when she doesn't make silly mistakes. Also, Hand-seals.


Ninjutsu: far worse than both Naruto and Biwako
Taijutsu: moderately worse
Genjutsu: can counter it, barely
Intelligence: Idiot Savant (?)
Strength: Stronger than Biwako, weaker than Naruto without even his Chakra enhancement jutsu
Speed: Can keep up with them at least
Stamina: Overall much higher Chakra pool than Biwako and especially Naruto, though Naruto has better Chakra Control and knows how to be efficient in other ways, too
Hand Seals: Far, far worse than Biwako. About equal to (equally as abysmal as) Naruto

Weapons: Worse than Naruto, far worse than Biwako.
Stealth: (Even) better than both of them.
Traps: Slightly better than Naruto, slightly worse than Biwako
Sealing: Far better than both of them, better than Jiraiya in many ways, almost rivals the current top in the world, Sasori
Stam. Regen: She regenerates Stamina much faster than Biwako, but moderately more slowly than Naruto
Seal-less: She is worse than Biwako at shaving hand-seals off non-Fuuinjutsu. Far worse than Naruto
Chakra Control: Worse than Biwako, much worse than Naruto

Flaws: She's a bit impulsive and reckless, has a foot-in-mouth syndrome, is naive, tends to take way too much guilt on her shoulders. Similar to canon Naruto, whom she's based on of course. Doesn't suppress her negative emotions as much, but it's still something she does. Not to the point of creating another personality, though... probably.

* Hell, Yamanaka Maifa's name literally came from the term 'mindfuck'!)
 
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AoMythology

Apparently a report-er
#28
As for themes for the story, I'm thinking:

1)Home is- The elusive search for somewhere to belong, a place worth fighting for; 'home is where the heart is' and so on.
2)The consequences of genocide, and atrocities in general. Especially one done by the state on those meant to be their own, directly or not. Not just the obvious consequences, either.
I also never said it's only non-protagonists who will commit atrocities.
3)Betrayal and its definition Is it when one turns on their country? Is it when said country marginalizes one of its own clans or people, based on hearsay? Is it in the literal dagger in the back? How do you define a metaphorical backstab, though? Is it in the way the higher-ups of Konoha (much less the rest of it) treated Naruto in this AU? Abandonment by one meant to take care of him (Hiruzen)? Is it in the lies Hiruzen told Jiraiya and possibly others who had trusted him? Is it what in Zabuza did when Yagura went insane? Is it in Orochimaru's monstrous deeds? Or maybe Danzo's 'patriotic' actions? Is it (spoilers)?
4)'Two in harmony are better than one in perfection'.
5)Mind control backfires

The first or maybe second arc is about mind control backfiring, mainly.

I also intend to make both Naruto and Biwako somewhat short-sighted in their youth, and Tsunade might be an enabler rather than a good influence.
 
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Story5

AoMythology

Apparently a report-er
#29
About Naruto’s first clear memory: this is what happens if Sarutobi doesn’t care – he never warned people that anyone caught attacking Naruto would be punished, nor did he try to explain that a Jinchuuriki isn’t the same as the Bijuu beyond telling people about the sealing, so things went south. Thus, an AU or at least divergent aspect; I am well aware that in canon, there is no evidence of Konoha’s people attacking Naruto physically, other than Mizuki of course.



This memory also further explains why Naruto learned Tsunade’s technique on his own so easily. By the way, the OCs are one-off characters I made, but the names are references; anyone who guesses where the names are from gets an Internet cookie.



User mandalorianjedi of The Fanfiction Forum has helped me polish this story with his critique.



(TFF is not a FFnet affiliate. Search for thefanfictionforum(dot)net )



-----



“…Say what now? Shisui-san – could you repeat that?” Biwako said, her breathing coming out loud and her fingers twitching; even her heartbeat was audible to her ears, and her hearing was far from the best of her senses. The illusory world of the Gunbai still worked just like reality.



Shisui only smiled, though to Biwako, the expression seemed bitter. He said, “you heard me right the first time, Biwako. The Uchiha intended to assassinate the Third Hokage, if possible without anyone knowing it was the clan who did it, and manipulate the rest of Konoha into putting an Uchiha in the Hokage’s seat.”



“But… why?” Biwako asked, but even as she did, memories of her childhood and things she had seen in the Uchiha Ninja Library came to the forefront.



Mikoto… yet another Uchiha family has been forced to move back into the clan district via jacking up the rent and constant harassment.”



Why? Why are they doing this, Fugaku! Sarutobi doesn’t even have the guts to do so officially!”



Ways to make Inuzuka stop in their tracks – airtight containers of stink bombs within Seals so that they wouldn’t see them coming; a certain ninjutsu called the Sonicboom jutsu; counters to those smells and sounds for the Uchiha themselves, because some Uchiha also had enhanced senses other than eyesight, especially those with Inuzuka blood like Biwako herself; certain perfumes that kept Inuzuka from finding someone far better than even the best of scent-killing spray(*0) .



Ripping the Inuzuka’s partner to pieces with extra brutality; poisons that only affected dogs -including nin-dogs- mainly airborne and touch-based; the exact way to move to render the basic techniques of the Inuzuka, Tsuuga and Gatsuuga, much less effective; an Earth Style jutsu -stolen from Iwa- that hardened the skin in such a way that claws and fangs would break off and more-



“…Perhaps if we showed our dedication to Konoha-”



We have proven ourselves time and time again, Fugaku, and you know it!”



Then let us hold our heads high and cow any and all opposition with our strength.”



Certain perfumes, poisons and pesticides that made the Aburame’s Kikai and the Aburame themselves lose control, weakened them or killed them; the Sonicboom jutsu again-



“…What are they doing to my godson, Fugaku? Can’t we just-”



Just do- what, Mikoto? What could we possibly do that we haven’t already tried?”



At that point, Biwako had a hard time hearing anything because her parents were speaking at lower volumes.



“…Said it y- self. Strength-”



Mikoto. Do- realize what- proposing? …Sound like- fool Yashiro or even worse-”



Yes… certain things were starting to make sense. So, Itachi might have wanted to keep Konoha from tearing itself apart. Then again, why had Itachi used that terrible illusion on Biwako if he had only wanted to prevent even worse things than the clan dying from happening? To keep her too furious to look at the facts more carefully, as she had thought before? Something else? Why? Why? Why! WHY!!



…Biwako woke up screaming; she bent over the side of the bed and vomited, the powerful emotions overwhelming her once again. Something was off about her eyesight, though, to a vertigo-inducing degree, which didn’t help with her urge to vomit; she didn't mean the activated Sharingan, either.



Later, in front of the bathroom mirror after rinsing her mouth many times and brushing her teeth more than once, Biwako noted that not only were her eyes on; her right Sharingan had three tomoe (comma marks) in it, though the left one still had two. It took a bit of time for her to calm her emotions down enough to deactivate her eyes.



'How and why? When Shisui-san told me all that, my reaction didn't evolve my Sharingan. Now, though, after dreaming of that time, my Sharingan has evolved. Confusing,' Biwako thought to herself, trying to make sense of her Bloodline Limit.



Biwako was still shaking slightly. 'Even if Tsunade and Shizune-san had a point when they talked about sleeping in the same bed not being proper now, it’s kind of an emergency,' she thought to herself, still not at the best of shapes, ‘maybe I should knock on Naruto’s door.’



Before she could decide either way, Naruto’s bedroom door opened. He was shivering; he didn’t have the smell of vomit on him, but she could smell the tears and, even if she couldn’t, there were tear tracks on his face, unlike Biwako’s mostly dry eyes.



Naruto took a look at Biwako, did a double-take, then went about making some tea for both of them to drink, not even asking her what was wrong yet. Smart boy. It was a milder variety of tea, though the name escaped her, perfect for helping with insomnia. He poured some for both of them, not bothering to go through formal tea ceremony.



Naruto put a small amount of sugar into his tea, not even bothering to put any near Biwako; while that could seem impolite to some, to Biwako, it was a sign of how well he knew her. In a surprising twist, while Naruto liked most vegetables, fruits and herbs -well, pretty much all of them but lemon- and was really good at brewing it, he wasn’t especially fond of drinking tea. He didn’t dislike it, unlike milk, but he usually preferred drinking hot cocoa -made with water, not milk- or even coffee nowadays.



Biwako knew that many people swore by milk heated to between ‘warm’ and ‘lukewarm’ for a sleep aid, but neither she nor Naruto would ever drink more milk than necessary.



"Want to talk about it?" Biwako told Naruto. Naruto's past was still largely a mystery to her.



Naruto took a few shuddering breaths, then said, "it's something from the orphanage."



Biwako waited patiently for Naruto to speak, but she didn't take her attention off him. After what felt like a long time, he started talking again.



“It’s- it’s my earliest clear memory,” Naruto said, obviously doing one of the breathing exercises Tsunade had taught them.



Biwako had known plenty of breathing exercises to begin with, mainly ones well-suited for the Fire element; though they were also well-suited for something else. Her mother had taken advantage of the breathing methods during her childhood to learn how to sing more easily… and not only her.



(“Mom…? Your voice is so pretty!” Biwako said, entering the dojo after hearing her mother’s voice.



Her mother stopped singing after a few seconds, saying, “thank you, Biwako.”



“I never knew you could sing! You sing so good too!” Biwako said, impressed, then realized she had said it wrong.



“It’s ‘sing so well’, Biwako,” her mother corrected her gently.



Biwako stomped her feet, saying, “Mom! At least give me time to correct myself!”



Her mother giggled, saying, “my apologies, Biwako-hime. Your royal subject has overstepped herself.”



“You better apologize- wait, are you mocking me?” Biwako said, starting to get annoyed again.



Her mother said, "of course not."



"Hmph."



"I'm only being sarcastic," her mother said, a hand in front of her mouth.



Biwako didn't know what that meant, but she knew that her mother was laughing at her. She knew it! Biwako stomped her feet on the floor again, letting out an annoyed sound.



Her mother put a hand on her head, saying, "relax, Biwako. Didn't you wish to know more about my singing skills?"



"Oh, yes!" Biwako said, "how can you sing so well, Mom?"



Her mother explained how she had learned how to when she had been around Biwako's age from an older relative.



“Can I learn too? Will you teach me, Mom?” Biwako said, very impatient for learning how to sing.



“It’s ‘may I learn?’ ” her mom said, “but all right, Biwako. I will teach you how to sing… firstly, how is your progress with the diaphragm-breathing exercise?”)



Biwako realized she had started singing a melody her mother had sung to her many times. Naruto was looking at her, his mouth hanging open. He said, “I didn’t know you could sing!”



She stopped singing and said, “anyone can sing. Singing well is another story.”

Naruto gave a short laugh, but his expression darkened quickly enough. He said, “about my first clear memory… I remember eating with the other orphans when I was four years old. I had just finished my food, so I went to ask for seconds. The orphanage was well-funded apparently, even if sometimes kids mysteriously disappeared. The caretaker, Asuna-san slapped me out of nowhere, even though I think she had been good to me until that day. Another caretaker, Motoko-san, stopped her, but Motoko-san also later kept the other boys from playing with me; ‘for their protection’ or something.



» At night, I cried myself to sleep, thinking of Asuna-san’s anger and slap, and Motoko-san’s words. ‘Am I sick or dangerous or something?’ I thought. I woke up to a pillow smothering me – Asuna-san had returned and was trying to kill me. I thrashed and thrashed; I felt myself weakening until warmth spread from my belly to the rest of my body. I kept thrashing; I heard a cracking sound, then another one. I took the pillow that was on my face and threw it away from me.



» I looked around, and Asuna-san was lying half on the floor, half on my nightstand. There was blood on the wall above the nightstand, and more blood on the nightstand itself and the floor. The latter was coming out very fast from a spot on Asuna-san’s head, close to her ear. I felt really tired all of a sudden; it felt like I had been running for hours. The room stank like when one of the younger kids had shit or pissed themselves. I hadn’t known then what death smelled like. That was when Motoko-san entered the room.



» She went up to Asuna-san and checked her – probably looking for a pulse. Then, she started crying over her body. At the time, I was too young to understand she was dead. I kept asking where Asuna-san was the days after."



-----



Naruto, along with Biwako and Mito, were having lunch at the Academy once again.



“...And I told Ebisu-san ‘what are you doing there? You’re just as big a perv as Pervy Sage, aren’t you?’ He was startled and made noise; then, he had to run away before any of the girls saw him. Really, though, he was probably telling the truth and it was an accident – he’s a bit of a prude,” Mito said, engaged in a conversation with Biwako, her eyes a bit teary.



Naruto saw Ino approach them and frowned despite himself. Mito had told him about Ino breaking up their friendship, not to mention that the resemblance with Maifa was obvious, making Naruto even more wary of her.



“Mito,” Ino said, “could we talk?” Looking down.



“I’m here, so talk,” Mito replied, a bit frostily.



“I mean alone,” Ino said, biting her lip.



Mito heaved a great sigh, but she nodded. She led Ino a bit further, next to a giant tree that was rumored to have been made by Hashirama, which Naruto could confirm thanks to his Forest Net Works.



Naruto made two hand-seals and put Chakra into his ears without any shame, something he had learned from the scrolls of past Senju spies and trackers; he wasn’t very good at it yet, but it should be enough for him to eavesdrop – the two girls hadn’t gone far and he had naturally good hearing. He didn't trust that girl as far as he could throw her. Wait, wrong analogy. Naruto didn’t trust her as far as he could throw a boss summon while Chakra exhausted.



“…So, Ino-san, what did you wanna tell me?” Mito said, and Naruto could see her agitation from where he was despite her face being mostly hidden.



Ino swallowed nervously, cleared her throat and swallowed again. She said, “I’m sorry, Mito. I’m so sorry!” Bowing low.



Naruto wasn't expecting that. He couldn’t see expressions from where he was, but Mito went still. Then, Mito said, “you’re sorry? You said you couldn’t be friends with me anymore! Why…?”



“I- I was scared!” Ino admitted, “when I saw that ANBU die and Ebisu-san get so hurt by those Iwa missing-nins, I was terrified… I’ve never felt so scared before in my life! Please, Mito! Please forgive me! I want to be friends again!”



Mito sighed again, then fell silent for a few seconds. Afterwards, she said, “I don’t think I can forgive you immediately, but I’m willing to hang out again.”



Ino said, “thanks, Mito – you’re the best!” Hugging Naruto’s twin.



What Ino said next was too quiet to make out, but Mito said, “no! Keep your hands off Naruto!”



Naruto blinked – just what had Ino said?



Ino talked at a low volume again, but this time audible; she said, “why? Do you wanna keep him all to yourself? He did beat up Kiba for you,” blowing a raspberry.



“Ugh, Ino, you can be so annoying…,” Mito said, sighing.



Ino’s Chakra, which Naruto was examining more carefully, felt a bit familiar. Was she a fellow Sensor-type or something? He shrugged; while he didn’t dislike Ino, regardless of looking so much like her, he still didn’t trust her; partly because she was too loyal to Konoha.



-----



"I can't believe that Ino!" Mito said, huffing.



Biwako lifted an eyebrow, but Naruto knew why Mito was saying that.



"She's so boy-crazy!" Mito explained, waving her hands around.



Naruto smirked at Mito, despite himself, and said, "at least this time, it wasn't about that Hyuuga, right? Ino's tastes are improving!"



"Huh? Naruto, how do you know-," Mito said, looking confused.



Naruto could feel his smug smirk grow; he normally didn't act like that, but Ino's sudden interest had given him a strong confidence boost. He said, "now, now, Mito; do you really expect me to reveal my methods so easily?"



"...You eavesdropped on me! How?!" Mito said, outraged, "don't you think you should at least apologize?"



Naruto lost his smirk. He said, "sorry, Mito. I was worried for you – that's all," giving her a sad smile.



"Well," Mito said, "I guess it's fine!" But still pouting and crossing her arms.



"How about this: I will pay for the first two normal-sized bowls at Ichiraku's after we're finished with the Academy for today," Naruto said, making Mito squeal in happiness.



Mito beamed and said, "I forgive you completely!" Without hesitation, then hugged him.



Naruto stiffened in her embrace, but then, he relaxed and hugged her back. After the Academy let out, Ino tagged along with the three of them. She kept shooting glances at Naruto.



Ino eventually said, "so, why exactly did you hurt Kiba that much a couple weeks ago? Not that he didn't deserve it, but what’s your reason?"



Naruto smiled at her and said, "there's only so much idiocy and cockiness I can take before I snap. I hope Akamaru will keep better control over his pet from now on."



Ino cringed a bit. She said, "wow, Naruto, that's a scary smile." Then, she said, "wait, Akamaru's pet? Where did that come from?"



Naruto smirked, full of smugness, saying, "you know how the smarter one is the owner and the stupid one is a pet when it comes to dogs and humans, Ino? And how Inuzuka partner dogs are as smart as humans?"



"Well, yes- wait, you mean Kiba isn't much smarter than a normal dog, so he's a pet to Akamaru?" Ino said, looking directly at Naruto's eyes.



"Exactly!" Naruto said, smiling.



Ino smiled back, which then turned into a smirk; then, she said, "you're such a dork, Naruto! Besides, I'm sure you wouldn't tell Kiba that to his face!" And started snickering.



Naruto tried to scowl at her, but her snickering got worse.



Ino then said, "your pout is adorable!"



‘Pout’? ‘Adorable’?! He was not adorable! Was he?



Naruto looked in Mito and Biwako's direction, but they were both too busy glaring at Ino. He then looked at Ino again, seeing her smirking at the other girls. He shrugged, deciding to let Ino dig her own grave – he hadn't known that Mito was so overprotective.



When they reached Ichiraku Ramen, Biwako sat down slowly and formally, Ino strutted over to a stool like a queen among peasants and Mito jumped onto one enthusiastically. Naruto simply sat down.



"Old Man," Mito said, "I want the Kushina Shio special!" Back to her usual self.



Naruto twitched when he heard his mother's name and said, "I'll have the same as Mito, Teuchi-san."



Ino turned to look at Naruto and said, "are you sure, Naruto? Mito can eat a whole lot of Ramen! It's a wonder she hasn't gotten fat-"



Mito punched Ino's bicep, making the Yamanaka wince theatrically.



With a smile on her face that reminded Naruto of a mythological kitsune, ironically, Ino said, "and now your hand is as heavy as a guy's. Are you sure you aren't one? No, wait; you're too short-"



Naruto decided to intervene – he didn't want to watch how girls bonded with one another, nor did he particularly feel like seeing Ino maimed. He said, "Ino. Are you going to order or not?" Faking impatience.



Biwako had ordered a bowl of beef ramen. She was being unusually quiet, even for her, this day. Naruto looked at her, worried. Biwako turned to look at him, looking him in the eye, somehow realizing he was looking at her. She kept looking into his eyes with her own black ones. He didn't know what she was looking for, but he smiled at her… which, for some reason, made Biwako’s pale face turn pink. Come to think of it, Biwako never cringed when he smiled.



Ino snickered once again. She said, "well, at least now I know I stand no chance with Naruto. Oh, why do the cutest boys always either have someone or are ice kings?"



"…I have no idea what you are talking about," Biwako said, looking forward, where Teuchi-san and Ayame were cooking.



Naruto wondered why Biwako had answered that, but he shrugged that off. Naruto ended up paying for everyone's ramen except Mito's; the latter had to pay for every bowl she had eaten other than two normal sized ones; Naruto had been very careful with the words he had used when he had promised.



Still, Ino was a force of nature; Naruto still couldn't tell for sure how she had managed to get him to pay for her and Biwako, too. Poor, poor Namekuji-dono!* As for the Kushina Shio special Naruto had gotten... well, he had finished it, gotten a second one and eaten all of it too. Ino ranted about how there were 'two of them'. She didn't know just how right she was.



Well, even in Naruto’s earliest memories in the first orphanage, he always had at least two full plates or bowls at every lunch and dinner, and a truly huge amount at breakfast. Unbidden, that memory came back to him; Asuna-san's-



His mood thoroughly ruined, Naruto starting walking back to the Uchiha District.



-----



Naruto found a strangely big toad, roughly the size of Naruto's head, waiting at the entrance of the Uchiha District. He didn't think much of it, considering a lot of animals, some of them strange, had made the Uchiha district their home; when he had awakened the Mokuton, even more animals had started showing up.



When the toad talked, Naruto realized this had something to do with Jiraiya.



It said, "oi, are you Uzumaki Naruto?"



When Naruto said yes, the toad got its tongue out of its mouth and released a small scroll, saying, 'this is for you'. Naruto took the scroll and entered the Uchiha District without even looking back.



'What the hell does Jiraiya want?' Naruto thought to himself, still in a bad mood.



After he reached Biwako's -no; their home… or rather the closest thing to home he had in Konoha-, he tried to open the scroll… and failed.



'How come I didn’t notice the blood seal?' Naruto thought, 'I'm really out of it, apparently.'



Then, Naruto bit the skin at the base of his thumb and bled on the blood seal. One more, stranger-looking scroll -it had different colors on each side and Fuuinjutsu markings on the margins- and a paper letter appeared. The scroll was empty of writing, even smelt new, so Naruto looked at the letter.



Naruto,



I'm sorry I took so long to contact you, but the Sandaime and tracking a certain organization had me busy for too long.



I know that you think what the Third and I have said about him being mind-controlled is an excuse, and it might well be. I know I made a rather large leap in logic, but we need to be ready for any possibility, and the jutsu we spoke of is way too dangerous not to be prepared for. You can think of this as an old pervert ageless lover of women being paranoid.



Now, getting to the reason I sent you this: the Sandaime is going to be easier to persuade to do something for you now. Do you have any requests for him? I'll be your intermediary. Please limit it to one major thing, or a couple of less major ones.



Send your answer via the scroll; whatever you write on the yellow side will appear on mine, and whatever I write on mine's other side will appear on your scroll's white side. Write 'True Erasure' twice in a row to wipe the side you are writing it in.



Try it out.

Sincerely yours,



Jiraiya, Sage of Mount Myouboku



Naruto mused on Jiraiya's speech patterns – he usually sounded informal when speaking, unlike his letters. Naruto then shook his head. He thought, 'I don't need anything from the Sandaime. I don't need anything from such a person! Even if the mind-control theory turns out to be true, he never even bothered to visit me; I can't be loyal to that kind of person, nor trust him with anything. No, operation "Somewhere I Belong" is very much a go, even if Iruka-sensei- wait… I have a request that the Sandaime is the only one who can fulfill.'



Naruto wrestled with himself; he hated having anything to do with that man. It would feel too much like he owed the bastard something if he asked for even the smallest of favors… never mind the fact that the Third owed Naruto, not the other way around. Maybe Biwako would have advice. He would have to talk to her and Mito about it anyway.



-----



"You should do it!" Biwako said without hesitation.



"Just like that?" Naruto said, grimacing like he had smelt something foul.



Biwako nodded, saying, "of course! It's a unique opportunity. Remember that Shinobi use all tricks in their arsenal and take advantage of their- of opportunities," not quite getting what kept Naruto back. Maybe his pride…?



"It's just- I- it feels too much like I would owe him something," Naruto said, then his expression changed like he had thought of something more. "I don't want to owe that man anything – I'm not even sure if I should become a Genin in this village," he said, a grim look on his face.



Biwako did a double-take. She knew or at least strongly suspected what the plans Naruto had for the future were, even though he hadn't voiced them, per se: he wanted to join another Hidden Village or become a wanderer or something like that. She had been keeping all money she would get from vegetable sales outside the Land of Fire banks and even withdrawing as much as she could of her inheritance because she intended to follow him wherever he would go; there was nothing binding her to Konoha after what Shisui had told her.



Still, it was only the second time Naruto had said something so blatantly disloyal to Konoha and the only time so far he had proposed not to graduate at all.



Biwako tried to think of an alternative; after all, they needed to have mission experience, and she didn’t want to leave before they had squeezed every drop of resources and training out of Konoha. Hmm… new Genin would give their written oaths sometime between getting the forehead protector and meeting their Jounin sensei. If she could sabotage that process without anyone knowing….



She would have to throw herself into Genjutsu; forget improving her Body Flicker, her Fire Style, her Lightning Style Chakra Flow, her taijutsu and her shurikenjutsu when she was with Shisui. Focusing on her Sharingan and Genjutsu -maybe the sword to keep from getting rusty- was the way to go.



-----



Shizune was supervising an all-out spar between Naruto and Biwako. Naruto was preparing for the signal-



Start!”



Biwako started with a hail of shuriken. Naruto deflected them with a kunai in such a way that they would get in her way-



Shit!



Biwako had managed to slip through the gaps and was at melee range. Naruto drew a kunai, swiftly channeling Wind Style Chakra into it-



(Clang!)



Their weapons met, and Naruto barely managed to keep her tanto from grazing him. He shot off a -somewhat weak- Wind Ninjutsu using a single-handed hand-seal, but Biwako had apparently predicted that, so she shot off a small fireball at the same time.



Naruto disengaged and dropped to the ground quickly, but he still didn’t completely avoid burns on his face. He hissed, but he made sure to move again, and none too soon, because more shuriken were coming his way.



He used a Doton jutsu to get below ground, then he shot off as soon as the shuriken were clear-

Crap!



One more shuriken was coming. Naruto managed to harden his skin using another Earth Style jutsu, deflecting the shuriken with his forearm, but he could hear the rest of the shuriken coming back at him from behind. Maybe-



Naruto made a simple Earth Clone under the ground and towards his right, so that it would be on Biwako’s left side, the one on which seemed a little slower to react. Then, he made a substitution with a tree branch in such a position that Biwako would be unlikely to look at the place the clone was at.



Biwako had wasted no time. She used a full-body tackle, electrifying Naruto, keeping him from drawing Living Makibishi to drop between them.



Ow! Fortunately, the clone hadn’t been affected. It used an Earth Style ninjutsu and threw mud at Biwako’s head and feet.



Biwako’s head twitched, but didn’t turn.



Naruto took the opportunity, though, and used a Wind ninjutsu on dry ground, aiming the dirt at Biwako’s eyes. He prepared to- all of a sudden, there was another Biwako under the ground to his Chakra sense.



‘She substituted herself with a clone at the last moment!’ Naruto thought to himself.



Biwako got out of the ground immediately and looked at Naruto, making eye contact.



By the time he snapped out of the Genjutsu, just short of a second later, a lot of shuriken were coming at him; some were even sparking with Lightning Style Chakra. Damn that bracelet!



Naruto tried his new ninjutsu in combat for the first time. He made a Dragon seal -the seal that helped with modifying Shape-, then Tiger, then a modified Dog seal, which he tended to use for his purified water jutsu.



Suiton: Uzushio no Kabe!



An offshoot of ‘Suiton: Suijinheki’ (‘Water Formation Wall’), ‘Uzushio no Kabe’ (‘Wall of the Whirling Tide’) made a miniature whirlpool to stop an opponent’s attack.



Naruto caught the shuriken in his defensive technique, molded his Chakra in the correct way to sense Chakra, then shot them off, along with the water at where he felt Biwako to be.



She went underground. Naruto was about to cause a mini-earthquake when she shot off out of the ground, shooting- electrified senbon?! No, they were made of Lightning Style Chakra!



Naruto was down, unable to get up. He heard Shizune call the match and felt her Chakra healing him, but he could only think about his loss.





-----



Autumn came and went, and Naruto had become eleven years old. The birthday party he had had with Tsunade, Shizune and Biwako was the stuff of legends; his sensei had nearly ended up drinking sake after years of abstinence, but Shizune had managed to persuade her otherwise with copious numbers of senbon. His training had also gone well.



His aunt(?) teacher(?) Tsunade had found a way to motivate him more for his medical training. Teaching Naruto -or helping him with- a non-medical ninjutsu as a reward. She had finally taught him the Shuriken Shadow Clone when he had gotten down the Mystical Palm, reviving a fish with it… which had taken him nearly two months of practice. At least, she had allowed him a Shadow Clone for learning it.



Another time, she had taught him an offensive Earth ninjutsu, Doryuuso (Earth Flow Spear), easily C-ranked and with the potential to be upgraded to A-ranked, if Naruto's suspicion was right. It was 'death from below'; using hardened clumps of soil and rock as long stalagmites to impale enemies to death. It had been very difficult for Naruto to learn, far beyond what a C-ranked ninjutsu of one of his affinities should have been. He had had to learn to spread his Chakra into the ground, then use it to affect the ground further; if he hadn’t been a sensor, it might have taken him twice as long!



It had taken Naruto a bit over two months to get it down, even being a sensor, even with his experience with the Earth element. In many ways, it was worse than the Mystical Palm – at least, that one he had had little to no prior experience with to guide him, took slightly less time, and it was an A-ranked jutsu besides.



("Tsunade-sensei," Naruto said, "do you know why it took me even longer than the Mystical Palm to get down the Earth Flow Spear, even though I was already really good with the Earth element and had a clone or two helping with it, too?"



Tsunade smiled at him mischievously. She said, "oh? So, you noticed something off?"



Naruto suddenly had the feeling that he was being pranked. He said, "you know what the problem was?!" Practically shouting his lungs out.



"Inside voice, Naruto," Tsunade admonished him. "Yes, but can you pinpoint the problem yourself?" She said then.



The boy breathed in and out, trying to think what was different about that jutsu. He had gotten down the Water Dragon Bullet, which was B-ranked and had more complicated Shape Transformation, on his own in three weeks or so, but that one had fourteen hand-seals (*3).



Could it be the fact that this jutsu had fewer hand-seals? Or maybe the fact Naruto was somewhat better at the Water element? But that didn't explain away such a huge dif- oh, that cunning bi- woman! Naruto said, "so, I take it that Doryuuso doesn't usually have only two hand-seals?" Probably looking ugly with a grimace on his face.



Tsunade nodded. She said, "you got it. Normally, that jutsu is taught with seven hand-seals first; Snake and Bird are only the final ones," smiling at Naruto proudly.



"Why would you do that?" Naruto asked, frustrated.



His aunt bent down to look into Naruto's eyes and put a hand on his shoulder. Then, she said, "Naruto. You are used to learning things easily; you have natural talent, and a whole lot of it. Unfortunately, that comes with its own set of problems. When I was a genin, everything came easily to me; my teammates were very driven, but I simply coasted through at first. Orochimaru eventually became arrogant, because he never learned the lessons Jiraiya knew all along, and I managed to grasp when I had the 'dead-last', Jiraiya himself, surpass me in combat ability… though I did catch up eventually. You have the same set of issues as both Orochimaru and I did when we were around your age; I simply tried to make sure you wouldn't end up lazy or entitled.")



Auntie Tsunade had pranked Naruto well with Doryuuso. The boy could admit that, at least. On the other hand, he had learned a vital lesson: he couldn't and shouldn't give up just because something was hard.



Naruto wasn't sure what teaching a ten-year-old such a dangerous jutsu just to make a point about hard work said about his aunt, but at least she had cautioned him not to use Doryuuso around anyone he didn't truly intend to kill. He was glad about healing that puppy's leg either way, which was the milestone he had reached and gotten the reward for. The day before, his aunt had had him dissect corpses, both human and animal; Naruto wasn't going to specialize in veterinary medicine, but practicing medical ninjutsu on animals was a time-honored tradition, or so Tsunade insisted.



Naruto, thanks to Tsunade’s lesson on perseverance, had gone back to learning genjutsu and turning a leaf transparent; it had taken him around five months of instruction from Shizune to be able to 'disappear' a leaf almost a third of the way, and that was with him being allowed a clone to train in it alongside him or let him do something else simultaneously every time.



According to his aunt, a ninja didn't need to be good at everything, but Naruto intended to get good enough at it that Biwako would have a hard time getting him with genjutsu; she had improved hugely in that field, and Naruto knew exactly why. Of course, Shizune had also taught him how to recognize and dispel genjutsu better, which came a lot more easily to him than producing Yin Style Chakra; mainly by putting him in a genjutsu, herself.



("When are you going to use the genjutsu on me, Shizune-san?" Naruto said, "I'm rea-"



Naruto stopped speaking suddenly; something was wrong with the circulation of his Chakra. He made dual single-handed Ram hand-seals to enhance his concentration and Control… he found the problem; some foreign Chakra in his head's coils, but he didn't want to risk problems with his brain, so he went with the standard method and halted all of his Chakra's circulation for a moment, then released some of it in a tightly controlled shockwave.)



It had taken Naruto almost as long as making a third of the leaf invisible, starting with dispelling her more mundane Genjutsu and working his way up to the difficult ones, but he had managed to detect and dispel some of Shizune's most subtle genjutsu near-instantly. In the meantime, he had been crushed by Biwako in their all-out spars recently because of that blasted third tomoe.



Unfortunately, he couldn't use the Genjutsu Dispel skill without a hand-seal very well yet; if he tried it at enough power to dispel a B-ranked genjutsu, he might cause himself internal Chakra burns according to Shizune. It was strange, though – it was becoming harder and harder for Shizune and Biwako both to get a genjutsu to stick to Naruto, even without him doing anything to counter.



On the other, offensive hand, with all five hand-seals, Naruto could manage to succeed in a False Surroundings genjutsu one fourth of the time – though even when it worked, Biwako could near-immediately detect and break it… without her Sharingan; it was that obvious. There was also Naruto’s first major failure in the medical field.



(Naruto's squeamishness around corpses and the injured and sick was slowly disappearing. He was on yet another training trip with Tsunade-sensei, and she had him -and herself- work as support for Shizune. She was getting herself used to working as a medic-nin again by helping her original apprentice with her work.



As they were walking away from the site of a successful healing session, Naruto heard a chirp-like sound. He looked around, finding a small bird on the ground. He walked closer – he could see that one of its wings was bent. It tried to claw at him, but he didn’t pay that any mind and used the Mystical Palm on it. The wing, though, just wouldn’t get in place. He used a relatively advanced diagnostic jutsu on it and after a bit of checking the other wing out, he knew what he had to do to fix the broken one, though probably not perfectly.



Naruto used the Mystical Palm again; he aligned the wing correctly and fixed it. Why was the bird’s breathing getting more shallow and its cries weaker, though? He frantically used the diagnostic jutsu again, and discovered that some of the bird's bones were broken and some of its internal organs also had damage. Most of its bones also had a strange structure Naruto hadn't found in ground-bound animals. He wasn't good enough yet to be able to tell the exact difference, though.



'Never mind that!' Naruto thought. Then, he said, "Shizune-san! Tsunade-sensei! A little help…?"



Neither of them moved, though Naruto thought he saw Shizune and even his aunt twitch. "...Please…?" He said, but his aunt shook her head.



Naruto decided to try to heal the little creature as best he could – he apparently couldn't rely on anyone at the moment. He used the diagnostic jutsu again, mapping the bird's body, then the Mystical Palm to mend its internal organs and bones.



It was not enough; the bird was dying in his arms. Naruto threw a last desperate look at Tsunade and Shizune, but nothing worked, on either front – the bird's chest stopped moving. He tried to revive it but he knew, deep down, that it was too little, too late. "…Why?" Naruto said, looking at Shizune and Tsunade both, feeling betrayed.



Tsunade said, "it's better that you get used to failing to heal something now, with an animal, rather than lose a person on your first failure," her eyes shining with unshed tears. It was the most openly sad expression Naruto had ever seen on her face, worse than when she had shown him her family photos.



Naruto stopped breathing for a moment. The wind had been taken out of his sails. The anger came back, though. He said, "did you have to do it this way, though? I have few enough people that I trust- wait. Is this about me asking for more offensive jutsu?"



"…Partially," Tsunade admitted, making Naruto get angrier, "it was worrying me, that you were being half-hearted about the medical field. You are very talented in it, so if your negligence gets someone you love killed, you might never forgive yourself."



Naruto blinked. He said, "is that what happened to you?" Speaking softly.



"Not quite – at first, it was kind of the opposite problem," his master said, biting her lip and clenching an empty bottle of soda so hard that she made it into a very small ball. "I wasn't taking most of my ninja abilities seriously when I first became a Genin. My grandfather had died less than a year before, leaving the village in Sarutobi-sensei's hands. Having the recently appointed Third Hokage as my Jounin sensei made me feel invincible, like I would never need to actually fight. Combine that with the preference I had for the medical field and my reluctance to kill at the time, and I focused on learning how to provide medical aid without putting much effort into my combat skills.



» Then, I had a wake-up call; or, rather, multiple ones in a row. The first was that the three of us got separated from our sensei, leading to both Orochimaru and me being captured and used as hostages. The second one was that it was Jiraiya -someone I had considered an incompetent- who sneaked up on them and saved us, though with another Konoha ninja helping him. The third one was that the chuunin helping Jiraiya got killed in the process. I tried to save her, but I knew that with her injuries, even Grandpa would be hard-pressed to manage that – she was too far gone.



» That’s when I chose the path of the combat medic, similarly to my grandfather. While I don’t often use directly offensive ninjutsu for fear of not having enough Chakra to heal, I have good enough Taijutsu skills that I have no problem taking care of enemies and healing allies both; not to mention Byakugo no jutsu and my other trump cards. On the other hand, I have Chakra reserves that, even in my atrophied state, were almost twice those of the average Kage. Now, I’m closer to the point Jiraiya is at, if you are right about what his Chakra was like to you, than to myself a year ago.”



Tsunade then went on to explain that a medic-nin needed a different skill-set from a fighter. She said “a light and steady hand, precise application of their Chakra and skills, a knack for both academia and practical application, patience, the capability to dodge well enough that the medic-nin doesn’t die until everyone else on the team does and more.



» You know, I once contemplated making the unwritten rules of a medic-nin more official… then, I realized that if the medic-nin is unable to fight, they are a liability to their team. I still believe that a medic-nin needs an inexhaustible supply of Chakra and self-healing that can regenerate limbs without hand-seals to stand on the front lines, but I never made it official… especially if we consider the fact that I got my self-healing jutsu to work too late to ever use it in a fight.”



Naruto digested the long explanation for a minute or so. Then, he said, “so, I need to increase my Chakra reserves by a lot?”



“You are already progressing well,” Tsunade reassured Naruto.



Naruto wasn’t as convinced. He would graduate in less than two years. By that time, he needed to get enough Chakra to both fight and heal without sacrificing his performance in one of them.)



Once, he had accompanied his aunt-slash-teacher to healing a noble, who was getting herself used to being the main healer once again, rather than support. His performance had gotten him an A-ranked ninjutsu, Suiton: Daibakufu (Water Style: Great Waterfall), which had taken him nearly a month to get down; it was an exploding shockwave of dense water.



Tsunade had gotten Shizune to teach him Gale Palm when he had managed to synthesize a plant-based poison using only his bloodline and helped him perfect his house-making jutsu when he had gotten down the Chakra Scalpel. One of Naruto's favorite jutsu was the Water Prison, which Tsunade helped him figure out from past accounts of Senju and Uchiha after he had picked up the Chakra Transfer Technique… the latter had taken him all of a week, which, considering it was technically S-ranked, was an amazing feat.



Naruto fought Biwako in an all-out spar, months after the previous one, as a great finish to the birthday party; unfortunately for him, she had improved her balance and dodging capabilities to the point his enhanced strength was all but useless against her, her improved swordsmanship capabilities were too dangerous for him and the three tomoe were still a pain in his ass, so he lost.



Apparently, now that Biwako was good enough at taijutsu that she didn't fear his enhanced strength and had kenjutsu, he would need to fight her at a distance… but she moved too fast for him to keep her away. Not to mention the fact that her reflexes were ever so slightly ahead of his own, and her flexibility had always been far superior.



-----



“Damn it. Damn it!” Naruto said, punching the ground, making a small crater.



He had lost to Biwako yet another time. He could tell Biwako was studying him, but-



“Naruto,” Biwako said suddenly.



Naruto lifted his head to look at her, only to see a small frown on her face. She said, “instead of getting angry and hitting things, why don’t you channel that energy into getting better? Ba-a-ka.”



Naruto almost growled. He said, “it’s not that easy -ttebayo! I’ve been left behind; far behind!”

“…You have a bloodline. Why don’t you use it?” Biwako said, a perplexed expression on her face.



“It’s too slow for me to use it, and you’ve never given me enough of a breather to drop Living Makibishi,” Naruto said, still frustrated.



“What, do you want me to hold back?” Biwako said, raising her voice slightly.



Naruto glared at her furiously, saying, “of course not!”



“Then think of how to counter my abilities,” Biwako said, biting her lip. “You’ve already shut down my Genjutsu somehow.”



Naruto tried to think of a way to counter swordsmanship plus shuriken plus Chakra Flow plus incredible speed. He could only think of one thing: a weapon.



Naruto decided to go to Tsunade for advice, even though his faith in her was shaken.



…Naruto said, “Auntie Tsunade. I need your advice,” grimacing.



Tsunade nodded. She said, “what is it, Naruto?” Her face almost unreadable.



Naruto could tell that his aunt was sad, probably because she knew he was still a bit angry at her, but he didn’t say anything about that. He said, “it’s- I’m falling behind Biwako and I don’t know what to do. I decided to learn how to use a weapon, but I don’t know one that would let me give her a hard time – is there a weapon around that would be able to flow my Chakra really well and withstand mine and Biwako’s Chakra Flow at the same time?”



Tsunade didn’t speak for a few moments, then she said, “what material would that weapon be made of, then?”

“Steel with Chakra-conductive metal- wait. What about wood? I mean, that kind of wood?” Naruto said, getting more excited as he talked.



Tsunade smiled softly. She said, “we will have to test its properties, but yes, I suspect it will be really accepting of your Chakra, really durable and relatively easy to replace. How about a bo staff?”



Naruto decided to try it. He made- a branch that looked nothing like a staff.





“…Do you know anyone who knows how to use and make a staff, Auntie Tsunade?” Naruto said, his joy cut short.



“What am I, chopped liver?” Tsunade said, frowning, “the Third taught me the basics of Bo Staves when I was in his team, though I haven’t needed to use one. It was the one thing Orochimaru had a hard time with: blunt weapons, though he was very good with swords. Surprisingly, Jiraiya was decent at both.”



It was an interesting idea.



“Naruto,” his aunt said, sounding a bit hesitant, but her gaze was focused on him. “Biwako has the goal of finding her brother and beating some answers out of him. She is rather driven. Do you have one?”



Naruto opened his mouth – of course he did! Then, he closed it. He wanted a place to belong, true, but was that something that would make him driven? Was it specific enough? What was it that he really wanted to do in the short term and what was his long-term goal?



He would have to think it over.



-----



Naruto had gotten a return message from Jiraiya on the 'special' scroll.





Kid,



You need to pull up your grades at the Academy and graduate early. You have less than three months. Make sure to tell the girls so that they try to graduate this March, too.



Naruto rolled the scroll back up and smiled, rubbing his hands together. So, he needed to raise his grades? So be it. He would make a 'miracle' comeback!



-----



Iruka said, "Biwako, it's your turn to throw the shuriken and kunai for this week's shurikenjutsu exam," smiling.



Biwako threw the shuriken six at a time, and all twelve of them were dead center. She wasn't even fazed by the challenge – though Naruto knew that it wasn't much of a challenge for her. The kunai, she threw one by one- but with her back turned. She still got a perfect score.



It was Naruto's turn, and he took a bit of time to weigh the projectiles-to-be, realizing that they were not very high quality, the balance was wrong and they were too blunt even for practice weapons.



Naruto looked at Mizuki, glaring at the white haired fool who was still ‘learning the ropes’ as a teaching assistant despite having worked in the Academy for years; the man only looked back with a serene expression, but Naruto could almost feel the smugness rolling off him. The boy had an idea. He had a great idea. He could see Mizuki shudder from the corner of his eye, but he couldn't pay attention to the piece of trash right now.



Naruto chose to throw the kunai first. He enhanced his body through a variation of the Byakugo no jutsu, then threw the dozen blades hard enough to embed them into the bullseye of the targets they hit, one by one; even though they were blunter than the rubber slugs Naruto sometimes bathed with.



When the time to throw the shuriken came, Naruto did the same for the first eleven ninja stars, but for his last go, he threw the shuriken in a different way, and slightly off in aim... ending up with it ricocheting twice, then hitting Mizuki in the back of the head. Hard.



Iruka-sensei went up to Mizuki quickly; the lighter haired man groaned from his place lying on the ground and slowly got up, with Iruka-sensei's help, though he was wobbly. Once Mizuki was no longer as dizzy, he glared at Naruto, who smiled at the man. Naruto wondered why Mizuki shuddered, though the man still glared – Naruto's smile wasn't that creepy, was it?



Iruka-sensei whispered in Mizuki's ears. Fortunately, Naruto could boost his hearing. "… know what you did. If you try to pull that kind of shit ever again, a blunt shuriken on the head will be the least of your worries."



Then, Mizuki whispered back. He said, "I'm pretty sure Naruto did that on purpose. Aren't you going to-"



Iruka-sensei scoffed. He said, "if I were him, I would probably have put a lot more strength into that throw. You saw how deep those kunai and shuriken reached before, and they were just as blunt. Just be grateful you are alive and well – you could have been crippled or worse. Now, don't change the subject," still whispering.



Mizuki looked as if he was about to object, but Iruka-sensei patted his back, obviously using a lot more strength than necessary, then said that Mizuki was fine.



"Wow, Naruto," Kiba said, "you're so clumsy! It’s no wonder you're the dead last!" Laughing.



A few other students also laughed at Naruto.



Naruto also forced a laugh and said, "it's true, what they say, isn't it?"



"What was that, dead last?" Kiba said, showing his teeth.



"I said," Naruto said, "that the puppy that barks the loudest is usually the runt of the litter. In this case, the stupidest too. Haven't you learned after that beatdown you got?" Without moving.



Kiba got into Naruto's face and bared his teeth again. He said, "you wanna fight?! I'll beat you in front of Mito, and-"



A slapping sound echoed, and Kiba stopped talking suddenly. Naruto could tell that Mito was behind Kiba, but he hadn’t realized that until less than a second before Mito had slapped the back of Kiba's head.



'I didn't even hear or otherwise sense her; even though she has the strongest Chakra I've ever encountered other than possibly the Sandaime, Biwako, Auntie Tsunade and Jiraiya,' Naruto thought and could feel the cold sweat going down his forehead.



Naruto sidestepped, seeing Mito's hand go through the space where his head had been split-seconds before. He soon had to dodge again, because Mito didn't give up.



"Sit still so I can get you!" Mito said, letting out an animalistic growl.



Naruto blew a raspberry at her, then said, "it's 'stand still'. Let's save the enthusiasm for the ring, though."



"I wanna pummel you and I wanna do it right now!" Mito said, her voice very shrill, showing her annoyance.



Naruto winced – his poor ears! He could also sense that Iruka-sensei had arrived, so he said, "Iruka-sensei, is it possible for me to fight Mito today?" While still dodging, holding his hands over his ears to prevent any more pain from Mito's shrieks.



"Well, Naruto," Iruka said dryly, "how can I resist such a heartfelt request? Mito, to the ring, now."



Mito froze. She turned slowly and robotically to look at their sensei, then said, "yes, Iruka-sensei," her posture stiff.



She walked toward the sparring ring and so did Naruto. Naruto smiled at Mito, but his sister cringed slightly. Was Naruto's smile that cringeworthy?



Mito breathed in deep, possibly to gather courage for something, then said, "how about we use ninjutsu too, Iruka-sensei, Naruto?"



Naruto shrugged, then said, "I'm all for it."



Iruka-sensei thought it over a bit, then said, "yes to some ninjutsu; genjutsu and Fuuinjutsu are also allowed, but no directly damaging jutsu other than you or clones using taijutsu, no weapons and no kind of explosion or explosives; for obvious reasons. Also, nothing pre-prepared – so no seals or traps you didn't make on the fly. No help from others, and that restriction includes summons."



Naruto thought over the restrictions, then decided that the element of Earth would offer him the best defensive and supplementary capabilities, so he would forgo Water and Wind to avoid revealing much.

Iruka-sensei gave the signal, and Naruto created a few Earth Clones under the ground without using hand-seals, all the while looking Mito in the eye. Mito made the Clone seal, but one of Naruto's Earth Clones got out of the ground and punched her in the gut repeatedly, while two held her by the wrists and two others held her by the ankles.



Mito was too durable to get hurt much by Earth Clones, but Naruto the original charged at her. In the blink of an eye, Mito tensed her muscles and flipped herself, forcing the clones holding her to the ground. Then, she punched out the one punching her, leaving only the two clones that had held her legs 'alive', because the impact on them had been softer.



Naruto completed his motion and punched Mito in the cheek, launching her away, but unfortunately not far enough for her to lose by ring-out. She spat blood, but unlike most of the girls in his class, she wasn’t fazed. Her hands met again, but Naruto made one of his clones use the D-ranked Mud Hazard to get her eyes, sacrificing the clone because that jutsu was too costly; it was something an Earth Clone that had already burrowed through the ground could barely fuel, and even that was only because it was of its own element.



He went for a charge again, but Mito put a hand in a single-handed hand-seal and managed to catch his fist with the other, even though her eyes were full of mud. Suddenly, Naruto felt his body become unresponsive; he stumbled back, using his other hand to support his hunched frame. What did she-



"You know," Mito said, wiping her eyes with her sleeves, "if you hadn't underestimated me so much and lowered your guard when you blinded me, I would have lost, and very quickly too. You came at me in a straight line when you really know better, and didn't even bother coming at me immediately after your clones attacked me."



Naruto's mind was going a mile a minute. Mito was walking back towards him, slowly because of still trying to clean her eyes, and he was helpless – she wouldn't have any trouble throwing him out of the ring. He couldn't even control his Chakra enough for a jutsu!



"The Self-Cursing Seal(*2) is an amazing thing!" Mito said.



That sounded like a Cursed Seal. What did he know about Juuinjutsu (Cursed Seals)? Many were irremovable, but they were usually those that took a lot of preparation. Mito wasn't a complete stickler for the rules, but she respected Iruka-sensei and his authority very much, so she had almost certainly followed his rules and made the seal on the fly.



Maybe it could be broken with willpower? '…What am I thinking,' Naruto told himself with a scoff, 'this isn't one of my manga.'



Naruto considered trying to dispel it like a genjutsu – he tried just that after managing to make a one-handed seal with his left, and was rewarded with a weaker restriction. Unfortunately, that didn't even last a second before the seal was back at full power and more, and his time was about to run out. 'That's it! I'm on the right track!' He thought.



Naruto made his final Earth Clone attack Mito, gathering his Chakra at the same time, without a hand seal. His clone was dispelled without much difficulty, but bought Naruto time anyway. He unleashed a huge burst of Chakra, but tried to keep it tightly controlled. As a result, he blew Mito away without causing much destruction. Unfortunately, Naruto was no Hyuuga; he couldn't send her very far at all. Suddenly, he felt a burning sensation inside, which quickly escalated to levels nearly unheard of for Naruto; it was kind of like what he expected from his blood being replaced with a strong acid.



Mito's mastery of the Sealing Arts was superb, Naruto had to admit. The good news was that he had broken free of that annoying seal; the bad news was that he had lost nearly a third of his reserves so far. Worse yet, his entire body was in agony – had he caused himself internal Chakra burns? He should have been more careful with his Chakra Control - Tsunade-sensei was going to make him do remedial Chakra Control training. Naruto grit his teeth and concentrated on the fight. Mito had put her hands together like a cross in the Clone seal, making three extra copies of her appear.



Naruto didn't speak; he simply formed seven Earth Clones, only four of which were above the ground, this time with a Snake hand-seal to reduce the cost and the strain on his Chakra network, gritting his teeth again.



Mito said, "I'm the master of clones! You can't hope to win like this!" Smiling ferally.



"Now who's underestimating whom? Let's see if you can back up your words in a battle of clones," Naruto said and made his clones attack the four copies of Mito.



A taijutsu match of sorts ensued; in the meantime, Naruto used a diagnostic jutsu on himself with two hand-seals and discovered that he had very mild internal Chakra burns, but they were in three places of his Chakra network. Fortunately, they were healing just fine and were already mostly gone.



Naruto had numbers on his side, his clones took up far less Chakra each, they could burrow through the ground briefly, and he had superior taijutsu skills… not to mention that the original Naruto's speed and strength were greater than the original Mito’s. On the other hand, the originals weren't participating in the fight, and Earth Clones lost a lot more speed and power compared to the original than Shadow Clones did. Too bad I don't know the Tsuchikage's Rock Clone….



That's without counting Naruto's injury, nor the fact he had spent a lot of his Chakra already; his healing factor required much less Chakra than the Mystical Palm usually did, but the receding internal burns were still taking a lot. Well, Naruto had always wondered who would win a battle of attrition between the two of them.



…Over ten minutes later, after literally hundreds of clones, both Naruto and Mito were panting in exhaustion. Naruto could feel the sweat running down his face, but it was the headache that worried him. Unlike Shadow Clones, the normal elemental clones like the Earth Clone had no mind of their own, and had to be controlled by the original through a mental link. That part was what caused the headache. 'Heh,' Naruto thought, 'brought down not by the burns, which have already healed, nor Chakra exhaustion, but mental strain. Who'd have thought?' Putting a hand on his temple.



He heard Mito groan in pain, so he looked back at her. She was holding her head too.



'Of course,' Naruto thought, 'the Shadow Clones bring back memories and mental fatigue!'



Out loud, he said, "I can see the strain those clones have caused you. Can you even go on?"



"I- I can!" Mito said, swaying on the spot.



Naruto approached her, wary of tricks. Before he reached grabbing distance, Naruto stomped on the soil in Mito's direction, using Yang Style Chakra for the Byakugo no jutsu (Strength of a Hundred jutsu), rupturing the ground, making her lose her balance. Finally, Naruto shoved his sister out of the ring while she was off-balance.



"Winner: Naruto," Iruka-sensei said, sounding really impressed.



Naruto could see how dejected Mito was, so as a good brother, he decided to rub it in. He said, "what was that you said, Mito? I underestimated you and lowered my guard? Heh, take your own advice."



Mito glared at him for a moment, then she smirked, saying, "yeah, laugh it up, Naruto. I'll get you next time, don't worry."



"In your dreams, Mito," Naruto said and offered his right hand's fingers for the Seal of Reconciliation.



Mito reciprocated, so the two of them clasped fingers.



"Wait, wait, back up! When did Naruto get so strong?!" Kiba said, with Akamaru barking. Then, Kiba said, "wait, what do you mean 'he always was like that', Akamaru?"



Naruto shook his head and said, "like always, Akamaru is showing way more intelligence, common sense, observation skill, insight, level-headedness and knowledge than you. Are you sure that you are Akamaru's partner and not his pet, Kiba?"



Kiba looked at Naruto, his eyes wide; Naruto could also hear Ino's gasp. 'Did she really think I wouldn't say it to Kiba's face?' He thought.



Unexpectedly, Kiba laughed, with his mouth mostly closed, not showing his sharp canines this time. After the Inuzuka calmed down, he said, "you know, you're the first one to say that to an Inuzuka and their partner, as far as I know. Many ignorant people think that our dog partners are pets, but you not only know better, you made a cool joke about it! I might manage to like you, after all!"

Naruto’s reply was perfectly poised and intelligent… he would like to say, but he only said ‘huh?’



-----



Naruto was walking out of the exam room, holding a Konoha forehead protector, reluctant to actually wear it. He pocketed it; maybe he would wear it in front of his throat or something. Biwako’s Transformed Shadow Clone was at his forehead, taking the place of his goggles. Hopefully, that would be enough to counter the oath-taking thanks to her genjutsu.



Their sensei was supposedly Hatake Kakashi, a name Naruto had seen more than once in the archives of the Uchiha Ninja Library. If the Uchiha had gotten things right, Kakashi was definitely a greater threat than the Hokage himself and likely greater than Jiraiya too.



‘Well,’ Naruto thought to himself, ‘we will see in two weeks.’

-----

“Mito,” Naruto said seriously, “we need to talk.”

Mito looked at him, her face scrunched up in confusion. She said, “what about?”

Naruto took a few deep breaths and said. “I- never mind. I’ll tell you another time,” ignoring Mito’s worsened confusion. ‘I chickened out, damn it!’ He thought to himself, unable to tell his sister that he believed their father had sealed a giant fox in him.

He had tried before, but he hadn’t even reached the ‘we need to talk’ stage.

-----



*0 Yeah, Naruto could have used that when he infiltrated the Senju compound, but it didn’t occur to him.



*'Namekuji' means 'slug'; Namekuji-dono is this Naruto's wallet, as a parallel to canon's Gama-chan ('gama' means 'toad').



*2 The Self-Cursing Seal is the immobilization seal Danzo used on Sasuke in canon.



*3 There's no way Suiryuudan had (anywhere near) 44 hand-seals; Zabuza must have been trying to trick Kakashi with extra seals (which backfired immediately after with Daibakufu (Great Waterfall), possibly because Kakashi had already known both jutsu).
 
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